Weighing in at 18 pages, the latest installment in the 101 series tackles the traits of Pirates and Privateers with an absolute stroke of genius, not only in the design of the traits themselves, but in many of the names. How can one not love a product filled with traits by such names as Bloodthirsty Pirate, or Crack Jenny's Tea Cup, and of course Fight Like a Pirate.
Pushing the concept of what is a trait further than the same old same old, Steven D. Russell really delivers with this collection. Presenting a collection of traits that will rely upon GM's with a brain, this is not a collection of +1 to whatever traits you might be used to, but rather story based traits, that will bring a new level of depth to the characters they are applied to. Design of this nature is one of the reasons Rite Publishing stands on the frontlines when it comes to 3PP's.
A few choice examples would be Brethren of the Coast, loyalty to your own rings through. Face Death With Dignity, leaves a survivor of a crew of pirates with a new outlook on fear, as long as he kept his cool the first time around. Fight Like a Pirate, demands to be mentioned again, lol, whereas it is in fact a +1 type of trait, it still comes with a great concept, and one that fits the concept of a pirate so well.
Captain's Compact struck me as a great trait to really show off the vast difference in this collection of traits to the majority of what I've seen up to this point when it comes to traits in the Pathfinder system. With Captain's Compact your character has, at some point, cut a deal with a pirate captain. The details are to be worked out between you and your GM (and several options are given), but the benefits of this trait are sheer gold, you essentially get to swap skills x amount of times per week, when you're facing a skill check. Why? Because the pirate captain becomes a resource, that you can tap for information and such. And that folks, is brillaint. Steven could of easily wrote the name of the trait, and the words swap skill in skill check x times/week, and called it a day. But instead he gave us, oh so subtly, an entire hook for further adventures, disguised as a trait. By giving players and GM's traits that are this thought provoking , what he has done is pulled out a few gray crayons from the box, and slipped in a few more colorful ones. He's provided tools to tell a little bit better of a story, before you even get started playing.
I did find myself at a loss over one of the better traits in the book however as far as sheer comical genius goes, Parrot Voice. As it reads, brings to mind the classic wise cracking stereotypical pirate parrot, but how does one use it, when it says whatever it wants, when it wants? And am I just having a truly empty moment, as the wording regarding the monkey totally lost me as to what it meant.
Obviously, this collection of traits is geared toward a certain style of player, and character, now that's not saying that without a few tweaks here or there several of them could not be applied to other character concepts. But, to truly appreciate this collection, I can't help but think that going with using it as it was intended would be the way to go.
Formatting wise, the layout follows the dual column approach, with artwork embedded throughout. I found no grave errors with grammar. The art follows the theme for many of Rite's books, and brings with it very old world feel that works especially well in this PDF. Alas, no bookmarks once again.
And, for my fellow Hero Lab users out there, the files installed without a problem, and yes, it is kind of cool to finally see a massive amount of options when you click the trait tab. This product continues what I am hoping is a growing trend, as I love seeing 3PP's embrace the Hero Lab community, and show us some love. If I could find a negative to say, it would be that nowhere within the book could I find even a mention of what minimum data pack requirements Hero Lab users needed to worry about before trying to load the .HL file. I know the concept of remembering something of that nature is new, but it is an important thing, as not every Hero Lab user has purchased all of the data packs, and they need to know if they can load custom packs or not.
So, final tally... Am going to go with a 4.5, as the entire Hero Lab issue hits home for me, and Parrot Voice really is worded confusingly. So, rounding up, cause this product deserves it, we're going with a 5 star rating on this one.
[5 of 5 Stars!]