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D&D: Player’s Handbook 3: A quick preview by Andrew Babcock

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This is a preview of the content in Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook 3 by Wizards of the Coast.  I’ll be primarily covering the newest races and classes covered in this handbook instalment.

This book introduces the Psionic power source and the many rules that pertain to using it.

One of the newest concepts introduced by the Psionic power source is the use of power points to augment attacks.  Psionic classes, with the exception of the monk, can use extra effort of will to boost their attacks.

Through spending power points, they gain additional bonuses, effects and damage on these augmentable strikes.

First, though, I’ll start with the races.

Githzerai – The Githzerai are a quick, green humanoid that should be fairly familiar to the lot of you.  When choosing a Githzerai, you’ll get the +2 WIS bonus and a choice of either +2 DEX or +2 INT.  What strikes me about them is that they’re quite dodgy, what with the bonus to initiative, bonuses to save vs. daze, stun and dominate and getting a free shift of 3 squares when using their second wind.  They also get an immediate +2 to all defenses when hit as a racial power.  They’re going to be slippery buggers on the table and fit many classes that rely on movement and tactical positioning to do well.

Minotaur – Ah, my favorites.  While the mental image of female Minotaurs(and the picture of one in this book) isn’t so pleasing on the eye, the mighty Minotaurs are a force to be reckon with.  At great goliath stature, Minotaurs get a +2 STR bonus and a choice of either +2 CON or +2 WIS.  You’ll also gain a straight-up extra healing surge, the ability to make a melee basic when you drop to 0 HP(now as an immediate action) and HORNS!!!  Take my advice and never refer to the female Minotaur barbarian as a “big cow” or you’ll have to deal with mad cow.

Shard mind – This previously unmentioned and un-referred race is a bit bizarre, but gets all the goodies of PH3 in the same way that Devas got all the cool gimmicks in PH2.  The Shardmind gets a +2 INT bonus and a choice of either +2 WIS or +2 CHA.  In addition(stop to take in a breath), you’ll get 3 languages, 3 skill bonuses(one of which is a freebie), telepathy 5, resist psychic, the living construct trait and the ability to turn yourself into a swirling dust storm that confounds enemies as you teleport away.  All in all , the race is quite bizarre and I’ll never know why they decided to artistically distinguish between male and female shard minds – Warforged are not distinguished as such – but the Shardmind fits in well as any of the Psionic classes.

Wilden – Ah, the heir of the dryad.  The Wilden get a +2 bonus to WIS and a choice of either +2 CON or +2 DEX (did you notice the pattern with the races in PH3 yet?).  This race is for the players that were complaining that Fourth Edition D&D didn’t offer enough varieties and opportunities for customization.  For the Wilden, every feature is a choice!  You can choose the Wilden’s statistical bonus, a customizable bonus to one non-AC defense, and a trio of forms to choose after each extended rest that convey extra battle abilities.  It’s too much choice for me, but I didn’t want to play the plant anyway.

Next come the new classes.  I’ll try to be brief, but I want to go over each classes new features and shiny toys, as well as share a power from each tier of play.

Ardent – The Ardent is a psionic leader that feels like bard/warlord hybrid.  Using the power of her mind, the Ardent guides her allies through a fight by bolstering them and shaking the resolve of her enemies.  The main ability of an Ardent is CHA, with CON and WIS as ability boosters.  Ardents don specific Mantles as their class ability, either providing defense vs. opportunity attacks or granting bonus damage for allies who hit with opportunity attacks.  These mantles also boost ally skills within a close range.

Going through the Ardent’s disciplines, they seem to work a balance between leader and controller because of the amount of buffing to allies and conditions they can lay on opponents.  Feast of Despair is a 9th level daily weapon attack that attacks a creature’s will defense.  The effect of this attack will lower the target’s defenses by 2 and whenever the target misses with an attack, you or an ally can regain one power point.  This effect lasts until the end of the encounter, which is awesome.

