Path of the Sword
|Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games|
Publish Date: 2002
Retail Price: $24.95
I picked up Path of the Sword in a large lot of books sold cheaply at a convention several years ago.It’s been sitting unread on my shelf for quite a while.I’m not sure why I hesitated to read it, especially since it’s from the same company that gave us Traps and Treachery.This volume focuses specifically on the warrior classes (barbarians, fighters, monks and rangers).However, I recently grabbed it off the shelf randomly and began reading.I’m glad I did.
The book begins with a large chapter on classes.At the opening paragraph to this book, I actually groaned aloud.“This chapter contains more than 20 new classes...”I figured it was just a bunch of new prestige classes, most of which would be worth nothing to me.I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find out that this was not the case.There were only twelve prestige classes.The rest were core variants and a new type of class called the Legendary Class.
The prestige classes were on par with most other books.For the most part, they weren’t great, but weren’t badly-designed either.What was striking, however, was that each class was followed by a sample organization tied to the prestige class in some way.This includes suggestions for including the player characters, either as members of the organization or as opponents.I thought this was a wonderful addition to the book, and made some of the classes that didn’t catch my eye at first seem worth looking at again.
Several variant versions of the core warrior classes were offered as well.Surprisingly, the majority of these were fairly well-conceived, and would fit right into a game next to the class they were based on.For example, there’s the commander, which is based off of the fighter.The commander progresses like the fighter, save that he has poor Fortitude saves and good Will saves.He gains less bonus feats than the fighter, but has the ability to command allies around him, granting them bonuses to attack, armor class and the like based on the commander’s level.This class would be a fine addition to the fighter class, not a replacement.
Lastly, there were the legendary classes.These are special classes that work something like prestige classes.In fact, they’re a lot like the archmage prestige class from Dungeon Master’s Guide, in that at every level during a 5-level progression, you get to choose any ability from a list of abilities.These abilities can be fairly powerful, but the prerequisites to get into the class in the first place are extremely difficult to meet.The idea behind the legendary classes is to create a class progression for someone powerful enough that they may be the only representative of that particular class in the world.
Chapter 2 focuses on feats.Nothing looked bad, but there wasn’t a lot that was particularly inspired.A new type of feat, the [Rage] feat, was introduced.Unlike the [Divine] feats, which allow the user to trade one of his daily turn undead attempts for the day for the benefits of the feat, the [Rage] feats allow the user to use the benefits of the feat while raging.For example, the Warcry feat allows the user to spend an action to scream out a war cry, which effectively makes multiple opponents shaken if they fail a Will save.
A secondary section of this chapter dealt with new combat maneuvers, specifically, it touched on mounted combat and acrobatic combat (like the sort of thing you’d see in a John Woo movie).This is a good idea in general, I think, since the list of potential combat maneuvers from Player’s Handbook is somewhat small.However, most of what was listed here is the sort of thing the average DM would probably just allow a skill check for.
Chapter 3 was about the act of combat itself.A few of the opening pages touched on the benefits of specific feat combinations, but the meat of this chapter focused on special fighting schools.The idea behind a fighting school is that you can spend time, money and XP to progress along a particular school’s ability list until you’ve mastered 10 new techniques.I don’t have a problem with this idea, but I do think that most of the schools offered would have done better to have a progression path of 5 techniques instead of 10.Additionally, some of these techniques need to be toned down a little.For example, one school’s 7th progression is called “vorpal hack” and it allows you to declare you’re making an attack against a limb.You take a -4 penalty to your attack roll, but if the attack is successful, the creature simply loses that limb in lieu of taking damage.I don’t think not taking damage is a big deal when the limb you’ve just lost is your head.
The final chapter is everything else you’d expect in a book about warrior classes.New armor, weapons and equipment are touched on, though none of that looked especially great.A few methods for using one’s combat skills during fair and tournament games was detailed, including jousts, archery contests and the like.A few new mounts were given stats, such as the zebra, pegasus and sandskipper, and some new equipment for these mounts was also detailed.The bulk of this chapter, though, was dedicated to something called “organizational templates.”
Organizational template is a bit of a misnomer.It’s not actually a template at all.Instead, it’s an organization, such as a guild, which the PCs can potentially join.The benefit of this is that there are several levels of membership in an organization, so it gives the PCs another goal path besides their level advancement.I really thought the organizations that were offered were worth reading, and it’s given me quite a bit of inspiration for creating my own such organizations.
I’m glad I read this book.I only wish I’d done so sooner.It was far from perfect, but was much better than I thought it would be.It will require the reader to make a few changes to bring the material in line with the 3.5 revision, but I think that effort would be well worth it.