Friday, July 9, 2010

D&D Essentials class preview: The Cleric

D&D Essentials class previews

The previews for D&D Essentials continue, and today we get our first glimpse at the new class mechanics. The developers start by explaining their design goals and philosophy (there is a HUGE emphasis on compatibility with existing products, as well as providing compelling decisions, even for new players), and then show us the crunchy bits. I highly recommend taking a look (no subscription is required), but you can see the highlights below.

This is what we know about new classes in general:
- 8 Existing classes will be getting 2 new builds. They will be divided among 2 books: Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
- New builds will share some elements with current classes (features, powers, feats), but also have some exclusive features and powers.
- Each class has its own advancement table. Nevertheless, the basic structure (what you get at each level) remains pretty much the same, with just a few additions or changes.
- Classes can now gain additional features while levelling up. In the cleric preview, there are fixed features at levels 4 and 8, and build-dependent features at levels 5 and 10. Some of these seem to overlap with what you could already do with the Ritual system.
- There will be classes with different levels of complexity.
- The previously announced removal of daily powers will only affect certain classes.
- This design philosophy will be applied to all future 4E classes (and presumably builds).

Also, though not a class-related item, flexible racial stat modifiers like the ones in Player's Handbook 3 are confirmed in.

As for the Essentials Cleric, the preview covered the following:
- There is a new subtype of cleric, called Warpriest, which can be further divided into two builds. Each build is associated with a domain and it's corresponding gods - there is the Sun Domain and the Storm Domain.
- The Warpriest is a cleric that focuses on Wisdom-based weapon attacks. Proficient with heavy shields.
- The choice of Domain determines certain class features, at-will attacks, and encounters. In theory, you could take generic cleric encounters, but using domain-appropiate powers grants you bonuses; this sounds just like build-specific encounters work currently.
- Storm Domain specializes in offensive attacks, and weakening enemy defenses. Likewise, Sun Domain emphasizes protection and hindering their foes' attacks.
- Some class features appear as the character levels up. Clerics get "Holy Cleansing" and "Resurrection" at levels 4 and 8, and unspecified domain features at levels 5 and 10. This strongly suggests that the Essentials line might have no rituals, and use features instead, since raising the dead was previously handled by rituals.
- Essential clerics do get daily powers, and suffer no restriction whatsoever to that choice from their domain.
- Healing Word remains the same, and there is still Channel Divinity, but the choice of powers has changed: Smite Undead (a weapon-based undead killing attack) replaces Turn Undead, and the second power is Domain-dependant. Healer's Lore is gone.
- None of the new powers or features have been shown.

On a related note, two new builds for the Fighter have been revealed: the Slayer (two-handed weapon user with a touch of striker) and the Knight (entirely focused on defense).

It's still early to know how these new classes will behave in play. What we can tell, though, is that the mechanics will present a good deal of innovation, but the core of the game remains mostly intact. Also, from what I have seen, the compatibility with previous books has not been compromised in a significant way. We could still find out that the actual powers and feats arent' all that good, or that they destroy game balance as we know it, but somehow I doubt it. It looks like the books will be well worth the investment, for veterans and new players alike.

1 comment:

  1. Stuff like this makes me excited for 4.5 if it ever happens. Or Unearthed Arcana 4e. Particularly different progressions for classes; yes thank you.