Review of Heroes of the Feywild, part 3: Character options and backgrounds

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.

Paragon Paths

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.

Epic Destinies

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.

“Mundane” Gear

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.

Magic Items

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

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Review of Heroes of the Feywild, part 2: Races and Classes

Yesterday, I shared my overall impressions of Heroes of the Feywild. Today, I’m reviewing the races and classes. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up with character options and the alternative background rules.


We get three new races here: Pixies, satyrs and hamadryads. All of them have optional racial utility powers that you can take instead of a class utility power at levels 2, 6, 10, 16 and 22 which I find to be very cool. WotC apparently started doing this with Heroes of Shadow, and I never really noticed. Oops.

The pixie

The pixie is polarizing, to be sure. Personally, I’m fine with it as a semi-comic-relief character. I’d have a hard time taking a pixie character seriously, but maybe one of my players will prove that a pixie can make you cry.

The fact that the pixie is Tiny and can shrink things down to its size gives it the most potential for weirdness. You know, like building a pixie berserker whose schtick is charging into enemies’ spaces. I’ve heard the idea of a pixie shrinking something like watermelons and feeding them to an enemy, only to have them expand after the pixie’s next extended rest. I’m sure there are lots of non-combat uses for the Shrink power, making an object easy to hide for a while, and I’m on board with that.

I’ll note that the origin story of the pixie makes it clear that the Summer Queen is evidently the most popular girl in the feywild. Four different guys thought they might be the pixie’s father? The Queen gets around.

Finally, I’ll note that if you’re looking for a less frou-frou take on the pixie, listen to episode 2 of Dice Monkey Radio, where Mark Meredith and I (mostly Mark) talk about using the pixie chassis to create a pseudo-dragon race. Pixie dust? Boring. Flame jet? Okay!


The satyr isn’t especially exciting to me. The racial utility power of sliding an enemy 3 squares after hitting it seems a little dull. The more relevant ability may be Pleasant Recovery: every healing surge the satyr spends while resting gives him an extra 1d8 hit points. I also love the level 2 Satyr’s Leap utility power that lets the satyr jump all over the board – an at-will move action that gives the satyr a running jump with a +10 bonus to the athletics check. Boing! Difficult terrain should be no problem.


The poor hamadryad is even less exciting to me than the satyr. A lady who can turn into a tree… nope, doesn’t do it for me. The Hamadryad Aspects racial utility is actually pretty good – you get your choice of a turn’s worth of combat advantage against everyone who can see you, or damage resistance. She also has a racial bonus to saving throws against daze, dominate and stun effects – the kind you really want to save against. But flavor-wise, I’m just not feeling it. I didn’t have any love for the Wilden, either; perhaps I’m just anti-plant when it comes to PCs.


Good stuff here. We get the berserker barbarian, the skald bard, the protector druid and the witch wizard. All of the classes follow the standard 4e at-will / encounter / daily / utility (AEDU) structure, though some are built to do well with basic attacks, too. They’re allowed to choose powers from the earlier builds of their respective classes, and the new powers introduced in Heroes of the Feywild are also available for the earlier builds to take (though in several cases the earlier builds can’t really make good use of the new powers).


Yes, I’ve already written about Crazy Wings, the pixie berserker. Not every berserker has to be so gimmicky.

The berserker is the first role-switching class WotC has produced. It starts off combat as a defender, with the same Defender Aura that the knight and similar classes have gotten, plus a good punishment mechanic in Vengeful Guardian (shifting or attacking a non-defender brings a melee basic attack with a d8 of bonus damage from the berserker). The aura also gives the berserker a +2 AC bonus.

However, once the berserker uses a primal attack power (not just a daily rage – primal encounter powers and even primal at-will primal powers from other books count here), the aura goes away and the berserker becomes a striker. In this mode, the berserker deals an extra d8 of damage on melee basic attacks, and the at-will powers in this book get extra damage as well. The berserker also has the option of switching into striker mode as a minor action if the character is bloodied. The berserk effect lasts until the end of the encounter, so there’s no way to switch back to being a defender once the berserker goes into striker mode.

The berserker also gets to choose from three homelands, which provide different benefits. Desert berserkers get +3 AC and +2 Reflex if they wear cloth armor and carry no shield, plus some fire resistance at later levels. Frozen land berserkers get +1 to Fortitude and Will, plus some cold resistance at later levels. Temperate land berserkers get +2 to damage rolls if they use a one-handed weapon and a shield. Aww yeah! They also get a speed bonus while charging at 4th level. I like the temperate land, personally.

I’ll note that the Stalk and Strike at-will power seems very good in that it lets the berserker shift 2 squares before the attack. Good stuff.

I’ve never played a barbarian before, but I could definitely see myself wanting to roll up a berserker. The role-switching brings a cool new aspect to decision-making at the table. I worry that it might slow the game down a little as the berserker’s player agonizes over when to go berserk, but experienced players should be able to handle this.


First, I’ll mention that I’d never heard of a skald before. It’s apparently a reference to viking bards, basically, though they’re not flavored in a viking way in this book. These are the folks who recite saga poems.

Next, I’ll say that I LOVE the skald. Regular readers know of how much I love my bard Factotum for Living Forgotten Realms games, and I wish I could make him into a skald. More on that later.

Right off the bat, the skald gets some flavorful non-combat abilities – groupies, favor with the king, a sweet ride, etc. I love this stuff.

