The latest installment of the FoTS-series is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Following my format of FoTS-reviews, I'll start by talking about the supplemental material contained herein:
Template-wise, we get the two advanced creature and charming creature simple templates, both of which clock in at CR 1. Among the new items, we get the stats for the new armored kilt armor and on the magical side, we get 3 new magical items: Donkey Boots (coming in 3 versions) enable the wearer to deal force damage via his/her kicks and a touch attack, potentially pushing foes away. And before you ask: they have a limit on how often they can be used per day. The Dust of Sobriety makes people that consume beverages laced with it actually become sober, while the dwarven brewing barrel is essentially a magical cool keg, which also makes alcohol stored inside more intoxicating.
We also get a new racial trait that reflects dwarven magic resistance as well as a new archetype the Thunder Dancer - thunder dancing is a subtype of bardic performance that does not benefit from the lingering performance feat, works only when the bard is not wearing armor or light armor and changing a performance is a move action. Thunder dancers may also emit hurtful soundwaves, hasten themselves etc., being essentially a battle-centric bard focused on mobility, ending in a capstone that enables the dancer to essentially move and make a whirlwind attack against any foe in range during the move. The pdf also includes 5 new feats: The feats cover the ability to throw hammers at foes, rebounding the hammer to your square or even your hand. Other feats enhance the new archetype's abilities and the final one enable you to add your Cha-modifier to all attack by expending 3 rounds of performance. We also get 2 new traits and 6 new bardic masterpieces and boy, they are neat:
The Cat-step allows you to decrease falling distance after completing the steps, while the defensive dance of 23 steps makes you harder to hit at the cost of attack efficiency and the need to succeed concentration checks to cast spells. The Depths of the Mountain essentially lets you duplicate the effects of a resonance catastrophe, doubling as an earthquake effect. Minuet of Midnight Ivy is perhaps my favorite among them: The masterpiece enables you to gain a climb speed as long as you move laterally, making this a smart version of the wall-walking trope. The Quickening Pulse damages foes by forcing them to literally sweat blood, while Triple Time allows you to increase the movement of your allies.
Now to Balduros' 3 incarnations: At CR 6, he is simply a Thunder Dancer 6, while in his mid-level incarnation he gets the charming template and amps up his levels to 11, clocking in at CR 12. His high-level incarnation is CR 18 and adds the advanced creature template as well as even more Thunder Dancer levels, clocking in at 16 levels.
What about his background story, then? Extremely charismatic, Balduros is the rising (rock) star in the Tarnished Souk, rumored to even know a tune that forces the Khan to dance - good-looking, charming and swooned over by countless admirers, he also hides a shameful past: His drunken stupor resulted in his former adventuring party partially losing their lives, the rest abandoning him to his fate in disgust. Prone to mood-swings between mania in depression, he suffers from borderline in all but name, trying to use alcohol to quench the worst lows and highs. The write-up also includes information for the DM to insert Balduros in his/her game as well as dreamburning information.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RiP's old, rune-covered b/w-2-column standard and the artworks are mostly stock, but that's ok. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. Balduros is an interesting character, hitting a bit close to home for me - I've had enough experiences with people like Balduros and suffered for it, so a slight tingle of being uncomfortable remains with me. But isn't that what a good character is about? The dwarf is a tragic figure hiding behind a joyful facade and crunch-wise, I really liked the new bardic archetype and what was done with the new rules as well as his magical items and unique combat style. That being said, I still feel that his overall build is simpler than most comparable FoTS-installments, offering only two simple templates in addition to the complex archetype. In the end, that remains my only minor gripe against the dwarf, though, and thus my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 stars for the purpose of this platform.
[4 of 5 Stars!]