This installment of Green Ronin Publishing?s ?Advanced Race Codex? focuses on another of Dungeons & Dragons? core races - dwarves. This is an enjoyable sourcebook with lots of information for both dwarven newcomers and experienced players, complete with two new dwarven subraces, a number of new feats and spells, prestige classes and dwarven equipment. It is a nicely put together supplement which is well designed and easy to use.
?Part One: Playing Dwarf Characters? is perhaps the most ?basic? of the six chapters of this book. That?s not to say that it is somehow lesser than the rest of the chapters, but only that the material here is perhaps more aimed at a player with less experience at the game table. The writers - Robert J. Schwalb and Jesse Decker - present four character concepts and eight racial concepts that are rich with role-playing tips and suggestions. For a player that?s never played a dwarf before, the advice given here is invaluable. For a player with a little more dice-time under their belt, this material may still inspire an idea or two. (As a DM, I feel the pull of one of the racial concepts - the idea of the dwarves being a dying race, ?losing the battle with time? - and I?m sure that this idea will end up in a game or two of mine.)
?Part Two: Dwarf Options? presents two new dwarf subraces. The isen are arctic dwarves, and while there are other arctic dwarves in other dwarf-based supplements, Green Ronin?s isen stand out. In addition to a higher Constitution bonus (the trade-off is a Dexterity penalty) and applying the Stonecunning ability to ice structures as well, the isen are immune to cold damage, and most uniquely, list the druid as their favored class. The other subrace is the less-dwarf-and-more-fey-like eldlorn, or arcane dwarves. Instead of a Constitution modifier, the eldlorn are given an Intelligence modifier. They do take a speed penalty when wearing medium or heavy armor, and, as fey beings, are immune to spells and spell-like effects that specifically target humanoids. However, what sets the eldlorn apart is their ability to commune with his or her ancestor. Once a week, an eldlorn character can make use of the Ancestral Memories supernatural ability. While this ability functions like the ?augury? spell, it is the eldlorn?s ancestors, rather than a deity, that provides guidance. (And the eldlorn just LOOK cool ? their skin is a mix of gray, black and white speckles, giving them the appearance of granite.)
?Part Three: Supplemental Rules? is a collection of feats created with the dwarf in mind (but not excluding non-dwarf characters). Some of these feats include Low to the Ground, which provides a bonus to resist being Bull Rushed; and Lock Shields and Shield Wall, which allows your character to work with another shield-bearing character to receive greater shield or cover bonuses. Green Ronin also introduces a number of Spell Channeling Feats which would allow its spellcasting user to expend a spell to create a specific effect. Mystic Endurance uses a transmutation spell to increase the character?s Constitution; Mystic Resistance uses an abjuration to gain damage resistance; Mystic Sight uses a divination spell to gain a Spot bonus.
?Part Four: Dwarven Prestige Classes? presents five dwarf-specific prestige classes. The ironbound is a prestige class designed around a character becoming more and more proficient with his or her armor. The stormhammer combines magic-use and wielding of a battlehammer (a weapon which is described in Part Six). Green Ronin even takes the extra step of including information for progressing some of these prestige classes, like the acolyte of the crystal path, into epic levels.
?Part Five: Spells and Magic? contains few 1st-level spells, but this is a testament to the designers? dedication to game balance. Spells like ?acid burst? (which causes acid to spray outward from the caster?s body, causing 1d6 points of damage per level, affecting opponents and solid objects), ?ice armor? (which sheathes the caster with ice adding a +3 deflection bonus to AC and fire resistance 30), and ?shard rain? (which causes razor-sharp shards of crystal to fall into an area, dealing 1d6 per level of piercing damage) have no business being on a 1st-level caster?s spell list.
?Part Six: Dwarven Equipment? introduces exotic armor (the required feats to use this armor were included in Part Three). Articulated half-plate offers greater freedom to run and sculpted scale mail offers a +4 bonus on opposed grapple checks. Even though this armor appears in a dwarven sourcebook, this armor is not dwarf-specific; any race could wear this armor (or throw the last throw shield into battle, and maybe connect for 1d6 points of slashing damage). Some of the dwarven weapons, however, are a bit more race-specific (like the dwarven battlehammer, a two-handed weapon capable of dealing 1d10 damage), but not all of them. The hooked axe is an axe that can also be used in trip attempts, while the skullbreaker pick is a larger pick that retains the x4 critical multiplier but must be used with two hands (and does a bit more damage - 1d8).
This is a solid 35-page supplement that can be added seamlessly to an existing game, or can be used to launch a more dwarf-specific campaign. There?s enough material in here that any player, whether they prefer fighter-types, caster-types or even monks, will be able to use it. ?Advanced Race Codex: Dwarves? is typical of most of Green Ronin?s products in that its layout is clean and easy to follow, and typos are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, It could have used a bit more artwork (especially in Part Six to help illustrate some of the more unique armor and weapons). The writing is solid and open enough that very little work would need to be done by a player or DM to incorporate this material. The game mechanics are well-constructed and are incredibly balanced, and I would recommend this supplement to anyone wanting to add some unique and usable dwarf material to their game.
LIKED: This is a solid product. The rules are well-balanced and the material is creative and unique. Green Ronin Publishing has succeeded in creating a dwarf-specific supplement that is usable in nearly any campaign with little time needed to adapt or modify the material.
DISLIKED: There could have been a bit more artwork to illustrate some of the more unique dwarven items (like the woven plate armor or forked pick). Also, while all the core classes are represented and usable by this material, I would have liked to have seen some material for players of psionic characters.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied