You may think that you know what the Player’s Handbook 3 is all about if you’ve got a DDI subscription, but the preview content was just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a DDI subscribers who’s considering passing on the PHB3, think again. This is one of the coolest 4e D&D books that’s come out so far.
The PHB3 comes out next week on Tuesday, March 16, but for those of us living in the Greater Toronto Area it came out this past Friday. I visited three gaming stores and a major book selling chain and they all had it proudly displayed for sale. I don’t know if this complete disregard for the street date is limited to my area or if this is the case across the board. All I know is that I was fortunate enough to get my copy of the PHB3 Friday and I haven’t put it down since.
I took some flack for my Martial Power 2 review last month. Some readers didn’t think I spent enough time giving my opinion. With my review of the PHB3 I’m going to listen to the readers and do more than just tell you what’s in the book. But given the amount of material in the PHB3 it’s going to take more than one article to cover everything. So as seems fitting, I’m going to break my review of the PHB 3 into three parts. Today we’ll look at the new races and one of the new classes – the Runepriest.
Considering the amount of content in the PHB3 I won’t spend a lot of time rehashing materials already available in Character Builder other than to mention that they are already available. I will of course add my two cents if I have something new to add.
This time last year, shortly after PHB2 was released, Wizards promised their DDI subscribers that they would release elements from the forthcoming PHB3 through Dragon magazine and Character Builder in the months leading up to PHB3’s release. During the past year I’ve read most of the pre-release materials in Dragon, I’ve played some of the new races and classes, and used some of the Skill Powers. When I finally got my own copy of PHB3 I was concerned about how much of the book seemed new. I was pleasantly surprised. Even though some of the content was familiar, the material provided through Character Builder wasn’t everything. Wizards gave us just enough about the classes to get excited about them and try them out. Looking though those classes I see that there are plenty of additional choices available. And because I already knew what these classes we all about it’s didn’t take me long to devour the new stuff.
Githzerai, Minotaur and Wilden were all released in other books or as preview content. They are already in Character Builder.
The new race is the Shardmind. They are crystalline living constructs described as “sentient fragments of the Living Gate.” They are telepathic and have psychic resistances. They get +2 to Intelligence and +2 to Wisdom or Charisma. This makes them especially suited to all the new psionic classes with rely heavily on the bottom three abilities. The Shard Swarm racial power is close burst 1 and automatically hits, targets enemies only, those hit grant you combat advantage until the end of your next turn, and lets you teleport half your speed.
I’m happy that Warforged get some company in the living construct arena, but this race seems really strange. Warforged I get. Crafty engineers constructed them. The Shardmind I find a lot more difficult to get my head around. Maybe it’s because I’m not really that familiar with stuff from the outer planes. The PHB3 does provide a little bit more on their origin but I’m still confused. “Shardminds are fragments of pure thought given life and substance.” I have no issues with creating a new race that’s especially geared towards the new psionic classes, but the Shardmind is just bizarre, even for fantasy role-playing. I’m sure some people will love them immediately; I’m not one of them.
The PHB3 gives us six new classes (not eight as some people have been expecting).
- Ardent (psionic, leader)
- Battlemind (psionic, defender)
- Monk (psionic, striker)
- Psion (psionic, controller)
- Runepriest (divine, leader)
- Seeker (primal, controller)
The Runepriest is the only class that we haven’t yet seen in the preview content. There are also complete rules for building Hybrid characters of all classes (including all six new classes introduced in the PHB3).
“Runepriests seek to unlock the secrets of the runes of divine power.” These are smiths who know the divine secrets inscribes in forgotten runes. This new class seems tailor made for Dwarves and Minotaurs.
Their key abilities are Strength, Constitution and Wisdom so I think we’re going to see a lot of Dwarven and Minotaur Runepriests. They get armor proficiency with cloth, leather, hide, chain, scale and light shield. They get weapon proficiency with simple melee and ranged weapon. Their bonus to defense is +2 Will. They can select training from eight skills: Arcana, Athletics, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Religion and Thievery. I’m not really sure why Thievery is on this list. It doesn’t fit with anything in the Runepriest build.
The Runepriest’s at-will and encounter powers have the runic keyword. Before using a runic power you must choose which rune listed in the power’s description you’re going to use. By choosing a rune you enter that rune state. You remain in the rune state until you choose a different rune or the encounter ends. The two rune states in the PHB3 are Rune of Destruction and Rune of Protection. While in Rune of Destruction allies get +1 to attack enemies adjacent to you. While in Rune of Protection allies gain resist 2 to all damage. (This increases to 4 and 6 at paragon and epic tier).
In addition to the rune state benefit each power does a little something extra depending on your rune state. Take Word of Exchange, a level 1 at-will with the runic keyword as an example. It’s Strength vs AC and does 1[W] + Strength on a hit. But if you’re in Rune of Destruction the next attack made against that target does extra damage equal to your Wisdom modifier and the attacker (you or an ally) gets that same number of temporary hit points. If you’re in Rune of Protection the target suffers a -2 penalty to all defenses and the next ally to hit that target gets a bonus to their AC equal to your Wisdom modifier.
Every runic power has two different secondary effects depending on your rune state. The Rune of Destruction powers are all offensive in some way and the Rune of Protection powers are all defensive in some way. All the secondary effects last until the end of your next turn. This choice makes the powers extremely versatile. It’s like having twice as many powers at your disposal and makes a Runepriests an invaluable party member. They can go from attacker to defender and be equally good in both roles.
Don’t forget that as a leader, Runepriests can also heal. Their Rune of Mending power functions just like the Cleric’s Healing Word except that it’s a runic power too. So when they heal they choose either Rune of Destruction giving each ally in the bust +2 to damage rolls or Rune of Protection giving each ally in the burst +1 to AC.
You must choose a Runic Artistry. Defiant Word gives you your Wisdom modifier as a damage bonus to an attacker who missed you. Wrathful Hammer gives you proficiency with military hammers and military maces and you also get your Constitution modifier as a damage bonus to an attacker who hit you.
In my opinion I think we’re going to start seeing Runepriest become the most common and popular leader out there. I’ve played a Warlord, Cleric and Bard and this new class just seems like it’s so much cooler. My next PC is going to be a Runepriest.
Wizards of the Coast is releasing an official preview of the Runepriest tomorrow, so this will have to hold you over until then. Visit Dungeon’s Master tomorrow for our PHB3 Review (Part 2) and later this week for PHB3 Review (Part 3). If you have specific questions about the PHB3, leave them in the comments below. I’ll try to answer them in part 2 of my review.