They say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and this is as true for role-playing game supplements as it is with anything else. Many have been the times when I’ve looked over a novel or art book and wished that it contained stats for the characters it depicted. Other times I’ve looked over a large section of NPC stat blocks and wished that they were fleshed out so as to be more than just a collection of numbers. Given that, it piqued my interest when I saw that Headless Hydra Games was releasing The Wizard’s Path, a serial fiction tale that also contained Pathfinder game stats.
The first chapter of The Wizard’s Tale is a brief one. The PDF is twelve pages long, with the fiction covering pages three to seven. The story, of three apprentice wizards and their kobold friend having their first adventure as they investigate a rash of ill-fortune in their town, is pretty good. The narrative flows fairly well, and the main characters are developed enough for us to get a feel for who they are (with the possible exception of Zael, the dwarven apprentice). However, I thought the foreshadowing was a little thick towards the end, as the author has not one but two cut-scenes of indistinct figures musing over what’s to come. Even for having to advance the initial plot in just five pages, that’s a bit much. Likewise, the rare grammatical error slips through, such as a missing apostrophe on a contraction (“wont”).
After the story ends comes the game statistics. The four main characters, all of whom are 1st-level, have detailed stat blocks here. Sadly, beyond a quick overview of them all, there’s no exposition about who they are or what they’re like; presumably we’re to rely on the story itself for that. There’s also small sidebars detailing the spellbooks of the three wizards, and the new umbrella cantrip, which I was tickled by (since it’s one of those things that’s eminently practical, but is all too often ignored from a game design standpoint), and the puppet imp monster that the characters fight in the story. Unfortunately, a cursory check of the stats for the characters showed that they had some small errors. For example, Rufus is a 1st-level wizard with a 16 Intelligence. If he puts 1 skill point into Spellcraft (the maximum ranks he can have at 1st level), he gets a +3 bonus from his Intelligence, and a +3 bonus since it’s a class skill. Ergo, his total Spellcraft bonus is +7…and yet it’s listed as being +6 in his stat block. That’s the level of the errors I found. None of them are major, but for 1st-level characters it should not be that hard to make an error-free set of stats.
That said, the layout of the book itself was done very nicely. The cover is reproduced in full black and white on the first interior page, nicely showing off the main cast. The text is in a large and easily-read font, making the book comfortable to peruse, and while the pages with the story have a white background, those with game stats are lightly shaded grey. The sum total was to make this PDF very pleasant from an aesthetic point of view.
My overall thoughts on the first chapter of The Wizard’s Path is that, much like the cast members themselves, it has the potential to grow into something great. The story could turn into a very gripping tale, if crafted properly, and the inclusion of game stats could be a great way to complement that…again, if they’re crafted properly. As it is now, the book is something of a diamond in the rough, meaning that it needs some polishing before it can shine.
[4 of 5 Stars!]