In our Player’s Handbook 3 Review (Part 1) we looked at the new Shardmind race and one of the new classes, the Runepriest. Today in our PHB3 Review (Part 2) we’re looking at skill powers, feats, superior implements and new magic items. In our PHB3 Review (Part 3) we’ll delve into a detailed look at the psionic classes.
- Ardent (psionic, leader)
- Battlemind (psionic, defender)
- Monk (psionic, striker)
- Psion (psionic, controller)
- Runepriest (divine, leader)
- Seeker (primal, controller)
There are also complete rules for building Hybrid characters of all classes (including all six new classes introduced in the PHB3).
Skill powers were release online as preview content through Dragon in back in September. At the time we provided our commentary in First Look PHB3: Skill Powers. By now, anyone with a DDI subscription is familiar with the concept of skill powers and has likely seen some of the examples in Character Builder. For those without a DDI subscription, skill powers are utility powers available to any PC trained in that particular skill. The PHB3 expands on what we’ve already seen and gives more skill power choices for all 17 skills.
When skill powers were first previewed I was very excited. I’ve believed from day one that skill challenges are one of the best improvements of 4e D&D. The addition of skill powers to the game encourage more players to use their skills more often both in and out of structured skill challenges. Skill powers give players a better idea of just how versatile their skills actually are.
Since Dungeon’s Master launched we’ve done what we can to encourage players to be creative with their skills. In our ongoing Skill Focus serieswe provide many examples of how players can use their skills more imaginatively. However, until skill powers were introduced most of these creative options were subject to DM approval. Now that skill powers are an official part of D&D there’s no worry that the DM will balk at your creative use of Acrobatics or Dungeoneering. Taking the appropriate skill power lets you do the incredible more easily and more often.
Skill powers are an excellent way to make a combat heavy character more versatile. This is beneficial if your class has a very limited skill list to choose training in (like Fighter, for example). With a skill power like the level 10 Navigate Crowds, which lets you shift your speed and move through an enemies square, a Fighter with a low Charisma may still see benefit in training Streetwise.
As more players move into the paragon and epic tiers I suspect that skill powers will become even more popular. After all, a PC with a dozen or more attack powers can afford to choose a skill power or two to round out their character.
There are 102 skill powers in the PHB3. That’s double the amount currently in Character Builder as preview content. Here’s how they break down by level.
- Level 2, 28 skill powers
- Level 6, 41 skill powers
- Level 10, 26 skill powers
- Level 16, 7 skill powers
At level 10 Arcana is the only skill lacking a skill power. At level 16 skill powers are only offered for these seven skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, Diplomacy, Endurance, Heal, Insight and Stealth. There are no level 22 skill powers in the PHB3.
These are a few of the new skill powers that I expect will become the standard choices for many adventurers.
- Incredible Stride (Athletics, level 10 Daily). Minor action. You gain +4 to speed until the end of the stance.
- False Bravado (Bluff, level 2 At-will). Minor action. You remove an enemy’s mark from yourself.
- Third Wind (Endurance, level 6 Daily). Minor action. You spend a healing surge.
- Reactive Surge (Endurance, level 10 Encounter). Immediate interrupt. You spend a healing surge when you’re bloodied.
- Try the Stick (Intimidate, level 6 Encounter). Make an Intimidate check in place of a Diplomacy check.
- Hasty Retreat (Thievery, level 6 Encounter). Free action. You shift a number of squares equal to half your Dexterity modifier when you trigger a trap.
As expected, most of the new feats in PHB3 are geared towards the new races and classes debuting in this book. But there are still some great feats open to all characters. Here are a few that jumped out at me when I read through the list.
- Directed Bull Rush lets you slide an opponent rather than push him.
- Focused Mind gives you +4 to save against daze and stun.
- Grounding Shot lets you ignore penalties for attacking prone opponents from range and you deal +2 damage.
- Low Crawl lets you shift while prone.
- Skill Power lets you choose a skill power of your level or lower in a trained skill.
- Spring Step lets you shift 1 after standing up from prone.
- Unarmored Agility gives you +2 AC when wearing light or no armor.
- Unfailing Vigorlets you expend your second wind if you roll 18-20 on a death save.
Rune feats are a new category of feats designed specifically for the Runepriest class. Each feat grants a bonus that improves as you select more Rune feats. For example, Rune of Eloquence gives you +1 to Bluff and Diplomacy for each Rune feat you have. Rune of Hope grants the target of your Rune of Mending +1 temporary hit point for each Rune feat you have. There are only eight Rune feats in the PHB3 (4 heroic, 2 paragon, 2 epic) but I’m sure we’ll see more of them in future releases. If you play a Runepriest you’re likely to take as many Rune feats as possible or avoid them all together. There’s no real benefit to just dabbling.
When I first read this section I immediately thought of Dragonshard Augments from the Eberron campaign setting. Here’s a way to take a magical or non-magical implement and make it a little bit better. These are especially beneficial if you’re low level. For 30 gp or less your implement can have the Accuracy property giving you +1 to attacks or the Distance property increasing the range of your area and ranged attack power by 2. As someone who’s played numerous implement wielding PCs, I consider this a huge improvement to implements that’s long overdue.
The only catch is that in order to actually gain the benefits superior implements offer you need to take the Superior Implement Training feat. When I read this it felt like a punch in the gut. Here’s a cool new way to make your implement powers more interesting. There’s a monetary cost and, oh yeah, you need a to take a feat too. Bad call Wizards. The benefits aren’t that spectacular that I should have to spend a feat to gain this benefit. Charging a fee (even a small fee) on top of the feat seems unnecessarily punitive.
Much like the feats, most of the magic items are most beneficial to the new races and classes. In addition to new armor, weapons, orbs, staffs, rings and consumables there are 12 Ki focus items – each ranging from +1 to +6 enchantment. Ki focus items allow psionic characters to improve their attack powers (they’re basically psionic implements).
One of the consumable items that I found interesting was the Talent Shard. It’s a level 3 item that costs 30 gp. As a minor action you choose 1 skill and gain +1 to that skill until the end of the encounter. It comes in +1 to +6 versions. Skill challenges are about to get a whole lot easier.
Tomorrow in our PHB3 Review (Part 3) we’ll take a look at the new psionic classes.