Game: Heroes of High Favor: Halflings
Publisher: Bad Axe Games
Review Dated: 20th, November 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
The Heroes of High Favor is a d20 series that seems to provoke comments like “You’ll either love the series or hate it” – but it’s not true. I wasn’t enamoured with the Heroes of High Favor: Dwarves much but I really did like the Heroes of High Favor: Half-orcs.
The Heroes of High Favor have a good shtick. The book takes the preferred character class of the race in question and pairs that off with every other core class in the style of a multi class to produce a prestige class. This didn’t do anything for me for the dwarves because fighter prestige classes are ten a penny and pretty boring. The half-orcs, on the other hand, are still under catered to and interesting barbarian prestige classes continue to be rare. What’s this to do with Halflings of High Favor? Well. Let’s just pause and admire the unfortunate class of words :) Heroes of Knee High Favor: Halflings. Hmm, no, perhaps not. The halfling preferred class is rogue. That’s not as boring as the fighter but it has received more attention than the barbarian class. There are some interesting combos to expect; the rogue-paladin, the rogue-cleric and the rogue-barbarian even. I didn’t even need to open the book to come to this conclusion. Talk about pre-judging a product.
Let’s get to the prestige classes in just a minute. The /other/ shtick these Bad Axe Game books have is a look at the racial talent of the, er, race. Heroes of High Favor: Halflings breaks from tradition just a little bit here by going through a range of synergic rogue crafts. Lashworking is the art and science of putting together ad hoc equipment. Rather nicely the mechanics assume the dice rolls are going for a “do it quickly!” scene surviving bit of equipment but you can pick a higher DC value if the halfling intends to make something sellable. A similar craft is ropemaking. The book manages to find quite a few interesting uses for ropes too. Then there’s trapmaking. If many gamers have put the humble rope to good uses in the course of an adventure then that’s nothing compared to encounters with traps. I wouldn’t say the traps that complete this section are terribly new but they’re not the annoyingly refused and unlikely high fantasy cliches that stalk too many dungeons either. These new skills conclude with an updated skill synergy list. I can’t quite see an expert trapmaker not also having an expertise with ropes.
Two big hairy feet. I mean – eighteen new d20 feats. We’ve got the carefully balanced new combat feats in here; melee and ranged. They’re good. What’s more interesting to me are the few social feats, like crowdworker and the goldbrick counterfeit master.
Halflings and rogues are independently known for their tricks and sneaky ways; put the two together and you need something extra-specially sneaky. Once again – a bit like the traps, lashworks and ropes – these Heroes of High Favor don’t take that bet. Rather than risk scraping the barrel and dragging up a bunch of new tricks that might or might not prove to be popular Heroes of High Favor: Halflings polishes up some of the better but under used classics. The coin swap, the bump, the plant or even the cutpurse. In a section of its own in the “A Vagabond’s Bag of Tricks” section there’s halfling graffiti. Hands up. I really do like this sort of thing. I greatly enjoy working out the signs in-game and trying to master them in character. They’re a wonderful and entirely self-contained “encounter” that can stretch through a whole campaign and they don’t distract at all. Heroes of High Favor: Halflings actually draws the graffiti for us as well. Perfect.
Fight dirty? Sure. There’s a dirty fighting section in the book that is small but potent.
The Razorback is the rogue-barbarian class. They’re quick and dangerous. They’d make excellent skirmishers, the sort of combat-scout that could scout ahead, aside or just behind the party, catch trouble and hold it in melee until the group caught up.
Dissonants are rogue-bards and the idea here is a little strange. These talent musicians play the wrong notes on purpose. In fact, they practise playing well so they know the best time to play an off-key note and make you wince. Why do they do this? I’m not quite sure – perhaps some fantasy equivalent of surrealist Euro-trash avant-garde artists.
I really go for the Pantheist. Heroes of High Favor: Halflings don’t take the usual d20 fantasy supplement route and think up a new god for the rogue-cleric. No, instead the book knocks me over with an excellently halfling themed idea. The Pantheists are clerics who make sense of the contrasts, overlaps, nuisances and diversity of all their peoples’ faiths. Why do I like this idea so much? It’s typical to have halflings living successfully in human communities. The Pantheist will step straight into these campaign settings and without rocking the boat at all will add a whole new level.
The rogue-druids known as Wild Liberators are just the type to break into that mink farm and let all the little critters free. This is one of the more obvious prestige classes in the book but it works.
Blood Grifters wait until they’re underestimated before revealing their true combat skills. The rogue-fighter even has a bunch of feints and tricks designed to encourage foes to miss-judge them.
A Mercurial is an elite halfling rogue-monk. The class just embraces the D&D trend of only picturing the monk as a martial artist and paying little heed to mystical inner peace. The Mercurial’s inner peace comes from understanding the situation they’re in and so they’ll adapt to help those party members who need the most help at the time.
Jeremy Baldridge, the new Bad Axe author for the book, accurately points out how rare halfling paladins are. Halfling rogue-paladins are even more rare. Baldridge is also spot on when he points out that a rogue-paladin enjoys shades of grey in a way that a mundane paladin cannot and in many ways this makes them preferable for adventuring groups. If you can imagine halfling paladins and can imagine paladins who fight evil by applying a bit of thought, trick and guile then you can use the Precursor prestige class.
You’d call a rogue-ranger a Hobo Baron; it’s just not clear whether you’d call him that to his face. Hobo Barons rarely stay in the one place but are great at making do where ever they end up. I’m not so keen on the “Unruly mob” special ability though. Hobo Barons can’t magically summon up groups of hobos and tramps, there has got to be enough of the vagabonds around. The ability really only seems to apply to cities (and what percentage of adventures happen in cities) and at some point the characters (and NPCs!) will want to know where all these vagabonds came from. I could have sworn the wharf was deserted a minute a go!
You were smoking /what?/ when you saw the giant hand appear from nowhere and crush the kobold? The Calabash are halfling rogue-sorcerers and they can do away with all this chanting for their magic. They merely need to enjoy a draw on their pipe to cast the magic. It’s a little strange but I can see how halfling spellcasters who wanted to remain hidden might have developed the technique!
The Tramp Wizard isn’t quite a fun as the Calabash. Tramp Wizards make do with whatever they have to hand for their magic items and spells.
Heroes of High Favor: Halflings has, as the other Heroes of High Favor also have, a chapter on roleplaying at the end of the book. There’s just enough to be helpful, but only just. The Heroes of High Favor are half-sized books. This one is 78-paged long, but only two-thirds the width and height of a typical d20 supplement. I’ve got used to the Heroes of High Favor format as being no nonsense, more bang for your buck and less filler in favour of killer. I really don’t buy the small pre-written adventure at the back. I just about go for the roleplaying section but not the adventure as well. Many gamers love pre-written adventures, either to run them or take inspiration from them, and I’m sure many people will appreciate the adventure. I don’t.
Despite that small sulk at the end of the book, Heroes of High Favor: Halflings is up there with my favourite Heroes of High Favor. The interesting prestige classes out number the more mundane ones. The craftwork skills are more appealing than not and I do like the graffiti. Halfling lovers should go buy the book.