A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #151
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Of course, the fact that it's a wacky personal-only spell now means that it's not even a legal potion spell anymore! Because who wanted that in the first place, right?

  2. - Top - End - #152
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    This thread has been a treat! It's interesting to see any review of the oft neglected third party books, let alone more than a dozen. It also inspired me to dredge up my old copies of the Quintessential Wizard I and II and give them a quick read through.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wings of Peace View Post
    "See these cookies? Note how while good they taste sort of bland. Now try these, they're the same cookies but with chocolate chips added. Notice how with the second batch we expended slightly more ingredients but dramatically enhanced the flavor? That's metamagic."
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Seriously, can we kill this misconception now? A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He shops for precisely what he means to.


    Winner of Junkyard Wars 31.

  3. - Top - End - #153
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrice Dead Cat View Post
    This thread has been a treat! It's interesting to see any review of the oft neglected third party books, let alone more than a dozen. It also inspired me to dredge up my old copies of the Quintessential Wizard I and II and give them a quick read through.
    I seem to recall they both had some stupidly overpowered stuff, especially the second one. Even in 3rd-party books, casters get all the nice things. Most of the stuff in both books was fine though, IIRC.

  4. - Top - End - #154
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    I seem to recall they both had some stupidly overpowered stuff, especially the second one. Even in 3rd-party books, casters get all the nice things. Most of the stuff in both books was fine though, IIRC.
    I'm only about halfway through the 3.0 one and the only thing that jumped out at me thus far has been the Academic Background due to it essentially making all Knowledge skills free to take ranks in and all of the abilities that give access to various Cleric or Druid only spells. None of the prestige classes jumped out at me, besides the ones with easy enough prerequisites and full casting that make them better than Wizard levels ~11-20. My biggest complaint is the lack of editing, ranging from the table not agreeing with the text on which levels, if any, give casting advancements to lack of uses per day (or conflicting uses per day) and even a cone attack with no listed range.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wings of Peace View Post
    "See these cookies? Note how while good they taste sort of bland. Now try these, they're the same cookies but with chocolate chips added. Notice how with the second batch we expended slightly more ingredients but dramatically enhanced the flavor? That's metamagic."
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Seriously, can we kill this misconception now? A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He shops for precisely what he means to.


    Winner of Junkyard Wars 31.

  5. - Top - End - #155
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrice Dead Cat View Post
    I'm only about halfway through the 3.0 one and the only thing that jumped out at me thus far has been the Academic Background due to it essentially making all Knowledge skills free to take ranks in and all of the abilities that give access to various Cleric or Druid only spells. None of the prestige classes jumped out at me, besides the ones with easy enough prerequisites and full casting that make them better than Wizard levels ~11-20. My biggest complaint is the lack of editing, ranging from the table not agreeing with the text on which levels, if any, give casting advancements to lack of uses per day (or conflicting uses per day) and even a cone attack with no listed range.
    Yeah, lack of editing is always an issue, especially with the earlier stuff. I'll refrain from a full breakdown, because then I'd be stealing Saintheart's job.

  6. - Top - End - #156
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    Yeah, lack of editing is always an issue, especially with the earlier stuff. I'll refrain from a full breakdown, because then I'd be stealing Saintheart's job.
    Appreciated, comrade. They pay so little around this joint I have to pick up every spare shift they're willing to offer.

  7. - Top - End - #157
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    Thurbane's Avatar

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    You know what would be awesome to review? Bastards & Bloodlines. Worth it for Lost Tradition, if nothing else!

    Some of the new PCs races presented aren't horrible either. I mean, most of them are, but 1 or 2 are decent. Half-Hobgoblin always caught my eye.

  8. - Top - End - #158
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrice Dead Cat View Post
    I'm only about halfway through the 3.0 one and the only thing that jumped out at me thus far has been the Academic Background due to it essentially making all Knowledge skills free to take ranks in
    thats what we call exploding skill points, the only drawback is having to keep 4 maxed out, oooooo big deal, lol
    thats probly the best thing in that book, and a couple of decent spells too

  9. - Top - End - #159
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    What other arcane tomes have you for us?
    Quote Originally Posted by GPuzzle View Post
    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If you're of a philosophical bent, the powergamer is a great example of Heidegger's modern technological man, who treats a game's mechanics as a standing reserve of undifferentiated resources that are to be used for his goals.
    My Complete Tome of Battle Maneuver/Stance/Class Overhaul

    Arseplomancy = Fanatic Tarrasque!

  10. - Top - End - #160
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Working on it, I had a USB loss and so am having to redo the review. Soon as.

  11. - Top - End - #161
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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Working on it, I had a USB loss and so am having to redo the review. Soon as.
    Oh, dear. Hate when that happens.

    Thanks for continuing this series!
    I'm taking part in the Character Creation Challenge (#charactercreationchallenge): 1 character per day for January 2021. Come see who I've made at:
    https://www.livejournal.com/rsearch?...earchArea=post

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Mercenaries, Alderac Entertainment Group

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    Summary
    This book is essentially a sourcebook devoted to mercenaries of all kinds, i.e. swords for hire. New races, feats, classes, equipment, all towards this type of character and campaign.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2002, 255 pages. So weíre dealing with early in the third edition, and 3.5 updates need to be applied. Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) is a veteran of the RPG scene, predating the arrival of 3rd edition. That said, AEG transitioned to board games and CCGs some years ago. Probably its most significant partnering with WOTC was in its Legends of the Five Rings system; Oriental Adventures took L5Rís setting, Rokugan, as the default setting for that book, and any number of AEG sourcebooks published by AEG featured both L5R and 3.0 mechanics. AEG also published about a dozen setting-neutral, single-word-titled splatbooks for D&D, of which Mercenaries is one. Most of the 10 writers for this particular book were credited on the others, such as War, Undead, Magic, Good, Dragons, and so on. The most significant named writer is Mike Mearls, who was just nobodyís nerd at the time, but went on to work for WOTC; he was the lead developer for fourth edition, and was heavily involved in fifth before leaving last year (2020). Indeed there are a number of names who went on to become mainstays at least of AEG: Jim Pinto, Jeff Ibach, and Douglas Sun (line developer on L5R, most recently working with Matt Colville on the fifth edition third party Kickstarter Strongholds and Followers). But, as with a lot of the books weíve been looking at, we are seeing these guys at the beginning of their careers, or certainly at the beginning of their third edition involvement. The book is still available on large market RPG websites.

