eConic Characters: Human Fighter
By Mark Alexander Clover
Creative Mountain Games product number cmgehuft
43-page PDF, $7.50

There are a number of products out there providing the busy DM with a series of pregenerated NPCs of specific character classes - I know, because I once took a freelance proofreading/editing job on such a series of PDFs. Creative Mountain Games takes an interesting detour from this concept: rather than creating a series of fully-fleshed-out NPCs, each complete with a name, history, and personality, Mark instead goes the exact opposite route, providing a set of bare-bones stats for each level of a given character class, already filled out onto a character sheet of his own design. It's up to you to provide the character's name, gender, appearance, and so on - only the stat-work has been filled out on the sheet. It's an interesting concept, and certainly a boon for a time-pressed DM who needs, say, a 5th-level fighter NPC at a moment's notice.

Each of the PDF sets in the "eConic Characters" series contains 20 separate character sheets already filled in, detailing the same "generic" character at each level of his/her adventuring career. Besides the Human Fighter that I was sent a copy of to review, I know there's also a Halfling Rogue set. In addition to the 20 character sheets (each a separate 2-page PDF), there's also a 3-page PDF with the cover art, the Open Game License stuff, and a conversion chart telling you the specific wealth adjustment needed to convert these NPCs to PCs. (This is another excellent use for these PDFs, in the event your PC gets killed in the midst of an adventure and you need a quick replacement, and the fact that the product is so "generic" is definitely a point in its favor when put to this use.)

Before I get into the specifics, I want to comment on the "generic" character sheet design that Mark is using. It's nicely done, with a logical place for just about everything you'll need. Best of all, it's got annotations in light grayscale in the background of many of the boxes, explaining what goes where without actually eating up any valuable space when doing so. It's a nice compromise between the need for explanation and the desire to conserve space. (Nobody wants a character sheet that takes up 6 separate pages!)

Human Fighter is not a perfect product, though. (Although again, the definite advantage that PDF products have over printed products is the speed with which they can be updated.) While the concept is an excellent one, and one that I can really get behind, in this particular case the results are not as strong as they could have been, as there are a few errors that crept in, and, due to the cascading nature of the "adding on to the same character over the course of 20 levels" concept, the errors are compounded over multiple levels. Getting to the specifics:
  • Fighter 1: For some reason, at this level the fighter's skill ranks column all have plus signs in front of the number of ranks taken; these are not needed, and indeed aren't present on the other 19 character sheets.
  • Fighter 4 and on: There should be a comma after "Combat Reflexes" in the list of feats.
  • Fighter 5 and on: At level 5, the fighter upgrades his chain shirt to a chain shirt +1, but his armor check penalty remains at -2, as if it wasn't magical. All magical armor has to also be masterwork, and one of the benefits of masterwork armor is that the armor check penalty is reduced by one point. Therefore, from level 5 through level 20 (and despite the fact that the chain shirt +1 later gets upgraded to better armor, since in each case it's a type of armor that normally has a -2 armor check penalty), the fighter's Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, and Swim totals are all off by one point (well, two points for Swim, since the penalty gets doubled).
  • Fighter 8 and on: At level 8, the fighter's Dexterity bonus increases from +1 to +2, but the Initiative total is never advanced accordingly. It should be +6, not +5, since Improved Initiative is one of the fighter's feats by this time.
That's it for actual errors, but I have a couple of other things that more properly fall under the field of "suggestions" rather than "corrections." First of all, while it made it much easier for me to review the character sheets level by level when Mark chose to simply add each new feat to the bottom of the pre-existing list, I think it would be much easier for the DM or player to use the character sheet if the feats were alphabetized. It's a little thing, granted (and I also admit that most players simply add their feats to their pre-existing character sheets rather than realphabetize everything), but for a DM who's grabbing a handy 18th-level fighter for a game night's antagonist, it would be easier to quickly determine whether the fighter has, say, the Spring Attack feat if the feats were alphabetized than it is to have to read through the whole list. Also, there's a section up at the top of each character sheet's first page that has a place for the character's current XP and amount of XP needed to advance to the next level. I think it would be much easier to simply have the character's current XP and the number of XP at which the character will advance to the next level. For example, if I'm a 9th-level fighter who currently has 38,925 XP, it's easier for me to look at my sheet and know that once I get to 45,000 XP I'll be at 10th-level, rather than either look at my sheet and see that when I first became 9th-level I needed another 9,000 XP to advance to 10th, or else to have to recalculate the number of XP I need to get to the next level every time I gain XP (but not enough to advance just then).

Again, as this is a PDF product, I'm sure it will be easy for Mark to make the required changes to get his human fighter stats fixed up. However, I have to give the product a rating as it is at the time that I review it, so I'll be going with a fairly high "3 (Average)" for now. I really like the concept - it really fills a useful niche, and I can see DMs and players alike being very glad to have a fully-statted NPC/PC available at a moment's notice - but given that the product's entire concept is "stats, and nothing but the stats," the fact that there are problems with the stats more or less forces me to lower the final rating. (Once fixed up, I'd put eConic Characters: Human Fighter in the "4" range.)