There are a number of significant changes between the new 4e GSL system and the OGL rules, one of the more notable ones being the class system and the associated system of powers. Under the OGL system, designing a class wasn't a particularly cumbersome task, as long as you could create an interesting and viable class with 20 levels and provide the associated spells, abilities and feats for the class as required. Under the new 4e GSL rules, designing a class takes more time and effort simply because you need to provide enough powers and feats for the class, including associated material like builds, class specific abilities and the like.
When I first saw Alea Publishing's Feudal Characters: Noble, I'll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. A 'noble' as such is not really a class, at least not within the classes and their roles as defined in the GSL system. On the other hand, given the very much perceived weaknesses of the GSL's social system, I was intrigued to see what Alea Publishing would offer for an inherently social class. Most powers, barring sometimes the utility powers, are largely associated with combat, so the combination of a social class by definition and 'combat' powers would be interesting. Having seen what Alea Publishing have done, I was pleasantly surprised by the approach, creativity and neatness of what they'd done with the class.
Feudal Characters: Noble is a 16 page pdf product that presents a new class for the Feudal Lands campaign setting from Alea Publishing Group. This product is one of the first Feudal Lands products for the 4e GSL system, although several products have been produced for the campaign setting under the OGL rules (which I believe are to be updated to 4e GSL rules). This product is excellently presented, with a high standard of writing, layout, editing and general style of presentation. Some good illustrations are provided by Denise Garner, and the product includes a excellent cover, useful bookmarks and an attractive bordering to the pages in the layout. Overall, the product has a bit of eye-candy associated with it, and is done to a professional quality standard.
The noble class as a concept is fairly self-explanatory - a character born into or bestowed nobility and likely with that associated land, titles and other benefits of the status. The class itself is implemented as a multiclass rather than a base class, and I think that's a neat way of using the GSL multiclassing system. After all, nobles are not associated with any particular class, but the benefits of nobility can be obtained via a noble multiclass. In this way, more powerful nobles or lesser nobles can have varying degrees of multiclass powers, further providing a good solution to how to mechanically implement the noble class. I think this is an elegant choice, and whatever your thoughts on GSL multiclassing, I think this is an instance where it works really well.
Barring providing the multiclass noble feat for access to the noble's powers, the majority of the product, as one would really expect, is a long list of various daily, encounter and utility powers. Power cards are usefully provided at the end of the product for all the noble's powers. The powers are all based on a new power source, the bloodline power source, and a fair number of the noble's powers deal psychic damage. The powers themselves contain a fair mix of different flavors and descriptions, although the majority of them are unfortunately very combat focused. Some of the utility powers are focused on skill challenges, which I thought was a useful way of building the social aspects of the class.
Of the combat powers most seemed fairly balanced, although if you've read all the powers in the core books, the majority of the noble's powers are similar abilities in a different guise. Powers are based on such aspects of the noble's stature such as speech, commanding presence and the like, much like one would expect. In a way, and likely a good way, the noble's combat powers are very similar to those a knight would have. As always, roleplaying goes a long way in developing these powers for a specific character or noble concept. The latter half of the product includes a noble template as well as a new monster, the typical human knight. It's a rather odd, but descriptive name for a monster, but useful nonetheless.
Overall, I think this is a class where the approach taken as a multiclass pays of, and illustrates a good way of using the GSL multiclassing system. The powers themselves are mostly good, though perhaps a bit repetitive, but I'd hoped to see more playing with the social aspects of what the noble class entails. Nevertheless, I think the few social utility powers, the training provided to nobles in social skills, and general roleplaying will make this a multiclass that can work well in game. Alea Publishing Group have provided a clever approach to creating new concepts and classes by using the multiclass system. A good, strong product, with clever design and a very usable class.
[4 of 5 Stars!]