||An RPG Resource Review:
You might think these two an odd mix at first glance, but both seek riches and fame (or notoriety) by their skills in combat and tactics. You might also think that although interesting to encounter, they might be a bit too specialised to make good adventurer player-characters. Perhaps not... I shall read on and find out!
Chapter 1: Greed and Glory sets out to answer my point about the practicalities of playing either class, with a detailed analysis of their skills, potentials and the way they fit into the Kingdoms of Kalamar campaign setting (although of course the majority of the material can be used wherever your game is set). First up, the Brigand. Basically a thief, traditionally robbing travellers, their main motivation is often not so much the money as what they want to do with it - such as gain enough to move out of an area where there's a price on their head and set themselves up for a more legitimate occupation. Others may like the relaxed lifestyle, without the need for hard work or routine to acquire wealth. Naturally, the risks are as great, if not greater, than the rewards of this career choice. The brigand is a criminal after all, and if caught must face what passes for justice - and even in a fair judicary, public feelings often run high against such a predator. There is an excellent discussion, complete with relevant game mechanics, of likely judicial processes applicable to captured brigands... which may prove useful when any adventurers are arrested, whether or not they are actually brigands. Likewise, there is extensive discussion of bandit tactics in different types of terrain, which should prove useful to anyone called upon to fight in wild country. The 'Brigand' part of this chapter rounds off with a look at the different races' attitude and aptitude for the role, and at how brigands regard members of other character classes, how a brigand can be good (alignment-wise) and how individual brigands or a whole band can feature in your campaign.
Attention then turns to the Gladiator. The identifying characteristic of this trade is not so much the specialism of single combat but the face that such combat is conducted in front of an audience. The classic view is the bloke in an arena but gladiators feature elsewhere as well, such as the swordmaster who may hone his skill for competition or exhibition, and earn his bread as a tutor of sword. Wrestlers, too, fall into this category. There is a discussion of the different forms of gladatorial combat common on Tellene, with reference to different parts of the world and its use as a form of judicial execution as well as an entertainment. As far as motivation is concerned, slave gladiators may fight for their freedom (or at least better treatment), while others are motivated by prize money, fame or the perfection of their art. Again, there's a discussion of how the different races view gladiators and their aptitude for the trade, and how gladiators view members of other character classes. A gladiator may become an adventurer, but usually as a means to get someplace else where he may enter the arena again.
Next, Chapter 2: Brigand and Gladiator Classes delivers all the information you need to generate characters who practise these particular professions, whether you want to play one or need a fully-detailed NPC or two. The groundwork for good role-playing is laid, with the need to work out how your character came to be in a position to acquire the skills to be a brigand or a gladiator, and if appropriate why he chose that path. There are also plenty of ideas as to how to play one effectively, and advice on skill and equipment choices - even which other classes may make good combinations to develop your talents more widely.
Chapter 3 looks at Prestige Classes and Personalities. While the classes presented in Chapter 2 allow full progression to 20th level for the lucky and dedicated, many will appreciate the flexibility and customisation potential of specialising in a prestige class, and a couple are given here. First up is the Ludori, a gladiator who specialises in fighting animals. They can extend this to developing a skill in training animals to fight with and for them, rather than as opponents. Then there's the Raptor, who is a bandit who has developed the skills of an ambush predator to a high level. The Personalities part of this chapter looks at overall concepts which might suit a bandit or gladiator character, such as an arena caster: combine combat skills with magic to devastating effect... while remembering that in formal arena combat magic is often against the rules! A bandit king is an obvious choice for someone with aspirations to leadership, while a fence is a useful contact although unlike the other two less likely to be a player-character. An outlawed mage is one who has thrown in his lot with the criminal elements, either he's already been outlawed or he soon will be once the association becomes known.
Next, Chapter 4: Skills and Feats takes the expected look at existing skills with a particular eye to how bandits and gladiators might use them to effect, and presents some new feats created for them (but useable by anyone who meets any requirements and fancies them, of course). Particularly for gladiators there are a number of 'fighting-style' feats, as well as a couple which let you translate the enthusiasm of a cheering crowd into a bonus to dodge or improve your morale. This is followed by Chapter 5: Weapons, Equipment and Magic Items, which - as you might imagine - provides a fine array of new gear aimed at members of these two professions. Included are many specialist weapons used in specific gladatorial fighting styles.
Chapter 6: Combat is a discussion of favoured styles, strategies and tactics used by brigands and gladiators, each discussed in turn. In particular, various gladatorial fighting styes are analysed. There's also some advice for DMs on how to run a gladatorial combat, taking advantage of its unique feature of being an entertainment as well as a fight.
Chapter 7: Organisations presents several bands of brigands, gladatorial schools and arenas for you to use in your game, or to guide you in devising your own. Finally, Chapter 8: Rogues Gallery provides some ready-made NPCs who again can be used as you require... and who may even spawn some adventure ideas!
Overall, this is an excellent take on two professions common in a fantasy mediaeval world and yet hitherto somewhat neglected within game writing. Even if you only want them around for background flavour, this is well worth the read.
Rating: [4 of 5 Stars!]