Neuroglyph Games Only a Pen is Mightier Catch it on the Rise Dust shaken from a Book

Review of Clever Classes: Jester by Alluria Publishing

I’m proud to recall that at no time at all, and with no other resources but my own resources, with firm application and determination… I made a Fool of myself!”  ~ Hubert Hawkins (The Court Jester, 1955)

You get mad props if you’ve seen this movie, which is definitely an “oldie-but-a-goodie”.

The Court Jester is almost a must-see comedy for a fantasy role-player of any generation.  True, it’s a musical (stifle yer groans!), but it has some of the most quotable lines and catchy phrases you’d ever want to hear in a medieval comedy.

For those who haven’t seen this gem of a film, it stars Danny Kaye as a minstrel, working for a quasi-Robin Hood figure called the Black Fox, who must infiltrate the palace of a usurper and in order to help restore the true royal line.  He does so by impersonating the evil king’s new Court Jester, in order to find a way into the castle for the rebels to overthrow the murderous tyrant.  In addition to the hilarious dialogue, there is possibly one of the best sword-fight scenes you’ll ever want to see, in which the rather cowardly but athletic minstrel, is ensorcelled to believe that he is an undefeatable swordsman – but only about half the time!

And of course, there is the famous dialogue in which the poor Court Jester is trying to remember which cup not to drink from, when he finds out that his cover has been blown, and he’s a target for assassination:

Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

Griselda: Just remember that.

The Jester Cover
I’d think that perhaps the authors over at Alluria Publishing were inspired just a little bit by the Court Jester of the silver screen, but of course, they’ve taken the idea to a whole new level.  Because now, D&D 4e Players now have the option of portraying a new and masterful Controller Class, one that manipulates the battlefield with jests and maddening powers:  The Jester!

Clever Classes: Jester

  • Author:  Jared Glenn
  • Illustrations: Samuel Flegal
  • Publisher: Alluria Publishing
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: PDF (71 pages)
  • Price: $8.95

Clever Classes: Jester is a D&D 4e supplement for creating and playing a new Controller-type Character Class, The Jester.  It contains complete information for generating one of four Jester builds, with all class features, recommended skills, and powers.  In addition to the complete Jester Class information, the supplement also includes nine Paragon Paths, two Epic Destinies, and rules for creating a Hybrid Jester, by melding the Jester’s abilities with those of another class.  And to support the new Controller Class, Clever Classes: Jester contains over 40 new Jester-specific Heroic Tier Feats, 11 new Paragon Feats, and 5 new Epic Feats, as well as Multi-Class Feats for adding just a little Jester into just about any other Character Class that a Player desires.  There are eight class-specific Backgrounds for use if the Dungeon Master allows that Character option in their campaign.  And the supplement includes 26 new Magic Items based upon Jester Implements and two new familiars – the dog and the living puppet – to ensure the Jester class is well armed and ready for combat.

The production quality of Clever Classes: Jester is excellent, with material presented in standard formats easily recognizable by D&D 4e gamers, and numerous sidebars containing plenty of “fluff” to go along with all the “crunch”.  The illustrations in the supplement, although few in number considering the size of the supplement, are handsomely rendered, and definitely enhance the product’s appearance and quality.

The Author describes the Jester as a Controller, but it is really quite a bit more than that.  As the Introduction describes the Class, it differs quite a bit from the more traditional controller roles:

The jester is an archetype of sanity hidden beneath madness. Far from the wizard’s bursts and blasts, the jester is more subtle, pin-pointing the threats and controlling them with clever jests. He is a master of turning failure into success, and warping his enemies’ options until the choices before them spell failure.

Use this book to create the perfect trickster or reckless mage. To master forces that you do not truly understand, but must keep secret. To create a character who must act ignorant and innocent to keep his reservoirs of power in check. Ignore restraints; there are none.

Jesters are arcane practitioners that tap into an energy source where ley lines converge, called a henge.  At this convergence, magic power builds up into a vast reservoir of arcane power that the Jester taps to manifest his array of powers.  But unlike Wizards, Jesters do not fully comprehend the forces they unleash, nor do they seem to care, and they wield power chaotically, but with clever focus.

