Wicked Fantasy—Humans: The Reign of Men (PFRPG) PDF (based on
John Wick Presents
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“If we only contemplate on what we are, we will never see what we may become. Philosophy is the beginning of action, not the whole of it.” —Valir Severin, The Philosophies
Wicked Fantasy began as a series of articles in Kobold Quarterly Magazine reinventing the "standard races" in fantasy roleplaying. Now, those same articles have been expanded and revised (five times their original size!) and fit with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
The first in the series—The Reign of Men—tackles the most generic, most boring, most overlooked race in fantasy literature: humans!
No longer the "generic race," humans are the center of learning, culture and democracy.
Humans are bound not by a common faith, but by a common philosophy: that all men may become more than they are. They do this through rigorous training, insight and learning. The Reign of Men builds schools and universities to bring wisdom and enlightenment to all men and women.
While other races seek knowledge and power from external entities, humanity looks for power from within. Will, self-determination and dignity are the virtues of men and these virtues provide them with powers the other races can only describe as “magical.” But men would claim these abilities are the exact opposite of magic; instead, the abilities taught to children in human schools and universities only tap into latent power within the human spirit.
Wicked Fantasy: The Reign of Men includes:
Full color and fully illustrated!
New Human Racial Traits
New Feats including Teamwork Feats, Knowledge Feats and Rally Feats
"And this is the Reign of Men. We are free. And so shall we always be."
I am not going to discuss mechanics in my review. My review does not reflect the usefulness, balance or quality of the mechanical material within this product at all. Rather, I will be discussing the flavor within the Reign of Men (and writing a very similar review for Orks - Children of Pain). Reign of Men is very solid fantasy material, but it is especially noteworthy as bringing a powerful and viable atheism into a setting and genre where pantheism is almost the accepted norm. I'm no atheist, in fact, I am quite proud of my Jewish faith, but the quality and seamless integration of that concept is something all fans of fantasy should be able to appreciate as adding a very untapped dimension to the body of work in our hobby.
Atheism almost always gets the short stick in fantasy. Even in a pantheistic setting, there are those who for all intents and purposes, are monotheistic in their worship, and they are just as rewarded as pantheists for their single minded devotion. Atheism is almost always portrayed as a fool's choice in a world where divine power manifests, and has terrible consequences. In Forgotten Realms, they languish eternally in the realm of death rather than going to a final reward. In TSR's Guide to Hell (one of my favorite books), they are consumed by Asmodeus, the King of Hell. There have been some interesting portrayals (the Athar come to mind), but by and large, they are ignored.
Wicked Fantasy changes that, and in different and exciting ways. Here, humans put their faith in a collective destiny of greatness for all Human-kind. It isn't a bunch of blind ignorants refusing to believe in clerical magic, it is proactive and powerful people who reject divine servitude as a way of life. There is something very empowering about this setting. I would compare it to Paizo's own empowering of gay pro/antagonists within Golarion's setting. In both, this empowerment doesn't come at the expense of the majority, but still stands out because of the dearth of previous exposure to the concept.
Within Reign of Men, we have enlightened philosophies, a fallen society that was once great based on its adherence to high minded ideals, a society that is torn between the hard path back to greatness and the easy path of drudgery and decay.
The primary model drawn off of for the society is clearly the enlightened Greek city-states, but this isn't a clumsy renamed "Greece for Pathfinder", or even a well done kitchen sink homage, like Golarion's Osirion. Instead, the ideas and themes are present, but within a brand new and original package.
Whenever I read new fantasy material, I look to see how many new ideas it sparks within my own imagination. If I want to immediately incorporate it wholesale into my own campaign, it is a winner. Wicked Fantasy stands in a fairly lonely company with Green Ronin's Freeport and Frog God Games' setting in that regard. When I read through it, back as a series of articles in Kobold Quarterly, it struck me as something that despite not fitting into my setting (modified Golarion/Oerth), it was going to be fit into my setting. It was that interesting, that unique and that compelling.
