Game: Librum Equitis
Review Dated: 2nd, July 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Prestige Classes. The internet is full of them. Every second d20 publication offers yet more. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having so many prestige classes available but I just can’t help shake the feeling that too many of them are badly designed, mechanically flawed, uninspired or otherwise badly short of the mark. Librum Equitis is a book dedicated to prestige classes and in many ways that’s so much tidier than those books that tuck their prestige class offerings away in adventures. I’ve said that too many prestige classes are badly designed but you can’t accuse Librum Equitis of that mistake. If you want to be picky, as I am then, then one of the first nit-pickings you’ll come up with to throw against Librum Equitis is the synonym game. For example, “Military Archer” is a prestige class, so does that mean that every soldier with a bow is a “Military Archer” or is every military archer a “Military Archer”? In this case, it’s not made clear.
Librum Equitis is a 64-paged book of which 5 are given over to credits, indexes, adverts and legal license foo. It’s a nice book to flick through; the grey boxes in which you’ll find new feats, equipment and even deities are not too grey and most have identifying icons. The tables of character levels are subtly done too; they’re neither on a shaded background nor are they in a chunky frame and I think the result works rather well. There are plenty of quality illustrations too. I don’t think there’s a prestige class without a depiction of its very own.
In addition to an illustration each prestige class as a short introductory story and ends with a sample character complete with background and stats. The combination of these two really do make it crystal clear as to just what the author intended the prestige class to be like.
There are more prestige classes than the index suggests. It gets a little lost, missing out the Lords of Sorcery and messing up the page numbers as a result. Most of the prestige classes are detailed through 10 levels (which I feel is a must, especially for a specialised prestige class book like Librum Equitis). The Collegiate Bard stops at level 7 (when the advancement table reaches the bottom of the page), the Imperial Crossbowman stops at level 5 (when the advancement table reaches the bottom of the page), the Lords of Sorcery stops at level 5 (when the advancement table reaches the bottom of the page), the Phalanx stops at level 4 (when the advancement table reaches the bottom of the page), the Sniper stops at level 5 (when the table reaches the bottom of the page) and the Zombie Master which also stops at level 5 (when, you guessed it, the table reaches the bottom of the page). All the level advancement tables are tucked away at the bottom of the page and so I can’t decide whether this is a result of a very good layout editor or whether some of the above classes have had levels trimmed by design or by mistake. It does seem especially strange in the cases of the 7 levels of Collegiate Bard and 4 levels of Phalanx.
Bounty Hunter – This is a solid concept. The class doesn’t mysteriously develop magic or spell-like powers as it advances. Instead, the Bounty Hunter gets progressively better at bounty hunting and this includes a wide range of bonuses to his skills.
Chosen Warlord – I tend to associate the word warlord to someone tyrannical and evil but this isn’t always the case for the Chosen Warlord. The warlords are pious masters of war and not simply the local lord who rules through the strength of his army. The Chosen Warlords are free to worship any alignment of deity – just as long as the deity grants its clerics access to the war domain.
Collegiate Bard – The description of the Collegiate Bard names a specific school of music from which these trained bards have graduated. I don’t see why you have to use the named school in particular and as long as your campaign world has a prestigious musical college then you could apply the Collegiate Bard to it.
Corpulent – I like this prestige class, it’s a good example of what I think the best and most suitable use of the prestige class concept is. Corpulents are priests, they’re clerics but, … wait for it … they’re a prestigious type of cleric who benefit from greater attention from their deities and congregation. Corpulents are hugely obese, they’re in the service of a god of greed or famine and they’re transformed into an unnatural mass of flesh.
Dark Minstrel – I suspect this particular prestige class will appeal to the angst fans. Characters who have been witness to shocking and tragic events and who have been so emotionally scarred by them can become a Dark Minstrel. It’s a rather ironic twist then that the Dark Minstrels are never good and their songs and mournful tales are rarely benevolent.
Dirty Monk – Yes, it’s a silly name. The Dirty Monk is one who is no longer as pious as he should be; he’s fallen from the path prescribed by his initial training. The resulting effect is the unarmed combat specialist who is just as likely to light-finger the necklace from around your throat as he is to strike at it with his iron hard blow. Given the scary range of combat techniques that open up to the Dirty Monk as he progresses I imagine its easier in most cases to unleash the deadly strike and then loot the necklace from the corpse.
Feral Ravager – This is a prestige class that is designed primarily for large humanoids: your trolls, ogres and giants. As such it’s one of the few in the book that might be best suited to NPCs rather than PCs.
Imperial Crossbowman – This is one of those prestige classes that take part in the synonym game. If you’re an Imperial Crossbowman and the Empire falls or you’re thrown out are you still an “Imperial Crossbowman”? That nit-pick out of the way the rest of the class holds up well; the special abilities don’t jump off to the wild side and start awarding magic powers of teleporting crossbow bolts and stick to more likely and game-sense options such as pinpoint accuracy and an extreme proficiency with all sorts of crossbows.
Initiates of Cordun – A prestige class for arcane and divine magic users. Cordun was a sorcerer cleric of great renown but, as is the case for all these classes that make use of an exclusive proper noun, it is easy to change Cordun to a word/character of choice. Some of the spells in the Cordun spell list come from Sword and Sorcery Studio’s Relics and Rituals. I like this. This is what the OGL is all about. That said, I do have Relics and Rituals and I can imagine people without the book frowning.
