Game: Power Classes: Noble
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 31st, October 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
“Noble” is a class in its own right. Sure, you could encounter nobles who are also wizards, nobles who are clerics, warriors or perhaps even sorcerers but these are nobles who have found the time to learn these skills as an addition to their nobility. Grand courts, shaded diplomacy, moving armies to threaten boarders, designing a new coat of arms to mark an important wedding, discovering secret deals, royal romance, running baronies, kingdoms, dealing with would-be usurpers and spies and lots more in this line are all core fantasy plots and fun but yet none of the basic character classes in D&D are really appropriate starting points. A young sixteen year old noble who has been educated by specially appointed tutors, taught gentlemanly fencing and even the etiquette of the Grand Emperor’s Court where a poor choice of words could accidentally throw your family into a bitter feud with a rival noble line that lasts hundred years isn’t a fighter or a wizard.
Anyway. Enough. It’s clear that I think a noble core class is a good idea and an annoying absence for the basic d20 rules. If I can’t convince you that a noble class makes sense then I’m sure the fourth in Mongoose‘s Power Classes series. Noble is the best in the series so far and at only $2.95 there’s no risk involved in buying it to find out. If you’ve not read any of the previous Power Classes reviews (and why not?) then I’ll quickly point out that the booklets are tall but thin and only 16 pages long. It’s a product with space only for key mechanics and it’s all about bang for your bucks.
The key to this attempt at a Noble character is the flexibility of the class abilities. It’s not really possible to come up with a set of abilities that can safely be applied to all the different social structure possibilities across different campaign worlds. It’s just as hard to get the balance between adventuring feats and those best-suited nobles in their element. Peppering the level advancement with the well-known “Bonus Feat” and also the “Social Skills” ability solves the problem here. Social Skills are somewhere between a feat and a normal skill. For example, “Comeliness” says that the character takes pride in their appearance and as also naturally well-dressed so that they receive a +2 circumstance bonus to all Charisma based skill checks in situations where appearance plays a part. There’s a long list of these social skills and as the noble advances in levels the player can pick a new social skill from a long list. There’s a great flexibility here. Players get to pick what they want. Nobles cover a much wider scope than they might otherwise have. It’s easy for GMs to add new Social Skills or take out ones that don’t fit their campaign. If in your campaign world nobles attend strange and mysterious masque balls whenever the Queen of the Whispering Sky commands it then perhaps nobles in your campaign world are particularly adept are recognising people through their body language and voice then it would be easy with this game mechanic to put together an exclusive skill that only experienced nobles can learn.
There are also noble class abilities, the most obvious one being taunt but including the likes of Taunt, Rank Hath its Privileges, Gossip, Rally and more. I don’t like all the names for these abilities but the key ideas there and that’s what matters. There’s a new feat too. In fact, one of the class abilities “Advanced Leadership” suddenly makes epic games playable again.
In the end, in just 16 pages, you’re left with a believable representation of a noble class and a class that people will actually want to play as well. If the idea of courtly drama is alien to your games then you’ll probably see the sister books “Assassin” or “Gladiator” as the front runners in the series but for me the headliner is certainly Power Classes: Noble.