    Notable Features
    Ashemi (player race): +2 INT, +2 WIS, -2 CON, -2 STR. +1 natural bonus to AC. Not natural armor Ė Ďnaturalí bonus. Gets the dwarven +2 to saves against spells and spell-like effects. Most significantly gets a +2 to attack rolls against creatures of known evil alignment which mitigates the STR loss anyway. Favored class is sorcerer, but this set of attributes just screams CoDzilla or even paladin to me, even with the nerfed CON score. The Ashemi are basically an elder-than-elves race that hates evil full stop, as well as having wings that donít confer any flight but a wing claw that Ďallows light grippingí.
    Bael (player race): +2 INT, +2 CHA, -2 WIS. Bunch of racial bonuses to CHA-ish skills and Spot and Listen, but wizards and sorcerers get a +2 DC to any enchantment or conjuration spells they cast, which is better than a kick in the eye. Basically the hot female humanoid merchant race.
    Magirn (player race): sort of a gnomish species. +2 CHA, -2 WIS. Small size, detects magic, reads magic, talk to animals, blah blah blah. The most significant element is that any spell that hits them gains the benefit of the Maximise Spell feat, whether beneficial to the magirn or not. No indication about how area spells work here might be hilariously problematic for people standing close to the magirn or hilariously effective depending on the spell. ECL +1, i.e. LA +1 in effect.
    Makall (player race): Sort of an improved kobold? -2 STR, +4 DEX, -2 CON, Small, gets Track for free, canít be flanked, +4 dodge bonus fighting Huge-sized opponents Ö but the most powerful feature is that a Makall has telepathy out to 100 feet as a racial feature, which is obscenely good combined with Mindsight from Lords of Madness. And no ECL!
    Uldrath (player race): Beatstick, the race. +6 STR, +2 CON, -4 DEX, -2 INT, -4 CHA. LARGE SIZE. +2 natural armor bonus. Sharp claws that might qualify as natural weapons. However, +2 ECL. Theyíre a cross between an ogre and a grizzly bear.
    Continue the Fight (feat): Iron Will prerequisite, but. But. Expend one hitpoint, get an additional ďpartial actionĒ (3.0 language Ė this is now a standard action) which lasts one round. This is really, really strong, especially if youíre regenerating, and even more especially if youíre a caster.
    Dead Eye (feat): BAB +6 and Weapon Focus and a must-have for ranged critfishing if not ranged in general. Sacrifice your second attack roll, and if your first attack hits, you automatically score a critical (presumably, a critical hit, not just a critical threat). The feat doesnít confine the conditions under which this can be used down to full attacks Ö i.e. this appears to be useable with Rapid Shot, and possibly, on the RAW, not even having to suffer a -2 to the attack roll. In effect this feat gives your bow into a 2-20 critical threat range and automatically confirms critical hits, since the attack still needs to be successful, i.e. get over the opponentís AC. Remembering most bows have a critical multiplier of x3, this is pretty damn good compared with the alternative of hoping for a critical hit on the first shot and a hit on the second attack.
    Eagle Claw Strike (feat): Similar to a stunning fist, but more useful since if you damage the opponent with an unarmed strike and they fail a Fort DC 10+0.5*character level+WIS save, theyíre considered flatfooted for one round, losing DEX to AC specifically. Welcome to sneak attack town.
    Improved Sneak Attack (feat): damage dice for your sneak attack rises by 1, e.g. d6s to d8s.
    Superior Sneak Attack (feat): Damage dice for your sneak attacks advances again by one die!
    Improved Ranged Sneak Attack (feat): Sneak Attack at range with a ranged weapon rises from 30 feet to 60 feet.
    Sniper (feat): From 60 feet to 90 feet now.
    Knowledgeable (feat): Any Knowledge skill check can be made untrained as an INT check, though the DC of the check is increased by 5. Leaving aside identifying creatures, the most obvious application for this is Knowledge Devotion. At its worst this is at least a guaranteed +1 to attack and damage against any creature you run into during your travels, and a handy backup for those Knowledge skills you havenít got round to devoting points to yet.
    Mental Combatant (feat): Dodge bonus to AC equal to your INT modifier against one target. Goes well with Carmendine Monk, maybe WizardÖ
    Natural Born Leader (feat): Handy way for the party sorcerer to fill in as the party bard: provide your CHA bonus in morale bonus to attack rolls for 1+CHA rounds, 1+CHA/day. Admittedly the way itís worded seems to suggest your CHA bonus has to be filleted up amongst the whole party, but not a bad boost if youíre low on blasting for the day.
    Power Throw (feat): When throwing any object, you donít suffer a -4 on throwing improvised weapons, you get a +2 to attack rolls with thrown weapons, +1 to damage rolls, and your range increment with thrown weapons rises by 10 feet. Better than Throw Anything (in either the 3.0 or 3.5 version) and has less prerequisites too. It might not be Complete Warriorís Power Throw, but itís not bad either.
    Scent of the Beast (feat): Scent in a feat. Takes 10 ranks in Survival and Track, but otherwise not bad at all.
    School Focus (metamagic feat): For one school of magic, can prepare one spell at a slot one level lower than normal. Not a bad metamagic cost reducer.
    Signature Weapon (feat): +3 competence bonus to attack rolls with one masterwork weapon (and only that weapon, not even a weapon type). A nonscaling +3 bonus from a feat is debatable, but itís not often you get competence bonuses to attacks, as well as everything else you can pile onto the weapon. Really on the fence about whether this is worth a feat slot outside a canít-think-of-what-else-to-take.
    Strength of Blood (feat): Max hitpoints at each level you advance. Two feat prerequisites, though, which is probably too much.
    Evadne (deity): Interesting mainly because as Lawful Neutral she has both the Knowledge and Travel domains, making her a prime pick for Knowledge Devotion and Travel Devotion.
    Goradin (deity): Similarly, has the Battle (below), Death, Travel, and War domains.
    Ambition domain (domain): Pick up Bluff, Intimidate and Sense Motive as class skills, and the domain spells include True Strike and Wish!
    Battle Domain (domain): The granted power isnít bad: Power Attack and Whirlwind Attack (once all of the prerequisites are achieved). If your DM could be convinced that this means you get Power Attack without having to take all the prerequisites for Whirlwind Attack as well, then itís superb. To pick up the equivalent normally would cost you six feat slots; this option means it only costs you four. That said, given you have to have STR, DEX, and INT at 13+, this might or might not be doable.
    Conquest domain (domain): The domain spell list is standard-ish command, enthral, suggestion, geas, etc Ö but the domain power is that these will work on any intelligent being, bypassing normal immunities. This includes powerful undead, magic items (!) and the like!
    Desperation domain (domain): ďDomain spellsĒ can be cast as if theyíd been memorised with Maximise, Quicken, Quiet Spell, Spell Penetration, and Still Spell. However, you permanently lose ďone hitpointĒ each time. But itís silent on how temporary hitpoints work with it, and therefore whether you could totally break this by Aid or similar.
    Spirit domain (Domain): Canít be attacked by any incorporeal undead so long as another target remains.
    Bisento (weapon): Spear-like weapon with a blade like a scimitar on its end. 10 foot reach, but can be used against adjacent opponents. Can be set against a charge. Exotic weapon, 1d10, x3 critical multiplier, this is one of the few weapons that deserves an EWP.
    Claymore (weapon): 2d8 damage that does bludgeoning and piercing, and can be set against a charge. It isnít often you get this combination in a martial weapon.
    Laminated steel (material): +1 to all damage rolls and the critical hit multiplier goes up by 1 for a laminated steel weapon.
    Serrated steel (material): Critical threat range rises by 1, e.g. 19-20 becomes 18-20. Nothing says it canít be laminated as well.
    Dwarven-Forged (armor quality): +2 to the armor bonus, -1 to the ACP, but arcane spell failure chance rises by 10%. And yes, you can make Dwarven-Forged shields, which likely stack with dwarven-forged armour.
    Elven-Forged (armor quality): Pretty much the reverse. Max DEX bonus increases by +1, -1 to the ACP, and arcane spell failure chance decreases by 10%.
    DRACOTECHNICS: Ö Itís explosives, dude.
    Awe (Cleric 5 spell): Turn foes as if you were turning undead.
    Battle Knowledge (Myrmidon 2 spell): The Myrmidon is a gish-y base class in the book, but the spell is interesting: lasts 1 minute/level, but pick one feat whose prerequisites you fulfil. For the duration of the spell, you gain the benefits of that feat.
    Enchant Weapon (Myrmidon 5 spell): As Greater Magic Weapon Ö but instead of numerical enhancement bonuses, you can allocate equivalent weapon qualities, e.g. rather than get yourself a +3 weapon via the spell, you can instead get a +1 keen thundering weapon for the duration of the spell.
    Forceful Burst (Sor/Wiz 3, Battle domain 2 spell): Gambit, the spell? Turn up to 5 Fine objects into explosive devices, ranged attack, does 2d4+1 ďper levelĒ (no maximum specified) of force damage. Can throw all of them at a single target if need be. Magic Missile is no-miss but has a lower damage threshold.
    Scarlet Mastery (feat): Can wear leather or padded armor without losing your monk abilities. I know, Swordsage, but anyway.
    Assemblage Undine (Prestige Class): This took me a few reads to understand how its spell progression works, and to be honest Iím still not sure I get it. I think what they intended was that as you level up in the prestige class, you cast more spells of the levels you already have, but you donít gain any higher level spells. Hence the prerequisite is being able to cast arcane spells of third level, but none of sixth level or higher. The payoff for this is metamagic feats every second level, and the spell slot cost increase for each of your metamagic feats drop by 1 every 3 levels to a minimum of 1. So around character level 16 youíre casting Quickened and Maximised first level spells out of third level slots. It seems similar-ish in concept to Force Missile Mage, but unless you have a particular spell that you know and love or youíre really creative with your low level spells at mid-tier play, I think it suffers from way too many dead levels. Maybe a Mystic Ranger or default Ranger with Sword of the Arcane Order could do something with this, but with a BAB 5/10 and d4 HD itís no gish by any stretch of the imagination.
    Clan Kallin (Prestige Class): Now hereís a ****ing dwarven martial class I can get behind! For a start, ye get to throw a one-handed hammer or axe with a range increment equal to 5xSTR bonus. Mauls are one-handed weapons these days, and once your STR is +2 or higher, youíre above and beyond the standard range increment for thrown weapons. Fighter-style bonus feats every second level, keep fighting past 0 hitpoints, anyone attacking you in melee provokes an attack of opportunity, full-round single attack with a bludgeoning or slashing weapon provokes a Ref save (DC 10 + damage from attack, -2 for four legs or sizes) or the person is knocked prone. Oh, and you just double the threat range of the characterís weapon for this attack, so hello critfishing. Indeed, for critfishing, thereís a nice capstone: anytime you threaten a critical hit, target makes a Fort save (DC 10+character level+STR mod) OR TAKES 1D4 CON DAMAGE.
    Dune Runner 5 (Prestige Class): A standout class feature for rogues: each round you can designate one opponent who is flat-footed in relation to the Dune Runner. The RAI was probably that this ability was only meant to function in the desert, but by RAW it might function in all environments.
    Exile of the Burning Road (Prestige Class): Compared to default Fighter, this is actually pretty solid, and particularly good if you have multiple exiles overlapping one another. Compared to martial adepts, not so much. Has no dead levels, and has a few interesting toys: can intercept an attempt to flank, gets +4 from flanks rather than +2, can drop his AC by any amount up to his PrC level and add it to his attack bonus, and finally isnít limited to one ally for aid another actions. Enemies in his threatened area canít make AoOs on other characters.
    Man-at-Arms (prestige class): BAB +8, Power Attack and Weapon Focus in any four weapons? A kind DM would let Warblade Aptitude cut this down a lot. The theme of this thing is basically Ďput any weapon in my hand and Iíll kick @$$ with it.í Starting with: PROFICIENT WITH ALL EXOTIC WEAPONS ... although I think thatís an editing error given the capstone of the class. Anyway, itís 10 levels of stuff, BAB 10/10, Fort/Ref/Will +7/+7/+5 which is unusual. No dead levels, but no bonus feats, so youíd better have gotten your build mostly down and done. Over 10 levels, pick up +3 to attack and damage in all weapons, dodge bonuses (scaling) to AC if you forego an AoO, Improved Critical, DEX bonus to Power Attack damage, scaling Initiative bonuses, deal CON damage equal to STR bonus on a critical hit, Spring Attack, pick up an extra attack. So Ö yeah. Ignoring Tome of Battle, this at least gives you a lot of toys to play with as a martial, and at least some elements of it scale with the PrC level.
    Initiate of Shattered Steel (prestige class): Itís a monk PrC, so it canít get much worse anyway. 8/10 BAB which is a bit odd but welcome. Itís mostly themed around breaking stuff with your bare hands. Actually isnít that bad: over 10 levels, do damage as if you were a size category larger; double your STR mod for breaking inanimate objects; when you disarm, get a free Sunder attack; if youíre attacked, forfeit an AoO to get a +4 dodge bonus to AC. If the attack misses, get a bonus on a Sunder next round; WIS to damage; reroll results of 1 or 2 when dealing unarmed damage; automatically flank without an ally; ignore non-magical hardness; and finally, CON to AC, critical threat range unarmed rises by 1 and critical strikes deal triple damage.
    Skirmisher (prestige class): A gem for most martials. Four feats, +5 BAB, and some trivial rogue-ish skill ranks to qualify. 10/10 BAB, which is great. By fourth level youíve got the equivalent of Precise Shot (though not the feat) since your penalties for firing into melee are cut by your Skirmisher class level. INT mod to AC. Third level would be hilarious combined with Pounce, you can take both a full attack action and then a move-equivalent action in any given round. Fourth level, anytime you attack someone denied DEX bonus or flanked, if you hit, itís a critical threat. This is amazeballs for critfishing since all it takes from here is a Bless Weapon or similar and your critical hits are all about positioning rather than threat range. Combine with Telling Blow if youíve got appreciable sneak attack damage, though frankly Iíd go with a straight out big honking greatsword and rely on big critical multipliers if I had this option. And thereís more!: never get surprised, and get a bonus to your attacks in a surprise round equal to your class level; Blindsight; any time you get an AoO, you can make two attack rolls instead of one; speed increase by 10 feet, increase your critical threat range and critical multiplier by 1 when you catch an opponent flatfooted; and finally, always catch your opponent flatfooted. And he even has a d10 hit dice.
    Spellslayer 6 (prestige class): Magekiller, basically. The most interesting class feature is that when attacking spellcasters and creatures with spell-like abilities, on a reasonably high Spellcraft check, the spellslayerís melee attack negates a number of spells whose total level is equal to the damage inflicted, although the defender chooses which spells are lost. The prerequisite, though, is pretty hard to swallow for a martial: canít own any magical items or knowingly employ magical items, though spells cast seem to be okay. Thereís a bunch of other Dispel Magic, Spell Resistance, and draining magic items, which has similar problems to Sunder in that youíre destroying not only loot, but typically valuable loot. A low level cleric might be able to get by since they could at least enter the class given its only prohibition is that you canít be capable of casting arcane spells (although multiclassing would likely offend against this too).
    Focused (weapon quality): Arcane channelling of (previously cast) touch spells for the price of a +1, no Duskblade or Ordained Champion required.
    Force (weapon quality): +3 bonus, but on a hit, weapon initiates a Bull Rush as a free action. ďAny additional bonus to attack and damage can be added to the wielderís STR in the actionĒ, which is to say, practically-unstoppable bull rushes on every hit.


