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This new version of the Unearthed Arcana is very different in content from the multitude of other d20 supplements out there. Unlike so many of these others, it's not just another collection of new feats, skills, prestige classes etc. What it is is a range of ideas and options, both additions and alternatives to the existing rules, with which to customise characters and campaigns. To offer some examples: in common with such game systems as White Wolf and GURPS, D&D has now added the idea of "character flaws" as a counterpart to feats (take a flaw - get an extra feat), as well as "traits" which can be taken in addition to feats/flaws with each feat containing closely related game benefits and hindrances. There are pages on variant character classes and races to tailor them to suit most concepts (aquatic dwarves, warrior sorcerors etc) while retaining the balance between their abilities, as well as offering variant spell casting systems. Some of the thinking behind the creation of the rules is included, as well as sidebars with brief comments describing house rules that some people have used. Extra rules options have been added to cover such things as contacts, reputation, sanity, action points, wounds and vitality - things that were introduced in other d20 setting and now brought together for easy access. It's perhaps not the ideal book for the newcomer to D&D, but for the more experienced DM or player it's full of interesting and (generally) useful ideas, some of which might be just what you needed.
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It's a bit of a hodge-podge of new rules (all of which are optional) but which can spruce up your game quite a bit. Environmental races, flaws, bloodlines and more; they all offer new role-playing and/or power-gaming opportunities. Great book.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Some Decent Material28 April 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
Overall, I'm pleased that I bought this one, though it is far from perfect. Perhaps the Hit-or-Miss quality of the text, though, is derived not so much from poor conception or execution, but rather from the opposite; after all, this text attempts to collect some of the more interesting "house rules" variants out there, and by definition, different variants would seem to appeal to different gamer-geeks. Cool Things: --sections on "reducing level adjustments" (buying off LA with XP later on) and "bloodlines" (adding a touch of bizarre ancestry to a PC) are well thought out. --in terms of class variants, some of the wizards are decent, but the paladin (i.e. of any alignment) really shines. --the "character traits" (personal quirks added at generation, a la *Fallout*) and "character flaws" (taking penalties at generation to add bonus feats, a la White Wolf) are long overdue to this system; the "spelltouched feats" (adding event-specific magical abilities) are also fertile. --the "defense bonus" variant (a level-contingent statistic like attack bonus), "armor as damage reduction" (self-explanatory?), and "damage conversion" (armor changes lethal damage to non-lethal) are all great; the "variable modifiers" variant (instead of BAB +4, say, one would instead add d8 to the standard d20 roll) is also smart. --many of the magic variants are useful, such as "summon monster variants" (individualized or themed lists), "metamagic components" (such feats have costs in this case), "item familiars" (why not? there's tons of intelligent constructs otherwise), and "incantations" (complex magickes that can be cast by anyone). --the final section, about campaigns, really delivers; here, we get rules for "contacts" (a la White Wolf), "Reputation" (yeah, like in *Baldur's Gate*), "Honor" (which would seem to be self-explanatory), "Taint" (evil corrupts, after all), and "sanity" (yes, that nearly perfect stat from *Call of Cthulhu*). Holistically, the text displays the same sub-par attention to editing as other WotC releases, and the artwork varies considerably in quality (compare the "Paladin of Tyranny" on 53 to the gamer-geek group on 134, for instance). I tend to consider the rest of the text uninteresting for my purposes, though others will surely, and with good reason, find such items useful. And that diversity is precisely the value of the text overall. (It is fair to note in this connection that nothing is particularly badly done, though the "racial paragon classes" are a bit too ubermenschy for my political taste--the game already suffers from a tolkienesque proto-fascistic racialism as it stands; no need to make it even more arriere garde.) The text might be a bit pricey, however, if one ends up using merely one third of the rules contained herein. That said, I'd note that the rules for sanity alone justify the (reduced amazon.com) expense for me.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Creative, interesting, far too brief, and the price has come down...20 Oct. 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
- First: Don't buy at full price. Some Amazon marketplace sellers are selling this as low as $9. I was expecting disappointment based on the low-balled price, but I was wrong!
