EZG reviews The Brewmaster: The Life of the Party
This base-class by Interjection Games clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
The brewmaster base-class gets proficiency with simple weapons, martial reach weapons, martial bludgeoning weapons and light/medium armors and shields, but not tower shields, d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, a good will-save and, surprisingly, full BAB-progression.
A Brewmaster starts game with 2 casks and increases that number by +1 for every 3 class levels up to 8 at 20th level – but what store in the casks? Well, beverages, of course! Homebrew, to be precise! That this stuff is potent (and can vary in effect) can anyone attest who had the joy of tasting some different types of hembränd sprit – but the brewmaster’s draught is…different.
So, how does homebrewing work within the context of this pdf? Well, there are essentially a couple of things to bear in mind: Each cask must contain a sugar and a fermenter and may contain additionally a single clarifier and up to a number of additives as prescribed by the fermenter. So far, so simple!
Sugars dictate how often a cask can be used – essentially, sugars determine the charges and also determines the primary benefit. Brewmasters start game with 2 sugars known and add +1 at 2nd level and every 2 levels after that. Fermenters determine how long the brewing takes and how long the buzz, being “roaring drunk” as determined by the alcohol level, lasts. Brewmasters start game knowing all of them.
Additives modify being roaring drunk and often scale with the drink’s alcohol level. They also “Each additive has a “minimum quality level”, that is, they have no effect in a homebrew”…and this is where the sentence ends – which should have probably gone on to describe that a brewmaster requires a minimum class level to use them. Unless otherwise stated, only one additive per homebrew. A brewmaster starts with 2 additives known, +1 per level.
One clarifier can be added to a drink after it has matured and generally have significant influence on the homebrew. A brewmaster learns the first clarifier at 4th level, +1 every 5 levels after that. Thus, over 20 levels, the brewmaster learns up to 12 sugars, 21 additives and 4 clarifiers.
In order to prepare a given homebrew, the brewmaster must have a minimum wisdom score of 10+the total number of ingredients in the cask, with saving throws, if applicable, being against 10+1/2 class level + wis-mod. Non brewmasters can benefit from casks as well, but gain no benefit from effects modifying the brewmaster’s class features if they don’t have them themselves. Tricks to consume potions faster do work, but if that results in a required action only being a move action, swift action or less, the faster consumption spills 1 additional dose, essentially consuming 2 uses instead of one, with the second being just spilled. This is a very cool balancing mechanism in my book!
Okay, so what about the brewing process? This one includes essentially 3 phases – The first phase would be the fermentation phase – a fermenter determines, when a dink is good and when not – a drink has either a poor, a good, or a perfect quality, depending on the speed of the fermentation and the number of days the drink had to age. After waiting until either poor, good or perfect result can be yielded, boiling is initiated – here, additives are added. Then, conditioning begins – here, we calculate the brewing DC. This one consists of the base sugar’s base DC, modified by fermenter, clarifiers and additives. Then, you make a d20+level+wis-mod check – if you fail, quality can degrade by one or two steps (or even totally ruin the homebrew), potentially modifying which additives work out in the end. The table with degrees of failure and overall system make for a nice, planning-rewarding risk-reward-system here. The handy table listing the qualities by fermentation speed along the days is extremely handy here as well.
Now, I’ve mentioned before being “roaring drunk” – this is the result of drinking from a cask, lasts for alcohol level rounds and is somewhat akin to a rage (+2 Str, Con, will-saves, -2 to int/wis-based skill checks), increasing by +1/-1 at 4th level and every 4 levels after that to a maximum of +/-6 at 16th level. When already this drunk, drinking further from a cask nets the character an extended duration for the effect, while drinking from a cask when the remaining rounds of being roaring drunk exceed class level, the brewmaster gets sick instead, potentially barfing on the baron’s carpet…or the dragon’s favorite coin-pile.
Brewmasters add 1/2 class level to max HP and also get this bonus to saves versus spoiled/poisoned food and similar ingested threats. Starting at 5th level, the brewmaster can accelerate a cask to immediately ferment 1d4 days 1/day, +1/day every 5 levels up to 3 accelerated fermentations per day – though one cask can only be accelerated 1/day. At 7th and 13th level, brewmasters learn to mitigate aforementioned spillage from fast drinking.
