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RPG Superstar 6 Season Star Voter. 2,081 posts (6,241 including aliases). 3 reviews. 2 lists. 2 wishlists. 30 aliases.

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Useful, will save time, but not essential

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Let’s make no bones about this: the NPC Codex is a Monster Manual for NPC’s, mostly those with player classes. You have various characters, from level one to twenty, of various races and alignments for each class. As an added bonus you also get the NPC Classes, such as expert, and a smattering of levels for Prestiege Classes.

This book focuses only on the core rule book, and as such should be usable for anyone who has the core book. I’m sure they’ll be at least two or three more (the Base classes from Advanced Player’s Guide along with the Magus and Gunslinger, a book of Archetype modified character and possibly a book of mulitclass characters) although I am slightly concerned that future adventure paths will refer us to the NPC codex in the future, much like we get referred to the various Bestiaries now (you pretty much need access to all three to run the later campaigns, I find).

So, what is this book for? It’s for the GM who doesn’t have time to prep every NPC, the GM whose party wandered off away from the main quest and tried to god find the evil druid you intended them to face five levels from now, the GM with a party that decides to shank the king (there are stats for one, now)...pretty much any GM not running a pre-written scenario exactly as written.

The fact that you have the core classes, running up to level twenty, is a huge help. Just select the CR rating you want (handily provided in the stat block) and away you go. Don’t get bogged down by race, alignment and all that jazz - the players are never going to know that the NPC they just fought was originally a Neutral Good cleric rather a Chaotic Evil one. You may have to switch out a few details to get the effect, and remember to drop or add race specific stuff like Orcish Ferocity, but you should be able to run each person with the stat block provided with only a few moments of tinkering.

Don’t, however, let this make you think that you’re going to get off scot free from preparing NPC’s from now on. Other than, obviously, not having any non-core classes you also don’t have boss characters. The gear and stats used are definitely more along the line of mid-boss, even the level twenty guys, so you will still need to make the odd NPC villain for challenging fight. This is much for the second in command leading a pack of orcs or the like than the guy giving orders.

This is not an essential book. Unlike the Advanced Players Guide or the Ultimate books, it doesn’t add options. You could make each and every character in the book yourself from the Core book. Unlike the Bestiaries the guys in here are not unique, with unusual powers and abilities you won’t see stated (and tested) elsewhere.

But it, and it’s almost inevitable successors, are very useful. They will save you hours of prep time, stop you being caught off guard when the Paladin challenges the smirking and unpleasant noble to a duel and let you quickly step up a fight the party reached a bit late and a level or so higher than expected (or downgrade one if they got there weaker than anticipated) without any trouble.
As such, it’s not a must buy by any stretch...but I doubt many people will be disappointed.

I do have one gripe, however, other than the bunch of stat block issues the first printing of a book like this was bound to have...whichever artist is of the belief that halflings and gnomes are actually bobbly headed doll people with heads the size of their torso (see page 105’s ‘Little Fist Monk’ image to see what I’m talking about) needs to be stopped, and given lessons in perspective. I’m no artist, I can barely do stick figures, but those bobbly headed ones really stand out in all the wrong ways.

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So, I’m something of a super Genius Games fanboy. The reason for this was the Magister, back when I accidently downloaded it assuming it was something to do with the Magus, but I soon fell in love with the idea. I’ve always been fond of the Mysitc Theurge prestige class, and this takes the idea of a divine and arcane caster and runs with it.

Now the class has been updated, and it makes me feel all fluffy and gooey inside. Really, this is more about the extras the class now contains with it's official change to Magister, and how it affects the class. Although I'll go over the class basics for the hell of it.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that the updated version has not changed any of the fundamentals of the class. If you have the old version and made a character, you’d be able to make the exact same character using this version - the whole difference is that there are now even more options.

So, how does the Magister work? You are a full none level, spontaneous caster with access to divine and arcane magic. Although you can wear light armour and still cast your arcane spells your weapons selection is even more limited than the wizard - you don’t even get the heavy crossbow option he does!

Next, the Magister choose one of the spell lists of another class that also has full caster levels - witch, wizard/sorcerer, oracle/cleric and druid are the obvious candidates here, although you can go peek at other third party lists if you wish. Which one you choose is important, as you must take half your spells from that list. You can choose the other half from any other spell list, but if they’re not the same type as your primary spell list (arcane or divine) they count as being one level higher, and if they’re from a six or four level caster list they count as even more. On the plus side, you always use the spell in whichever form is most beneficial to you.

