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Remarkable Races: The Entobian $2.25
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Remarkable Races: The Entobian
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Remarkable Races: The Entobian
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/22/2009 03:14:15

Before I even got to the content, I felt right at home with the "look and feel" of the (digital) book. Alluria has done a pretty good job of giving the product's layout a 4e look without slavishly imitating Wizards of the Coast's design practices. Not that I want to pooh-pooh slavish imitation; the Arial typeface in Alluria's PDFs looks positively ugly next to WotC's choice of Mentor and Mentor Sans—but I digress. While we're speaking of the "look and feel," though, I should point out that (as far as I could tell) Alluria gives us fresh artwork uniquely created for this product, not overused stock art or illustrations recycled from some other product.

With the entobians, Alluria boldly invites players to adopt the role of upright larval insects shorter even than halflings. I wonder how many players will actually find that appealing. Mechanically, the entobians' small size does not impede them in any way (nor should it). Again, I write this without having used any entobian character in a game, but the racial bonuses and features seem balanced enough, and the crunch fits the fluff near-perfectly for a typical entobian hero. The claim that entobians "harbor no favorite class or profession" (p. 4) works fine for fluff, but seems a little lazy on the crunchy side. Just as a dragonborn can pursue any class but synchronizes best with the paladin or barbarian in terms of racial ability bonuses, so an entobian—well, a larval, heroic tier entobian—is best suited mechanically to the life of a trickster rogue. See me backpedal on this below.

The striking differences between entobians and most PC races really help them, and this product, stand out from the pack. Of all the third-party beastfolk-type races that have hit the market recently (think apelords, linotaurs, mogogols, and kroolas), the entobians bring the most diversity to the gaming table. Author Matthew Kubisz made sure that the entobians' extra pair of legs made a mechanical difference, but it's the maturation feats that really show off the thought that's gone into the race. Just like normal, real-life insects, entobians mutate as they mature. Mechanically, Kubisz handles this by providing maturation feats that can change an entobian drastically. A player with an entobian PC could choose to remain larval for life, or could chose to metamorphose into a form resembling a beetle, fly, moth, or butterfly. These transformations retroactively change an entobian's ability scores and powers, so guiding an entobian character through a paragon path, a metamorphosis feat, and into an epic destiny—all of which somehow gel with each other—may require more planning and skill than one needs for a typical human or demi-human character.

When I sit down to play D&D, I usually occupy the DM's chair, so I won't run an entobian PC of my own any time soon. But what about NPCs? Just as WotC gives us human rabble and human berserkers in the Monster Manual, so Kubisz gives us caterpillar zealots, farfalite mages, and a couple of other "monsterized" entobians. In so doing, Kubisz has capitalized on one of 4e's strengths, to good effect. Kubisz even offers DMs guidance on how to explain the relatively recent emergence of entobians in an established campaign world, and even if you don't use his racial backstory, it's nice to see so much thought put into the question.

Despite my praise of the "look and feel" above, I do have a few complaints about the production value of this book, mainly in terms of faulty copy editing or odd design decisions. In this book, a gorgeous cover sits on top of an interior mess. Somehow, quite a few glaring inconsistencies and/or departures from 4e norms made it through typesetting and copy editing. In WotC's 4e books, names of powers are capitalized at the tops of the stat blocks, but not when referenced in sentences or paragraphs elsewhere. Alluria respects this convention in the "Benefits" line of the Big Spinner feat on p. 7, but not in the "Prerequisite" line immediately above it in the selfsame feat description! (Also, when a feat has multiple prerequisites—see Mantis Grab, for example—that line should be labeled "Prerequisites," plural.) Similarly, in the paragraph describing an entobian named Malguway, the typesetter set the second in a pair of dashes properly, but left the first dash in the pair as two hyphens. Why? In the first "printing" of the PDF, Alluria inexplicably set all stat blocks in shades of purple. Alluria quickly released an update that conforms to the 4e conventions of red/maroon for encounter powers, olive green for monsters, and so on, but even the update retains unnecessary icons (hexagons and stars) next to the power or monster names. These icons have no meaning in 4e (unlike the icons for melee, ranged, close, and area attacks, which this product uses properly), and nothing in the PDF explains why they are there. Putting a purple five-pointed star/asterisk next to a monster name does nothing but take up space. Alluria's writing and design team need to write up a style guide, and the copy editor(s) need(s) to hold them to it.

I like the entobians themselves quite a lot, despite my niggling fear that sloppy copy presentation reflects sloppy preparation. I've already started thinking about ways to include entobian NPCs or "monsters" in my campaign, and based on my reaction to the entobians, I probably will give one of Alluria's other Remarkable Races products a try. However, I do hope Alluria will improve the quality control in editing and layout. I give Remarkable Races: The Entobian high marks for concept and execution, but low marks for presentation; let's call it 3.5 stars for this product. I'll round that up to 4 since OneBookShelf doesn't use half-stars.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for the good review. We will continue to work on our editing process in the future to bring you the best possible product. The symbols are for black & white printing options, and will likely remain in future products.
Remarkable Races: The Entobian
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Brian G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/09/2009 06:28:16

I love this race concept. You start out as a larva and then become some other flying insect. All human of course. At first I thought the flying would be out of balance, but its very well thought out. There are restrictions and speed limits that make it quite playable. The artwork is superb. The art does a great job at depicting all the different possibilities. I would have like to see a picture of a Matron entobian though. THis product is more than worth the 2 bucks!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remarkable Races: The Entobian
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/03/2009 20:45:54

This recently updated product presents a caterpillar-like PC race with two very interesting abilities: silk spinning (a utilitarian sort of power that might prove surprisingly useful at low levels) and optional, paragon-level metamorphosis into a choice of flying forms that each to some extent favour one of the basic classes. The flight ability is no more than some classes can achieve with levitation-style effects and generally the game mechanics are well-judged, possibly excepting the usefulness of the mid-leg attack, which doesn't seem like a great option before you spend one or several feats. NPCs, again, show the broad range of vocations and temperaments across the species.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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