Forgotten Heroes Review
by Grant Howitt
Forgotten Heroes is a bag of classes for 4e which, at the time of publication, were not offered official support from Wizards of the Coast - the Barbarian, Bard, Druid, and Monk. But is it still worth buying?
The validity of any third-party contribution to a game - especially one as tremendously, painfully balanced as 4e - is always in question, and doubly so seeing as official rules for the Barbarian, Druid and Bard have been released in the Player's Handbook 2, and Monks are playable via downloadable content on the Insider website.
First up is the Barbarian given a defender theme, and although there are a lot of interesting options, I fear that their AC just isn't enough to keep them in the fight, especially if they want to lug around great big weapons as is the standard for their type.
Bard's up next - but we'll skip Bards as they're absolutely fantastic and I want to finish on them - followed by Druid. Druids get a pretty similar treatment to the official version, with the option of shifting more towards damage-dealing than imposing conditions - fair enough, I say. But the Wildshape power is woefully underused and their companion seems tacked on as an afterthought.
The Monk is great, and sticks with the traditional theme of Monks as mysterious men and women who punch you so hard that you go blind and then die. Impossible to pin in place or predict, the monk shifts and spins through the battlefield kicking out tremendous amounts of damage in various exciting ways - often fighting prone, using a variety of weapons, chucking swords across the battlefield, grabbing enemies by their legs and using them as flails - the list goes on. It's tremendous fun.
They have a fantastic "Drunken Master" paragon path, as well, the art for which shows a dwarf knocking some dude out while dual-weilding tankards. This alone makes me very happy.
Right - back to Bard. You should buy this product if you want to play a Bard; don't faff around with the PHB2 or reskinning PHB1 classes, this is it. I can't believe the mess that Wizards made transferring the bard over to 4e but somehow Goodman have managed to make the most Bard-like Bard ever, as hard as that is to believe.
Firstly the Bard uses bloody instruments rather than wands. You know, 'cause they're Bards. Bards come in two distinct flavours - Swashbuckling and Euphonious. Euphonious bards kick out area effects and limited ranged capabilities, but are always generating a variety of buffs to hand out to allies. A huge "song list" at the start gives the bard unparalleled flexibility in choosing how to improve their allies.
The Swashbuckling bard, though, is a thing of utter genius. Throwing a lot of the musical nonsense out of the window, these guys didn't pay much attention in Bardic college and instead spent their time picking fights and sleeping with girls. They have a suite of dirty tricks up their sleeve, ranging from kicking someone hard in the knees to pushing someone over and running away or faking swordplay for long enough to stun their enemies. They are miles better than anything Wizards have ever produced for the class. They even have anachronistic puns for some of their power names, which is just awesome.
The rest of the book is made up of a few magic items, of which the Druid and Monk do best - Druid get shillelaghs and fetishes (fetishes are also genius and should be adopted as core, in my opinion) and monks have the option of learning Secret Techniques which function as magic weapons that you learn, rather than possess. They're in-keeping with the theme and a fantastic, inspiring idea.
There's also a couple of short essays on Apocalypses and RPGs, but they seem a little like the designers needed to make up space and shoved them in as a framing device. Bit of a shame as I'd have liked to see more on the subject.
Overall, this is a good-looking (the art is great) and well-written book, that makes a few mistakes but does Bards so fantastically right that they're basically worth the asking price alone. Go buy it already. Play a Bard. Improve your life.
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