Monday, March 19, 2007

Player's Handbook II

Title: Player's Handbook II

Product Line: Dungeons and Dragons, d20

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

What it is

This book is full of ideas for building the background of your characters. It seems to focus on the character's background and the role the character plays in the party. It also introduces some new character classes.

The first chapter itroduces 4 new classes. The Beguiler is a new arcane spellcaster class. It has a fixed, focused, spell list and you can cast spells from that list spontaniously (similar to the War Mage). The Beguiler's spell list is built around enchantment and illusion. The Dragon Shaman is essentially a spellless cleric who gains dragon abilities (including the breathweapon) of one color of dragon in place of the spells. The Duskblade is a fighter sorcerer. You lose the bonus feats and some armor use (though they gain heavier armors as they gain levels) but gain limited sorcerer spell use. The Knight is a revamp of the 2nd edition Cavalier. If you want to play a legendary knight without the divine qualities of the Paladin, this is the class for you. You gain better proficiency with your armor and can lead troops in war. You can also call out the opponent's champion for single battle and you get to deal with the Knight's Code (no flanking bonus, never stike a flat footed opponent and no lethal damage to a downed opponent).

The second chapter has expansions for the current classes (including those presented in the Complete Arcane, Complete Divine, Complete Warrior, and Complete Adventurer). It starts with three starting packages for each class that sets them up to fulfill a a specific role in the party and it has a replacement level for each class that modified the character.

The third chapter has new general feats and new feats in these feat types: Ceremony feats, combat form feats, divine feats, heritage feats, metamagic feats, tactical feats.

Chapter four has new spells and modified rules for polymorph spells. No new Warlock invocations though.

Chapter five has a lot of info for buildingthe identity of your character. It starts with backgrounds, moves on into personality archetypes and concludes with some tips on how to be a good player at the gaming table. I don't see where that fits into this chapter but, I guess, they had to put it somewhere.

Chapter six does the same thing as chapter five but for parties. It begins with party backgrounds and moves into how to build a party and how to be a team player. then it gets into some added abilities that reward characters for working as a team. This last section actually allows you to game out the effects of some historical (as well as legendary) team or formation tactics like a shield wall.

Chapter seven describes affiliations, how they work and how to build them. It also includes several affiliations that are not campaign specific.

Chapter eight has rules for rebuilding your character. In general it gives rules for slowly replacing levels or class features as you go up in level.

The last section consists of several appendicies. These sections allow someone to quickly build a PC or NPC. For each character type, they offer suggestions for skill choices, feat choices and, where appropriate, spell choices.

What works

I think the Duskblade is a really interesting character. It is the best "fighter-mage" I've seen.

I like the starting package for characters. It gives a good starting point for customizing the beginning character to your concept. The replacement levels for the various classes are interesting and I might try them out with my next character. They aren't overpowering and they don't dilute the concept of the character if the replacement level moves the character toward your concept.

The spells are generally usefull but none of them really stand out.

The rebuilding rules are interesting. Especially with all these new books offering choices tht weren't available when you created your character.

The feat and spell suggestions are really usefull. I generally don't follow the lists completely but I tend to think about why I made different choices. This appendix section is worth the price of the book. If I use nothing else from this book, I know that I will be using this section over and over.

What doesn't work

The Beguiler kind of left me flat. I don't need another limited sorcerer. I suppose that if I was interested in the concept, I'd be more interested in the class.

I don't have any real interest in chapter 5 (building your identity). But I tend to have clear ideas for my character concepts. I have similar issues about chapter 6. I suppose that if you are new to the game or you just have trouble pulling together a functional party, this might be a good section. The exception are the teamwork benefits. I don't know if I like them simply because my group doesn't feel the need.

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