Hope’s Audacity is a 13th level at-will power with the augmentable keyword which on a hit allows allies to score critical hits on 19-20 on the same target.  And then to really bring the house down, Summons to Doom is a 25th level daily attack that attacks every enemy in close burst 5.  On a hit, the target is pulled adjacent, takes 4[W] psychic damage and then the target has a choice of being pushed 3 away or taking a penalty to hit(save ends).   The Ardent is a unique force to be reckon with and has a very heroic flavor to build your characters upon.

Battlemind – The Battlemind is a psionic defender – the kind of defender that mocks Battlerage Fighters for being so soft.  The main ability of Battleminds is CON, boosted by both WIS and CHA.  The WIS Battlemind resists more damage, while the CHA Battlemind gets a free move at the onset of initiative rolls.  The main defender tactic the Battlemind uses to attract attention his way is a psionic lure called Battlemind’s Demand that marks for the rest of the encounter.  This can be used to float the Battlemind away a bit, which allows him to then deliver a nasty Mind Spike when that enemy attacks the Battlemind’s ally.  Oh, and that Mind Spike?  The damage is equal to the damage the enemy dealt your ally, which is nasty.

The Battlemind mixes the mechanics of most of the other psionics with daily powers that confer abilities like the Barbarian or Warden.  Aspect of Living Stone is a 5th level daily discipline that attacks each enemy in close burst 1 and knocks them prone.  A an effect, you take on the aspect of living stone, which allows you to augment any at-will so that you additionally gain resist 5 to all damage and boost your damage against a single enemy.

Brutal Barrage is a 13th level at-will attack power that allows the Battlemind to attack an enemy three times and if that enemy is hit twice, they are knocked prone.  The damage on this power is only CON modifier per hit, but this can be augmented to CON + CHA and allow you to attack four times.  To get a sense of how really nasty a Battlemind can be, Nova Strike is a 29th level daily attack that hits reflex and deals out 7[W] damage, or 9[W] damage if you have no power points left.  The Battlemind is a tough and gritty hombre who demands respect.

Monk – The Monk is a psionic striker who does not use the Psionic power point system, but rather uses a Full-Discipline system that represents a set of fighting styles and martial arts.  The main ability of the Monk is DEX, with STR and WIS to back it up.  Monks have a few extra features to distinguish their style of combat: they can use boosted unarmed attacks, gain a natural bonus to their AC with cloth or no armor and can wield Ki focuses(which are like magic items, but are not as wholly dependent on a weapon type).

On a whole, the monk is very quick and feels controller-esque by moving enemies around the battlefield.  Awaken the Slumbering Hurt, besides being an awesome name, is a 1st level attack that doles out extra damage on a bloodied enemy for this AND the next attack before the end of your following turn.  That is combined into a Full-Discipline by allowing you to move and not provoke opportunity attacks from bloodied enemies.

To understand the mobility of the Monk, look at Ring the Golden Bell, a 15th level attack.  Before the action, jump 10 squares without provoking attacks and then deliver a close burst 1 wallop that will also daze targets.  Last is my favorite: Celestial Drunken Boxer.  This 27th level encounter attack focuses on all enemies within 2 squares and forces them to hit other enemies of your choice with a boost to the roll and damage.  Afterwards, you complete the maneuver by shifting 4 squares out of that mayhem.  I could have written the whole article on just the Monk, because they can also gain ceiling-walk and flight, but that is for another time.  Just play a Monk.

Psion – The Psion is a psionic(surprise, I know!!) controller.  The Psion epitomizes the power source and is the ultimate mind-warrior.  The main ability of the Psion is INT, backed by CHA and WIS.  The two different types of Psion divide between telekinetic and telepathic (which excites me as a big X-Men fan). Psions are also ritual casters and direct their abilities through both orbs and staffs.

