One thing I love most is that occasional 3rd party piece of material for my favorite role playing game to come out and sweep me off of my feet. Kobold Press has definitely made that happen with their latest book, New Paths Compendium. I myself have been following their New Path character releases for some time when I stumbled onto their Spell-less Ranger class they released a couple of years ago. While I myself may never play some of the written characters, that does not mean they are not well written or mechanically stable, it just different strokes for different folks people. However I must say that all of their classes to this date have impressed me nonetheless and offer a wide range of options. Since we are discussing the classes, I will go ahead and start breaking down my review chapter by chapter.
Chapter One of the book opens up with a full-page art depiction of each character along with their class descriptions and some flavor to boot. There are seven new classes in the book and they are as followed: Battle Scion, Elven Archer, Savant, Shaman, Spell-less Ranger, Theurge, and White Necromancer.
1) The Battle Scion or the “arcane paladin” as per Kobolds description is a neat mesh of Paizo’s Magus and Paladin classes. The Scion carries a full BAB with the ability to launch a Force Blast that grows in power with level, can enhance their weapon like the Magus, along with a few other nice abilities.
2) The Elven Archer is a class based on the iconic image of elves being read about in fantasy novels, which meant a forest dwelling, bow wielding elf. The class plays much like an archery Ranger with a long-range sneak attack ability that scales with level along with an arrow enhancement ability. Kobold has done a fine stand up job by not limiting us with having to actually be an elf if you do not want and can instead opt out by trying out their variant archer designs. These are the Halfling Slingmaster, Dwarven Crossbowyer, and Mystic Archer and they all play similar to the Elven Archer but they have their own unique ability and flavor.
3) The Savant easily has the greatest versatility to ever be laid out in a character. There has never been a truer form of a jack-of-all-trades character than the Savant. The Savant is a character who adopts various persona by using knacks written in their notebook. Knacks can range from weapon proficiencies, to spellcasting, to skill knowledge and come together in unique custom combinations to create the personae the Savant feels is necessary to meet any situation that encounter. This is a class that requires A LOT of prep time and recommends that you have multiple persona written out ahead of time so you will not slow the game down, making it harder on the GM. There really is so much to this class that I find it to really explain without giving away most of its details.
4) The Shaman in a nutshell is a Druid with healing powers. The Shaman bonds with the spirit of an animal that takes a physical form when summoned and acts as an animal companion. The Shaman is also a spontaneous caster using the druid spell list which gives a great option for those who enjoy spontaneous casting, because I know I do.
5) The Spell-less Ranger is easily my favorite class written by Kobold and it was the class that got me interested in the New Paths characters. This class takes all of those iconic Ranger characters such as Aragorn and Robin Hood and makes them playable because magic was not something those guys used…ever. The Ranger gains a few new toys in exchange for losing his spells but the important ones are Stealth Attack, which is essentially a Sneak Attack against favored foes or while in favored terrain, and Ranger Talents. Ranger Talents play much like Paizo’s Skirmisher archetype’s Talents, but these are actually worth losing spells for and are balanced well with a few particularly good choices. There is also a variant for this class that was released with this book called the Skin Changer and it is one that I have been wanting to try out so badly. This variant trades out the favored enemy, combat style, and animal companion of a Ranger with the ability to essentially wild shape into that animal instead that scales like a druid so it actually feels pretty balanced and a ton of fun if you are into playing a shifter without contracting a terrible were- disease.
6) The Theurge is an amazing spellcaster that allows you to cast divine and arcane spells right from the get go, without having to make that climb into Paizo’s Mystic Theurge prestige class which typically took at least 10 levels to get to and the character feels gimped the entire way there. Well fear no longer, because the Theurge can do that from level 1 and can even cast two spells at the same time given that one is arcane and one is divine. Their only downfall is how many spells per day they can actually pull off but then again, if they could cast all day like other classes, then it would be broken and probably banned from tables so I find it very balanced in that fact.
7) Finally to wrap up this chapter we have the White Necromancer, which is not bad per se, but it is probably my least favorite of the six. Essentially this class is a “good” necromancer that studies life and death instead of exploiting it for their own nefarious purposes. If necromancy is your cup of tea, then this class has a lot to offer. At first they cannot cast “evil” necromancy spells as well as a necromancer and this costs them two spell slots to do so which can make tough goings, but later down the road this is negated. They have a pretty decent spell list that consists of a mix of cleric and wizard/sorcerer which rounds out their arsenal.
Chapter Two contains the Archetypes section of the book. In it, eight classes are given new archetype options. Some of them are the New Path classes: Battle Scion, Elven Archer, Shaman, Spell-less Ranger and White Necromancer, while the other three, the Gunslinger, Monk, and Ninja, are some of Paizo’s own.
