EZG reviews the New Paths Compendium
This massive compilation of the New Paths-series, including quite a bunch of new content), clocks in at 130 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 124 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
So, from the get-go – I did reviews for the arcane paladin-class, the Battle Scion, the Spell-less Ranger, Shaman, White Necromancer, Monk/Ninja and Gunslinger-installments of the series, so if you’re interested in a direct breakdown of these, please take a look at the respective reviews. I will, though, mention the new content or fixes. I also did not review the elven archer-pdf (simply because I don’t have it), so that one will get its breakdown. Got that? Great!
So let’s take a look at the elven archer, shall we? A racially restricted class (only elves and half-elves may apply), it gets d8, 6+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armors, bucklers, full BAB-progression, good ref- and fort-saves, prepared divine spellcasting of up to 4th level with wis as governing attribute and track/wild empathy at first level. Beyond that, the class adds so-called precision-damage, +1d6, against foes denied their dex-bonus within 30 ft., increasing this by 1d6 damage every 5 class levels. This damage also applies when flanking with the bow, which becomes possible at 16th level.
Eleven archers are bow specialists and at 2nd level, get a bonus feat (another one every 3 levels) and count as fighter-levels -3 for purposes of feat qualification. They also get a creature type à la favored enemy at 3rd level and gets +2 to several skills pertaining them, as well as +2 to damage and atk against them. This bonus scales up to +6 – but choose wisely, for the archer may choose only one such target! Beyond that, these archers may hide in natural environment sans concealment, ignore specific difficult terrains, leaves no trails, can track faster and later even no longer provoke AoOs with the bow in melee. Beyond that, the elven archer at 9th level learns to temporarily enchant arrows and imbue them with special magical qualities. The class later also learns to deal more devastating shots against stationary targets by taking aim – though this only becomes available at 13th level. Now the class also comes with 3 alternatives for other races.
For example, the halfling sling master, who is rather similar to the elven archer, but instead of bonus feats, the alternate class gets a special trick to perform with the slingshot at 5th level and every 6 levels after that. Trick shots include ricochets and detrimental conditions that can be exchanged for precision damage – sans saves. OUCH. They also get rapid reload for slings. They also are more stealth-focused.
Dwarven Crossbowyer can ignore partially armor, shield and natural armor bonuses, carry more equipment, get a favored terrain and essentially get the elven archer’s bonuses in forests instead in caves/earthen environments. The final variant, the mystic archer, has no race restrictions. They are rather similar to the eleven archers (minus the foresty/stealthy components), but at 5th and every 6 levels after that, they may choose from a special array of tricks. All in all, solid, if a bit conservative classes.
Next up would be a new class, the savant. The class gets a d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves and they start game with 3 knacks and expand that up to 8 at 20th level. Savants may assume a persona for 3+cha-mod minutes per day. A persona is just the name for a given combination of knacks. Some of these are spell-like abilities that duplicate arcane or divine spells and follow the usual restrictions regarding these forms of magic, including DCs – in stark contrast to the regular DC, which clocks in at the expected 10+1/2 class level+cha-mod.. Embodying a persona is a full-round action that doesn’t provoke AoOs. The knacks allow the savant to temporarily gain access to proficiencies, items, +4 (scaling up to +8) bonus to attributes, spells (limited in level by the savant class level), skills, racial tricks (like scent or swim speed) and even temporarily boost his BAB. Now as if this kind-of-jack of-all-trades-style ability wasn’t enough, a savant also has a notebook – by observing certain happening, he may enter specifics on equipment, feats, races etc., gaining power literally as he observes and travels – much like the emulation of abilities in Rite Publishing’s Taskshaper, this means a DM ought to tell the player in question in detail to very carefully keep the books regarding this notebook. Now another interesting thing here is that the savant needs to observe at least a minute and then get to noting this fast – and there’s a daily limit on what he can jot down, so some planning involved as well.
