||Disciples of Darkness II presents a new prestige class called the Soul Harvester. These villainous characters are clerics that use the souls of their slain enemies to enhance their unholy power. The book details the prestige class, gives advice on using it in play, stats an example Soul Harvester, and offers a new deity.
The Soul Harvester collects souls by sacrificing or otherwise murdering good-aligned creatures. In game terms, he gets a number of ?essence points? for each creature killed. These essence points can in turn be spent to boost the Soul Harvester's combat abilities, add temporary enhancements to his weapon, and alter his spells. In addition, the Soul Harvester wields a custom weapon (generally a dagger) that grows in power with his advancement in the prestige class.
There is a kind of morbid style to the writing. The authors are clearly trying to evoke the grim and evil nature of the Soul Harvester. For the most part, the writing succeeds. The opening bit of fiction, which describes a Soul Harvester sacrificing a paladin, is pretty gory, and it certainly shows the dark nature of the class.
While the game mechanics in this book are sound, I don't really care for the Soul Harvester as written. This is a prestige class that will most likely be used by GMs rather than players, and I don't think its very well designed from that perspective.
The primary problem is the essence point mechanic. The points are gained by killing good-aligned creatures, which creates a fun roleplaying opportunity if the Soul Harvester is a PC. As an NPC, however, these scenes will seldom be played out (except when the PCs are battling the Soul Harvester, of course), which means that the GM will just be arbitrarily assigning numbers. Most of the abilities are fairly transparent, meaning that the players won't really appreciate the fact that their adversary is gaining strength by battling them.
Even the Soul Reaver's scariest ability, which allows him to consume the very soul of a slain opponent, works better on paper than in actual play. This ability requires the Soul Reaver to place an invisible mark on his enemy. If the enemy is then killed within a certain number of rounds, his soul goes to the Reaver. The problem is that the mark is difficult to detect. It is likely that the target player will have no idea that his character is now marked for soul-death, which removes any fear this may have otherwise created.
The new god is something of an extra feature. He's an evil hobgoblin deity, and he fits his role well. I wouldn't purchase this product specifically for the new god, but its a nice touch that makes sense within the scope of this book.
LIKED: The idea behind the Soul Reaver is a good one. An evil cleric that uses the souls of his enemies as fuel for his powers is a neat concept. The class is balanced, the writing is fairly good, and the art and presentation are well done.
DISLIKED: The Soul Reaver isn't poorly designed from a mechanics standpoint, I just don't think it works at the table as well as it could. The rules should better reflect the class's flavor, and his dark abilities should be more outwardly obvious to the players. As a villain, the Soul Reaver is very capable of killing the good guys...he just doesn't pack the horror he should.
This isn't a bad product by any means, just an average one. Three stars overall, three and a half if you're running a campaign with evil PCs.
[3 of 5 Stars!]