Rite Publishing just released the beta version for their Heroes of the Jade Oath sourcebook. Based on Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved it's enable players to experience oriental adventures in a very detailed setting.
Heroes of the Jade Oath is a new, very extensive sourcebook from Rite Publishing to the Arcana Evolved setting, created by Monte Cook. Included in this book's 300+ pages you could find every single information to play a oriental adventures in the setting.
The sheer volume of game information in the book is stunning : more than 150 feats, a lots of spells, new classes (including the previewed Demon Hunter), more than a dozen playable races and several optional rules suited for the setting.
However based on the previews the sheer quantity of information sometimes hinders more than help. For example description about a single base-class is above fifteen pages in most instances, which may be good for a player-character but it'scould be a nightmare for a game master who should read through several classes to create NPC-s or to look after player abilities.
The setting is full of good ideas, with a very detailed background on the history behind Heroes of the Jade Oath. You get to know the different factions involved in the world, as well as the place of the different races in the setting, as the overview and the playable races section goes from the beggining to the 120th page.
Since I can't see the core book for Arcana Evolved I cannot be sure, but compared to "standard" D&D 3,5 material not everything seems right ruleswise. Some of the class abilities from the previews seems a little bit unbalancing. The Demon Hunters could be practically immune to bludgeon damage, (what about falling from a mountain or a hit by a giant's club ?) turning it into nonlethal damage, and even quicly regenerate it, while an Enlightened Scholar could rise much above in skill bonuses compared to any other class while also gaining some "monkish" abilities. But of course, these could be ok for Arcana Evolved if the overall power level is somewhat higher than in generic D&D, but it could hamper Game Masters in mixing the different settings in their campaigns.
Reading the preview about the in-game representation of the zodiac sings whas also strange to me: they each provide an in-game advantage and a roleplaying limitation, which seems a very unsymetric method.
Otherwise the visual execution of the book is very good : both the arts in the book, and the pleasant green/yellow colors are very nice looking, and this thing are really increasing the general feel of the book.
At the end, I'm positive that this will be a succesful book, and a great addition to the setting.
If you are interested, you may check the previews here. Oh, and they also have a preview video...
Zoltán "Cain" Mészáros