Customer Reviews: Heroes of the Fallen Lands: An Essential Dungeons & Dragons Supplement (4th Edition D&D)
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on September 21, 2010
Alright, this one will get long. If you're just looking for a quick blurb, here goes!

"Heroes of the Fallen lands is not only (1) an outstanding supplement for existing 4e players which presents daring new class builds, but also (2) a great introduction to the game for new players, and (3) an olive branch to existing D&D and Pathfinder players who felt that 4e had moved too far away from their favorite styles of play. There's something here for everyone who plays D&D, or who wants to see what the fuss is all about. For most existing players it won't replace the PHB, but for newer players, it's a standalone work."

Now, for the rest, which I'm certain is tl;dr... I've had this book for a week and a half, and I read too many forums.

* Let's get this out of the way.... Is Essentials an EDITION CHANGE?
If you check forums and talk to game shop owners, when Essentials was announced, the interwebs went all a-twitter about it being a new edition. Heck; you can see it in a thread on this very site. Lots of people have been calling it "4.5" - an echo of 3e's major shift to 3.5 three years after its release. Well, from reading the book and taking a look at the current state of 4e, I don't think it's an edition step at all. If you don't care about this discussion, skip down to the next header.

Don't get me wrong - there are some rule changes. But let's face it - we're 4e players; rule changes and updates are almost a monthly thing for us (though it's slowed a bit). There are also new class builds which don't use the regular At-Will/Encounter/Daily power progression. Well, we've had that since PHB3. There are a good number of feats which have been changed. What's more, new feats won't have tier requirements. Again, feat changes are nothing new - but many of these (with the exception of Melee Training) have been considerably improved. Magic item rarity is an add-on system which any DM could include or ignore.

For an edition change, I expect something drastic and dramatic. I expect to have to re-make characters, buy new books, and more or less stop using the old books. This isn't the case here. As an example, I couldn't make a 3.5 Fighter and take a one-level dip into 3.0 Ranger. I couldn't make a 3.5 Wizard and pick 3.0 Haste. If I wanted to pick up the Knight of the Chalice prestige class, I had to use the version in Complete Divine, rather than Defenders of the Faith. Basically everything in 3.0 was replaced by everything in 3.5. This isn't the case here, at all - I couldn't imagine just using this book and shelving my PHB. It can serve as a standalone game, but WotC wasn't joking when they promised broad compatibility. I see zero issues with mixing Essentials options with "regular" 4e options; it's all 4e. In fact, for my upcoming Dark Sun campaign, one player is going to use the Thief build, and another will use the new DDI-only Essentials Assassin build.

So if it's not a new edition, just what *is* Essentials? Wizards of the Coast has been pretty clear about what it is and isn't, but the problem is that it's a whole lot of things and it wears different hats for different audiences. So lots of us have looked at it, decided that Wizards is giving conflicting information, and left more confused than before. Given that, I'll try to break it down into groups.

This is a pretty neat book for your $20. It's softcover, and digest-sized, but I haven't missed the hardcover yet. While it's theorertically "lay-flat," I find that it's actually "lay a bit flatter and don't worry about bending the cover." It's fairly heavy for its size - it feels about the same weight as a PHB. The header fonts are enormous, but the regular fonts are about normal 4e size. I find I kinda love the digest size because it makes it much easier to read while laying down in bed, and will have no hesitation about buying more of them.

...and enjoy the game, think of this as the PHB4 and some updates. It has some radical new takes on existing 4e classes. While the Cleric (Warpriest) and Wizard (Mage) still hew pretty close to their PHB counterparts, the new Fighter (Knight), Fighter (Slayer), and Rogue (Thief) are quite different. First off, the Fighter (Slayer) is a striker - not a defender, like every other Fighter is. Second, all three of these classes *rely on modified Basic Attacks in combat*. Knights and Slayers go into "stances" which may cause an enemy hit by a Basic Attack to be slowed, or a stance which lets them Cleave. Thieves get "tricks" - move actions which let them skirmish more effectively, and improve their melee attacks. I can't speak yet as to these new subclasses' effectiveness, but they look fairly capable. I worry that an experienced player may get bored with them, but for a new player, these new options look very workable. Time will tell.

