On Saturday, March 20, 2010, the first day of Spring was also the Game Day for the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition Player’s Handbook 3, and quite a game day it was. Getting a look at the new classes was a lot of fun, and now that we finally have psionics back in the game, a lot of us who were anxiously waiting are relieved.
The big offering this time around is the long-awaited debut of psionics to 4e. Until now, players have had to whet their whistles with the playtests in Dragon Magazine, but only up to Level 10. Player’s Handbook 3 establishes the Psionic power source into the 4e world, and as with the Primal power source before it, it comes with some more elaboration on the history behind it. During the long-ago age of the Dawn Wars between the gods and the primordials, there existed a powerful gate between reality and the Far Realm. This gate, according to the stories passed down, was eventually discovered by a group of gods and opened, loosing the horrors of the Far Realm. Turning their attention temporarily from the threat of the primordials, Ioun and Pelor destroyed the gate and sealed the rift in reality. In the wake of the incursion of the Far Realms, psionic powers began to manifest, allegedly as the universe’s natural defense against the incursion of the tear in space.
Player’s Handbook 3 introduces four new races to players, some formerly monsters or races from older editions made more PC-friendly, and others entirely original creatures altogether. For revamped monster races, we have the githzerai and the minotaur making their long-awaited jump from Dragon Magazine to the core. The shardminds and the wilden are entirely new creatures to the DnD canon. In addition to the new races, Wizards has picked up a new way of doing racial ability modifiers. Each race has one primary modifier, and then the player is given a choice between two other modifiers. For example, Githzerai all get a +2 to Wisdom, but a choice between a +2 in Dexterity or Intelligence.
Shardminds are constructs who arose from the physical and psychic residue from the destruction of the Far Realms gate. Their bodies are composed of crystal, and are infused with psionic energy. Their ability modifiers cover Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, encompassing the whole of the “mental” stats. Obviously, though still constructs, they represent a very different type of construct that the Warforged. Wilden, on the other hand, are quite clearly primal in their origin. Wilden are fey creatures who are commonly considered to be the primal spirits’ response to the incursion of creatures from the Far Realm. The wilden are plant-like fey creatures, whose bodies are formed of wood, leaves and vines. As might be expected, they favor the druid and shaman.
After the races come the real meat of the book: the Psionic classes. The new psionic classes are: the Ardent, a leader who aids his allies and hinders his enemies by controlling emotions and thoughts, the Battle-Mind, a defender that uses psionic magic to manipulate his foes and turn aside attacks, the Monk, a striker who frankly needs no explanation, and the Psion, a controller who uses her mental powers to afflict her enemies and wreak havoc on the battlefield. The Seeker, a primal controller, and the Runepriest, a divine leader, fill out the classes. Out of all of the new classes, my personal favorite on Game Day was most definitely the monk. Between the flexibility and the sheer joy of landing a flying kick on something halfway across the battlefield, the monk is hard to beat out. Not to downplay the other classes, of course.
One of the big themes of the PHB3 is flexibility, especially in the psionic classes. Instead of having the traditional set of encounter attack powers every few levels, psionic characters (except for the monk) instead have a pool of power points, which they can use to augment their at-will powers, spending as many or as few as they want. This makes them far more versatile and able to adapt to situations on the fly than their counterparts from other power sources. Your pool of power points increases over time, and you gain and lose at-will powers as usual throughout your progression. It all comes together to create a really interesting effect. Which the system is a bit more involved than the traditional 4e power structure, it yields a lot to an experienced player, newbies be warned. Overall, the PHB3 is definitely worth spending your money on, and it’ll make a great addition to your table.
All in all, a worthy debut for Dungeons and Dragons where the level playing experience is quite an exciting venture to dive into with occasional Domino99 vibes in the bargain is what makes it riveting to overview again and again with something new to learn each time.