Review: Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Part 2: Warpriest & Mage
This post is a continuation of an extensive multi-part look at Heroes of the Fallen Lands, written by guest writer Phil Corpuz. Phil is an editor at Nosfecatu Publishing, a local publisher of Philippine mythology themed supplements for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Content from their products is represented on a regular basis at POLYHEDRAL.
In the first installment of our review of Heroes of the Fallen Lands, I explained how the new format and design has made the book much more portable and convenient at the table and discussed the changes introduced to the classic races. In this installment, I will look at the new builds, which are what have really gotten the 4th Edition audience both excited and riled up. These new builds have to walk a tightrope between being accessible and iconic, without being dumbed down, underpowered, or totally incompatible with previous builds.
The most apparent difference in these builds is the presentation of their abilities in a level advancement table. It’s something of a throwback to previous editions, but more importantly, it helps new players by giving them a clearer idea of how their character advances. One interesting design change is the return of class features that unlock through level progression.
In so far as higher-level play options are concerned, Heroes of the Fallen Lands also extends the new build structure past the heroic tier. One paragon path is also provided for each class build and a single generic epic destiny, the Indomitable Champion, is designed to suit them all. Players who choose to use other paragon paths or epic destinies can easily subtract the Essentials features and plug in outside features.
With that all said, just how different are these new builds from the previous classes? Are they as user-friendly as WotC marketing purports them to be, and how compatible are they with previously published material? As far as the Warpriest (Cleric) and Mage (Wizard) are concerned, they are easily the most backwards compatible of the builds in Heroes of the Fallen Lands, as they mostly retain the classic power structure.
WARPRIEST: A melee-oriented cleric, the Warpriest who can choose one of two domains (Sun or Storm), which determines your pre-set at-will and encounter attack powers, class features and channel divinity options. Feeling straightjacketed? Ha! You’ll take what your god gives you and be happy with it!
At level 11, you gain a small buff to one of your domain at-wills. The Storm domain is keyed to your strength and focuses on offensive buffs while the Sun domain focuses on defensive boosts and is keyed off Charisma. In effect, your bread-and-butter powers may not differ, but a limited degree of customization still exists in the area of your daily and utility powers.
Warpriests differ from their Player’s Handbook forebears in that they don’t get ritual casting for free. I suspect that this was because it was deemed too complex for new players, but nonetheless they still get daily utility powers that replace the function of those rituals iconic to clerics. In place of Remove Affliction and Cure Disease, they get the level 4 class feature Holy Cleansing and in place of Raise Dead, there is the level 8 class feature Resurrect.
While these guarantee that the warpriest get the critical functions associated with the cleric, I’m a little way of being able to pass resurrections around like candy. Free candy. It’s already pretty difficult to get taken down in 4th edition and nerfing the amount of party resources required to fix things like petrification, disease and death is borderline overpowered.
As far as compatibility goes, the Warpriest domain encounter powers and at-wills remain inaccessible to the classic cleric, though daily attack powers and utility powers are interchangeable between both. Still, it’s possible for a DM to make a houserule exception for a classic cleric using a relevant domain from Divine Power. Previously published cleric paragon paths are also available to him.
MAGE: Eschewing Ritual Casting and Implement Mastery in favor of school-based class features, a vastly upgraded spellbook mechanic and the improved ‘auto-hit’ Magic Missile as a free at-will power, the Mage is the ‘utility belt’ of the Essentials spellcasting classes. Mages can choose to specialize in Enchantment, Evocation or Illusion, which determines class features, the powers you gain in the Enigmatic Mage paragon path and which powers will grant you certain kickers when you use them. All in all, a fair trade for Implement Mastery.
A Mage gets a lot of flexibility from the mechanics of her spellbook. Not only can she store and choose between various daily and utility powers, but encounter powers as well! Still, it could swamp a new player with a lot of book-keeping, but it’s nowhere close to having to list down a buttload of spells as in previous editions. Furthermore, an Enigmatic Mage can choose to swap prepared encounter attacks and daily utilities with others in her spellbook, making her a utility belt that always has the right power for the job.
Losing Ritual Casting in exchange for these features isn’t a big loss, though it’s not like you can’t burn a feat to get it anyway. It’s not all awesomeness though. While I love the Enchantment school, certain non-combat utilities such as Instant Friends and its nastier big brother, Otto’s Song of Fidelity, invite regular abuse in a manner similar to the old-school charm and suggestion spells of before. Player abuse mileage may vary, though, but it would help DMs to be aware of the power of these nasties.
As for compatibility considerations, PHB wizards can make use of the powers in here with little difficulty, and a Mage can definitely make use of previous wizard powers. Such powers would be unlikely choices unless they are already pretty kick-ass, since she doesn’t they don’t get to apply her specialization school features unless a power has the relevant keyword. Paragon level Mages can choose to give up the ridiculous amount of flexibility and power that is granted by the Enigmatic Mage paragon path but it’s no big loss for a well considered build.
Heroes of the Fallen Lands is a pretty solid buy, based on price and format alone. It’s cheap and portable. As far as the races go, they’re flexible and easy to take in for new players, but also make it easier for experienced players to build unusual characters. In succeeding installments of this multi-part review, we’ll tackle HotFL’s character creation rules, the heart of the book, including new character options, compatibility, and more.
Heroes of the Fallen Lands takes heroic casters into interesting and compelling new directions, providing intuitive choices without sacrificing a significant degree of flexibility. In succeeding installments, I”ll take a look at the builds for two of the martially-inclined classes and after which, wrap up with the rest of the player options in feats, magic items and skills.