The Secrets of Adventuring… Review of Rite Publishing’s latest Pathfinder Supplement

The call was heard across Google+.  +Steve Russell Developer, Editor, Writer at Rite Publishing asked for bloggers interested in reviewing his companies latest addition to their Pathfinder compatible line.  It is called The Secrets of Adventure which is a title that did not tell me a great deal but being a bit of a Pathfinder junkie I figured it would be good to take a look.  Read on to find what entails The Secrets of Adventuring.

The cover of The Secrets of Adventuring

As I have the book to review in PDF and reviewed it on my iPad it was not easy to simply turn the book over and read the blurb on the back sleeve.  The cover does not give too much away either, dominated by what looks like a young, modest self conscious harpy as well as a cleric and a couple of other adventurers.  It is a nice bold blue with a good texture and distinctly by Rite Publishing.  I find their books have a certain style and that is still in place here.  I considered skipping to the back cover and taking a look to get an idea of what lay within but I knew that I should not waste time as this tome is just over 220 pages long!

Reaching the Table of Contents I learned a couple of things.  This book was going to offer me two, possibly three classes that I had not seen before, some tactics, new combat rules and a bunch of archetypes for some of the classes that perhaps have not been as developed in the core pathfinder material as some of the others.  I also found out that there were five contributors to the book, a few of whom I recognised.  Taking this forward I plunged in to the book knowing that I am not overly fond of broadening character concepts too much I did not expect to be over the moon at the end of this experience.

Chapter one focusses on the Divine Channeller.  A variant class of the Cleric that seeks to really expand the power of channelling and make it the focus of the class.  the chapter dominates the book and comes in at around 70 pages long written by Jonathan McAnulty.  It starts with some nice text written in character and then gives the details of the class.  The Divine Channeller studied the art of being a conduit for their Gods essence far more than they studied the art of clerical magic so that they may be closer to their God.  They lose out on magic but gain powers greater than the simplified channeling that is included in Pathfinder.  These powers are dependent on the domains that the channeller takes as new abilities are attributed to the channeling ability.  There are some really nice ideas in this chapter like someone trained in Knowledge (Religion) could tell what domains a cleric or channeller is trained in by the appearance of the energy that radiates from the holy symbol.

The chapter is so long simply because all the new mechanics per domain need to be detailed.  Every domain and every sub domain has four new mechanics applied to it which are the powers that make the Divine Channeller a cool class.  But the chapter also contains feats that would allow any divine powered class with the Channel Energy power to get in on some of the action as well.  The chapter contains a bunch of supplementary material like new spells, feats (especially channelling feats) and it also gives several religious tomes names and details by domain and sub domain.  My favourite was The Eternal Autumn Breath a treatise on Undead.  If you buy it, the tome is detailed on page 60 and the last sentence in its detail had me laughing for a few minutes.  Very witty.

Will I want the paper version to be added to my collection?

The variant class is good.  Simple concept and well presented.  I can see one of my players being interested in the details of this class so I was happy.  Chapter two for me though was where this book shines.  It introduces a new class called The Luckbringer. I do not normally react well with new classes as I feel too many classes in a game styled like Pathfinder upsets the core concepts and creates work for those who want to use pre printed modules.  This class paradoxically has turned my ideas around on that idea as not only is it a good class, it is built on a unique idea and more importantly is a class I want to play.  It was written by Steve Russell and written very well.

The chapter starts with some nice flavour text that does well to explain the class and its focus which is essentially that this class manipulates the flow of probabilities!  They make luck.  They beat the hordes chasing them by having a bridge collapse on their last step across it and generally they act as a second chance enabler.  Their whole class revolves around playing odds and improving them for themselves and their allies whilst complicating things for their foes.  This is a utility class not really like a thief, but not unlike them too.  They are reasonable combatants, which really means they are awesome combatants when using their abilities.  The only real disappointment to me is that I do not think I can quite communicate how truly cool this class is.  One thing I can say to convince you is had the rest of this book been full of meaningless nonsense I would still want it because of this class.

The third chapter looks into the second brand new class, the Taskshaper.  The Taskshaper is a shapeshifting class and also the source of the image on the front cover.  The story of the class is very cool and well presented at the start of the chapter.  It is another class that is penned by Steve Russell and another one he can be proud of.  The class really is a class that mimics the actions of others, tied in with the ability to shift into a multitude of shapes.  I love that the class skills are chosen by the player due to the shifting nature of the class and the history that it has.  This class is dependent on a lot of bookwork from the player though as the character can only mimic or shift shapes into things that they have seen performed before or of individuals they have touched etc.  There is even a note from Steve saying that GM’s should ensure that the player keeps these notes as the things the character sees are what it can do, kind of like a Wizard’s grimoire of spells.

