Need to add a little zing to your 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign? Check out these two supplements:
Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide
Put simply, if you’re playing a character in the 4E version of the Realms, you need this book.
There are two new races, Drow, who need no introduction, as well as Genasi, humanoid embodiments of the Elemental Chaos (remember, in the new edition, the elemental planes are combined into a swirling vortex of elemental madness.)
You’ll also find three new classes: first, the Swordmage, an eladrin (FKA gray elf) style of fighting that uses spells to increase the character’s skill with the blade. Then there’s the Dark Pact Warlock, a drow sendup of the Warlock class found in the Player’s Handbook.
The third class is the Spellscarred — the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide tantalized us with a vague description of the Spellplague, a plague, uh, of spells that followed the death of Mystra, Goddess of Magic. It radically transformed the landscape, changed the way magic worked (thus providing a convenient explanation why the magic rules changed!) and inflicted itself on the Spellscarred, victims of the plague who have been forever changed by it, and can channel the power infused in them. Most of their powers involve rather nasty arcane fire spells.
Further fleshing out the classes, with a Realms twist, are a decent number of paragon paths and prestige classes, all either related to the Drow/Genasi or else relate to cultural nodes within the FR gameworld.
My favorite section of the book is called Backgrounds. It describes the most important regions and cities of the game world, fine-tuned for players’ needs: you’re given sample character archetypes (“Hunter of Monsters” or “Enigmatic Vigilante”) that would be particularly appropriate for the region, as well as enough background that even a raw newbie would be able to play the role convincingly. Each area has a section called Common Knowledge describing the state of the region from a ordinary person’s perspective. In addition, PCs of each region gain a small bonus: for instance, in frozen wasteland Narfell, all PCs from that region get to add Endurance to their class skill list and add +3 to all Endurance checks.
There’s a lot the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide misses, but it’s for players rather than DMs. Necessarily limited by keeping certain info out of PCs’ hands, the book does a great job at presenting what they need.
If you’re running a D&D campaign, you need this book. Somewhere along the way you’ll need to spring some level-appropriate critters on your players, and that’s what Dungeon Delve offers — one encounter for each level D&D players may attain in 4E for 30 encounters total. More intriguingly, some of the fights interlock, with 3 or 4 adventures all taking place in different parts of the same dungeon.
Each entry comes with a list of monsters (many of them new remixes of existing critters, like the Githyanki Corsair), setup information, monster tactics, and nearby geographical features. All thirty encounters come with a map which makes of one of the Dungeon Tiles sets Wizards sells (Caves of Carnage is a popular one.) However, you can run these battles without buying the tiles. One disappointment: the treasure description was rather light. When it was mentioned at all, it was very basic like, “5,000 gp and a level 7 magic item.”
Dungeon Delve is an invaluable DM’s aid that provides monsters, plots and maps that will help you run unplanned combats at a moment’s notice.
(Also see Michael Harrison’s review.)