Heroes of Shadow– It’s NOT the End of the World As We Know It

I really hate nerdrage.

…and yes, I realize that this post could be construed as such. It’s not. I just want to put information out there that some folks appear to be missing.

There’s a GREAT pre-release review on ENWorld about the new Heroes of Shadow book. Go read it. It’s great– except for the overarching tone in the review about how HoS is an “Essentials Only” product. Then at Neuroglyph, the author posts up a loooooong rant about how disappointed he is about the lack of support for PHB characters. This is what upsets me– the nerdrage in people overflowing before they stop and think about a situation completely. See, here’s the thing about Heroes of Shadow…

IT’S NOT ESSENTIALS ONLY.  There is, in fact, NO SUCH THING as Essentials Only.


Check this out. Any power in that book that says “Wizard Level x” can be taken by ANY wizard–even those in the Mage chapter of the Essentials books. So every new Mage power–because the Mage is a subclass of Wizard– is available to a PHB-build Wizard.

Every “Paladin Level x” power from the Blackguard is available to ALL Paladins, even those on a PHB build.

Every Binder power that reads “Warlock level x” is available to all Warlocks.

See where I’m going with this? That’s dozens of new powers available to the PHB build characters out there.

Every single feat in Heroes of Shadow is available to PHB characters. Likewise, every single feat in the Essentials books is available to PHB characters. I, for one, know that I don’t take the Expertise feats from the PHB anymore specifically because of that.

The new races in HoS? Available to all PHB-build characters.

Every magic item presented in the Essentials series is available to PHB characters. While this might not be as big a benefit right now, as more books (like HoS, check that out! WOW!!) come out–even if they are presented in Essentials format– give PHB build characters those options, too.

Yes, there’s a lot of sarcasm in this post, but that’s mainly because I see the nerdrage over the Essentials vs PHB as completely misplaced. The two intermingle on almost every level and their options coexist perfectly. There’s no reason to freak out all over the internet about how WotC has killed your game or how Essentials is D&D 4.5. It’s NOT– in fact, the Essentials line has done nothing but make the PHB character even more robust than he already was by providing more and better options to play the character you want.


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10 Responses to Heroes of Shadow– It’s NOT the End of the World As We Know It

  1. Bartoneus says:

    While I agree with you, and I can definitely understand your sentiment, there are powers in Heroes of Shadow that AS WRITTEN only function correctly with the Essentials builds. For example: some of the Wizard spells reference which Expert Mage build you have chosen, which only exists in Essentials. Certainly these are easily modified to be used outside of the Mage build for Wizards, but I think some of the reactions are warranted when you look at powers such as this.

    I hope that in my own review I managed to have less of an overarching tone (at least in the solid review section) and then I attempted to address the issues Neuroglyph brought up directly, but in doing that I may have succumbed to the same issues. However, I hope I managed to present it with less inherent nerdrage!

  2. @Bartoneous– I don’t have a copy of the book yet, so I can’t comment for sure. Are the powers you’re talking about like the PHB powers that have an option at the bottom like “Wildblood” or “Inspiring Warlord”– meaning they get a *kicker* with a particular Essentials build but have a valid function without that kicker, or that the powers as stated ONLY function with the Essentials mechanics? If the latter, then yes– that would be something that would qualify as Essentials only. However, I was mainly talking about the huge explosion of nerdrage claiming the book to be wholly and entirely Essentials with no benefit to the PHB build characters– which is absurd if you actually stop, breathe, and read what the book is saying tead of firing off a reactionary review or blog post.

  3. Bartoneus says:

    The powers I’m referencing are NOT the same as the previous 4E powers where it has an added kicker for characters of certain builds, instead they mention right in the text that something is “based on your Expert Mage feature”. This isn’t a huge hurdle, but it is clearly the intent of the writing that this be used only with Essentials and that says something. However, you’re right that the large majority of the powers can easily be swapped in for level/class characters pretty easily.