The four builds of the Jester are based upon the geographical location of their henge, which decides their Class Feature as well as their Implement and focus of powers:

Build Class Feature Implement
Dancing Jester Fool of the Forest Henge Staff
Dealing Jester Fool of the Urban Henge Deck
Juggling Jester Fool of the Island Henge Orb
Puppeteering Jester Fool of the River Henge Rod

Each of the Class Features grants a different type of control and power manifestation, and grants a Minor Action ability to manipulate to field of combat each round.  For instance, the Dealing Jester gains a Jest of the Chaotic Streets as a Class Feature Encounter power, and Card Trick as an at-will, while the Puppeteering Jester knows the Jest of the Torrential Current and Perfect Puppetry, respectively.  So while a Dealing Jester might be able to cause an enemy to grant combat advantage for a round using jest of the chaotic streets, the Puppeteering Jester can protect an ally by using the jest of the torrential current to deny an enemy the right to target the ally for an entire round.

Many of the powers designed for the Jester Class by the Author have themes that play on staging a performance, or upon the implements that the Jester bears.  At-Will Powers with names like Set the Stage, Deal the Cards, and Cascade of Orbs bring real role-playing opportunities to the Jester Class, and add considerable charm to the builds.

The Author has had to create some new game mechanics in order to bring the Jester to life, and I found them really inventive without being too overpowered.  The most basic one is the Jest, which is similar to a fighter’s stance or to a barbarian’s rage, and having an active jest modifies and enhances certain other class abilities and powers.  However, the other new game mechanics are truly unique only to the Jester Class.

Some of the Jesters’ powers create a new combat condition called Driven.  It is similar to domination, but rather than forcing a target to use an at-will attack power at the dominator’s choice, the victim of the driven condition has no control of its movement.  The Jester may “drive” him to any place on the battlefield the controller desires, and it grants combat advantage while its feet – or paws or even fins – remain under the Jester’s control.

The Jester Class also has powers that utilize a new type of area attack called a Close Wall.  This extends out an area of continuous wall squares, originating in from the Jester.  While close walls cannot extend on diagonals, they can assume any line of squares the Jester can imagine, and bend around to reach enemies counting on their close proximity to the Jester’s allies to protect them.

And as far as Paragon Paths go, the Author designed several of the paths in Clever Classes: Jester to match up with a specific build, while others can be matched up with any build.  They are all well-written and have some fun and interesting powers at their disposal.  For instance, the Obsideon String Paragon Path, is based upon the Puppeteering Jester build, while the Harlequin of the Sanguine Step, which matches the Dancing Jester build.  But Paths such as the King of the Forgotten Court and the Hunter of the Henge can be used with any of the four builds, and the combination of builds and Paragon Paths makes sure that each Jester has ample opportunity for a unique play style.

As one can imagine, there will be some information in this supplement that will not be applicable to all campaigns.  For example, some of the feats contained in Clever Classes: Jester utilizes racial types defined in another Alluria Publishing product, Remarkable Races.  Campaigns that do not use those races can still benefit from the feats, and Dungeon Masters and Players will have to decide to which “standard” PC race a particular feat best applies.

But overall, Clever Classes: Jester is a massively complete sourcebook about a very exciting and unique Controller Class, that seems to have a dash of “leader” thrown in.  The Class Powers appear nicely balanced versus other “official-release” controllers, and has some ground-breaking new game mechanics that are fun and exciting to use.  There is tons of “crunch” in the supplement, but with some great “fluff” that will make a Jester both tactically stimulating, and dramatic to role-play.  While some D&D 4e groups might shy a little at the price-tag, it is important to realize just how complete the Jester Class is, with all the support of Feats, Backgrounds, Paragon Paths, Magic Items, and more packed into one big supplement.  Clever Classes: Jester is definitely a worthy addition to the “family” of Controllers in D&D 4e, and will offer many Players a Class option that will inspire them in ways that Wizards and Druids may not.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

I would like to extend a big Thank You to the folks at Alluria Publishing for providing the opportunity to review this roduct, and I wish them the best of luck with their future releases of Clever Classes!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


Leave a Reply