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EN World Review – Heroes of Shadow by WotC

heroes of shadow cover fI would imagine there is a bit of excitement this Wednesday, seeing as I was lucky enough to have gotten a pre-release review copy of Heroes of Shadow to write up in this week’s EN World New Review!  Although I cannot deny that there is a lot of great content in this first Player’s Option book, I regret that I have to deliver some bad news – from cover-to-cover, the new Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow supplement was designed entirely as a D&D Essentials book, and does not have any purely Traditional 4E content in it at all!

For the complete details about my review of this first Player’s Option book, please click the link below to head over to EN World News for full details:

Pre-Release Review of Heroes of Shadow by Wizards of the Coast

Frankly, I am saddened and a utterly frustrated over the trends I am seeing from Wizards of the Coast regarding D&D Essentials versus Traditional D&D 4E.  And I choose the word “versus” very specifically here, because with the release of Heroes of Shadows as a D&D Essentials product, WotC has made it clear that it no longer has plans to support new products for Traditional D&D, and that Essentials has already won.

I am particularly angry at having been blatantly lied to by Wizard of the Coast.  When Bill Slavicsek got up in front of the D&D Product Preview Seminar at GENCON 2010, stating that D&D Essentials is an “on-ramp” to mainstream D&D play, and that there would only be TEN Essentials Products to make things easier for retailers to handle introducing new players to D&D, he put to rest a lot of concerns that many D&D gamers had about Essentials being D&D 4.5…

So what conclusion are we to draw about this new Heroes of Shadow, which looks an awful lot like the eleventh D&D Essentials product to join the line?

Going back and listening to the podcast of the D&D Preview Show, it is pretty infuriating, to say the least, to hear R&D Chief Mr. Slavicsek make this comment about Heroes of Shadow:

Bill S: “Also in the first quarter [of 2011], we have a players book… Heroes of Shadow is our first player’s option book.   For those of you who said that we weren’t going to be doing anything for the Core players after Essentials, well, that’s just not true.”

So I guess those who said that WotC would not be “ doing anything for the Core players after Essentials” was right after all.

And Mike Mearls explanation of Heroes of Shadow made it sound as though it was going to be a Traditional 4E product as well:

Mike M: “So basically, this [Heroes of Shadow] talks about shadow… the new power source, which you’ve seen before in the Assassin.  One of the things we’re trying to do with this book is to incorporate more flavor and background into the text itself, so it’s not just a 300 new powers… we wanted to give a framework for the Shadowfell and Shadow Magic, the story behind it… what it means for your character to embrace this power source… so obviously there are shadow powers and builds for classes, but those tend to focus on giving shadow powers to already existing classes.  There are plenty of new feats and other options… so even if you’re playing a Fighter, you may be playing one with a dark past… that dabbled in shadow magic, or has ancestry or other links to it [the Shadowfell]… so there are feats in here to build up your character is a vivid way.  The importance was not to concentrate on the mechanics of the power or the mechanics of the feat, but to build in game world elements… the fiction… and what’s going on in the world of D&D when you take this feat… what does it say about your character.  So it’s really about giving you the full experience of D&D, both mechanics and story combined.”

It is ironic that Mike Mearls would mention creating a shadow-based Fighter, because under D&D Essentials rules, Heroes of Shadow offers the Fighter class only a few new feats, and no additional powers whatsoever!

It is pretty clear that between GENCON 2010 and now, there has been a complete overhaul of the material that was going to go into Heroes of Shadow, and it was decided to make it completely Essentials based.  Add to that the fact that the only new content left this year are two more Essentials products – D&D Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale and Player’s Option: Heroes of Feywild – along with two boxed-set campaign settings – The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond and Neverwinter Campaign Setting – it looks like Traditional D&D 4E is simply done as far as WotC is concerned.

Welcome to the Birth of D&D 4.5

I said it before in a blog about this time last year, and it looks like I was right afterall – D&D Essentials is nothing more than D&D 4.5.  As I pointed out in today’s review, WotC has followed the exact same pattern that lead to the creation of 3.5: create a system – like 3.0 and 4E – then decide it is not going to work out, and create a replacement system for it – like 3.5 and D&D Essentials – and just force the D&D 4E community to jump on the new bandwagon by refusing to put out new content for the previous system.

