Today I'm here to examine a product by Wordcasting Entertainment,
This pdf is 50 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content - not a bad price-per-page-ratio, so let's check this out!
We kick off this offering by Wordcasting Entertainment without an introduction, without a foreword, but rather get right into the first NPC-class, the Battle Commander. This class gets d10, 4+Int skills, full BAB (which lacks the "+" in the table), proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and shields (including tower shields) and a good fort-save. The class is rather interesting in that, from the first level, it allows the Battle Commander to qualify as though he were a fighter of the same level. The class also has some other rather interesting powers one would expect - moral bonuses for allies following orders for example and 5ft.-step as an immediate action. There also are some weird abilities, though: Take the ability "understand order (ex)":
"At 4th level, you have developed skills at determining a person's tendency
towards order, despite your own tendencies. You can use a Sense Motive skill check to determine a
target's order (Lawful, Neutral, or Chaos). The skill check DC is 10 + targets HD"
This is cut-copy-pasted from the file. Notice something? Not only does it include the ability to discern meta-information (I'm not a fan of alignments), it also is weirdly worded and there are a couple of errors here - from missing apostrophes to the strange calling of the law-chaos axis of alignment "order", which leads to ambiguity with the orders the commander can issue. Unfortunately, this is not the only instance of such problems: At 7th level, they can issue a battle plan that allows all of their allies in hearing range to get +2 to atk and "+1 to all damage"[sic!], but it does not specify whether that applies to spells, psionic powers etc. as well. The missing full stop also makes me wonder whether a part of the sentence has been cut here. Where the mechanics completely break down is wit5h the Absurd commands - per se, they are interesting, since they allow the commander to e.g. bellow an order that makes those following it fly, gain bull's strength, expeditious retreat etc. It is not specified whether these spells work at the commander's class level and some commands allow those following them to gain the benefits of the metamagic feats still and silent spell feats - but the pdf does not specify whether spells thus enhanced are cast with the level-increase the feats usually entail. The capstone ability enables the commander to establish a telepathic bond with his allies.
The second new class is the Combat Brute, which comes with d12, 4+Int skills, full BAB, good fort-saves, proficiency in light and medium armor as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons. Combat Brutes gain an interesting ability: Clutch. Working essentially as a combat maneuver, the brutes can grab people and hold them in place as a swift action. The idea behind the ability is nice, but I still feel that the ability should probably provoke an AoO and needs a specification that it only works as long as the brute has a free hand. A Brute should when thus clutching a foe probably also lose his dex-modifier to AC and similar dodge-related AC-bonuses. Also: Doesn't grapple essentially already cover this area? Why not give the class improved grappling capability instead? The Combat Brute can also take a gripped person to act as a meat-shield against incoming attacks that require a ref-save. Logically, this should also entail that the grabbed person gets full damage, but though evasion doesn't work, improved evasion still works as evasion, thus making it possible that the brute takes cover behind a grabbed opponent and have said person take no damage either. At 3rd level, the brute gets a broken ability, sensing any intrusion into his personal space - which is 20 ft.! While the brute doesn't know exactly where the creature is, that's still very powerful at this level.Why not give him blindsight/blindsense/tremorsense instead of this ill-defined ability. The combat brute also gains a secondary natural attack called stomp, which works exclusively on prone opponents. But why? What about tiny and diminutive and similar small beings? Can they be stomped? Can larger combat brutes stomp humans? The ability, again, needs to be clarified. Why not use a regular natural attack instead of using the awkward secondary attack approach? Combat Brutes can also choose a combat focus, which works somewhat similar to a ranger's combat styles, but instead of only providing feats, they all grant the brute access to unique combat moves. Each focus is tied to a feat - dynamic drive is about throwing people you bull rush. Unfortunately, again, the strange wording and rules choices hamper the class: "Target takes -4 strength damage. In addition the following penalties apply based on the limb. (Arm = unable to perform any task requiring too hands.)."[sic!] - right from the pages of the second focus, which is called ruthless acquisition and focuses on the drag-maneuver. The Steam-roll focus also suffers from problems: The brute gains an enhancement bonus to movement when an enemy moves away from him, making catching up easy. Problematic, though, is that the ability does not take the mode of movement into account - does the brute gain e.g. a swim speed? If a foe teleports 2 miles away, as written, the combat brute gains a 2-mile enhancement bonus to movement. The Transpose-focus is also problematic, but for different reasons - when compared with the other foci, this one feels a bit weak and it also gains a very weird capstone ability that lets you teleport foes to you by making a reposition check - to quote: "This ability has the teleport descriptor." Like the spell? The wording is, again, rather awkward.
