Posted by : David Guyll August 04, 2011
|Do not worry: that dracolich is|
only a Heroic-tier threat.
Before I get into the chapter-by-chapter overview, I want to open up by (re)stating that I stopped being a fan of Forgotten Realms well before the god/goddess of magic was killed for the umpteen-millionth time in order to lay the chaotic foundation for 4th Edition's iteration; basically I felt that there was too much damned history and supplements to muck through, in order to find a small plot of land that did not already have its own three-part book series. Sure, Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide fixed a lot of these problems by blowing the place up and advancing the timeline by a century, but by then I had already moved on to Eberron/my own homebrew words.
With that being said I actually kind of dig this book. While it features all the stuff that I griped about in previous editions--extensive information on Neverwinter, the surrounding regions, and factions actively pursuing their own goals--the information provided and the way it is delivered makes it more conducive to planning adventures and campaigns. It is smaller than Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, which along with its tight focus probably makes it less intimidating for new DMs, DMs new to the Realms, or DMs like me that just did not like all the historical baggage. With that out of the way, here's what you can expect from the book at a glance:
- Chapter 1: Jewel of the North glosses over Neverwinter and the surrounding locales such as Neverwinter Wood, the Dread Ring, and Old Owl Well (along with a map), a two page history of Neverwinter, and tips and tropes on running a campaign in Neverwinter (or just using the book in general).
- Chapter 2: Character Options features a ton of flexible content: themes, racial variants, warpriest domains, and the bladesinger class. Even though a lot of the flavor material is tailored for Forgotten Realms, all of it could be easily be ported out for Eberron, Dark Sun, or homebrews (yeah, even the spellscarred harbinger). I will go into more detail on this stuff in a bit, because I know people looove crunchy content.
- Chapter 3: Factions and Foes details the various factions--such as the Abolethic Sovereingty and Thay--that players can interact with. I like this chapter because it makes it very easy to assess what the faction is all about, and build adventures around them without having to do a lot of research or deal with a lot of history. Even better, each faction has a section where it tells you where they stand with other factions and provides tie-ins for character themes, which makes it easier to work character backgrounds in. Oh yeah, and some factions have ways of granting characters powers in a similar vein to divine boons.
- Chapter 4: Gazetter is the last and longest chapter it is similar to Chapter 3, except that it takes a closer look at six areas in the Neverwinter region, providing you with sample adventure sites, more adventure hooks, tips on using different sites (or what might happen depending on how the characters deal with the inhabitants, such as taking out the mythallar in Kolthunral), more theme tie-ins, advice on leveling/de-leveling threats (including adding some traits to an ogre to get a level-appropriate fire giant), monsters (more nothics and werewolves, a heroic-tier grell, illithid, elder brain, and more), monster themes, sample encounter tables, and more. A very meaty, very useful chapter.
|I hear these guys are big names in the Realms.|
I really like the way the information is laid out and dispensed, and think that not only should Wizards of the Coast make similar books for Eberron, Dark Sun, and the implied setting, but that they could get away with making several books for each setting. It is kind of like a middle-ground between a full-blown campaign setting and an adventure path; a lot of the foundation is done for you, but it is not so expansive as to overwhelm you.
Themes in this book also come with backgrounds, allowing you to gain a bonus or other background benefit along with theme benefits if you want. There is some advice on themes during character creation, how different themes might interact those other party members choose, and making fun choices. All in all, some pretty staple social role-playing advice. Of the thirteen themes I am going to mention the Dead Rat deserter and devil's pawn, because of the vocal minority bitching about the lack of a vampire theme and my preference of the warlock's infernal pact respectively.
The deserter starts out being able to change into a Tiny rat whenever she wants, gains a bonus to Bluff and Stealth at level 5, and an at-will bite at level 10. The three utilities include an encounter that lets you hiss when you score a critical hit, imposing an attack penalty for a turn, a daily that gives you an encounter-long skill bonus to Stealth and lets you reroll in exchange for losing the bonus, and another daily that gives you an initiative bonus as well as standing up or moving your speed. While I like it, I cannot see a all the benefits of the vampire class being shoehorned into this and still evoking the same feel. As a side note, the pack outcast is a similar theme that lets you have werewolf stuff instead of wererat.
The devil's pawn starts out by giving you an encounter minor-action attack that creates a zone that deals automatic fire damage and imposes a penalty to both attacks and defenses. The only downside is that it targets creatures. The level 5 benefit is just a Diplomacy bonus against devils and creatures that consort with them, but if you are playing in Neverwinter those odds can go up quite a bit. At level 10 you get fire resistance or a bonus if you already have it. The utilities are all dailies, and let you deal automatic fire damage against a creature that hits you (similar to infernal wrath), enter a stance that gives you a Stealth and fire resistance bonus (as well as damage bonus if you are an infernal wrath warlock), and turn into a devil for a turn with an AC bonus, fly speed, and more fire resistance. The drawback is that you have to attack or take damage. The upside is that you can sustain the form, and if you are an infernal warlock gain temporary hit points each time you do.
There are only dwarves, eladrin, and elves, so no ghostwise halflings or odd-gnomes-out. As seen in a preview, these just let you swap out some racial traits with others, which while not overpowered might upset people who did not like having subraces serve as just another means for optimization. Since dwarves were covered before, I'll just mention some stuff on eladrin:
- Moon elves--aka eladrin--can swap their skill bonuses to Insight and Streetwise, and also replace Eladrin Education for bow proficiencies.
- Sun elves--again, eladrin--can change their skills to Bluff and Insight, swap Eladrin Weapon Proficiency for all the basic wizard implements, and also lose Eladrin Education for bows.
There are four new domains--Corellon, Oghma, Selune, and Torm--each with their own set of at-wills, utilities, prayers, and class features. I am not about to type out the benefits of even one in its entirety, but I will give a small preview of Selune at 1st-level:
- You gain necrotic and radiant resistance.
- Blessing of light is Wisdom vs. AC at-will that deals weapon plus Wisdom modifier radiant damage, and deals radiant damage if the target hits you or any ally before the end of your next turn.
- Brand of the moon is similar in terms of attack and damage, but deals cold and radiant as well as granting you and all allies a saving throw bonus.
- Moon weapon is a daily utility that cause a weapon to shed light, act as a silvered weapon, and deal radiant damage for an encounter.
- Illuminating blow is a level 1 encounter attack that deals 2[W] radiant damage and grants you or an ally a damage bonus for a turn.
- Life and light is a channel divinity power that grants you and all allies necrotic resistance, and enemies radiant vulnerability. A nice followup for all the radiant damage you can deal.
I will go into this class in more detail in another post, but for now I'll post up the two Heroic-tier class features: Arcane Strike (level 3) lets you make a basic melee attack as a minor action after using a daily power, while Steely Retort (level 7) lets you make a basic melee attack as an opportunity action when an adjacent enemy hits you while bladesong is active.
|But feel free to mull over the|
paragon tier table until then.