1) The Battle Scion features two new archetypes. The first is the Bonded Scion, which lets him take an Arcane Bond, though it must be a weapon, and improve it further. There are also a few sweet abilities that go along with it. The other one is called the Force Blaster and it does just that, removing the focus from mainly melee, and instead opting for a blaster type role that boosts the Scion’s force blast capabilities.
2) The Elven Archer got two new archetypes as well. First is the Royal Guardian, which removes the wilderness feel, the Elven Archer brought with him and instead incorporates him into a more societal class by taking on things such as social skills and useful urban environment abilities. Second is the Plains Rider, which is essentially an Elven Archer with a mount and some abilities to go along with it. Not a lot of crazy cool things going for it but it is more options, and that is never a bad thing.
3) The Gunslinger got quite a few new options in this book and scored seven new archetypes, and honestly they are some of my favorites in this book. First is the Black Hat, which carries a really fun “gun witch” feel. The archetype gets abilities that debuff opponents, cause mechanical malfunctions, and still pack the full wallop of toting a gun in PFRPG. Next is the Black Reaver, which is in fact a Barbarian archetype, but it being the only one, would have been a waste of space and ink for unnecessary text. This archetype gives a Barbarian the Amateur Gunslinger feat and various deeds that work with firearms. Really there is not much to say on this one. The next one though steps up it’s A game for sure. The Coilgunner is an archetype that drops the traditional firearm, and instead expands into the science and ancient artifacts side of guns. This archetype uses a coil gun rather than a standard firearm, which essentially can fire two types of ammunition. The first is the standard projectile like other guns can fire, but the classes deeds can change that up and allow a Coilgunner to overcharge their guns and hurl bolts of electricity instead. The only real problem with the class is it is dependent on a cooperative GM to gradually help you keep it upgraded by implementing other lost technologies into his/her campaign, otherwise I can see this archetype falling behind. The Futurist is a Witch archetype but totes firearms which are a really cool option. The Futurist can enchant their bullets with hexes thus causing the creature to take the effect of the hex along with the damage, which is awesome. They also give up their patron/familiar for some really cool effects. The Gunfighter is next on the list and is a Fighter archetype. This one like most Fighter archetypes, allow the Fighter to focus more on guns and thus gain additional abilities for them. If you like feats and guns then this option is for you. The Hellfire Preacher is a Cleric archetype and is full of broken faith flavor. This Cleric archetype is one who is on the edge of renouncement of their faith so in exchange for a weakened connection with their deity, they are granted firearm usage and a really nifty smite ability that looks to be pretty strong but is only applied to one attack. Finally in the Gunslinger department, we have the Noble Shootist and this one is a Gunslinger archetype. This is the personable Gunslinger with social skills to boot. This one seems pretty fun if you are into the whole bravado feel that a Gunslinger can have.
4) The Monk, like the Gunslinger got quite a few options to play with. First is the Beast-Soul Monk, and the first thing I thought when reading this was “Altered Beast” from the 90’s arcade games. This archetype scores the Monk and animal companion and allows them to later transform into their animal companion so it’s like a wild shaping monk with no spells. Next is the Clockwork Monk, which is a racial archetype for the Gearforged race. This is one of the only classes I cannot truly review just due to the face I have never really read up on the Gearforged class itself. But the archetype itself seems very strong. The Monk of the Compliant Style Rod is the bo staff monk that people enjoy playing. If you are a fan of the bo or quarterstaff then this option is for you. Next is one of my favorite Monk archetypes, and that is the Monk of the Glorious Endeavor. This archetype is all about focusing on one weapon of the users choosing and is given appropriate monk abilities that make that one weapon better. Personally I have always loved the flavor of the wandering swordsman in nothing but robes and a katana on his side and a ki pool attached to such a character just gives it so much flavor. It’s just a great archetype and even gets to use feats the affect unarmed attacks with their chosen weapon…Stunning Weapon!!! The Monk of the Peerless Mountain is the kicking monk. Finally an archetype that focuses solely on using their feet, and I must say, they can be quite effective. Focusing on the Cleave feats to deliver their main source of damage opens up new possibilities for Kobold to expand on other feats like this and expand them through a class. The Paper Drake Monk is next on the Monk’s archetype list. This is a monk whose martial arts style revolved around origami and the form the paper itself takes. All in all it is a pretty cool archetype. I feel like I saved the best for last, or I guess I should say Kobold Press did, but we have the really cool Six Talismans Monk. I feel like this is a monk archetype straight out of an anime. The Six Talismans Monk is an archetype that takes pieces of paper known as talismans, and attaches various effects such as exploding fire damage, hold person, and flesh to stone, and slaps them onto an opponent who then takes the damage or effect. If anyone is familiar with the anime Outlaw Star or even Naruto, it is easy to see there are semblances in place that are quite noticeable.
