The Player’s Handbook 3. The very name implies a “C” list of offerings that somehow didn’t rate getting in the first two. At first glance, a casual page-flipper might find confirmation in some of the entries. New classes Ardent and Battlemind don’t seem as iconic as some of the classes we saw in previous PHBs. New hyper-alien races Shardmind and Wilden likewise lack the punch of, say, PHB2′s half-orc or drow.
But then you run across the monk and all is forgiven. Of all the classes I’ve seen that most benefit from 4E’s power-centric game structure, the monk tops the list. Its powers (er, disciplines) read like moves pulled from Shaw Brothers kung fu flicks — Fist of One Hundred Strikes, Steel Warrior Technique, etc. — which they probably were. There are even classic AD&D moves like Quivering Palm!
Which is not to suggest that only the monk redeems this book. It has other awesome topics that are sure to excite a sizable chunk of D&D fans: for instance, githzerai, minotaurs, runepriests and psions.
Githzerai are a great match for the book because they’re the quintessential monks and psion(icist)s and have many fans from previous editions. Introduced in the original Fiend Folio, githzerai are enigmatic planars with an obsession for knowledge and secrecy, and an unceasing hatred for githyanki and mind flayers.
Obviously, minotaurs are big hulking warrior types, though of course in 4E there are no limitations on what race can choose what class, so I’m looking forward to outlandish combinations like minotaur rogues.
The psion is a revamped psionicist from previous editions of D&D, and I’m sorry to say the 4E rules have taken the punch out of this character’s unique feel. In the old days of 2E, a character having mental powers that could be activated at will was a special thing indeed. Wizards needed to memorize spells and gather components, priests needed to pray, but psionicists held all their power in their brains. Well, guess what? All classes have been given powers to one degree or another, and psionicists (oops, psions) do as well. I’m sure they make fine characters, but the uniqueness is largely gone.
Lastly, I didn’t think I’d like the runepriest but it’s actually pretty cool. Very Dwarven in feel, it’s basically a front-line fighter with combat-related runic magic.
In addition to new races and classes there are two more rules for customizing characters: hybrids and skill powers. Hybrids work similar to a multiclassed character but instead of stopping one class and beginning a new one, both classes advance simultaneously and the character choses among both sets of powers. I didn’t mention three new classes that relate to hybrids: Ardents are basically warrior-psions, while Battleminds also rock psionic powers but are more defensive in nature. Seekers are magic-heavy rangers. All three of these, honestly, reminded me more of hybrids than unique characters unto themselves.
The last topic I want to mention about the PHB3 are skill powers. This rule lets you choose a power associated with a skill rather than choosing a utility power, allowing you to hone in on a core strength rather than being forced to choose one of a small number utility powers that may not fit your vision for the character. Just another another way to customize your D&D experience. Player’s Handbook 3, more ways to build a unique character in D&D!
And now for a giveaway…
Holding off on the PHB3 because you don’t have the first two? Now you don’t have an excuse. We have five sets of Player’s Handbook 1 & Player’s Handbook 2 to go out to GeekDad readers. To qualify, all you have to do is leave a comment describing a character you’d like to create with these books. Half-orc bard? Dragonborn warlord? Do it! I’m closing comments Noon CST Saturday.
Note: This Contest is not administrated, sponsored, or endorsed by Wizards of the Coast.
Update: Congrats Mordicai, Briwei, Thomar, Buckyn1 and jayson_peters! They each won a set of rulebooks.