Eerily, the timing of events is almost exactly the same as well – D&D 3rd edition came out in 2003 and was replaced 3 years later by 3.5.  D&D 4E was published in 2008, and two years later D&D Essentials came out – and six months after that, all Traditional D&D 4E content was removed from the calendar, and the next product to be released, Heroes of Shadow, mysteriously changes from a 4E product to an Essentials one.

I fear that the signs are pretty clear at this point.  Whether they call it 4.5 or D&D Essentials, the results are the same:  D&D Essentials is no longer just an on-ramp, it’s the new highway.  And Traditional D&D 4E has just run out of gas.

So until my next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Please be sure to take an opportunity to head over and read my review of the Heroes of Shadow, and when you’re done, kindly answer the poll along with the review!  I realize this issue is a hot-button for many D&D gamers, and not everyone will agree with my assessment.  Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback – I do look forward to other opinions, even if you disagree – but all I ask is that you please try and be civil about your replies!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


35 Responses to “EN World Review – Heroes of Shadow by WotC”

  1. Ablefish says:

    Well, read your review and blog, and I just feel sad for you. It’s such a waste of energy to try to build up Essentials vs. Traditional (your words) conflict in the 4E material. If the Essentials books had come out in Power books, you wouldn’t have batted an eye… but you’ve clearly gotten caught up and locked into your own preconceptions from before the Essentials books came out.

    Our group just started using characters from the Heroes Of… books as they came out and kept right on rolling dice, taking turns, fighting monsters and having a good time. And if you’ve avoided using the Monster Vault because of the perceived “Essentials” taint, then you are doing yourself and your playgroup an incredible disservice, the Monsters in there are a LOT more fun to run and play against than those in the other books. I’m very much looking forward to the next Monster book, as are my players.

    So anyways, my unsolicited advice is for you to maybe try to take a break from labeling everything and try more ‘kitchen sink’ (another unneeded term) gaming… you might just realize that it’s just d&d, man.

  2. The Id DM says:

    That is sad news. I am enjoying playing and running 4e games and have yet to work with Essentials content. I have no interest in switching at the moment, but honestly feel there is enough content in 4e to last for quite some time.

  3. Wyatt says:

    Yeah it really kinda sucks, I have a bunch of friends who really don’t like the presentation style of Essentials and never bought the books (I also don’t but I don’t play 4e anymore so…) and will be pretty displeased to hear this. Heroes of Shadow was getting their hopes up that Essentials was done and they’d be able to buy something new they liked, but I guess that ain’t happenin’. Good show on your review.

  4. Tony says:

    Nice write up, but I don’t quite agree with you on that this is an edition change. When 3.0 went to 3.5, that was a pretty dramatic change and the 2 editions really couldn’t be played together.

    From my experience, there is nothing stopping Traditional 4e and Essentials from playing together. The only real difference is how the classes are laid out. In our current campaign, we have 1 essentials player and 5 Traditional, and haven’t really noticed anything different.

  5. Paul Graves says:

    I must admit to being totally confused by WotC. I have bought a players handbook, downloaded the free H1 module, and started teaching my boys to play 4e.

    It seemed that Essentials was from 4e some sort of add on? Simplification? Reformatting? Reprinting?

    But what do I do now? Has 4e been replaced by Essentials? Will new modules & campaign settings be for Essentials only?

    Did I mention I was confused?


  6. e4Mafia says:

    Not to just be contrary, but could you elaborate on how exactly this is an “Essentials” product? The only mention you made about lack of support was that there were no Fighter powers. What about the whole rest of the game?
    What specifically in this book makes it an Essentials Only product?
    Thanks for any clarification you can give.

    Also for follow up: How is Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale “Essentials” and not 4e?

  7. Matt James says:

    None of the 4e projects I have worked on, that are coming out this year, have been Essentials. There are many argument fallacies in this blog post but considering that it is opinion, it’s not worth arguing against. I’m sorry you did not enjoy Heroes of Shadow–and I’m sorry you feel lied to.