    Dreadful Features
    Fists of Fury (feat): Cleave for unarmed strikes Ö but with more prerequisites. And ignoring that Cleave already works for unarmed strikes because itís a melee attack.
    Expert Aim (feat): DEX to damage with a device missile weapon Ö but only if you give up all your other attacks and youíre not shooting at something outside 30 feet away.
    Perfect Shot (feat): When you hit with a crossbow, a natural 20 is always a confirmed critical hit (but nothing else). Yeah, this is also known as the spell Bless Weapon which doesnít cost me two feat slots in prerequisites and which actually affects all critical threats, not just the natural 20s.
    Clan Champion (Prestige Class): Ratchet Leadership into creating combat allies and followers. The benefits of the whole 10 levels arenít great Ė mostly +1s and +2s to Initiative or attack rolls, slowly increasing Ė with the notable exception of Coordinated Actions which allows the clan allies to Aid Another in combat as a free action Ö but only one. Thereís easier ways to ab/use Leadership than this.
    Goridinís Knights (Prestige Class): The loss in caster levels (5/10) and loss of ability to turn undead hurts for cleric entry to the point where I canít think of a scenario where this would be a good recommendation for a cleric, and the resultant dead levels and reduced BAB hurt for martial/fighter entry, and with not a lot of goodness in return. The only Hilarious Build I can think of is a Divine Crusader 3 with a high CHA mod, Quick Draw, and a good supply of daggers, because at fourth level, when a Goridinís Knight draws a weapon, all opponents in his threatened area have to make a Will save (DC of ďknightís overall level + CHA mod + magical bonus of the weaponĒ) or break ranks and flee for 1d6 rounds. (No, it doesnít mention shaken/frightened/cowering etc.)
    Order of the Sanguine Knight (prestige class): Despite the title, requires no armor. Really meant for Ďgoodí rogues, but absent the Ďcanít accidentally poison yourselfí element at 2nd level, even a Rogue 20 outshines this in abilities and feats.

