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Subject: An excellent classbook - detailed overview rss

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Merric Blackman
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This review was written in February 2005

There are times when I really delight in a new D&D purchase. This is one of those times.

Complete Adventurer, to put it succinctly, is a fabulous book. The cover describes it as "A Guide to Skillful Characters of All Classes", which is quite accurate. In fact, it's a little more accurate than you might expect: apart from expanding on the various uses of skills, it also gives greater options for multiclass characters - "All Classes", you see.

Chapter 1: Classes. (26 pages)
As has become customary in the Complete line, the book begins with a description of three new 20-level classes: the Ninja, the Scout and the Spellthief. Each one of these classes is a variation on the skill-using rogue and could substitute for that class in the standard party, albeit with different strengths and weaknesses.

The Ninja has Trapfinding, a variation on the sneak attack called Sudden Strike that works only when the opponent is denied its Dexterity bonus, and various ki powers, including the ability to turn invisible as a swift action for a single round. In the same manner as the monk, the Ninja cannot wear armour, but gains both its Wisdom bonus and a class-based bonus to its AC. At third level it gains the Poison Use ability, and with d6 hit dice and 6 skill points a level, it makes an interesting variant on the rogue or assassin.

The Scout is somewhat of a combination of a ranger and a rogue. Its key abilities are Trapfinding, Fast Movement and Skirmish - the last is a bonus to AC and damage if it moves at least 10 feet in the round. This bonus to damage also applies to ranged attacks within 30 feet, making a bow-using Scout the most likely build for the character. At higher levels, it gains the abilities of Camouflage and Hide in Plain Sight. Somewhat unusually, although it has the ability to find traps, it does not have Disable Device as a class skill - Andy Collins has told me that this was an intentional decision, something that I think does fit the flavour of the scout. I very much like this class: although it isn't going to be an amazing fighter, it can be effective and fulfill the Rogue's role in the party.

The Spellthief is this book's strange class: as it progresses, it gains the ability to "steal" magical spells, effects, resistances and more from the opponents it fights. Add to that the abilities of detect magic, trapfinding, minor spell-use and sneak attack, and you have a curiously potent class. It is such a strange class that I can't really evaluate it without seeing it in action; suffice to say that it will likely require a skillful player to take full advantage of its abilities. I do like the concept and I look forward to seeing it in action in the future.

Chapter 2: Prestige Classes (72 pages)
If you don't like Prestige Classes, then you're probably not going to enjoy Complete Adventurer as much as I did. There are 26 here; a mixture of reprints from the 3rd edition books and entirely new classes.

Animal Lord - 10 levels, major revision from MotW.
The Animal Lord is a combat-based class, gaining the ability to take on aspects of his totem creature and possessing good animal handling skills as well. Rangers and Barbarians are likely to find this class most appealing. The original MotW incarnation was less combat orientated, and I feel that the changes improve the class.

Beastmaster - 10 levels, major revision of Tamer of Beasts from MotW
With a good base attack bonus, d10 hit points and 4 skill points per level, one would be forgiven for thinking that this class might not have much more to offer the ranger or druid that might take it. The Beastmaster's main attraction is in the various animal-based abilities it gains over the levels (Alertness, Scent, Low-light vision), although some might like the extra animal companions it gains. However, given the low power of these additional companions, they seem like a minor benefit of the class.

Bloodhound - 10 levels, minor revision from MotW
Another good combat character, the Bloodhound's abilities focus on tracking down (and possibly capturing) specific foes.

Daggerspell Mage - 10 levels
With an average attack and nine levels of casting ability, the Daggerspell Mage is the first of the multiclass-enabling Prestige Classes in the book. Designed for Rogue/Wizards, it takes the specific concept of a mage who fights with two daggers and creates an implementation that is quite intriguing. A Rogue 1/Wizard 5 can enter this class.

Daggerspell Adept - 10 levels
This class is thematically linked to the Daggerspell Mage. This time around, it enables a Rogue/Druid. Wildshaping abilities continue to improve, as do sneak attack and divine spellcasting. Interestingly, a Scout/Druid also can enter this class quite easily, and probably works better as such.

Dread Pirate - 10 levels, revision from Song and Silence
The Dread Pirate class is designed for the commander of sailors - either pirates or good seamen serving the king. Charismatic and with good ship lore, the prestige class actually has two paths it can take, depending on whether the characters is honorable or not. The result is very appealing.

Dungeon Delver - 10 levels, revision from Song and Silence
Perhaps one of the iconic prestige classes for the traditional dungeon crawling campaign, the Dungeon Delver has been revised primarily to put it more in tune with the revised rogue of 3.5e. Sacrificing sneak attack for improved trap skills and other survival skills for the Underdark, it remains a useful option.

Exemplar - 10 levels
To enter the Exemplar class, you require 13 ranks in one skill. It is designed to heighten a character's ability with their skills and to be charismatic when doing so. It is quite an odd class, and I can't quite see the point, I must admit. As it loses any other special ability progression it might have - such as bardic knowledge, music and spells - I'm not sure what character would actually take it.

