Overview: Both Medieval Bestiary: Anthropophagi (MB: A) and Feudal Characters: Noble (FC: N) are PDF supplements for 4e, released under the GSL. MB:A details a new kind of monster, with 3 different versions plus racial traits for making an NPC. FC: N details a multiclass-only class called the Noble, complete with everything needed to supplement the class.
Available from: Medieval Bestiary: Anthropophagi is $1.95, 5 page full-color PDF (3 pages of content) and Feudal Characters: Noble is $2.95, 16 page full-color PDF (14 pages of content). This review is based on free copies received from the publisher, Alea Publishing Group.
Medieval Bestiary: Anthropophagi In-Depth: As we’re told right away, “Anthropophagi have no heads.” There is some description of the monster, its origins, and the standard Lore roll used in the Monster Manual. What follows are three different kinds of Anthropophagi, whose signature ability is a minor action attack that can only be done with combat advantage. There’s everything you expect to see in a 4e monster description, including encounter groups, and all formatted similarly to how the Monster Manual does it. There’s an adventure seed involving the creatures, and then racial traits for making an NPC. As it suggests, while it’s similar to the races in the back of the MM, it’s probably too powerful to be a PC race: a minor action attack is going to get out of control, especially if playing a Rogue.
Feudal Characters: Noble In-Depth: This PDF contains the write-up for a multiclass-only class, similar to how Spellscarred works in the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide. Like the Spellscared, it comes with both a flaw, and a list of abilities to pick from. The flaw is that minions get a bonus to attack you the round after you use a Noble power (because they’re so common, of course), but it seems like it would be annoying to keep track of in game.
What follows are a list of Noble powers, which are all encounter and dailies as befits the multiclass-only classes. Nothing too exceptional: most of their powers deal with forced movement and psychic damage (which is specifically explained in the sidebar as being the closest they could come to the Noble’s flavor), and there are occasional oddities like needing a higher Diplomacy modifier than the target. Most of the powers (but not all) use Strength or Charisma to attack, making it a good choice for Warlords.
Then there’s a Noble template for NPCs, and monster stats for a “Typical Human Knight.” The book ends with pre-made power cards for all of the Noble’s powers. In my opinion, this is a MUST HAVE for any new class books, especially third-parties, and I was very happy to see them included.
There are no feats to support the Noble, nor is there a Paragon Path, so you pretty much can’t use Noble as a Paragon (since they have no at-wills either.)
Conclusions: Both books are very well designed, and the artwork is a notch above typical third party fare, and as I was told when sent the books, it’s impressive to see what such a tiny company can put together. Both also include everything I’d want to have in those kinds of products, from the power cards for the Noble to all the Monster Manual info for the new monster.
However, as far as actual content goes, I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. The Anthropophagi (try pronouncing that easily at the table) seem like a fairly generic monster to me, especially when there are similar monsters already (the Devourer comes to mind). In a book with only one monster, I think it needs to be very strong, otherwise I just want it included in a larger collection.
Likewise with the Noble, I had high hopes, but there’s nothing about the Noble that makes it stand out from the existing class offerings. Making it multiclass was an excellent idea, but the class’s abilities don’t stand out enough to really inspire me to want to play one. I was hoping for something similar to the old Birthright powers that feel very epic and inspiring in scope (contrast the Mythic Sovereign epic destiny), and at the very least more “Leader-y” but instead the focus seems to be on controlling the enemies’ actions.
Both are examples of the PDF “microtransaction” model that came to rise in the 3e era that I was never a big participant in. I’d rather have a bigger book of multiple classes, or a monster book with bunches of different monsters.
I am hoping that Alea Publishing Group puts out more books, because they put out nice looking, complete products. If they can nail down some great concepts to go with it, we’ll be all set.