I don’t need to tell you that absolutely fundamental classes (at least since 3e) have been conspicuously unrepresented in 4e’s debut products. “Forgotten Heroes: Fang, Fist and Song” by Tavis Allison, Eytan Bernstein, Brian Cortijo, and Greg Tito is Goodman Games’ attempt to fill in some of the gaps so blatantly left by the 4e Player’s Handbook.

Forgotten Heroes (hereafter FH) reintroduces the Barbarian, Bard, Druid, and Monk classes to the game, and offers up, as Goodman Games products often seem to, a number of pleasantly surprising bits of crunch to supplement the work and add to its merit.

Product Overview
On an aesthetic level, this is a really nice piece of work. Solid cover and interior art is often lacking in third party material, but Goodman Games delivers in FH. The layout is familiar to those who have read the core books by Wizards of the Coast (WotC). Within the limitations of black and white spreads, the layout is fairly easy to read and attractive.

A bonus element of the product is its discussion of the introduction of an “Apocalypse” into your campaign, and with this discussion, the product begins. All of the classes are presented in relation to this campaign event, though it is made clear that this element is not necessary to their inclusion in your game. None of the classes’ descriptions, features, or powers are contingent upon an apocalyptic campaign, but the surprising addition of this feature makes the product as a whole all the more compelling. No doubt, every DM will find some amount of inspiration from this section. At the least, some tidbit of information or storyline suggestion will catch your fancy, and many will likely choose to use the table-driven “Choose Your Apocalypse” generator (or the suggestions therein should they choose to forego the randomness of a table generator). Outstanding elements of this section also include the suggestions for how the classes represented in FH might interact with one another, adventure suggestions based upon inter-class conflicts, and adventure/encounter/scenario concepts offered to develop motivations for members of each class.

The classes section is presented next. Each class is accompanied by recommendations for two builds, much like in the PHB. Further, a number of unique options and abilities or powers for each class are given that go beyond the standard character builds to which players of 4e are accustomed. After an extensive list of powers, equal rivals of those found in the PHB, each class entry ends with Paragon Path options. Each of the classes conforms to one of the class types, either Primal or Ancient, presented in the book. These class types help to develop the classes and explain their existences and roles in the campaign world.

The Barbarian, a Primal character, is the first class presented. The class is much of what you would expect given its representation in recent D&D editions and based upon its 4e role of Defender. Allison et al. make their Barbarian unique by making its development and power options dependent upon the adoption of an animal totem. Tough melee Barbarians will adopt the Bear Spirit, mobile Barbarians, almost like strikers, will espouse the Eagle spirit, and the Wolf Spirit allows the Barbarian to lead to some degree and aid his pack (i.e. party) in its combat efforts.

Next comes the Bard, an Ancient, with a familiar set of class features and powers. An arcane Leader, this Bard is different from what standard Bards are likely to be in that it can trigger certain songs and effects with the successful use of any number of its class powers. Further, unlike in previous representations of the Bard, this one has the cleverly embellished ability to influence its powers’ effects by choosing to employ specific instruments in its performances.

The Druid is a Controller, and its repertoire of powers is fairly consistent in scope with those of the Wizard, the only other Controller yet in 4e. Much like the Barbarian, the Druid is Primal and husbands an animal spirit. And as with the Barbarian, this choice in totems affects the Druid’s use of the Wildshape class feature, many powers, and animal companion.

The final class represented is the Monk. This Ancient class is a Striker, and is made unique by the fighting styles it can adopt. Further, the Monk has the option, on the fly, to shift between stances and postures to change its efficacy in different situations.

A definite perk of the work are sections containing feats and magic items which follow the class descriptions. Over thirty new feats are offered, only just over half of which are restricted to the classes presented therein. All of the magic items, though, are specifically geared toward the four classes in FH.

As a side note, the Barbarian presented in FH seems to stack up and offer just about the same options and fit much the same mold as the Barbarian currently in pre-release by WotC. As such, it is likely that this class, if not each of the others, will serve just as well as the official classes in your campaign. Even should you choose to adopt the official classes as the core classes represented in your campaign, this will serve as a great supplement and provide players with additional options for their characters.

Strengths
The classes, as presented, are at least as creative as the PHB 1 in variety and number of powers offered, build options, etc., but adds a level of creativity in offering inspiring concepts on which to build characters from these classes.

Goodman Games was smart to preempt the release of the PHB 2 which, if the cover art and title are any indication, will feature at least some if not all of these classes. With the limited ability to compare, there is no apparent reason this couldn’t be utilized as a supplement for powers, feats, magic items, etc. if you decide you like the PHB 2 and WotC’s representation of these classes. Further, it’s not at all unlikely that you could just as easily decide these representations are better, use them as your standards, and use the PHB 2 as its supplement (or forego it completely!).

The “icing on the cake”: Goodman Games always brings something different. This time we find it in the form of a fantastic campaign concept to help to introduce the four character classes. This is not necessary for use with the classes, but adds a great story element, and no doubt will offer inspiration for any DM.

Weaknesses
No Epic Destinies are suggested (not that the PHB offers many, nor do any other third party products seem to be offering many). However, new supplements like Martial Power by WotC are beginning to offer more Epic Destiny paths that are geared toward certain classes more (where the PHB falls short). It would be nice to see some Epic Destinies specifically geared to these classes.

FH offers some new mechanics and tweaks on power usage; for example, the Bard has songs that are triggered by other powers. This dynamic is mechanically unlike anything else presented in 4e, is a bit rough, and adds a certain level of complexity to game play that perhaps is unnecessary. But it is unique and creative none-the-less.