Heroes of the Feywild is coming out this month, and some people have been able to get early copies and share information about its contents. From what I have heard, this could be the best player book to see print since last year. Not that there has been much of a competition - the D&D release schedule has dried up lately, and the only player-oriented products since January have been Heroes of Shadow (which many found underwhelming) and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting (which was split between DM and player content). Nevertheless, the Feywild is an exciting environment of which we still know very little, and the mechanic content revealed so far seems to be rock solid.
The new class options appear to take the best of the Essentials and pre-Essentials styles. On the one hand, we have highly flavorful concepts, a focus on builds for existing classes rather than brand new archetypes, mixed power sources, class features gained at higher levels, and different roles present in a single class (including a genuine striker/defender hybrid!). On the other hand, all options seem to be highly modular and customizable, with few or no fixed power slots, and powers that can be traded freely between new and old builds. And, what is better, not all material is aimed at Fighters at Wizards this time!
There are four new class builds, for Wizards (the Witch), Bards, (the Skald), Barbarians (the Berserker) and Druids (the Protector).
- The Witch is a Wizard variant which replaces the spellbook for a built-in familiar. Other than that, it’s not too different from a Mage or Arcanist wizard, apart from a fixed encounter attack at first level. The best part is the new array of spells, available to any wizard build, including lots of polymorph effects. The spoiled powers include a vicious controlling melee at-will, a Thunderwave variant that works as a close burst, and dailies to turn your enemies into helpless frogs - or savage monsters.
- The Skald is a bard with a martial touch who specializes in close combat, casting inspiring spells when hitting with a basic attack. It replaces the usual Healing Word mechanic with a healing aura, which allows allies to heal themselves a couple of times per encounter. Many powers are tied to that aura, and there is a feat that allows regular bards to replace their Majestic Word with the aura, in order to have access to these new attacks.
- The Berserker Barbarian is the first real dual role class in the game, and it’s based on a very cool concept. A berserker starts an encounter as a martial defender, using martial exploits and a defender aura. However, it has the ability to enter a rage which turns it into a primal striker, switching off the aura, and turning martial attacks into more damaging primal powers. The berserker has complete control over when this change happens (the first time he uses a primal attack), but there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch back. This change of roles should add a lot of tactical depth to the class, and I look forward to trying it out.
- The Protector is a pure spellcaster druid, without an animal companion or beast form. This is something the class had really been missing, since I always found that the humanoid form had very little going for it. The new build has the power to create a permanent zone of difficult terrain each encounter, which looks very much like a role-defining class feature for a controller. And it doesn’t stop there - from what I have seen, there are plenty of strong controller powers that can be used both by protector druids and regular druids in humanoid form. These follow the trend introduced by recent wizard powers, of adding miss effects on encounter attacks, and include stuff as impressive as an encounter that dominates, as early as level 7. The new dailies focus on summoning beasts with instinctive actions, with the leaked examples looking decent at most, but still playable - an improvement over the mediocre summons from Heroes of Shadow.
To round the book, there are a bunch of new themes (including the amazing Fey Beast tamer, which grants you a companion that is suspiciously close to that of a Sentinel Druid), and three fey races: The Satyr, the Dryad, and the Pixie. The first two sound pretty boring to me, but the pixie is quite an achievement, in that it allows you to play a tiny flying character that nevertheless remains (mostly) balanced! This is a bold move, but I can see pixies becoming an instant favourite among players, due to how different (and, admittedly, strong) it is compared to most races.
I’m definitely buying this book.
Update: A great, detailed review of the book can be found in The Chamber of Mazarbul