Path of Shadow


Path of Shadow

Author: Various
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Publish Date: 2002
ISBN: 1-58994-074-1
Pages: 172
Rating: 6 out of 10
Retail Price: $24.95


I thought that Path of the Sword was a surprisingly good book, so when I was finished with it, I picked up my copy of Path of Shadow and began reading it.Ostensibly, Path of Shadow is a sourcebook that focuses on rogues, though there was a good bit inside that seemed geared specifically towards the bard, monk and ranger classes as well.A good bit of the material built upon the death attack ability, meaning that it’s geared towards those with levels in the assassin prestige class.


In Path of the Sword, the first chapter focused on new classes, including variant core classes and legendary classes, which are a new type of class that works much like a prestige class, but are meant to represent someone who is one of only a tiny handful of people with the kind of power offered by this class.Path of Shadow, on the other hand, is geared so much towards classes that three of the five chapters in the book are dedicated to classes.


The first chapter focuses on prestige classes.Like Path of the Sword, this book has a great setup for presenting its prestige classes.It gives you the basics of the class and the class mechanics, and then it details an example organization built around this prestige class so you can see it in action.However, I found myself somewhat let down by the prestige classes presented in this book.Most weren’t bad, but there was little truly inspired work.Many of the prestige classes had mechanics that didn’t match their descriptions very well, such as the Falconer class, which had no mechanics relating to using birds of prey except that Handle Animal was on the skill list.More than one was designed in such a way that it would be exceptionally difficult for the average PC to continue adventuring if he or she was a member, such as the Noble Decoy, which is exactly what it sounds like&an individual that looks just like a member of the nobility or royalty and is used in public appearances where the noble’s life might be in danger.


Chapter 2 detailed several new legendary classes.This chapter was better than the first chapter.I found the Fortune’s Fool legendary class extremely enjoyable to read.However, this chapter was not without problems of its own.The biggest problem for me was that several of the legendary classes had prerequisites that assume way too much about an individual DM’s setting.Each legendary class requires the completion of at least one legendary quest, which is part of what makes it so difficult to become a member of this class.However, quests like “survive the barbs of the venomous grey dragon” or “venture into the land of the dead and drink from the river that is death and silence,” assume things that may not even exist in the world the PC is from.I don’t have a grey dragon in any of my rulebooks.


The third chapter was short and contained only a few classes.One of these classes was based in psionics, which I salute the author for.However, since psionics got a huge overhaul in the 3.5 update, this class would need to be completely redesigned from the ground up to be useful.The other classes were alright, but they were extremely narrowly focused.The delver, for example, gains bonuses against traps almost to the exclusion of all other rogue abilities, while the chameleon gains bonuses to disguising himself.I didn’t find anything in this chapter that’s going to make it to my gaming table.


The fourth chapter had to do with a rogue’s tools, which apparently includes skills, feats, magic items and the like.Perhaps more than any other class, the rogue depends on tools to get his job done.A fighter might need armor, but he takes no penalties for not having it, while a rogue takes penalties for not having a set of thieves tools on-hand.Most of the mundane equipment in this chapter (there wasn’t much) was actually pretty nice, like lock powder, which is a powder lubricant used to help grease locks and hinges.The magical equipment was alright, too.I think my favorite was lookout strips, which are strips of paper that thieves place in windows or doorways and if the window or doorway is opened, it sends the thief a mental ping via the alarm spell.The new uses for existing skills were alright, except for the Disguise skill, which basically allows you to pretty yourself up instead of disguising yourself.I was a bit disappointed, though, in the small number of such skills.The rogue class’s strength is in its skill points and skill selection, and I was hoping for more.The feats were extremely average (which is to say, below par), and I wouldn’t use any of them.


The final chapter dealt with schools and organizations.These are much like what was found in Path of the Sword, but geared towards the sneaky and stealthy.I had the same problem with the schools in this book as I did with those in Path of the Sword& I think the progressions should probably only be 5 steps instead of 10, and some were just too powerful, such as the step “sell the moon,” which allows a rogue to make a bluff check and if it’s successful, he can convince a person of something so deeply that nothing in the universe can persuade him it’s not true.The organizations weren’t bad, but were lacking in real design.Most were simply a series of +1 progressions.For example, the Assassin’s Guild gives you access to the guildhall at 1st level and ultimate authority over the guild at 6th level.The levels in between simply give you a +1 bonus to saves vs. poison.Blah.


Compared to Path of the Sword, I think that Path of Shadow fell short of the mark.It’s not a useless book, but I just had a much higher expectation for it than it could meet.If you’re willing to update the material to 3.5 rules, there are a few items of worth in this book, but it’s certainly not as useful as its predecessor.