This massive rule-book clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 78 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Ahh, childhood. Most people look back with nostalgia-tinted glasses at theirs. I’m not one of these persons, due to a variety of reasons. So this is about playing kids – and as such, there is a lot to consider. But why play kids? Well, for kids playing kids, there are two angles, both valid: One, kids want to play adults. I was that guy. Two: Kids playing other kids for easier identification. While I was not one of these kids, the success of the Harry Potter franchise, the “growing” with the readers, is pretty much proof for the validity of this approach. Or, well, you want a change of pace and tone…or play a complete heroic journey, beginning at childhood and then moving through a full life. (There are rules for old and venerable characters by the Four Horsemen, after all…)
Whatever the reason, there is a lot of untapped potential in such adventures and the narratives you can weave – from establishing leitmotifs and resonant happenings. However, there is not much distinction within the child age category – the first step this pdf takes to make childhood adventures more rewarding is to apply a finer filter: The age categories infant, toddler, child and youth, with mechanical and role-playing notes provided, allow for a cleaner and more concise presentation of the early years of a given character. Now we all know from experience how important size is to the child – thus, growth of characters is covered – this is determined via a simple system that accounts for trauma potentially suffered (alas, pretty likely for adventuring individuals), growth phases and spurts and the like. The aforementioned trauma rules, in particular, deserve special mention – from ability score damage to disease, magic and poison to malnutrition, massive damage and psychological issues, the system presented is as concise, precise and fun as we’ve come to expect from Everyman Gaming. Unfavorable conditions and environmental traumas similarly are covered and the pdf does not stop there – instead, atypical body shapes, from dwarfism to giantism, over- or underweight can be found…and from Conan to pretty much every fantasy series, we can note some worthwhile character that is partially defined by such deviations, right? Currently, at least, Tyrion Lannister may well be the most favorite example.
The process of aging similarly undergoes a deliberate and evocative process of closer scrutiny; to be more precise, the effects of mental aging, whether limited or instantaneous, allow for immediate spurts of maturity…perhaps, the PCs, at one point, need to sacrifice their innocent, wide-eyed perspective to defeat the evil threatening the land… So yes, the mechanically-supported components that pertain the basic essences of being a child already provide an excellent lead into the book, but it does not stop here; instead, the book then goes on to talk about life as a child in a fantasy context – not only teh core races are covered with expanded, detailed notes on age, height and weight in the early stages of life – no, the pdf actually also takes a detailed look at kitsune (no surprise there), samsarans, nagaji and wayang – often in a rather fun way. Wayang kids, for example, tend to be skittish, gangly and easily frightened, which made me chuckle a bit. Beyond the detailed examination of an upbringing within a fantasy context, one should not expect the book to stop there: Instead, the heroics for the respective age categories come fully into focus and the pdf does not stop there – quite the contrary: It takes several aspects of the psychology of the child and elaborates upon them and the, often unjustified, portrayals in media. Whether it’s the notion of binary emotions or an inability to grasp emotional turmoil – the pdf takes a deep and concise look at these and elaborates upon them in a thoughtful manner, really surprising me. In hindsight, I always thought I was a bit of a weird kid, since I never could properly relate to most depictions of kids in mainstream media, but considering these aspects…well, probably not so strange. Anyways, the level of detail provided within this massive book is fantastic – from adventuring as a family to portraying a child, the amount of guidance provided is staggering. The pdf, as you may well expect at this point, does not shirk the difficult issues that may arise from adults playing kids and the potential issues that arise from depicting, even in an innocent manner, flirtatious behavior at the table in a context where kids are involved- while most tables will probably handle the like in a sensitive manner, the matter of fact that the issues are addressed would be something I applaud. I am usually a guy who is impossible to offend in a gaming context and my game would classify as hard R…or multiple Xs…but even I draw the line here and the depiction of gruesome things happening to kids is something that definitely should only happen in rounds that universally state that they have no problem with it. It is sad that we have to have disclaimers like this, but the inclusion here very much is something I applaud. Thank you.
Now the pdf goes one huge step further – beyond aforementioned age category classification, the pdf goes on to examine animals, aberrations and similar monster types – and yes, there are distinctions made between bestial, humanoid or oozy aberrations, for example – the level of detail here is, again a truly impressive one – from degenerate dragons to timeless fey, fringe cases are taken into account, providing, as a whole, a truly well-rounded experience—but this is Everyman gaming we’re talking about and thus, the book contains a significant array of character options: We begin with 4 arcane discoveries that include unorthodox spellcasting (harder to identify), sheltering your life in a phylactery-like familiar, becoming ageless or siphoning off vitality via your aging spells. The order of the terrier, particularly effective versus those larger than him and tasked with defending the weak, receives Dazzling Display via Bluff and adds Cha-mod to Tactician’s uses and generates bonuses to most rolls for allies when he vanquishes adversaries. 4 nice investigator talents (including quick and vivid memorization) and local connections can be found here as well. The kineticist may choose the spatial kineticist, who is locked into aether as first element and telekinetic blast as first simple blast. He replaces the 1st level infusion with extended range and the telekinetic finesse utility talent and 2nd level’s elemental defense is replaced with kinetic guard, gaining a scaling AC deflection bonus, with the accepting of burn for further bonuses that thankfully cap, preventing abuse. A dirty trick-based and a reposition-based (level 2, burn 2) substance infusion as well as one that enhances forced movement emphasize the soft character control angle of the archetype.
