Posted on January 18, 2011 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
Another ‘core’ rulebook but unlike PHB2 there’s really nothing in here save the monk character class that can really be called core. The races have gotten increasingly bizarre and obscure to the point where unless you’re playing a fantasy version of RIFTs or a kitchen-sink setting like Planescape, things aren’t going to make much sense. That said, this book does give you the psychic rules that people have been waiting for and addresses a huge flaw in 4e up to this point – shitty multiclassing rules.
Yet again this is a fairly background-free book though, given the exotic peculiarities of the new races it can’t really be called generic. This is at the far-exotic end of crazytown in the D&D mythos and describing monks and monk powers as ‘psychic’ really grates on my nerves and – to my mind – cheapens the monk role in the same way midichlorians cheapen Jedi.
You get your usual list of races, classes, paragon paths and the huge number of powers for everything in a nice, brain-straining ream of little boxes. Mechanics is the meat of this book and no mistake.
Race-wise you get:
* Githzerai – Ascetic humanoids from across the planes.
* Minotaur – Great big bull-men, as close as you get to a ‘normal’ race in this book.
* Shardmind – Crystalline psychic beings.
* Wilden – Living plants and guardians of nature.
Class Wise you get:
* Ardent – A sort of combat empath, able to project emotions to inspire or confuse.
* Battlemind – A warrior with a reservoir of psychic power that they can use to enhance themselves.
* Monk – An extreme version of a Shaolin warrior, in fantasy garb.
* Psion – A powerful psionic ‘magic user’ able to use their psychic power in raw attacks and manipulations.
* Runepriest – A sort of runic warrior-priest, able to channel more specific powers through specific runic foci.
* Seeker – A primal, mystical hunter, a sort of cross between a druid and a ranger.
You also get magic items and feats all suited to these new clases and powers, ensuring that you have all the bases covered when you bring them into your game.
So far, so ‘meh’, but what makes this a really worthwhile purchase are the vastly improved multiclassing rules which are called ‘hybrid classes’ in order to prevent confusion with the existing multiclassing rules, such as they are. Essentially this is a quick and easy way of combining two classes together to make a new one.
By way of example, if I were going with my personal favourite of a Rogue/Fighter combo I could go with:
Power Source: Martial
Key Abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution, Charisma.
Armour Proficiencies: Cloth & Leather.flying bears that fire lasers
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple Melee, Military Melee, Simple Ranged, Military Ranged, Shuriken, Hand Crossbow.
Bonus to Defence: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflexes
Hit Points at First Level: 13 + Con.
Hit Points per Level Gained: 5
Healing Surges per Day: 7 + Con modifier.
Class Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, Insight, Intimidate, Perception, Stealth, Streetwise, Thievery.
Extra Trained Skills: Two extra trained skills from the Rogue list.
Class Features: Combat Challenge (Hybrid), Sneak Attack (Hybrid).
Hybrid Talent Options:
Combat Speciality, Fighter Armour Proficiency, Fighter Combat Talent, First Strike, Rogue Combat Talent, Rogue Tactics.
Another great addition is that of skill-based powers that you can swap in for other powers that you have, giving skills a greater utility and point than they had before, which is nice.
It’s a fairly dry book of rules. The artwork is mixed – see below – and the new race and class material isn’t really given enough room to go into depth or create any atmosphere, so this doesn’t really apply to this book. When it comes to powers, the nature of the new game – with everyone and their pet monkey being able to pull off wazzy powers – means that psychics no longer feel particularly special, different or interesting in their own right. I never particularly cared for the D&D approach to psionics in previous editions but in the context of the new game they’re swamped and no longer individual.
As with PHB2 the smaller artwork feels a bit divorced from the text but the larger pieces are very good and evoke the proper atmosphere. That said, the psychic classes – which is most of them – don’t feel very psychic from their illustrations, particularly.
Useful for playing Dark Sun but a bit of a wash otherwise unless you’re playing a rather outre campaign.
On the plus side:
* Decent multiclass rules.
On the minus side:
* Weird races that aren’t much use to anyone, unless you’re playing World of Synnabar. I confidently predict the next PHB to contain flying laser-bears as a playable race.
* Less effort on the magical items.
* Some non-combat applications of skill powers might have been nice to broaden the game.
Review by James “Grim” Desborough