  8. Brian R. James says:

    Ignore my brother. Heroes of Shadow is obviously an Essentials style book. Monster Vault 2, which Matt co-authored, is also an Essentials style book. I doubt WotC will ever return to the old core 4E formatting. Essentials is here to stay.

  9. Dan says:

    The thing I love about DnD is the concept. The fantasy setting. It’s not about the combat mechanics, those change almost everytime my group sits down to a new encounter. WotC could release 5 new editions in the next 5 years, and it wouldn’t stop me from enjoying the products I already bought, and continue to use.

    Likewise, when I see a product come out (Neverwinter campaign box FTW) that I like, I’ll buy it and incorporate it into my campaign regardless of the ‘rules’.

    I don’t know if that makes me some kind of freak or something, but if we’re having a good time and everyone agrees to the rules, who cares what edition we’re playing?

  10. j0nny_5 says:

    Aargh. That’s frustrating to hear. I was really looking forward to a new 4e book. I was really concerned when Essentials came out, looks like my fears are confirmed. Sad cause I’m not really a fan.

    We still have the Shadowfell setting book to loom forward to though. And the despair deck seems like a fun idea.

  11. Matt James says:

    Neuroglyph, check this out and let me know if this would have been a better change for you:

  12. Dave says:

    Heh, well a conspiracy theorist might point out that the the essentials line is not covered by any type of game system lisence. So no third party content for essentials.

    Well, we have to remember that Hasbro has charged WoTC with selling books, not sheparding any given game system to the best it can be.


  13. @e4Mafia – Where I get that it is an Essentials book is in how the classes are designed, with limited power options for melee classes, and many spell-like options for caster classes. And of course, from what is written on the back cover of Heroes of Shadow:

    Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow is aimed at players who are ready to reach beyond the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials books, Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of Forgotten Kingdoms.

    For use with these Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Products: Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, Rules Compendium

    Sadly, I think the back cover makes the aims of the book totally clear.

  14. NewbieDm says:

    Mike, I’m having a hard time understanding one thing. As a DM, what’s the concern with Essentials, in as far as your table? Because Essentials is supposed to blend in perfectly with existing 4e material. I’m not entirely sure what the issue is.

    If the issue is strictly from a marketing sense, and what was promised, then you may have a point, but as far as gaming is concerned, as a DM I really couldn’t care either way if I have a slayer or a fighter at the table.

  15. @Ablefish – I would actually recommend that you go back and read my posts from around August and September of 2010, where I reported favorably on Essentials, and even gave the Red Box a “thumbs up” after an extensive playtest with new as well as experienced gamers. When I interviewed folks at GenCon 2010, like Mike Mearls, Rich Baker, and Jeremy Crawford, and was given assurances that Essentials was nothing more than a group of ten products that would serve as an “on-ramp” to get new Players involved in D&D, I was totally for it, and gave it plenty of props in blog after blog. So really, the only conceptions of Essentials I have are those given to me by speaking to official WotC staffers.

    And actually, I do use Monster Vault in my games all the time, and will certainly pick up MV: Threats to the Nentir Vale, and see what critters I can use in my own campaign – even though the Nentir Vale is the Core D&D setting used with Essentials products, and I don’t run that world. The Essentials products for the DM are completely useful, and own all of those, and enjoy them in my two games.

    I really wish you could understand that I harbor no dislike of Essentials Products, but my frustration is with WotC for claiming one thing, and then doing another. D&D Essentials Character content, while compatible with Traditional 4E, was supposed to be a starting point for new players to gain an understanding of how D&D 4E works. But I don’t mix Essentials content with my Traditional 4E game because it adds a ton more powers and feats that are simply not needed, and in some cases, are just an odd fit when slotted in the original 4E character chassis.

    And while I agree, “it’s just D&D”, when character-side Essentials material – like classes, builds, and feats – becomes the only content available for an entire year, the Essentials has changed from the “on-ramp” for beginners and has become nothing more than a replacement for the original game.

  16. @NewbieDM – Absolutely, marketing is one of my sticking points, but my dislike at mixing Essentials and original 4E is in the design of the Essentials character “chassis”.

