Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 18 May 2024

A Class Collection

The Masterclass Codex is a compilation of compilations. It complies two supplements—A Touch of Class: Seven New Classes for 5th Edition and A Touch More Class: 9 More Classes for 5th Edition—into one volume, both of which compile content from EN5ider, EN Publishing’s Patreon magazine dedicated to supporting Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Together, it compiles a total of sixteen new Classes, from the Alchemist and the Bloodweaver to the Savant and the Tinkerer. In between there are a lot of new spellcasting Classes, though physical Classes are not totally ignored, and a lot of options for the Dungeon Master and player alike. The player, of course, to play, but the Dungeon Master to pick and choose from in terms of what she wants to see in her game world. Thus, a Dungeon Master could take one, two, or more of these Classes and make them particular to her campaign—or parts of her campaign—or she could throw everything into the mix and say have them all come together in a setting like Planescape.

The format of the Classes in The Masterclass Codex follows that of The Player’s Handbook. It opens with an explanation of the class, suggestions for a quick build, features of the class, before delving into the particulars of the class. Added to this is a little fiction to add flavour. Alongside all of this, there are new Feats and spells, monsters, and a whole bit more. This ‘more’ rounds out the entries in the supplement and develops ways in which they can be brought into a game.

The Masterclass Codex opens with the Alchemist. This combines magic with scientific rigour for a spellcaster that throws acid, cold, or fire bombs, and then concocts potions and mixes for its spells. It is not quite clear if the Alchemist is throwing these vials or drinking them. The Alchemist makes Discoveries, which can be Smart Alchemy which allows a bomb to explode and target only hostile targets, Extend Potion to double its duration, Potion of Rejuvenation to restore a spell slot, and Spontaneous Recovery to amplify his healing without a short rest. Advanced Sciences are the Alchemist’s specialities and include the Sciences of Creation, Destruction, Illumination, Mutation, and Regeneration. These respectively enable the Alchemist to craft a homunculus out of clay and remould it as a servant and combatant; to enhance his bombs; to temporarily enhance mental attributes and gain mental spells; to physically enhance the body though a cost to Intelligence, though this cannot be repeated too often, lest the Alchemist poison himself; and to enhance healing and even gain resurrection! To this, ‘Scientific Sorcery’ gives the Alchemist’s Apprentice Background, new items, and even Feats like the Alchemical Artillerist, making him better at throwing alchemical weapons, and Pernicious Poisoner, to faster produce poisons.

There are a lot of interesting options here, but some step on the toes of other Classes. The Science of Mutation pushes the Alchemist towards the Barbarian Class, whilst the Science of Regeneration leans towards the Cleric Class. Other aspects feel underdeveloped, like the Pernicious Poisoner Feat. It is great for creating poisons, but not using them. What about adding their use to the bomb-throwing ability of the Class, so what you have is a battlefield poisoner? Combine that with Smart Alchemy and you have targeted poison bombs—nasty! Lastly, if this Class is supposed to be about adding science to magic, what about being able to identify potions and poisons?

The Cardcaster draws on the Tarot deck to cast spells, and actually requires a player to have one in order to determine what spells his character can cast. For example, a First Level Cardcaster has a hand size of two and draws two of the Major Arcana. The Fool gives the options Detect Poison and Disease, Expeditious Retreat, Hideous Laughter, and Mage Armour, whilst The Magician lists Burning Hands, Create/Destroy Water, Detect Magic, Floating Disc, Unseen Image, or Silent Image. The Cardcaster selects the spell and expends the card. In game, the Cardcaster can also throw cards to inflict magical slashing damage. In terms of development, the Cardcaster focuses on particular arcana, the Knight of Swords turning the Cardcaster into a sword-wielding spellcaster; Page of Wands gives greater command of the user’s Tarot deck; the Queen of Cups lets the user spread her love by supporting others; King of Pentacles makes the Cardcaster richer; and Jack of Beasts has the caster summon and control beasts. Not all of these are necessarily adventure options, the Queen of Cups and King of Pentacles feel like they suited to campaigns where adventuring rarely done, and the Jack of Beasts is an oddity that does not fit the tarot. Overall, the Class would be interesting play, adding a physicality and uncertainty with its card-drawing aspect.

