Master Any Skill with the Taskshaper

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.

12 Responses to Master Any Skill with the Taskshaper

  1. I love the Taskmaster. Ed, I like the way you think. As for the TaskShaper, he sounds more like that show The Pretender. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115320/plotsummary I support this, but it sound kinda like the Bard in the “You do what, now?” territory. Fun to play, but you’re going to have to come to terms with not fitting in.

  2. I wanted to thank DG for taking the time to do a review of our product.

    I will point out a large # of factual errors in the review, the text specifically lists roles
    “Role: We serve as the greatest of spies, being able to change our appearance and our personalities. We serve as gifted scouts, able to range far and wide by wing or by fin, able to go where others cannot.”

    “Mimicry (Ex)
    “Moment of Change (Su):
    “Shaped Capacity (Su):
    “Change Shape (Su)
    Perfect Copy (Su)
    Ability Shift (Su)
    Advanced Shapes is the same as shaped capacity it is just a greater version so its still supernatural but perhaps I should have put (Su) on it.
    Unform (Su) At 20th level,”

    Anything listed as a moment of change is su in the same way that a mercy is listed as Su and then the mercy is listed.

    Looking back through I don’t find any ability that does not have a listed action type in the primary text

    “Once a round, as a free action, a taskshaper can expend a moment of change”
    “Capacities require a taskshaper to spend moments of change,”
    “Use of this ability is considered an immediate action (hence you cannot use the ability twice in the same round):”
    “advanced shapes require a taskshaper to spend two of her daily uses of her moment of change ability.”
    “once per day as a standard action.

  3. Are we reading the same product?

    First, the art is Hugo Solis and Joe Calkins– they are most certainly not clip art. That’s right in the credits. Joe’s done a lot of the 101 line’s art, giving a sense of continuity to the series. Hugo just got picked up at Paizo, if I recall correctly. And the images show aspects of the class, like the instant armor’s power to gain natural AC on page 5, the touch of transformation on page 6 or the collection of forms accompanying the section on mimicking monster abilities on page 7. Those seem associated.

    You spend almost all of your text talking about the raw attributes of the class and almost none talking about how it works in play. Did you really review this without making a couple sample characters and trying them out? Your open-ended comments lack specifics. For instance, you say:

    “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.”

    You provide no support for this statement. How? How is it careless? How could it do better? You toss a grenade on the table like that and then fail to qualify it. Nice.

    You follow it with this statement, “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.”

    So the whole opening paragraph about how taskshapers are people who were stolen by the fae, trained and then escaped back to reality only to find everything had changed gives you *no* advice? You know, where he says:

    “We were taken to the enchanted homeland of the fey, the secret of our true heritage kept from us, and our memories altered by magic if we were old enough to remember any glimmer of our previous lives. Auberyon, the Solstice King, used his magics and the magics of the fair folk to transform us into adaptive tools, with the claim that we would serve to stop a fell and encroaching threat from the mortal realms.”

    Let’s not even begin to discuss the subtle link to Coliseum Morpheuon in the paragraph, shall we? We’ll skip right over that and look at all the potential stories in that paragraph alone:

    1. Discovering your past.
    2. Discovering yourself and what memories were altered.
    3. Discovering what the Fae had planned.
    4. Discovering what the Fae feared.
    5. Discovering how the Fae steal people.

    That’s enough adventure gold right there for at least two full arcs… or were you looking for a Gallagher-sized plot mallet to pulp this class into some other storyline? And there’s a whole section on the *role* of the taskshaper– you mean telling you how the class operates in society doesn’t help you figure out what role the class would play in your game? Seriously?

    Looking at your other comments– Shaped Capacities spend Moments of Change, which are supernatural. That makes it pretty clear it’s a supernatural ability to me. And Shaped Capacities are also discussed in the 10th level power, Advanced Shapes. You mention editorial oddities, but then only point out one. DrivethruRPG mentions this is third in a series, implying a later compilation justifying the standard layout versus a landscape orientation.

    Overall, I find your review lacking and your comprehension of the material insufficient. Please, reread the product. Make a couple sample characters. Give us a play report that talks about how you found them in a game, about how aspects worked or didn’t work and why. I can find out everything you talked about in the first half of your review from *the preview on DrivethruRPG.* That’s ridiculous.

    -Ben.

  4. REPLY TO RITE PUBLISHING

    {I wanted to thank DG for taking the time to do a review of our product.}
    You are, of course, welcome.

    You are, of course, welcome.

    {Rite: I will point out a large # of factual errors in the review, the text specifically lists roles}

    For the record, I see all of these as not factual errors, but differences of option.