    I fell in love with 4E because it finally resolved one of the issues that caused a few of my campaigns to fall apart in past editions: the dissatisfaction that melee classes begin to feel at higher levels due to their lack of combat options during a fight, while spell-casters wallow in a flood of combat options (ie. spells). Original/Traditional 4E resolved that issue, removing the excess from spell-casters, and offering melee classes a wider range of exciting and dynamic combat options. All character chassis had become the same, but their powers were vastly different.

    Essentials returned 4E to a state where the chassis were no longer the same, and melee classes were once again given fewer combat options – and even design options – than the spell-casting classes. As such, some of the Essentials melee powers and feats were made noticeably more potent than those from Traditional 4E in order to make up for the lack of options. As an example, I recently read that the Essential Rogue (Thief) has actually taken over as the top DPR Striker, hedging out the traditional Rogue and Ranger.

    I strongly feel that porting Essentials powers and feats into the old 4E chassis opens the door for too much min-maxing, and the potential for creating game-breaking characters. And I am a firmly in agreement with Mike Shea, when he blogged about “less is more”, and at a certain point you need to start limiting character source content to avoid being simply overwhelmed as a DM trying to wade through 5 or 6 players’ characters.

    Given that Essentials was deemed as “gateway” material for new players, it seemed that it was definitely one of those sources I could draw the line at and say, “We don’t need that in the game.” But if D&D Essentials becomes the only supported content, then where do DMs draw the line?

  17. For what it’s worth (and I wrote about this at the time as well), pretty much the first announcement I ever remember reading about Essentials stated something along the lines of “and this will shape (inform?) our design going forward.” I pretty much expected further 4E product to be primarily Essentials-based.

    So, color me not surprised. The Essentials line is pretty good stuff, but I also agree with you that Essentials “stuff” doesn’t always mix really well with traditional 4E “stuff.” My experience experimenting with Essentials was fun, but not enough to draw me back to 4E.

  18. PinkRose says:

    Hold on to your hats:
    I run a game with a pure PH1 Rogue and a PH2 Sorcerer and an Essentials Knight, and…
    They All Play Just Like D&D!!
    Essentials is D&D. Thanks for the review. Could have done without the non-\essential\ bias.

  19. Jason Dawson says:

    I really can’t agree with you here. If you take a hard look at the Character Builder, the majority of the new Encounter and Daily powers in the Essentials line are retroactively available to their “parent” classes from the PHB series. Some, like the Battle Stances and the like for the melee classes are not, but those are class-mechanic specific.

    I think the reviewer is being FAR too reactionary and not thinking his answer through completely. While the book may not specifically SAY that most of the material will be PHB compatible, it is. All the Nethermancy powers are available to a PHB Wizard, and the Dailies for the Blackguard will be available to the Paladin.

    All the feats in the book are usable by PHB characters.

    Every magical item is usable by PHB characters.

    All the races are usable by.. see where I’m going?

    It’s not the end of the world. Really.

  20. [...] encourage you to check out Neuroglyph’s review of this book on EN World, and his own blog post discussing his more personal feelings on the product. A decent chunk of my own review was influenced by reading the book yesterday and today and then [...]

  21. [...] how HoS is an “Essentials Only” product. Then at Neuroglyph, the author posts up a loooooong rant about how disappointed he is about the lack of support for PHB characters. This is what upsets [...]

  22. Marlett says:

    I am another of those folks who thought that HoS was supposed to be more of a “classic” 4e book. I believed it was to be a new format for the “__ Power” books. If most of the content is Essentials based(I haven’t received my copy yet, but as @Neuroglyph is my DM – I trust his judgment), then it seems indeed that Essentials is the new reality of 4e.

    Essentials should have been what 4e was at launch. If that had been the case, then I would have had much less of a problem with the whole concept. Simplicity is the hallmark of Essentials, and while that is generally good for the new and returning players to D&D, it doesn’t serve me as an existing 4e player well.

