||Advanced Races Codex: Humans is a 40 page pdf product offering new and expanded options when playing human characters, and forms part of Green Ronin's new Advanced Races Codex lines of products which attempts to bring back the appeal in playing the more standard races such as half-elves and gnomes. The aim of the product is also to provide enough options for humans in any campaign setting so that the choice of being human is a choice that matters throughout the life of the character, and to expand on the scope of humans in a campaign world. Some of the material in the Advanced Races Codex is updated and reprinted from Green Ronin's Races of Renown series, although there is plenty of new material here to go with that.
The overall presentation and layout is excellent and professional, although there were some instances where the choice of font and the shadowing of fonts made it difficult to read the actual text. Cover art and interior art is of a high quality and there is a good number of art images in the product to support the mechanical and flavor material. Editing was excellent as well, although there were a number of minor errors that didn't really detract from reading through the pdf. Bookmarks and a thorough table of contents are provided to navigate the six parts of this pdf - human characters, human options, feats, prestige classes, spells and equipment.
The first part of the pdf looks at human backgrounds. Here the idea is that a human character picks a particular background such as sailor or beggar, and, within the scope of that background selects the human bonus skill points and feat to establish the background. Given the constraints of the background and the skill and feat selection there are often some minor benefits of being from a particular background, such as a bonus to certain skills. The backgrounds are aimed at expanding the scope of humans and adding more flavor to a human character, but more importantly helping in defining the character and providing motivation that's mechanically tied to a certain idea.
It also allows for more versatility between humans, and the more than two dozen backgrounds provided are a good step towards providing that. Most players out there will be used to providing background and concepts for their characters, whatever the race, but the departure here is to mechanically solidify that concept which is a strong idea. Not only are backgrounds provided as a way to create a 'different' human, but environment is also briefly discussed as a way to mechanically support a character coming from such an environment and culture. Characters from desert, swamp or plains environments can all select their skills according to their background environmental home.
The idea of paragon races and bloodlines has been around for some time, and the Advanced Races Codex comes up with its own similar idea in the form of ancestries. A human that selects the Unlock Latent Ancestry feat as his bonus feat is eligible to take levels in the various ancestry classes, such as celestial, fiendish, dragon or elemental. Each ancestry class is treated as a minor three level prestige class, with all associated abilities. This is certainly an interesting and well-executed idea, providing options for humans, although I would've preferred a wider selection of ancestry classes than those provided. Those that do no choose a particular ancestry can also choose to be called the great ones, or superior specimens of the human race, and details are provided for creating humans that are great in mind and ability.
A large number of new feats are provided. Not all of these are applicable to humans only, although most of the ancestry feats are, and so should be of use to other races as well. The pdf does a good job, though, of focusing on the key strengths and features of the human race and expanding on it. Feats such as Jack-of-all-trades and Social Adaptation fit the human race stereotype well and enhance it. Ancestry feats are interesting in that they allow humans with a specific ancestry to take levels in prestige classes such as arcane archer or dwarven defender which are normally closed to them.
A number of new prestige classes are provided (battle crier, buccaneer, deacon, houri and storm sheppard) along with the epic progressions of each. While these again are not limited to humans, they are all to a certain extent focused on the human characteristics of adaptability, learning and skill. Some, such as the Houri, an expert lover, are probably more suited to NPCs, but for the most part the ideas and mechanics are solid. The deacon, an influential member of his church, is the more interesting prestige class, providing lots of roleplaying opportunities within a campaign world.
The last pages of the pdf detail a dozen or more new spells as well as some new alchemical items and other magical items. The selection is satisfactory, although in some instances one must wonder why a particular spell or item was selected to pertain to humans. As one can expect of a pdf of this nature it uses material from a wide number of different OGL sources, including numerous other Green Ronin products.
LIKED: This is a solid pdf which provides a large number of options for creating human characters, including backgrounds, ancestry, and feats. The background and ancestry classes are particularly interesting ideas that are worthy of expanding upon, and provide some strong choices for human characters. In general the pdf succeeds well at its aim in providing options for humans and helping to expand on the race beyond the scope of most campaign settings.
DISLIKED: Some of the material seemed irrelevant to humans as a race, particularly some of the spells and magical items. It would've been nice to see more interesting ancestries for humans to choose from rather than those more 'common' ones listed in the pdf.
QUALITY: Very Good
[4 of 5 Stars!]