Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn is a ten dollar...book, I guess...that weighs in at 32 pages. I'm a fan of the online articles that Wizards now delivers every damned day via Dragon and Dungeon. They are more often than not sweet and short. I can head over to the site, ignore all the Forgotten Realms articles (and not be terribly disappointed if thats all thats up for the day), and quickly plow through a few pages that get to the point. In a nutshell, small articles that deliver interesting content are better than walls of text that somehow do not.
However when it comes to dead-tree format, I prefer a larger book since it helps whittle away the hours in commute. It is mostly during these times that I can actually read, and with essentially nothing else to do I dont mind having hundreds of pages to plow through. So the size and subject matter didnt do much to bolster my hopes, yet...strangely, I thought it was alright.
Before I talk about why I like it, I'm going to complain about the low points (as I tend to do). First, its soft cover. I fucking loathe that. Also, there's no table of contents...which I guess is mostly alright since its not exactly the largest book on the shelf. A much more legitimate complaint is that the
book pamphlet is a pain in my ass to flip through. I just cannot seem to flip through a page or two at a time, and when I try it just flaps open to the middle part. Finally, almost all of the art (if not all of it) is recycled. I dont like this in any game, period.
Just be gentle with it. I've never had a D&D book collapse on me before, but there's a first time for anything. Now, the pros.
The first nine pages are devoted to recapping the whole racial concept and some story exposition on their history and clan stuff. You get a sidebar for names and a shit-ton of backgrounds, too. Didnt bother to check to see if the information was taken from Dragon, but much of it is shit you already knew if you like dragonborn and kept up on that. Still, having a physical reference on hand has its appeal. I think people are going to bitch about this no matter what. I have a DDI subscription, and I dont really care.
After that its a series of sections that divide them up by power source, talking about how dragonborn in general cope, and also dishing out a pragon path at the end for your efforts. This is good for players that arent terribly sure how to approach building a dragonborn wizard, or barbarian, or whatnot. The paragon paths were well done and stuck to the popular dragonborn approach of a badass melee warrior. Were I to play a dragonborn I'd be tempted to take honorable blade and platinum templar, and the fact that it got me considering dragonborn for reasons other than optimization theory came as a surprise.
Then came feats. Whoo-boy, there are a lot. There is no feat table, and with damn near 40 of them that is bullshit. At least it'll get lumped into CB so it'll be easier to handle...next month. There are a lot of good feats in here, as well.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the feats pertain to dragon breath, but some are thematic to the other aspects of a dragonborn. For example, Glorious Victory lets you burn healing surges when you drop monsters, while Draconic Zeal gives you an attack bonus when you burn a healing surge in addition to a level 12 utility power that lets you auto-heal when you get dropped. A couple let give you even more bonuses while bloodied: Io's Challenge lets you do more damage with divine challenge, and Rage Drake Form gives you an untyped attack and damage bonus while in beast form.
Magic items has five weapon properties and an item set, Silver Dragon Regalia. The set seems mostly suited to warlocks and martial characters since it includes a rod and weapon, but frankly I could see many people wanting the tabard since it lets you save against all ongoing damage effects at the start of your turn. I really like the weapon because it deals a shitload of damage on a crit if you're bloodied, and pimps out dragon breath by adding its bonus to both the attack and damage roll, but can also change it into a hefty close burst. This works well if you took the heroic feat that makes dragon breath ignore allies...except by giving them an attack bonus.
Lastly, there's some pages on dragonborn quests and the avatar of Io epic destiny. Avatar's of Io gives you a Strength and Charisma bonus, which immediately tells me that its gonna be best for sorcerers, the bard build that also likes Strength (or was it Con?), thaneblood barbarians, many paladins, and inspiring and resourceful warlords. There might be some other Str/Cha types that I'm missing. Probably. Anyway.
Again, it adds shit to dragon breath, this time by having it ignore any kind of damage resistance, changing the damage type on the fly, and gaining an attack bonus right after you do so. You also get an always-on fly effect and a very strange resurrection ability that should just read, "When you die, you are actually only dead (save ends)." The level 26 is kind of weak, letting you make a save right after you get hit by a save-ends effect. Yawn.
What this all boils down to is that I didnt think I was going to like PHR:D one fucking bit. It didnt help that I'm not exactly a fan of dragonborn, but at ten bucks I felt like I got my money's worth. Lots of good stuff that dragonborn players are going to get a kick out of. I'm looking forward to the one on tieflings, now.