Mar 292013
 

107687-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from Amora Game is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3/th of a page SRD, leaving 7 1/4 pages of content for new class and its PrC, so let’s check out the Commander!

The Commander class gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, good will- and fort-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields. Beyond that, the class is all about commanding troops in battle and enhancing allies.

Commanders have a commanding presence aura of 30 ft around them, which expands by yet another 30 ft. every five levels and works only if the commander is not paralyzed, petrified etc. and when allies can see or hear him. Allies within the aura also gain a +1 morale bonus to initiative an fear-based saves, which scales by +1 whenever the aura-size increases. Unfortunately, here we also have our first editing glitch, though a minor plural-s one.

Now tactical strike is interesting – as an attack action, the commander can perform an attack that also acts as an aid another to an ally adjacent to the commander – interesting since the attack of the commander canals be performed via ranged attack. The ability’s write up lacks an “a” and an “an”.

Direct Orders allow a commander to aid another to help anyone within the range of his commanding presence on a successful, very easy perform check -that could imho be simply let out. DC 10 is just an unnecessary roll of the dice. A “the” is missing in the ability’s description. Also at second level, he gains a rather powerful ability that lets him add hi int-modifier to ALL his saves.

The aforementioned perform-check doubly useless, since the commander early on gains half his level as bonus to Perform (oratory)-checks. This ability has the mystifying sentence “As well commanders never leave man behind.”[sic!], which should probably read “good” commanders and end in a comma to connect with the next sentence.

Commanders also gain a so-called advanced tactics at 4rd level and every three levels after that, which belong to a set of different groups: Battle Cries, for example, require an immediate action to perform, while the tactics from the assist-group allow him to add his int-mod to CMD & CMB or gain int-mod additional AoOs per round, though it does not state whether that makes it an eligible substitute for combat reflexes prerequisite-wise or stack with it. A total of 20 options are presented, with afore-mentioned Assist group being one where I don’t have anything to complain about, Now among the battle cries, I have a bunch of problems. The first being that they can b triggered only when an ally within commanding presence-range drops below half max hit points. That kind of metagaming information requires all players to keep track on the threshold AND when temporary HP come into play (and healing just above the threshold), the whole design evaporates. That’s actually one of the reasons I don’t like 4th edition’s bloodied-mechanics and in contrast to 4th ed, here the threshold exists solely for this ability, making it case of bad design imho, in spite of the 1/day limit that each ally can benefit from a respective battle-cry. Also the battle-cry description specifies that only enemy abilities and attacks that drop allies trigger the battle cries – while I’m being nitpicky her, one could argue that environmental disasters, spell, environmental damage etc. pp. don’t fall under this restriction… If it’s not evidently clear by now – this ability needs cleaning up.

There are more problems with specific battle-cries: Cry of The Fallen specifies: “The recipient can make a move as an immediate action to come closer to the ally whose fall triggered the cry.”[sic!] Now I have multiple problems here. First: Is it supposed to be a move action or can one run in said “move”? What is a “fall”? Dropping below 1/2 max HP? Falling prone after being dropped below the threshold? Being reduced to 0 HP? Being reduced to below 0 HP? Being dead? Can the cry only be issued when an ally succumbs via which of the nebulous conditions above truly applies? If the ally can’t reach his comrade in trouble (for lack of knowing which condition applies…), can the commander use the same cry on another ally again next round? I don’t have the slightest clue how this ability is supposed to work. I see the idea, but the execution is a prime example of obscure wording making an ability unusable.

Cry of the Last Stand grants the ally that triggered the cry ferocity for commander’s cha-mod rounds, while with Cry of Triumph I have a problem again: When a commander or an ally within sight drops a foe below 0 HP, he can grant any one of his allies temporary HP equal to the defeated foe’s HD. First, I don’t like he metagaming of HD as temporary hit points – smells of healing surges and lacks an in-game, logical justification for me. Secondly, the ability fails to specify how long the temporary HP last. Unusable as written.

Cry of Vengeance: Lets the commander target himself or an ally and grant the targeted person an AoO if within reach or a charge against the offending foe as an immediate action. Charge. As an immediate action. Double movement + attack? No effin’ way. Broken in my book. Also, the wording is harder to understand than usual and we usually make AoOs, not “take” them, though that’s nitpickery on my part.

Now the presence-category is more sound, mechanics-wise, with the option to add the commanding-presence-bonus to different skills depending on the presence learned and further passive benefits. E.g. Horselord presence nets you the bonus to handle animal and ride and makes mounts faster as well as allowing you to use direct orders on them. The ability also suffers from multiple glitches and by this time, I’ll stop listing them as this is a review and not an editing ob to bore you, dear readers. You probably got the idea by now anyway.

Where it gets weird again is with the Legionaire’s Presence that allows the recipient of the presence to add the commanding aura-bonus to con-checks to avoid damage by forced marches, thirst, starvation etc. . the bonus lasting for 2 hours/commander level. I thought they had no duration and could just be issued? Advanced Tactics and the Presence-category lacks a X/day-limit, so after the ability as run its course, the commander can jut issue it again or am I missing something? I gather the intention was to have the troops rest, but as written, the command can be issued again without any repercussions, rendering the time limit moot. The presence also overlaps with another presence – Wilderness Presence potentially allows the recipients to save with bonus vs. all damage related with starvation, thirst and fort-saves vs. hot and cold environments. AM I missing something again? The other presences are mostly fine apart from a wording her and there that could be a bit more concise.

