||Advanced Players Manual
Optional rules are becoming a great stable in the d20 world. Instead of pages of house rules, people are able to pull in optional rules from a dozen different books to create the right feel for the game they wish to make. Most of the options work with the standard game and others attempt to compensate for reducing the power and levels of magic in the game. The Advanced Players Manual is a book of options that can be used along the normal game altering it in slight ways to allow the players and DM to get the feel of the game they want.
The Advanced Player?s Manual (APM) is a new book by Green Ronin. The book has been released in print and PDF formats. This review is specifically about the PDF version, but the content of the book is the same so one should be able to get a feel for the print one using this review. Green Ronin is one of the best known d20 companies out there and one of the most well respected. There is really not other way to put it. People who know the d20 market, the companies, and the game routinely pick Green Ronin as one of the best. They revolutionized what could be done with the system with Mutants and Mastermind. They put out books that well written and well balanced. For a while they were coming out with books that I had no interest in, but even those I have to admit were good I am just happy that now a-days with the coming of Blue Rose and Thieves World Green Ronin is finally releasing some books that have really sparked my interest.
The book is pretty big for a PDF coming in a over two hundred and twenty pages. The cover is in color but the rest of the book is black and white. There is a good amount of art black borders, and some gray tables that can eat a bit of ink. The layout and art are really well done making this book easy to sit down and read in print or on the computer screen. The book is very well book marked and that is extremely helpful in a book of this size.
The book starts with a new attribute: Luck. Luck is scored just like any other attribute. One can roll for it or use a point buy to figure it out along with their other attributes. Luck also gets bonuses and negative like any other attribute for instance a six Luck score is a negative two and twenty luck score is a plus five. There area few options for using luck. One can have special encounters that come up with a luck check. The more improbable the chance of the encounter the higher the DC of the check will need to be. Luck can also be used as points allowing for rerolls. So, if one has a twenty luck they have five rerolls they can make. Luck can be something in the players hand or the DM can keep people?s luck score secret so no one really knows just how lucky they are. There are a lot of options for making use of the luck skill and some of them feel like alternate action point rules. It seems like a way to quantify what players usually are able to do. Their characters are usually in the right place at the right time in adventures to defeat the villain or save the victims.
The book then takes apart the races. They have developed a point system for constructing races. They have most of the Player?s Handbook races given as examples. They have lots of options to create races including attribute modifiers, resistances to certain types of energy, bonuses to some skills, racial hit dice, and even rules for level adjustments. They did a really fine job on these. I like their example of some stronger races like the Greater Dwarf that shows how this works for creatures with racial hit dice.
There are six new classes presented here. Actually seven, but one is psionic and in an appendix so I am saving that one for later and just commenting on the fist six now. Each is a core class going from levels one through twenty. They also have the epic options for taking each class beyond level twenty.
The Eldritch Weaver is a lot like the path magic from second edition. They are similar to a wizard in BAB, saves, spell access, and familiars.
The Evangelist can heal with her touch, exchange spells for summoning spells, and gain abilities that proclaims her faith in her god. She does get spells but only up to sixth level spells. They do not get domains but do get a good amount of skill points and class skills.
The Scout is the one class that really does not seem to have a needed place. It seems to be either a weaker version of the Ranger or the Rogue. It does get some nice options but it seems that either of those other classes does the job of the scout better.
The Spellmaster is one of the more creative takes on casting spells I have seen. They only get up to sixth level spells, but can learn new spells by watching other people cast spells. They can also potentially cast a lot more spells in a day. This might a be a little bit of a complicated class for some people, but I imagine once masters it will make magic feel a lot different.
The Thanemage is a bit of a fighter caster. They are similar to the Ranger and Paladin in going up to only fourth level spells but the Thanmage can cast spells from level one. He also a much wider selection of spells he can learn being able to use any Wizard spell but does have to keep a spellbook. They have a choice of abilities as they gain levels.