The Diabolist is an Evil Class enters into dark pacts with devils and possibly demons. It is accompanied by range new types of both like the Accuser Devil or the Coloxus, and includes the feat Voodoo, which raises its own issues in tying an aspect of a real-world religion into an evil Class like the Diabolist. The Diabolist is suited to certain campaigns or in general as an NPC Class, and even then, perhaps it could have been presented as a variant of the Warlock Class which fundamentally is very similar. The Feywalker draws from the powers of the Fey realms to become a chaotic, even whimsical, combatants that flit around the battlefield, gaining a fey companion and fey charm, and binding his soul to the fey through either the Sphere of Beasts, Sphere of Plants, or Sphere of Entropy. Of these Spheres, the first two step into similar areas to that of the Druid Class, whilst the third plays up the randomness of chaos. Ultimately though, this is a fighter best at home in the forest, embracing its mysteries. The Morph Class is a shapechanger, connected to either nature or the fey, either specialising in infiltration and deception as a Doppelganger, raw animal power and presence in Primordial Beast, the scoundrel’s antics of the Trickster. Again, it feels a little like the Druid, one who has specialised in shapechanging, yet at the same time wondering whether Primordial Beast would better fit the Druid and the Trickster the Feywalker.

If the Alchemist is one of the Classes that stands out in 
The Masterclass Codex, the other is the Noble. Like its Warlord counterpart from Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, the Noble is all about supporting his allies. The Noble can offer a rallying word for an ally to recover Hit Points direct them to take an action on his turn. The Noble either follows the Path of the Brave to become a better warrior; the Path of the Heart to beguile others with his innocence, though this comes at the cost of martial abilities; the Path of the Mystic Royal to combine spellcasting and command of others; and the Path of the Tactician to further direct and command the actions of his allies. This is very nicely done Class overall, perhaps best suited to larger groups where the Noble has the room to stand to the side offering advice and actions. Of the four subclasses, the Path of the Heart really stands out for its roleplaying potential as everyone around such a Noble works to keep her alive whilst benefiting from her advice and actions. Throw in a few scoundrel-like Classes alongside the Noble and it could be a lot of fun.

The Occultist stands out as the oddity in 
The Masterclass Codex, because it is not a Class that specialises in the occult per se, although it does bring an element of horror into play. Instead, it is a transformative Class in that Occultist delves into dark lore or suffers from a tainted family bloodline that will turn him into a supernatural beast or monster of some kind. These are represented by multiple paths. These are the Abomination, more Mister Hyde than Doctor Jekyll; the cosmic power of the Horror; the dark energies of the Nightmare; the primal acidity of the Ooze; and the classic powers of the Vampire and the Werecreature. Of these, the Path of the Ooze is the most original. The Class as such feels more suited to either NPC use or a horror-focused campaign or setting.

If the Occultist brings the macabre to 
The Masterclass Codex, the Bloodweaver uses his abilities to control blood to empower himself and affect others. The Traditions of the Class enable the healing of the Bloodweaver and his allies with Bloodbinder; to curse, cripple, and kill with Crimson Witch; and even to turn the Bloodweaver’s own blood into weapons as a Scarlet Reaper. This is in addition to Disciplines, such as Blood Reach which turns the Bloodweaver’s fingernails into hard-as-steel (surely iron would have been better?), ten-foot-long talons, or Taint Blood, poisoning a target’s blood! The Class lists multiple Disciples, all of which require the expenditure of points from the Player Character’s Sanguine Reservoir. Some of these Disciplines and abilities do require the Bloodweaver to suffer damage as well as expend point from the Sanguine Reservoir. The Bloodweaver is an enjoyably horrible Class, being more akin to a blood-themed superhero—or rather anti-superhero—than necessarily a classic Dungeons & Dragons-style Player Character.