Next, is your Mystic Bond. The original three were Divine Heritage (essentially a Cleric Domain...without the bonus spells) Sorcerous Bloodline (a Sorcerer Bloodline...without the bonus spells) or a Metamagic Pool (You gain a certain number of points to apply to Metamagic feats, negating one level it would raise a slot by for each point spent) and are all still present and correct.

The new mystic bonds represent some of the other spellcasters - Arcane Pool gives you some of the Magus’ Arcane Pool tricks, without access to spellstrike and the like. Arcane Specilization gives you a Wizard School powers, but without the bonus spells. Divine Inspiration gives you an Oracle’s Mystery class skills, and allows you to make Revelations as bonus feats. Martial Bond removes one spell slot and spell known from each level, but you gain a Cleric’s base attack bonus and save progressions. And Patron gives you a witches familiar.

It should be noted that if a class feature, such as the Sorcerous Bloodline, would give you bonus spells known you don’t get them automatically, but they are added to your spells known.

You also get a series of Mystic Talents and Advanced Mystic talents, which can do a variety of tricks such as keeping one person safe in an area of effect spell’s blast to granting a second Mystic Bond (in the advanced section, obviously).

You also gain access to some feats that represent other spellcasting abilities, although it always requires you be fifth level, and the version you get is obviously weaker than the standard version (such as the Magister’s Eidolon, which counts as your magister level -2 and permanently lose 2 attacks and 4 evolution points). can make a Magister do a little something from most spellcasting classes. But it does come at a cost. You will never have as many spells known as other classes unless your burn feats to get them, and unlike other classes you require both wisdom (the level of spell you can cast is affected by this) and charisma (from which you get bonus spells slots and spell DC) which, needless to say, makes getting points for anything other than spellcasting somewhat awkward in points buy character creation.

I probably made it clear at the top, but I love the Magister. Between the way it limits your spell selection (you can potentially take any spell in the game, but you don’t have the spells known for many, and spells from outside your main list can be tough to justify) and the fact you need two stats to be effective, it balances out the potential problems nicely.

My only complaint is some of the new Mystic Bonds are simply not equal. The Patron and Divine Inspiration bonds give you very little compared to the Sorcerer Bloodline or Metamagic Pool. It might have been an idea to give those two an automatic Hex/Revelation at the same time you gain a bonus feat to give them some oomph, and allowed the use of bonus feats to boost the number of Hexes/Revelations known. It’s a shame, as both the witch and the oracle are two of my favorite classes.

All told, it’s a solid class that won’t break a game. It simply doesn’t have the spells available to be a truly lethal battlefield controller or healer. But it’s great for a party lacking other spellcasters, and even better in a party with both a healer and arcane caster, providing back up for both. I know some people were of the opinion that it was a better Sorcerer, especially give you could take a Bloodline and it's a spontaneous caster, but again, those lost spells known and the need for the two stats make it weaker enough to make up for the huge potential array of spells you can grab. It doesn't matter if you can potentially cast Cure Serious Wounds if you have no room for it.

If you’ve ever wanted to play a divine and arcane caster, but the Mystic Theurge isn’t for you, pick this up. It’s well worth it.

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Good ideas swamped by major issues

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Note: I was...less than impressed by the gentleman in charge of the company. While recently discussing the issue with my wife regarding the racial issues of the character class name, he made it exceptionally clear that he didn’t care about whether it was an insult to the Roma, as he feels it is only an insult in Britain and therefore doesn’t matter to his American based company.

A Romani American living in Dallas wrote:

There's an old saying, "the truth hurts", and in this case, it's accurate. The truth about the lives Romani people have been forced to lead is not a glamorous one. It isn't all tambourines, fortune telling and magic spells. In fact, Romani history is quite depressing. While it may be easy for the western world to ignore all of that and just concentrate on the fantasy, it does irreparable damage to the cause of raising awareness, and without awareness, the prejudice and persecution of our people will never end.

