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Reviews - The Quintessential Fighter
by Matthew Pook

Quintessential Fighter cover Mongoose Publishing seems to be growing in leaps and bounds, becoming not just a major d20 publisher, but a major British publisher as well. Their strategy of concentrating on supplements that have long-term use, rather than the "use and put it back on the shelf" lifespan of one-shot scenarios seems to be paying off. Thus far, they've built three lines: the Slayers Guide series breathes life into monsters and races; the Encyclopaedia Arcana examines various magical aspects and techniques in the D&D3e game; and all things nautical are explored in the Seas of Blood series. Now Mongoose adds a fourth line with The Collector's Series, their most prestigious and ambitious books yet.

The Collector's Series is planned to be a range of sourcebooks that focus upon particular race or class in Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition. Each aims to be a comprehensive guide useful to both DM and player alike. However, in presenting a whole chocolate box to select from, is not intended to allow characters to be created with more advantages, but rather to provide them with more options.

The series debuts with The Quintessential Fighter, a 128-page sourcebook that takes this class from first to twentieth level. This is a nice looking book, with the look of a fake leather cover, and is liberally illustrated inside. The art ranges in quality, some of it rather scrappy, some of it rather good, but strangely not all the artists are given credit on the contents page. Nonetheless, Matthew Sprange's writing is clear throughout, and the book is rounded out with a decent index.

The Quintessential Fighter is not designed to supplant the material in either the Player's Handbook or Sword and Fist, WotC's own supplement covering the Fighter class. Instead, Fighter provides lots of enhancements, allowing players to individualize their fighter characters. Mongoose feels the Fighter class is often lacking when compared with all of the options, abilities and powers available to spell casting classes such as clerics and wizards.

The first of the eleven sections starts at the very beginning of character creation with the concept. The thirteen concepts discussed look at the potential background and how they might come to be adventuring. In addition, each concept provides a bonus and a penalty, providing a first level character with a little something extra. Thus the brutal Thug gains +4 on his intimidation rolls, but -4 to all charisma checks; the Fop can have the feat of Weapon Focus (Rapier) or Finesse (Rapier), but can only have the Armour Proficiency (Light); and the Noble begins with more money, but must always buy better quality equipment. Prestige classes are likewise covered, and run from your expected Swashbuckler and Berserker to the societal lows of Brawler and the epitome of the title, the Legend. This last prestige class will no doubt cause more than one DM to raise an eyebrow, if not both. A Legend gains incredible abilities and prowess in combat, but at the same time has such high entry requirements, player characters that take this prestige class will be rare. If they do, then the Legend should see their favorite fighter through to twentieth level.

One nice addition to the Prestige classes is the Peasant Hero, which is actually intended for NPC commoners to take! Roleplaying a commoner who earns enough experience to become a Peasant Hero could make for an interesting and challenging game. The commoner NPC class gets attention elsewhere in the book as well, with new weapons, such as the Carpenter's Axe and the War Rake, as well as an individual fighting style being included with them in mind.

Tricks of the trade is a short section that covers quite a lot. Topics range from the advantages of a fighter constructing their own arms and armour, to archers placing called shots, to duelling and jousting (the latter being useful in the rules for tournaments later on in the book). Duels are one on one combats where the duelling skill is as important as your ability to fight. Each duel is conducted by rolling for initiative and the winner conducting three passes or actions. These can be as simple as lunging or stepping forward to crowd their opponent, but should one pass fail, then both duellists re-roll for initiative and the winner conducts another three passes. This at least has the quick paced feel of duel about it and the rules are quite successful in their effort to differentiate duelling from normal combat.

The new feats in the book can be divided between the general ones that any class can pick and those only available to the Fighter. Anyone can take Armour Penetration or Armour Specialities, but only a fighter can select Rest In Armour or Combat Caster Defence, which enables a Fighter to negate any bonuses that the spell caster gains from the Combat Casting feat. Thus they can still attempt to disrupt someone casting spells at them if they are close enough!

Then we get down to a range of new weapons - both Melee and Ranged. Certainly the ranged weapons are better illustrated, as the style for the melee weapons is a little too angular. Tools for maintaining these weapons are also discussed and illustrated. Every fighter will want a suit of Dragonscale Armour, which although rare, will give him or her an armour class bonus of +10! Other new armour includes the silk shirt - no AC bonus but makes piercing weapon damage easier to heal - and waxed and treated Bugbear Hide.

Many d20 System books have provided rules for the use of black powder weapons, and The Quintessential Fighter gives Mongoose Publishing's take upon them. The book looks at fuse guns, flintlocks and wheel locks, but make it very clear that black powder is a dangerous substance. These guns might give incredible advantages in being able to penetrate armour, but they are both difficult and dangerous to use.

Once a Fighter has a few feats under his belt and perhaps a Prestige class as well, what he really needs is a style. Having found a fighting school and a master that will accept him, a Fighter trains to perfection and hones his capabilities in the use of a specific set of weapons and armour. This can be the Orcish double-headed axe of the Bloodsteel style or the heavy armour favoured by dwarves defending their cities, or the long sword and whip required by Quisane style found amongst slavers and city guards. Once accepted by a school, a Fighter is an initiate, who may progress in levels of mastery through the style, learning more of the school's maneuvers. These each have their requirements in terms of experience level, statistics and game time, before the next style level can be acquired. There are styles to match whatever a player might want and Fighters can learn more than one, though other classes may only learn a single style. That aside, finding and gaining acceptance to a school could be the subject of an adventure or two in itself. Strangely, though there are styles for Orcs, Dwarves and humanoids, there are none here specific to the Elven race (a later book, perhaps?).

The remainder of the book is devoted to building strongholds and the Open Mass Combat System (OMCS). First seen in a cut down version in the Seas of Blood series, this is an abstract combat system for handling small battles. Simply, units are treated as characters in d20 terms and thus use the same mechanics as players would in a normal melee. Rules adding magic and war machines are included, as well as integrating individual player characters, who can lead a unit, but roll to attack for themselves and so on.

Finally The Quintessential Fighter contains all of the tables summarizing the books rules, plus a set of plainly laid out character sheets specific to the class. I do hope that Mongoose makes these available to download from their website as photocopying them will probably break the back cover.

The Quintessential Fighter is a book aimed at giving a greater range of options to Fighter characters as they progress in levels. Certainly the new feats and styles are not going to be available to characters until they have gained a few levels, but they are worth the bonuses they provide, and help establish the character's unique identity. While the contents do give the fighter class some advantages, these must be earned, and serve to bring the class in line with others. The rules for strongholds and the OMCS take the game to a broader campaign scope over the individualistic style seen at lower levels. Not only is this a useful book, it provides good value for the money at 128-pages for $19.95, even more so when compared to WotC's shorter Sword and Fist sourcebook which covers two classes. While no book is indispensable, if you want to individualize and customise your Fighter character, The Quintessential Fighter is the perfect choice, which bodes well for future releases in The Collector's Series.


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