Races of Destiny



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Races of Destiny

Author: Various
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 12/2004
ISBN: 0-7869-3653-3
Pages: 192
Rating: 4 out of 10
Retail Price: $29.95

 

By and large, I’ve somehow managed to keep from having too much contact with the entire ‘Races of’ series.Save for getting a copy of Races of Stone several years ago as a gift, I haven’t even flipped through one of these books until recently.This isn’t because I have anything against the series, it’s just the way things have turned out.I picked up a copy of Races of Destiny recently during an amazon.com firesale.It wasn’t exactly what I expected.From the title, I assumed it was going to be a book about elves or perhaps new races entirely.Instead, it was a book about humans and seemingly-related races.That was a welcome surprise, since humans really don’t get nearly as much attention as many of the other races.

 

The book opens up with a chapter about humans.Humans are probably the easiest race to play with and visualize because as humans themselves, the players have a better understanding of the human psyche than they would of elves or gnomes.The chapter focuses first and foremost on humanity’s drive to explore and expand.This really gives humans a place in a world filled with magical races, since it makes them the “wildcard” race that none of the other races can truly predict or nail down.The only problem I have with this is that the book tries to both make humans the blazers of new frontiers and the consummate city-dwellers.It was nice to have a detailed city, though.

 

The second chapter dealt with half-elves and half-orcs.It was only 2/3 as many pages as the chapter on humans and dealt with two races.I have to wonder why the authors seem to think that half-elves and half-orcs aren’t as interesting as humans.Regardless, the way the chapter is written, the two races are practically mirrors of each other.Half-elves are the half-humans that fit in, while half-orcs are the half-humans that don’t.There really isn’t too much else to this chapter, I’m afraid.

 

Chapter three introduces a new race, the Illumians.Illumians are essentially a race that was created millennia ago when a group of humans figured out the language of creation, which altered them into a new race.Illumians look like humans, save that they have glowing sigils that constantly orbit their heads.This does given them a magical feel, in a World of Warcraft kind of way, but I honestly think the effect could have been accomplished better.The symbols that float over an illumian’s head give him specific benefits (a +1 bonus to Strength, for example), and the combination of two essentially gives him a spell-like ability as well.This lends a lot of weight to the “humans with magic” feel, but aside from this, there’s really no difference between illumians and humans.They’re humans with glowing magical symbols floating around their heads.Frankly... big whoop.

 

The fourth chapter dealt with many of the other half-human races that have made it into the various monster supplements over the years.Tieflings, mongrelfolk, sharakim, etc& and just for good measure, doppelgangers as well.There is some worthwhile material here for those who like to describe their cities as teeming with all manner of races, many of which seem unrecognizable.

 

The next chapter contained prestige classes.Thankfully, unlike many supplements from Wizards of the Coast, there were only seven of them.The chameleon prestige class was, simply put, one of the most easily-abused classes I’ve ever run across, able to act in the capacity of any of the core classes at any time.I also wasn’t overly fond of the premise behind the scar enforcer prestige class.It essentially creates a half-elf assassin, whose class abilities pretty much limit it to working against humans and elves.

 

The sixth chapter was pretty much everything else you commonly find in a WotC book bundled into one chapter; feats, spells, skills, etc.The new uses for old skills section wasn’t bad, but was very short.The chapter included a new type of feat, called the initiate feat.These feats allow a cleric that worships a specific deity to gain access to a few non-cleric spells that have effects related to that deity’s portfolio, such as scare and dominate person for Hexor.Also included were racial substitution levels.This option allows a member of a specific race to interrupt his class progression at specific points to insert levels of what is essentially a small racial prestige class.I’m not overly fond of what I saw here, but I can see how some DMs might make use of this to break up the monotony of a core-only game.There were four new psionic powers.Not many, but kudos to the authors for the effort.Lastly, there were new spells.Nothing seemed over the top, but the main theme among the majority of the spells seems to be that anyone using them is a city-dweller.Most give bonuses to skills or effects while in a city environment, allow instantaneous travel between two cities or even enable the city itself to turn against your opponents.Not overly useful if your game doesn’t take place mostly in a city environment.

 

The final chapter detailed a city environment.There wasn’t a lot to this that the average person couldn’t come up with on his own.However, this chapter truly shined in a different area.It included sample NPCs from the four races primarily featured in this book that one would likely encounter in a city environment.This includes blacksmiths, merchants, thugs and the like.It’s a veritable treasure trove of ready-made NPCs a DM can pull out of his hat on the fly.

 

This book was very ‘eh.’It was fairly mediocre in most respects and made a lot of assumptions about how things work that might not be true of many (or even the majority of) games.The ready-made NPC list near the back of the book did help to offset this a bit, but overall, I’d say this book doesn’t live up to its full cover price.