Comments on: EN World Review – Heroes of Shadow by WotC http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc A D&D 4e Blog Dedicated to Dungeonmasters & Players Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:51:25 -0400 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 hourly 1 By: Charles Murray http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-10513 Charles Murray Tue, 09 Aug 2011 12:12:02 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-10513 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. 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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By: bone_naga http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4275 bone_naga Sun, 10 Apr 2011 15:46:10 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4275 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). 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).

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By: D&D Essentials: The sky has not fallen « Online Dungeon Master http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4257 D&D Essentials: The sky has not fallen « Online Dungeon Master Sat, 09 Apr 2011 05:47:54 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4257 [...] 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 [...] [...] 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 [...]

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By: Editor-in-Chief http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4248 Editor-in-Chief Fri, 08 Apr 2011 21:21:46 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4248 @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. @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.

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By: uhf http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4246 uhf Fri, 08 Apr 2011 20:29:22 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4246 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. 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.

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By: Vampire Lifestyle | The Id DM http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4245 Vampire Lifestyle | The Id DM Fri, 08 Apr 2011 17:17:44 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4245 [...] 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 [...] [...] 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 [...]

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By: Majesticmoose http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4243 Majesticmoose Fri, 08 Apr 2011 15:43:30 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4243 @neuroglyph 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. @neuroglyph

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.

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By: Review: Heroes of Shadow | Follia Digitale http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4236 Review: Heroes of Shadow | Follia Digitale Fri, 08 Apr 2011 09:20:09 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4236 [...] 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 [...] [...] 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 [...]

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By: Tizzbin http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4235 Tizzbin Fri, 08 Apr 2011 03:11:22 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4235 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. Misconceptions: 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. Conclusion: 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. 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.

Misconceptions:
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.

Conclusion:
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.

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By: Editor-in-Chief http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/en-world-review-heroes-of-shadow-by-wotc/comment-page-1#comment-4232 Editor-in-Chief Fri, 08 Apr 2011 00:22:51 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=5058#comment-4232 @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 <strong>exclusive</strong> 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. @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.

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