There are a lot of new feats, which show a changed philosophy. There are no Paragon or Epic feats here; instead, all the feats are available at 1st level, and most of them improve as the character advances in tier. The basics are here - Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus, Toughness, yadda yadda. There are also new (and badly needed) feats - Implement Focus is finally an option! Expertise feats are all of a sudden interesting! The various Defense feats have been seriously beefed up. And - awesomely - there are new Defense feats with a high stat prerequisites which give flavorful riders for your Superior Will, Reflexes, or Fortitude.

For most current 4e players, I don't forsee you putting away your PHB any time soon. The new classes are just new options, and look like they will work at your existing table without adjustment to any characters. Each of these subclasses is very narrow and focused, and I don't think most experienced 4e players will go with (for example) a Thief instead of a PHB Rogue. This is not a replacement for what you already have, unless you decide to make it one.

This will be all you need if you have a group available. This covers all the basic rules for players, presented in a user-friendly manner, with a lot of explanation and detail. You don't need both this and the Rules Compendium; this will tell you everything you need to know to make these five or six classes. It's a very good intro to the game, and it's specifically written with you in mind. Your DM will want the DM's kit, and maybe the Rules Compendium and Monster Vault, but as a player, $20 covers all the bases.

* Finally, if you're NOT A FAN OF 4E or a LAPSED PLAYER...
...this book is Mike Mearls's olive branch to you. Don't get me wrong - this is still 4e, but the options presented herein have a distinctly older-edition feel. If you didn't like or Fighters and Rogues using Daily and Encounter powers, these builds will make a lot more sense to you. If you wanted Wizards that did more finesse-type stuff, like taking control of enemies' minds and charming shopkeepers, this will be a step in the right direction. (Don't get me wrong; a 4e Wizard will never have the bag of tricks a 3.5 Wizard did, but I think you'll find the Essentials Wizard options a bit more to your liking.) If you were unhappy because so many 4e books read like technical manuals, you will find that the flavor text is back. (And there's a LOT of it.) If you couldn't stand the way 4e dealt with magic items, the new magic item rarity will help a lot - it partially fixes the economy, and puts magic item distribution even more firmly back in the DM's hands than it was in 3e. If you wanted to make a Fighter and just say, "I hit it with my sword," that's once again an option.

So while it won't be to everyone's tastes, I'd recommend you take a look at it and see if you want to give 4e another chance - or even a first one. WotC listened. It's not an entirely new game, but it is a brand new set of options which look specifically aimed towards getting that old-school feel into 4e.

For a discounted $20, it's tough to go wrong with this, for anyone interested in D&D of any edition.
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on October 1, 2010
Interesting new builds, quite a few changes, still wondering how this will be compatible/integrated with 'core 4e'

Heroes of the Fallen Lands is part of the new Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Line. Essentials is a type of re-boot for 4th edition D&D and is based on classic D&D themes and feel. These books have been streamlined and somewhat simplified in order to ease the learning curve for new players. That being said there are plenty of new options for existing players and new Essentials rules are designed to work along side existing characters and game. This particular book is the first 'player book' in the series and contains the rules a player requires to make a Cleric, Fighter, Rogue or Wizard.

The first things you will notice about this book is the size, type and price. Essentials books are produced in Digest format, meaning they are approximately 5½ x 8¼ inches and soft cover. In addition they have a cover price of only $23.95CAN. This is quite a change from the large hardcover books produced so far.

Heroes of the Fallen Land is 365 page (367 if you count the character sheet). Like the players handbooks before it most of this is taken up by the sections on the individual classes. Other sections include an introduction, Game Overview, Character Generation summary, How to read a power, Races, Skills, Feats and Equipment. A great glossary and index finish off the book.

