The best products are those that achieve a balance between the flavor text (the fluff) and the mechanics of the game system (the crunch). The crunch acts as the framework for how the thing presented will function in your game, with the fluff making it evocative and interesting. It’s an area that Rite Publishing specializes in; but sometimes errors slip in – the crunch may have errors, or the fluff may not sync up with the mechanics perfectly. Unfortunately, both of those happen in The Hero’s Bastard, marring an otherwise great product for your Pathfinder game.
The book is a short one, being eight pages long and focusing on a single monster. Despite its brevity, however, it uses bookmarks, which is a pleasant surprise. The art is (with the exception of the borders on the cover) all black and white, with borders around the pages.
The book opens with the stats for the morekareth (which means “the hero’s bastard” in a game language), a CR 12 monster. Unfortunately, I started seeing errors right away in its stat block. Now, I know this monster was released before the Pathfinder Bestiary, but some of these were avoidable. For example, the monster has 10 Hit Dice, and so should have five feats, rather than the four it has. It’s Perception skill listing should be repeated in its Skills line, but isn’t, there shouldn’t be an Advancement or Level Adjustment lines, etc. For the most part, the stats themselves are solid, but it’s disheartening to see this many problems.
The flavor text is written in true Rite Publishing style, in the first person by the monster itself. Oddly, while the flavor text seems to imply that these creatures are born as a result of a hero having non-virtuous sex (the example used by the monster is that his father was an adventuring hero who slept with the slave girl he freed, despite already being married), this is never said outright. It becomes more confusing when noting that these creatures are the spawn of Eched’Na, the “mother of monsters.” This makes it rather confusing about how exactly morekareth are born.
But really that’s a minor issue, because then we come to the special powers, and all of my complaints are forgotten. Here, the monster shines, because it occupies a great niche. A hero’s bastard will always honorably challenge a creature to fight it barehanded. Those who resort to weapons will find that their foe is a very skilled sunderer. But eclipsing that are this creature’s abilities that not only let it impede supernatural forms of healing, but also force a fleeing foe to return. Hence, when you fight one of these creatures, there’s no healing, no retreating, and very little opportunity to use a weapon (before it breaks it). In other words, this guy will hit your PCs where it hurts. It’s the stuff a DM’s dreams are made of. Afterwards, there’s a quick set of notes from the designer, and a stat block for an advanced creature, as well as a sidebar with supplementary rules for other d20 variants for both types of monsters as well, which is a nice touch.
Ultimately, I felt somewhat saddened that this book, much like how the monster it described is born, was something so incredible if not for its flaws. The concept for the hero’s bastard is top-notch, and the powers are very impressive, but both the flavor text and mechanics need to be tweaked where they’re rough around the edges. Still, the ideas this presents, and the powers of the monster, just ooze inspiration, and lend themselves very well to being added to your Pathfinder game. Next time you sit down behind the screen, be a rat bastard with The Hero’s Bastard.
[4 of 5 Stars!]