Heh, I still think this is a fantastic piece of work, and I definitely haven't lost interest in it. I've just been lacking on free time. Plus, I get distracted by ideas for revisions to my own stuff, and new things that I want to work on, and things I want to test out for other people.... Plus, I still like to play good old fashioned ToME every now and then
My strategy on the last few runs has been basically a 'Natural Combat only' build. This means that hookclaw attacks quickly out pace impermanent weapons, since I'm not investing in Cutting Edge (or is it Killing Blade? I always forget which one is category when I'm not looking, lol). That means that I'm always bleeding, and therefore always stealing life. Plus I do tons of damage from investing in Savage Strength. Between that, the defense from Rabbit's Foot, and Armor from Nature Hardened, I'm dang near invincible to mobs that rely on weapon attacks.
I kind of figured it was something along those lines for Shield Breaker. It's not that big of a problem. It caught me a little off guard the first time, but now I just hold off on using torques if I'm up against something that might freeze me.
Thanks for the run down on Bond and Disparity, I'll remember that in the future.
I think most of the 'difficulty' of Ritch comes from the inclination to invest in the Ritch's unique categories. That takes a lot of generic investment, and not investing those points into NC really leaves you a lot worse off. Bloodletting, Hoarding and Wing Pod would all be useful defensive investments, but again, not really worthwhile when compared to investing in NC. Cutting Edge takes a lot of investment to stay relevant and isn't worthwhile, especially when keeping Savage Strength maxed is enough for your hookclaws to kill most things in a bump or two. Mantis is awful, as you said, and Cold Blood doesn't really do much defensively or offensively, even if it weren't opposed to Natural Combat investment.
Would you be up for (experimentally) swapping a couple of the class and generic talents? I would switch Bloodletting and Wing Pod for Metal Rending and Victimize. Metal Rending and Victimize each have a couple of really good talents, possibly even worth giving up a few points in NC. I might just go ahead and do that on my own copy, actually, to see how it goes. I don't think it would solve all of Ritch's problems, but it might be a start. Ultimately, of course, all I can do is offer my experience and some suggestions. I think you may be right that the class will need some major revision in the future. I want
it to be good, but when the best build option seems to be largely ignoring the class's unique talents and just bump stuff, that's a pretty good indication that something is seriously lacking. Ritch sort of feels like an Archer that can only use Shoot, or a Rogue with no Stealth.