The introduction has a really quick intro to RPGs and notes the three rules of D&D; roll a D20 add modifiers and try to beat a target number, Specific beats general and always round down.

The Game Overview describes exactly what Dungeons and Dragons is. In introduces the DM, the players, characters, the game world, etc. Tiers of play are mentions and the first of many suggestions to subscribe to Insider can be found there. The chapter goes through how to play the game including a very short example of play. The playing the game section gives a good overview of pretty much everything that will come up in a game but instead of going into detail it refers you to later parts of the book or to the Rules Compendium (released at the same time as this book).

Making Characters gives an overview on what you need to do to make a Heroes of the Fallen Lands Character. Most of the generic parts of character creation are detailed here, the stuff that applies to every character regardless of race or class. Things like Stats, Alignment, Background, Religious beliefs etc. Like the last chapter this section is has quite a bit of summary without details and references later chapters and/or the Rules Compendium.

Understanding Powers explains exactly what you think it would. How to read an understand powers. Full details of each line that could be in a power are given. Again this is just a summary and the full rules for powers can be found in the Rules Compendium.

Character Classes is the meat of this book. It provides rules for 4 classes; Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. There are different builds for many of these classes. All of these follow a different format from what was previously released in the Player's Handbooks. Each class now has a level chart (reminiscent of previous editions of D&D) which let you know what you gain at each level in each build of a class. One paragon path for each build is given and one epic destiny is given. I'm sure people are interested in knowing a bit more about the classes, especially existing players wondering if this book is worth picking up so I will talk a bit about each.

The Cleric - the new build given is the Warpriest. This is a melee leader who is nearly as good in combat as they are at healing. There are two varieties of Warpriest achieved by the reintroduction of Domains to D&D. Each Warpriest picks which domain they have access two based on what God they Worship. This determines some of the powers they get access to. Heroes of the Fallen Lands contains rules for the Domains of Sun (Pelor) and Storm (Kord). The Sun Warpriest is built around healing and buffing their allies defensively whereas the Storm Warpriest is built around dealing damage and buffing their allies' attacks.

The Fighter - there are two new builds for Fighter. The first is the Slayer a Striker and the second is the Knight which is a Defender. Fighters are the class that has changed the most for Essentials. They no longer have At-Will or Daily attacks. Instead they have At-Will stances that modify their basic attacks and encounter powers that also modify their basic attacks. The Slayers is built around wielding a two handed weapon and doing the most damage possible while still being resilient enough to stand on the front lines. The Knights is build around battlefield control pinning opponents down while soaking the most damage. It is worth noting that the Slayer and Knight actually each have their own progression table and paragon paths and actually seem more like totally separate classes rather then builds of the same class.

The Rogue - the new rogue build is the Thief. This one is a call back to the traditional D&D Thief and re-introduces Backstab to Dungeons and Dragons. Similar to the new fighter builds the Thief is based around Basic Attacks. Instead of At-Will stances they get At-Will movement abilities called Tricks. These are interesting powers that gives the thief battlefield mobility and help to set up situations where they can gain combat advantage.

The Wizard - the Mage is the new Wizard build. Similar to the Cleric Domains the Wizard class sees the return of Schools of Magic. Enchantment, Illusion and Evocation are detailed in this book. Unlike the Cleric's Domain school specialization (which grows as the character levels) mainly offer modifiers for existing powers rather then new powers for the character. Another significant change is the new spellbook. Now Wizards can change out their Encounter powers as well as their Daily and Utility powers after a rest.

The next chapter contains The Races. This gives updated rules for Dwarves, Humans, Elves, Eladrin and Halflings. The two major changes here are: Humans have a new encounter power that replaces their bonus At-Will at first level and the non-human races now get to choose one of two secondary stats to increase during character creation. This greatly opens up the viable race/class options and is a welcome change. In addition each race has a lot more fluff then released in previous books. Attitudes and beliefs are discussed along with society and community info and roleplaying tips.