    {“Role: We serve as the greatest of spies, being able to change our appearance and our personalities. We serve as gifted scouts, able to range far and wide by wing or by fin, able to go where others cannot.”}

    I mentioned the scout role. What it does not do, is talk about it’s role within a typical adventuring party. Is it supposed to replace the rogue? The fighter? Neither/ No disucssion.,

    {“Mimicry (Ex)
    “Moment of Change (Su):
    “Shaped Capacity (Su):
    “Change Shape (Su)
    Perfect Copy (Su)
    Ability Shift (Su)
    Advanced Shapes is the same as shaped capacity it is just a greater version so its still supernatural but perhaps I should have put (Su) on it.
    Unform (Su) At 20th level,”

    Anything listed as a moment of change is su in the same way that a mercy is listed as Su and then the mercy is listed.

    Looking back through I don’t find any ability that does not have a listed action type in the primary text}

    Okay, here’s an example of my problem:

    Moment of Change is a swift action.
    Shaped capacity requires you to spend a momenet of change, but doesn’t say if that’s still a swift action.
    Imprint class ability says you can USE a class ability. Using an ability normally means activating it. If I tell my GM “I use touch of desitny” every gaming group in the world assumes I mena I take an action and activate it. So… IF imprint class ability is the same action as Shaped Capacity whcih is the same action as Moment of Change, I can USE touch of destiny as a swift action? I don’t think that’s what you mean.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Thanks for the criticism, Ben (that sounds sarcastic, but seriously, it’s good to get feedback). Due to the fast review cycle on websites like this, there unfortunately isn’t time for a full playtest of everything we review. Reviewers have to rely on their experiences with similar games and products, and of course we don’t always agree, and sometimes overlook or misinterpret something and get it wrong. And gaming is a very subjective realm to begin with.

  6. REPLY TO BEN

    Ben, I would like to respond to your general points.

    To answer your query, the review does come from some level of experience, as I am running a game with a takshaper PC in it.

    Clip Art must be credited. It need not be credited as clip art. Thus, the credits don’t tell me anything about the clip art status. Rite uses a lot of clip art, or at least has in products I got in the past. Indeed, the cover of Taskshaper is the same art as SGG’s Dream Magic, which was released much earlier. Which is why i guessed the book included clip art.

    Of course since the taskshaper can change shape, any picture of anything could be related. Page 3 has a rhino-man holding a spear. Could that be a taskshaper? Sure, but there’s no example of why that would happen, how it ties into the idea of the class being a skill-based spy, or its fey origin. In short, it does not feel connected to me.

    Much of the commentary you seem to take issue with was the section where I support my contention the book lacks the minimum support it should contain. I don’t need adventure arcs out of a character class. I submit that no typical GM does. We have adventures for that. This is an unusual lass, compared to everything in the core rules, and it offers no guidance on how to use it if the game does not need spies and diplomats, which typcial adventures don’t have much call for. The ad text on Paizo and DriveThru promises “This class can also be easily introduced into any new campaign.” One option, to introduce things one way, using one set of plot elements, does not “easily introduce to any new campaign” make.

    {Looking at your other comments Shaped Capacities spend Moments of Change, which are supernatural. That makes it pretty clear it’s a supernatural ability to me.}

    That is not the standard of how information is presented for pathfinder material. Looking at the core rules, I find that:
    @The barbarian Rage Power is marked as (Ex), as is every sub-power. So that’s the standard.
    @A monk’s Ki pool is Supernatural, but spending a Ki point for High Jump is (Ex).
    @A paladin’s Lay on Hands is marked as (Su), but Channel Energy, which spends lay on hands, is still marked as (Su) as well.
    @Rogue Sneak attacks are Ex, but every single talent that works off it is also marked as Ex.

    {And Shaped Capacities are also discussed in the 10th level power, Advanced Shapes. You mention editorial oddities, but then only point out one.}

    I found numerous editorial issues, some of which are the issues we just discussed. I didn’t think it was necessary to mention every one. Here are some other examples:

    Opening Credits: The dedication mentions the ‘ Time Thief.’ If referring to the book ‘ The Genius Guide to the Time Thief,’ “Time Thief” should be italicized as a title. If referring to the class itself, ‘ Time Thief’ should not be capitalized.

    Page 1: Under role. “We serve as the greatest of spies, being able
    to change our appearance and our personalities” If using the plural (We serve), then you need to have multiple appearances change, just as you have multiple personalities.