    (For more features - have a look over here at Fizban's long supplemental which talks about stuff I didn't include in the review.)

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Honestly, I think this is good for both players or GMs. GMs can mine it for details about hiring mercenary troops, or even generating quests around mercenary goals, and itís a pretty thick vein (albeit martial-tilted) of good stuff for players.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics:
    Leaving aside the notable features above, the book also has some interesting shots at introducing extra rules. Thereís some on exchange rates, NPC morale, and availability of equipment (a mechanic similar to the economic simulator of Magic Medieval Society), and skirmish rules for small-unit combat. The skirmish rules arenít that different from normal D&D combat, understandably. And the part I found most interesting were the attempts to provide limited use of class features in feats Ė e.g. a limited capacity to provide bard-like morale boosts and so on. You could also see this in certain of the (unremarkable in my view) base classes; the rogue and/or ranger-ish classes are more customisable in that the special abilities gained as the levels go on are more menus of options rather than set features. This was interesting mainly because it tied (for me) into the idea of mercenaries as self-sufficient types who had picked up useful techniques from all over the place. Critical hits get some significant love, or at least access to a better threat range or multiplier isnít hidden away along with the Ark of the Covenant somewhere. All told, this bookís mechanics have all the hallmarks of early 3.0, but itís also a cut above WOTC standard in my view. Call this 2.5/4.

    On concepts and fluff:
    This was reasonably well-done. The book has a decent rundown of mercenary lifestyle, including alignments, interactions with authorities, day to day life, all those sorts of things. It has rules on hiring mercenaries including the negotiation, and a pretty significant number of guilds, mercenary bands or groups that didnít come across as cookie cutter. I was relatively impressed with this. 3/4.

    On presentation:
    AEG, as with Secrets which I already reviewed, apes the WOTC layout and formatting very closely. This makes it familiar at least, though itís still all black and white and serif fonts. Rate this 1/2.

    Total: 6.5/10.


    Next Time: Bastards and Bloodlines: A Guidebook to Half-Breeds,. Green Ronin Publishing.

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    Thumbs up Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Next Time: Bastards and Bloodlines: A Guidebook to Half-Breeds,. Green Ronin Publishing.
    Squee!

  14. - Top - End - #164
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    Does it give prices for all these fancy mercs? Because IIRC the DMG prices for hirelings don't cover people with PrCs. They're also really low. I remember some thread from a while back about Improved Combat Expertise and Allied Defense which made me realize that a high level character could easily hire a group of 20th-level Warriors and get +20 AC from each of them, and ever since then I've been thinking of mercs as being in the same category as scrolls or potions, often with a better cost efficiency.

  15. - Top - End - #165
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    They don't get into the hiring rates for prestige classes specifically, no. The book's system for PCs hiring mercenaries flat-out stops you hiring a mercenary over level 6, on the half-mechanical, half-fluff justification that characters above 6th level are generally too independent, powerful, and skilled to hire out as long-term mercenaries (though they might be hireable for a particular task and so on.) And mercenaries are not hirelings: they're considerably more expensive, for one thing. Top of the table level 6 mercenary gets paid 370gp per day and a full share of any treasure collected. And you also have to supply their food and lodgings too, even in the wild.

    Nonhumanoid mercenaries go for half the rates, but their morale - a subsystem that determines when they break and run, which they can and often do in their own self-interest - is comparatively a lot less.

    And that's before you bear in mind that hiring mercenaries is subject to negotiation on their prices as well, from the mercenary companies they originate from. These have fairly comprehensive rules set out in the book.

    The prestige classes are more designed for the PC who wants to play a mercenary, as part of a mercenary-oriented campaign.