Skills talks about how the various skills your character can learn are used in the game. Each skill is looked at in turn. Again some of the info is left out and references to the Rules Compendium are noted. An updated skill DC chart is given long with new rules on using it. This new chart scales differently then in the past and the suggestions for using it include group skills and talk about the actual chances of a trained vs. untrained character in making a skill check. Another new introduction are improvisation suggestions for each skill showing how players are not limited to 'the rules' and that skills are meant to be open ended.

Next is Feats. This section has completely changed from previous books. Feats are no longer organized by Tier and all feats are available to all characters at all levels (though some do have prerequisites. Feats are now organized in groupings called Categories. Categories include Armour Training, Divine Devotion, Enduring Stamina, Implement Training, Learning and Lore, Quick Reaction, Steadfast Willpower, Two-Weapon Training, Vigilant Reflexes and Weapon Training. Most of the feats in this book are new to 4e and are actually better then existing feats published in earlier books. It will be interesting to see how these integrate with the existing feats.

The last chapter is Gear and Weapons. Here you can find all of the stuff a character may want to buy; armour, weapons, travel gear, mounts and food and lodging. Most of this matches previous equipment lists but oddly doesn't have any of the items from the two previous Adventurers Vaults. The weapon list is actually shorter then the PHB and some items have changed (for example Rapier is no longer a specialist weapon). Gear and Weapons finish with the rules for Magic items. Here we see the new rarity system in effect. Instead of 1/4 of the book being magic items like the Player's Handbook, instead we have about 6 pages of common magic items that our newly created heroes can consider buying, when they have enough money.

The last few pages contain a glossary, index and a newly designed character sheet.

The Good:
I found myself liking the smaller size, just for portability sake. I much prefer my large hardcover collection as it looks great on my shelves and will last but toting this book around to game and to read it I grew to like the format. That surprised me.

I actually like the new builds. I've made a couple of characters now and played a couple of sessions using only the Essentials rules, races and classes and so far I like what I have seen. They definitely give that old school feel. The Thief and Slayer especially have seemed to 'return to their roots'. Now these new classes won't be for everyone but I like what they have brought to the table and I really like the idea of some less complex classes for players who aren't as interested in some of the complex combinations and tactics of some of the later released classes (I'm looking at you Monk).

I really like the changes and enhancements to the skill section and rules. I love the way opened ended skills are encouraged and the improvisation suggestions are awesome. I really hope players read this section and take it to heart as I find that with all of the power cards and item powers that players forget that they can do things not specifically written down. Improved rules for group checks are also very welcome and the new difficulty chart makes a lot more sense then the old one and I like the way it scales.

The Bad:
I'm not really a fan of how the new class section is laid out. It goes level by level explaining all of your options with a lot of exposition on your choices and what they mean to your character. They also seem to indicate that the options presented in the section are the only ones open to the characters even though other sections note that characters are free to choose other options (for example a Slayer taking a level 3 Fighter power from the Knight section). It is somewhat confusing and even I'm not sure the intention here.

I was very disappointed with the Magic item section. I knew there were new rules for item rarity coming out with Essentials but I didn't expect the options in the player's book to be so small. I'm still not sure how this system will evolve, how it will affect my game or how I will like it. I already have players complaining about the changes as they liked being able to 'browse and shop and make wish lists' One of the selling points of 4e when it was released was that magic items are finally where they belong in the players hands in the Player's Handbook. I don't know why this changed.

What happened to Rituals? They aren't even mentioned. I had to check my Rules Compendium to confirm that they still exist, and it seems they do. Why were none included in this book? I'm confused on this one.

