The Living Hive
By Milo v3
This months theme is teamwork, and so I'm reviewing a class that is one of the largest most cohesive teams all on it's own. The Living Hive
This charming class crawls its way right from you nightmares and into your game. There are few classes like the living hive even in the vast world of homebrew and it makes several very bold and innovative decisions. But first lets start with the basics
The basic chassis for the living hive seems underwhelming. Poor base attack bonus, a good fortitude save and bad reflex and will and a D6 for hit points and four plus intelligence skill points per level. Without being a core spellcasting class it's rare to see such a weak frame but there's very good reasoning for it.
At first level the living hive has two abilities that really are only two halves of the same ability. Their trademark ability to summon a creature from their swarm to attack the enemy and one level later they can be used to take any other action. and with each new level their swarm grows stronger and larger and harder to harm but this does lead us to the one flaw of this class.
The living hive is very much about the swarm, about the vermin, to the exclusion of pretty much all else. It's not until 13th level that the living hive gains an ability that they active that isn't related to their swarm, and even then it's just a contagion touch. And given their armor limitation, low hit points and poor base attack its not often a great option. Beyond that there are no other abilities that they themselves activate so I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with works like the commoner handbook for tips on how to keep your own actions effective. Now that I've directly said your character can do almost nothing let's explore why I still love this class and why it make my bucket list of classes to play.
Firstly this class makes great use of the action economy, while you don't have many class features to use both you and your swarm get all your actions, and as you level up you can get as many as four swarms active all at once. Additionally this class makes excellent use of the fact that swarms are deceptively powerful. They possess many immunities, deal damage without an attack roll, can lock down multiple foes with distraction, and these swarms also gain familiar benefits including a better armor class, better ability scores, and improved evasion which is an absolute blessing for a swarm. And you continually gain more swarms and more abilities for them as levels are gained ensuring you never get left behind the curve. Not only can the swarms deal great damage but thanks to several excellent sensory abilities they also make remarkably good spies and scouts.
I want to draw special attention to the high level abilities. The first allows the living hive to put a swarm inside a helpless foe, possessing them and gaining full control over them. This ability grants the class a huge step forward in versatility , suddenly granting it control over any kind of formerly living opponent and expanding possibilities to near infinity. It is balanced however by requiring one of the swarm to remain in that foe, and by allowing a new save every day which protects the creature from control for a full week.
The capstone ability allows you to remain playing as your controlled puppets and your swarms even after death, a perfect example of an exciting and powerful ability that belongs at high level for certain. Those two abilities, as well as the rate new swarms are gained make this seemingly weak class a clever and competitive option.
In addition to being technically well made and interesting there is a lot can be done with the flavour of this class. The description of the swarms, the way in which they appear, and the style of your abilities are all very open to alteration, though the default of having a horrifying swarm of bugs inside you is already pretty amazing and evocative.
All in all this is a very unique class with a fascinating style and aesthetic, and it focuses on playing smart and manipulating a very unique type of minionmancy. This scuttling nightmare is the class of my dreams and I couldn't recommend it more.