Races of the Mind: Elan is, as the name would imply, all about elansâ€”their background, their culture, and their unique abilities. It is published by Dreamscarred Press and is up to their usual quality standards.
The full-color cover depicts a stylized starburst design on a background of what appear to be scales of some sort, probably to represent the elansâ€™ aberrant nature. Races of the Mind: Elan contains seven black-and-white illustrations; five of these are nicely sketched and quite good, but the two psionic monsters (which I will cover later) arenâ€™t quite up to par, looking more like something out of the 1st edition Monster Manual. The 19 pages have a faux-medieval border and the tables are in the usual bicolor format typical of the 3.5 edition layout. I like the fact that Dreamscarred Press follows the Wizards of the Coast formatâ€”Iâ€™ve seen some third-party material with vastly different formats which only serve to distract from the material presented.
Races of the Mind: Elan starts out with a short summary of what an elan is, presenting a few paragraphs of scenes from different elansâ€™ points of view. The rest of the flavor portion of the work is laid out as follows:
â€¢ Elan Psychology, describing elan behavior and outlook on immortality;
â€¢ Elan Life, describing the transformation from human to elan;
â€¢ Society and Culture, describing elan cities, art, and philosophy;
â€¢ Language and Religionâ€”self explanatory;
â€¢ History and Folklore, describing the First Elan; and
â€¢ Elan and Other Races, describing elan relations with both psionic and non-psionic races.
The analysis of life from an elanâ€™s point of view is fascinating, as is the explanation of the elan transformation. The information presented is interesting and useful, and does not fall into the trap of stating the obvious. The descriptions of elan law and view of immortality are particularly intriguing.
The mechanics portion presents three new feats that expand on the elan racial abilities, as well as two sets of â€œracial specialty levels,â€ two prestige classes, one monster, and one template.
I felt the abilities gained by the specialty levels were somewhat bland, though well-balanced, except for the elan rogueâ€™s ability to halve an opponentâ€™s manifester/caster level instead of taking a sneak attack and the elan wilderâ€™s ability to determine power points and save DCs as if he or she had no racial Charisma penalty. Iâ€™m not sure the other levels are worth taking, but these two might be. The prestige classes, on the other hand, were very appealingâ€”the estranged psyche gains some immunities and abilities focusing on his or her insanity and new ability to drive others insane, and the psion adroit resembles the archmage, choosing from a menu of abilitiesâ€”such as overcoming immunities and changing a powerâ€™s rangeâ€”gained at the cost of permanently sacrificing power points. I would have to say that it is almost worth the cost to buy Races of the Mind: Elan for the prestige classes alone.
The Tormented One is a monster resulting from the human-to-elan transformational process being used on a nonhuman; it has a few psi-like abilities, but is otherwise a feral monster focused on melee combat. Iâ€™m not sure we needed yet another tank-type monster, but at least this has a few special abilities to distinguish it. â€œUnavailedâ€ is a template, applicable to any human, which represents a failure in the transformation process. The main theme of the template seems to be draining power points, but although the templated creature is said to â€œgainâ€ the power points rather than simply remove them from its target, it is never explained what use it might have for them, as it cannot innately manifest powers. Otherwise, the Unavailed is slightly above-average, with a good mix of abilities and flavor.
As I already stated, I predominantly liked the descriptions of elan life and the prestige classes. The specialty levels and monsters were well-balanced, though they felt like filler and I just donâ€™t think they were different enough to merit inclusion in a campaign. Everything was well organized, with appropriate bookmarks. There were a few editing errors, such as including the wrong ability name in a table and a sentence or two where allthespaceswereleftoutanditwashardtoread, although hopefully these errors can be fixed.
If you are a fan of the elan and like tweaking the mechanics to give things more flavor and more customization, this product is for you. If you liked the Wizards of the Coastâ€™s Races series and its insights into the various races, this product is for you. If you are a diehard psionics fan (and who isnâ€™t?), this product is for you. If you are looking for the new and the different, you might be slightlyâ€”very slightlyâ€”disappointed.
Overall, I would give Races of the Mind: Elan four out of five stars for amazing flavor and prestige classes but slightly lackluster monster and class levels.
[4 of 5 Stars!]