The Ugly:
I was not impressed by the amount of duplication in this book. There is duplication between different sections and chapters of this book and between this book and the Rules Compendium. Large sections of the book are duplicated word for word in the Compendium, the skill section for example. Also, there are a lot of sections that just summarize things that are later fully explained. There is a lot of repetition in this as well. I personally would have preferred either more information in this book (perhaps a second Rogue build) or a smaller and cheaper book.

The Unknown:
I don't normally have an "unknown" section in my reviews but this book deserves it. I put this here as I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, yet. Right now I have no idea how all of this will integrate with the existing 4th edition rules from the three Player's Handbooks and the 'Power' books. I really can't see them being interchangeable but I can see how they could run concurrently. Many of the rules in this book either replace and improve existing rules (most of the feats) or use such a different format (the new class builds) that it's really hard to tell how these will work with existing rules. Personally it seems like if you made an Essentials character you would have to stick to options from this book (and any future Essentials products like Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms) and if you made a 'core' character you would have to stick with 'core' books and wouldn't have access to the stuff in this book. What I don't know is if this is correct. I'm a herald level DM and would really like to know how this book changes those games. The bad part is right now no one seems to know and we are all playing a waiting game for a promised October update.

Overall I find this a confusing product. There are somethings I really like, some things I don't really like and a whole lot of uncertainty about how this works with my existing games and things like RPGA Living Forgotten Realms. I really do like the new builds and think they really capture the classic feel. Most of the rules changes were also welcome ones especially enhancements to the skill section. What disapointed me the most was all of the references to the Rules Compendium and how this book itself constantly referenced other sections and chapters. At times it felt like a choose your own adventure spread over two books. Lastly I worry about the unknown territory this book and the rest of essentials has tossed Dungeons and Dragons into.

So the answer everyone wants to know, should you buy this? Well if you are a new players who just got into the game with Essentials then most definitely. Actually if you are just getting into D&D this is pretty much an essential buy, you can't get past 2nd level without it. For the rest of us, who already have a player's handbook or 3. This one is your call. I personally like the new builds and I'm having fun playing one of them. I think they would work great along side 'core characters' and I would welcome an Essentials character at my table. What stops me from suggesting this outright though is the unknown surrounding it. Until there is something official released we can't tell how this will effect organized play like RPGA. For your home game your best bet is to talk about it with your fellow players and DMs and decide how you want to use these rules. There's no point in picking this up if your DM wants to run an Essentials free game. If your group is willing to give it a go, I think it's worth checking out for the low price and I think there are players out there that would definitely enjoy these new builds.
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on September 25, 2010
On the one hand, if you already have most of the main PC and DM books for 4th edition, you probably begin with the thought that you won't need to buy the Essential line. However, there are a lot of good reasons to purchase the books of the Essential line.

First off, you won't need to carry all of your larger books around from one game event to the next. A lot of times, especially if the gaming does not take place at your house or apartment, you need to have many of the books with you. However, with the size and the scope of the Essential line, you aren't going to have to have to lug everything around with you. You can just pop into these books and find the answer.

Secondly, if you are beginning to play D&D, or if you want to just get your feet wet into the meaning of roleplaying games in general, this is a wonderful way to start. The books are inexpensive, they get to the point and they have enough ideas to help you in your quest to understand rpgs. By purchasing the Heroes of the Fallen Lands, along with the Rules Compendium, you'll know what it is all about.

Third, the Essential line focuses on player specific books such as the Heroes of the Fallen Lands. This is so that you can focus on creating your first few PCs (again, if you are starting out in rpgs) or, if you are already entrenched in a game, you can get an idea as to answers to your questions. Such questions a concerning your character or a character class and all the abilities therein.

Forth, the books are inexpensive. With each book being around 19.99, you don't have to worry about spending untold amount of money in order to figure out what the games are about. You can first purchase the Heroes of the Fallen Land, read about the characters, and then roll up a character or two. Later on, when you think you're ready, you can then get the Rules Compendium. Spend a little bit of money at a time goes a long way in helping you fall in love with a wonderful rpg system.