    Page 2, under Modified Advantage: “making the arch of her swing move faster,” People do not refer to the arch of a swing. They do refer to the arc of a swing. Also, in the class table, the standard for capitalization in the special column is to only capitalize the first word at each level, thus it should be “Mimicry, moment of change” rather than “Mimicry, Moment of Change”

    Page 3, under Change Shape: “At 3rd level, the taskshaper has the ability to assume the appearance of any humanoid creature (usually a humanoid)” Any humanoid, usually humanoid. Huh?

    Page 4. The abilities for Ability Shift are given in both second person (you can) and third person (the taskshaper can).

    Page 5, under designer notes “The taskshaper can a bit heavy on the bookkeeping
    side of play” The taskshaper can BE a bit heavy, perhaps?

    These are minor points, and they don’t make the class less playable. But they are editorial oddities, so I mentioned the book included them. It does impact how clean the text is to read.

    However it’s going to be used later, it is in portrait now, and landscape works better on a computer screen. I even give credit for bookmarks.

    This is a game review, not a play report. None of Robot Viking’s reviews, and very few reviews in the game industry are play reports.

    Having considered your points, I continue to stand by my review.

  7. Again thank you for the feedback,

    “I mentioned the scout role. What it does not do, is talk about it’s role within a typical adventuring party. Is it supposed to replace the rogue? The fighter? Neither/ No discussion.”

    Neither does the monk, bard, alchemist, inquisitor, cavalier, witch, summoner or the time thief. What we did do was follow the format set out by Paizo on how classes are to be presented.

    “Okay, here’s an example of my problem: Moment of Change is a swift action.”

    No this is a factual error, it is not a swift action it is a free action
    [Free actions don’t take any time at all, though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn.]
    [A swift action consumes a very small amount of time, but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. You can perform only a single swift action per turn.]

    So you can still take a swift action even after using moments of change, this is important if an ability you are emulating is a swift action to activate.

    “Shaped capacity requires you to spend a momenet of change, but doesn’t say if that’s still a [free] action.”
    [Once a round, as a free action, a taskshaper can expend a moment of change] That is listed under moment of change which the ability is referring back to. I did not see a reason to repeat that expending a moment of change is a free action since we had already said it was a free action, but if its causing some confusion perhaps there is a need to repeat myself. During the playtests we did not have any confusion like this.

    “Imprint class ability says you can USE a class ability. Using an ability normally means activating it. If I tell my GM “I use touch of desitny” every gaming group in the world assumes I mean I take an action and activate it. “

    Let me sum up what you have said here and if I have misunderstood please correct me.
    the imprint class ability says is “I can use touch of destiny” what you said to the GM was “I use touch of destiny”.

    Those are not the same thing.

    For example
    You take a free action to expend a moment of change and imprint class ability (touch of destiny). Now you can use touch of destiny. You are NOT using touch of destiny yet. You must still spend the standard action required for the touch of destiny as listed under the Destined bloodline.

    Saying some one can use an ability is not the same thing as using the ability. I could not physically list every possible ability you could emulate and the action that would be required to use it. Again in the playtests we did not have any confusion like this.

    If you feel I still feel we need to add these additions to the product please just let me know.

    @Ben
    The images used are stock art (except Hugos), the cover has even been used by SGG for their guide to dream magic, i used to convey the idea of multiple forms. Hugo’s work was recycled from another product that did deal with wildshape abilities.

    At no point has DG stated this is a playtest review. If I am lucky perhaps her player will have one for us.

    Also our format of First Person Point of View can turn some folks off as they prefer instruction manuals. While I may disagree with it, I can understand it.

    Thanks again to Ben and DG

    Steve Russell
    Rite Publishing

  8. @Ed

    Oh yeah it was.

    ” I gotta say. Fighting you? Want to talk about a fighting style I could have lived a lifetime without memorizing? It’s yours. Never met a punch you wouldn’t rather take than dodge, have you? ”
    –Taskmaster

  9. Haha, awesome. The recent Taskmaster miniseries was really good, it actually managed to give him an origin that makes sense. I always wondered why someone with that ability wouldn’t just become a pro athlete and make millions. Now there’s a valid reason for it (that I don’t want to spoil in case anyone wants to check it out).

  10. @DungeonGrrrl

    You’re running one in a game, and you don’t talk about it in the review? Seriously?

    Why not? That’s the sort of firsthand report a GM wants– what role does the PC fulfill in your game? How are you handling what you saw as the lack of clarity with moments of change? All those things you commented on could have been answered as, “Here’s what we did, here’s how the class functioned in our group, but it could have been better defined in the text,” because then you not only tell people something helpful, rooted in the experience of using the product, but you provide the designer feedback.

    -Ben.

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