The Raider base class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted, that layout adheres to the A5-digest-size (6’’ by 9’’). All right, let’s take a look!
The raider’s base-engine provides d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, raiders are proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor, but not with shields.
The key ability of the raider would be grandstand, which is gained at first level. The ability is used as a move action that is taken upon hitting a target with a melee attack. The raider then proceeds to roll an Intimidate check to demoralize the target hit – on a success, instead of demoralizing the target, the target gains one point of three different things: Fury, cowardice or spite. For every 5 that the raider exceeds the DC to intimidate the target, it takes another point of the one selected. A creature can accumulate a total number of points of either of these 3 choices equal to 1 + 1/3 the raider’s class level. Multiple raiders grandstanding the same creature are tracked separately. Grandstanding is an emotion-based, mind-affecting status. The points are lost either when used or upon ending the encounter – personally, I really dislike the “per encounter”-ending (insert my long, and by now, tired rant of how a fixed duration after combat elapsed makes more sense…). It should be noted that these points, on their own, do not really have an effect, but interact with the other abilities of the class.
Now, you have probably realized three things at this point: 1) 3 different resources? Sounds pretty cool! 2) Oh wait, move action to activate? 3) Intimidate as a basis for their accumulation? We have two wonky bits here: Number one would be the basis on skill check instead of skill ranks – pretty much any player or GM can rattle off a series of magic items that provide serious, huge skill bonuses, which renders the math prone to breaking. Add to that the fact that 2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Intimidate… You get the idea.
Secondly, the strict and costly activation action required by the grandstanding ability means that you’ll be limited in the builds employed – the class practically forces you down the Vital Strike path. As an aside: These issues can be fixed pretty quickly; make grandstanding based on skill ranks, impose a hard cap on the number of grandstanding checks per round and/or decrease the activation action required – it should be noted that the hard cap is required to prevent abuse when using builds that focus on amassing a lot of attacks…but let’s see first what the class otherwise does with this foundation.
There is another issue here: Raiding party. Gained at 2nd level, the ability allows you to expend an immediate action whenever a creature holding at least one point of strife, fury or cowardice is reduced to 0 hit points to make an Intimidate check against all creatures within 30 feet of the defeated target. All creatures thus intimidated count as grandstanded and gain the same type of point as the defeated creature had. Hand me the kitten, will you? No, I’m not kidding. Scream at the kitten, walk into enemies, kill it – voilà, much quicker AoE-grandstanding. This needs a kitten-caveat. Badly.
If grandstanding is the resource-accumulating resource, the gunpowder of the class, if you will, then prideful strike would be the fuse. Upon making a melee attack against a target currently holding a point of fury, cowardice or spite, the raider may decide to declare the attack a prideful strike – this must be done prior to attacking. If the raider hits, the target loses all accumulated points. For every point of fury thus accumulated, the target takes 1d6 + the raider’s Charisma bonus (minimum 1) untyped damage. Why untyped? Considering the value of DR and resistances, making the damage untyped is wonky. The Cha-governed bonus damage also is a bit weird – is that added to the total as usual, or per die? Thirdly, how does this interact with critical hits? No idea.
Cowardice that is triggered imposes a stacking -2 penalty to atk, CMB and weapon damage rolls for Charisma bonus (minimum 1) rounds. Spite that is triggered instead imposes a stacking -2 penalty to AC, CMD and saving throws for Charisma bonus (minimum 1) rounds. A raider can only trigger points she herself heaped upon the target. Okay, so fury is better than the two debuff options. Reliable damage that may or may not multiply on crits? Yeah, probably preferable to the debuff options, unless you’re fighting against a powerful foe, though the latter two are significantly more interesting. Here, we also encounter an issue with the proposed fix of grandstanding: If the points can be accumulated more quickly, you’ll need to cut up the benefits of the respective tricks here.