The book itself, Heroes of the Fallen Lands, is a wonderful way of studying the meaning behind the main types of character classes and races you'll find in the D&D worlds. If you look back all the way to first edition and the basic sets of long ago, you'll see the same kind of character races and classes. Getting your feet wet a little at a time so that you (if you are starting out) don't feel as if you're being swamped. By creating your character in this particular book, you can then jump to the Rule Compendium and see how your character works in the larger scheme of the D&D rules.

As an old gamer, I see the necessity if you are planning on going through a 4th edition series of games. The Essential books are the basics, but they can make a world of difference if you need quick guides to help set up and start up your 4th edition gaming.
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on June 13, 2011
I was skeptical of the Essentials line when it was released. A different book format, different character designs, a seemingly loose compatibility with existing rules and an apparent focus on newer players made me wonder if it would be any use to veteran 4th edition players. But recent design articles coupled with a few experiments with the online character builder and a low price tag convinced me to give one of the books a shot.

As others have stated, the format of the book actually works pretty well. It's more convenient to carry around and read through while sitting on a couch or in bed. It takes up less footprint at a gaming table. And at 365 pages compared to 317 of the larger format Players Handbook, it doesn't seem to be lacking as much content as you'd think.

The book is clearly aimed at new players who've never picked up the PHB and I tried to stay in the mindset of a new player while reading through it while still evaluating its worth to existing players. The first chapter, Game Overview does a pretty good job of giving the standard "intro to RPG's" spiel and introduces all the basic concepts of D&D in particular. The second chapter, Making Characters gives a brief overview of the classes and races in the book, ability scores and other options you'll select during character creation and includes info on Alignment, Deities and Character Advancement. The third chapter, Understanding Powers, it likely to be the most daunting to anyone new to RPG's. It's an important chapter but I can already see some peoples eyes glazing over at the bewildering amount of information here. It's well placed though and a necessary primer to the chapters to follow, and it's nice that it got it's own chapter for easy reference. Overall the first 3 chapters don't really contain anything that hasn't already been printed in previous 4th edition products, but the layout makes for better reference and many things have been clarified and updated.

Chapter 4, Character Classes is nearly half the book and contains entirely new builds of the "Iconic 4": the Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. These builds, while fully compatible with the rest of the 4th edition line, follow a fairly different design strategy then all the other books previously released. Typical 4th edition classes have a pretty set progression of acquiring Encounter, Daily and Utility powers allowing for a variety of choices at each level. By contrast, all of these builds have multiple levels where you're given a specific power or ability, interspersed with levels where you're presented a list of options. For new players I think this is a boon, making sure the class stays on target but still providing them with interesting options without overwhelming them at each level.

In addition to presenting the classic 4 classes of D&D, these builds also most closely resemble their classic counterparts. I can't help but think that the book is aimed not only at new players, but also at the many 3rd edition fans who weren't thrilled with 4th edition.

The Cleric(Warpriest) build offers a pretty straightforward set of abilities but introduces 2 domains (Storm & Sun) to further differentiate clerics of different focuses in ways other than their power selection. The domains each provide their own unique powers and boosts to existing features. The single Paragon Path (Devout Warpriest) is also heavily influenced by the selected domain (a theme continued with other classes presented in the book.)

The 2 Fighter builds presented in the book (Knight and Slayer) seem radically different from previous fighter builds at first glance. Relying on Basic Attacks instead of distinct At-Will attack powers at first seems to be a dumbing down of the class. But Fighters now instead have an array of at-will stances that modify all their basic attacks, effectively giving them very similar at-wills to the older fighter builds, but also boosting them in other instances where they can only use a basic attack, like opportunity attacks and charges. Another interesting change is the focus on a Fighters skills. Both builds provide an array of utility powers that require training in specific skills and provide fun and flavorful things to do in combat related to those skills.