Later, the savant also gets advanced knacks with natural attacks, healing (also negative conditions), apply metamagic etc. further increasing the options available. They also learn to conjure forth so-called avatars of legends – essentially cohorts with access to knacks that can be summoned, but which remain only as long as concentration si maintained – cool! The savant later also learns to combine knacks into a so-called hyperbole, , switch knacks etc. and finally, the savant may even share knacks with allies and as a capstone, maintain concentration on their avatars as a move action. All in all, the savant may be a book-keeping intensive class, but also a rather rewarding spinner of tall-tales jack-of-all-trades-style class – that is also sufficiently different from Drop Dead Studios’ Dilettante! Kudos for a smart design here! We also get advice for playing the character, as well as a sample character and 3 sample avatars of legend – neat! All in all, one damn fine example of great design, an iconic idea properly realized. Kudos, two thumbs up, great work!
The Spell-less ranger also gets a variant class herein, the skin-changer – this one’s interesting: Learning to change into the forms and animals and specializes in better natural attacks. No animal companion, though, and a different list of talents. The skin-changer also gets natural armor etc. – per se a concept none too complex in what it tries to do, but remains very evocative in its versatile options – the variant class remains one of the more iconic ones I’ve seen and makes for a great addition – once again – fine work indeed!
The next new class would be the theurge – d6, +Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, good will-saves and prepared spellcasting -arcane spellcasting via Int and divine spellcasting via Wis – both from first level on. A Theurge gets a spellbook and a prayerbook and the latter requires the divine spells to be learned similar to arcane spells – from scrolls or levels. However, a theurge may wilder in e.g. druid or inquisitor spell-lists. Which leads me to a massive issue: Not all spells are available for all classes at the same level, making for possible cherry-picking (not only content, but also level-wise!) here, not to start with VERY powerful class-exclusive spells….Think Paladin, Inquisitor, Druid, Magus, Witch…ouch. Yes, there may be costs etc. While first, slots are distinct from another, starting at fourth level, arcane spells may be prepared via divine slots and vice versa, but at a penalty level-wise to the spell prepared, i.e. second level spells need to be prepared as third level spells etc. The capstone gets rid of this minor penalty, though. At 5th level, theurges may cast two spells at once – one arcane, one divine, both imposing a -4 penalty to saves 1/day +1/day 6 levels after that. They also learn to cast a select limited array of spells as SLs. So, I’ll be frank here – this class is OP in my opinion. Being able to wilder in any classes spell-list, cherry-picking any exclusives sans penalties or limits is very powerful. A full caster that can cast both divine and arcane spells is a cool concept, but this class drops the ball hard regarding the balancing of spell-levels and spell-lists – there ought to be some kind restriction here.
And yes, the amount of spells cast (which never increases above 2 arcane + 2 divine per level (+ bonus spells via Int + Wis) is severely restricted. It means every spell needs to count. But for a class which may pick the best of the best of ANY casting class, with this amount of flexibility, that also means that every cast WILL count. Which brings me to another issue – I get that the general restriction on spells-slots is there for balance. I’m not sold, though, that it’ll make for a particularly fun playing experience. Sure, once you hit out your crême de la crême spells, you’ll own the game…but what about the other time? Unlike most other classes, the theurge has nothing but spellcasting. And you don’t have enough spells for proper utility tricks, proper buffing, proper debuffing – essentially the class is geared very much toward being flashy super-spell nova-heavy. Which you *may* like, but personally, I think the class would have been more rewarding with more casts per day and a more restricted balancing via spells known. I was not sold on the class concept and playtesting it at level 4, 12 and 16 didn’t help either – mainly due to 2 things – theurges at higher levels can be superb crafters – with access to ALL spells and the option to learn just about every spell, these guys can craft like crazy. They may also use just about every spell-in-a-can-item conceivable by virtue of their all-encompassing spell-lists, which means that theurges in game probably will resort quite a lot to wand/staff-slinging when not casting their flashy super-spells.
It’s a glass pumpgun (also re buffs/debuffs) – two devastating shots and empty. Personally, I’d be not keen as a DM to structure my adventures to “empty” the super spell-arsenal of the theurge or to play one, trying to keep my super-ammo for the big bad boss. Now all of this sounds negative, but the class per se is not a bad design, it does have its niche in which it will excel superbly. While I’m not sold on the place in a regular adventuring group, I do think the theurge will work superbly in 1 on 1-adventures and small groups – especially if the DM modifies adventures accordingly, groups starved for players get essentially divine and arcane in one class without resorting to gestalting – so yeah, the theurge has its niche, though I maintain it could have been more versatile in its use.