At 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the raider chooses one of his three grandstanding resources. The maximum number of such points that a target can have is increased by 1. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the raider gains a bonus feat chosen from the list of combat and teamwork feats. As a capstone, the raider gains +2 Str, Dex, Con and Cha and there is no longer a limit on the maximum number of points of one resource of grandstanding that a target can hold.
Obviously, the class also has some choice – these would be Raid tactics, the first of which is gained at 3rd level, with every 3 levels thereafter yielding another raid tactic. Saving throws against raid tactics, if applicable, are against 10 + ½ the raider’s class level + her Charisma modifier. The raid tactics can e.g. be used to add a Will-save penalty to cowardice. Analogues for other saves are provided as well. Clouded fury hampers concentration – and should probably state the baseline for the concentration roll – I assume 10. Critical pride is weird: When confirming a critical hit with a prideful strike, the raider adds his critical hit multiplier to her Charisma modifier to determine the effects of prideful strike. What does that mean? More points gained? No idea how this is supposed to work.
Determined glory adds Strength modifier to Intimidate to give one type of point – because that skill is not easy enough to cheese already. Embarrassing grandstand is a tactic that should imho be part of the base class array – the raider chooses a point type; when a creature misses the raider, she may grandstand by expending an AoO to put the selected point on the target. Similarly, resilient grandstand lets you expend AoOs after succeeding a save to grant the creature that prompted the save one point.
Grand party makes the already ridiculous raiding party worse – 2 points per slain kitten. Honed pride gains +1/4 class level to attack with prideful strikes – which are the only attacks the raiders will probably execute – this improves, de facto, the BAB beyond full BAB-progression. Inept purpose is broken, courtesy of the skill-based base mechanics – increase the DC by 5, but grant the target one point of two different types, +1 point for both types for every additional 5 by which the raider beats the DC. Compare that to getting Weapon Focus and being treated as a fighter for prerequisites. Yeah, the internal balancing of these is really weird. The tactic that lets the raider ignore immunity to mind-affecting effects with his grandstanding, but only to grant the target spite.
All in all, A cool idea, though the execution leaves something to be desired. The class also comes with archetypes: Amazons lose grandstand in favor of gaining glory points when using aid another (which improves at later levels) – no choice there, just one point resource. When the amazon successfully crits, all creatures with glory points within 30 ft. lose the points and heal, based on points and critical multipliers. Hand me a bag of kittens to bash to death. Infinite healing. Sloppy. The raid tactics of the amazon are unique and all work with the glory resource – including granting herself glory, DR, etc. – doesn’t change the infinite healing exploits and instead heaps on them, which means this one is never getting near my table. Ghosts of the Haunted Seas are cowardice specialists and may perform attacks with ranged weapons within 30 ft. for the purpose of accumulating points. References to e.g. ghost touch are not properly italicized. There is a tactic that allows for the use of firearms thus…which is redundant, since RAW, they already can be used…oh, and damage escalation. Because the one thing firearms need, is more damage.
The pit-bloodied of Jheriak would be the fury specialists and basically represents the gladiator-turned –raider. Missed chance here: Performance combat. Reavers lose medium armor proficiency and can’t inflict cowardice. Their harsh upbringing can provide some movement/environmental adaptation…but lacks the activation action. Half-rakshasa riders of the plains are fury specialists that gain a mount and the option to share teamwork feats with allies based on fury. Per se cool, but since the range is sight/hearing, multiple such raiders can grant serious arrays of feats. Temple soldiers use Perform (oratory) to cause foes to gain hubris, allies to gain faith. These can be used as AoE buff and debuffs, respectively. More talents and abilities building on this duality can be found for the archetype.
Treasure hunters are basically…Indy. You gain the whip, luck-based abilities to negate crits, better Acrobatics – you get the idea. Wavebreaker hobgoblins are spite specialists and can inflict bonus damage (here, thankfully, based on the weapon’s type), taking the same amount of damage (unless criting). He also can poach some rage powers.
