When Rite Publishing announced that they were going to produce an adventure path for Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved Variant Players Handbook I was pretty stoked. To be honest, my days of creating my own campaign materials from whole cloth are long gone. I'm just too busy to fully commit the time to make my creations rewarding enough to pull it off. My players are pretty finicky, with a mix of very well versed and experienced to just fell off the turnip truck, and just getting through the sessions without distractions is a constant battle. It sounded awesome, but I was a little reluctant to invest. It wasn't because I hadn't seen the quality of product that Rite Publishing releases, I have been overjoyed with the stuff I have purchased so far, but because those releases were more of a point solution than something that required consistency, commitment and long term planning. I didn't really want to commit sight unseen, since the investment was more than a simple adventure.
Then this player's guide was released. This allowed me to review how much they had put into the Adventure Path for planning and who was involved, as well as seeing where they were going. What can I lose?
The guide is really well put together. The layout is intuitive, the fonts are of decent size (unusual in publication of this type these days), and they tried to cover all the bases to give the players the correct insight into the world and adventures that their characters would be participating in. The content is organized in an intuitive way that flows well. I didn't feel like I had to flip back and forth between pages to try to root out information that I was missing, or had not yet been exposed to. The text flowed well around the included art, and the style is consistent with all of the other products I have purchased from Rite Publishing so far. The only thing I felt might have been missing is a table of contents, but for a book of this length is wasn't a big problem. On the first read through, I really didn't notice it wasn't there, its when I wanted to look up a specific detail later on that I realized it didn't have one. The PDF search function solved the issue anyway. I wasn't upset about it.
The detail and content in the book is where it really shines. I can tell it was well thought through, and it didn't conflict with what I had already learned from the Arcana Evolved books I had read before. The guide really does have all the salient information a player would need to have to understand the world their characters are playing in, and it has additional background and ancillary information to make the world feel more real. I was really pleased with the background traits that were included to help tie their characters into the campaign as well. They were a much unexpected functional addition that no campaign should do without. There isn't alot of crunch in the book (except for the background trait detail), but I am glad to see it, to be honest. The books intent is to give the players a feeling of the setting, and not the checkboxes to plan out their ultra-optimal character build. This is the way player's guides should be written. Rite publishing really focuses on creative ideas, and often comes in at oblique angles with their products, and this guide doesn't disappoint.
The art is well placed through the guide. I didn't feel that I was being sold just an art book, but I didn't feel like I was reading a novel either. Although I felt that some of the art (with the symbols/flags for factions specifically) was a bit to bright and colorful, they were pretty consistent what I have seen in heraldry, and I think that is what they were aiming at. I had also seen some of the art in other Rite Publishing publications as well, but I wasn't too disappointed, they are decent art pieces, and this is a "companion" book, so I wasn't unhappy. I'm a tough customer when it comes to art, and my feelings here are pretty clear. I don't know why it is, but when I don't like an art piece I have trouble getting around it. This guide has various art styles and context, and would it have been a different type of product I might have docked it a point. As it stands, I felt they made the target.
The price is right. This, for the most part, is an investment Rite Publishing understands that they have to foot to get people interested in their products without financial risk. For a PDF, regardless of content, this is the price point it should have. No additional purchase is necessary, and I was very appreciative of that.
The bottom line is, this book is really all you would need to be able to determine whether your group will want to partake in the Rituals of Choice Adventure Path, and with that, whether you want to invest in it. Your players will understand the environment they will be playing in, and have good insights on what characters should have and what the party should be composed of. They will also have a good bit of history and flavor for the setting they will be playing in, and some color that is often missing when they take their first steps in the adventure, something that is often missing.
I'll be using it in my next AE campaign.