The opening pages of Green Ronin?s ?Advanced Race Codex: Humans? makes a very good point; after a character has gone up a few levels, the race he or she is seems to become less and less important. Players starting new (lower-level) characters might savor the ability modifiers or low-light vision offered by some of the core races, but after earned feats and ability modifiers, various magic items and prestige class abilities, a character?s race doesn?t have a huge impact on gameplay. What ?Advanced Race Codex: Humans? does is take one of the core races ? the one most-adaptable in this case due to its bonus feat and extra skill points ? and makes it ?special.?
Adapting a rule from ?The Black Company Campaign Setting,? the first section of this supplement provides rulings for how to add a character background to your human character. A background offers a player four specific skills in which he or she can place their bonus skill ranks; each gained level above first allows a bonus skill point to be added to one of these skills. The bonus feat chosen at first level also must be chosen from one of two accompanying feats. In exchange for these slightly reduced options, a background provides a ?special advantage? (like receiving a +1 bonus on Fortitude saves if the Beggar background is chosen, or a +2 bonus on all Intelligence checks if the Scholar background is chosen). While this section does inspire players to put a bit more thought into their character background when initially creating their PCs, I would worry that relying too heavily on the character background rules might actually stifle creating character creation. Use these rules carefully, and definitely with the aid of a DM.
The second section focuses on more human options by presenting more-than-human ancestries. With the number of half-elves and half-orcs running around the DnD-iverse, it?s not that much of a stretch to assume that humans can interbreed with an amazing number of different races. The ancestries presented here are for players whose human characters that may have had a celestial, a dragon, an elemental or a fiend in their genealogy. Three level progressions are presented, much like the paragon classes presented in Wizards of the Coasts? ?Unearthed Arcana,? and the development is just as sound.
The third section of supplemental rules is devoted to new feats, and there are some great ones here. Designer Robert J. Schwalb has presented a mix of combat oriented feats (Exploit Opening, for example, which provides a bonus to the first attack of opportunity a PC makes in a round) to more subtle ?character?-oriented feats (Diversified, which allows a character?s two highest-level classes to not count when determining an experience point penalty when multiclassing). The design of these feats is solid, and none of these seem over-powerful.
The same can be said of the prestige classes in the fourth section. Since a human can multiclass most freely of all the races, the requirements for these prestige classes speak to the more diversified character concepts. A battle crier mixes the best of the barbarian?s and the bard?s abilities whereas the storm shepherd blends the druid and a psionic character class. My personal favorite is the deacon, a charismatic prestige class combining religion and magic and drips with role-playing opportunity.
I was a bit disappointed with a single piece of artwork in this section. To illustrate the buccaneer, Green Ronin has chosen to use a picture of a female character who?s just had the backside of her breeches bitten away by a shark. This walks the fine line of class, and I found it distracting.
The final two sections are devoted to new spells and new items, and both sections, again, are well-balanced.
While no DM should allow any material in their game or campaign without approval, I think a player will have very little difficulty convincing their DM that the ?Advanced Race Codex: Humans? supplement is fit for the table. The rules are well-designed and ?developed, and while the ?fluff? material is a little light in some areas, I can heartily recommend this product, and would look forward to using some of this material in my own game.
<b>LIKED</b>: Well-designed and -developed, and makes an excellent companion to Wizards of the Coasts' "Races of Destiny"<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Some of the opening material will definitely need a stronger DM's-hand in implementation<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>
[4 of 5 Stars!]