The pdf also includes feats, 8 to be precise. Extra Raid Tactics is self-explanatory. Gladiator as Raider nets you temporary hit points upon removing fury. Harsher Upbringing improves the ability of the reaver. Raiding Nomad buffs you when removing spite. Raiding Viking does the same for cowardice. Pious Preacher and Pious Redeemer enhance the options of the temple soldier’s grandstanding variant. Shoot the Swordsman lets you add cowardice to enemies when killing foes with firearms…hand me those kittens…
The pdf sports a ton of favored class options, though their balance is a bit questionable: +1/2 to atk with prideful strikes (sometimes tied to weapons, sometimes to creature types), is imho further overkill and significantly better than other options. The +1 ft. movement speed FCO lacks the “has no effect unless taken in increments of 5”-caveat, but that is just nitpicking. On the plus-side: A lot of the cool Porphyran races are covered.
The pdf also sports 4 magic items: The helm of fury increases the fury limit (or +7 (!!!) rounds of rage, and 1/day +2d8+10 damage on the next melee attack. Damage type? Also: Ridiculously strong for 14K. The ring of spite can add 1/day bane to a target hit and enhances spite. Also has synergy with the brujo class. The torc of cowardice enhances, bingo, cowardice…and nets dreads using it +3 terror uses. Ouch. Finally, there would be an artifact version of the ark of the covenant – which, alas, lacks rules on how to open it, just the devastating effects of doing so.
The pdf closes with Ghendis Raar, a half-rakshasa rider of the plains (CR 5) and his mount. The pdf comes with a bonus file penned by Perry Fehr, which contains the mighty xexenagh qlippoth – a threat that clocks in at CR 16: Think of these as maddening, demonic Giger-esque super Aliens. Deadly and a welcome addition to the pdf!
Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from precious few hiccups on the formal side of things, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ printer-friendly 1-column standard with purple highlights. Art is sparse, but nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This was frustrating for me. You see, I pretty much adore all things Norse; I’ve devoted a significant part of my life to studying Scandinavian culture. I also am a big fan of melee classes that do more than just hitting things with a pointy stick. The raider scratches all of these itches, but at the same time, it suffers from a lot of issues, not in the presentation, but in the very design of its features.
At this point in time, the thoroughly exploitable nature of skill-checks as base mechanics is no secret; the reliance of the class on this mechanic ultimately means that its very foundation is flawed. Similarly, the balance between the class options available oscillates between “should be part of the chassis/ridiculously strong” and shrug-inducing ones. The idea of the system presented here, let me make that abundantly clear, is AMAZING. I really like it.
The execution, however, shoots itself in the foot: Since your are very constricted regarding your attack options, you need cheese AoE tricks to accumulate the signature points; you’re forced into the Vital Strike path for damage and, at higher levels, can use aforementioned AoE-options to generate very crippling debuffs. I don’t object to the latter, mind you – I object to how the class requires a very specific playstyle to work. And the kittens. It’s been a while since I saw a class that begs, this thoroughly and needlessly, to be exploited for quicker AoEs to reduce the set-up period, for infinite healing…in short, from a design-perspective, I absolutely loathe the execution.
The class, needlessly, in my opinion, hamstrings itself time and again – the base engine can be made much more solid, but the questionable balance between the follow-up abilities prevent a quick fixing of the material. In short: I think this class needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Not because it is badly executed or presented, as is the case in most of such instances, but because it needlessly cuts down its own potential, buries it in weird and/or problematic restrictions and decisions.
Do I believe that this class can be fun? Yes. There most assuredly are groups out there that will enjoy what the raider brings to the table. It is playable as written. But Sasha Hall and Perry Fehr had the potential for a truly amazing class here…and that, the raider is most assuredly not. For that, the issues in the finer parts of the design are too numerous and grave.
That being said, I also don’t think that this class deserves the slap of a 2-star verdict – which is why my final rating will be 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.
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