I have been told by some who refuse to let go of their perception of gypsies that western culture has formed a 'new meaning' to the word and that the Romani people need to recognize that. What these people do not realize is that it is just as offensive, if not more so, when it is used in this manner, because their usage of it like this (to signify a lifestyle) essentially discounts all the suffering attached to the word. That is what I mean when I say that these folks do not have the right to say whether or not that word is offensive - they claim they have only 'positive feelings' about the word and towards my people, yet they needn't be calling me a 'filthy gypsy' in order for the word to be offensive. It's offensive because they use it to refer to a lifestyle, instead of a race of people.

Read the rest here

So, yes, I’m somewhat irritated by the attitude presented by the company, a fact I’m sure could have a negative impact on my review. I will, however, attempt to be as unbiased as I can be, but feel that anyone reading this should know...about both my issues and those of Dreadfox Games.

So without any more pre-amble...the class in question is a full progression spellcaster with access to the lists of other classes, rather than building one of their own. They gain spells, and cast them, as a spontaneous caster such as a Sorcerer, so although they can choose any spell they wish they have a limited selection each day.

Where they truly differ from a Sorcerer, however, is that there magic is based around cards rather than simply casting spells. This does have a few advantages, such as cards with a material component need only have that material component paid for once when the card is created - that spell is free from then on. And they get access to spells at whatever the lowest level is, so they can access Paladin and Ranger spells at level one.

It’s a concept I’ve seen a few times before, but usually doesn’t work that well as they are either too powerful, without a balancing factor to balance or have something that makes the class ineffective to make sure it isn’t broken. Dreadfox has gone for the non effective option, sadly.
Your deck of spell cards is randomized each day. If you draw a card you don’t want in that situation, discard it. You can’t cast that spell that day. And you are only allowed one of each spell in your deck - if you need that Remove Curse you’re outta luck. There are some abilities that can help built into the class, but they equally come at the cost of discarded spell cards - one, which I think was called Manifest Destiny (not a great name when dealing with a race that the Nazi’s thought was concentration camp material, guys) required you to sacrifice half your deck to get the specific card you need. Not so bad at the end of the day, but early on...not an option.

The class also gets Premonitions, a nice feature if the GM can get into the swing of things enough to give you a few ideas about what might happen the next day. Of course, you might tick off any local Clerics of Pharasma, but that’s part of the fun...and the RP opportunity.

An interesting thing to note is that you can use heavier armour with this class, as they are a Wisdom based divine caster. However, they were obviously not meant to be played this way - another feature allows greater move speed so long as they stick to light armour. The choice, however, is there.

All told, this class does offer some interesting bits and pieces, and the packaging it comes in is lovely. The PDF is extremely nice to look at and very well done. However, the biggest gripe people have about the sorcerer is that it doesn’t have the diversity of spells a wizard has, and this class lets you change that somewhat...but at the cost of making those spells very, very difficult to actually use. You have to theme your deck of cards very strongly in one direction or another if you want to have a reasonable chance of getting a useful card - and at high levels you have an equal chance of pulling Cure Light Wounds as you do of getting Mass Cure Critical Wounds.

Essentially, where as every other caster gets stronger with each new set of spells they add, this one gets both stronger and weaker - they have access to more power, but it becomes harder to actually get at it.

It might have been a better idea, rather than making it totally random as to which spell you got, to have you draw a card with the spell and apply a random effect (which might be a positive or a negative) to add the card drawing element and randomness to the class without killing it’s usefulness. As it stands, your party is likely to murder you after the fifth time that day you've not drawn the card you need to be actually useful.

If you want the flavour of the Varisians/Roma, I suggest looking at things like the Kapenia Dancer Magus or the Harrower Prestige Class. If you want the ability to loot from all spell lists, Super Genius Games offer the Magister which has a much more solid, and usable, set of mechanics. A Magister/Harrower would cover a lot of what this class does, in fact, and would be a lot more playable.

In conclusion...I really can’t advise you leave this class alone enough. It lacks content compared to other third party products especially for the price charged, it’s main mechanics make it exceptionally frustrating to play...and it’s basically a racist slur against the Roma people - if you have any interest in their culture, you’ll have seen the great pains Paizo has gone to with the Varisian race on Golarion to avoid the stereotypes that Dreadfox games has chosen to slap into their product. It is worth noting that the ‘thieves and scoundrels’ line does only appear to be in the promotional material, not in the class itself, but...

Dreadfox need to change the name, description and overhaul the spellcasting system for the class. The seed of a good, fun class is there...but until it’s fixed you’re better off looking elsewhere.

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