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Mon Sep 17, 2007 2:56 pm
Complete Champion - Reviewed
Title - Complete Champion
Publisher - Wotc
System - D&D 3.5
Format - Hardback
Pages - 160
MSRP - $29.95
Rating - 4 stars
Reviewer - Glenn Vincent Dammerung aka GVDammerung
In the 3.0 and 3.5 Editions of the D&D game, the World of Greyhawk setting has been supported in core products through being designated as the default “core” setting. Too often, many designers have done little with this opportunity. The Complete Champion reverses this trend, making extensive use of the World of Greyhawk throughout, perhaps more than any other “core” book.
The Complete Champion, subtitled A Player’s Guide to Divine Heroes, is not a book about clerks or paladins. Rather, it provides alternate ways to integrate the divine into a D&D campaign, allowing every character a chance to meaningfully express their faith and providing the rules crunch to back that up. In this, the Complete Champion does a very good job.
Between the Covers
Chapter 1is roughly divided into two parts.
In the first part, a number of exemplars of D&D churches are presented. It is important to note that these are exemplars only. While “Each church presented here is the default interpretation for the main church of one of the core game’s deities,” at the same time, “Any church can incorporate several sects with different attitudes and approaches.” See p. 5. The churches presented are:
The Anvil of Creation - Moradin
The Assembly of Balance - Ehlonna
The Blessed Bounty of Yondalla
The Brotherhood of Equals - Obad-hai
The Eternal Library - Boccob
Fingers of the Laughing Rogue - Olidammara
Fist of Valor - Heironeous
The Mighty Arms of Kord
The Ruby Temple - Wee Jas
The Scales of Balance - St. Cuthbert
The Shining Light of Pelor
The Temple of True Aim - Corellon Larethian
The Temple of the Twinkling Eye - Garl Glittergold
Also presented are abbreviated entries for:
The Temple of Carnage - Erythnul
The Fury of the Eye - Gruumsh
The Fist of Tyranny - Hextor
The Fane of the Skull - Nerull
The Hall of Secrets - Vecna
As should be immediately apparent, some of these names roll awkwardly off the tongue. Perhaps as awkward, or intriguingly, many of these entries put slightly different spins on some of these deities that might not be expected. While nothing is revolutionary, there are enough “huh” moments to give a reader pause if they are familiar with other expositions of the faiths of these deities. This is not necessarily bad, however, just different.
While details of each faith’s presentation are beyond the scope of this review, two of the more interesting descriptions are those of Pelor and Wee Jas. Of Pelor, it is said, “The Shining One is almost universally respected, if not worshiped, on the surface of the earth . . .” See p. 22. Reading Pelor’s entry, and being aware of how frequently Pelor appears in 3x products, it is more than arguable that Pelor is close to being the supreme human deity. The entry for Wee Jas embraces necromancy to a degree not seen heretofore. While distinct from Nerull, Wee Jas is affirmatively presented as a deity of necromancers - to include a reworking and loosening on her sometimes proscription against raising the dead.
Th second part of Chapter 1presents the mechanics for creating D&D churches. The system presented is domain based and the standard domains are run through in terms of philosophy and affiliation. In this, the Complete Divine uses a modified version of the affiliations system presented in Player’s Handbook II. With the material presented here, designing other churches will be a snap.
Chapter 2 presents alternate class features that accentuate the divine, new feats, new organizations and the inevitable prestige classes.
The alternate class features are a nice touch but a mixed bag. In any number of cases, a PC is unlikely to benefit from the alternate class feature and may very well suffer mechanically. Moreover, not all of the alternate class features really seem appropriate in the sense of accentuating the divine. Take it or leave it as it suits.
The new feats are made up of general feats, domain feats, divine feats and reserve feats ported over from the Complete Mage. There are 42 feats in all. Of course, the feats making the biggest splash are those relating to healing, one of which, Touch of Healing, is a reserve feat. Simply put, healing is made more readily available. While working against the classic resource management model, this is in line with the apparent philosophy of the to be forthcoming 4th Edition D&D that looks to allow characters to do more, more often.
Chapter 2 really kicks into overdrive with the presentation of new organizations to which PCs might become affiliated. These organizations are:
Disciples of Legend - Followers of the Six From Shadow who helped defeat Tharizdun
Guardians of the Green - Often militant tree huggers, usually rangers and druids
The Paragnostic Assembly - Worshipers and seekers after knowledge in the abstract
Pelor’s Shadow Guard - Pelor’s Black Ops Specialists, allied with Heironeous’ Black Ops
Of these organizations, the Disciples of Legend is of Oerth shaking moment. Seems when the gods got together to imprison Tharizdun there were humans around who went to war with Tharizdun’s followers. The Six from Shadow who were on the side of the gods survived - Dardallion of Greyhawk, Imdastri of the Heavens, Ktolemagne Sky-Reader, Orsos the Black, Sunyarta Eight-Fingers and Lord Marshal Sir Reikhardt of Geoff. So, when Big T was imprisoned, both the City of Greyhawk and Geoff were already in existence to judge by the sobriquets. As founding of both can be dated, it seems Big T was imprisoned only a short while ago, comparatively speaking. Say what?
