Welcome to the final installment of my three-part review of Heroes of the Feywild! Part 1 talked about my impressions of the book’s overall aesthetic, while part 2 focused on the three races and four classes. Today, I finish by discussing themes, paragon paths, epic destinies, feats, gear, and the optional “Build Your Character” rules.
I’ve been of a mixed opinion on themes since they came out; it’s been hard not to see them as power creep. Nevertheless, they’re here to stay and they’re popular, so I might as well start trying them out.
The theme from Heroes of the Feywild that intrigues me the most is the Fey Beast Tamer. Frankly, it feels like WotC has said here that the Beastmaster Ranger never really worked all that well, so they’ve given the same basic flavor to any PC who wants this theme. You get a pet, which can attack if you command it or move whenever you move. It shares your defenses. It heals for free at the end of each combat. It regains hit points when you spend your second wind.
Your choices of companion are a blink dog, a displacer beast, a fey panther and an owlbear. They’re much less powerful than the corresponding monsters, of course, but they all have auras that are flavorful and that help your allies. At level 5, the companion’s aura makes all enemies grant combat advantage.
The theme is quite strong, but when you compare it to the beastmaster ranger it’s hard not to feel bad for the ranger. This theme does most of what that build does, and it’s free to anyone who wants it. Of course, nothing is preventing a beastmaster from taking the Fey Beast Tamer theme to have a second pet running around…
Yeah, it’s power creep. It’s also an acknowledgement that a lot of players want to have a functional pet in the game, and this is a strong way to do that.
The other three themes are more flavorful than powerful, I’d say. Sidhe Lord lets you summon a House Guard out of nowhere once per day to fight for you. The Tuathan is a fey-flavored human whose features are pretty forgettable to me. The Unseelie Agent is a fey spy who can summon a shadow weapon (which you’d think would be a dead giveaway that you’re a spy, but we’ll let that slide). I’m not very impressed by the mechanics of these themes, but I suppose that if the flavor is what you’re looking for, have at it.
There’s one for each of the four new class builds in the book. You can’t take them if you don’t have that build. Okie dokie. Moving on.
The Shiradi Champion lets you be the special friend of the Queen of Summer. My favorite part of this is the flavor of the level 26 utility power, Audience with the Queen, in which the Champion is magically whisked away to chat with the Queen in the middle of battle, getting benefits for each round the Champion spends away from the fight. It’s a good way to make your allies hate you, I guess (“Man, why did Sarthor disappear for a coffee break when that dragon showed up?”), but I think it’s an interesting flavor.
Wild Hunter is fun if you like the Wild Hunt mythology.
Witch Queen is interesting is that it doesn’t require that you be a witch, just a wizard, but the level 21 feature only works if you have a familiar, so keep that in mind. Still, I appreciate that they’ve erred on the side of making their choices more widely available.
There are a bunch of feats here, and I won’t go through each in detail. There are multiclass feats for each of the four new builds. There’s a feat to let the bard switch Majestic Word for Skald’s Aura. There are racial feats for eladrin, elf, gnome and wilden (yes, wilden), in addition to the races introduced in Heroes of the Feywild. There are feats that make you into a fey creature and a set of feats to pump up your familiar. There are also new expertise feats for totems and two-handed weapons.
I love the gear presented on page 133 of this book. The faerie puppet is a toy that walks on its own. False path stones let you lay down a gravel road for a day. The Hair of Fairy Hues lets you dye your hair. Snake oil lets you look younger. Sweetheart’s Confection lets lovers sense one another’s emotions from afar. Cool, flavorful stuff.
There are a few new totems in the book, but the bulk of the magic items are wondrous items, consumables and fey magic gifts (kind of like boons and grandmaster training, the gifts don’t take up an item slot). As with the “mundane” gear, these items tend to have lots of flavor. I love the idea of the wizard busting out her Faerie Field Catalog during battle to get a bonus on a monster knowledge check. The Starglass Eye lets the bearer look between planes. Ray of Feywild Sunshine has a “Galadriel’s vial” feel to it. Mount Growth lets you make a mouse or a squirrel into a rideable mount (giddyup squirrely!). I appreciate that these items are more out-of-combat focused and allow for player creativity. I’m sure some of them might have game-breaking applications in battle or something, but I see them as fun opportunities to do cool stuff.
Build Your Story
The last chapter of Heroes of the Feywild lets you build your character in an alternate manner, taking advantage of a lot of randomness if you like. You roll for upbringing, which influences your race. You then build a story of the places your character grew up and various tasks they attempted, with die rolls determining the results. Mechanically, this is giving you skill training and can influence where you put your ability scores, but it’s also building a character background.
I’d love to try using this chapter for a character creation session where the DM holds the book and asks the players to roll the dice and fill in the story. “Okay, you rolled that you were raised by peasants. What race were you? What did you do with your days? Now you ended up going to [roll dice] a Fey Crossing Hamlet where you either guarded the crossing or ran a trading post. Which of those is more like your character? Okay, let’s see how you did at that trading post. You learned Streetwise there; now let’s do a Charisma check. Ooh, that didn’t go well. You ended up ruined as a trader. You could either fall in with the wrong crowd or seek redemption – what’ll it be?”
At the end of this process, the player will have filled in the blanks on a bunch of background events that shaped the character’s life. I think this is a really cool way to build characters with actual character.
And with that, my review of Heroes of the Feywild draws to a close. I applaud anyone who made it through to the end! I promise that I’ll get back to more bite-sized blog posts in the future, but I wanted to go through this one in detail. I like the book overall. I wouldn’t say that I love it passionately, but I enjoyed all the flavor, and I appreciate the opportunities for creativity that the book inspires in me, at least.
I’ll be starting a mailbag column soon, so if you have questions you’d like me to answer in a future post, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Michael the OnlineDM
A review of your reviewing style – just ignoring the parts you don’t care about makes this your review much less helpful. You might not like those parts, but either say why you don’t like them or give me an idea of what they are so I can judge for myself.
I appreciate the feedback. Were you referring specifically to the paragon paths? It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it’s just that they map one-to-one to the four new class builds, so there’s not much to say about them. If you want to be a really skaldy skald, then take that paragon path. If you want to be a really witchy witch, then take that one, and so on.
If there were other areas where you were looking for more detail, I definitely want to know about it. I’ll also admit that this review was getting really long, and I tried to err on the side of brevity where possible. If there are areas where you’d like more about my opinions, let me know – I’m happy to share them!
I see that I also didn’t say a whole lot about the themes other than the Fey Beast Master, but that’s because I honestly had a hard time finding things to say about them. I didn’t see any exciting mechanics, and in some cases I didn’t really understand the flavor very well. With the Tuathan in particular, I read the theme on my first pass through the book, and then when I came back to it for the purpose of writing my review I really didn’t see anything to write about. I think I just don’t “get” that particular theme.
I guess I’m never going to be an impartial reviewer. If there’s a part of a book I’m reviewing that makes my eyes glaze over and doesn’t stick with me, I’m not going to write a lot of words about it. I’ll tell you that my eyes glazed over and I forgot what I just read, which I think is the appropriate information from me as a biased reviewer. “FYI, I didn’t think this stuff was very interesting, to the point that I can’t even be bothered to write about it. Thus, my opinion is that it’s fair to poor.”