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    Bastards and Bloodlines: A Guidebook to Half-Breeds, Green Ronin Publishing

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    Summary
    If youíre tired of the standard half-elf or the default 0.5 races in D&D, this is a book for you. Lots of new half-breed player races, half-X templates, feats, some spells, and prestige classes all themed around being a character who mixes two races together in sometimes strange and intriguing ways.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2003, 111 pages. So itís late 3.0, just before 3.5 came out. The lead designer, Owen K.C. Stephens, was originally brought on by WOTC in 2000 as a designer for their Star Wars RPG, but was laid off a year later in 2001, and went freelance. Stephens would go on to author the Star Wars Saga edition in 2008, Pathfinderís Bestiary 2, and become the lead designer for Starfinder, but this product once again was one of his earlier ones. Green Ronin Publishing itself started with third edition in 2000, and its founder, Chris Pramas, was involved at least at the sidelines with some of the earlier third edition products. This book is still available on large market websites as well as from Green Ronin itself.

    Notable Features
    Alicorn (race): Half elf, half unicorn. For a start, unicorns are by default only meant to be cohorts, not PCs, and even then they wear a +4 in LA and 4 racial hit dice. Alicorns draw LA +5. +2 STR, +4 DEX, +4 CON, +4 WIS, +6 CHA, making paladin possible but probably not casting classes. +2 natural armor, darkvision, natural slam attack, detect evil freely, can drop a first level spell to cast cure light wounds, +4 to saves vs. poisons or Enchantment.
    Grendle (race): Half-troll crossed with dwarf. LA +3, which is a bit steep. Making it more tenable is the raceís near-invitation to ab/use age categories: Grendles explicitly donít suffer any physical ability loss as a result of age. Thus, with an understanding DM, the raceís -2 to INT can be countered, its -4 to CHA can be mitigated, and its WIS score (which isnít penalised) is improved. A venerable Grendle would have +6 to STR, +4 to CON, +1 INT, +3 WIS, and -1 to CHA. That aside, they pick up fast healing Ö of 1 hitpoint per hour Ö natural armor +2, darkvision 60 feet, regrowable limbs (so long as not lost to fire or acid), and +2 on saves against spells causing fear or despair. By way of comparison, the default troll is LA +5 and 6 racial HD.
    Half-Goblinoids (race): Notable mainly because half-goblins and half-hobgoblins are both LA +0. Half-goblinsí notable abilities are Small size, +2 to Listen, Darkvision out to 60 feet, though they also pay for it with -2 to STR, -2 to CHA and +2 to DEX. Half hobgoblins are more useful and possibly the most feasible, useful race in the whole book: +2 to DEX and CON but -2 to CHA which martials wonít care about, and for some odd but pleasant reason they have darkvision out to 90 feet.
    Hill Jovian (race): Half-hill giant. LA +5. Why would I do this when I could just be a Hill Giant from the SRD at LA +4, with better STR bonuses? Well, for a start, I donít have to take on the Racial Hit Dice of a hill giant, of which there are 12 and which otherwise make me an ECL 16 creature. I also might not have the full STR and CON bonuses of a hill giant, but I also donít have quite the penalties to INT and I have a positive bonus to CHA. There are Fire Jovians and Frost Jovians too, and the considerations are similar: no racial hit dice from the default species while still retaining about 75% of the monsterís features. Still, even with an effective +5 or +6 you pick up in STR bonus, itís a massive LA hit.
    Piper (race): Crossbreed of an elf or halfling with a satyr. LA +2. In 3.0, this LA adjustment was neutralised for bardic music purposes, because the Piper explicitly has an additional 3 ranks of Perform (even if itís above their normal max rank), useable only when dancing or playing a woodwind instrument Ö and ďPiper bards can access bardic music abilities more quickly with these virtual ranks.Ē However, under 3.5, access to new types of bardic music now requires a minimum Perform rank and a minimum bard level -- so only Inspire Courage benefits from this racial feature. The virtual ranks likely help for earlier feat qualification which is nice -- Perform (Dance) crops up more than you might think, especially in Snowflake Wardance -- but it wonít help the Piper get into Spelldancer any faster since that requires 3rd level arcane spellcasting, which the LA hurts. The Piper otherwise gets +2 DEX and CHA, a base speed of 40 feet, Speak with Animals, and a +2 to the save DC of [charm] or [sonic] spells.
    Sthein (race): Elf/Naga hybrid. LA +4 Ö the Sthein picks up no minuses to any stats but +2 to STR, DEX, CON, and a +4 to CHA; Large size; +1 natural armor; natural bite attack at 1d8 plus a poison that scales with character level, delivering a stun; racial spell-like casting (3 x 0-level, 1 x 1st level off the Sor/Wiz list, once per day); darkvision; Alternate Form (human); some racial bonuses to Listen/Search/Spot; and UMD, Spellcraft, all Knowledge skills are class skills. Decent base for a CHA-based martial type, especially with Knowledge Devotion.
    Wendigo (race): LA +2. Itís a crossbreed between a dwarf and a wolf, and we wonít get into the description of how the hell that happens. +4 STR, +2 CON, +2 WIS, -2 INT, -2 CHA. 40 feet base speed which is grand, limited Cone of Cold casting, Cold subtype which might be handy, Scent, +2 to Survival. The fluff says theyíre practically guaranteed not to be clerics despite this set of stats being fairly solid for it. I actually think LA +2 is a reasonably just imposition here.
    Wyrd (race): Wyrds are elven/ogre mage crossbreeds. LA of +6 which is horrendous on first glance, but if (and only if) youíre running a Sorcerer, is actually more like LA +4. Wyrds ďcast spells as 2nd level sorcerersĒ despite having no spell list or the Ogre Mageís spell-like abilities. The Wyrd adds his sorcerer levels to his innate spellcasting levels for the purposes of calculating spells per day, saving throw, and other level-dependent effects, i.e. a 3rd level wyrd sorcerer is a 5th level sorcerer for all intents and purposes. For comparison, the default Ogre Mage is LA +7 (and 5 racial HD). Wyrds also get the Ogre Mageís darkvision, Giant type, and Large size, but only +4 STR, +2 CON, +2 INT, +2 WIS, +2 CHA, and Spell Resistance (10+CHA mod) -- all significantly less than the bog-standard Ogre Mage. Also gets a massive Jump check rather than the Ogre Mageís at-will flight. They donít seem to pick up anything of their elven parentís heritage in terms of racial features. This set of features might suit some sort of gish-y sorcerer, but as said itís of very narrow application and even a sort-of LA +4 still hurts bad.
    Houri (race): Elf/Nymph hybrid. LA +5, but itís similar to the Wyrd in that the Houri casts spells as a 2nd level druid, and those innate spellcasting levels are added to her druid levels for all level-dependent casting purposes. So, at least for that purpose, the LA is more like +3. +2 DEX, +2 INT, +2 WIS, +8 CHA. Once again weíre looking at something of pretty narrow concept, since druidsí best abilities tend to be in their Wild Shape capacity rather than their casting. The comparator is the default Nymph, which is LA +7 and 6 hit dice, and has its casting level fixed at 7th level druid with no indication itís ever going any higher even with PC druid levels.
    Large (feat): Yup. Thatís what you are. Youíre Large size. With a single feat. So long as youíre of the bloodline of a race thatís normally size Large.
    LOST TRADITION (feat): Choose one spellcasting class. You may change which ability score governs spellcasting with that class. Havenít got the brains for wizard casting? Use your STR stat instead. Or DEX. Or CON. Or anything. Fantastic for gishes of all kinds, or even for optimising dual-casting theurges. And donít you dare contemplate what happens when you put this on a Cancer Mage (BoVD) suffering from Festering Anger (also BoVD). (Note this reading has a strong chance of DMGs getting hurled in your direction. In other places the book contemplates -- and names -- casting ability scores as INT/WIS/CHA; the text of this feat was probably meant to be Ďpick from INT, WIS, or CHAí rather than from any of your stats, but un/fortunately thatís not what the feat says. Even read down like that, itís good for SADing casters.)
    OLD BLOOD (feat): Choose one race other than your own. For the purposes of prestige classes, spells, feat prerequisites, magic items and so on, you count as a member of that race. Take the damn feat and count as a dragon for everything that matters!
    Throwback (feat): Become slightly more beatstick. STR and CON increase by 2 each, INT, WIS drop by 4, CHA drops by 2. At least youíre not wearing a level adjustment for it.
    Alert (weapon quality): For a +1, make a DC 20 Listen check, and you can still take action in a surprise round even if you wouldnít normally be aware of the attack.
    Angered (weapon quality): For a +2, increase the rage bonuses on STR and CON by +2, and youíre not fatigued at the end of a rage. Not bad and obviates having to stick around until the teens as a Barbarian.