    Limiting character options is not the direction I would prefer. I have played every version of D&D since the Red Box set of the 1970s, through 4e. Along that time, I have embraced the more tactical lean that the game has taken since the creation of 3e. For most versions of D&D, I have played a healer. In versions past, healers (cleric generally) had our X healing spells per day, then we were done. Combats devolved into being a heal-bot until spells were gone, then futilely melee’ing until the monsters dropped. Even in 3/3.5e, over 80% of the spells that I prepared were changed over to straight healing to keep the party up and topped off. While this was an extremely vital job, it was rarely rewarding.

    4e is the first system where my characters don’t feel like an NPC in combat. The myriad of powers offer not only healing while dealing damage to the enemy, but buffing, debuffing and other combat effects as well. None of the Essentials Leaders have impressed me in that regard – they all seem like a step back. The Warpriest is indeed combat effective, but as a Leader, they seem lacking in their basic role – Healing!

    Essentials is the horse that WotC has hitched the D&D cart to, so for that reason alone – I hope it’s a success. This game has been part of my life for over thirty years, and I hope it continues to do so for thirty more.

  23. echoshifting says:

    Ugh. I find Wizards’ current direction incredibly alienating. They put 4E down before its time =/

  24. echoshifting says:

    Oh, and I feel it necessary to point out that the blog author gave this product an A-, he’s just expressing his personal sentiments here. He didn’t trash it.

  25. Occam says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. Ablefish pretty much nailed it in the first post.

    Ask this question: If you didn’t buy any of the Essentials products, what could you use from this book? Almost everything. AFAICT, other than the warpriest Death domain and the two new mage schools, this entire book is directly playable by someone who owns only the Player’s Handbook. Saying that it “was designed entirely as a D&D Essentials book, and does not have any purely Traditional 4E content in it at all!” is creating a distinction that doesn’t exist.

    I appreciate that the reviewer clarified his dislike of certain class designs in the Essentials products, and I can understand that, but the language used in this article (and much of the language in the original review) is not so nuanced, and serves only to foment entirely unnecessary conflict.

    And I hope that Brian R. James was merely making a good-natured, sardonic swipe at his brother. Because complaining about a change in text formatting as if it’s a fundamental alteration of the game? Yeesh.

  26. @Occam – I never said that a D&D player could not use the material from this book with their Traditional 4E characters. But there is nothing in the book that one can point to and say, “This is definitely non-Essentials D&D”. Have you considered why all four character classes were created using the Essentials design paradigm, and not a single one was treated as a character class or build from any of the PHBs (1-3)? That fact alone creates the distinction you choose not to acknowledge. I think that one has to look at the type of Character builds, the new Domain, and the new Schools as an indicator for which audience this book was written.

    With respect to your concerns about my EN World Review: Besides my closing comments – which I wrote after I gave the book a great grade, btw – what part of the language in my review did you take exception to as “not so nuanced, and serves only to foment entirely unnecessary conflict.” I’ll not deny that my language here on the Neuroglyph Games site was heated – but my frustration was not aimed at the book itself, D&D Essentials, or those players who enjoy playing either a pure Essentials game or a game using both Essentials and pre-Essentials components. My editorial was aimed at the way the book was originally marketed, as a “Core” book, which it is not, especially when more than half the pages are devoted to content that is exclusively Essentials (Classes/Domain/Schools).

    But as a gamer who obviously enjoys using both Essentials and pre-Essentials material in your game, I would wonder why you are concerned with me labeling the book as an Essentials product. If I did not make such a distinction, then a D&D gamer who was in a campaign that used only pre-Essentials material would be pretty frustrated buying a book that had more than half its pages devoted to what is undeniably exclusive Essentials material. As a reviewer, I would be remiss in not warning that Traditional 4E gamer about the contents of the book, so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not to buy it. I have to consider all my Readers when posting a review – but labeling the content for what it is should not be hurtful to anyone.

  27. Tizzbin says:

    I’m the kind of individual who finds great comedy in this entire “argument”, if you can even call it that. Having read both the review, the post above, and *shhh* actually having READ the Heroes of Shadow, I think people need to go back and actually read the posts and try to follow the overall message here.

    1. “OMG! He said this is for use with Essentials only!”

