Martial Power 2 is the second expansion book for martial characters, and does basically the same damn thing that the first one did by adding class features, exploits, paragon paths, feats, etc for martial classes. This book just doesnt add more of the same, however: f
ighter players will be using grab a lot more often (or rather, at all), while warlords and rogues will be able to consistently and competently strike from a distance. Rangers are the only ones that dont seem change much, but I really like the slight modifications they can get.
Starting from the...start, fighters are able to now rely partially on their fists as melee weapons, thanks to Brawler Style. This class feature is a Fighter Weapon Talent that gives you some defense bonuses when you have a hand free as well as a scaling bonus to unarmed attacks. Its very precise in mentioning that you get the benefits, "while wielding a weapon in one hand and your other hand is free." You can wear a spiked gauntlet and still meet the requirements, you just have use the spiked gauntlets proficiency bonus (even if it sucks).
The only other feature for fighters is being able to exchange Combat Superiority for the at-will power combat agility, which lets you chase a baddie down and deck 'em. This just means that instead of smacking an enemy and stopping their movement, you can run after them. Since this is typically going to be moving, it has the advantage of proning a monster so that if they try to attack an ally you can also follow up with combat challenge. This seems to be well worth losing your Wis mod to opportunity attacks.
Rangers get three new class features: Hunter Fighting Style gives you Quick Draw and a hefty defense bonus against opportunity attacks, Running Shot grants an attack bonus when you move (kind of a throwback to the skirmish class feature from 3E), and Marauder Fighting Style gives you Two-Weapon Defense and a speed bonus when you arent packing a shield. The fighting styles just add to the existing ones and dont require you to forgo anything, but Running Shot takes the place of Prime Shot.
Frankly, its like Prime Shot but just requires that you move, and I predict that many rangers are going to pick that up.
Rogues get a couple new tricks. You can pick up Cunning Sneak as a Rogue Tactic, which negates Stealth penalties from moving and lets you make a Stealth check to hide if you've got concealment/cover of any sort and moved during your turn. The only caveat is that you cant hide behind allies. The Sharpshooter Weapon Talent also gives you an attack bonus with crossbows and slings in addition to giving you Far Shot. It replaces Rogue Weapon Talent, but if you wanna go for range then its certainly a worthwhile option.
Both of these new options support not only each other but also many of the new exploits, which grant bonuses for being hidden or let you make Stealth checks to hide after resolving the attack. Since in most cases you need cover or concealment to pull it off, being able to strike from a distance is going to help a lot. Plus, ya know, you need to be hidden to get combat advantage from ranged attacks.
Like rogues, warlords now get some options to become extremely competent at ranged combat, but also get support for the traditional melee type so classic warlords arent left out in the cold.
With the two new Commanding Presences, Wisdom gets maaaybe added to the list of key ability scores required for a warlord. Insightful Presence grants defense bonuses based on either Wisdom or Charisma when allies burn action points, while Skirmishing Presence lets them shift before or after the attack (distance based on Intelligence or Wisdom).
I like the flexible modifiers, but I particularly like how Wisdom lets you play well with some racial tropes: dwarves will make really good insightful warlords, and the defense modifier creates a logical concept. Elves on the other hand have at least one ability score that lends itself to skirmishing warlords, which again plays to the concept.
Warlords can also swap out Combat Leader for the Canny Leader or Battlefront Leader class feature. Canny Leader adds to Insight and Perception instead of Initiative, while the latter lets you use heavy shields and gives you the battlefront shift encounter power (you or target shifts after rolling initiative). Finally, you can also opt to lose proficiency with heavy armor and all shields for ranged weapons (and use Strength instead of Dexterity for basic ranged attacks).
Currently the new exploits dont provide a lot of variety for archer warlords. Wizards had the foresight to create three at-wills for humans, but otherwise you get two options per level (and sometimes it works for either melee or ranged). I suspect DDI will expand on these, and people will bitch about it until then...and afterwards.
The last chapter starts out with four pages of rules-absent text that discusses the motivations and personalities of martial characters: what is the martial power source, weapons, seeking riches/fame/legacy, and martial destinies. There's also a side bar on regaining martial exploits, which talks about what your character might do during a rest to, "rewew his or her ability to perform mighty deeds of arms..."
Combat Styles are feats that can be taken by multiple classes and give a separate benefit to each. They are divided into lesser and greater styles: the lesser styles modify at-will attacks and provide a minor benefit (like +2 feat bonus to a skill), while the greater styles are all keyed to a specific class and do something different for each. I think these are much more viable and compelling than their predecessors, such as Precision Ambush Style, which often provided too little a benefit with too great a requirement.
Martial Practices are basically martial rituals: you need a feat to learn them, need to meet-or-beat the level, and also have to purchase each practice individually. A lot of them cost healing surges to trigger, which adds to the mundanity, though a few also demand some cash as well. A lot of them only last for 10 minutes or a randomized number of hours, so players wont be able to just spam practices and then rest up surges. Some of them, sure, but not most.
I know some people are going to bitch that Forge Armor/Weapon hinge on magical in nature, and I'd normally agree except that I recall a part of The Crystal Shard where Bruenor creates Aegis-Fang, and I dont recall magic being part of the process. It took a long time and exhausted the hell out of him, yes, but I dont remember spells being evoked at any point.
You could argue that the procedure uses magical reagents, such as parts of fantastic creatures like dragons (which accounts for the component cost), or maybe channeling ki or whatever. Since it takes an entire day and cannot make every magical item (like potions), I consider this to be within the boundaries of a martial feat.
I like 'em. I also like rituals. This is just another type of ritual that doesnt bleed so far into the magical fare that I wonder why the fuck we'd need both of them.
With the previous Martial Power book and the slew of shit on DDI, I was...concerned...that this was going to be a flop and a sign that Wizards was slipping. Having read the book (instead of going onto forums and bitching about something that I've not played or doesnt even fucking exist), I can say that its certainly not the case. This is a great book with a shitload of interesting, solid options for every martial character. It takes a lot of the existing concepts and shakes them up for a fresh take.
Now to read in-depth on the warlord for my character in Shazbot's Scales of War campaign.