Third among the new classes is the hunter, who gets d8, 6+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves, proficiency with light armors, all bows and crossbows and may also choose from 5 hunt styles. Essentially, the hunter is a less mystical NPC-version of the ranger. Again, there is a problem here: The trapper-ability deals rather massive damage and uses a different take than ranger's traps as established in PFRPG - why not use the existing rules? The hunt styles can be seen as almost archetypes, granting e.g. a dog or falcon for the breed master, but fails to mention how the summoned creatures advance - I assume like animal companions, but I'm not sure. The City Hunter is a welcome refreshment for me, as, apart from glitches and a very powerful 3rd level ability that always grants the hunter a 20% miss chance when in urban environments, I have nothing to complain here. Occult Huntsmen are also rather interesting, gaining the abilities to make traps that dimensionally anchor foes and fire arrows that dispel magic on the targets hit. Again, a cool hunt style. The Trap Master is not one I'd personally enjoy, since the style further increases the already quite deadly damage-output of the traps of the hunter. The Trophy Hunter is interesting mechanically, enabling you to create trophies from slain foes that increase your attributes temporarily and even take a spell or spell-like ability from a foe. The Hunters also get special positions they can assume by e.g. kneeling or gaining the higher ground to enhance the damage they do or learning to do more damage against badly armored foes etc. These positions, while not necessarily all well-balanced, constitute a rather interesting idea - if only it would be specified whether positions can be used cumulative. If they can be used thusly, the damage will quickly scale rather excessively.
The final new class is the Scoundrel, who gets d8, 8+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with all simple weapons and roguish ones like rapiers etc., light armors and a good ref-save. If you haven't guessed - the Scoundrel is the NPC-class answer to the rogue. Instead of regular sneak attack, they get scaling subterfuge damage, which works in a rather interesting manner: There are 6 different subterfuge-options. Essentially, the subterfuge damage scales somewhat similar to sneak attack, but caps depending on the target's circumstances: If an enemy is for example subjected to a negative condition like dazed, sickened, entangled, etc., the damage caps at +2d6. Depending on the subterfuge option, a scoundrel may also add his dex- or int-modifier to damage and by combining multiple subterfuge-options, even add both to the damage. The class also gains similar archetype-like compulsory specializations like the hunter: Killers for example can use stealth to hide from blindsight, tremorsense etc. - at 2nd level! Killers can also ignore the subterfuge-damage-cap by origin, instead using their regular level cap, making it work much like a slightly more restrictive sneak attack. Thieves focus on stealing, gaining a treasure sense, which unfortunately, like many of the good ideas herein, remains mostly ill-defined in the limitations. Thugs gain full BAB, but also a rather weak focus on demoralization - ironically, the combat brute probably is a better fit for the role of the thug. Lurkers in the pdf are not half gnome/half cloakers, but rather a version of the class that focuses on spy-like jack-of-all trades-abilities, which grants them the option to take on a persona that cannot be pierced by magic like detect thoughts etc. The class can also mimic skills, extraordinary abilities of other classes and even spells. The problem being that no limitation on which spells can be mimicked is given apart from the level - the lurker essentially gains access to ALL spells as written. And I don't have to point out what a bad idea that is. The rake is the take of the class on the dashing, good-looking scoundrel and gets massive bonuses to social skill checks and even permanent charisma bonuses. Ok for courtiers, I guess, but since the first charisma-bonus is gained at 2nd level, I'd still consider this to be problematic. The final type of scoundrel, the spell-slinger, gets access of spells up to the 6th level and can choose from either the cleric or wizard or sorceror. Rather weird: While ALL spells are cast spontaneously, the scoundrel gets no additional spells if he chooses the sorceror way of casting and uses Cha. Casting spontaneous spells via Int is also a problematic design-choice.
After that one, we get NPCs already statted for your convenience - at CR 3, 8 and 15. 3 of these statblocks are crammed in a 3-column version on one page, while another page offers basic advice on playing these characters. We get steamroller brutes, dynamic drive brutes, battle commanders, occult huntsmen, city hunters, killers and thieves - not all variations are covered.
Editing and formatting unfortunately are not even bad, but abysmal - the pdf desperately needs a pass at editing, any pass really. From bad punctuation, weird wordings to doubled words, incorrect grammatical constructions to even missing nouns and verbs, the pdf runs the gamut of deadly editing sins. The Layout features a colored background, making for an unnecessary drain on the printer. Furthermore, the layout adheres to a one-column standard in the beginning, and 3-columns with the statblocks (which don't adhere to established standards and feel like a jumbled mess) making reading the content harder than it ought to be. The pdf comes with extensive nested bookmarks, so that's a plus.
What isn't a plus is the fact that this pdf, while having some nice ideas, lacks something crucial in a crunch-heavy book like this: Unambiguous rules and a solid working knowledge of PFRPG-design standards as well as the vocabulary used to usually describe these abilities to make the rules work without ambiguity. The ideas herein are often good, but even casually glimpsing at most of the content herein reveals one or even multiple ways in which the rules presented herein break down or lack clarifications. From missing specifications to needlessly convoluted takes on actions that are already covered by regular rules, this pdf provides good ideas that remain just that: Ideas. Which have been penned down without consideration for the system and some of the peculiarities of it. There is potential here, but unfortunately it would take A LOT of work for any DM to actually make the content as presented herein work, much less be considered balanced and even if editing were stellar, the rules would still require a tremendous motivation on part of the respective DM to properly use. Combined with the sub-par formatting, layout etc., I'm left with no choice but rate this pdf 1 star and advise you to steer clear of it until Wordcasting Entertainment has rebuilt this from the ground up. In order to compete among the stellar quality products of PFRPG-3pps, Wordcasting has to step up its game - massively.
As always, thanks for reading my ramblings,