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Saturday, 11th October, 2008, 02:22 AM #1
Lama (Lvl 13)
Forgotten Heroes: Fang, Fist and Song
Forgotten Heroes is one of what Iím sure will be many books that fill some of the edition gaps. In this case, rules are provided for core classes bard, barbarian, druid and monk. The book is 88 pages so the PDF is 90. The PDF has the cover as the first page, the rear cover as the second page, a lack and white replication of the cover that does double duty as the credits page, and a page of ads. The annoying thing about that page of ads is that it has a full background to it. Iím pretty sure not only could the file be made smaller by using a simpler set of ads, but that if youíre crazy and print the whole thing like me, itíd be less ink consumed.
The PDF is black and white. Itís too bad that the electronic version canít take advantage of the new formatting for powers and abilities in 4th edition which are color coded but at the same time, people would then be complaining of having to waste color ink. The more annoying factor is the design border which serves as clutter. Format follows standard book format of two columns and in essence, this is the physical book in electronic format.
Cover art is provided by Steve Ellis and interior art by Brit Martin. Britís work is good but it looks like it wouldíve been better in full color or that these images were taken from a full color image. The nice thing about having one artist, especially a solid artist like Brit Martin, is it gives the book unity in appearance. Iíve seen too many books with such different jarring art styles that it looks like different companies put the book together, as opposed to different artists.
Instead of delving right into the classes, the book starts with the idea of the Apocalypse. Now Iím all for such ideas. The old 2nd edition adventure, the Apocalypse Stone, had some great bits to it and discussed how such an event could lead to new classes, such as monks coming out of retirement to interact with the world of man again, as well as barbarians coming in from the wild. The themes are similar here but the idea isnít developed enough to warrant its inclusion when more game mechanics couldíve been included at the same time. If it was a running theme through the whole of the book, that wouldíve given it a different undercurrent but itís more or less an opening chapter that is interesting, but could have itís own book.
The classes start off with the barbarian. This primal defender is limited to hide armor and under, solid melee, and ranged (simple and military), a bonus to Fortitude and Reflex, 15 base hit points, 6 additional hit points per level and 10 base healing surges. As a defender, one of the things that are vital for such a class is keeping the enemy from attacking others. They get Mark of Wrath, give the enemy a -2 penalty on attacks if the marked enemy doesnít attack you, and allows the barbarian to make an immediate interrupt, allowing the barbarian to shift 1 square and make a melee basic attack against that enemy.
In terms of class featureís, to help compensate for the lower armor, they get a bonus on armor class if wearing cloth, leather, or hide equal to the better of Con, Dex, or Int scores, a nice boost to start off with. This is a totem based barbarian who must select bear, eagle, or wolf. Based on this totem, they get different effects from Furyís Bounty, this ability ranges from temporary hit points to sliding allies. More interesting is rage, an at will ability that provides a penalty to armor class and a bonus on attack rolls.
Barbarian powers are called wildings. One of your at will powers is directed by your totem and many other abilities are enhanced by having the right totem for the power. For example, bared teeth, a daily 25th level wilding, allows you to make three attacks. If you have the Wolf Totem, you can make a number of attacks equal to 2 plus your Dexterity. Itís an interesting way to allow characters to have the same powers but have a different focus.
The two paragon paths here include the berserker and the mundane. The former is a raging killing machine while the later is a nod to the old 1st edition barbarian that hated magic and has abilities named like Kill the Mage, allowing you to spend an action point and shift a number of squares equal to speed, but only if you can end your movement next to an enemy.
Next up, the bard is a leader starting off with a bonus to Reflex, 12 hit points at 1st level, 5 a level, and 7 healing surges. They start off with five skills and can select anyone except Endurance. Bards have a wide variety of abilities; bardic knowledge, bardic song, exhilarating song, and musical instrument mastery. Right off the bat, Iím a little overwhelmed by it. Most of the core classes have a few simple little tricks. The bard has tables to showcase his abilities.
In terms of powers, the bard is high up there in the ranks of causing damage with sound. To start off, one of the at-will powers, Dirge, is Charisma vs. Will and inflicts 1d8 + Charisma modifier psychic damage in addition to playing one of two songs. The two paragon paths are songweaver, and loremaster. The former a master of music, and the latter a know it all.
Coming up third, the druid is a controller. While having up to hide armor, their weapon selection is very limited. The bonus to Will is nice, but the lower hit points reflect that mage origin point, starting off with 10 and getting 4 a level with only 6 base healing surges. Iíve never been too fond of the old druid. The whole animal companion, summoning abilities, and a ton of other stuff left me a little cold.
This druid has an ability to summon an animal companion. They also have to specialize in either a fetish or a shillelagh in terms of implement. Lastly, they also get wildshape, gaining different abilities through their shapes, like the various polymorph spells at the tail end of 3.5.
The summoned animal is a bit strange. If you want it to move, you spend your move action. The animal sticks around for an encounter or until itís hit by an attack that does damage. The benefit of the animal companion is the companion attack, a Wisdom vs Reflex that does 1d6 + Wisdom and has other abilities based on the animal selected. For example, the Eage provides a bonus on the damage roll equal to Charisma modifier. For paragon paths, we have the shapeshifter, pretty self explanatory, and the purifier. The purifier is out to insure that in the battle between man and nature, itís nature that comes out ahead.
