OveReview: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms

Heroes of the forgotten kingdoms is due out November 16th, and is already out for those of us privileged enough to live near a wizards “premier” retailer. I snagged a copy on Friday and have been using it extensively over the weekend. While most of the content is the same in both HotFL and HotFK, there are few deviations within the texts other than just the classes. The first 3 chapters are identically layed out with the same content aside from artwork, the 4th and 5th are different (obviously) containing the specific classes and races of the said Forgotten Kingdoms.

Feat categories such as Underdark Lore, Primal Soul, Combat Insight and Wilderness Lore are some of the additions to HotFK that primarily pertain to the classes used within the book; although I don’t see why some wouldn’t be suitable for other essentials (or non) builds.

The skills and items are identical as well up until you reach the magical item entries in the very back, which are different but do contain some duplicates from the Fallen Lands book. Most of the magic items outlined in each book pertain more to the classes within, which makes sense though it would have been nice to see these sections filled out a bit more. For players just picking up or getting back into D&D and using the essentials paperbacks as their only resource may find the overall selection for magical treasure a bit scant.

One quick note about the fluffy bits before I get into the class mechanics, is that I must say I found the flavor text for the races to be a bit redundant in places. I understand that these are heroes of “Fallen Kingdoms” but the constant reiteration of ‘you’re an outsider, people may judge/fear/loathe you because of your heritage’ in the Drow, Half Orc, and Tiefling entries became a bit tiresome. Other than this minor hang up I really found the fluff to be an enjoyable and refreshing read since I haven’t really gone over much of it since the Players Handbooks.

The Classes

Sentinel (Druid) – Sentinel druids choose from one of the 4 seasons (only 2 of which are outlined in the book, more on this later) which will ultimately shape your play style at least to a certain extent. Each season has it’s own inherent benefits that come with it along with an animal companion. The druid of summer has a bear companion and serves more so as a damage source while the druid of Spring has more utility oriented feel to it, their animal companion is a wolf. Without delving too far into detail I’ll just say that I believe the essentials line has succeeded wholly here with capturing a more “classic” druid archetype. Those of you seeking the old school druid feel in 4e – this may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Cavalier (Paladin) – The Cavalier has a setup very similar to the Knight from Heroes of the Fallen Lands with his defender aura, weapons, and armor selection. Major differences other than the divine power source and obvious group healing utilities the Cavalier sets itself apart by providing fewer choices to be made as he has no stances. The Righteous Shield power makes for great damage mitigation and group utility by possibly preventing a fatal blow to an ally by intercepting damage, and absorbing some as well at later levels. Also, Virtuous Charger powers increase mounted speed of yourself and allies, and at later levels provides a bonus to your own speed. The cavalier seems like a great alternative route to those who found the Knight a bit too vanilla, and is a far stretch from that pansy cavalier Eric from the D&D cartoon.

Hunter (Ranger) – The hunter is a great ranger build, especially for those fond of World of Warcraft. I’m not going to lie, other than not having a pet the mechanics and ideas behind this build seem to be pulled directly from WoW, which I find awesome. They have 3 basic At-Will shots, one of which is a multi shot that can hit up to a burst 1 area of enemies with only a -2 penalty to each attack roll and another that ignores cover which definitely makes this build a devastating ranged striker. There are a myriad of ‘Aspects’ to choose from which are like stances and have various effects on your attacks as well as some traps too. Wilderness knacks are also a neat feature that play right along with the feel of the class by adding beast empathy, tracking abilities, and some sharpened senses although they do seem to have limited usability depending on campaign & encounter locales.

Scout (Ranger) – Like the Hunter, the Scout has a selection of various ‘Aspects’ that alter their attacks and the same selection of Wilderness Knacks as well. The scout has more of a guerilla warfare up close and personal dirty combat kind of feel to it. Dual wielding specialization and up close melee combat are it’s forte, the scout is basically an alternate route for the those who like the Ranger mechanics but would rather fight in the thick of battle. For those of you wanting to re-create Drizzt this may be your ticket. Sadly there really isn’t much more notable to point out about the scout that sets it apart from the Ranger build.