At 11th level, the class gets Brew Potion as a bonus feat and counts his class levels as caster levels for the purpose of this feat – he can bypass the spell-requirements usually required, naturally (since the class is no caster), but that requires more money. He also counts as having class level ranks in spellcraft for the purpose of identifying potions and produce potions much, much faster at higher levels. As a capstone, the class can create instant-perfect, improved homebrew.
The class comes with favored class options for the base races, drow, hobgoblins, orcs, hobgoblins, kobolds, tieflings, puddlings and aasimar. Brewmasters may also select from 10 feats, which include extra sugars, additives, clarifiers, offsetting the penalty to wis-based skills while drunk (instead applying it to dex-or cha-based skills), better potion-spell-requirement-bypassing, get full 4 hours of work done while adventuring, +2 to brewing checks, +2 to damage while drunk, +4 to fort-save vs. saves to become sickened or spike potions with alcohol (triggering roaring drunk).
So what about those fermenters – this is perhaps best explained with one example, so I’ll provide one: Dwarven Breakfast Blend is a fast fermenter, which means alcohol level 3 on day one (perfect), 2 at day 2 (good) and one at day 3 (bad) – after that, the cask spoils. Other fermenters have Poor 3, Good 4 or Perfect 6 as alcohol levels. Brewing DC-modifiers are either +0 or +3 and the number of additives the fermenters allow ranges from 1 to 3. It should be noted that each fermenter comes with a nice bit of awesome, often hilarious flavor-text.
Now on to the sugars, shall we? It should be noted that several sugars herein feature a base level prerequisite and some of them also require a set amount of ranks in a given skill in order to utilize – a handy table sums these up for your convenience. Base brewing-DCs range from 3+1/2 level to 11+1/2 level and the sugars have varying effects depending on the quality of the homebrew ingested.
But what exactly do these sugars do? Well, let’s take at the level 8 Barrel Cactus Fruit Sugar – upon imbibing a homebrew made with this sugar, a timer starts – 2, 5 or class level rounds. The first charge attack you make within this time frame allows you to end your charge with one additional attack at your highest BAB -essentially allowing for two attacks at the end of a charge. While thankfully including a caveat against stacking with pounce etc., the additional attack could still use some clarification – do the modifications to atk of a charge still apply to the second attack? What about the bonus to bull rush? And more importantly, what about mounted brewmasters and lances? Would both attacks count as mounted charges or would the second attack granted count as a regular melee attack?
Belchweed allows you to belch at foes in melee, temporarily sickening them on a failed save, at level 11+ even potentially sickening multiple foes in a small area – cool! Also rather interesting would be sugars that allow you to deal attribute damage – sans save. While usually, I’d go bananas over this, the mechanics are interesting here – the roaring drunk class feature’s morale bonuses are temporarily mitigated, instead allowing you to deal half this bonus as damage to attribute(s) depending on the sugar, but only with the first attack, making stacking of such damage harder. Powerful, yes, but at required level 9 not broken.
Blue Agave is a nice risk/reward gambit – when drinking from this cask and executing a full-round action, you may elect to provoke an AoO from all eligible targets to get an additional attack at your highest BAB. However, if you’re hit, all your attacks receive a penalty to atk -from -3 to -1, depending on the quality. And no, no stacking with haste et al. Not all sugars are offensive – there’s also essentially medicinal alcohol that can burn diseases from your system by allowing for a new save. If you fail, though, you’ll take damage. Another sugar nets you a fiery (or ice-cold! Or acid!) breath weapon that you can use in lieu of a charge or full attack action’s attack. It’s a bit strange that the fire-sugar requires 5 ranks along as level 6, while neither the cold, nor the acid-damage dealing one has a skill prerequisite. Another sugar makes a drink essentially a thrown weapon of tarry goo – neat! Healing homebrews are also possible (including caveats that undead shouldn’t drink these…)…
Short-grain and its bigger brother, long-grain Rice laced with Koji also deserves mention due to a strange mechanic: All physical damage beneath a low threshold is ignored. Starting at 2 at the lowest quality and increasing by +1 for every 4 class levels (or starting at 2 and increasing every 2 class levels at perfect quality), all attacks that deal below these damage are ignored. So, like DR? No. All attacks that surpass the threshold deal full damage. Now per se, I like this mechanic, but it does have its issues – if a character has resistance to a given physical damage due to DR, does it apply first or after the drink’s effects? Also, this one lacks a duration.
