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DISCLAIMER: Any references I make to a class or game are to the original Fourth Edition rulebooks that have come out, not that crap they call the Essentials line.

I really love new books with fluff and crunch for games.  There is not much more fun to me than sitting down with some new crunchy bits surrounded with fluffy goodness, and devour it like I was a Biblical plague of locusts set loose on Egypt to piss off a Pharaoh.

And yet, when I encounter stuff that really makes me wonder about the writers… well, I get a bit sour, honestly.  It happened when they put out the Essentials line last year.  That craptastic hunk of money-grubbing monkey-dung…  Sorry; different rant for a different time.  The point is that I can go from insatiable hunger for what I just acquired to vomitous  disgust and anger in the amount of time it takes for a toddler to realize that being told not to do something means he or she should do it anyway.

I just picked up the new Players Option: Heroes of Shadow supplement released by Wizards of the Coast for the 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons game.  And I am somewhere in between satiated and slightly ill.  I’ll go through, bit by bit, and explain why.

Classes: I think this section has my biggest bitches and complaints.  First of all, the Executioner Assassin is most definitely NOT an assassin according to the class released not long after the debut of Fourth Edition itself (which I think was, perhaps, one of the greatest net releases Wizards has done in the very short history of this edition, along with the Shadar-kai race), which you can find here.  If you haven’t looked at it, you really should.  It is an amazingly flavorful class that SHOULD have been in this book, instead of the Executioner Assassin, which seems to function more like a build of the Rogue class.  With mostly martial powers, it would function better as just a different build.

One of the nice things is the inclusion of some poison rules, which should be based on a feat like Alchemist or Ritual Caster.  Let’s give the poisons a cost, just like alchemical items from Adventurer’s Vault, and make it into a feat you can take to make poisons… and some rules to adjudicate using it.

The Blackguard paths for Paladin… okay, these are well done.  I can’t lie, this was pretty well done.  Honestly, it was.  I don’t like their turning it into a Striker role, but that can be gotten around.  The dedication to one of two Vices is great, especially for flavor.  This section makes a great paladin build for any holy warrior who serves a deity of shadow, death, the like.  Alternately, to preserve the Striker part, apply it to the Avenger class from PHB2.

The Vampire class… well, look for my re-write of this coming up soon.  Nuff said.

The warlock options… can come or go.  I really am not all that impressed by them, but the powers they offer do give some neat new options for existing warlocks.  If you ask me, the Dark Pact Warlock from the Forgotten Realms Players Guide embodies a Shadow-flavored Warlock perfectly, so why muck around with some kind of Binder Warlock crap.

Now, to something positive about the classes section: the new power listings for other classes. OH MAN!  Now THIS stuff is nice and crunchy, with the potential for use as fluffy backup.  I mean it.  The insertion of Cleric powers that do necrotic damage (emulating the old reversed Cure spells), as well as the Necromancy and Nethermancy wizard powers that really do the same thing really brings a new dimension to those classes.  A lot of good rules crunch and background fluff.

Races: Okay, the Revenant is a reprint from the online Dragon Magazine article that introduced them a couple years ago.  Nothing new, neat idea, welcome Eric Draven.

The Shades: Awesome.  Great.  Well-done.  A fun and malleable generic backstory make this race a good addition to the shadowy races from the website like the Revenants and the Shadar-kai.

The Vryloka.  Oh.  My.  God.  This is something new, innovative, fun, fluffy as all get out with the backstory, some crunchy rules options like racial utility powers, and just a really tasty addition to the game.  The idea of a Living Vampire race is great.  Looking for a good alternative to the Changelings from Eberron that are dexterous and charismatic, but don’t want to go the Drow route, while preserving the feel of nobility?  Oh man, is this race for you.  The backstory is that whole families of nobles made a deal with an entity named the Red Witch, and they got a lot of the benefits of the vampires without that pesky undeath stuff.

The Paragon paths offered are great, could stand to benefit from some more background depth and such, but rules-wise, they’re great.  Same with the Epic destinies.  As for the feats included… take your time to pick through them  A couple, such as Tainted Wounds from the Lore of Moil category, which can make the wielder of the feat especially deadly in combat, could use some limitations, prerequisites, or limiters.

In all, I give the book a C rating, with the saving graces listed above.  Over all, the feel is elementary throughout most of the book, with the format being similar to the Essentials line books (*gnashing of teeth*), and I tend to feel like that is talking down to the reader a bit, as if we all have a second grade reading level.

Pick it up, if you like.  The stuff IN the book that is worth it, is VERY worth it, honestly.  It is a bit of slim book for the $30 price tag, so I would suggest going through Amazon, Ebay, or another discount site to save yourself some scratch because, let’s admit it, with that price tag, it doesn’t deliver $30 of good material.

What do you think?

PS: Look for my rewrite of the Vampire class in the very near future.

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  1. […] piecemeal at the contents.  (If you want my overall impression of the book, look at this post: Heroes of Shadow: A Review, or Spoooooookyyyyy Stuff… Kinda.)  And I hit on what I was really chomping at the bit for: the Vampire class.  Now here was what I […]

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