The last class is the Monk. This martial striker has no armor training. It specifically states ďNone.Ē Now with 4eís emphasis on general rules that are turned over by specific rules, I donít know if that means a monk canít wear cloth armor. Itíd have been better to leave the field blank or note somewhere that monks canít wear armor because in the text, it does refer to abilities that can only be used if unarmored or in cloth armor. The monk gets some weapon groups in both simple and military, making them perhaps one of the best ďarmedĒ versions of the monk Iíve seen.
The monk gets to pick a fighting style, external, internal, or weapon master. This in part determines the at will powers, known as exploits, as well as Open Hand Attack and Combat Mastery. The Open Hand can be used when the monk has combat advantage not due to flanking and is using a melee weapon from a certain group, including unarmed. It starts off at 1d6 and goes up 1d6 every tier. That external fighting style bonus with open hand? Itís allowing Open Hand damage on critical hits, charge attacks and against targets that are slowed.
Part of the monkís power suite involves a few themes. One of them is weapon destruction. You generally inflict a decent amount of damage but destroy your weapon in the process. The other one is avoiding damage. Now when you do this, you generally wind up with a condition, but depending on the situation, it can be well worth it. In addition, Iíd say there is an ďold schoolĒ suite of powers ranging from quivering palm and slow fall to the various naming conventions used in this section.
The two paragon paths include the long hand acolyte, a master of avoiding conflict, and the drunken master, who relies on strong drink for his abilities.
After the classes, the book starts into feats. Feats are arranged by tier and then alphabetically in tabled summary format with full details in the text. For those wondering how the monk could possibly compete in terms of unarmed damage, hereís where it comes in. Things like Mighty Unarmed Style, +2 proficiency bonus and 1d10 points of damage or Precise Unarmed Strike doing less damage with a larger bonus and is versatile.
The feat section, like the core book, suffers in that most of the feats are the bread and butter heroic with much fewer in the paragon and epic teirs. There are multiclass feats included that allow some gaining of these new class abilities. For example, Disciple of the Martial Arts gives the user training in either Athletics or Acrobatics, a fighting style, and once per encounter, Open Hand Attack.
Closing off the book, we have magic items. It starts with fetishes. These are small objects that represent a bond to nature and come in a wide variety of levels form 2nd to 30th. We also have musical instruments and secret techniques. The latter is in essence a monkís magic weapon and have the same cost as a magic weapon of a similar nature. One interesting nod to old school Kung Fu movies is that only one person can possess a secret technique at a time. You can pass it on, or take it from someone by beating them in combat.
I havenít had time to playtest the classes outside of making a few at first level just to see how it went. Barbarian and monk were the ones Iíd probably want to try out in a campaign. The bard just seems too esoteric and the druid is still not a class Iíd want to run first out the gate.
This brings me to a potential weak point of the book. In something thatísí introducing new classes, concepts, feats, and magic items, some pregenerated characters, either as bonus downloads or in the actual book, would be a great thing. In the old edition, there were NPCs aplenty. The new one has a distinct lack of such prebuild goodness.
In terms of editing, well, itís no worse than Wizards of the Coast but it could be clearer in certain places, like listing cloth armor or indicating that even the every class has proficiency with cloth armor, that the monk does not and has to take a feat for it. Note, thatís a feat not in the core book because every class has it.
For my own campaign, Iíll be bringing the printed draft copy worthy file to my game this Tuesday and see if anyone takes the bait. Even though Iíve just had three new characters crop up due to deaths in Sellswords of Punjar, (two of the new guys Swordmages!), you never know when something will strike a playerís fancy and without years of 4e behind me to fall on, Iíll have to rely more on playtesting material than I have had to in years.
If youíre looking to pick up some of the 3e slack that 4e skipped out on, Forgotten Heroes offers a good place to start.
Last edited by Morrus; Tuesday, 14th October, 2008 at 10:02 PM.
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Sunday, 12th October, 2008, 04:06 PM #2
Guide (Lvl 11)
Thanks for a characteristically thoughtful review, Joe!
One of the trickier parts of doing this book was working with a set of rules that was changing as we wrote! Although playtesters are forever forbidden from talking about the details of their experience, let's imagine that since the description for cloth armor specifies that "all characters are proficient with cloth armor" at one point we thought it made sense not to have to repeat it in the armor proficiencies line for each class.
The suggestion of including pre-made characters is a good one. We make up a lot of characters from 1st to 30th level as part of our internal design checks & playtesting, so for the second and third books in the Forgotten Heroes series I'll see if we can include some of those sample PCs with the PDF.
For characters from Fist, Fang, and Song, we had eight pre-gen characters (one of each build of the bard, barbarian, monk, and druid) available to players in the Gen Con tournament. That tournament module will, I believe, soon be available for download at the Goodman Games site - I'll post a link when that happens.
Currently Kickstarting Domains at War & playtesting it in an ACKS after-school class.
Wednesday, 15th October, 2008, 04:54 AM #3
Lama (Lvl 13)
Friday, 24th October, 2008, 03:27 PM #4
Guide (Lvl 11)
Pregenerated characters from the tournament, as well as the tournament adventure itself, can be downloaded at the Goodman Games site - see "Resources" for the links.
Last edited by Tav_Behemoth; Friday, 24th October, 2008 at 03:30 PM.
Currently Kickstarting Domains at War & playtesting it in an ACKS after-school class.
Friday, 24th October, 2008, 07:35 PM #5
Novice (Lvl 1)