Hexblade (Warlock) – Wearing chainmail and wielding both blade and magic simultaneously in a dark harmony, the hexblade conjures up imagery that once danced around in my mind the first time I read the word “SwordMage” ( albeit the hexblade has a dark twist, and is by no means a tank like the swordmage ). Eldritch bolt is much like Eldritch blast and is given to all hexblades along with choosing their Pact which grants a Pact Boon, Pact Weapon, and Pact Reward. Hexblades have a slew of powers that tie to their summoned pact weapon, and various utility powers common to warlocks. Though keep in mind mind hexblades do not have the “Warlocks Curse” mechanic, but I do believe their powers more than compensate for that.

The fey pact grants you a lot of cold based abilities and some added mobility along with a “Wood Woad” plant guardian that you may summon at later levels. The Infernal pact is more focused on necrotic damage that steals life and bolsters your own as well as some added damaget output. The summonable ally for the Infernal Pact is a “Spined Devil Lackey” and a Pit Fiend at higher levels as well as a powerful infernal transformation at level 20.

In a nutshell

With the exception of the Scouts bland-ness I’m really pleased with Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and am looking forward to seeing these builds in action during my upcoming essentials only campaign. I’m also interested to see how they’d work alongside other non-essentials characters in an existing campaign. Being a fan of druids I did find it kind of upsetting that only 2 of the 4 seasons were outlined in this book.

I understand to keep it on par with the other classes dual path selection options is probably why they did this, but the essentials mage has 3 paths to choose from and even a 4th Pyromancer option if you have a DDI subscription. So I’m assuming the other druid seasons will probably be released via the web/DDI subscription which is no problem for me as I already have one, but I can see it upsetting others. I’m particularly fond of Fall (my daughters name is Autumn) and was really bummed to see they had only chose to put only Summer and Spring in the pages of HotFK.

As noted earlier there is definitely strong influence here in some of the builds that nod towards “classic” D&D archetypes, which is great. Not only does it provide us more options and maybe a warm fuzzy feeling but perhaps an opportunity to reel in those who are still holding on to 3.x / Pathfinder. The other strong influence I see in this book is more of what I love about 4e, which is taking from popular video games and converting it into a tabletop format. This makes it both fun and familiar for those who may just be getting into the hobby and all they’ve ever known were MMO’s. I know that this is a tender spot for some, so if you’d like to discuss these matters further I warmly invite you to head on over here to read my thoughts and discuss yours with me via the comments.

Overall Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms looks like a solid addition to the Essentials Line, here’s to hoping WoTC stays on track and keeps offering us the same steamlined content in upcoming titles like ‘Heroes of Spell and Sword’ and beyond!


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Jerry resides in the placid cornfields of Indiana with his Wife and 2 goblinoid minions. His geek credentials sport a Masters in Video Gameology and Computer Geekery. His obsession with D&D started by spending an inconceivable number of hours playing Baldurs Gate and the rest is history. Outside of the gaming world he's an IT Professional & Social Media guy, budding writer, gaming advocate and wannabe designer. You can visit him over at www.dreadgazebo.net or follow him on twitter (@DreadGazeebo)


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About DreadGazebo

Jerry resides in the placid cornfields of Indiana with his Wife and 2 goblinoid minions. His geek credentials sport a Masters in Video Gameology and Computer Geekery. His obsession with D&D started by spending an inconceivable number of hours playing Baldurs Gate and the rest is history. Outside of the gaming world he's an IT Professional & Social Media guy, budding writer, gaming advocate and wannabe designer. You can visit him over at www.dreadgazebo.net or follow him on twitter (@DreadGazeebo)
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17 Responses

  1. Essentials only campaign? It is things like that that make me really hate Essentials.

    • I’m sorta with you, John. I see the player base getting split further with folks running ‘essentials’ or ‘non-essentials’.

      I get WotC has to push product and sell the stuff out there. It’s just not giving a nod to the existing books. I guess with so much outdated, updated, and corrected with the original stuff, WotC just wanted to wipe the slate clean with the rules. I expect we’ll be seeing updated 4E PHB books on the horizon (which may not be a bad deal). I went off on a tiff about this on my old blog:

      http://geekken.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-d-essentials-going-to-drive-fissure.html

  2. So wait? If a DM wants to run an Essentials only game it makes you hate Essentials? I’m not following your logic on that one. Do you hate the product or do you disagree with DMs who run their games using only the product?