The superhero feel continues with the luck-based Fatebender. Where the Bloodweaver has points from his Sanguine Reservoir, the Fatebender has, of course, Fate Points. They can be expended to have something improbable happen nearby or force someone nearby (including himself) to reroll an attack, ability check, or saving throw. The Destined Prospects for the Class include Mascot who radiates good luck around him to his allies and benefits from their good fortune in return; the Jinx instead radiates bad luck to his enemies and benefits from their misfortune in return—including ‘Under a Ladder’ and ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’; and Weaver lets him change fate around him. The latter is not as fun or entertaining as Jinx, and with both Mascot and Jinx, there is something of the swashbuckler to the Class.

If the Occultist was the oddity from A Touch of Class: Seven New Classes for 5th Edition, then the Gemini is the oddity from A Touch More Class: 9 More Classes for 5th Edition. As the name suggests, the Class is all about twins and doubles, and thematically, it has Balances between the two rather than disciplines or paths. The Atavist plays with age, balancing between young and old; Equalist between mind and body, one embodying the former, the latter the other, and this changes every day; and the Reluctant Hero between fear and fearlessness. Roleplaying wise, this has possibilities, but it forces a player to roleplay two characters rather one and that complicates things. The Geomancer draws from the five Chinese elements—earth, fire, metal, water, and wood—and follows one four different Orders. These are Order of the Apothecary, Order of the Architect, Order of the Conqueror, and Order of the Rune Knight. They are respectively, healers, builders—civil servants and city planners are suggested, seekers of peace through conflict, and mighty warriors. The Geomancer is underwritten and of the subclasses, the Order of the Apothecary and Order of the Architect just about fit, whereas the others do not quite.

The Gunfighter lets the Dungeon Master and her players bring firearms into the game. It has its particular Fighting Styles—Archery, Carbineer (gunfighting from horseback), Harquebusier (using hand cannons!), Matchlock Mobility, Point-Black Shooter, and Sharp Aim—though Archery is the odd one out here. The Codes of the Gun are Bushwhacker, for the Player Character who prefers to ambush his targets; Drifter, for the famous or infamous travelling gunfighter; and Maverick, which brings magical gun tricks to the battlefield. Annoyingly, there are no rules for actually using guns to accompany the Class, a major omission. Otherwise, this is a sold Class inspired by Westerns, but mapped back onto earlier firearms.

The Lodestar begins play with a broken soul, but able to coalesce those pieces of broken soul into physical magical spheres that the Lodestar has to constantly keep tethered to his soul. As tethered as they are, the Lodestar can fling them at an enemy to inflict damage, use them to block attacks, and more. Training method include Control, which grants fine manipulation of the spheres; Imaginative to enhance the Lodestar’s artistic capability and imagination as well as the Lodestar’s form; and Instinct in which the spheres become part of Lodestar’s training and combat regimen. The Class feels inspired by the Ioun stones of Dungeons & Dragons, but then turned into an odd sort of martial artist. Overall, it does not really come together in a way that is enticing to play.

The Monster Tamer offers different ways to capture and train pets. The Class adheres three different Regimens. The Animalist has respect for animals and his pet to enhance it; the Monstrous finds kinship with monsters rather than beasts; the Oddball is drawn to the weirder creatures, like the Gelatinous Cube or the Otyugh! The Monster Tamer also teaches his pets tricks, including attacks, using the features of the creature, and even unnatural behaviour! The choice of tamed monster can be really powerful, backed up with a surprisingly high number of Hit Points for the Class.

Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, the Savant is a Class with the Aptitudes of Adversary, which is all about manoeuvring the enemy into danger; the Chirurgeon and its focus on healing; and the Co-ordinator, who uses knowledge to aid others on the battlefield and make deductions about others. The third of these then, combines elements of the Noble with classic detective, whilst the first is a fighter variant. These are backed up with Tricks which distract or direct opponents across the battlefield. Inspired, of course, by Sherlock Holmes and similar figures with genius levels of observation and deduction, there is lots of roleplaying potential in the Class, even if, ultimately the Aptitudes slightly underwhelm as choices.

