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Reviews of 'Races of the Wild'

Races of the Wild

by Skip Williams
D&D Race Supplements, Volume 4


Reviews of 'Races of the Wild'

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Reviewer: Trampas Whiteman

Rating: Stars

Races of the Wild is a guidebook to nature-based races. Elves and halflings, as well as a new race – raptorans (a bird-like humanoid race), are featured prominently, as well as catfolk, centaurs, gnolls, and killoren.

The chapters on elves, halflings, and raptorans go into some detail on each of these races in a generic setting. There's notes on psychology, lifestyle, society and culture, how each race works with other races, religion, history and folklore, language, where each race lives, and creating characters. The language section is especially helpful.

If you're running a generic D&D game, these notes will be quite helpful and can add some depth to the characters. For those who are playing in existing settings, such as Dragonlance, these chapters are not going to be too helpful.

There's not much to say regarding the chapters on elves and halflings. Overall, fairly unremarkable and material I have in other sourcebooks. Newer gamers may find these chapters to be helpful, but established gamers won't find much new or useful information.

This brings us to the gratuitous new race, the raptorans. As the name implies, they are a bird-based race, complete with wings and clawlike feet. Two things kill this race for me. First, this race is totally unnecessary. Bird-people have been done before, and I see little reason to do a new one. Likewise, why do a bird-based race when there's the avariel subrace of elves to explore further?

The second thing that kills raptorans for me is one of the illustrations. In it, there's a couple of raptorans who are practicing "footbow", where the raptorans grasp a bow in their claw-like feet, drawing the string with their hand. The idea is completely silly and highly unrealistic.

For the other races chapter, I can say that I like the catfolk, although again, why even have them when there's an existing race that could be further explored? In this case, I mean the rakasta (not to be confused with rakshasa) from the Mystara campaign setting. Yes, the rakasta are campaign specific, but they could be expanded into other campaigns as well. With all the subraces they have (from the pages of Dragon magazine), an entire chapter of this book could have been dedicated to rakasta, which would have seen much more use than races such as the raptorans.

I will give kudos on centaurs for consistency's sake. The centaur here matches the DLCS centaur fairly closely. Gnolls and killorens round out this chapter.

Next up is the prestige class chapter. This chapter continues with the latest trend to not only give us the prestige class, but give us some good world flavor too. Notes on playing the prestige classes and how the prestige classes work in the world are great bonuses.

The arcane hierophant is a wizard/druid multiclass in the tradition of the mystic theurge. While this class is okay, I feel the sylvan mage from Towers of High Sorcery is done so much better. Next up is the Champion of Corellon Larethian, sort of a noble elf fighter. The Luckstealer is a halfling prestige class that is part spellcaster, part professional gambler, and a mischief maker.

The Ruathar is best described as someone who has done a great service for elves, and who undergoes a physical transformation, taking on elf-like qualities. Why not simply play an elf or half-elf?

The Skypledged are raptorans who have a bond with the Elemental Plane of Air. There is a sidebar here on Pledgebreakers...

The Stormtalon is a much better raptoran class, focusing on combat and flight. Here we have another illustration where the Stormtalon wields two scimitars in his hands, and has a spear in his clawlike feet. With a little tweaking, this prestige class could have been changed to focus on any flying character. This would have made this prestige class even more appealing.

The chapter ends with the Whisperknife, a halfling rogue prestige class, and a Wildrunner prestige class, where an elf or half-elf gains several wild-themed abilities, including a primal scream.

Overall, the prestige classes have been so-so. Nothing really grabs me here.

Chapter Six moves on to character options. There's expansion on some existing skills (always a bonus), and several new feats. Most feats are race-specific, although there's also some new tactical feats as well. One thing I really like about this chapter is the section on racial substitution levels. The idea that you can replace some levels of an existing class with more race-specific abilities is enticing. Unfortunately, this chapter is all-too-short and doesn't have racial substitution levels for each class.

Chapter Seven is equipment and magic. There are new weapons and armor, but nothing truly striking. I'm sure that leaf-based armor sounds nifty to the designers, but I like to temper my fantasy with a healthy dose of reality. The gear section is way too small, and the options are so-so. The magic section is perhaps the best of this chapter, especially the armor. There's various forms of hide armor made from different animal skins, each providing some magical abilities. These are some of the better examples I've seen on this theme. I do wish they had more wondrous items, though. Ending this chapter are new spells and even three new psionic powers (always a bonus).

Chapter Eight goes into campaigns in the wild. I expected some campaign models here. What I see are sample NPCs notes on elf/halfling/etc. groups, holidays, and some new monsters. The monsters are so-so. I have to say that I'm not too terribly impressed that the cooshee is now called the "elven hound" (although the cooshee name is in the flavor text). There's no reason for the name change. At least this chapter ends with one hundred adventure ideas and NPCs by CR.

Races of the Wild, like the other books in this series, was a huge disappointment. The new race, the raptorans, leave much to be desired. There's missed opportunities left and right in this book. In a races book, I expect to see notes on subraces, ala Races of Faerun. While some of the basics of each race are there, there's nothing new offered here. I can just as easily take the flavor text of my old "Complete" races books from second edition and have more flavor and information in my game. There's also missed opportunity in the form of existing races that could have been expanded upon, yet were totally left out.

Also, to peg every elf and every halfling as a "race of the wild" is a fallacy. There can be civilized elves and halflings as well.

For generic D&D games, approach with caution. Look at other races books before deciding to buy this one. For settings such as Dragonlance, don't even bother. There's little that can be imported.


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