Meanwhile, Pelor and Heironeous it seems are in need of a group who can perform actions that neither church would be willing to publically acknowledge, a group capable and willing to take actions that neither church would want to be seen as publically endorsing. Say what? One is reminded of Remo Williams, the Master of Sinanju and the Destroyer novels whose underlying premise was that democracy either doesn’t work or can’t work strictly within the bounds of the constitution and therefore needs an extra-constitutional black ops squad to “fix” matters and keep the constitution “safe.” Okay, then! Crypto-fascist “good-guys!” It is different, I’ll give it that.
The prestige classes presented work within these organizations in the main:
Fist of the Forest (3 Lvls, Guardians of the Green, monk-like abilities)
Forest Reeve (5 Lvls, Guardians of the Green, ranger-like)
Holt Warden (10 Lvls, Guardians of the Green, woodsy divine caster)
Mythic Exemplar (10 Lvls, Disciples of Legend, devotees of the Six from Shadow)
Ordained Champion (5 Lvls, Any lawful, NG or NE, Hextorians, predates split with Heironeous)
Paragnostic Apostle (5 Lvls, Paragnostic Assembly, quasi-agnostic spellslingers)
Paragnostic Initiate (3 Lvls, Paragnostic Assembly, quasi-agnostic non-spellslinger helpers)
Sanctified One (5 Lvls, not a cleric nor a paladin but something in-between)
Shadow Spy (10 Lvls, Pelor’s Shadow Guard, spellcasting sneaks for infiltration)
Shadowstriker (3 Lvls, Pelor’s Shadow Guard, direct action types for “wet work”)
Squire of Legend (3 Lvls,Disciples of Legend, helpers of Six from Shadow)
It is VERY cool that so many of these PrCs are useful to the previously presented organizations in multiples. It is also VERY cool that many of the PrC’s are only 3 or 5 level PrCs, which facilitates ease of acquisition thus further supporting the organizations.
Chapter 3 presents spells. Lots of spells. Some good. Some not so much. Standing out, however, are a set of spells whose effects vary by deity worshiped. Deific Bastion, Divine Retribution, Footsteps of the Divine, and Interfaith Blessing (and to a lesser extent Weight of Sin) all vary in their effect depending on which deity you follow or invoke. This is both flavorful and way cool!
Chapter 4 presents magic items. Again, it’s a mixed bag. Standing out, however, are holy symbols keyed to the default gods, that is to say Greyhawk, which vary in their use by deity. Power components that are also keyed to the deities and vary by deity. And domain staves (staffs) that vary by domain and hence deity. These are all very flavorful and useful at the same time. Why didn’t Wotc’s designers think of this level of divine specialization (including the spells mentioned above) sooner? Good stuff.
Chapter 5 presents quests and special holy sites. The quests all implicate various deities and could be used to enhance any campaign that uses the core, that is to say Greyhawk, deities:
The Elemental Wellsprings (nexuses of elemental power, Obad-hai & Ehlonna, Imix is badguy)
The Pantheistic Tournament (MORTAL COMBAT! Or the Olympics, Kord)
The Ghostly Lair (Pelor, Book of Exalted Deeds, sacred Pelorian site, missing pilgrims, ghosts)
Ancient Temple (ancient temple of knowledge (Olman?), Boccob, Wee Jas and Vecna want in)
Each of these quests is flavoraful and says something about the churches involved. The Ancient Temple is the most intriguing as it pits the followers of three gods of knowledge against each other and presents what looks like an Olman site, although the word “Olman” does not appear.
The holy sites include:
Athenaeum of Boccob (big libraries)
Cold Forge of Moradin (power forges)
Coliseum of Kord (arenas favored by the god)
Palace of Burning Ice (Tiamat’s elemental caverns)
Sepulcher of Wee Jas (blessed crypts of the goddess)
Temple of the First Dawn (pre-human, holiest site of Pelor)
Most of these are what you would expect with the notable exception of the Temple of the First Dawn. First, it is holiest site of the church of Pelor. Second, it is pre-human, saying what about Pelor’s faith? Third, it is ostensibly not located in the Flanaess but “in a distant land, atop a plateau so high that the air is thin and the wind blows cold . . .” Okay.
If you are a Greyhawk fan, the Complete Champion is 5 Stars all the way, a “must have.” If you are not looking for the Greyhawk content, the material still fulfills its stated purpose of bringing the divine into a campaign short of clerics and paladins. Anyway you slice it, that last is useful and something not much seen before. Well and interestingly written, the Complete Divine gets 4 Stars on its general utility and the realization of its theme. A very good book.