If you are looking for a fresh brand new look at humans, or if you like keeping your finger on the pulse of the fantasy genre, pick up Reign of Men. You won't be sorry you did.
2.5 stars - more a gazetter than a race-book; 1 lame, crit-depending mechanic
This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1 page cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 28 pages of content, so let's check this out!
John Wick's Wicked Fantasy seeks to redefine the traditional races of fantasy and add new twists to the tired old tropes. So, what has been done with the humans?
Rules-wise, they get +2 to a physical and +2 to a mental attribute, +1 to will saves (and further +1 every 5 levels), humans count as having each member of their party having their teamwork feats, can choose a skill as an additional class skill, and gain advantages based on their hometown - both in skills and a +2 favored terrain (hometown). They can also rally their allies - when a human threatens a critical, they can grant rally bonuses to their allies - I think that these should be morale bonuses from their fluff.
There's a focus there on hometowns and that makes for the true central focus of this product: It introduces us to a nation, the Reign of Men. Essentially, the humans in this product stem from an unique cultural background inspired by ancient Greece and the Roman Empire - devoted to philosophy, the central force of will and the betterment of their whole species is the focus of this reimagined mankind. The cities of the reign are detailed in intriguing detail and several gazetteers out there should take at look at this: The cities not only influence the bonuses humans get from their race, but also make for an intriguing, cool setting. On the other hand, though, the entwinement of the race and its fluff also makes it somewhat harder than usual for such supplements.
The pdf also includes 9 new feats, 6 of which add effects/expand the rally ability, with one being a sufficiently powerful capstone feat. The feats per se are ok, but use some strange mechanics: Inspirational rally, for example, lets allies make a melee, ranged, touch or ranged touch attack against a foe if you succeed at a check. This action-granting by criticals is uncommon and VERY powerful and generally not exactly standard - its emphasis on luck of the player to make use of the feats and the new human's signature ability focus on luck is problematic in my book.
The pdf also includes two new archetypes: The Philosopher (cleric archetype) gets a modified skill-list, 5+Int skills per level and two new godless domains. The Palantine, a variant archetype of the paladin that gets an intelligent horse, reliefs instead of mercies and an aura granting bonuses to will-saves to allies. I really liked both archetypes and the twists they gave the old classes.
The pdf, however, also includes a list of "appropriate" classes for the Reign of Men - all classes from the APG, UM and UC but the cavalier are banned per default - that's lame. No new tools for cavaliers (though the an alternate archetype of the Palantine could have been easily inserted), no Inquisitors (WHY??? The new human almost SCREAMS Inquisitor to me...), no oracles in spite of the Greek/Roman fluff and its ease of tying in etc. That's just sad.
Editing is rather good, I noticed only a couple of glitches. Formatting is somewhat non-standard - e.g. asterisks are used to represent multipliers, when usually, "X"s are used. Layout adheres to a used-parchment look and the 3 pieces of full color artwork are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but without a printer-friendly version, which is a minor bummer. This pdf is somewhat hard to rate - on the one hand, it's an awesome gazetteer of an alternate human realm that feels distinct and different from almost any other one. Its attention to detail is nice, its fully detailed system of government is awesome. Unfortunately, the crunch feels somewhat wonky in comparison, its focus on critical hits to make unique rallies is too reliant on luck/crit-range builds. The second signature ability, the hometown-based feats etc., are unfortunately very much tied to the respective hometowns, making integration into an ongoing campaign/ established campaign setting rather difficult. The new archetypes and the concept of a godless humanity, driven by its collective force of will and the ideal of human advancement is awesome and something I'd love to see expanded upon. On the other hand, though, the lack of support for APG, UM and UC is disappointing at best. As a racial supplement, the reign of men fell somewhat flat of my expectations, as a gazetteer of an unconventional nation, it works just fine. Mechanics-wise, I wasn't impressed by the pdf. In the end, the pros and cons mostly even out for a nice purchase, but not a stellar one. My final verdict will thus be 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.