Advantageous Abilities: Humanoid Special Abilities (revised edition) (5e)
This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Dire Rugrat Publishing’s 5e-conversions are a joy to behold in that they add unique abilities to the respective NPCs. Alas, the original iteration of this pdf failed pretty nastily in the depiction of these unique abilities out of context. However, not one company to be dissuaded by harsh feedback, the dire rugrats have revised the book and now begin this pdf with a section on how to properly use the respective abilities included. The abilities are now codified in an easy and concise manner, sporting refresh conditions, if applicable, in brackets behind the name. Furthermore, and this is perhaps the most significant improvement here from a structural point of view, the respective abilities now actually provide a Challenge Rating-modification. While usually 5e-statblocks speak of “challenge” instead, challenge rating is actually referenced in the Monster Manual, so the CR-abbreviation gets a pass here, in spite of being more commonly used in PFRPG’s rules language. Anyways, the inclusion of these ratings now allow tighter control for the GM and a better guideline of the challenges the addition of these abilities result in. Where applicable, such abilities have a save DC equal to 8 + proficiency bonus + relevant Ability modifier. The second important aspect would be that the abilities featured herein have now been properly codified as passive and active abilities and reactions.
A total of 8 passive abilities are included herein for your convenience. Barroom Brawler lets you ignore difficult terrain generated by bars and grants advantage when trying to grapple/shove foes. Below the Belt nets a foe that suffer from a variety of negative conditions disadvantage on saves to overcome the condition if you hit it. The previously wonky ability has been completely cleaned up.
Close-quarters melee shooting is very strong, allowing for shots in melee-range sans disadvantage. With a helpful familiar, you may have spells originate from the familiar, but only if the critter is within 30 ft. Inflicting more damage versus grappled or restrained foes makes sense and I like the peg-leg drawback…though Sea-legs, which grant 20 ft. climbing AND swimming speed AND advantage on Strength (athletics)-checks to climb slippery vertical surfaces or gain distance in water feels too strong for just CR +1/2.
A total of 6 active abilities are next: Using verbal jabs to dishearten foes hit with sneak attacks is nice and now features a scaling DC. Motivating minions (which are concisely defined!) to inflict more damage depending on the master’s HD as a bonus action is neat. Gaining an increased, bonus action-based movement when swinging from rigging makes sense for pirates. Reloading pistols or crossbows as a bonus action can be pretty strong, depending on the pistol rules you’re using…so take that one with a bit of salt. Personally, I think 3/day poisoning weapons feels more like something gained from equipment than strictly an ability, but I’m nitpicking here.
The pdf also features four reactions, particularly suitable for BBEGs – swapping places with minions to let them take the hit is nice, though it lacks the “you may use your reaction”-wording-component. Considering the header, it is pretty clear how it’s should work, it can still be a bit odd. Another option is a reflexive teleport combined with invisibility both make sense. Counterattacks in melee and using a Dexterity saving throw versus DC 15 or damage caused, whichever is higher, to potentially negate damage kind of makes sense. The pdf offers nice designer’s commentary on a couple of these abilities and also provides a nice Proficiency-bonus by challenge and challenge/XP-table for the GM, adding some serious usefulness there and avoiding undue bookflipping.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no formal glitches that would gall me. The rules language in the revised edition is significantly more precise. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with a solid piece of color art and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Kelly & Ken Pawlik’s collection of advantageous abilities for 5e-NPCs has been vastly improved in its revised iteration; where before, the pdf had next to no use in my book, sported several glaring hiccups and issues, the team has come together to streamline the pdf into an actually useful, fun little book. And yes, new content is included! The revised edition not only actually works, it is also easier to navigate, sports more content and is, over all, a worthwhile addition for a 5e-GM’s toolkit to customize NPCs. While not absolutely perfect, the low price does its share to render this a valid purchase. My final verdict for the revised edition will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform – well done!
You can get this significantly improved version here on OBS!