A simple, yet direct, example of the psion’s abilities is Telekinetic Lift, a 2nd level utility power that slides one object of 400 pounds or less 3 squares in ANY direction and immobilizes it.  This can be maintained as a minor action, which should probably be used to lift enemies further and further up until the falling damage stacks up.  Thunder Tether is a 13th level at-will burst attack that forces enemies to stay put or take thunder damage.  This can be augmented to completely deny an enemy from leaving a zone or up the damage.  Sudden Control is a 23rd level at-will that slides a creature and forces it to make an attack.  This can also be augmented to deal psychic damage or straight up dominate that creature.

Runepriest – The Runepriest is a divine leader.  The Runepriest’s main ability is STR, backed by either WIS or CON.  On a scale of 1 to sauce, this class takes the Hollandaise.  Clerics, Bards and Shamans wish they could be as tough and hit as hard as the Runepriest, whereas Warlords wish they were as versatile.  Each Runepriest gets a bonus to damage from their class feature and then every time a Runepriest casts a prayer(which usually involves smacking something on the head with a hammer), they have to decide whether they’re using a Rune of Destruction or a Rune of Protection, which will either confer a bonus to hit or resistance to all damage, respectively.  The Rune magic of the class can change round to round, per your preference, which makes for a very dynamic leader.

One reason the Runepriest is going to start outnumbering STR-based clerics in the near future is abilities like Shield of Sacrifice, a 2nd level daily utility prayer.  You or an ally in burst 5 spend a healing surge and then one or two allies within 5 of that person regain HP as if they’d spent a surge and gain a +5 bonus to their AC.  That’s a minor action.  Cure Light Wounds, who?  Rune of Rust is a 19th level daily attack that leverages a 3[W] strike and causes a -4 penalty to the target’s AC(save ends).  With each failed save, the penalty increases by 2 and as an aftereffect of the target saving, the penalty persists for another round.

Those were just too awesome not to mention.  And to show off the Rune feature of the class, take Word of Weal and Woe, a 27th level encounter power.  ON a hit, the enemy takes 3[W] damage and every all in 5 can spend a healing surge.  When you invoke the Rune of Destruction, the target also takes WIS modifier damage for each ally who spent a surge; if you invoke the Rune of Protection, the target and each enemy within 2 take a penalty to attack and damage rolls equal to the number of allies who spent a surge.  The Runepriest is clearly my favorite of the book, but it feels like they should have had ritual caster to start with.  Ah well, they are the first divine class to get a shot at skill training in thievery from level one.

Seeker – The Seeker rounds out the book by being a primal controller.  The Seeker relies on WIS as its main ability, with STR and DEX to supplement.  The STR based Seeker is the thrower of weapons such as javelins and the DEX based Seeker is a kobold, oops, I mean can shift as a minor action.  Each Seeker benefits from the Inevitable Shot power, which triggers when they miss a target with a projectile to whip it at another target.  The Seeker also benefits from being a primal class and getting more Hit Points than the normal controller.

The Seeker deals out ranged damage and many effects, but also provides some unique opportunities.  For example, Call of the Ghost Wolf is a 5th level daily evocation that deals out some light damage, but then conjures a ghostly wolf in an unoccupied square adjacent to the target.  The ghost provides flanking and adds an extra 2d6 extra damage when the flanker hits.  Sustaining the ghost with a minor action also penalizes enemies attack rolls.  Fey Sinkhole s a level 15 daily, that creates a zone until the end of the encounter.

As an opportunity attack, the zone dazes creatures inside and if the target leaves the zone before the end of its turn, you may teleport it back to the zone as a free action.  Now that is some major controller action.  One of the most creatively evocative powers I found was Abundant Growth, a level 27 encounter power.  The hit slows an enemy and the next hit the enemy suffers before the end of the Seeker’s next turn immobilizes the enemy and the third hit knocks them prone as brambles and vices start to grow all over the target creature.

That concludes the races and classes included in the Player’s Handbook 3.  The rest of the book provides feat options, paragon paths and epic destinies, skill powers and introduces a new mechanic called Superior Implements.  These are akin to master-work armor for implements and these confer some unique bonuses that can be combined with magic items through the Enchant Magic item ritual.

Andrew B @ DMB

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