    • Running an ‘X’ only game (where X is some subset of the rules) is a way to split the player base. If there are some players who would like to play using their existing 4e books, and some who want to try out the cool new builds, why can’t they both be accommodated?

      Supposedly, regular 4e and essentials builds can play side by side (and such has been my experience).

      Reducing choice to ‘Essentials only’ is just that: reducing choice, and for what seem to be solely political reasons.

      • How is running an essentials game splitting the player base anymore than saying “No PHB3” or “No Psionic Classes” and the like? All of my players can use their existing books if they so chose but have opted to go all essentials because they liked the idea, it’s not being forced on them.

        Also, those essentials characters were built with the options of all the pre-existing races, feats, etc but the core of the build still being essentials. D&D politik has nothing to do with the reasons for doing this other than the overall feel of essentials and nothing more, I’m talking about a home game with friends here, politics aren’t even a factor.

        I really don’t see the harm in this situation at all, especially being that I the DM get to ultimately make these decisions for my game. If someone in my group hated essentials I wouldn’t force it on them ever.

  3. I hate it being made to be something separate from 4e. Like they are doing with Encounters. Forcing you to use Essentials or you can’t play…that to me is abhorrent.

    • I don’t really see how anything is being forced on anyone, encounters too. Last season was dark sun, the season before was standard characters, essentials is the spotlight this season.

    • I don’t really see how anything is being forced on anyone, especially encounters. Last season was dark sun, the season before was a standard setting, this season essentials has the spotlight. What’s wrong with promoting a new product? It’s all entirely optional, as is the entire game itself.

    • I think encounters is a way for WotC to showcase their new products. They are trying hard to introduce essentials and encounters is a good way to do it. No one is being forced to play encounters; if you do play encounters yes you do have to play an essentials character but it’s not really something you are being forced to use if you play 4e.

    • I actually welcomed Encounters as a way to try the new material. Our Encounters DM was cool enough to let people bring whatever class they wanted (essentials or not). I created and stayed with the Essentials Warpriest but at least half my group made non-Essentials characters. For what it’s worth, we were all compatible with each other on the battlefield.

  4. Abhorrent? Glad you’re keeping a sense of perspective. I’ve never tried Encounters, but I’m assuming their primary purpose is to introduce new or lapsed players… and the essentials builds are a fine way to do it. Makes sense to me.

    Anyways, save yourself some hate. The essentials builds play just fine alongside any other 4e build. If you retend that HOFL and HOFK are just new Power books with alternate builds maybe you’ll sleep better.

  5. Great review–thank you. I will be picking my copy up during Encounters manana. The druid preview and your notes are an awesome indication that the powers that be are really taking this game into a direction that I am interested in. Classic builds, iconic powers, etc.–the more of that I get the better.

    I am a little disappointed with the lack of stances in the Paladin–also, is it a cavalier build of paladin or is it the cavalier build of Fighter–are Cavalier and Paladin officially synonymous at this point?.

    In any event, I completely love the stances in essentials–I am currently playing Quinn at Encounters and I was planning to re-skin him as a Paladin of Erathis to get the 5 renown points and move out of last place in the Brookhurst Hobbies Encounters poster.With this news I may leave him as a knight.

    The aura mark is still awesome, so I will have to wait and see how it goes once I have the book in front of me.

    Keep up the great work.

    • The cavalier is a paladin build, I was merely comparing it to the Knight due to it being the other essentials defender class.

      The cavalier progresses in a more linear manner picking up new powers as it levels while picking the occasional daily/utility power with a few selections to choose from. Ultimately though it does seem less plain jane than the Knight build.

  6. Do you abhor the power books? Because it means that a DM and make the call that only core books can be used?
    Dark Sun Campaign books, because a DM can strictly adhere to it and disallow your usage of too many other books, because there are a few changes that they dont want to address?

    It has always been a DM’s prerogative to allow/disallow books / content, and many have in the past…

    — Sae

  7. Great overview. You just affirmed that I can’t wait for this to come out. The hexblade just sounds more and more awesome. I may even have to start a new character in Encounters.

  8. (Sorry for the late comment; I have quite a backlog of posts in my Google Reader.)

    Great review! One thing I would like to note however, is that Heroes of the Spell and Sword is NOT part of the Essentials line. The Essentials line consists only of the products outlined on the their back covers or back of their boxes.

  9. Heroes of Spell and Sword*

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