Heroes of the Jade Oath by Rite Publishing.
Let me start by saying I don't play Arcane Evolved. I own the book and I have read it, but I personally just use it to steal idea's and such from for my other D20 games. So this review will focus on the content and less so on the game mechanics. Since I am not a good judge on if they are balanced etc for what they are made for. So I am looking at this product more as a person looking to steal idea's from it. I was given this product for the purposes of this review.
This product is 340 pages long and is in beta. So the page count might change between now and then and go up. It cost $59.99, for that you get the beta PDF, beta book now and the omega PDF when done.
Cover, credits, ToC, and introduction take up 6 pages. The artist are Claudia Burgos, Jason Rainville, Wayne Anthony Reynolds, Jonathan Roberts, Hugo Solis, Kurt A. Taylor, Jeff Ward, Amanda Webb. The art ranges from fair to very good color art.
This product is a fantasy Asian inspired world setting.
Chapter 1 – Themes and Overviews (34 pages)
This is basically a world setting gazetteer, it talks about the culture, countries, religion, organizations etc. It just gives a very good over all view of the setting.
Chapter 2 – Races (84 pages)
Human – varies human ethinic groups
Bakemono – golbiniod like creatures with a limited shapechange ability, with race levels.
Daharen – variation of the giant race from Arcane Evolved.
Faen - variation of the faen race from Arcane Evolved.
Garude - variation of the Dracha race from Arcane Evolved.
Goushen - variation of the Sibeccai race from Arcane Evolved.
Hushen - variation of the Litorian race from Arcane Evolved.
Kirin Shen - variation of the Runechild race from Arcane Evolved.
Mandragoran – A plant people race.
Naga - variation of the Mojh race from Arcane Evolved.
Qahngol – variation of the half-orc
Ruishishen - variation of the Litorian race from Arcane Evolved.
Sanesaram – variation of Dwarves.
Shenxue – off spring of mortals and spirits, with many variations.
Verrik - variation of the Verrik race from Arcane Evolved.
Yueren – variation of elves.
The races are all very well done, listing history, outlook, relations with others races, names, personality, physical description, lands, languages and sometimes racial levels(when they are not covered in Arcane Evolved already). I especially like the Shenxue.
Chapter 3 – Classes (102 pages)
Demon Hunter – Just what they sound like, they hunt down demons and other such like creatures. A bit like a Paladin in concept but only in very general terms, there is several variations.
Enlightened Scholar – These are sorta like a monk/cleric type class. With several variations.
Kensai – Martial Artist/Weapon Masters, they focus on using light armorer and mastering a single fighting stlye.
Kusa – A thief/Assassin based class.
Monk – variations of the monk class from Arcane Evolved. With several variations.
Totem Warrior – more version of for the Totem Warrior from Arcane Evolved.
Witch - more version of for the Witch from Arcane Evolved.
Xia - more version of for the Champion from Arcane Evolved.
Many of the classes are very well done and very interesting, they remind me a lot of some of the Chinese fantasy movies I have seen. I think the monk is much better than the base monk class in other D20 games and the rest fit well in a Asian style fantasy game.
Chapter 4 – Skills and Feats (48 pages)
This chapter talks about existing skills and feats and how they are different in the setting. It includes the settings languages, a new skill and a host of new Asian themed feats. There is 152 new feats in this section and they all have a very nice Asian feel to them and most reminded me of varies Chinese fantasy movies or anima I have seen at some point or another.
Chapter 5 – Combat Rites (4 pages)
These are new types of Combat Rites, used the same way as they are used in Arcane Evolved. There is 25 new combat rites.
Chapter 6 – New and Optional Rules (14 pages)
This is a chapter on new ways to handle some rules and some new rules all on it's own. Most of them seem optional. Including the Zodiac signs, these give a benefit and drawback to those born under them.
Chapter 7 – Equipment (16 pages)
A list of gear, weapons, armor, clothes and services that is available in the Jade lands. I very much liked the alchemy section, enough I plan to steal many of the items for my other D20 games.
Chapter 8 – Magic and Chi (24 pages)
This has new spell templates, discuses how Ch'i works and Sutra magic, as well as Oath of power. Chi power can be used to enhance things. Sutra magic is a way for normal non spell casting classes to learn some magic. Oaths of Power require a feat and only one can be in use at a time.
It finishes with 1 page for the OGL and 1 page for the back cover.
Closing thoughts, as I mentioned I only have a passing knowledge of Arcane Evolved and this is also the beta draft of the book. So I didn't focus heavily how balanced game mechanics are, instead I looked at the rest of the book. How it read, the fluff, how the game mechanics fit the setting and how interesting they was. I should also note I am not a bit fan of Asian fantasy myths and legends. I find it interesting but less than most other myths, legends and settings. Yes I know I was a bit light in my review above, but mostly because I quickly realized if I went in depth I would end up with a 10 page review.
Now what can I say about the product? Well simply this, I think it is hands down the best Asian based game setting I have read. Certainly for D20 based games, if not all games. It is also the first such book to make me actually interested in running/playing in a Asian themed setting for D20(Pathfinder). It is well written and really to me at least captured the feel of the Asian culture, while still presenting it in a way to draw in and appeal to those not overly familiar with it.
My biggest critic and this isn't really a critic, is that I wish it was written for 3e edition DnD or Pathfinder instead of Arcane Evolved. It would then have been a lot less work for me to adapt much of this for my games when I run or convince someone else to run this setting. I am giving it a 3 star on Drivethru because while you get both PDF's, beta now and Omega when done. You don't get a book, which makes it a bit pricey of a PDF. The content and writing is top notch, if I was to grade it only on that. I would give it a 4 or a 4.5 star, the price of 59.99 for a PDF though drops my rating.
[3 of 5 Stars!]