Players Option: Skills & Powers
Heres a nifty little RPG stratagy: Sell your game in three different large hardcover books that cost $30 dollars a piece. And then, release a bunch of 'optional' books to make your game more 'realistic' that cost $20 dollars a piece. Now, collect a small group of fanatical players who completely refuse to play any other system, and watch the cash roll in!
Actually, Skills & Powers is a good book. Synopsis? Well, it does several things.
First, it shows a new way for character creation, using character points. This provides a lot of room for customization. No two of your fighters will ever be identical again. But, (Yes, there is always a but) never ever let any munchkins get their stubby little hands on it. Theres a huge possibility for anyone with the slightest powergaming tendency to end up creating a super powerful character. Just to see what I could do, I was able to create an elven fighter with a STR of 18/80, THACO of 14, and 1d8+6 damage with his longsword. When my players created characters using S&P, I noticed even the hardcore roleplayers having troubles sometimes fighting off the underlying munchkin factor.
It also gives many more optional pc races including Half-Ogre, Aarakocra, and Wemic. While I would support these to a dungeon crawling campaign, if roleplayed correctly most of the characters they provide would be hunted to death anywhere near a town - caveat emptor.
Skills & Powers also gives a pretty good listing of kits. Most of them are well balanced. Some of the examples include Scout, Noble, Mystic, and Swashbuckler.
In the weapon proficiency chapter they skim over weapon styles, which were first introduced in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics. The basic information on them is that when you have them, they provide bonuses to different die rolls affecting combat.
Traits and Descriptions. The best thing in the book for roleplaying. Using these you can give your character quirks and advantages, and the best part is, almost none of them affect rolls! I always dislike modifications that just affect combat rolls. By balancing these two features, you should end up with a character who has many fun facets of their personality to play, instead of just an intelligent anti-social wizard or the Dumb as rocks fighter.
By combining spells from other schools, they have also come out with 4 new interesting schools of magic - The Shadow Mage, The Song Mage, the Alchemist, and the Geometer. Each of their spell lists are varied, and very few of them are serious combat spells. Has anyone else noticed how most special mages often have either evocation or ilusion barred to them, and other schools used as opposition are quite rare? Oh well.
Lastly, they introduce the Pscionicist class. I like the Pscionicist class. Good range of powers, and innovative rules system - i.e., it's not just magic with a new name. Of course, some DMs may not allow pscionicists, but I know I certainly will. One thing I noticed, though, is there's no buying of skills for pscionicists like they do for every other class in the book. It doesn't really change much, but it is strange.
Now, we come to the last part - the general layout, style, and the pictures. Everyone familiar with the Players Handbook or the DMG will be able to use the format. It's not an especially good format, but not one with any major flaws either. The pictures are also par for TSR. In the kits section, on page 76, there is a picture of a Roman Soldier that just gets to me in some way. I don't really know why, it just does. But sometimes TSR needs to take a look at where they place the friggin images. I mean, can you tell me how much sense it is to placea pciture of men starting at an alluring young woman in a tavern beside the Pscionic devotion 'Detonate'? Not much. Overall, the style is average, as I've reflected in my scores.
In short, a good book with a potential for powergaming, and I for one use it. I now only bring my Players Handbook for the spells.
Style: 3 (Average)