Fochluchan Lyrist - 10 levels
Revisiting the original 1st edition bard, the Fochluchan Lyrist is designed for a Rogue/Bard/Druid. Yes, it is a strange combination of classes, and the Fochluchan Lyrist goes about making the character work with a vengeance - bardic knowledge, bardic music, 10 levels of arcane progression, 10 levels of divine progression, and a good base attack progression! Despite all this, the severity of the entrance requirements mean it isn't overpowered, but a true challenge to enter and play. I very much like this class.

Ghost Faced Killer - 10 levels, revised from Dragon Magazine
Basically this is the ninja class as a prestige class. A good attack progression, 4 skill points, sudden strike and the ability to swiftly turn invisible makes this more of a combat character than the basic ninja. At high levels, it can even frighten its target to death. A rather interesting class.

Highland Stalker - 10 levels
Skirmish abilities, good base attack, and good tracking abilities. Yes, it's the Prestige Class version of the Scout . There's not really much more to say about this. I rather like this trick of presenting both normal and prestige class versions of the same concept.

Maester - 5 levels
A gnomish magic-item crafter extraordinary. The main attraction is the ability to craft magic items at double speed and to identify items just by touching them. Apart from that, it is a very light class for abilities - a bit too much so. There seems little reason to take anything past the first level.

Master of Many Forms - 10 levels, minor revision of Shifter from Masters of the Wild
I mostly like the revised prestige classes, feeling that they have greatly improved on the original class. However, the Master of Many Forms suffers from a rules problem: it does not continue to increase the Hit Dice of the forms it can shift into - such is based on its Druid level. Without that increase, it is worthless. I suggest you allow the Druid level to stake with the Master's level for such.

Nightsong Enforcer - 10 levels
A combat rogue (good base attack progression) with teamwork abilities, such is the Nightsong Enforcer. Only 4 skill points a level is the price paid for the improved combat abilities, something that some will consider well worthwhile.

Nightsong Infiltrator - 10 levels
The teamwork element of the Nightsong Enforcer is complemented by this more roguish class, specialising in trapfinding and moving both quickly and quietly. Once again, it has abilities to help its allies, but loses the rogue's sneak attack ability in exchange.

Oleam - 5 levels
A dwarven teacher, suitable for either bards or clerics. 3 levels of spell progression, and lore and inspiring abilities. Rather an odd class, but it fits a cultural role.

Shadowbane Inquisitor - 10 levels
As a Paladin/Rogue multiclass, this is definitely unusual. It makes it all work, though. Good attack bonus, improved smite and sneak attack, and other holy special abilities. Great fun!

Shadowbane Stalker - 10 levels
Unusually, there's a second Paladin/Rogue enabler here. This one also works as a Cleric/Rogue combination, and emphasises the spell casting and sneak attack progressions.

Shadowmind - 10 levels, revised from the Wizard website
Continuing the rich vein of multiclass options, the Shadowmind is designed for the rogue/psion combination. I don't know about psionics to evaluate it fairly, though it seems quite bare as far as its abilities go. It reminds me of the Eldritch Knight or Mystic Theurge, an enabler class which doesn't have its own identity, as classes like the Shadowbanes and Arcane Trickster do.

Spymaster - 7 levels, major revision from Song and Silence.
A much improved version of the class, the Spymaster excels at maintaining a ficticious role even in the face of divination spells.

Streetfighter - 5 levels
Rather an odd class, it's sort of like a hyper-alert fighter. Sneak attack, good base attack, better initiative and uncanny dodge. Worth looking at.

Tempest - 5 levels, major revision from Masters of the Wild.
The master of two-weapon fighting, the revision is necessary due to the expanded Two Weapon Fighting feats available in Complete Warrior. Instead, the class allows the use of one set of weapon specialisation feats with both weapons wielded, improved two-weapon attack bonuses, and eventually a special two-weapon spring attack. I like this revision.

Thief-Acrobat - 5 levels, major revision from Song and Silence
Reducing the Thief-Acrobat from 10 levels to 5 levels greatly improved it. You now get improved movement options without too much distraction from your main progression as a rogue.

Vigilante - 10 levels, major revision from Song and Silence
A master of finding and punishing criminals, the Vigilante has minor spell-using abilities, average combat abilities and a wealth of special abilities to help him in his quest against the criminals of the world. It's most spectactular feature is the full-page artwork by David Hudnut which is very Batman or Van Helsing-like in pose.

Virtuoso - 10 levels, revision from Song and Silence
The master of bardic music and magic, the Virtuoso has lost some of the lesser songs of the S&S version. The main attraction of this class is the ability to sustain virtuoso music whilst casting spells.

Wild Plains Outrider - 3 levels
Consider a rider who is skilled at tracking from horseback, and you have the Wild Plains Outrider. The class is also set up to allow Paladins to take it, a very nice touch.