    Hilarity ensues. All Essentials products can be used with Standard 4E. No one is claiming that they can’t. Sure, in some campaigns, they won’t ALLOW Essentials abilities mixed with regular builds, because the results could be (in theory) abused by the min/max “pile of points” power-gamers. So that’s not a real argument.

    2. “He’s attacking Essentials, because he’s a big ol’ Essentials hater! And I hate Essentials haters, because they’re… dumb and stuff!”

    He didn’t attack Essentials, despite the claims otherwise. He attacked a claim that there would be 10 Essentials books and then it would be back to ‘Core 4E’. Guys, fo realz: the classes introduced are Essentials classes. It’s another ‘Heroes…’ book. And the following quote is technically the issue:

    “For those of you who said that we weren’t going to be doing anything for the Core players after Essentials, well, that’s just not true.”

    That was regarding this book. This ESSENTIALS book. For those who once again are going to revert back to the “But its not an Essentials book! It can be used in ANY 4E game!” argument, so can ANY of the other ‘Heroes’ books… and you consider THEM Essentials books, right?

    3. “Okay, then… if you say he doesn’t HATE Essentials, then why does he have an issue with another Essentials book being released? Huh?! BOOM!”

    It’s a transparency issue with WotC.

    All he (and myself, who GREATLY agrees with this point) is saying is: be HONEST with us, WotC. When Essentials came out – there was a HUGE freak-out about it, and at the time WotC said it was just temporary and misrepresented the point of the new material. They SHOULD have called Essentials a “new 4E evolution, which will revolutionize the current system with new dynamics and versatility for every level of player AND integrate well with the pre-existing material”.

    Instead, they said it was 10 books and then back to the Core. See… It was the fact that they balked at the players ‘resistance’ to the changes that Essentials presented initially that left them to, quite honestly, lie about its purpose. Sorry… But maybe it wasn’t necessarily a lie. MAYBE things just evolved, and what was intended to be a Core 4E book when they were talking about it at Gencon last year BECAME what it is today.

    4. “But he’s totally NERD-RAGING at this point! Did you see him?! Oh, what nerdity… with rage-itude!”

    If you were a representative for Taco Bell (I assume at least some of you work there… ohmygod BURN!) and Taco Bell told you to tell everyone that their meat was packed to the brim with meaty goodness. And not just any meat… but good meat. Not rat meat. NEVER rat meat. Tasty meat. The kind you’d feed to your babies and NOT be worried about them growing tentacles. But then Taco Bell comes along as says that they have a new Tentacle-Baby value pack for 5 bucks (and it comes with a drink and cinnamon twists), well – you’d feel a bit lied to.

    The truth of the matter is that if WotC requests that you provide ‘Joe Gamer’ with truths, and then those truths turn out to be HALF-truths to downright fallacies… well, you (as an individual who wants to bring FACT to Joe Gamer) feel duped, and rightfully so.

    Agree, or don’t agree. The product is a great Essentials product. But some of the folks out there are seriously getting their “rage on” like they have Dragon Blood and Bahamut DNA. Don’t be Charlie Sheen in this issue, people. Just don’t. Let Chuck go the way of Old Yeller. Like this whole debate.

  28. [...] encourage you to check out Neuroglyph’s review of this book on EN World, and his own blog post discussing his more personal feelings on the product. A decent chunk of my own review was influenced by reading the book yesterday and today and then [...]

  29. Majesticmoose says:


    I found your review along with Danny “Bartoneus” review to be very fair and even, and helps me form some ideas of what to look at when I get the book in my hand.

    It does seem that to say the book is 100% essentials is unfair. By my count in your reviews, there are about 35 pages of 4e/essentials crunch that can be used on both sides.

    I can understand your concerns about being lied too, and I think that the content for non-arcane/divine users is disturbing, but try to see the forest for the trees. It’s not All essentials. It is strongly essentials.

    Again, I feel your review was excellent. Cheers.

  30. [...] Posted on April 8, 2011 by The Id DM I observed the recent “controversy” online about the release of the new Heroes of Shadow book. Players and DMs were discussing how the [...]