The final advanced tactics-category is speech, which acts as a substitute for aid another and which can also be used in conjunction with direct orders and tactical strike – on a (unnecessary, again!) skill-check of 10 or higher. Words of Composure allow the commander to grant an ally an additional saving throw vs. a mind-influencing effect – on a successful save, the effect is suspended for a couple of rounds. The ability requires the commander to “name” the spell/ability/effect whatever – does that mean spellcasting DC? Does it only work on properly named effects? *sigh* Apart from more minor glitches, I have nothing to complain regarding the rest of the speeches – joy!

Now Press the Advantage is where the wording completely comes apart, as it allows to commander to issue multiple tactics to a single ally or spread them out. How far? Aura? Sight? Nirvana? To infinity and beyond? Sorry, gotta take a break, have a smoke and chug a beer, I’m getting frustrated…. And back. Better. Can battle-cries be thus combined and used in conjunction with one another? And are there that many orders to make playing this compelling? Seriously – most of the advanced tactics are passive and the cries 1/day per recipient limit. That’s not much. Furthermore, and most important, it refers to a group of abilities called tactics without first defining this group, forcing the reader to guess which abilities are eligible – and no, it’s not just advanced tactics, that would have been my guess, too, but other abilities also count as tactics, leaving us with a labyrinthine cluster f*** of guessing – which is bad when handling a class based on economy of actions regarding aid another actions and multiple abilities that allow for more aid another actions, move actions etc.

At 8th level the commander counts as having teamwork-feats of his allies for purpose of granting them bonuses. When does the Inquisitor get solo-tactics again? Thought so. At 14th level, he may lend hs group tactics to allies and also his teamwork feats – all via aid another. But can this ability be used with direct orders and tactical strike? The pdf always specifies it in the other abilities, but not here, so I’m not sure AGAIN. Also, this counts as “tactic” for the Press the Advantage – cluster f****-feature.

The capstone is cool and logical, but also has a typo.

We also get 5 new feats:

-At them, Men (Teamwork): Charge with an ally simultaneously at the lower initiative. + 10 ft when charging,

-Band of Brothers (Teamwork): +1 to AC and attacks when adjacent to an ally, up to + 3, stacks with shield wall.

-Extra Tactics: +1 advanced tactics.

-Hold the Line: When you or your ally are being charged by a foe, your weapons gain the brace quality and the enemy takes a -4 penalty to AC instead of -2. I actually liked this one!

-With your shield or on it (Teamwork): When holding a shield adjacent to an ally holding a shield as well, gain + 2 to saves vs. spells and fear-effects.

The pdf also provides us the Centurion-PrC (not only for commanders – the centurion just needs to have led a unit t victory, have a teamwork-feat and some moderate requirements), who gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort and will-saves, a teamwork-feat every odd level and one ability that continuously improves: Orders. “The Centurion gains the ability to issue orders allies.” Spot the missing word. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t list sloppy editing glitches anymore. Centurions may grant allies the benefits of teamwork feats he knows to allies within 20 ft, scaling up to 60 ft. at 10th level. At 4th level, he may grant two teamwork feats at once. The feat-benefits thus granted last for centurion class-level rounds and later even 3 at the same time – the feats may not contradict each other. Orders can be used an unlimited amount of times per day “as _long_ as the Centurion is able to take a standard action.”(emphasis added) I.e. always. Problem is, they don’t specify what action issuing an order is, (And I reread thrice!!!) rendering the one signature ability and thus the whole PrC unusable as written. And that’s in addition to being a boring design at best that lacks an even remotely interesting capstone or versatility. Still, leagues better than the horribly broken commander.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are SLOPPY. I literally stopped counting glitches while reading the pdf. Unacceptable and beyond m grasp – Amora Games have shown with their Combat Style-pdf and revised tinker that they can do better than this editing-trainwreck. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the full-colour stock arts are ok for the price point. I also like that the pdf is bookmarked.

I thought “Courageous decision” when I started reading this pdf, since there are already two excellent classes out there, written by top-brass designers that deal with orders: Super Genius Games’ Wamaster and Dreamscarred Press’ Tactician. “However, this might have its place” I thought “The Wamaster was released before the APG and teamwork-feats and the Tactician is a psionic class, after all.” My hopes were undone. Not only is the commander’s design amateurish and lacks correct usage of the rules-language of PFRPG, it also is an exercise in frustration. No one can tell me that this one got even a passing glance of an editor. I handed this pdf to a friend of mine who knows diddly-squat about roleplaying games and their terminology and even she spotted a vast array of glitches. This quality-relapse when compared to the combat style-pdf is bad an while other publishers sometimes suffer from it, the extent is stunning. After the vastly improved redesign of the tinker-class I certainly didn’t expect be doing this anytime again soon, but here I am.

This pdf is sloppy. The class is studded with glitches of the English language and worse, guilty of ambiguous and improper use of rules-language. The boring PrC’s one signature ability is unusable as written and the feats are ok, but nothing more. In a field where two 5-star-classes already cover the area, these classes have no justification to exist unless their design is radically revamped, expanded, streamlined and edited. My final verdict is 1 star – steer clear and get the War Master and the Tactician instead.

Endzeitgeist out.

Supporting Roles: Commander & Centurion is available from:

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