Game: Heroes of High Favor: Elves
Publisher: Badaxe Games
Review Dated: 28th, January 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
The hobby needs another elf racebook as much as it needs a wizard class book. Welcome to Heroes of High Favor: Elves. If you know the Heroes of High Favor line from Badaxe Games then you’ll know that that opening line was a little unfair.
The Heroes of High Favor are certainly not another character splat book. The meat of the small book is the chapter of multi-class based prestige classes. The favourite class for the elf race is Wizard and so the book contains ten prestige classes based on wizard multi-classes. The Anarcanist, for example, is a Wizard-Rogue inspired prestige class. In previous Heroes of High Favor, it’s been the racial favourite class that’s made or broken the book.
I didn’t find the dwarf book all that worthwhile because their favourite fighter class didn’t combine with any other to make any inspirational prestige classes. On the other hand, the half-orc book worked with prestige classes that included barbarian influence and this produced some really cracking ideas.
Elf wizards sit in this middle of this. There are some real successes here: the Ley Runner as the Wizard-Barbarian class, the Wayshepherd as the Wizard-Druid and Spell-shikar as the Wizard-Ranger being the top three. It seems to be the tricky ones, the real challenges that bring out the best from Badaxe Games. It is the tricky combinations that are the most interesting and which makes the book worth buying.
If you’ve not seen a Heroes of High Favor before then you’ll notice the size straight away. The book is two-thirds the length and width of most other RPGs. At 78 pages long this is the largest in the series yet.
The prestige classes take up 40 of these pages. They’re good but it’s the added extra on either side that bumps the whole book up from the realms of average and into pretty good. There are two main sections that lead into the prestige classes; feats and lost arcana.
The first group of feats are safe and true; the sort of feat you could expect to find in any thought out supplement. The last bunch offers something different straight away by using optional prerequisites.
The GM might decide to limit them to arcane spellcasters only or, if that’s not enough, to arcane spellcasters with the appropriate speciality. I was taken by this idea straight away. If you feel that the wizard specialities are just a little weak in d20 core – that a Necromancer or Illusionist really isn’t all that different from Joe Mage – then this is the book for you.
Spell Wards are another bunch of tempting feats and give wizards something else to think about when assigning magic to their spell slots. These days it takes something a bit special from the ever-present feats section to grab my interest and that’s what happened here.
The chapter of lost arcana is even better as it presents rules for drawing power from ley lines and ley line nexuses. The book takes a somewhat upside-down view to ley lines and nexuses in that the nexus is created first and the ley line follows.
You’ll have a point of power; a standing stone circle, wizard’s tower, or even altar and that becomes the nexus. Ley lines form to link these points of power together. Drawing magic from the ley line is riskier and less effective than taking it from the point of power but in both cases, the wizard has a number of choices to make as to what to do with the energy.
Also in the lost arcana chapter, there’s a new approach to magic school specialities and restrictions. The hard truth of the matter is that some schools of magic are better than others and so the vanilla rules don’t quite balance. The Arcane Circle in Heroes of High Favor: Elves is a tempting alternative. The schools of magic are divided into three circles.
The outer circle is the most powerful, followed by the next and the inner circle is the least powerful. To keep things simple each circle is worth a number of points. To specialise in one school you simply have to match its point value, it’s position in the Arcane Circle, with restricted schools. Oh; okay, the circle idea is a bit of a fudge.
The whole thing can be worked out simply with points but the idea of the circle helps keep the flavour there. There’s more; since it’s possible to restrict more points of magic schools than you specialise in it is possible to spend the difference on other arcane powers. There are seven of these extra arcane powers (metamagic mastery, heighten spell, an extra spell slot, etc) to pick from, some are more expensive than others and some can be stacked. Wizards can now decide how they’re going to specialise in one school of magic and not just if they want to specialise.
There’s a token page or two on elven roleplaying and then the book dives into a length appendix. This is probably the most useful appendix I’ve found in a d20 supplement to date. You have about 10 pages on spell design; that’s how to go about designing a spell, some templates and considerations.
It’s a small book and therefore a cheap book. Whereas the cost per word might not be as favourable as it could be there’s no denying that at less than $10 the absolute cost isn’t bad. In fact, it’s almost worth picking the book up for just the prestige classes, for just the lost arcana chapter or even just the spell design appendix. Almost.
The direction for the HoHF line seems to be changing a little. I don’t recall the phrase “iconic multi-class” being used to describe the prestige classes. There’s still the phrase “games with grit” below the Badaxe Games logo and I think people will continue to debate what’s meant by grit.
I don’t think this is a gritty book; it certainly doesn’t deal with low-level elf wizards struggling in a low magic, low fantasy world. I don’t suppose that matters though.
There is more flavour creeping into the book – take the Arcane Circle as a good proof of that – but that’s a good thing. Heroes of High Favor: Elves is worth buying because it adds a hefty dose of well thought out and optional game mechanics. It does so without succumbing to bland number crunching, just.
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