The skald gets the Deceptive Duelist class feature, which lets him use Charisma instead of Strength for melee basic attacks with one-handed weapons. Huzzah!

Instead of Majestic Word, the skald gets Skald’s Aura, which is a cool twist on healing. It costs a minor action to turn it on during the encounter, and once it’s on any ally within 5 squares (or the skald himself) can spend a minor action to spend a surge and gain bonus hit points (1d6, 2d6, 3d6, etc. as the skald levels up). These folks also have the option of using a minor action to use the healing power on an adjacent ally instead. How cool is that? The skald himself doesn’t have to bother using the healing; whoever needs it can help themselves. The twice-per-encounter (three times at level 16+) limit still exists, but I personally think it’s awesome. Getting the d6 instead of the bard’s Charisma bonus is going to be a loss for most bards, as is giving up the free square of sliding, but that’s okay. I like the aura.

The skald still gets Song of Rest and Words of Friendship, and he also gets a spellbook-like ability to choose two daily powers at first level and decide each day which one to have available. He doesn’t get to pick two powers at 5th level or anything like that, though. It’s a little odd.

The bard’s at-will attack powers are all minor actions that work like stances (they stay on until the end of the encounter). They all have the effect along the lines of, “Each time you hit an enemy with a basic attack, one of your allies in the aura gains…” some bonus (temporary hit points, extra damage on their next attack, a bonus to their next attack roll, a bonus to defenses). The daily powers are similar in that they apply some beneficial effect to all allies in the skald’s aura. The encounter powers are all No Actions that trigger when the skald hits an enemy with a basic attack – kind of like Power Strike.

So, the skald straddles the AEDU structure and the “martial Essentials character” structure a little bit, which is fine with me. I’d love to rebuild Factotum as a skald, but unfortunately there’s only a feat to let regular bards get the skald’s aura, not the Deceptive Duelist power that lets the skald rely on Charisma for basic attacks. My problem is that Factotum has to have the original bard’s unlimited multiclassing, and skalds don’t get that. I wish I could give up Master of Story and Song and even Skill Versatility or Words of Friendship in order to be allowed unlimited skald multiclassing, but alas that would have to be a house rule.

I’ll also note that the skald’s powers at higher levels are explicitly improved versions of his powers at lower levels, with tweaked names. Lesser Dimensional Step at level 1 can be replaced with Dimensional Step at level 13 and Greater Dimensional Step at 27. You don’t HAVE to make those choices, but you can. This goes for all of the skald’s encounter powers. Again, it’s somewhat straddling the AEDU and “martial Essentials” structures, which is fine with me.


The protector druid, like the original PHB2 druid, is a controller. Unlike the PHB2 druid, the protector doesn’t turn into an animal. Instead, it has an encounter power that lets it create a zone of difficult terrain, and other powers can interact with this zone. The protector’s main schtick is summoning monsters to fight for the druid, ranging from Giant Cobras and Grizzly Bears at level 1 to Bulettes and Hunting Tigers at level 15 and ultimately Blue Dragon Wyrmlings and Raptor Behemoths at level 29.

Summon Natural Ally is the protector’s daily power, and at higher level the protector gets to use it more often (rather than getting new dailies). If you like summoning monsters to fight for you, well, try out the protector.

I’ll also note that the protector gets three “Primal Attunement” powers, which are basically druid-flavored cantrips. I love minor magical effects, so I’m a fan of Primal Attunement.


The witch is a sub-class of the wizard (it seems like every new magic class is a sub-class of the wizard these days!). Comparing the witch to the arcanist (the original PHB1 wizard), the witch gives up Arcane Implement Mastery, Ritual Casting and the spellbook, and in exchange gets a familiar, a moon coven, and the Augury power.

The witch’s familiar works like a regular familiar (the rules for which are reprinted in this book – yay!), but with two extra benefits. First, the witch’s familiar has a spellbook-like ability to let the wizard switch a daily attack power or a utility power for a different one. Second, at level 24 the familiar lets the witch spend an action point to recover an expended encounter power, getting combat advantage for that power.

The witch gets three cantrips, but only one (Chameleon’s Mask) is actually listed in this book, so you HAVE to have another book (or, you know, a DDI subscription) if you want to build a witch. That doesn’t bother me, but I was still surprised to see it.

Augury is a power that will definitely depend on your DM. Some DMs might give you a lot of info from Augury while others will not.

The moon coven determines whether you’re a good witch or a bad witch (I’m not a witch at all). Dark Moon (aka New Moon) gives you Dread Presence (a necrotic-themed power) while Full Moon gives you Glorious Presence (a power with some healing). These are the witch’s level 1 encounter powers, but these powers are available for any wizard to use, which I appreciate.

The new wizard powers introduced in this book are often witchy-themed, which I find fun. The Beast Switch at-will has the flavor of the witch briefly turning the target into a frog. Witch Bolt is an at-will with a sustain standard – I don’t think I’ve seen that before! Simple Animation is a level 2 utility power that lets the witch go all Sorcerer’s Apprentice by animating an object (such as a bucket-carrying broom). Foe to Frog is a level 5 daily that actually does make the target into a frog (the return of Slimy Transmutation!).

I can’t really evaluate the power level of these options, but it does seem like there are some fun new spells here for the wizard, and none of them appear to rely on being a witch. More love for wizards from Wizards.

More to come

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of my take on Heroes of the Feywild!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Review of Heroes of the Feywild, part 1: Overview

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.

Bard’s Tales

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

OnlineDM1 on Twitter