Game: Ultimate Prestige Classes – Volume 1
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 24th, October 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Prestige classes have quickly become the bread and butter of d20 supplements and publishers after their introduction in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’ve seen killer prestige classes as well as filler prestige classes and had entire books devoted to prestige classes but Ultimate Prestige Classes (vol 1) is the first hardbound of these supplements to hit my desk.
Value for money is hard to judge. $34.95 isn’t cheap but we’re continuing to see the cover price of RPGs creeping up to match the cost of similar generic books in the market. RPGs have been under priced for a while. This volume has 256 pages and although the font might look slightly large that’s only because you’ve become used to tighter than standard text density being used for campaign settings. Another twist in the value for money calculation is that this book of Ultimate Prestige Classes is a completion of some of the best prestige classes currently available. That is to say, a re-print of what is already out there. Even then that’s not entirely true because there’s actually plenty of original and new prestige classes too. 256 pages of prestige classes is enough room for there to be plenty of re-prints and plenty of new prestige classes. I think it’s the sheer size of the book (volume is a good name for it) that’s a valid selling point. If you’re one of those collectors who prefer hardbacks and meaty tomes of rules that feel wonderfully solid in your grubby bits then this issue of Ultimate Prestige Classes has an undeniable appeal.
Strangely for a book dedicated to prestige classes one of the ways the Ultimate Prestige Classes scores a trick over rival products is that it squeezes in a little more than just a list of prestige classes. I’m not talking about the few pages of introduction to prestige classes but what comes later and in just as few pages. “Design Your Own Class” is a gem of a chapter. I don’t think it gives away any secrets or insights so wonderful as to secure you immediate employment as the next Monte Cook but what you do have is the introduction required to ease you into prestige class design (and why not? Everyone else does it) and if you’re already there you’ve got a professionally designed set of checks and rules by which to measure your creations against. It’s not quite the same as having a professional d20 author looking over your shoulder but it’s so much better than having to rely on Bob down the street as the only editor to your work. Sorry Bob.
Perhaps the best thing about Ultimate Prestige Classes for psionics fans is that there are psionic prestige classes in the book. There’s a whole section of them; the chapter might be right near the end of the book and just before the monster race prestige classes.
That’s how the book is formatted, the prestige classes are divided up into working areas of related subject matter. The “Way of the Warrior” is as you might guess a collection of combat-based prestige classes. In “Secrets of the Arcane” you’ll get your arcane magic based prestige classes and so in “The Power of Faith” you’ll get the divine magic based ones. The chapter “By Wits and Skill” picks up the baton for classes who manage to thrive through their own quick mind and abilities rather than combat or magic. Then, as I’ve already alluded to, “Mind Over Matter” is a welcome treat for games with psionics in them and “Monstrous Paths” rounds everything up with more than just a couple of token monster race prestige classes.
The presentation of each individual prestige class is as you would expect. There’s an illustration most of the time, the requirements lead into a lost of class skills and new features and somewhere nearby you’ll find a grey and white table of level advancement. Where needs be there’s a spell list or other specialist table. All of the prestige classes have an aside for “Classic Play” which offers up the most obvious stereotypical use for the class – a mixed blessing but helpful if you truly are at a loss to imagine what on earth the designer was thinking when putting the class together.
There are an awful lot of five level only prestige classes in many Mongoose books but this isn’t a problem here. In fact, it’s the bigger and better prestige classes that have made the cut and qualified for the book. The five level classes that do appear tend to be those classes that can only be met by characters over level ten anyway.
I was very glad to see a comprehensive index at the back of the book. The index is an impressive five pages long and runs through not only the classes in the book but their special abilities too. This makes it easy to, for example, run your finger down the M index to ‘Mind’ and then flick back through the book to access prestige classes with some mind related power.
It might be argued that another book with yet more prestige classes is simply trying to get the last possible bite out of an apple already well and truly chewed to the core. It might very well be true. The Ultimate Prestige Classes does get a bite out of the apple though and so is successful in its own right. I suspect this hardback will appeal most to those RPGers who purchase rarely and who run their own homebrew campaign worlds but there’s nothing to stop the more generic prestige classes from being used in published settings either.