Do any of us really need Martial Powers 2? As a DDI subscriber, I’ve really struggled with whether or not I should purchase the various “Power” books. After all, the class powers, feats, paragon paths, epic destinies, rituals and background options will all be rolled into the next update of Character Builder. I can run out and purchase the book when it’s released or I can wait two or three weeks and, as part of the price I’ve already paid for my DDI subscription, I’ll have access to all of this material anyway. With a cover price of $29.95 for each book (or $37.00 for us Canadians) the additional costs can really add up over a year.
Normally when reviewing a D&D accessory like this one, I’d simply ask myself, “What’s the quality of the content like?” and “Do I think I’ll use this book often enough to warrant buying it?” However, knowing that many us (myself included) have DDI subscriptions, I have to also add the question, “Why should I buy this book if I’ve got Character Builder?” So with that in mind I’ll give you a rundown of Martial Powers 2. I’ll highlight the good and bad, and I’ll try to provide enough information that you can make an informed decision for yourself.
New Build: Brawling Fighter. You must have one hand free for grabbing. You can’t use a shield. +1 to AC, +2 to Fortitude, +2 proficiency bonus to unarmed attacks, +2 to grab attacks.
Class Feature: Combat Agility replaces Combat Superiority. When an adjacent enemy provokes an opportunity attack you can shift and make an attack that trips your opponent.
New Powers: Most of the new powers associated with this build let you grab, push, pull, slide or move your opponent in some way.
New Paragon Paths:
- Avernian Knight
- Glorious Myrmidon
- Ironstar Mauler
- Kulkor Arms Master
- Rakehell Duelist
- Rampaging Brute
- Steel Vanguard Master
- Warhound of Bane
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Fighters.
Chapter 2: Ranger
New Build: Hunter Ranger. Hunter Fighting Style. Quick Draw feat for free, +4 AC vs opportunity attacks provoked from making ranged attacks.
New Build: Marauder Ranger. Marauder Fighting Style. Two-Weapon Defense feat for free. +1 to speed if you don’t have a shield or aren’t using a two-handed weapon.
Class Features: Running Attack replaces Prime Shot. When you use a standard action to move as part of an attack and you move at least 2 squares you get +1 to attack as part of that action.
New Powers: Many of the new powers specifically state that you much be wielding a thrown weapon in order to make the ranged attack and not just a ranged weapon. There are also powers that let you make a ranged attack with a thrown weapon and a melee attack with a melee weapon. Most of the new powers also focus on mobility and movement allowing you to shift or move before, during or after your attack.
New Paragon Paths:
- Bloodfury Hunter
- Harrowing Swarm Archer
- Lone Wolf
- Reaving Axe Savant
- Shinaelestran Guardian
- Snow Tiger
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Rangers.
Chapter 3: Rogue
New Build: Shadow Rogue.
Rouge Tactics: Cunning Sneak. You don’t take penalties to Stealth for moving more than 2 squares and you only take -5 to Stealth when running. If you move at least 3 squares and have any concealment or cover you can make a Stealth check to remain hidden.
Class Features: Sharpshooter Talent replaces Rogue Weapon Talent. +1 to attacks with crossbows or slings and gain the Far Shot feat for free.
New Powers: The new powers focus mainly on stealth and concealment. After making an attack you can try to hide or gain concealment. Many of the powers also have focus on movement. The powers specific to Cunning Sneak are Intelligence based.
New Paragon Paths:
- Arcane Trickster
- Blade Bravo
- Daring Slinger
- Verdant Stalker
- Master of Poisons
- Red Cloak
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Rogues.
Chapter 4: Warlord
New Build: Insightful Warlord.
Commanding Presence: Insightful Presence. When an ally spends as action point to attack they get a bonus to their defenses by half of you Wisdom or Charisma. Canny Leader replaces Combat Leader. You and allies within 10 squares get +2 bonus to Insight and Perception.
New Build: Skirmishing Warlord. Archer Warlord. You loose proficiency with chain mail and light shields, but gain proficiency with military ranged weapons. You make basic ranged attacks with bows using Strength rather than Dexterity.
Commanding Presence: Skirmishing Presence. When an ally spends as action point to attack they can shift a number of squares equal to half of you Intelligence or Wisdom before or after the attack.