5) The Ninja got two new archetypes in this book and both are as follow. First is the Elemental Ninja, who essentially takes on an element like fire or water and they gain abilities like a wizard of their elemental school would. It’s a fun option that is there for sure. Secondly is the Mist Stalker who gets certain bonuses while standing in fogs, gases, or mists. This is almost a must if anyone wanted to focus on striking from forms of concealment. I hope in the future we get some more Ninja archetypes, because even though these are pretty cool, I have a strong appetite for more.
6) The Shaman is next on the list of classes with archetypes. First is the Elemental Shaman which allows the shaman to form a bond and wild shape with an elemental rather than an animal which is great since I typically prefer elementals to animals personally. The Primal Shifter is next on the list, and this archetype focuses more on the wild shaping factor. The Primal Shifter takes diminished spellcasting in exchange for extra wild shaping goodies. Later they perform a ritual dance that takes their wild shaping even further with really strong buffs that cannot be missed. Finally we have the Witch Doctor who takes diminished wild shaping in exchange for spells and abilities that focus on healing and the undead.
7) The Spell-less Ranger only has two options this time as well but both of those options are absolutely fantastic. First is the Dual Style Ranger who can only take a single Favored Enemy but in exchange can take up two combat styles and the Ranger gets free feats for both styles at the appropriate level. The other archetype is the Companion-Bound Ranger, and they only take a single Favored Terrain in exchange for a very strong animal companion. The companion comes from the Druid companion list and even levels with the Ranger like a Druid’s companion does. This leads to a very strong animal companion for a Ranger. I personally run a Spell-less Ranger in a campaign that has sadly halted due to life getting in the way but I must contest that this is easily my favorite 3rd party class I have ever toyed with and actually play using BOTH archetypes due to them stacking and I must say it was a blast while I was playing it.
8) The White Necromancer is the last of the classes to get archetypes. The first of two new archetype options is the Necrotic Healer. This archetype focuses more on the healing aspect rather than the summoning and controlling of the undead. The Necrotic Healer is seen as a “self-sacrificing” character that strives to ease the pain of others and divert it into them. The other archetype is the Grave-bound, and this one is pretty cool. The Grave-bound take on an undead companion that varies from ghosts and zombies to mummies and vampires and they gain new abilities as the Necromancer gets stronger. It’s a really cool aspect on companions that has not really been toyed with much and has earned my seal of approval.
Chapter Three is the Feats and Traits section of the book. Kobold has released a good 20 pages worth of feats and traits that should not be passed up on. There are plenty of options in the book that relate to a bunch of the new classes that have been introduced in this book. Feats and traits are not something one person can really review on since like any good food, game, or gadget, they are built for taste and not everyone will like every little thing detailed. One thing I can hit on however is at the end of the chapter, Kobold introduced scaling combat feats which essentially allow the user to take one feat such as Cleave at a higher prerequisite than normal and when the users BAB reaches a certain number, they then gain the effects of the next feat in the chain. This is great for those who do not want to take every feat in a chain to be effective and allows a character to expand and try other new feats. I know personally this is great because typically when I plan out my builds, the first 12-15 levels are planned out to a tee for maximum survivability and I never get to toy with other flavorful feats.
Chapter Four is the spells section. Like feats and traits, there is actually not a lot I can talk about without giving away information involving specifics, plus there is that whole certain spells are not for everybody thing. I can say this however, you will not be disappointed.
Chapter Five is the Magic Items and Gear section. Kobold added seven new monk weapons to the list and gave us some new arrow and bolt options which are pretty cool. We got five new magic items and for the most part they are pretty cool as well including a collar for your animal companion that acts as armor. Finally the last section talks about three legendary magic items and base rules for making your own legendary magic items. There is a write-up on those three particular items and the requirements to attune said items to a character of your very own. That section alone had me wanting Kobold Press to do another companion piece that focused on legendary items such as these and maybe included stories of how those owners reached legendary status. It was only two pages of the book, but I felt it was the most open ended section of the book that had me craving more.
Chapter Six is the final chapter of the book and it is the tracking sheet section. From animal companions to prepared spells tracking sheets, there are plenty of sheets for any character. Some of the positioning feels a bit weird on a few of the sheets, but they really are streamlined to minimize the number of sheets needed to run your character effectively.
So all in all my experience with Kobold Press’s New Paths Compendium is nothing but positive. This is easily the best 3rd party book to come out in the last little bit and I strongly recommend anyone interested in anything mentioned in this review to give this book a shot. You will not be disappointed at all. I cannot wait to read and hopefully review the next book produced by them. My hat is off to Marc Radle for leading this book to perfection and with the help of an amazing staff.
[5 of 5 Stars!]