    Dreadful Features
    Mind Ripper (creature): Half-illithid. +2 DEX, +4 INT, +2 WIS, +2 CHA is a nice set of stat bonuses, but I wouldnít want to pay LA +4 for it, not even with a 1d8 tentacle attack against helpless targets or a psionic attack that only dazes the target and which does me CON damage. Especially when I can only make that attack CHA bonus/day. And no, the Mind Flayer default actually isnít much of a comparison in this case, not when Mind Flayers get Spell Resistance, telepathy, Psionics at will, and a more powerful mind blast.
    Lurker (creature): Half gnome, half cloaker. +4 STR, +2 DEX, +4 CON, +2 INT, +2 CHA, 20 foot flight speed, natural tail slap attack (1d4) that has Reach, make a scream that can cause a target to be Shaken (no indications on limit use) Ö but I still donít think itís worth LA +5.

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Probably mostly for the benefit of GMs, and for players itís of most value if you want to run a monster without the full racial hit dice and LA.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics:
    The main thing that interested me mechanically were the half-breed player races. And thatís because the book for some strange reason got me thinking about SRD monsters a little differently.

    The problems with this bookís mechanics are really those of WOTCís Level Adjustment system, created to allow monsters with high stat bonuses, racial hit dice, and spell-like abilities to run around with first level characters. Striking this balance is trickier than it appears, and LA is about as fit for purpose as a machete is for brain surgery. So itís with a sigh that one reads the bookís general rule, singing from the same songsheet as WOTC, that anything that canít be duplicated by a typical PC race is worth at least a +1 level adjustment. Even with the bookís concession that certain features advantageous for low-level characters are practically irrelevant at higher levels, itís easy to conclude the book is unusable at first glance.

    However: if you view half-breeds as discount brands of the default monsters theyíre chipped off, and not competing against the default PC races, I think they actually come off as attractive. See if you want to run a SRD monster as a PC, youíre usually smashed by racial hit dice (RHD) and level adjustment. Both of these contribute to a monsterís Effective Character Level (ECL) Ö and ECL usually has to be close to equal across the party in most orthodox games, which in turn means the troll fighter just canít be run at level one. Many monsters therefore are unplayable in practice, either because the monsterís RHD and abilities mean the creature is way too strong at low levels of play, or because the overbearing LA on top of the RHD means their racial abilities lose relevance almost immediately.

    The half-breed races at least try to solve some of this problem because while they still have pretty solid LAs, none are saddled with racial hit dice Ö but still have a good-ish percentage of the default monsterís abilities. Meaning they can be run at much lower levels than their progenitors can be, because their ECL is much lower.

    Donít get me wrong, chewing nails is always good to look attractive when the only alternative is having your head cut off, but if youíre determined to play something with a strong flavour of a particular monster and you canít convince your DM into ignoring LA (you can. Iíve done it, as a DM. The world did not end, it just got a little more complicated) and/or some weird-as progression out of Savage Species, these actually arenít bad.

    For the listed half-breeds, feasible character concepts are limited, but itís possible to build your own half-breeds and you absolutely should be using similar tricks when knocking them together, e.g. the Wyrdís boost to caster levels, or strong boosts on martialsí physical stats since they arenít as badly gimped by level adjustment Ö sorta. (High DEX isnít really affected by relevant math here; high CON somewhat ameliorates less HD; high STR arguably somewhat counters lost BAB, although it doesnít help with Power Attack, which is gated by BAB and is near-essential for martials. And itís a very different and much sadder story for LA-gimped casters, of course.)

    Some feats are pretty strong, though these are exceptions to the rule. Most of the other feats and the Prestige Classes share the quality of complete blah. However, we also have templates for half-Xs here which are reasonably easy to slap on a default monster and make it work. And there are not-bad rules of thumb and guidelines (which is all you really can get in this space) about how to build your own halfies, for want of a better word. This one I rate a 3/4 mainly because the half-breed races are a nice compromise between full ECL and overpowering LA Ö and because I like how Old Blood renders obsolete 90% of forum threads mentioning Dragonwrought Kobolds.

    On concepts and fluff:
    Interesting, in short. The book leads with asking the GM to work out where half-breeds come from in his campaign from a fluff perspective, and it does have suggestions for how to deal with the more Ďickyí details of how you get half-breed creatures. It also suggests character archetypes to get half-racial players into the right mindset, and goes a good way beyond the standard Tanis Half-Elven Ďbrooding, conflicted lonerí that you might otherwise conclude was necessary. Indeed even for the half-breeds above some are noble, some are brutal, and some are downright nasty. I mean come on: it contemplates (and stats) half-blink dogs, half-ropers, half-cloakers, half-beholders (which are ridiculously strong) and half-titans. Itís a good selection, and not boring.

    And the fact it: it tries (inadvertently or otherwise) to make half-X creatures interesting if not playable. 3/4 here.

    On presentation:
    Black and white presentation, serif fonts, lots of helpful tables including an index. Passable internal art. 1/2.

    Total: 7/10.


    Next Time: Book of Iron Might, Malhavoc Press.

  17. - Top - End - #167
    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    I'm not sure how much good Old Blood (Dragon) would do for Dragon Only prestige classes. They tend to have absurd or even Epic level requirements, and I don't think you get to count as a True Dragon (TM) to bypass other restrictions.

    Lost Tradition gets mentioned from time to time, and leads to some silliness with Strength and Constitution casters. More so on Druids who eventually remain as a big, beefy boi for >24 hours at a time.