Minor buffing, increased speed, creating a fast-healing granting cloud of vapors, a lesser bonus (scaling up to lesser true strike)-style bonus to one attack (class level of the brewmaster) and a sugar that temporarily nets you spring attack and shot on the run make all for interesting options. On the interesting side, creating difficult terrain and the schadenfruit that heals you whenever an ally within range takes more than 10 points of damage make for fun concepts. It does say something about my players when they really, really got into the latter in playtest. And no, I didn’t find a way to break the latter. Another sugar allows you to wreck foe’s armors with cumulative permanent penalties (until magical repair/Craft/Profession is received!), while the highest level sugar can allow you to ignore the effects of being below 0 hp for 1 round – and yes, even death! But only in the perfect quality – no effect whatsoever in the other two. VERY interesting!
Onwards to additives – these again have usually a class level prerequisite, with some also having skill prerequisites. They also have a minimum quality of the brew – every drink that fails to meet this standard gets no benefits from the additive, as mentioned above. They also increase the brewing DC of the respective homebrew from +1 to +5. Oh, and the list of them is LONG. From spell-like effects like enlarge person, stacking acid resistance, bonus to knowledge check while drunk, swim speed and similar buffs are in here, as are several tricks that mitigate the roaring drunk penalties to specific skills. Spit e.g. on your weapon to make it flaming? Yep – possible! Increased speed due to my beloved habanero peppers? Yup. And no, not going to break down all of them. If you’re storming a mage academy, you might wish to choose the additive that allows you to become utterly immune to a first level spell for some time.
Finally, there would be 9 clarifiers – which modify the brewing DC by a range from -1 to +8 and include prerequisites from levels to clarifiers known. These allow you to double the effects of one additive, improve roaring drunk, lower the minim quality required for a specific additive or increase a cask’s quality. Distillation (the +8 one) is also interesting – alcohol level is multiplied by the number of doses, hereafter the dose is reduced to 1 – essentially allowing you for a rather long-lasting roaring drunk rampage – but drinking cannot be faster than a standard action.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column standard and the pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience, though not excessively so. Artwork is thematically fitting stock-art.
The brewmaster is a class that sounds like a joke – so let’s get that misconception out of the way from the get-go: It’s not. This is a fully functional, rewarding class to play. Fun, yes, but pity the fool who taunts a brewmaster! This is the class for those fans of Drunken Masters, for those players who always wanted to play the hedonistic dandy, the drunken dwarf that smashes all opposition. Now it should be noted that, at least for Interjection Games-levels, this class is VERY easy to get into. Complex and customizable, yes, but it should NOT be considered hard to get into.
Also, contrary to expectations you might have, the brewmaster is a thinking man’s melee class – less in direct combat, more so in the planning of adventuring. Due to the homebrews taking some time, we have a similar experience like prepared casters – planning ahead is rewarded with this class, with more flexibility being possible, but also requiring some thought. This has two direct results – number one, the class is actually rather versatile, especially for a full BAB-class. Number two – while combat might be fun, humorous even here and there, this class still is serious – seriously fun! Now extremely simulationalist DMs should beware that the components don’t need to be purchased – but for most campaigns (who glance over component pouches etc.) that should not prove a hindrance.
I seriously enjoyed the brewmaster, its unique mechanics, the nice descriptions and its unobtrusive humor – and consider it a great addition to the game…but one that has some minor glitches, as mentioned above. While no deal-breaker, they keep the class from the highest honors, making me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.
Excuse me, it’s my heritage coming through – as a Franconian (we do have the highest micro-brewery density in the world!), I think I’ll have to get a beer now!
You can get this thinking (wo-)man’s barbarian here on OBS!