Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Review

Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is the third planar-themed character book, in a similar vein to Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild. I really dug Shadow and Feywild because the planes and concepts they focused on were parallels of the natural world, and thus easy--or at least easier--for characters to access early on.

The Elemental Chaos has been largely pegged as a paragon-tier stomping ground, so a lot of the book is options and story ideas on how players can take the chaos out of the Chaos or how it can affect the natural world and its inhabitants: you can basically use any of it without having to give two shits about the Elemental Chaos, though there is a lot of information to help you brainstorm some ideas and hooks.

On another note I really dug the art; the cover is by Wayne Reynolds and thus rules by default, but the interior is of a similar quality as to what we got in Heroes of the Feywild (though it lacks the random background generator). It is a pretty cool book. I'd nab it if you like elemental stuff, though most of it is for arcane classes (meaning, yes, more spells and subclasses), or actually mine these books for ideas.

Chapter 1: Into the Maelstrom
Thirty-one pages of elemental flavor, this chapter has information on the nature of elemental magic, how it can influence the world and some races, a roster of primordials, how it works with other powers sources like divine and primal, primordial cults, planar breaches, how a character might gain it (such as exposure, primordial shards, or just by hitting the books), and more. Of interest to DMs are the last handful of pages, which provides information on choice primordials (including some free ones), and gives you ideas on how--and how much of it--you can work it into your campaign.

Chapter 2: Character Themes
I won't go into detail here since it would just be me talking theme mechanics, which I do in the next section, but this is a sweet and short chapter that adds ten elementally-themed themes to the roster. A lot are tied to specific elements such as fire and water, though one is synced to metal and another associates you with demons.

Chapter 3: Classes
This 62-page chapter provides new options for druids, monks, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. Yes, this includes new features for subclasses as well as a pair of new subclasses, so que whiners bitching that this is an "Essentials" book or what the fuck ever.

The druid class can choose Primal Wrath, which gives you an attack bonus with energy attacks when not in heavy armor, while the sentinel subclass can pick Druid of the Wastes, which gives you a zephyr companion, bonus to AC and Reflex when using a spear or staff, a bonus to Endurance, and level 13, 17, and 27 features. There are also thirteen new evocations that range across all the levels.

There are two new monk traditions; Desert Wind and Eternal Tide, keyed to Charisma and Strength respectively. Desert Wind gives you scaling fire resistance, and its flurry lets you deal fire damage, as well as impose an attack penalty if the target was not the triggering target. Eternal Tide lets you resist forced movement, as well as shift for free after being moved, and its flurry has a Melee range of 2 and lets you pull the target, slowing it if it was no the initial target. There are also a lot of new thematic disciplines to choose from.

In addition to a bunch of new spells, sorcerers get their own subclass, the elementalist. It uses Constitution as a secondary ability score, dealing bonus damage and able to derive its AC based on it. You have to choose an elemental focus, which modifies the energy bolt spell that they all get, as well as determining the other at-will spells you get and other features; energy resistances, saves, and abilities like at-will flight at higher levels. They also get an elemental escalation, which is an encounter spell that triggers when you make an attack, and basically gives you a nice kicker effect. Even better, you can use it more as you level up.

New pacts for warlocks and hexblades. Yay. The warlock pact has you roll for a random energy type (which you can freely change after using a second wind), and at any time you can swap out various non-elemental keywords on warlock spells to your affinity. The pact boon lets you impose an energy vulnerability on the next creature you curse (oh, and it stacks), so being able to swap damage types freely lets you capitalize on the boon.
Hexblades gain the blade of chaos, which deals 2d4 damage and has High Crit. The boon here gives you energy resistance and lets you shift, while the at-will melee attack lets you choose an energy vulnerability to slap on the creature for a turn. Even better, the level 1 encounter lets you deal energy damage of your choice, strip away any resistances or immunities on the target, and generate an auto-damaging energy aura.
The downside is that there are not a lot of new warlock spells, so while most are tied to primordials there just are not enough to tie the theme together.

Last but not least oh hey it is another wizard subclass, the sha'ir. It is based on Intelligence and Constitution, and its main schtick is that it summons a gen servant that as part of the class flavor provides you with elemental energy to cast your spells. Mechanically you gain Arcane Familiar as a bonus feat, but you do not have to take a gen. Some of the gens have kickers based on your Constitution mod, but I guess the main thing is that you and allies next to your familiar gain energy resistance of your choosing based on your Con mod. Otherwise blah blah more spells blah blah.

Chapter 4: Elemental Options
We get ten new paragon paths--including one for each of the new subclasses, such as the boringly-named Legendary Hexblade--a pair of epic destinies, feats, rules for elemental companions (that anyone can pick up with a feat), and elemental magic items and gifts. The best part of this chapter, to me, is the elemental companions. You need to have Born of the Elements and then take Elemental Companion, which basically gives you a kind of familiar that anyone can have (not just arcanists). I would like to see this extended to other options, allowing characters to run around with a golem or undead companion.

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