    What I don’t like is that you will have to hack it a little bit more heavily if you want to do something like create a PHB/Divine Power Paladin that is also a Black Guard (same for the Warlock Binder but to a lesser extent) because the class features and non-power mechanics are all presented in the Essentials style of progression. Thankfully the Necromancy powers are more easily set up to be used by all Wizard characters, and should take only a little bit of fiddling to do the same.

    BTW – I read your comment on my review two different ways, one was entirely serious and one was entirely sarcastic. It works both ways. 😀

    • I was meant entirely serious. The thing that really boils my blood about this whole deal is that Neuroglyph puts up a really good, mostly balanced review on ENWorld– and then trashed it on his own site. That just seems hypocritical to me. You guys are the best. No sarcasm.

  4. Neuroglyph says:

    I fail to see where I was in any way hypocritical… I think maybe you need to go back and read my rant – I was not trashing Essentials and I was not trashing Heroes of Shadow – what I was trashing is being mislead and misinformed about the nature of the book being a “Core” 4E product by the R&D staff at GenCon. I never denied that as an Essentials book the material could not be used by Traditional 4E classes, but as even Bartoneus points out, some of the powers would be less efficacious in anything except an Essentials character.

    I provided a relatively unbiased and objective review on EN World – except for the last paragraph where I made an editorial statement about how this book was marketed by WotC staffers. On my personal blogsite, I expanded upon that last paragraph and explained why I felt discouraged. If you view that as nerdrage and hypocrisy, well, you’re entitled to your own opinion, just like I am.

    • Yes. You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine.

    • Bartoneus says:

      Neuroglyph: Look at it this way, the first thing I was accused of for my review was for starting an Edition War. I was discussing only Essentials and pre-Essentials 4E. Clearly to me Essentials itself and also this book for being the first big product post-Essentials are going to be hot seats of different feelings, excitement, and disappointment for a lot of people.

      Also the way I read someone calling it hypocritical is less literal, but more that it seemed like you wrote a slightly positive review on EN world and then your personal post expressed a lot of emotion that came about because of the book, and is not necessarily a reflection of the product itself, and so it very easily gave off the impression of “I hate this book!” even though that’s not entirely what it was saying. Probably felt like mixed signals to people who read both.

  5. Pingback: Heroes of Shadow Review Part 1 – The Blackguard « WeeBeeGamers.com

  6. Neuroglyph says:

    I hear ya Bartoneus, and I can understand how it might be construed that way. But as a quasi-professional reviewer (it’s scary, but I think I’ve written more product reviews than any three 4E bloggers out there combined), I felt that using EN World as a forum for my frustration over what I still feel were misleading WotC marketing tactics would have been wrong. Russ over at EN World didn’t hire me to erect a soapbox and editorialize, he wanted a reviewer, so I felt that any rant over “broken promises” would be appropriate on my own site, and not his.

    And Jason, I never said it was the end of the world… your words, not mine. I said its the end of Traditional 4E, which it is. WotC is evolving the game to D&D Essentials, and while still compatible with original 4E, as Bart says, it’s not a perfect fit. It is forcing 4E gamers into a path that not all want to travel.

    Take a look at the EN World poll I posted, and realize that there is a good percentage of D&D gamers out there that don’t want Essentials in their game. WotC’s bait-and-switch tactic with Heroes of Shadow content makes it harder for those gamers to maintain the integrity of their non-Essentials D&D game – I would guess that sort of tactic is perceived as frustrating and even divisive to those gamers.

    • Bartoneus says:

      Neuroglyph: I still hold some contention with saying that there was a full on “bait and switch”, the original catalog blurb from back in June of 2010 clearly said what the book was going to be and it is entirely true now that the product is out. I know that some WotC devs gave you the impression it was going to be a non-Essentials product, but the official product description should probably always trump developer conversations and interviews that may not reflect the entirety of what’s going into a product.

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