I once had a character whose entire backstory was based around being a chef. He was a fighter with cross-class skills in things like Craft (alchemy) and Profession (cook) for giggles. He was an awesome character, and this product reminded me of him immediately, which is why I picked it up. Does the class live up to my fond memories? Stay tuned for more!
For a product like The Battle Chef, its appropriate that all of my categories are named after food qualities. When we talk about a product's crunch, we're looking at its rules. This product comes included with a new class, the Battle Chef, the rules to play the class, some new weapons, and some new feats to round it out. Not bad for a 12 page product. The problem is that these rules are just plain bizarre to read; I'm still not entirely sure how this class is meant to be played. It looks like you prepare food, and then shrink it down, and then you eat it when you attack I guess and it adds on special effects to your attacks.
The problem is that this product is not very well balanced. You can pick up a two-round haste effect for yourself for one round. At first level. The other odd part about this document is that it introduces all of these cooking styles, and when it starts talking about recipes you think, "Man, this is going to be a deep and complicated system!" and its really not. There are a handful of flavors and each flavor has one way to cook it and one effect, which might scale with the battle chef's level. The primary mechanic is triggered when you make a full attack, and while it sort of plays like culinary combo breaker, the system itself lacks depth, it lacks the true "mixing ingredients" feel of cooking, it lacks depth, and the rules describing the class aren't written very well. Once you get past the cooking rules, most of the class feels like a series of joke powers based on puns and stereotypes, such as the class feature that gives the chef a bite attack. Why does she need that? Because she's a cook ... which means she bites people? What if you wanted to play Sanji, from One Piece, who kicks people to death? Overall, this is a product where the crunch seems to have been tossed into the back seat for flavor. 1 / 5 Stars.
A product's flavor refers to its style or theme, and this is honestly where the Battle Chef shines. A lot of work went into the flavor of the cooking rules, that much is certain. The rules give a very nice breakdown of real-world cooking styles, and I thought the general combinations of flavors was very insightful. The problem is that the cooking styles only mesh up with real world cooking styles, so while I can learn about how to play a cook with an American or German or even a Vegetarian style, that doesn't help me figure out how a goblin or a hobgoblin might prepare food. It would have been nice to see something that was more fantasty-oriented, with the real-world styles included in a side bar. Between that and the choices of weapons and attacks, it really cements this product's feel as more of a "for the lols" product instead of something to take seriously. 3 / 5 Stars.
Last, but not least, we look at a product's texture. When we're talking about texture, we're looking at the product's layout and design. The Battle Chef's design is very straightforward. Its not particularly bad, but one thing I found jarring is that it randomly interjects the rules for crafting food in the middle of the class's description, and then expects you to remember the class's other features when it moves back to class features. It would be like if the Wizard class in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook randomly stopped in the middle of the Spells class feature to give you a run down on exactly how spells are cast and then include a list of every spell in the game and their statistics before returning to Wizard class features. Yes, this product isn't AS severe as that would be, but this example just about sums up my confusion. 2 / 5 Stars.
Final Score and Thoughts
Crunch: 1 / 5
Flavor: 3 / 5
Texture: 2 / 5
Final Score: 3 / 5 Stars
Around the time I played my fighter that I mentioned above, I also stumbled onto one of the most debated books ever to be published in the 3.5 Era; the BoEF. Yeah, that book was cheesy. The art was horrible. Some of the rules were downright terrible in design. But I honestly enjoyed it because it went with a very sensitive, easy-to-make-silly topic and handled it seriously. I felt like the authors of that product knew that people who bought their product wanted a serious look on how to handle that topic in their games.
When I sat down to write my final thoughts, I almost gave this product 4 stars. That's a phenomenal rating in my opinion. However, what really killed that 4 star rating, what really made me stop and say, "Would I actually recommend this product? Would I actually want my chef to use these rules?" was the silly portrayal of the class through its nomenclature. Anyone who is seriously into cooking will tell you that it is as much a science as it is an art, and honestly this class could have probably been handled better as an alchemist alternate class. But we're not looking just at the rules, because any class can be strengthened into something special if multiple products are devoted to it. (See SGG's Godling line or even the Barbarian class before the Advanced Player's Guide.) Based on its fluff alone, this class is silly. And how can you seriously roleplay a chef that gains a bite attack? Maybe if this was a monster-only class and you were playing a cannibal or something. I don't know, but more than anything that's what turned me off about this product.
— Alexander "Alex" Augunas