As mentioned previously I have developed a lust for the Ampersand articles due to their ability to deliver lots of crunchy goodness, and the update-slated-for-Monday-but-is-up-now didn't disappoint. The article requires a DDI subscription to read, so I'll try to restrain myself and give you but a glimpse of...well, the glimpse they are letting us, er, glimpse.
First, it seems that Mearls is pitching Player's Handbook 3 to the development side of things. I'm told that next month we are supposed to get a chance to playtest the monk. I'm not sure where I heard that, mind you.
We get to see one of the barbarian powers that you can get in the primal set of Player's Handbook Heroes minis, foe to foe. Not sure I like it any more than devastating strike or howling strike. The damage is better than howling strike, but you have to kill something to get it. I guess its a nice buildup.
There are previews of a frost giant and rust monster mini, along with the delve-style cards that come with them. I'm surprised that the rust monster's rusting attack is only slightly less dangerous than before, but at least requires some form of build up before destroys your gear.
Adventurer's Vault 2 introduces magical ammunition back into the game, so rangers and rogues can rejoice.
Moving across my Firefox tabs, the next thing I opened was the previews for March and etc. I got a copy of Dungeon Delve last week and already reviewed it, making it old news to me. What really caught my eye was the preview for Arcane Power: familiars. I've always been a huge fan of wizards since 3rd Edition, and I have to say that I missed these lovable, utterly useless things. Even investing feats into the buggers brought dwindling returns and since 4th Edition made me like a lot of things that previously sucked I was eager to see what changes the designers wrought unto them.
Anyone with an arcane class can take the feat Arcane Familiar, which means that its not an implement as some speculated, and its also not an alternate class feature, which makes sense since there are quite a few classes that could make do with one. Since the only requirements are an arcane class, this means that anyone can qualify for one if they take a relevant multiclass feat, such as Arcane Initiate or Pact Initiate.
You can set your familiar to passive or active mode, but in either case you always get a set of constant benefits. If your familiar is set to passive then its apparently "protected", by which I mean that it cant be accidentally be killed by stray close blast or area burst attacks. You can set it to active to get some extra benefits, but presumably this allows it to be damaged and destroyed.
Only two familiars were shown, a cat and bound demon. The cat grants you a +2 bonus on Acrobatics and lets you make checks to negate falling damage even if you dont have the skill. The bound demon gives you a bonus to Intimidate and also translates Abyssal for you. An active cat has no set limit to the distance it can travel from you and gains +5 to Stealth, while the bound demon can grant you temporary hit points once per encounter if you damage and adjacent bloodied enemy.
Now, are these worth it for a feat? That depends. For example, the cat isnt by virtue of her constant benefits. Its only +2 as opposed to the +5 you could get from Skill Training. Its arguably better than Skill Focus since the active benefits could prove useful for scouting. The bound demon, on the other hand seems well worth the feat. +2 to Intimidate and a free language? Plus if you set him to kill you can gain temp hp that stack with your level. I might find these more appealing than most, having used Improved Familiar in 3rd Edition to create what amounted to a character foil for my own character. It seems like a cheap way to have a lot of fun with the social-roleplaying aspects of the game.
The article then moves on with some previews for a few minis from Dangerous Delves that include a unicorn, war devil, troll-lamer, and something carrying a lot of swag that is not a henchman before wrapping things up with a few art pieces from Monster Manual 2.
The table of contents from Player's Handbook 2 reveals more than just new races and classes. From the looks of things we'll be seeing character backgrounds, more adventuring gear, variant ritual books, updated rules for reading a power, and new(er?) Stealth rules.