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The sword master is a rather weak 10-level class that seems rather redundant with the weapon master class already presented in Chapter Four.
The topkick, with a full attack bonus, two good saves, and an ability at every level, seems a bit powerful. The abilities of the class are an odd mix of commander-like abilities, sneakiness, and outright kill-power, but are all related in some way to fighting with others at your side.
The veteran is the weakest prestige class. It is basically a soldier that has been a soldier for a long time. Last I checked, that was perfectly represented by a mid-to-high-level fighter. The class is also far too powerful -- an ability every level, including a few bonus feats, one good and two 'medium' saves, and a full base attack bonus. The implementation is wonky, and the concept is silly and already covered by a base class.
NPCs everywhere. This chapter is a gigantic list of characters discussed in the novels, from the Dominator to the Lady. Each character, of which there are many, is given a fairly detailed write-up and game statistics. A very nice addition if you plan to introduce these characters into your game, and it keeps the GM from having to figure out what level the Dominator would be (75th, if you want to know).
A bestiary is the focus of this chapter. First, there's a brief discussion on creatures from the Monster Manual and how they fit into a Black Company game. Following that is a slew of new creatures direclty from the novels. Black Watchers, Catacomb Guardians, Centaurs of the Plain of Fear, The Demon Hound, the Dark Passage, True Dragons, Forvalaka, Horses of Charm, human NPC foes (such as Shadowlander Soldiers and Imperial Soldiers), Imps, Manta, Menhir, Needleteeth, Old Father Tree, Shadows of the Plain of Glittering Stone, Shindai Kus Horror, Smoke Serpent, Spirits, Toadkiller Dog, War Elephants, and Windwhales are all here.
The first Appendix is the complete roster of the Black Company. None are given game statistics or complete write-ups, though some entries will refer the reader back to Chapter Thirteen, if that chapter contains a write-up and statistics for the given character.
Appendix II is an extremely useful spell reference table giving casting times, and a step-by-step of spellcasting.
The final portion of the book, Appendix III, gives the rules for a card game called 'Tonk' that is played in the Black Company setting. It seems like kind of a fun game, actually.
So is it worth it?
Absolutely. That is, if you enjoy the setting, or even if you just want to make your d20 games more gritty and dark. Either way, this book should be considered an absolute must. However, if you dislike the d20 System, are disinterested in the Black Company setting, and don't have any interest in gritty, dark fantasy -- then this book probably isn't for you.
Due to the huge amount of setting information and advice, the value isn't quite as good if you only want the book for the crunchy bits to make your d20 games more gritty and dark. That said, it's still not a bad investment so long as you recognize that you're paying from a lot of information you won't use. And that's the best feature of this book; You can dump all the setting information and still use the rules for your own setting. That is what makes a gaming book worthwhile - portability. Don't like the Black Company books? Fine - tear the rules in this product right out of the setting and slapped them into a gritty setting that you do like. But by all means - buy this book.
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