Game: The Quintessential Fighter
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 11th, January 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 39
Average Score: 7.80
I was glad that I didn’t cough up the cash for The Sword and the Fist. I was worried for a while but after merely flicking through the Quintessential Fighter those concerns were put to bed. I didn’t realise just how good the Quintessential Fighter was until I sat down, read it through and then tried to think what might have been missed out from the book. I couldn’t think of anything. This book heralds the full rules for the Open Mass Combat System.
So, what you get in this book is a great collection of impressive Feats and Prestige Classes enough to turn your fighter into a whirlwind of bladed death!
I’m joking. The idea of releasing yet another collection of power-mechanics in the guise of a d20 supplement is a joke that’s running rather dry now. You will get a darn site more in this book and that, I think, is why it stands head and shoulders above some stereotypical class book. I have to use the term stereotypical class book because I honestly can’t think of any other publication that’s dedicated to only one class.
A character concept doesn’t have to be just a line of text or a vague idea. The range of examples given is good, everything from savage to noble fighters. Other than tips on how to roleplay the portrayal the character in an adventure setting the book makes the rather bold suggestion that something as simple as a concept could very well have tangible game mechanic effects. Nobles, for example, should start with more money but are likely to spend it faster as they maintain the standard of living they were used to before becoming an adventurer, that’s not to say that the noble fighter will forever pig headily refuse to see the light and apply some common sense to his purse strings. It is nice to see ideas like this in print; they strike me as something confidant and capable GMs might come up with in an attempt to flesh out their game a little. The Quintessential Fighter, though, simply saves you the work and perhaps more importantly is a great source of inspiration for other Fighter concepts. I think there is some debate as to whether a “savage fighter” is more of a barbarian concept or a fighter but it isn’t really an issue that worries me.
Come on now, you knew there would be prestige classes in book and it wouldn’t be complete without them. I was pleased to see a decent balance among the prestige classes. It is a balance that is struck while keeping all the prestige classes suitably generic. I can use the template for a Master Bowman in almost every setting, if the book had attempted to give me the stats for the “silent blood singers of the dancing hills” then they would probably never ever seen use. I thought the fundamentals of the prestige class system were well adhered to as well. The requirements made sense and the progress rate of the special abilities made sense.
Tricks of the Trade
I thought the most helpful section of this chapter were the rule on Jousting. I know very little about the realities of wielding lances or the likely damage that might be inflicted on a successful strike but the whole concept is really appealing for a fantasy game. The succinct rules for the joust presented by the book will certainly be useful. As a GM I would struggle less over the mechanic details (penalties to hit, wound effects, etc) when players attempt to call their shots but I suspect I’ll just use the guidelines here. The duelling section was less impressive, although I’m perhaps tainted by the importance of cunning fencing styles in my current game. The back and forth of attack and defence of a duel was catered to, although I couldn’t quite work out the game advantage for fighting defensively and I suspect the system works best as a quick but clear way to separate a duel from a mere melee.
The mindset behind the feats was the same as the prestige classes and I think it was the right track to be on. The feats are “realistic” and generic. That’s to say a veteran warrior may very well be able to get into his armour much faster than a rookie solider but isn’t likely to be able to channel his inner warrior-spirit through his blade and make it do extra damage. Well, not unless that’s the sort of game you are playing. The feats in the Quintessential Fighter are very much of the first example and not the second. I don’t think there is any need to worry about them reducing a game of Dungeons and Dragons into some weird super hero romp.
Tools of the Trade
The sister of Tricks of the Trade, perhaps? We’re talking weapons and armour here. The mix of descriptive text, pictures and game stats is pretty much spot on. Giving me the stats for a Spider Throwing Knife are all well and good but unless I know what the heck it is then it’s never going to make my game, on the same token, I’m not keen on paying for a description of what a Pike is. (We all know it’s a fish). This section includes rules for black powder weapons and includes genuinely helpful information like “misfire range” and loading speeds.
If you had asked me what should be in a Fighter class book but is likely to be missed out then I would have picked fighting styles. The different styles (and there are plenty to choose from) describe different ways to fight, how long it takes to train in them and what benefits they might bring. The attempt to keep the styles useable in as many games as possible is there, as it was with the feats and prestige classes, the styles have fancy names and sometimes a little bit of history but the premise behind most of them is clear. If it’s a fighting style for dwarves then you can tell that. I thought the Wisdom modifier as the suggested maximum limit for how far you can progress on a style was a bit harsh but I found the learning times were rather too friendly. That’s just my opinion though and these sorts of things can easily be fixed and altered to suit. The presented learning times are a good guide of just how more complex the advanced styles are compared to the early ones. It might have been nice to include some penalties too, though. If you fight aggressively then your defence could suffer but you could argue that the trick is to fight with that extra aggression without opening your defence – and that’s what makes the combination a fighting style
This is not a reprieve of the jousting and duelling rules from the earlier chapter, although I did arch an eyebrow as I first turned the page and noticed the paragraph headers. Instead this chapter offers up sample in-game rules for the likes of archer or jousts – how many points your knight might score for breaking his opponents lance, etc. I enjoyed reading through this but was glad it wasn’t any longer.
Rather like the previous tournament chapter the section on mercenaries isn’t any longer than it needs to be and seems to have been included for the sake of completeness. I’m all for buying complete books. Again the actual cost for various mercenaries is open to preference but I found the ratio (2 archers : 1 mounted bowman, for example) for the costs was good.
The Open Mass Combat System
Even if you’re not a war gamer (and I’ve not war games in years and years) I wouldn’t rule out armies from your game. After all, shouldn’t those goblin hoards sweep down from the mountains and attack as a hoard? Or do you suppose they’ll attack in dribs and drabs. That would be silly. I’m not going to get too into the mechanics of the OMCS, I’ll just say that it seems to work. I’m no expert, I sit squarely in the middle ground here and so when I say that I can understand how the OMCS should work then say that as Joe Gamer. In essence the system provides you with a quick way to count whole troops of men as one subject with a few important attributes of its own (morale, etc) so you can deal with all the troops with minimal dice fuss. The system says it can cope with being scaled up to the sort of huge multi-unit sized battles and I believe it could but, of course, the paper work is likely to increase too. There are even rules for machines of war (catapults, etc) which is cool but I would have liked to have scene rules for the effects of player characters in battles. It would have been nice if brave acts of heroism from the players (especially in the roles of generals and captains) could inspire the troops on to greater feats or a quick system to work out whether the commander of the army noticed the heroes fighting bravely in the melee. Player characters aren’t ignored, the rules do keep them separate so they’re never lost among the mass of NPCs and you have both an experience point guide and morale modifications for the battle at large if key figures are killed (which just screams out for the players to get involved) but I still fancied a little “hero table”.
This has to be a bonus section. In the fighter’s class book you’ll find yourself looking at rules to cover the building of castles, the staff and even taxes. I mean, wow, talk about not leaving any stones unturned. I think its great, I’m all inspired to go create a noble fighter concept, give him a castle and a brave struggle against invading orcs!
… and the rest
One of the reasons I tend to like Mongoose products is that they include a Designer’s notes section. I feel it really helps put the whole book into context and the Quintessential Fighter is no exception. If you’re used to the Slayer’s Guides then you’ll be pleased to know that the QF chalks in at 128 pages so the note section is less of a bite out of the book. The reference to Dynasty of Heroes has me waiting with baited breath. There is room for summary tables, four pages of them, of the various mechanics in the book and then reference sheets for photocopying are squeezed in behind the index.