The foundling oracle receives a signature curse of unluck, courtesy of their brushes with the fey, but the revelations, from pixie’s arrows to bursts of nymph beauty or sprite forms make for a nice changeling-style concept. The purehearted champion paladin uses his touch to deal damage to evil-aligned dragons or outsiders as though they were undead and instead of mercies, they receive offensive purities; basically, a more offensive tweak of the paladin engine. Higher levels provide continuous protection/magic circle against evil and at 11th level, the blood shed by the pala may be used in conjunction with a special lay on hands based AoO to retaliate versus foes…cool! Not a bad archetype.
Now where I was grinning from ear to ear would be with the personal memento options for the occultist: These can be adopted whenever the occultist gains a new implement school, granting bonus focus implement powers…but the raw emotional attachment to the memento causes a -2 penalty for 1 round after employing the focus power from the respective memento…oh, and a minimum of 1 mental focus must be invested in it at any given time and no other implement may carry more mental focus than the memento. They are amazing. Creepy playthings that unnerve foes via an AoE debuff versus fear /that may even eliminate immunity at higher levels!), dangerous toys that can generate telekinetic projectiles, practice blades that may become blades, emblems that can generate secret hideaways – pure narrative awesomeness, supplemented well by the evocative rules. Phantoms may select the bravery emotional focus now, providing buffs to allies via encouragement and learning by doing. No less than 3 ranger styles, well-crafted and selected in the power of feats complement the options, with harrying, slings and underfoot styles allowing for feasible, rounded tricks. The vigilante class similarly receives new social tricks – age impostor (Why yes, sir – I am old enough to enter this establishment!), terrain mastery and slipping under the radar of others make sense. The street urchin rogue, adept at escaping and hiding in crowds, is cool and a total array of 5 different rogue talents allow for the option of employing Combat Antics (more on that later) and similar options.
The phantasmalist summoner may draw from sorc/wiz spells and his eidolon is basically a imaginary friend born from unfettered imagination, with called creatures being similarly partially real. Neat. The feat-section introduces feats with the Child-descriptor, which, guess what, can only be taken by kids and youths and the character will lose these upon reaching maturity in favor of other feats – this is noted in the Maturation-section of the respective feats, providing sensible progressions of the lighthearted flavor of the feats to the adult, no-nonsense take on adventuring. From holding oversized weapons to being an Arcane School Dropout, having a Childlike Innocence, being a Coven initiate, having a Feral Upbringing, being a Noble Scion…you get the idea – the feats are generally neat indeed. The pdf goes one step beyond just new feats – I did mention “Decry” before and probably elicited some raised eyebrows there, right? Well, decrying is a new psychological combat maneuver (as premiered in the amazing Ultimate Charisma book) and in its own way, no less crucial than antagonize – it basically denotes the option to make a target look nonthreatening. The maneuver can be used rather well in game and may be further enhanced by various feats. This option, alongside some of the class options presented before may make this book interesting even for those of us who are not interested at all in playing kids…but the book does offer something else that may well transcend the appeal of the focus of the book.
The next chapter is called “mischief & antics” – its basic premise is founded on a mischief pool equal to 1/2 character level + highest mental ability score modifier. Similarly, save DCs if applicable, are 10 + 1/2 level + highest mental attribute modifier. Unless otherwise noted, spending mischief is no action, but cannot be undertaken while stunned, dazed or unconscious. Mischief points, when reduced to 0, cause you to be fatigued, but can be regained on a 1-per-minute rate when you do not suffer from negative conditions or exert yourself (no physical checks, only either move or standard actions – kind of like a short rest in 5e). Mischief points can either be gained per the default feat access or as a universally available subsystem; the respective antics that you can utilize are based on specific class features – more damage for unarmed strikes, skill boosts, movement boosts, etc. Via feats, minor mischief regains for companions that crit via natural 20s can be gained. The system not only extends to class features, though – a rather wide array of feat-based antics can be found: Those with Improved Dirty Trick can attack Below the Belt; using Kinetic Leap, you can expend serious amounts of mischief to substitute Acrobatics for Ref-saves. With Improved Grapple, you can now Dog Pile on foes…the options are quite diverse and also extend to skills, though here, the skills in question require a certain amount of ranks as well: To antagonize foes better with antagonizing jeers, you need at least 5 ranks in Intimidate, for example. Drawing all eyes on you similarly makes great use of the Psychology DC mechanic of psychological warfare. The system does go one step beyond even this when it introduces spell-based options to employ mischief – like using a readied flare to harry attacking foes, their spellcasting of the like, ray of frost to numb fingers and the like. Very cool! The system is creative, detailed…and frankly could carry a book of this size on its own. The rules presented add a degree of neat flexibility to the proceedings and are, mechanics-wise, concise and well-presented, though, by virtue of the broad spectrum to which they can be applied in theory, they are nowhere near exhaustive in the potential for flexibility. While the aforementioned may sound slapsticky and that is the flavor presented, the abilities nonetheless are one reskin away from working pretty much universally in games that want a subsystem to add a bit of options and diversity. In short: The system is nice as presented, though, considering the breadth of PFRPG-options, I hope for a broader assortment of tricks to complement the base-line presented here – the system deserves the expansion.