The Warpriest is a divine caster. He only has spells that go up to sixth level but does cast spontaneously from a few spells known. They gain the ability to turn undead but at seventh level and turn as a cleric of six levels lower so that might not be a very effective ability for them. They do gain some abilities like weapon specialization and a deflection bonus to their armor class making them a bit more combat oriented then a normal cleric.
The skill system of d20 has proven to be quit versatile with the inclusion in many boos of new uses for the old skills instead of always inventing new skills like some games do. Green Ronin does this well and includes some very good options that make a lot of sense. Some of them I am left wondering how they could have not shown up until now. For instance they have balance rules for creatures of different sizes. This makes a lot of sense since an eight inch pixie will have a much easier time on a thin ledge then an elephant. The section really takes a look at skills being used by non standard body types. Like an amorphous character gets a bonus to escape artist checks since they can slide out of being held or tied. There are also a few feats presented in the book. It seems to be a few left over from something. Eleven feats is an odd amount to see ina book like this, usually there are lots more.
Alignment is a tough area for some people to wrap their head around and figure out. Some see it as absolute and others see it as subjective. Alignment is commonly thrown out or misused. Green Ronin has decided to spend a full chapter on alignment and offers a new way to use alignment. They have not changed the alignment systems, but off point values for it making it a little easier to use. Each character has a score in Law, Chaos, Evil, and Good. Chaos and Law need to add together to get 21 as do Good and Evil. So, each score goes from zero to twenty one. A score of 8-13 indicates a neutral tendency along that line. So, a Paladin has to have a Good score of 14+ and a Law score of 14+. But one with just 14?s in those is going to be a lot different from one with 21?s in both scores. Through out the chapter the writer keeps reminding the leader that the rules here are guidelines meant to help the player, and not limit the player. They have alignment checks; these are not to figure out every choice the character would make. But they are there for the player if he is unsure of what the character might do in a certain situation. These rules are here to help the player and do so in a very nice and simple way. It works perfectly with the current system without changing it, but at the same time it helps the player better understand the alignment of his own character.
The next chapter deals with Mass Combat. This is actually Cry Havoc slimmed down. I do not have that book to make a good comparison to see what they did not include and if they changed anything. I do find it a little odd to see mass combat in a player?s oriented book. I have always seen mass combat as a more DM related area. The rules though seem complex and little confusing. I have not had a chance to actually try any of them out in actually game play. I am not a fan of mass combat nor am I a fan of things that seem overly complex like this does. But since Cry Havoc has been around for a while, I imagine people?s opinions of that will be similar to their opinions on this chapter.
Spells takes up the largest section of the book about a third of the book. A lot of that are the threads of the Eldritch Weaver. There is a lot of options for this class and it seems to have been a very well defined and fleshed out class more then the others. Some of the spells seem really good. Lesser Fastheal, a second level cleric spell, heals the charter 2 hps per level every 10 minutes. The duration is 10 minutes a level. So, while this does take a lot of time to happen At tenth level, a level before a cleric gains Heal, he can heal the person 200hp over an hour and forty minutes. That?s much better then Heal will ever be able to do, though not as fast. And the regular version of the spell, Fastheal, last one hour per level and is fifth level spell. These spells have the potential of healing a lot of damage though not all that fast.
The last section is the Pshychic. It is the same one that appeared in Green Ronin?s Psychic Handbook and it is a very good class. It makes psionics feel different from magic, something that the Expanded Psionics Handbook failed to do. It might not be the most powerful class out there, but it is interesting and has some fun abilities. The psionic abilities of the psychic are skill and feat based instead of powers that seem like spells. It is a good and different take on the class.
The Advanced Players Manual is a book filled with many different options. Some like the mass combat do not seem to fit the book while others like the new uses for skills and the alignment system offer some great additions to the game without altering the game. Green Ronin again shows that they have a great grasp on the d20 system and can work the system in new and interesting ways.
[3 of 5 Stars!]