The Thieves? World Player?s Manual is a 193-page PDF that has a color cover and black & white interior. The book has a table of contents, index and is fully bookmarked. The two-column layout is clean, with crisp fonts and good illustrations. In short, it is up to the professional standard that you would expect from Green Ronin.
The Player?s Manual kicks off with a short story. I usually find this sort of genre fiction pretty dreadful, but to Lynn Abbey?s credit, I actually enjoyed reading this one. My knowledge of the Thieves? World fantasy anthology series stops with Storm Season and so I was thrilled to next find a list of canonical books. I would have liked to have a more comprehensive overview or timeline, but I guess I will need to pick up one of the newer books to bring myself up to date on the current goings on in Sanctuary.
The entire first chapter is devoted to an overview of Sanctuary. This is very good stuff. You get information about currency, languages, laws, economics, etc. You even get a sort of walking tour of Sanctuary?s various districts. I love this kind of information, unburdened as it is from game mechanics. If I wanted to run a Sanctuary campaign with say the Savage Worlds game system, I could pull this whole chapter out and use it with no conversion. Very cool.
Since there are no non-human races in the world of Sanctuary, a player instead chooses a Culture and Background for his character. The Culture provides the character an ethnicity and the Background provides some information about the character?s pre-adventuring career. Both give skill and other bonuses. The combination of Culture and Background should really help a player to define ?who his character is? in the world of Sanctuary. It is certainly more satisfying than just saying ?My character is a dwarf?. It also worth noting here that Thieves? World does not use alignments and so no d20 mechanics like spells, that are based on alignments, are used in the setting.
Many of the base character classes have been extensively reworked for Thieves? World. The Barbarian, Fighter and Thief are basically unchanged. New or changed classes include the Assassin, Godsworn, Initiate, Mage, Noble, Priest, Ranger, Savant, Survivor and Witch. Many of the changes are necessary because extensively modified magic system. All characters also have a Reputation bonus, which indicates their likelihood of being recognized in Sanctuary, that increases with level.
The book includes a total of eighteen prestige classes. These represent everything from Blue Star Adepts to Hell Hounds. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of prestige classes, but I guess that are a necessary evil of the d20 system. I would have liked to see some information about how a character actually becomes say a Hell Hound, outside of the game mechanics requirements, but the prestige classes do look well thought out and interesting.
The Skills and Feats chapter introduces one new skill (Gambling) and a host of new Feats, many related to the new magic system. I was happy to see that very few of the Feats were of the ?+2 to Skill X? variety, which is one of my pet peeves.
The Supplemental Rules chapter introduces rules for severe injuries, wound infection and lowers the standard Massive Damage threshold. This is all in keeping with the down and dirty nature of the Thieves? World setting. This chapter also discusses how the Reputation bonus works and information on obtaining and using Contacts in Sanctuary. The Equipment chapter provides lists of herbs, poisons and drugs, including the infamous krrf.
Sorcery in the world of Sanctuary is divided into three basic techniques, magic, prayer and witchcraft. All characters cast spells by making a spellcasting check. The check must equal or exceed a Mana Threshold that is determined by the spell?s level. If the initial check is not successful, a caster can continue to cast until the threshold is reach. A caster can also cast a spell as a ritual, which takes longer, but increases the spell?s duration.
Casters have a number of Known spells and Familiar spells per level. Known spells can be cast normally and Familiar spells can be cast with additional preparation time. The price of casting is that all spells (with some exceptions for cantrips) do an amount of non-lethal damage to the caster equal to the spell level. This amount is doubled if the caster casts a spell above a ?safe? spell level limit that is determined by his class level. The Sorcery chapter covers additional topics including cooperative casting, spectacular casting failures and successes, curses and magic items.
The Spells chapter lists what spells and domains are appropriate for the Thieves? World setting, as well as introducing new domains and spells. One important change to note is that there are no actual healing spells. Instead of actually healing damage, spells convert an amount of lethal damage to non-lethal damage. Besides these ?convert? spells, there are more than twenty-five new spells in the chapter.
The two appendices list the gods of sanctuary and a glossary of notable NPCs. Each NPC has an indication to show if it is from the classic ?Rankan? era or from the modern era of the new stories. There is also a Thieves? World character sheet, which for some reason has a big, black, ink-sucking border around it.
UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Green Ronin now offers an update that does NOT include the black border. Kudos to them for making the change.
The Player?s Manual is an outstanding book. It takes a setting that was primarily designed for fantasy fiction and firmly beats it into the d20 mold. It does it not by just tweaking the rules a bit and tacking on a few prestige classes, but by making thoughtful changes to the game mechanics that actually make sense. I applaud Robert J. Shwalb and company for a job well done.
There was nothing that was missing in the Player?s Guide for me except perhaps a more extensive overview of recent Sanctuary history. Things like NPC write-ups, more maps, encounter tables, etc. are sure to come in the GM?s book, Shadowspawn?s Guide to Sanctuary. If you like d20 and Thieves? World, this is a must buy. If you are looking for a grittier campaign setting, it is also an excellent choice. It is also worth checking out for its unique magic system. Good stuff, indeed.
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: An outstanding conversion of the d20 system for Thieves' World. The production values and writing are top-notch.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I would have liked more of an overview of recent events in Sanctuary<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>
[5 of 5 Stars!]