- Second: Don't confuse this with TSR AD&D 1st Ed Unearthed Arcana or Sword & Sorcery Arcana Unearthed. Both cool books.
- Third: Don't read the Amazon description. It makes you think this book is all about strongholds for some reason...
- A minor annoyance is that WOTC already have a DMG2 released and a Player's Handbook 2 planned, and the material herein would be better placed/organized into a larger 500+ page Player's Handbook and larger 500+ page DMG respectively or just merge all these things entirely. Monte Cook did it with a huge Arcana Evolved. Why can't WOTC do this? Why all the individual books (this one is barely 200+ pages)? It's stupid to flip through 100 different books to see all the different classes and races available, make 1 race book, 1 class book and so on...Everyone else is doing it (Moongoose, Green Ronin) but WOTC. I think Hasbro has enough money.
- Its variants, house rules, and draws from a variety of sources and influences old and new as others have suggested. You have race variants (desert elf, aquatic gnome, etc. not terribly exciting), class variants (new paladins, etc., cool), Gestalt classes vs. multi-classes (nice), many "Bloodline" race-types (a succubus mates with a human creating a human with some demon bonuses - very interesting), Character traits and flaws, item familiars (very cool), insanity (which goes back to the original AD&D DMG 1st Ed), Rep and Honor (goes back to original AD&D Oriental Adventures 1st ED), Spell points instead of Spell memorization (fire and forget method) (many people use this spell pt house rule), the racial Paragon (sort of like a Prestige Race). On and on. Very neat stuff...
Criticism that this book has contradictory rules or not-well-thought-out cohesiveness is missing the point. I like this book more than the regular DMG or PHB.
81 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Not a bad rescource for the DM on the go27 Feb. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
I'll agree with a few other reviewers that the price can seem high, and much of the content is available elsewhere. However, if you're no longer a HS/university student long on time, short on money, I think the book is well worth it. With a personal life, career, family and home, I don't have the time I used to have, so having this nice little compilation of options (some are very similar to ones already in use by my group) is worth the $20some I spent on it. I'd rather spend my precious free time creating a good adventure for my players than on creating optional systems for everything, and that also goes for scouring the web and bookshelves for the tweaks and options in this one book. It's like going to Jiffy Lube; sure I can change my own oil, but for $20 I'll go across the street and hit the bank, get a coffee and otherwise enjoy my free time while they handle it :) I'm sure someone will flame me for being lazy or uncreative, but hey, my time, my money, my game. But if you're like me and struggle to find the time to do the big stuff (adventures, plots, maps, NPCs, backstory) as it is, this book is likely going to work for you.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The BEST book (outside of a PH) for characters!31 Jan. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Ok, its time to start a new campaign and I've played everything there is to play (aside from the myriad of prestige classes that don't interest me). What am I going to play you ask yourself for hours. If you have ever had this problem, like me, probably because you've been playing D&D for far too long, this book is your savior, plain and simple.
Back in second edition there was a game called Player's Option, if you recall, and it gave you a good deal of freedom to customize your character. This book goes well beyond that. Its actually quite interesting. There are little tweaks for all sorts of races due to climate or elementally based races. Follow this up with a lot of variants for classes which are basically swapping a few things in and out in most cases, sometimes losing a trait from one class and gaining another, while some are new. In my opinion, this adds a lot more depth to the game because if you do want to play one of the 10,000 prestige classes, it gives you more than one avenue to get to them. If you do not like prestige classes, then this gives you more options than the dozen or so base classes that currently exist. I would particularly recommend this if you're fond of playing Specialist Wizards (in which case this is a MUST), Barbarians, Monks, or have ever wanted to see a quality representation of an "Anti-paladin." This may be the section of the book you most commonly use, and that would be mostly at character creation.
