Okay, since I haven’t done this yet I think it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and do a review of the Player’s Hand book II for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.
First though, I think I need to explain something. A long time ago I expressed my hate of DnD, and since then my opinion has… changed somewhat.
When I first started roleplaying, it was with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) 2nd Edition. It’s a great system. Anyways, lots of the people who play WFRP and are on the internet tend to give DnD a bad name. Explaining how they are tired of the powergaming, optimizing, super-build “roll players” (read: more interested in the dice than the story) that play DnD.
So, I kinda took this to heart, and, when I played Neverwinter Nights (an computer game based on DnD 3rd edition) I had to agree with them. Here I was, a mere mortal ranger guy killing Fire Giants and fighting dragons… hmm something here is just not right.
But, then 4th Edition of DnD came out. Someone on PbPhouse decided to run a game of it and I said, “What the heck, I’ll try the system.” I was suspicious of it and even played a character that seems completely random and bad (Halfing Warlord). Since then, however, I’d really enjoyed the game and even ran a small game myself.
My conclusion is this: DnD is a combat focused game where the players can perhaps do some really crazy stupid things at the higher levels. Stuff like kill Gods and travel across the “astral sea” fighting beasts from really weird places. There is a place for that, but I think it needs to be done well. That is to say, in stories I’ve read with super powered characters they are leading armies, opposing gods and all that, but they do it with style… and I don’t see myself as being able to fit that style correctly, as a DM at least.
I will admit, some of the things that DnD has still bothers me. The commonality of Magic weapons and the like, but the game, at low levels at least, seems to interest me. So, when the player’s handbook II came out I just had to buy it and at least see what it had in it.
Basically, what Wizards of the Coast (WotC, the company that publishes DnD) did when they released DnD perhaps about 8 months ago (I forget actually) was they released the standard fair: The Player’s Handbook I, which had all the rules for the game, a Dungeon Masters Guide, which had extra DMing (GMing, or game mastering, or how to play as the game master) rules and tips and the like, a monster’s manual, which has a bunch of different monsters and creatures players can fight in DnD. However, while these books contain tons of DnD info and the like, there is lots of information that has yet to be expanded upon. Stuff like dragons of Good, certain races prominent in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 but no longer existent in DnD 4th Edition, as well as extra classes and the like.
So, that’s where the Player’s Handbook II comes in. These book introduces a bunch of new races and classes, as well as some extra racial rules, not to mention more feats and magic items. Its smaller than the first Handbook, but this is expected since it doesn’t contain all the combat rules and stuff.
So what does it have? Well, Goliaths, Half-Orcs, Devas, Shifters and Gnomes are the five new races contained in this book. For the most part, I don’t really like their fluff for some of these races. The gnomes and the Half-orcs have gotten a redo with half-orcs becoming less savage warrior-beast guys and more ranger/dexterous fighters. Gnomes are anime-monster wannabes. However, the Goliaths (giant dwarf-esque mountain nomads) Devas (angelic dudes), and shifters (half-werewolves/cats) all impress me a lot. I love them.
Then of course, we have the classes. We have the long awaited arrival of the bard, druid, sorcerer, and barbarian along with the introduction of the avenger, the invoker, shaman, and the warden. The bard and sorcerer are arcane spell caster type guys. Bards inspire their allies, sorcerers destroy their enemies. Both are awesome. The Invoker and Avenger are divine warriors. Avengers seem to be “holy assassins” who are amazing at killing single targets. These guys are perhaps my favorite class right now because of their fluff and image. They don’t wear armor, and get bonuses for doing so. The result is a guy with a huge sword (or mace, or axe) and these billowing robes all around him, charging at his target. Very cool. The invoker is a wizard reimaged as a Divine caster instead of an arcane one. They get their powers from the gods, but have much more of an older feeling and more divine wrath feel than the cleric or paladin, who seem to be more in line with a holy, but good, warrior. Invokers seem more evil/dark to me.
Then we have the new power source: primal, or nature power. The warden is a defender, so he’s similar to the fighter or paladin, but instead of using high armor and defense to defend he just has so many hit points no one can kill him.
The Druid is a controller… basically a primal wizard who can turn into an animal and attack like that. In this regard he’s also a bit of a striker.
Finally, the Shaman and the barbarian: the barbarian comes back from DnD 3.5 with its orginal role: LOTS OF DAMAGE. Barbarbians are known for being big, stupid, strong guys with huge axes. This idea remains. The shaman is a reflavored druid who has a spirit companion and buffs his/her allies with nature’s blessings, so he’s a leader/defender I think.
Overall, all the classes are awesome, I love the sorcerer and the avenger. The invoker sounds like the kind of Controller I’d wanna play. Personally I like the Rogue and Fighter from PBH a lot, and not all the new classes really seem too amazing. I’ve never been a fan of the druid, so the fact that I dislike both him and the shaman isn’t surprising. The bard, isn’t my kind of class. I love the bard as a concept but I’d never play one. The Avenger, Sorcerer, and Barbarian, however, all rock in so many ways.
The rest of the book is good too. They added racial “paragon paths” which are what act as prestige classes in DnD 4E. I haven’t looked at them too much but some of them, like one of the DragonBorn ones looks really cool (you get WINGS! You can FLY!) .
And that’s about all I have to say about the book. If you play DnD 4E then I highly recommend you get this book.