I’m not usually one for writing reviews, since I usually don’t get books until long after they come out and have been reviewed by everyone else. I happened to pick up Heroes of the Feywild on the day that it first became available to premier stores, though, and I really enjoyed reading the book, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.
This is part one of my review. Today I’m focusing on my overall thoughts of the book as a whole. In my second post, I’ll be talking more about the specific crunchy elements (races, classes). I’ll finish my review in the third post talking about themes, feats, gear and the rest.
Heroes of the Feywild is in the traditional D&D hardcover format rather than the softcover digest-sized books we saw beginning with Heroes of the Fallen Lands. I love the digests, personally, but I’m okay with the solid-feeling hardbacks, too.
The book is laid out in five sections: Feywild fluff, races, classes, character options (feats, paragon paths, epic destinies and items) and a choose-your-own-adventure semi-random character generation chapter.
The last page of the book has a wonderfully useful character advancement tables for the classes that follow the Player’s Handbook structure; aka “AEDU” classes (at-will, encounter, daily, utility); aka non-“Essentials” classes. It’s nice to have the whole chart on a single page, with all three tiers presented together on an easy-to-find page. Which brings me to my next point…
Is this an “Essentials” book?
When Heroes of Shadow came out, I was annoyed by some talk on forums and blogs about whether it was an “Essentials” book or not. The reason people cared was because it would be banned at their tables if it was an “Essentials” book.
Argh! If you don’t like the book, ban it for your game. If you’re okay with the book, allow it in your game. What the heck kind of sense does it make to make the ban/allow decision based on marketing? That’s all that “Essentials” is, really.
Anyway, the “knock” on Heroes of Shadow from people who vilified it as a dirty “Essentials” book came in a few ways:
- It only called out Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms as the player books to be used with Heroes of Shadow on the back cover; no mention of the Player’s Handbook
- While there were some options in the book that AEDU classes could take (feats, some powers), many of the classes in Heroes of Shadow were more like Fallen Lands and Forgotten Kingdoms in their advancement (modified basic attacks, few power choices)
- No support was mentioned for any classes or races that didn’t appear in Fallen Lands or Forgotten Kingdoms
Well, if you’re a person who cares about this sort of thing (in case it isn’t clear, I’m not one of those people), you’ll be happy to know that Heroes of the Feywild doesn’t have any of the “Essentials” stink that Heroes of Shadow apparently did. The back cover explicitly mentions that it’s for use with the “Player’s Handbook core rulebooks” as well as Fallen Lands and Forgotten Kingdoms. Multiple references are made throughout the book to either the PHBs themselves or options that only appear in those books (such as gnomes and wilden and the original druid and bard). The classes in this book generally follow the AEDU structure. Even the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 are specifically mentioned, as are Arcane Power and Primal Power.
So I’d say that for people who ban “Essentials” content at their tables, you can allow Heroes of the Feywild.
Throughout the book there are sidebars (usually a quarter of a page; sometimes as much as half a page) with the header “Bard’s Tale” and then the name of a story. While not every tale is a big winner, the sprinkling of these tales throughout the book does a great job of giving the reader a feel for what the feywild is really like. Think of these as folk tales that people from lands that are in or near the feywild would have heard as children.
For instance, “The Unruly Girl” on page 32 is the kind of story that could have been pulled from Grimm’s fairy tales; a story of a naughty child and the comeuppance that she received because of her wild ways. The bit at the end of the tale about the happy cat is deliciously dark and, well, Grimm.
Speaking of the Bard’s Tales, I appreciate that the writers of Heroes of the Feywild went to great lengths to focus on the flavor of the land – the “fluff” as it were. If you’re going to play a witch, you need to understand how one becomes a witch, the connection to the coven, etc. That’s all in here.
Lots of powers look like they were built flavor-first, too. The witch power Choking Shadow, for instance (page 98), seems to be a total flavor-first option. What would happen if your shadow separated from you to attack a creature? You’d get this power. The transformation powers from the witch, like Foe to Frog (also page 98), are similarly flavorful. Good stuff.
The gear is perhaps the most flavorful part of the entire book. I have no idea what I would do with a Faerie Puppet or a Sweetheart’s Confection, but the possibilities are out there. These items get me thinking. If my character were given one of these as a gift, how would he use them? The same goes for the wondrous items and fey magic gifts; these things come with story potential built in.
I’m not an artist, nor do I know much about what makes good art. But I do know that there were a bunch of pieces in this book that I really liked.
The entire art pack is available for download for D&D Insider subscribers. But WotC did publish several pieces of art in freely-available online articles. A few good ones are below
My personal favorite is the Witch Queen illustration on page 125. Badass and beautiful at the same time – that’s good stuff. Well done, Ryan Barger!
I enjoyed reading Heroes of the Feywild, which isn’t something I can say about every game rulebook. While there’s plenty of interesting crunch in the book, I think WotC did an especially good job with the fluff.
Granted, it helps that, unlike with Heroes of Shadow, I personally enjoy playing characters like those that can be created with this book (I’m not very interested in building anti-hero “shadowy” characters, but that’s just me). Still, I think that the overall structure of the book and the flavor in the pages make it a fun read and will give players (and DMs) seeds of character and plot ideas.
Next up: The crunchy bits.
-Michael the OnlineDM