The fine folks at Rite Publishing clearly decided that Super Genius Games’ time thief was too good an idea to be used for just one class, so they’ve introduced Secrets of the Taskshaper. The taskshaper is a a hybrid class with all kinds of proficiencies and skills.
One of the best things to come out of the open gaming movement is the ability of one publisher to be inspired by, and build off of, another publisher’s work. With the advent of the Pathfinder RPG from Paizo, a whole new game has been created from the bones of OGL material, and a number of other publishers have begun to support it. Despite the fairly new nature of the Pathfinder RPG, already some front-runners have emerged among their supporting publishers, including Super Genius Games and Rite Publishing. It is perhaps not surprising to see Rite produce a book that is openly inspired by and built off of a SGG product. It even opens with a thanks and dedication to Owen K.C. Stephens for the time thief, a new base class introduced in SGG’s Genius Guide to the Time Thief. The time thief introduced a whole new system of powers for a class, and the taskshaper builds on that.
The taskshaper is a a hybrid class, a skill-monkey kind of character with d8 hit die, any 10 skills as class skills, a lot of skill points, and proficiency in all weapons, shields, and spell-trigger magic items. That last note bears talking about. As written, a taskshaper is familiar with all exotic and martial weapons at 1st level, which sounds to me like a very, very tempting 1-level dip for nearly any fighting class. Although the taskshaper has only a cleric attack bonus and two good saves, the high skill points, ability to take them in any skill you want, and familiarity with absolutely everything is rarely going to be a bad 1-level dip, which I feel is bad design. Even if the taskshaper needs a lot of exotic weapon proficiencies, they should be doled out at one a level or so, to prevent characters from all taking one level of the taskshaper all-proficiency-class. Even a sorcerer would love taking just one level of this, since it opens up wands of cure light wounds as useable items.
Beyond its vast skill and proficiency options, the taskshaper has two sources of power: moments (minor abilities that can be used fairly often through the day and are augmented by the shaped capacity class ability), and ability shift, which is a more major power you can use less often. This basic resource management mechanic is borrowed from the time thief, and it works reasonably well here. The class’ powers are built around being able to shapechange and impersonate others, and it gains a few other abilities (such as change shape) to help it do this.
The taskshaper is an odd class, with nothing really in common with any other classes from the core rules (and not that similar to the time thief except in game mechanics of resource management). If you like really, truly new options, that’s a good thing, but I suspect for a lot of players this class is going to be just too different. It’s not clear exactly what a taskshaper is supposed to do, and their range of shapeshifting powers don’t feel well-focused. Certainly they make great spies for games where such things matter, and with their flexibility could easily plug a hole in a group’s skill options. But the taskshaper feels like it’s a great fifth man for a four-man team, and unless a group already has the combatant/skilled sneak/divine spells/arcane spells roles filled, no one is going to be excited when they discover a teammate is a taskshaper.
[I just wanted to point out that the taskshaper is clearly influenced by Marvel Comics’ long-time villain the Taskmaster, a man with “photographic reflexes.” He can learn any physical skill simply by watching another person perform it. If he watches an Indianapolis Colts game, he’ll be able to throw a football as well as Peyton Manning for the rest of his life. Because he’s fought all the major heroes in the Marvel Universe, he can duplicate their skills and fighting styles and constantly picks up new ones. I’m not faulting DG for her lack of comic book knowledge – he’s a fairly obscure character, but happens to be one of my favorites. I personally think it’s a sweet idea for an RPG class! – Ed.]
The book is professionally produced, though not to the highest level of quality. The cover art seems a bit off, and so does the sparse B&W interior art. I would guess it’s all clip art, which is fine as far as that goes, but even clip art needs to clearly illustrate the subject matter. This isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. The book does not have landscape layout, which makes it harder to use on a computer screen, but it does have bookmarks. On the other hand, with the layout I’d really rather print this one, and it’s so short bookmarks aren’t really necessary. Those aren’t really bad things, but they don’t work well together. There are also numerous editorial oddities (shaped capacities are referred to as talents once, and only once, but don’t seem to work like other class’ talents, they also don’t say if they are extraordinary, spell-like or supernatural abilities or what kind of action it takes to activate them). A GM is going to want to go over whatever powers a player selects for a taskshaper, and make sure the GM and player agree on how they work. There’s even a designer’s aside suggesting the class’s bookkeeping may be a bit much, which is a nice warning but also sounds like a place where a better design might be called for.
In the end, the taskshaper is designed to bring something new to your game table, and it certainly does that. But radical designs need to be handled with greater care than variations on more typcial ideas, and that’s where Secrets of the Taskshaper falls down. There’s a lot of fluff that sounds like it’s from someone’s home campaign that talks about how a taskshaper views the world, but no advice for a GM wanting to add one. There are no new feats, items, or other class-specific things to round out the class. There’s a really neat core idea here, and a GM willing to put in the extra work to make it work will be rewarded, but it’s not ready out-of-the-box. Especially when building on another company’s existing mechanic, this should have felt more polished than it did. Ultimately I give the book 6.5 out of 10.
Check out the taskshaper for yourself by downloading it from DriveThruRPG.