There are some feats, which are so-so on the usefulness scale but are just so very interesting and characterful. Then, traits to make your character more attuned to how you envision his personality, and flaws to give him special vulnerabilities (and of course there is a benefit to them as well). Its an interesting section to say the least but after that you get into some very wild and, indeed, very fun options, including a variant on weapon proficiency based on weapon groups, variants on armor systems, D&D without levels, and even D&D without hit-points. All I can say is, despite how crazy that sounds, someone obviously put a good deal of thought into it since it is at least mostly viable.
Basically, if you're bored with D&D sometimes, this book is curry powder. It would DEFINITELY spice things up again.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Excellent.19 Feb. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
Let me start out by saying: this was a great book. I'm really glad WotC decided to publish it. The book cut up into 6 main parts: Races. This section was pretty well done. It offeres subraces for most of the standard PHB races for different environments and even some examples of planar-bases races (such as the Fire elf or the Water halfling). They also introduce a system that essentially lets you play creatures with a LA from ECL 1 on. There are a fair number of Bloodlines in this chapter, covering everything from the Doppleganger to the Dragons. What I think is particulary nice about the bloodlines is that there are varrying strengths (so a character with a celestial for a grandfather and another with a celestial for a great great great great grandfather arn't necesarily gonna have the same signs). Classes. Variants galore. There is so much awesome stuff packed in this (relatively short) chapter that I just couldn't do it justice here. Every core class is covered, and many posible class feature changes are printed as well. And yes, there *are* Prestige Class versions of the Bard, Ranger, and Paladin (as well as a Chaotic Good paladin!). But really, you'd have to read this yourself to get the whole picture. Characters. The [Spelltouched] feat is introduced (essentially, you can take a feat to gain powers related to a spell that has been cast on you at some point), as are different skill systems (and an entierly new system for Craft). Traits (little feat-like abilities that are taken primarily at 1st level and offer a roughly equal positive and negative bonuses) and Flaws (major negatives that you can take in exchange for an extra feat at first level) are in this chapter, and a new system for weapon proficiancy (weapon groups) is also here. At the end of it are a bunch of tables that you can roll for inspiration about your character's background. Adventuring. There are a boatload of varient rules here, some about armor (one system has Armor provide less AC in exchange for some DR; another has armor convert lethal damage into nonlethal; and yet another provides a system of a level-based Defense bonus, reminiscent of d20 Modern, as is much of this charpter. Example: Action Points). There are roughly 4 Alternate Hit Point systems, some better fitted for low magic campaigns than standard DnD. There's even a section about Combat Facing, although personally I think that's much more complicated than necessary. Magic. Like the Classes chapter, this section is so good that it's probably wisest just to see it for yourself. Spell Points (See: Psionics), Legendary Weapons, Summon Mosnter variants, Item Familiars, a long list of components for spells that you can use to give them metamagics without increaseing their spell slot level, and even Incantations can be found in this chapter. Campaigns. This section is probably most interesting to DMs since the majority of it is a major component to add to a campaign. Short list: Reputation, Honor Points (in both numerical and immaterial form), a Taint system (far too complicated to go into here. Basically, you becomes physically corrupted and gain power therefrom), Sanity system (very well thought out, highly comprehensive. Will fit great in any campaign with a "dark" feeling. Talk to your players before institution this because it can radically change the way they have to play), Test-Based Prerequisites (to get into PrCs. Example: the Shadowdancer must dance well enough to impress a judge and then sucessfully escape the theatre from several dozen gaurds without directly attacking them), and a simpler way of awarding XP. The book ends with a few pages discussing possible extraplanar varaints, and then gives a few pages that list the variants offered in the book (the idea is that the DM photocopies these pages off and check-marks the things he will be useing so the players know what's pre-approved and what will be left out). All in all, an excellent book that I suggest every DnD group buys.