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101 Pirates and Privateer Traits (PFRPG) $5.99 $4.49
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2012 07:14:25

This pdf is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements and 1 page SRD, leaving 13 pages of content, so let's check out these new traits for pirates and privateers, especially useful for the Skull & Shackles-AP or Freeport-campaigns.

Before I get into this review, I have to make something clear: I really like the basic premise of traits - further individualizing characters according to their backgrounds. What I personally always considered balanced, but oh so boring, was the execution of most traits: Let's face it - a minor bonus of +1 or 2 to skills is nothing to write home about. This installment of the 101-series thankfully takes another approach to traits: Essentially, the design-goal of this pdf, according to a side-box, is pushing the boundaries and adding a bit excitement to traits. Essentially, traits in this book are often more powerful than usual for traits, but come with restrictions on their usability.

A neat example for this new approach would be the trait "Balance the Books" - a friend or allied NPC is indebted to you in such a way that they're willing to lay down their life for the PC. This might have them take the place of the character in prison, resurrect the character once or do a similar, significant task on behalf of the PC - but only once. Another rather interesting case would be "Accursed Corsair", which enables the PC to take an oracle's curse, including all penalties and benefits. If you haven't noticed by now, the traits not only go beyond what you'd usually expect, but also provide what I'd consider "background-hooks". In my home game, I tend to give story-awards for good background stories and in-built character hooks and exactly as such can many of these traits be considered. One of my favorite traits assumes that you have made a dark pact that lets you summon a desolate ship/ghost vessel, usable only by you and your first mate, rise from the waves - which might, at least once, save your skin. While not worth anything, the iconic act of raising a ship from Davey's locker is just too cool, even if you cannot sell it for gain.

Of course, more mundane traits are included as well: If you for example want a weaponized peg-leg there's a trait for it, as there's one for having depth-perception in spite of just having one eye and an eye-patch. "By Land or by Sea" is another smart trait, granting your merfolk character the amphibious subtype and the ability to change into biped-form. If you're inclined to play rather a noble and cool commander, "Face Death with Dignity" might be up your alley: Once per week, when being under the effects of fear, you ignore the frightened condition and gain a modified version of the confusion condition, sans "attack self" and "attack nearest creature", but with +2 to Str and Con and +1 to will-saves. The restriction to "usable once per week" is applied in more than one trait, making what would otherwise be too strong for a trait actually work well and more importantly: COUNT. A trait that is integral part of your background story might actually make a DIFFERENCE. This is why I really like this book - it provides traits that deserve the name and re-imagine the rather bland basic concept of traits to a new level that makes them feel more distinct from feats, talents etc.

I also enjoyed a trait that lets you start play as a restless soul (from the excellent RiP-supplement or In the Company of Monsters) or start game with a curse that ensures you becoming one. My absolute favorite of the bunch, though, is the trait "Parrot Voice": You are mute, but gain a parrot-familiar that squawks the somatic components of your spells while sitting on your shoulders. This is genius!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are slightly worse than I've come to expect from Rite Publishing: Aforementioned Parrot-Voice trait e.g. suffers from 2 minor glitches. While not impeding my ability to understand the content, I think that another pass at editing would have been a good idea. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the classic stock-art pictures are fitting. The pdf comes with no bookmarks, which is another minor downer. I'm in a bit of a pinch here: On the one hand I absolutely LOVE the new approach taken to traits herein. On the other hand, this installment of the 101-series is not as stunningly awesome as its predecessor. While still a good book oozing usability and cool options for any Freeport or Skull & Shackles-game, I feel that this book could have used a bit more polish on the side of formal criteria. In the end, though, all my points of criticism have to be taken as nagging on a very high level. My final verdict will thus be 4 stars - a good book that falls a bit short of absolute excellence.

Endzeitgeist out.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
I wanted to take Thilo, for taking the time to do a review of our product.