Lastly, the Tinkerer brings the gadgeteer to Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. The Tinkerer—not necessarily a Gnome, of course—craft ‘Affect-Engines’ that consume mystical power and transform into elemental energy, either cold, flame, or lightning, which can be spat out for various effects. One issue is that upon first glance, the Class cannot do anything really interesting until its gets to Second Level. This is not quite the case, as the Tinkerer can build items, which require an Affect-Engine, for example, a hand-rocket or a power-tool. Once a Tinkerer acquires a few Levels and the ability to have more than one Affect-Engine in play, he can construct more powerful items and items which a few more options in their use. All this is really only obvious in looking at the list of example items at the end of the Class description, so only then does the Tinkerer not look as underpowered at First Level. That said, the creation of these devices does not money as well as a bit of time.

Once the Tinkerer is Second Level, he can cast spells and can attack an Affect-Engine to a weapon or object to add its elemental effect, including inflicting extra damage by expending a spell slot. The Tinkerer focuses on one of three Fields of Study. The Bombardier turns his Affect-Engines into artillery pieces; the Mechanic over engineers his Affect-Engine to improve its efficiency; and the Steam Knight turns the heavy armour worn by the Tinkerer into power armour! Overall, this looks like a fun Class to play around with and if there was a suitable Steampunk setting, this would make a suitable addition.

In addition to the extra demons and devils for the Diabolist Class and backgrounds for the Alchemist, 
The Masterclass Codex adds ‘Tailored Magic Items’ that a Player Character of a particular Class gets better at using. For example, the Diabolist’s Whip increases that Class’s ability to conjure demons and devils and gains bonuses to both attack and damage, but later inflicts extra necrotic damage. There are items listed for both the supplement’s new Classes and the standard ones in the Player’s Handbook.

The Masterclass Codex is very much two books in one—A Touch of Class: Seven New Classes for 5th Edition and A Touch More Class: 9 More Classes for 5th Edition—with one having a red trade dress and the other a green trade dress. The layout is clean and tidy, and everything is very accessible, especially with its larger typeface. The artwork, some of it publicly available images, is variable in its quality. Overall, it is and it does feel very much a like a compilation.

The Masterclass Codex is what you might call a Marmite book, Marmite soft, dark brown foodstuff that is so salty-tasting—without actually containing any salt—that it divides most people into two groups. They either love it or they loath it. So it is with The Masterclass Codex, and not once, but twice. People are going to either love it or loathe it because it is written for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, and then people are going to either love it or loathe it because they like or dislike one, two, or more of the Classes in its pages. For those that dislike it, for either reason, The Masterclass Codex is book to avoid, though there is nothing to stop a Game Master from taking any one of the Classes in its pages and stripping it down to adapt to the Dungeons & Dragons-style game of her choice. On the other hand, there is a lot to like in the pages of The Masterclass Codex. The sixteen Classes are interesting and will add both a different flavour and a different style of play to a game, as well as presenting challenges in terms of getting used to how they play. Their inclusion both adds to the play of Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and to the Dungeon Master’s campaign world. The Gun Fighter adds firearms and so they exist in the world, the Occultist suggests a horror element, perhaps similar to that of Ravenloft, and the Noble adds a sense of command and control and so on. The Noble is the one Class that will make it to play, particularly if a group is missing the Warlord from Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition.

The Masterclass Codex is not a book that every Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition group or Dungeon Master is going to want or need. Its contents are, after all, optional. However, as a set of options, having them on the shelf is no bad thing. They are a set of new play options to try out, a set of new play options around which to build a world.


En Publishing will be at UK Games Expo which takes place on Friday, May 31st to Sunday June 2nd, 2024.

No comments:

Post a Comment