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Dungeons & Dragons: Player's Handbook 2- Roleplaying Game Core Rules Hardcover – March 17, 2009
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In terms of the content itself: I was brought into the D&D world playing 3.5e, so when I picked up my 4e stuff I was a little disappointed that the 4e PHB1 didn't include Barbarian, Druid, or Bard. This book fixes that problem with a massive installation of 8 new classes including some old favorites and some new interesting ones such as Shaman, Invoker, and Warden. Definitely worth picking up, even if it's your first time playing 4e.
This book makes no pretense of doing anything other than providing some new classes and races and things that go along with them (paragon paths and backgrounds for char creation). There are one or two rule changes included, but very minor. Consequently, it does its job well and thoroughly and makes for an excellent, fun, and clean-cut resource. Though why anyone would ever play a bard still boggles the mind.
P.S. Note that if your a DnD Insider subscriber that you realistically don't need this book, as all of the options presented here are integrated within the downloadable DnD character creator toolset. i will add this comment to every book that is within the software offered by DDI since i'm a collector, and will probably have all the books pushed out for 4th edition :)
The first chapter includes 5 new player races and new racial paragon paths for every race included in the first Player's Handbook and this one. The new races include the Deva (a reflavored Aasimar race that seems directly counter in nature to the Tiefling), the Gnome (now a race of fey), the Goliath, the Half-Orc, and the Shifter. These five grant players new flavor options and races that are effective with different classes, including those in this book. I've always found increased player options to be good, and these appear very well balanced to boot. The racial paragon paths are great in that they give players a non-class option for character flavor and development, and grant interesting abilities as well. Some may be slightly weak, but they remain interesting and playable despite this.
The next chapter details 8 new classes: 4 primal, 2 divine, and 2 arcane. Included are classic options like the Barbarian, Bard, and Druid, and new options like the Avenger (a unique divine striker), the Shaman (a primal leader), and the Warden (a primal defender). All of the classes include mechanics unique to them, including transformations, rages, and spirit companions. I am personally very satisfied with the power granted to these classes, which appears on par with those included in the original handbook (though some shenanigans for the munchkins are always found eventually), and the flavor is fairly well-done. New multiclass feats are included for each new class, of course, and epic destinies appear as well, further adding to the options available to both the new and the old classes.
The Magic Items section under Character Options is probably the weakest in the book. It includes only a few new general options, and not enough options specific to the new classes to make up for it (very few Songblades appear for the Bard, for example). Feats, rituals, and the new character backgrounds are good for both flavor and mechanics, and while a few feats pop out as unnecessary or overpowered (Weapon and Implement Expertise struck me immediately), nothing seems to require direct DM intervention.
Finally, a few rule updates appear in the back of the book. These are not hugely important, but it is nice to have them in print form, and clarifications are appreciated.
Overall, I strongly recommend the Player's Handbook 2 for both players and DMs. Players will find the character options excellent and interesting, and DMs will appreciate direct access to possibilities for new NPCs and help for their players. While the various Power Source books only enhance existing classes, the Player's Handbook 2 introduces more than a sufficient amount of new material to justify a buy, even if it is the only book you buy beyond the original core set.
Here's the breakdown of the new classes: Avenger (divine striker), Barbarian (primal striker), Bard (arcane leader), Druid (primal controller), Invoker (divine controller), Shaman (primal leader), Sorcerer (arcane striker), and Warden (primal defender).
There's not much else to the PHB2, but really, does there need to be?