Review: Players Handbook 3; Part 3: The Runepriest, the Seeker and the Hybrid

In the previous installments of our in-depth look at Player’s Handbook 3, we looked at the new races, and the classes for the new psionic power source. The classes introduce new mechanics that may suit them better for experienced players, but are still exciting and bring tantalizing new options to 4th Edition. The new races lean towards more exotic fare than those accustomed to dwarves ad elves may be used to, but provide a greater levels of class flexibility than has been seen before. Today, we will look at the non-psionic classes.

The first new class is the Runepriest, a divine leader that is seemingly designed for those people who are not satisfied with the melee capabilities of the Cleric. Whereas a Cleric would call upon the strength of his faith to heal and inspire his allies, a Runepriest uses his mastery of the sacred script to wield the power of the gods. The flavor suits those who want to play a divine leader but are jealous of the ‘attitude’ of invokers and avengers. Mechanically speaking, they are similar to the primal classes in that they have a ‘special state’ they enter when they invoke the power of the runes.

But rather than transforming into a swarm of locusts, harnessing the power of primal spirits or channelling the fury of a rage state, Runepriests of any build can enter a chosen runic state of “Destruction” or “Protection” whenever they use their powers. For example, Word of Befuddlement allows a Runepriest to make a melee attack against an enemy’s Will to deal 2[W] damage and then choose to force it to attack another enemy when another ally hits it (Destruction) or take a -5 penalty to attack rolls against allies not adjacent to it (Protection). The Runepriest then enters the Protection/Destruction state and emits a corresponding runic aura to benefit his allies. Runepriests possess heavier proficiencies than other an Artificer or Bard, so we’re going to see them gain much currency with players who want a greater balance between healing/buffing and dealing/absorbing punishment than is seen in either Paladins or Clerics.

The next class is the Seeker, a primal controller that is somewhat akin to a ranger mystic. They use primal evocations to enhance their natural talents in archery and thrown weapons. Whereas a Ranger shuffles about the battlefield to strike at vulnerable strategic threats, a Seeker stands far away and channels primal spirits into every arrow she fires. The flavor suits those who think Rangers are too Aragorn for their tastes, and want a little bit more Robin Hood to them, yet find Druids and Wardens to be too Bravestarr for their liking.

Seekers are designed to make multiple targets suffer from various debilitating effects or gain tactical advantage for her and her allies. For example, Stag’s Grace is a utility power that allows her to not provoke opportunity attacks from a target enemy. Feyjump Shot allows her to attack two targets and teleport them 3 squares, or swap their positions and daze them. Wicked! Another useful trick is that she has the class feature Inevitable Shot, which is an encounter power that allows her to turn a missed attack into another attack against a different enemy within 5 squares of the original target, using the original target as the origin square.

Finally, we have the Hybrid. It is essentially an attempt to reintroduce some of the dual-class functions of previous editions of D&D. Previously, people who wanted to create a wizard/ranger character in 4th Edition would have to take ‘Multiclass’ feats in order to get what they want. I think that’s a fine system for those people who simply want to cherry pick their abilities. For example, if you simply want training in an additional class skill – say a Wizard wants to learn thievery – and absorb a minor scale version of the features of other classes. It can be desirable for those who don’t want to water down their rate of XP level progression. However, others have understandably complained that it doesn’t provide the full diversity of a real multi-class.

Multiclassing is arguably less flexible, but it is also designed to prevent players from creating combos that completely backfire in the face. Hybrid breaks this tradition, something that Wizards of the Coast is upfront about this in a Proceed with Care sidebar:

“The system of classes and roles [...] is designed to ensure that every character has a clear purpose and that [prevents them from becoming] easily marginalized by poor choices made in character creation. The hybrid character system discards many of [these] safeguards, even though every effort has been made to [ensure that these characters] are as viable as their single-class comrades.”

Despite the fact that the Hybrid iterations of the classes remain sound in terms of mechanical combinations, they are so nerfed that they utterly defeat the purpose of trying to put them together. For example, a Hybrid Artificer can’t recharge magic item daily powers, a Hybrid Barbarian can’t rage fully, and a Hybrid Warlord loses his ability to provide Commanding Presence bonuses. Simply put, many of the enticing features of a given class are lost in the process of hybridization. Oh sure, you can take the Hybrid Talent feat to regain many of those features, but feats are supposed to add to your character’s functionality and not be spent on becoming ‘decent’. Some sound combinations exist, but again that requires the kind of system mastery that separates n00bs from the l33t.

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All in all, the new non-psionic classes are mostly intriguing. I think the Seeker is essentially what the Ranger should always have been – mostly because we didn’t really need two martial strikers in the first Player’s Handbook – while the Runepriest provides a leader option that isn’t quite as combat-squishy as the Artificer or Bard and will find favor among those who already enjoy the ‘charge and lead’ flavor of the Warlord. It is the Hybrid option that is most questionable: it certainly is a potent option in the hands of the right player, but can easily leave less skilled players fumbling with it. Tune in to the next instalment where we will look at the remaining character options of Player’s Handbook 3.

Other reviews of Player’s Handbook 3 by friends of My Girlfriend is a DM:

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  1. [...] some interesting and exciting mechanics, some of which are more suited for experienced players. We also took a look at the mechanics for Hybrid classes, possibly developed as an answer to those unsatisfied by multi-clasing, as well as two other [...]

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