I know some of these guys will love some of the contents…

Moving from new classes the fourth chapter instead provides an archetype for every class that currently exists in the core Pathfinder books (Core, Advanced Players Guide, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Magic).  Each of these archetypes have a tactical focus, favouring a lean toward teamwork.  There is a break from the writing style of the previous chapter without any flavour text added to the archetypes which jarred me a little.  It is written by Will McCardell and Benjamin Rombeaut who do a good job of building classes that are really focussed on working either in combination with something of their class (e.g. the oracle archetype summons spirits to work with them to hamper the enemy making them my favourite archetype of them all) through to a focus on assisting the other team members like the witch archetype who works to fortify her companions.

The next four chapters go through the Gunslinger, the Inquisitor, the Magus and the Oracle giving them new archetypes, feats and options.  the first three chapters are written by Steven Russell again and the chapter on the Oracle is written by David Mallon.  They return to the style of flavour text written by a character to explain material and the stuff in these chapters is fairly solid.  Thinking about these classes I would say it is relatively true that they are some of the least expanded on in the Pathfinder core books which is maybe why they were targeted.  I do like Oracles and Magus so it was good to see them get the treatment, but I would have liked a chapter on the Summoner as well with some expanded feats and items as I feel they suffer in this manner as well.

The final chapter looks at furthering combat manoeuvres in Pathfinder.  Giving more options of what you can do in already set manoeuvres as well as offering up a swag of new ones with feats to match.  One of the other things that makes me cringe a little are things that try to offer improvements to combat that would just get in the way and for my group a lot of this would do just that.  There are some really good ideas here but they are too specific for me and could be achieved in a similar way using other already existing combat manoeuvres.  I have a player in my game who loves cinematic type stuff and kind of sees the game through his own camera and he uses a lot of combat manoeuvres.  The problem is that he does not really understand them.  He has a cheat sheet which is a full A4 page explaining all the existing ones and it still takes him around five minutes just to pick what he is doing and get the modifiers right.  Adding a second sheet (which is what this lot would do) would just bog things further down.  Heck, even I have trouble remembering all of the official ones and what they are meant to do.

The Luckbringer’s tools of the trade!

In general, the book is well presented.  Full colour cover with black and white interior.  The art is largely of an old style, making you think you are looking at images from the early 1900’s or even earlier.  I love this style of art but interspersed amongst this beautifully presented art there are a number of more modern, standard style fantasy image inks and every time I saw one it jarred me.  I would have liked to see the entire book have a consistent art style to keep me in the mode of thinking I was reading an old book full of secrets.  Unfortunately every time I came across a newer image it was like someone shaking me going “Sorry you are just reading an RPG book”!

This is also kind of mirrored in the differences in chapter writing styles.  There is nothing more powerful than having flavour text written from a character.  It really gives the player a feel for what it is like to follow a class and is a style I have come to love from games like Earthdawn who did it extensively.  In this book though you find in some chapters it is done for the class and all the archetypes, in other chapters it is not done at all and in other chapters it is done for some but not all.  To get the flow happening it needs to be done consistently.  Even if it is only a brief paragraph which happened in some spots.  I still appreciated these insights.  I understand that this is a big book though and space may have been at a premium.

Finally, it is lucky that I did not look at the back of the book first.  The blurb on the back has spelling mistakes and errors in it which really tends to put me off.  Had I been in a game store and picked it up to have a look I would never have even opened the cover.  I would have put it straight down which would have been my loss but those sort of mistakes just should never, ever, appear on the cover of a book, even if it is the back blurb.  There are a number of similar mistakes throughout the book.  the odd word missing, spelling mistakes etc. but again this is a big book and it is done by a company made up of gamers and the like so i can forgive these errors.

Although I have mentioned these mistakes with spelling and omissions I will say the standard of writing (tone and communication) is really good.  In fact I would say overall very well written.  I cannot remember at any point thinking “I wonder what that means?” which can sometimes be one of the questions you think the most reading some games.  All of the material in this book is not for me but I can see my players being interested in a lot of it and I can see that this would be a very valuable addition to any Pathfinder gaming table.

So what to rate it?  Well I will tell you now that I am intending getting this book in a paperback version for my own group to read (as GM apparently that unofficially means you have to buy all the books!).  It will get a load of use, I can see it now.  It is going to be released at GenCon next week and you will be able to grab a physical copy there if you are lucky enough to be going.  If you aren’t you can preorder a physical copy (and PDF comes with it) from Chronicle City for $34.99 USD or just the PDF for $17.99.  You can also pre-order from the Paizo store also.  Now I only ever buy official rulebooks in paper form so that this has convinced me to buy it means I have to rate it at four out of five.  But you know what, for the Luckbringer alone I have to increase the odds (because that is what they would do) so I give this book four and a half otherworldly secrets out of five.  Get this book in your collection.  I highly recommend it!  Keep rolling!

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