Knight Channeller – This class of Knight is a sort of Paladin style prestige class. They struck me straight away as a great way to introduce Orders of Knights such as Templars and Hospitlars. They’re also rather good in that you can pick from a range of abilities instead of automatically accepting the only one on offer.
Longbowman – Very similar to the Imperial Crossbowman, the longbowman does to longbows what the previous class does to crossbows.
Lords of Sorcery – These unfortunates failed to make the index. It’s a shame because they’re a nice idea; one which many players will relate too. These folks are those wizards who’re rather jealous of the sorcerer’s ability to spontaneously cast spells and decided to do something about it.
Military Archer – Ah yes, my chosen sacrifice for the previous whinged about synonym game. There’s a reason why I picked on the poor Military Archer; by the time you’ve read through the Imperial Crossbowman and the Longbowman you’ve had your full of these ranged weapon specialist classes.
New Treant – Treants, really. It could be easy to rule that this Prestige Class is available only as an evolution of the Druid class but in fact clerics with a nature or plant centric deity may also qualify. These new treants rarely leave their forests and so as with the Feral Ravager they’re one of the prestige classes in the book which might not be the best bet for PCs.
Phalanx – Again, the quality of Ambient’s prestige class comes to the fore here. The Phalanx troops are mechanically sound; they’re better with shields and at fighting at close quarters. The close fighting ability is the Close Order Fighting feat from Chaosium’s Dragon Lords of Melnibone. I don’t have that book but I’ll stick to my previous claim elsewhere in this review when I say that such cross use of OGL text is a good thing. The class feature does go on to explain what the ability does and I assume the feat doesn’t add anything else, I might be wrong but it shouldn’t matter since there’s still enough information presented to make sure the class is usable.
Practical Ones – Ah yes, one of the best euphemisms for assassin yet. With previous prestige classes in the book I think the strength of the Practical Ones is that they’re appealing to players, not too hard on GM’s plot devices and entirely believable in their range of talents and special abilities.
Psycho Pyretic – A rare psion prestige class. The Psycho Pyretics really do live up to their unusual names as psionics with poorly restrained abilities, abilities which are all to prone to manifesting themselves as flames and heat. There’s something about the Psycho Pyretic that just whispers “Stephen King anti-hero” to me – but that’s probably a good thing.
Raserei – You don’t have to be a psycho pyretic to be a member of an insane prestige class. The Raserei answers the call of much needed barbarian prestige classes and presents this class of seriously dangerous and unhinged warriors. The Raserei are pretty much a simple “level up” for the barbarian core; more frenzies and less control.
Sniper – Yet another ranged weapon prestige class but at least the Sniper’s mentality (and too a degree – renoun) is significantly different from any-other archer or crossbowman. Rather strangely my favourite contribution from the Sniper prestige class is the new bit of equipment; the “Release” as an archer’s tool and one that presents as tight and as realistic game mechanics as the prestige classes show themselves.
Swashbuckler – As a charismatic rogue the swashbuckler might be the prestige class that many players model their characters on – although I’m less convinced that players will be as keen to actually go in the direction of this particular prestige class. The swashbuckler, though, is a tempting option for GMs to suggest to their players since the progression of special abilities adds a bit of flare to the game without throwing the delicate balance of power out of the window.
Tainted Warlock – I read this first as Sainted Warlock due to the fancy font used on the T. The Tainted Warlock is near to an exact reverse of a Warlock Saint as you might imagine. Rather than embracing the spark of goodness found within the soul the Tainted Warlock grasps hold of her dark core and uses his negative powers to enhance her formidable magic powers. As is the way of things – cosmic power means crappy hit points.
Two-Fisted Sorcerers of T’arg – Every one has two fists, however these strange sorcerers from T’arg have the ability to cast a duplicate copy of a low level spell in the same combat around as the first due to their two-fist training. That’s not as game unbalancing as it reads as first since the highest level of Two-Fisted sorcerers are only able to cast third level spells in this way and even then they must have a quick casting time. The sorcerers are more than just this ability though; they’re nomadic in nature, prone to drinking and fond of bare knuckle fights – and that’s certainly a new twist for an arcane class.
Zombie Master – You don’t have to be a genius to work out the focus of this particular prestige class. The Zombie Master is an arcane based class though, not a divine one. The divine spell casters always do seem to have the advantage over their arcane counterparts in all things necromancy. However, whereas the cleric’s power over the undead is a gift from their deity the arcane necromancer is true understanding, knowledge and research and the Zombie Master pushes that desire for knowledge even further. The Zombie Master’s thirst for understanding of all things undead begins a rather morbid supernatural transformation on himself and the resulting effect is another prestige class which is a solid candidate for a NPC villain if less than likely for a PC.
If you are looking for some new prestige classes to add to your game and you’re willing to go out and buy a specialised book then Librum Equitis is a strong contender. It’s written well and despite the trouble with the index and possible doubts over the number of character levels for some of the prestige classes there are very few typos in the book. It willl only take a glance through the and the knowledge this is the first offering from Ambient and you’ll be expecting great things from their future products.