The last of the original Complete series, Complete Adventurer is the guide to classes that emphasize skills. After so many other Complete books of varying success, will Complete Adventurer prove to be another must-have sourcebook or another series sinker?
Isn’t every PC considered an Adventurer? Therefore, shouldn’t every player stand to gain from a book titled Complete Adventurer? Complete Warrior and Complete Arcane set the bar really high for options-based sourcebooks (popularly called splat books). Complete Divine lowered that bar. In the hierarchy of important aspects of a character, skills fall below class, race, and role in combat. It would take great options and unique ideas to make this an important addition to a D&D library.
At a Glance
The cover of Complete Adventurer is in the standard Complete Series profile box format, but instead of a posed figure we get a rogue in action. There’s a very serious mood to the artwork, and the stern look on the rogue’s scarred face. Her dark leather armour has a lot of functional details, like reinforced knees for tunnel crawls and a utility belt with a variety of tools, including a compass to go along with the map she’s holding. The dark tone is contrasted by the bright torch light and the figure’s red hair. What’s really refreshing about this cover is that it’s the only first Complete series female, and not a scantily clad supermodel either. Her ragged look and modest bust size score D&D major points with Women’s Liberation.
I like Scout by Jeremy Jarvis more every time I look at it. The green colours and leaf motif make it obvious she is dressed for jungle camouflage. Her bow with branches growing off it really drives this idea home. Her hair’s tight braiding would make it manageable in jungle environments. The arm guard is based on the actual sleeve archers use to prevent blisters from their bowstring. And she’s balancing on a bush that would not be able to support someone her size with fewer skill points. Simply amazing.
Michael Phillippi’s Ghost Faced Killer is another winner thanks to smart detailing. The ghost face killer’s legs are opaque, indicating he has just become visible. His victim is blissfully ignorant of the man behind him wielding a sword bigger than he, and the patch on the eye facing his assailant means he is tragically unlikely to become aware of his imminent death. What’s worse, the ferret to the victim’s right is looking right at the attacker, fur on end, but there is nothing it can do to stop him. This isn’t just a picture of a prestige class, it is a captured story. If Wizards of the Coast released this piece as a poster, I would hang it on my wall.
Unlike most D&D sourcebooks, Complete Adventurer features many full page art pieces. These tend to feature two linked prestige classes, as is the case with Shadowbane Guildsmen, another Michael Phillippi piece I am a big fan. The heavily armoured Shadowbane Inqusitor, with angry eyes barely visible through his hooded helm, holds his massive magical blade tightly in two hands, anticipating the first chance to unjustly smite someone in the name of the greater good. The much wiser and stealthy Shadowbane Stalker holds him back with a single raised finger, indicating there is something ahead that may require subtly.
I have never before swooned over illustrated beauty, but I have to tip my hat to Monte Michael Moore. His depiction of the Shadowmind is, for lack of a better term, so freakin’ hot. It’s everything I was glad didn’t make the cover. Unblemished skin, big chest, perfect hair, and clothes that emphasize style over functionality. The artwork doesn’t even make sense with the class, which mixes psionics and stealth skills be remain completely undetectable. Anyone wearing armour that tight with a bustier that would make Xena blush is either not trying to stay hidden or just not good at it.
The Shadowmind isn’t the only illustration I like out of context. Beyond just being a great depiction of a character in mental anguish, I like Ron Spencer’s Insidious Rhythm because it features Captain Daniel “the Daft” Simone, the sample Dread Pirate from the prestige class chapter, also illustrated by Rob Spencer. Reusing this character makes him more memorable, and the damage he’s taken tells of his adventures since page 40. However, this illustration makes the Daft Captain look like a humongous wuss. The insidious rhythm spell puts an annoying song in its targets head, making concentration and intelligence-based skill checks more difficult. Page 153’s illustration makes it look like his head is about to explode. I know some people that get frustrated when a song gets stuck in their head, but I have never seen “Livin’ On A Prayer” bring someone to their knees.
A couple of feats are illustrated very dynamically. Leap Attack , again by Ron Spencer, features a ballistic orc barbarian flying through the air looking for something to sink his axe into. And I always appreciate pictures that make bards look tough, like Ironskin Chant by Mitch Cotie.
Fantastic Feats and Skills
The theme of many of the new feats introduced in Complete Adventurer is “multiclass viability”. Feats that open the Paladin and Monk restrictions on multiclassing out of the class, and others that let multiclass levels stack for the progression of certain class features. Before, a monk’s unarmed strike damage was stunted at whatever class level a character stopped advancing in the class at. The monk levels were practically a waste. Now unarmed strike can progress efficiently when select feats are chosen, but new monk abilities aren’t gained. Also, for the purpose of a paladin/bard build, the Devoted Performer feat allows a bard to ignore the class’ unfounded restriction against the lawful alignment.
The majority of the feats really fit the book’s emphasis on skills and versatility. Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting makes it easier for a character to dual wield weapons when one is not light. Brutal Throw makes ranged combat more attractive to powerful characters, and several other feats cleverly illustrate how a character can substitute a saving throw’s ability modifier with another.