Chapter 3: Skills and Feats (20 pages)
This chapter begins with expanded uses for several skills. Mostly these give penalties to the skill checks in order to perform the skill more rapidly, but there are some more interesting uses here as well, such as the DCs for using the Heal skill to determine cause of death. The rules for Craft (poisonmaking) are here as well.

The feats (general, bardic and wild) are impressive. Several of them permit unusual multiclass combinations to work: the Devoted feats (paladin/rogue, paladin/bard and paladin/ranger), and the Ascetic feats (monk/ranger, monk/paladin, monk/sorcerer and monk/rogue). They permit stacking of some abilities and the lifting of some restrictions.

Apart from that, many of the feats improve skill use in some way, such as Appraise Magic Value, a sort of non-magical identify. There are also a few feats that allow one ability bonus to take the place of another, such as Force of Personality, which allows the Charisma bonus to be used instead of Wisdom for Will saves against mind-affecting abilities.

In fact, there is such a range of feats that it is unlikely that there are none here of interest. I very much like the feats that are presented, and consider this a highlight of the book.

Chapter 4: Tools and Equipment (22 pages)
I'm never a great fan of new equipment and magic items, but there are some nice items here. Exotic Weapons get a boost with a handful of new items such as the quickblade rapier - it gives a bonus on disarm checks and feint checks.

There are also some rules for masterwork bardic instruments, which give more of a bonus than merely a +2 to Perform checks; some give a bonus to spellcasting or particular forms of bardic music.

The magic items are dominated by new wondrous items. There are many different types here, and many aiding skill use. A rather impressive selection, when all is said and done.

Chapter 5: Spells (22 pages)
Another highlight of the book, this chapter expands greatly on the Swift and Immediate mechanics that have been introduced over the past year. All spell-using classes are likely to be very impressed by this chapter.

For instance, arrow storm allows a ranger to effectively make a whirlwind attack against all foes within 100 feet with his bow. Golem strike allows a rogue/wizard to make a sneak attacks against constructs, whilst vinestrike is the same for rogue/druids and gravestrike for rogue/clerics. All of these last just a round, but are cast as a quickened action - very nice indeed!

That is a main theme of the spells - helping other special abilities to function. Distract assailant makes a foe flatfooted for a round. At higher levels, a wizard can cast nightstalker's transformation - like Tenser's Transformation, but for roguish abilities.

Bards are certainly not forgotten, with a wealth of new spells. I rather like listening coin, which allows you to eavesdrop through a coin, and master's touch, which allows you to use a weapon or shield as if you were proficient with it.

A great selection of spells, well worth investigating.

Chapter 6: Organizations (30 pages)
Twelve organisations are given here, many of which relate to the new prestige classes and classes given earlier. The format that is used covers the following topics for each guild:

* Joining the Organisation
* Character Benefits
* Roleplaying Suggestions
* Typical Member
* Prestige Classes
* Lore of the Guild
* A Guild Campaign (discusses how the game might work if the majority of PCs were from one particular guild).

This is a great format. The organisations that are listed are not particularly useful for my own campaign, but I can't really judge them for your game. They are definitely well presented and interesting.

The chapter ends with some tables and advice for creating your own organisations. I'm not totally convinced with what is given here; I do think this chapter is the weakest in the book.

Appendix: Epic Level Characters (4 pages)
The appendix revises a few more bits and pieces from the Epic Level Handbook, and repeats some advice. There's not of much interest here, but it would be useful for someone without the ELH as it does provide options for epic level play.

Conclusion
As I said at the beginning of this review, the Complete Adventurer is a fabulous book, completing what has been, overall, an impressive series. It is on the same level as Complete Warrior for usefulness, and the comments I've read online have generally confirmed that impression.

One thing that the Complete series has shown me is that the designers of Wizards have really improved their mastery of the game since the early days of 3rd edition. Sword and Fist was plagued with rules problems, Tome and Blood didn't understand the implications of prestige classes for spellcasters. Although this mastery is not yet complete - witness the Master of Many Forms - it is growing.

Complete Adventurer also shows a better integration of game elements: witness the new uses for spells and feats for enhancing multiclass options. 3rd edition D&D does have problems with multiclass characters, but the examples shown in this book give a pointer for the way ahead.

Complete Adventurer is possibly the strongest of the Complete series, and a great first release for January 2005. I highly recommend this book.
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Rod Batten
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Merric your reviews are exceptional! I've been reading back through the ones you've posted recently and though I may not always agree with everything you say, I do enjoy the style and insight with which you say it.

Cheers!
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Merric Blackman
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Thank you very much!

It's been odd posting these old reviews; it's quite odd to realise that my writing style hasn't changed all that much over the past ten years: what I wrote 10 years ago is still recognizably mine!

The flood of older reports will shortly end, but I'll try to keep on writing new reviews. I'd really like to review all of the AD&D 1e adventures and books, but we'll see how that goes.

Cheers,
Merric
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