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Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of Shadow
Reviewed by Matt Cowger, © 2011

Format: Game
By:   Wizards of the Coast, Mearls, Pozas, Schwalb
Genre:   D&D
Review Date:   April 21, 2011
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

Heroes of Shadow is a Player's Option book in Wizards of the Coast's fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons line. As such, it's an expansion past their Essentials line, and part of the core rules set of hardcover rule books.

Heroes of Shadow is a good addition to the core line and provides interesting options for players and dungeon masters. I like it.

Player's Option books give, as one would expect, options in classes, races, abilities and powers. Heroes of Shadow doesn't skimp here. It is a hardcover book, unlike the Essentials soft covers and feels thin considering the price. ($34.99)

Heroes of Shadow starts with information on the Shadowfell, a gloomy part of the new D&D cosmology. It is balanced out by the Material World and the Feywild. The Shadowfell is ruled by the enigmatic Raven Queen who seems to have ties to death and darkness, but is a neutral entity in the big picture. The Raven Queen tempts those in the Material during times of stress or weakness with power to help them. Obviously this isn't a one sided bargain.

Some discussion is presented into how and why people are lured to the service of shadow. Then the book takes a turn away from setting, and into the meaty rules driven sections. A discussion of new classes that draw strength from the Shadowfell and/or the Raven Queen herself leads off. The classes are listed with some evocative descriptions and basic lay out and then the standard features, powers and feats from heroic through paragon to epic level for each.

The classes are assassin with an executioner type, warlock, vampire, and Paladin with Blackguard type.

Remember when these guys were called anti-paladins? Good times, good times.

Yes. Vampire can be a class now. Just go with it. It more or less works.

All the characters rules-wise are well done and don't seem insanely overpowered. The book suggests these classes be played as "hero using darkness to fight darkness."

Some older classes are given shadow augmented options that can tweak the characters to the dark side, including new schools of magic Necromancy and Nethermancy.

New races for player characters are Revenant, Shade and Vryloka. They're decently balanced with the older races.

Revenants are recently returned from the grave and are half of this world and half of shadow. They are kept here to complete a mission, right a wrong, get revenge, pretty much what you would expect. I like this race; it forces a player to come up with backstory and weave a narrative for the character as a campaign continued; all leading to the character's death. There is a perverse bit of fun to that.

Shades are humans that sold part of their soul to the Shadow, and get get the fun and funky shadow abilities one would expect. They aren't the most versatile race.

Vryloka descend from a main ancestor that was looking for immortality. Add in a drop of vampirism, but not the whole jug, and you get a bloodline of half-mortal half-vampire entities. They are interesting, and have some social and political tones that could be fun in campaigns that have less combat and more societal maneuvering.

Some shadow suggestions for existing races are better than others. The book ends with Shadow suggestions for paragon paths, epic destinies and shadow feats.

Heroes of Shadow is a fun read with interesting possibilities for any D&D game. I've heard there is some reprinted material here from D&D Insider online. So if you subscribe to that, you may have seen some of it before. The book is well made, and the full color art is evocative and fun.

This book is not really for players. Wizards and the authors want you to view it that way, what with all the dark heroics and so on.

This book is really for the DM. It is perfect for making reoccurring villains and campaign chapter ending big bads. For something like that, Heroes of Shadow is invaluable. The powers and feats could be used outside of the classes and races here for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

The main route I see for this book: A group makes shadow and evil characters and goes reverse adventuring, building orc hoards, kicking out the stained glass in holy shrines, and generally getting as evil as possible.

Let's face it. Sometimes it is insanely fun to play villains.

Buy Heroes of Shadow A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/Players-Option-Heroes-Shadow-Supplement/dp/078695745X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303397304&sr=8-1">right here.


Matt Cowger frequently fails his save vs. commas.

 
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