  31. uhf says:

    I picked it up, and I don’t really get what you’re saying about this not being pre Essentials compatible.

    To be clear all powers etc can be used by a pre-E class if its got Class – Power – Level. The bulk of the material fits this description. Furthermore pre-E stuff can all get used by the Heroes of Shadow.

    So.. pretty much all of this can be dropped in the pick list on character generator and used. just like any splat book.

    To be clear I was never a huge fan of the ‘Power’ splat books. The biggest Issue with them was that they didn’t really present a coherent description of what the character builds really were. It was just a build variant and a lot of powers… Go!

    In many respects I feel that this is a step in the right direction, even with what Essentialized material they put in there.

    Another way to look at this material is that some class options are more strictly associated with certain class builds. I kind of like that. In my campaign world there is a Monk who uses a garrot. (Its his prayer bead totem focus.) He may not be a nice monk, but he’s no assassin.

  32. @UHF – Sigh. I am beginning to feel like a broken record.

    Once again: I never said it was not compatible. I never said it cannot be used with pre-Essentials classes. I never said that Essentials powers cannot be used in Traditional 4E classes. Thank you.

  33. [...] review of the new Heroes of Shadow book over on EN World (plus the somewhat different version on their blog) and the follow up conversation on the Neuroglyph Games blog. The review of the material was fine [...]

  34. bone_naga says:

    Dave, I have to say I don’t think there is any conspiracy to lock out third parties. Granted, I think WotC has done a horrendous job of integrating third party publishers, which is a shame since third party material still benefits WotC in the end. However, that has nothing to do with essentials.

    First off, while the SRD hasn’t been updated for essentials (AFAIK) it isn’t like WotC was regularly updating it before that either. Second, you don’t actually need the GSL to publish D&D third party material. Some stuff has been published without the license. In the end, that’s a decision for each publisher to make for themselves. Third, some of the essentials classes are so closed it doesn’t seem like there’s much for third parties to offer anyway.

    By the way, if you want to see some third party essentials material, check out Amethyst Evolution. It contains essentialized versions of previously published classes (they certainly don’t need a SRD update to remake their own classes), but these are much better done than WotC essentials classes and some are more interesting than the original versions (IMO).

  35. Charles Murray says:

    Thanks for this – and for your actual review. For what it’s worth, I think your analysis is spot on. This is an Essentials product for sure. Yes, it is “compatible” with Core – if you define “compatible” as “not incompatible”. But it’s telling, as have a number of other things been.

    Leaving the integrity issue aside (sad), the concern a number of us have is not that Essentials and Core can’t possibly be integrated (they can), but there are issues with power imbalances – issues which make hybridding the two unwise from a play-balance perspective. Sure, you can run your “Essentials” character at a Core table, but no smart DM would allow you to choose some Essentials powers and meld them into a Core Character. We’ve seen more than one “broken” character as a result of attempts (admittedly some have been errata-ed out again).

    Now, the one additional beef I would air is the “complexity” issue. As a player, it’s easy enough to know what a character can do, but trust me, as a DM, the players now have the upper hand in terms of knowing their character abilities etc. And given the way things are all mashed, well, it’s a pretty regular occurrence for me at our table to say “Let me see that”, then read the description back to the player, clarifying that he actually can’t do the things he said he could. That is not an enjoyable experience for anyone, pushing out to meta-game over and over and breaking flow and frustrating player and DM alike.

    Essentials solves a “problem” which WotC themselves created – but it only solves that problem if the two don’t intermesh. Otherwise, the Essentials stuff becomes yet another martial/arcane powers supplement.

    People are going to feel a wee bit taken if you put out the Core books as they have been (just the sheer number, for one thing) and then effectively obsolete them. In fact, the direction of WotC seems to be to obsolete all written materials – buy your on-line subscription if you want to play.

    Also, you make things easier to run with Essentials, then simultaneously release Fortune Cards? Why would you add complexity in this random, non-role playing way?

    Sadly, the answer to so many of these questions could be provided by a rather cynical view of WotC’s profit motive. Don’t get me wrong, I both respect and want them to make money, but the way this has all gone down leaves a bad aftertaste.

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