    This isn't the writer's fault, but some of their races and templates eventually had official releases. Off-hand, I know both Half-Nymph (some Dragon issue, IIRC) and Half-Illithid (either Underdark and/or Lords of Madness) were printed years after Bastards & Bloodlines.
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    "See these cookies? Note how while good they taste sort of bland. Now try these, they're the same cookies but with chocolate chips added. Notice how with the second batch we expended slightly more ingredients but dramatically enhanced the flavor? That's metamagic."
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Seriously, can we kill this misconception now? A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He shops for precisely what he means to.


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  18. - Top - End - #168
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Yeah, there are a while bunch of crossbreed templates which overlap with the ones here. Also, I wouldn't agree that most of a Druid's power comes from wild shape rather than spellcasting, but that's a play style thing, I suppose. As always, the templates for martials look better, because martials are worse. With buyoff, some of them can actually be very good, although there are plenty of better options, like feral and half-minotaur. Still, if I were a GM and I wanted to make a memorable NPC who's father was definitely a Bard, this would be a nice resource.

  19. - Top - End - #169
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    Nice.

    Lost Tradition is (in)famous in it's own right, but a lot of the rest of the book is virtually unknown. I allow LT in my games (and I don't allow much 3rd party), with the modification that you can only chose a mental ability score (Int, Wis or Cha); and you can only apply it to a "dual-stat" casting class (Favored Soul etc.).

    I had somehow missed Old Blood altogether, I can imagine a lot of uses for it.

    The Half-Hobgoblin race is very nice, IMHO. In addition to the net +2 ability scores (honestly, a lot of classes can dump Cha, so virtually net +4), and 90 ft darkvision, they always have "Intuit Direction" as a class skill (and a +4 bonus on checks), which should parse to 3.5 as always having Survival as a class skill. Can be very handy for entering PrCs etc.

    I also like the Wyrd as an NPC race, but unfortunately with no stat blocks, it doesn't have a CR. When I asked about it once, I ended up assigning CR +3.

  20. - Top - End - #170
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Old Blood usually comes up any time Beholder Mage or Illithid Savant comes up.

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    Book of Iron Might, Malhavoc Press

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    Summary
    Malhavoc published the Book of Eldritch Might for arcanists, and the Book of Divine Might for divine casters, now it gets round to a book of optional rules for combat. This is meant to provide a new set of options for fighters and beatsticks of all kinds.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2004, 60 pages. This book explicitly uses 3.5, so at least itís up to date on that one. Malhavoc Press was set up by Monte Cook after he left WOTC in 2001. The company is all but dead (Monte Cook publicly put the company on the backburner in 2008; its last book Ė The Collected Book of Experimental Might, which was literally Monte Cookís houserules Ė was released in 2009). However, this book still appears to be available on large market RPG websites. And despite being published by Cook, the sole author for this book was Mike Mearls Ė as in, the Mike Mearls who would go on to have a big hand in fourth edition and who ultimately became the lead designer for fifth edition, staying with WOTC for the better part of 20 years. Mearls is credited as the lead developer for 2006ís Tome of Battle, though ultimately Richard Baker, Matthew Sernett, and Frank Brunnerís names would end up on the cover. These are more notes for context here since Book of Iron Might is definitely its own thing in concept than ToB or the succeeding editions.

    Notable Features
    N/A: See below discussions about mechanics and concepts.

    Dreadful Features
    N/A Ö fortunately.


    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Itís aimed at players, but really youíre best advised as a GM to consider it carefully first.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics:
    There are a number of bits and pieces in the book, but to me the area to most focus on is the combat maneuver system that Mearls created for this book. Let me say at the outset that it is very, very easy to get into edition wars. If youíre still playing third edition then I can likely guess thatís because you donít care for fourth or fifth, and Mearls for better or worse was a central part of them both. But youíre not looking at a proto-fourth edition, or fifth, or even an alpha version of Tome of Battle here. What youíre looking at in Book of Iron Might Ė I think Ė is Mearls slowly gestating his ideas about the problem of optionality that third edition threw up: i.e. the wizards can solve more problems, more flexibly, and more simply, than martials, and they can do something a bit different every fight. By contrast, martial characters, by and large, were limited down to a fixed number of tricks and approaches, and there wasnít a lot of flexibility within those approaches; about as innovative as fighters got was Power Attack.

    Book of Iron Might provides combat options Ė called Ďmaneuversí. These are like Disarm or Sunder or Trip: anyone can do them at any time. Theyíre basically debuffs, you can do ability score damage, blind an opponent, daze them, sunder their weapon as you disarm them, knockback, knockdown, etc. etc. And theyíre not locked away behind feats, uses per day, or Vancian casting. The balancing factor on which Mearls hangs the entire system is that using one of these maneuvers requires that you take a large penalty to your attack roll, by default a -20. And a natural 20 is explicitly not automatic success on these rolls.

    As said, these are the default options. However, Mearls goes further: he offers players and GMs the chance to make up their own maneuvers, within the framework that he sets out, which comes down to ďFind some sort of debuff or hobbling thing that you want your character to do to another. Start with a penalty of -20 to attack roll. If you want to reduce that -20 down to a -10 or -5 or something, add some sort of saving throw and/or stick in an opposed check and/or make yourself vulnerable to an Attack of Opportunity.Ē I found this interesting since Mearls has to take the reader behind the math and offer some actual thoughts on balance. This is not the sort of thing that you throw at a new DM and his players, and in particular you donít throw it at a new DM whoís trying to deal with optimising or lol charop types.

    On a short Google search I actually found a very detailed breakdown of the various maneuvers and the systems in the book, much more than I really envisaged for these reviews and probably a lot more methodical than Iíd be. You can find that review here or cached on Google.

    Leaving aside that reviewís thoughts and comments, the problems I can see with the bookís system come down to these:

    (1) It lets mages do this stuff as well as martials
    (2) It doesnít really provide much in the way of power as written

    Mearls knows that magic can ROFLMAO the system, since literally the first balance suggestion he has is to ban True Strike for obvious reasons. But I would have said maneuvers should have been explicitly for those who have no levels in magic-wielding classes. The book says quite explicitly that if a spell uses an attack roll, this maneuver system can be used with it, i.e. the spell still takes its normal effect as well as the maneuverís effect (if the spell hits, that is). Not only does this then fail to make martials more unique or give them a niche that a caster canít duplicate, it makes casters even more capable of dealing with combat-based issues. Worse still, itís not made explicit whether, in melee, you add these maneuversí effects to your normal damage or whether it replaces them. If itís a replacement it simply put is not a system that any DM should be putting near his players, simply because these are trap options.

    With a couple of very distinct exceptions itís not mechanically that powerful on the maneuvers as provided, though presumably a good DM could come up with something a bit more puissant. Debuffing targets is an equivocal strategy for standard melee, as demonstrated by the near-universality of taking Power Attack. Power Attackís idea is that you suck up the chance you wonít hit in exchange for removing the enemy from existence a lot faster than you otherwise would. But the maneuvers in this thing for the most part impose conditions or ability damage: which is to say, even if successful they ultimately only prolong combat (albeit with the prospect of finishing the combat faster or finishing it with you expending fewer hitpoints since the enemy canít use a natural attack, or a Su or Ex ability or something.)

