EZG reviews The Secrets of the Masquerade Reveler
This is #4 of my Top Ten of 2014!
This pdf clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
So, what is the masquerade reveler? In the time-honored tradition of Rite Publishing, we are not introduced to a bland exposition, but rather are immediately drawn into the material, as a reveler explains the very essence of what makes the archetype tick, relationships with others and the fluff in expertly written in character prose that is actually a joy to behold and read.
Now I didn’t answer, so, again, what *is* the Masquerade Reveler? Well, on the one hand, the answer is relatively simple – “A Barbarian Archetype.” On the other hand, nothing could be more deceptive, reductive and WRONG than this statement. Let me elaborate – in the realm of the fey (or Limbo, or the Plane of Dreams, or the Dark Tapestry, or, or…it’s just a cosmetic reskin, really), things may seem fluid and everchanging, but there are those strange behaviors you can analyze, those strange unwritten laws which govern how things *work* – you know, the anti-logic of “Alice in Wonderland”, the power of superstitions and traditions, of one’s word. In realms of transformations, of changes, one has to adapt to survive and sooner or later, the very land will change you. Masquerade Revelers have adapted and learned to wear masks -not the literal kind that occupies a none-too-often used slot, but rather the metaphysical ones – the masks we show everyday to co-workers, family and friends, the constructions of one’s identity taken to 11 by exposure to a strange realm and codified into something more extreme, something exaggerated that reflects the realm from which the hail and its strange geometries and power structures. Much like we use masks to survive in our daily lives, so does the masquerade reveler employ them – but, as is the wont with those aligned with faerie, the result is extreme.
“Stop rambling, explain!” Your wish is my command, dear reader. The masquerade reveler chooses a mask at 1st level and every class level after that Like the barbarian, the reveler can enter a second mode, but unlike the barbarian, the reveler her retains senses, may use all the int, dex and cha-based skills she wants, while still taking the penalty to AC. So what do those masks constitute? They consider different battle-forms – upon entering a masquerade, all effects of a mask kick in – and these would constitute of up to 4 evolution points for biped eidolons. Now you can imagine that I’m seeing a lot of crunch I have to take apart and this one’s wording – well, it’s rife with things to overlook, to not get right. The ability works. It’s beautiful, really. Analogue to the base barbarian, at higher levels, the evolution point contingent for each mask is increased instead of getting the rage-upgrades and as a nice touch, higher level masquerade revelers may choose to maintain a limited selection of evolutions from the last mask she wore, adding some tactics and actual strategy to the mix. The capstone, which is aforementioned update as well as a fey apotheosis is nice, but falls behind the variety offered by masks.
Now, of course, the sheer amount of options feels staggering – and hence the pdf does something truly laudable – it provides masks, predefined. Approximately a gazillion of them. The respective masks come with 4, 6 and 8-point versions and are categorized in different types – take fey-inspired masks – Biloko masks, Baobhan Sidhe masks etc. Beyond these pieces of information, some of the masks require the masquerade reveler to be quadruped and for convenience’s sake, the masks also come with a level that shows you when a given mask can be taken in its configuration. Masks inspired by Gremlins, by strange animals like Dweomercats,, just Theme-inspired ones, those of the forbidden traditions, yes, even those of a mythic bent – beyond the long, exceedingly awesome pieces of glorious fluff that introduce them, these classifications do so much in establishing a complex, cool tradition for these configurations… The masquerade reveler does not, like most archetypes, feel like it exists in a vacuum, but rather that it represents a vibrant, glorious tradition that is a crucial part of a given setting. Have I mentioned the powerful Tane-masks that have evolutions exclusive to them? And no, these cannot be taken by any masquerade reveler…
Beyond that, one could assume that the evolutions as a base line mean that the class does not get its own unique tools – one would be wrong, for beyond masks upon masks, the pdf offers a huge array (as in: over 50!) of special evolutions for the masquerade reveler, providing more fodder than you can imagine – from becoming tiny to STEALING THE SKIN of creatures, these evolutions wilder in so many of the most iconic concepts of deadly and cool tropes, it is simply bewildering. Additionally, these are balanced for the masquerade reveler, making the pdf not only state explicit caution when using these for evolutions of eidolons and at the same time being an instance where the DM is not alone with this beast – indeed, integration with fey, for example, would be among the covered topics. Want to blend in with light or get a red cap? Yes, such a red cap. It’s in here. What about making shadow clones (and actually succeeding at making the ability work) or hair-based secondary attacks?
In such an environment, laden with glorious potential, the ability to make allies burn bright, but die young and the ties of that ability to the deadly gifts and mythic abilities for a thoroughly iconic take on the trope or even stealing the souls of mortals via fey skulls? A total of 9 different feats allow you to take masks associated with non-bipedal forms, get extra masks etc. Additionally, we also receive 3 new magic items – rather complex ones, like the double-sided Mask of Lost Identity that helps you disguise, but subverts your own identity. Or a shawl, that allows the dancer to store power in it via dancing a fey minuet. Or what about the stilettos that make the entering and exiting of a rage a gradual, rather than an instantaneous process and accompanies it with imagery most iconic?
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with various pieces of gorgeous full-color artwork – original pieces I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mark Seifter, as a relative newcomer, now works for Paizo. If someone asks me why, I can answer the question in just one double-click – by opening this pdf. The original masquerade reveler archetype in RiP’s “Convergent Paths: Fey Archetypes” was excellent and this book makes it SO MUCH MORE. In my opinion, the Masquerade Reveler is the BEST BARBARIAN ARCHETYPE out there. Heck, there are next to no archetypes for ANY class that can stand up to it in its glorious fluff, its cool mechanics and the simply stunning imaginative potential. With a precision like clockwork, Rite Publishing and Mark Seifter blend mastery of crunch most complex with top-notch production values and concepts so high in style, so ridiculously awesome, were all pdfs like this, I’d hang up my hat right now and just be content. This archetype has more flair and feels more alive than most base classes I get to see. This pdf belongs into the library of all people who want to see what to expect from Mark in the future and what it takes to claim Paizo-status. I am of the staunch belief that our favorite game were better off, had we more archetypes brimming with potential like this, featuring such a grand unity of the mastery of fluff and crunch. This beast requires and demands to be recognized – it receives 5 stars + seal of approval and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014. There’s a reason Rite Publishing is one of the big 3pps and this is an excellent reminder of why. This is a must-have, must-own beast of a book. Get it.