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Pathfinder role-playing game: Unchained review
The designers of the Pathfinder role-playing game have outdone themselves with the release of a new book expanding ways to play the game with a variety of new rules and options. Pick and choose which ones best fit the game and try them out. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
One of the best things about role-playing games are the ever-expanding rules that allow people to customize the game to their exact liking. Pathfinder role players now have 250 plus pages full of new options to spice up their games with the hardbound book, "Pathfinder Unchained," by Paizo Publishing.

The book covers new rules in five main categories, including classes, skills, gameplay, magic and monsters. All of the main areas of the Pathfinder game are covered. In the character class section, there are new versions of the barbarian, monk, rogue and the summoner. The idea behind the new versions is to make the game less fiddly and easier to play.

In the skills section of the book, a number of skills have been streamlined. There are also rules allowing additional skills to be unlocked at certain levels and feats that can be traded out for the abilities of a second class. In the consolidated skills section, Pathfinder designers have provided a way for groups who want simplicity to choose from fewer general skills. For example, the 35 base game skills have been reduced to 12 for faster selection.

The gameplay section covers such things as alignment, a streamlined combat action system, new combat tactics, disease and poison effects as well as a new system of wound levels. For example, the new wound levels system brings more realism to the game. As a character takes wounds, his capacity to operate diminishes instead of being fully capable of any action all the way to the last hit point. The wounded threshold (at or below half of maximum hit points) makes a character suffer a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks.

One of the best sections in the book is the one on magic. It covers simplified spell casting and spell alterations, bonuses for character progression, innate magic item bonuses, scaling magical items and dynamic magic item creation that involves a back story and involvement from the whole party instead of just rolling a random die. The scaling magic items are a great addition because magic items gain new powers as a player gains new levels and learns how to master the item. The Armageddon armor from the book scales six times all the way up to 18th level where it then adds invulnerability to its owner. Cool.

One of the hardest parts of designing a unique monster are the myriad amount of steps that are required. What spells and items does it have? How does its statistics change based on various effects? Where are the characters most likely to encounter it? It takes a lot of work. In the monster section of "Pathfinder Unchained," the whole monster creation process is simplified by providing baseline monsters that are almost final and ready to play.

Experienced gamers will really like this book. It adds tons of variety to the game, and the ability to streamline the rules to help keep the game moving. For $40, "Pathfinder Unchained" is a good addition to the game library of players and game masters. Be aware that the Pathfinder role-playing game books contain fantasy artwork of magic, monsters, combat and heroic characters that may be of concern to some individuals.