    The other major mechanical innovation Mearls makes is to create a system for doing flashy stuff (swinging off chandeleirs, flourishes, that sort of stuff) by a somewhat different way of using the skills system. This is similar-ish in concept and scope to the maneuver system, but also basically comes down to ďassess whether you think what the characterís doing is outlandish or nigh-impossible. Assign a -1 to -5 penalty to the characterís skill roll accordingly.Ē Itís the sort of thing where, if youíre a new-ish DM but you donít have sufficient guts to smack your players with a -5 Just Because You Say So, then itís a useful bulwark.

    In general I actually didnít mind the bookís options mechanically. Itís an alternative crack at balancing optionality with a big penalty, and while I donít think it does it quite as well as Tome of Battle did, itís still pretty solid. It certainly encourages players and DMs to come up with their own maneuvers, use a little of their own creativity and mathematical judgement, in making some new technique. This at least is good practice for DMs making the slow climb from module-following to proper adventure creation and the challenge of balance. I just think a -20 base chance at doing something terrible is the sort of thing to really discourage alternative thinking in battle, not encourage it. 3/4 on this one.

    On concepts and fluff:

    When I think about what Mearls was trying to do with this book, I envision him screaming at his players ďDo something interesting during combat, dammit! Swing off a chandelier! Kick a hobgoblin in the groin! Aim at a dragonís wings with your crossbow! I promise, itíll have a mechanical effect! Just stop counting 5 foot squares and electing Power Attack every goddamn round, will ya?!Ē

    And that, in turn, is the same old debate that D&D has been having ever since Chainmail: how much abstraction and really creative behaviour can you get away with in a game that depends on mathematical factors like hitpoints, attack rolls, and AC, and Ė especially from third edition onward -- you advertise as having tactical depth? How do you reconcile those two?

    And unfortunately I think Mearlsí attempt was somewhat doomed to fail. For the abstract, creative players, this book tries to create rules by which you can create. This is something of a contradiction in terms. If your DM is seat-of-the-pants, theatre-of-the-mind, and knows what heís doing, i.e. heís good at that style of play, then odds are on heíll by intuition or practice know how to adjudicate your sudden desire to wrap your whip around a power cable and abseil down the castle wall. This book wonít add much but more rules to that. And if your DM is the ďRAW-or-die, third party only if I can Monte Carlo machine it and find it is mathematically neutral, cite your rules and count your 5 foot squares, or I donít care how cool you think the maneuver looks, itís going to fail because thereís no rules for itĒ, then this book either isnít going to impress them or theyíre going to insist that you in practice canít use it. At best, I think the systems Mearls creates here are probably more fun and useful as part of 3.5ís character creation minigame, which sadly is often a lot more fun and interesting than the main roleplaying game itself Ö but I digress.

    So, yeah. Nice idea, doomed in practice. The solution to making people more creative or inspiring typically isnít to give them more rules by which to be inspiring or creative. 1.5/4 on this one.

    On presentation: Standard Malhavoc Press presentation, which is neither here nor there. Black and white, index, somewhat readable. 1/2 on this one.


    Total: 5.5/10.


    Next Time: Book of Erotic Fantasy, Valar Project, Inc.



    YES, WE ARE GOING THERE.

  22. - Top - End - #172
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Next Time: Book of Erotic Fantasy, Valar Project, Inc.



    YES, WE ARE GOING THERE.
    The BoEF gets a bad rap, but it's got some good stuff. The races in particular are all pretty cool; I remember really liking the Giant-Born template.

    Looking forward to it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  23. - Top - End - #173
    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Still annoyed that I never got a physical copy of BoEF while it was at my FLGS.

    I tried to order one online, through a shipping agent (from USA to Australia): agent refused to ship, classifying the book as "pornographic in nature". Because I'd already paid the seller and the shipping agent refused to ship internationally, never got the book, and was also unable to get a refund.

  24. - Top - End - #174
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    As much as I want to riff on BoEF for honestly sophomoric reasons, there's not some bad stuff in it. (Well, okay, there is. There's a short, 3 or 5 level long full caster class that is essentially impossible not to qualify for and gets extra metamagic reduction out of those levels).
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    "See these cookies? Note how while good they taste sort of bland. Now try these, they're the same cookies but with chocolate chips added. Notice how with the second batch we expended slightly more ingredients but dramatically enhanced the flavor? That's metamagic."
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Seriously, can we kill this misconception now? A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He shops for precisely what he means to.


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  25. - Top - End - #175
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Glancing through the Book of Iron writeup you linked, it seems like you could make an interesting build if you have a reach weapon and take the Total AoO with Failure drawback. I'm not sure how it would interact exactly with a spiked chain and Improved Trip (i.e. I'm not sure if you could add effects onto a trip attack you make with a spiked chain, and if you could make a special attack with your follow-up attack from Improved Trip), but it seems like there could be something there.

    It also looks like the usual stunlock strategies apply, which can be kinda OP, but that's a problem with any sort of called shots/build-your-own-maneuver system.

    When I have more time I'll look into it more thoroughly.

    Also, I find it ironic that everybody's bashing the BoEF, and yet everybody's read it, unlike many of the other books mentioned in this thread, despite however much praise is heaped upon them.
    Last edited by Kalkra; 2021-08-11 at 10:33 AM.

  26. - Top - End - #176
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    I also took a read through the Book of Iron review you linked, and I have to say I do like the idea of choosing the drawbacks for your maneuver on the fly.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  27. - Top - End - #177
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Reading what you wrote about what third parties wrote about Monks convinced me that the people who knew Monks in 3.5 best were the ones who made the Swordsage.
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    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    I also took a read through the Book of Iron review you linked, and I have to say I do like the idea of choosing the drawbacks for your maneuver on the fly.
    It reminds me of the FATE/OSR mashup Monsters and Magic system where one sacrifices damage to inflict drawbacks or buy advantages.

    So say a monk could sacrifice damage to punch a wizard in the throat to silence them, or a barbarian could sacrifice some damage when attacking a goblin with an axe to gain the "Bloody killer of goblins!" advantage.

    But yeah, I like the idea of a more freeform agency for players in DnD too.

  29. - Top - End - #179
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Assuming the thread doesn't get locked over the BoEF, can you do the Creature Collection from White Wolf/Sword and Sorcery next?

    I am very interested in learning more about the monster book that was rushed so quickly that it somehow beat the actual Monster Manual to market.

  30. - Top - End - #180
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    I'll look into it :)

    Sorry about the delays doing BoEF, guys, the subject matter means it's not as easy for me to work on it in downtime at my job, which is where I get most of my reviewing done. I'll devote some time to it soon. The intent will be to avoid the sort of content that could result in a threadlock, which hopefully will deal with my more sophomoric humour and non-PG stuff alike :)

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