Speaking of expansion – if you’ve been following my review for some time, you may have noticed that I am pretty enamored with the rather inspiring Ultimate Charisma and the leadership perks featured therein: The options that extend to kingdom building and mass combat can use more material and this is happy to oblige: From a band of misfits to new loner perks (Alone in the Dark fortifies you versus fear) or celebrity status, gaining a phantasmal friend eidolon or social tactics, the options presented are powerful and evocative. Two thumbs up! The pdf does present, as hinted before in the very beginning of the class option array, an assortment of age-altering magics represented via spells: Bewitchingly compelling childhood toys, temporarily kindling the flames of youth, hiding from adults (give that fey…), regressing targets mentally, magic-induced tantrums… the spell-array feels generally well-placed in the context of the respective spell levels. But the pdf goes beyond that: With occult rituals. The Bloody Woman in the Mirror would be a take on the Bloody Mary/Candyman myth. Another ritual can slowly change you into something else, while joyous dreams of the pixie’s flight allow for quick and expedient overland travel…but if bad thoughts creep in, the participants may crash and glide towards the ground…”Cross my heart and hope to die…” – the binding promise as a ritual is amazing and the exchange of years between beings as well as the repair of time’s flow constitute amazing rituals to perform.
The massive book also features magical items – from the feather of tickling to the pauperizing pacifier to rings of chronological stability and yes, cursed poppets, there are some nice objects here. The pdf also features hobby traits, family traits and social traits – and here, the notion of a universal language shared among babies also gets a nod…oh, and there are some appropriate drawbacks to chose from as well.
Editing and formatting are top-notch: In spite of the rules-density of this massive tome, I encountered no undue array of glitches…kudos! Layout adheres to a colorful and friendly version of Everyman Gaming’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf contains a vast amount of neat original pieces of artwork by Jacob Blackmon, lending a distinct and unified style to the tome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though oddly, at least in my version, they start with the rules-systems. Since this is what you’ll look up anyways, I won’t penalize the book for it.
Alexander Augunas, with support from BJ Hensley, Monica Marlowe, Andrew Marlowe and Matthew Morris, has crafted one ginormous book of lighthearted options that deal in a succinct way with the notion of playing kids in our fantasy games. The advice and considerations presented here apply beyond PFRPG’s confines. The book neither infantilizes, nor is it condescending in its presentation: This book can be read by adults and kids alike; the tone is very much child-friendly, with an emphasis on wild creativity via the mischief system and rules geared towards fun and slapstick…this, unlike many a tome with at least a part-kid-demographic, does not treat the reader as idiots. Childhood Adventures treats kids with respect, both as characters and players and I applaud it for exactly that.
So if you were looking for that, well, then this delivers. At the same time, the book does have a significant appeal beyond this scope. Frankly, you can easily make this book HORRIFYING. I mean it. Much like many an innocent 80s kid-flick, you can just emphasize the components differently in play: Make fey use antics. Emphasize the child-centric feats and items, put a dark twist on it; add a sprinkling of fey mischief and you get something that can be emasculating and downright horrific for adult characters. Not because the book’s creepy, mind you – but because it evokes the tropes we know from our childhood and with the right spin, these can resonate. This book depicts innocence. This does not keep the GM from twisting that, though! Why am I saying this? Frankly, none of my groups, including my kids, are that keen on playing children. I kept reading this book and drew inspiration from it, tested and tinkered…and the sudden realization of how far beyond its theme it can be employed hit me rather hard. With the AMAZING personal mementos and all those little pieces combined, we ultimately receive a truly valuable toolkit, one that can enrich any game, even if you consciously seek to de-emphasize the importance of kids and associated themes.
In short, this book even holds up if you use it in completely different ways – and that, in combination with its capacity to inspire, is a sign of a great book, as opposed to only a good one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Seriously…get this.
You can get this massive, inspiring book here on OBS!