today I've got a special review for you, a review of a kind of file that is rare indeed:
This pdf is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 19 pages of content, so let's check out these new skill uses, shall we?
We've all seen it in the 3.5-days of old, in the bad days - the feat-flood. Metric tons of feats to enable you to do the most menial tasks in about 3000 different ways. I'm glad those days are over, seriously. Feats are a very precious resource and should enable one to gain benefits that surpass very specific conditions for special attacks. As is the development now, though, PFRPG already sports a number of feats that, while nowhere near as broken as the 3.5-days of old, goes beyond necessity. The amount of options available for characters is staggering, but the availability of said options via feats is still limited, necessitating house-rules in e.g. instances when your daring swashbuckler is dueling a monk on a tight rope. Now there is a resource all characters have that has been largely untapped by expansions: Skills.
This is where this pdf comes in - skills get additional, expanded uses and thus become vastly more important and useful to the PCs without breaking the game. Or at least that's the design goal. But can it hold up to said lofty ideal? To answer this question, I'll have to examine some skills to give you examples on how these expanded skill checks are handled: Acrobatics, for example, now for example lets you use parcours to cross difficult terrain, making a rope on which you stand swing, instantly get back up etc. But actions like forging coins, duplicating keys, jumping from a horse's saddle to deliver a devastating charge, hit foes with them not immediately noticing it, make autopsies and malpractice via heal (and bluff) etc. The sheer amount of new possible options is quite impressive.
I did mention malpractice and the design of the new skill uses is something this one illustrates nicely - some skill uses require special additional requirements (like bluff to conceal your malpractice from other persons with the heal or sense motive skills) and more importantly, several THANKFULLY have scaling consequences for failure, from triggering traps to blowing cover to landing painfully on your back after a failed kip-up-attempt, the new skill-uses simply rock and provide a neat variety and excitement to your game - just imagine the excitement of climbing big foes and hacking at them while they try to smash you down or the nerve-wracking contest of aforementioned duelists over the gaping abyss below, their rope swinging ever more precariously. Even if you want to limit a special skill-use, just add Min x ranks and there we go, some uses become "Expert"-uses - the design allows for such an easy modification and thus lends itself to maximum customizability.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with bookmarks. The artworks are ok, though nothing to write home about.
I have to get this out of my system: Every Pathfinder-group should own this book.
There's simply no way around it, this pdf is one of those rare, humble books that via great design and without adding complex mechanics makes the game much more fun. The content is so easy to implement that no one should be stupefied by the new skill uses. Characters don't have to be changed to make use of the content of this pdf. In fact, the new skill uses open up whole revenues of new character options and adventure writing, making any campaign it is introduced to more rewarding. This humble pdf BLEW ME AWAY. Many skill uses I had house-ruled until now finally get cool, concise and balanced rules and some aspects are introduced via the skills that plainly feel awesome to me. My players will LOVE doing autopsies. Malpractice makes for extremely exciting social encounters. Forging coins and duplicating keys opens new revenues for investigations and plots - this pdf is simply a goldmine of ideas and crunchy goodness. This is one of the pdfs that will most definitely feature on my top ten of 2011-list. Near the top. Steven D. Russell delivers a STELLAR pdf, perhaps the best of the 101-series yet.
If you want to expand your players' options without forcing them to spend feats, go buy this. If you are stumped with regards to writing adventures and would like to add some new options, go buy this. If you're just curious, again, go buy this. If you're tired of house-ruling fast disable, sabotaging magic items, fast climbing etc., go buy this. In fact, even when none of these apply, go buy this. This is simply a gem and a stellar, stellar example of the best 3pps offer to the game. When eventually PFRPG's next edition comes along, it's this content I'd like to see adapted to be part of the core-rules. It's that good.
That's it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,