Class Features: Battlefront Leader replaces Combat Leader. You gain proficiency with heavy shields and can use the Battlefront Shift power. Close burst 3, when you roll initiative you or 1 ally can shift half your speed as a free action.
New Powers: Most of the new powers are designed for the Archer Warlord and are ranged powers. They all rely on Strength and not Dexterity.
New Paragon Paths:
- Arcane Battlemaster
- Arkhosian Blademaster
- Arrowhead Commander
- Captain of fortune
- Prince of Knaves
- White Raven
- Zephyr Warchief
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Warlords.
Chapter 5: Martial Options
This four-page section provides a lot of great role-playing insight into martial characters.
This was definitely one of the highlights of this book for me. Combat Styles are feats that make a particular power better (depending on your class). Each of the 23 different combat styles are designed for a specific weapon or weapon group. The lesser feats are open to multiple martial classes. Each provides a +2 bonus to a related skill and an enhancement to a specific at-will power. Each martial class has unique greater feats that build on the lesser feat by further enhancing 4-6 encounter powers.
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Combat Styles.
We get 16 pages of new feats. Many of the feats are designed to overcome some weakness or penalties, or enhance existing class features. Things like not suffering armor penalties to skills or movement, shifting after you stand up from prone, extra damage with a specific weapon group, and foregoing a class power to get some other benefit. A lot of these feats have very specific prerequisites, so they won’t apply to many PCs, but if you qualify it’s probably worth checking them out.
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Feats.
This was the part I was most looking forward to and the section that let me down the hardest. Martial practices are essentially rituals for non-spellcasters. I’m a big believer that there is a place for these in 4e D&D. But after I read through this section I realized that of the 25 martial practices presented, only a few of them seemed to make sense for martial characters.
The problem was that some of the martial practices were very appropriate for Rogues, but in no way appropriate for Fighters. Others had Ranger written all over them, but a Warlord would never use it. At least arcane and divine characters have magic in common. So no matter what a ritual might do, you can say that it’s magic and that explains everything. With martial characters they share a prowess for combat, but outside of combat their roles are very different from one another.
All of the martial practices require the PC performing it to spend a healing surge. For martial practices like forge armor or long-distance runner I totally get it. But I just don’t understand why decipher script or travel sense would require a healing surge.
Many of the martial practices (like Forge Armor and Forge Weapon) let PCs do things that I might run as a skill challenge if I was the DM (See Crafting Items).
I’m sure that as I see some of these martial practices in use at my game table I’ll start to come around a bit on the subject, but my initial impression is that it’s still a work-in-progress.
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Martial Practices.
We get 13 new background options. Since so few players seem to use these backgrounds for anything other than gaining +2 to a skill I’m glad that there wasn’t too much time devoted to this particular topic. The content is solid, but I think most reader will skip these three pages.
I don’t think many players are into Epic play yet so the fact that there are only four new options presented isn’t such a bad thing. I suspect that Martial Powers 3 (and all of the Powers books we’re likely to see in 2011) will have more emphasis on the highest tier of play.
- Invincible Vanguard
- Legendary Sovereign
- Star-Favored Champion
See preview content on Wizards of the Coast website, Martial Power 2 Excerpts: Epic Destiny.
Martial Powers 2 is a pretty good book. It’s chalked full of the powers and feats you’ve come to expect from this series as well as a lot of great stuff to enhance the role-playing. The side bars scattered throughout the book provide a lot of interesting ideas and suggestions for players to keep in mind when play martial characters. I was particularly glad to see the side bar bringing Thieves’ Cant back into D&D.
But the real question is should you buy Martial Powers 2 if you already have a DDI subscription? I suppose it depend on how important role-playing and character development is to you and your gaming group. If you’re just looking for the nut and bolts (powers and feats) then you’ll get all of that through Character Builder. What you won’t get is all of the additional information (like the great side bars) that emphasizes role-playing. Personally I find a lot of value in having the actual book to read and reference.
The content is pretty solid (despite my misgivings about the new martial practices). However, I think most players will get what they need through Character Builder. If you don’t have a DDI subscription then I’d put this book a lot higher on your wish list or better yet, pass on the “Powers 2” lineup and get a DDI subscription.
7 on a d10