Of course, we also get new archetypes – the elven archer gets the Royal Guardian, a more urban Night Watch-style archer and the Plains Rider, a mounted archer. Apart from that, all the archetypes you’d expect from the base-pdfs can be found herein. It should also be noted that the archetypes have been mostly cleaned up re typos in the originals etc. – nice to see.
In the next chapter, we get a whole slew of traits and feats – also fodder for the new classes, with feats to improve the savant’s avatar of legend, leadership for animals – I’ve covered a lot of these in former reviews. Unfortunately, not all gripes I had with some have been fixed. Take Eagle Style: Upon a successful dirty trick, you can substitute making the target mute for your regular effect. Doesn’t sound so bad? Well…no duration. The muteness is, as written, PERMANENT. Yes, this one was broken in the original and is still – but it should be noted that overall, cases like this remain the exception, rather than the rule. Generally, the feats herein can be considered worthwhile additions, with some of the more esoteric style-trees especially coming to mind.
Marc Radle’s scaling combat feats from Gygax Magazine #1 are also included herein – and while I still consider them a good idea, I still think it would have been nice to have a note detailing handling the chain balance-wise – it’s a slight shift – not a big one, but it exists. It should also be noted that, since the original inception of the idea, TPK Games have released two pdfs of scaling feats, covering the whole core-book and the APG, so if you plan on using scaling feats, make sure that it’s clear which system you’re going to use.
The spells herein provide rather iconic options – whether conjuring forth Rivers of Moonlight, weaving deadly magics into your arrows/bolts/sling-stones, cast cool bone-themed spells or rain fangs down upon your foes. All in all, a nice array of casting options. We also are introduced to a total of 7 weapon types, various pieces of equipment and magic items and also the 3 legendary items (the level-scaling variant, not the one from Mythic Adventures), depicting the regalia of Gax the Great.
The book concludes with sheets – for animal companions, arrow tracking sheets, favored enemies/terrain, prepared spell tracking sheets, spirit guide, summon monster-sheets and even a wildshape-sheet make for a massive array of neat sheets that will prove to be useful.
Editing and formatting are very good – there are next to no glitches in this massive compilation, which is quite a feat at this length. The pdf comes with a relatively printer-friendly two-column full color standard and the artworks in full color are neat and numerous and original/former cover illustrations – all in all, a beautiful book. The pdf comes with massive, nested bookmarks, making the book easy to navigate. I can’t comment on the physical book, since I only own the pdf.
Designers Marc Radle, Ryan Costello Jr., Crystal Frasier, John Ling Jr., Jerall Toi, Wolfgang Baur, Matt Blackie, Charles Lee Carrier, Chris Harris, Stu Logan, Nicholas Milasich, Mitch Radle, Vincent Colon Roine, Justin Sluder and Michael Timpe have crafted a massive crunchy book full of (mostly!) awesome classes, several of which had player characters in my current campaign. The Savant is a glorious class, the theurge – well, as you’ve read, I’m not 100% sold on it, but oh well. The archer-classes are nice, if a bit conservative and linear for my tastes. The other classes – well, check the respective reviews for those.
The supplemental information and crunch provided also falls within this spectrum – mostly, the content herein ranges from good to awesome, but here and there, we can find a piece of crunch that could have used some streamlining. On the downer-side, I REALLY expected favored class options, at least for the Midgard and Core-races herein for the new classes and their absence is a bit of a let-down.
How to rate this, then? The New Paths Compendium is a nice resource, if not a perfect one and while the book can be considered mostly awesomeness, the few rough edges standout all the clearer. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – with e.g. savant and fixed typos etc. pointing towards the 5, theurge and the few flaws pointing towards the 4. In the end, I will round up due to the majority of the content being problem-free and the good outweighing the slightly problematic by quite a bit and my general maxim of in dubio pro reo.
You can get this compilation of interesting classes and options here on OBS.