In most sourcebooks, the skill section can be skimmed over to be understood. Surprisingly, based on the book’s mantra, the same is true of Complete Adventurer. Most of the rules are how to perform skill checks more quickly at a higher DC, or they are reprints of the Epic Skill Check rules from the Epic Level Handbook only unepiced. At least these rules are useful, as is the Craft (posionmaking) chart. The optional rules for haggling with the Diplomacy skill are a fun acknowledgement of the skill’s poor design, although a full overhaul would have been appreciated.
New Aid Rules
Thank you! Where can you find new rules for special actions and special attacks outside the Player’s Handbook? These often overlooked options need love. Complete Adventurer provides that love. New Combining Skill Attempts and Aid Another rules are so greatly appreciated. They work great, they’re well thought out, and nicely explained. It only takes up a page and a bit but I am thrilled by its inclusion.
Normally I see the inclusion of things like guilds as space wasting. In past sourcebooks, long winded outlines of magic academies, training grounds and the like have been too specific and tended to be problematic to include. Complete Adventurer knew that. The new format for guilds succinctly outlines histories and philosophies, what a player should know, and what a DM should know. Including a guild no longer puts a DM at a disadvantage. And the rules are flexible, even suggesting areas a DM should pay closer attention to and how the guilds can be adapted to fit home grown campaigns.
Poorly Balanced Classes
How can you go wrong with a ninja class? Quite easily. Historical ninjas differ from Hollywood ninjas, and the word conjures such a variety of preconceptions it would be impossible to capture all of it in a single Dungeons & Dragons class. It could have been a rogue that was less trap-oriented and more combat and stealth-focused. It could have been a morally ambiguous version of the Assassin prestige class found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Wizards of the Coast went with a rogue/monk mix. It’s kind of bland and under powered.
The scout class has a similar pre-multiclassed feel to it, this time a rogue/ranger. Unlike the ninja, the scout is noticeably over powered. It gains skirmish, which is like a better version of sneak attack that’s easier to perform. The rest of its class features are basically the best combat-oriented class features from all the PH classes, including bonus feats.
Finally, there is the spellthief, a great idea that does not live up to its potential. Against a spellcaster, a spellthief is a powerful opponent, able to rob spells and cast them. Otherwise, the class has a bunch of cool features that will never come into play. It can cast spells of its own, but not many. It would make a decent NPC to put against a party with a powerful wizard, but it just does not amount to a fun PC.
Formulaic Prestige Classes
Want a prestige class like the ones in Complete Adventurer? Follow this simple formula:
Step 1) Choose two of the following: bard; monk; ranger; rogue.
Step 2) Every even class level grant a class feature from one of the above classes.
Step 3) Every odd level grant a class feature from another of the above classes.
Step 4) Give it a rogue’s BAB and saves and you’re done.
Out of the 26 prestige classes introduced in Complete Adventurer, there are literally four prestige classes that don’t redirect to the classes chapter of the Player’s Handbook for more information on class features: The Exemplar, Maester, Ollam, Tempest.
To be fair, most of the prestige classes are well balanced and are interesting concepts. It is simply unfortunate that they weren’t made more unique mechanically.
It’s a sourcebook from the original Complete series, all the new magic items have been reprinted in the Magic Item Compendium and all the new spells have been reprinted in the Spell Compendium. There are a significant amount of both in Complete Adventurer, 42 pages in fact, or 21% of the book.
The Animal Lord prestige class is seven prestige classes in one! Be a Bear Lord, a Horselord, a Sharklord, or choose one of four other equally interesting animals to lord over. Even more interesting, one character can take the prestige class multiple times, choosing a different animal each time. So a character could be a Barbarian 5/Birdlord 2/Snakelord 2, lording over natural enemies.
The Daggerspell Mage prestige class delivers touch spells through dagger melee attacks, and allows a caster to use spells with somatic and material components even while dual wielding daggers.
The Appraise Magic Item feat is a cheaper (but longer) alternative for parties without access to the Identify spell.
Masterwork Instruments produce different bardic music effects, opening up more options for bard players.
I multiclassed a ninja/sorcerer NPC to create a mystic ninja . The Ninja’s ghost step and sudden strike combined nicely with a few touch spells to mess with my players.
One of my gaming friends, Jean, adapted the Nightsong Enforcer. Not only was the prestige class’ bonus to spotting and hearing party members useful for keeping track of the mischievous and naturally invisible fairy in the group, but adapting it to our campaign was very easy.
Jean also uses the Leap Attack feat and it makes combat encounters so dynamic.
This is a fun book with options for everyone. I may object to the repetitive prestige classes, but a lot of them are balanced and fun concepts. The biggest disappointment in this book is the base classes, because these could have been great. I recommend this sourcebook and consider it one of the best books in the first Complete series .
If You Liked This Book…
Complete Warrior is the most comparable Complete book. It offers similar options and is just as versatile. Complete Arcane is another good choice, although only if you are playing a bard or want to add a bit of magic to your character.
Complete Scoundrel is the second Complete series sequel to Complete Adventurer.