Reviews of 'Races of Destiny'
Reviews of 'Races of Destiny'
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One of the primary attractions to any fantasy setting is the fact that there are strange and exotic races that do not exist within the confines of the world we live in. Elves, dwarves, gnomes, ogres, goblins, and dragons are but a few of the exotic races that are in such a setting. While many previous D&D supplements such as the Draconomicon have explored the various facets of these races, few have focused on the Races of Destiny—humans and their half-human kin—who are the most dominant force in virtually all of the D&D settings. The focus on humans and their kin is both the strength and the weakness of Races of Destiny.
As noted previously, one of the strengths and one of the weaknesses of Races of Destiny is its focus on the human race. With that in mind, the book does a good job of detailing the human race in the first chapter, covering such topics as Human Psychology, leisure, arts and crafts, religion, folklore, language, and civilization. However, anyone living on earth for more than 15 years with any concept of the differences between, say, Japanese society, religion, and culture and the American (or French, or Spanish, etc.) equivalents can burn the first 32 pages of the book because it states the obvious.
The second chapter is similarly unremarkable, except that it runs through the same series of segments as the chapter on humans does, but it covers both half-orcs and half-elves. These sections, especially the ones on the psychology of the races, provide a new perspective on these races, and do contribute to the reader's understanding of how members of each demi-human race relate to each other and to the other races in the game. (Naturally, the half-orc section is worthless for players and DMs in a Dragonlance campaign since there aren't any orcs, but the half-elf section does have some valuable tidbits.)
The third chapter, and the real reason to purchase the book, introduces a new race: the Illumians. The Illumians are a race created by sorcery; in other words, through painstaking ritual they were able to channel the magical runes of their language and make it a part of their racial makeup. They are similar to humans, but have a set of glowing runes rotating around their head, and as their racial makeup indicates, they are inherently magical beings. That being said, nearly a fourth of the book is devoted to describing this race.
Chapter four provides brief descriptions ('racial traits') of the other Races of Destiny: Aasimars, Dopplegangers, Half-Ogresd, Mongrelfolk, Sea Kin, Sharakim, Skulks, Tieflings, and Underfolk. Some of these races have been previously covered in other products, although Races of Destiny does present D&D 3.5 statistics for each of these races.
No D&D book these days is complete without at least one new prestige class, and Races of Destiny answers the call in this regard as well, with seven new PRCs for players to select. My impression on the prestige classes is that all of them are highly correlated to a particular race (e.g. the Outcast Champion's prerequisite is any half-human class and is roughly the Robin Hood equivalent of promoting the race) or to very specific types of campaigns (e.g. the Urban Soul for an urban campaign that never leaves the city).
Chapter six introduces new skills and feats that largely are created just for the PRCs and races detailed in the book. While they expand the role-playing options available to characters of the Races of Destiny and the PRCs in the book, there is little use for many of them when applied to other products. Much the same can be said about the magic in chapter seven—Commune With City and Discern Bloodline spells have very limited usage for many characters. The final chapter, titled 'Campaigns of Destiny' is somewhat better: the rules for randomly generating cities are useful, and the randomly generated citizens and their occupations will be helpful to DMs using Races of Destiny and those not using it alike.
Like many other Wizards of the Coast products of late, there are some glaring mistakes missed during editing (Chapter 7 is left out of the table of contents, for example), but on the whole Races of Destiny is a solid rules supplement—for the limited scope of material that it covers. Races of Destiny is a must for DMs or players with Illumian characters, since there is a convincing argument to be made for renaming the product The Complete Book of Illumians. For DMs running a campaign where there is constant strife between the half-elves/orcs/ogres of their campaign world and the other societies, and much of the campaign is set in an urban setting, Races of Destiny is also worth the price of admission. For anyone else, or for use in a Dragonlance setting (given the lack of orcs and the relative lack of half-elves), it doesn't stand out from the crowd of other products vying for the consumer's dollar.
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