EZG reviews The Genius Guide to More Barbarian Talents
The expansion for the superb talented barbarian clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
A total of 4 new edges are provided – one to make an animal whisperer (wild empathy, then non-magical charm effect -wrap your head around that!), one to further improve cleaving, one for a mule-style barbarian with more carrying capacity/better str-checks and one to grant immunity versus compulsions, but with the caveat of including a higher-HD-by-4-caveat similarly to how sneak attack versus those tentatively immune to flanking is handled.
A total of 24 talents are also part of the deal, covering wild empathy, being able to appraise non-magical objects/getting a kind of pidgin means of communicating simple concepts, speaking with animals of her form while skinwalking at will, one that lets you treat a very select array of weapons as a lighter category, improvise objects, becoming harder to get by failing respective saves and gaining bonuses while under negative conditions. The latter is a problem, at least a minor one – while I get the design intent here, the reality of the game will see more than one barbarian with this talent asking his/her compatriots to inflict e.g. bleed damage on them to get the melee damage boost (hey, +2 to damage ain’t that shabby…) – too metagamey in the way it will be (mis-)used for my tastes. Kind of weird would be head smash – unarmed attacks with the head, executable sans AoO and even when grappled or pinned, but deals half damage to the barbarian. Again, I like the idea, but the execution would probably not see me ever take it unless I had a DM who used super-grappler foes all the time. On the other end, half damage from all falls and never landing prone when falling AND +2 to CMD versus trips? Yeah, can see that one.
Rather disappointing for me was also the way in which blood oaths are portrayed herein – when below half max hp (Hello, 4th edition design!), a barbarian may once per day choose one of 4 bonuses – none of which are too strong and require line of sight with the target of the oath and a relatively short duration, but still. Kind of anticlimactic and not like an epic blood oath of vengeance, more like a minor revenge theme. Better bracer-fighting and a talent that nets bonus hp when not wearing armor and the like, on the other hand, help quite a bit with some character concepts. One of the 4 greater talents allows you to execute two combat maneuvers at once as a standard action and -2 to either. A complex one here…on the one hand, there is nothing per se wrong with this one per se thanks to the action-economy-caveat, it is still one that somewhat leaves me with a bit of hesitation, especially with the grand talent that 1/round allows the barbarian to add yet another maneuver to a combat maneuver or attack – and since there’s no other caveat, that means potentially three combat maneuvers in one attack – and I *know* there are some creature/build combos that can do very nasty things with combos like that… Getting a final attack when being downed or killed on the other hand is a rather neat one.
We also get 7 new rage powers and they are interesting – more CMD and more importantly, an AoO if a maneuver fails against the raging barbarian (even if otherwise not provoking one from the barbarian) -yeah, these I can see. Draw Aggression deserves special mention – when a foe the barbarian threatens targets a foe other than the barbarian with a spell, ability or attack, the barbarian gets an AoO – add reach, have fun. Seriously, nice way of making the aggression drawing work. Getting a free round of rage for being critted, on the other hand, at least theoretically fails the kitten test in a very minor way – while theoretically, the rage could be infinitely prolonged by crits of declawed kittens, in practice, it’ll be hard to maintain. Still, not particularly elegant design in my book. Getting a shaken-inducing defense versus mind-inföluencing effects on the other hand – yeah, neato! Ditto for inciting minor, detrimental rages and a fast intimidate (swift or immediate action) upon entering a rage.
The pdf concludes with a list of the edges, talents etc. by theme – nice to have!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ 2-column portrait standard with thematically fitting color stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Hmm…this one left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the further exploration of skinwalking/animal-whisperer-style tricks is cool – as is the fact that some of the abilities herein make vambraces more viable and help unarmored barbarians. The thing is – they, at least in my book, don’t do enough to offset the downside of not using armor in the long run – some further talents/edges to improve this conceptual path would have been more than cool. After all, unarmored barbarians, frothing at the mouth while charging those pansies in their shining mail are a staple of fantasy art – a step further in that direction would have been awesome. Usually, the “More X Talents”-series has provided some of the more iconic, cool talents, unique options etc. – and this one does so as well…but also uses quite a bunch of rules-solutions that are slightly less elegant than what I’ve come to expect from the series. Overall, a few of the talents herein left me either shrugging or simply not sold on their viability. Now don’t get me wrong – chances are, you’ll find at least some cool tidbits to use herein, but compared to previous installments, this one’s mechanics felt a tad bit less streamlined to me, with some reflexive abilities tied to negative conditions and the like. While the wording is water-tight enough to prevent copious abuse, some minor metagamey moments might well arise from this one. All in all, I can bring myself to rating this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform, with the caveat that talented barbarian-fans should probably still take a look, but carefully check with their DM regarding the talents herein.