The Rogue (Thief) build also relies on Basic Attacks and their At-Will powers are now a series of Move Actions called "Tricks" that give them more mobility and a variety of interesting bonuses. Also returning from previous editions is a new Encounter power: Backstab (they keep their Sneak Attack ability from previous builds also.) The Thief is the only build in the book that doesn't have an alternate build option (Clerics have the 2 Domains, Fighters have 2 separate builds, and Wizards have 3 schools), but I still think the flavor of the class keeps it interesting.

The last class, Wizard, presents the Mage build which, more than any other, seems to be trying to recapture the flavor of prior editions. It brings back schools of magic (enchantment, evocation and illusion), alters the spellbook to also allow you to swap out Encounter powers after an extended rest (even providing a chart that looks very reminiscent of classic spell caster spells known charts from prior editions), and seems to focus on a lot of the classic spells from prior editions making the entire class seem much more familiar.

The chapter ends with a single, fairly generic Epic Destiny: The Indomitable Champion. Overall this chapter included a lot of flavor. Each power was even presented with its own short sentence or two providing some in game history or other interesting tidbit about the power (in addition to the flavor text already included with each power.)

Chapter 5, Races, presents five classic races: Dwarf, Eladrin, Elf, Halfling and Human. Most of this is just reworked info from previous books, although all the races got slight tweaks with how they can assign their ability bonus or racial powers.

Chapter 6, Skills presents a more in depth look at the skill system, and also provides updated numbers and streamlined rules for DC's for various checks. The skill descriptions themselves aren't entirely complete, leaving some specific info to the Rules Compendium, but cover most everything you'd need to do with a skill. I found the "Improvising With XXX" section of each skill, which gives alternative uses and sample DC's, to be a nice addition.

Chapter 7, Feats is relatively short and presents mostly new feats or feats updated to reflect the power creep that's happened since release. They're categorized by general theme at the beginning to make it easier for new players to figure out what feats they're interested in.

Chapter 8, Gear and Weapons is the last chapter and presents a limited selection of mundane and a very limited selection of magical gear taken from previously released supplements.

Overall, the meat of the book, the classes, seemed to me to be worth picking up the book for. My initial misgivings about the new builds were quickly put to rest after looking at the progression as a whole instead of just how drastically different the 1st level often seemed. I was annoyed with how often the book seemed to push the D&D Insider subscription, despite having a subscription myself and finding it useful. There's also been a lot of concern that the Essentials line is a sort of 4.5 edition, and I think this is certainly a valid concern. While all the rules are technically compatible with all the other books, there have been quite a few changes to the numbers involved in a lot of aspects of the game since its release and it's hard to keep all the errata sorted out without having new books (the Rules Compendium for example) or an Insider subscription. It's a drawback, I suppose, of living in the digital age: it's much easier for the publisher to fix problems with their products, but harder for the customer to keep up to date.
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on February 18, 2014
This helps a lot for players who want something new for more. It allows more fun and diversity in the game as well as explaining more about more advanced topics. Great for amateur players who want or need more information about character creation.
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on October 16, 2010
Comparing this $20 Essentials book with the $35 Players Handbook might be unfair, but, for casual players, if you have the PH, you don't need Heroes. Heroes contains character builds for the "bread and butter" classes: fighter, cleric, rogue, and wizard, plus combat and character generation rules. Each class receives a "subtype" build, with the fighter having two of them. These builds are different than the PH, but not enough for the casual player to particularly care.

But, if you don't have the Player's Handbook, I'd sorta recommend purchasing this and the next Essentials book over it. The Essentials line contains the latest rules changes for various powers, rules, and whatnot. A second copy of the combat rules is always handy at the table. Splitting the Player's Handbook into two books means that one player can be generating a character from one Essentials book, while another player generates a character from the second. Likewise, when you're bringing your character to a game session, you only need to bring along one Essentials book, not a twice-as-heavy Player's Handbook.

And, of course, it's an easier gift to buy for your budding D&D player. When I first played D&D, we "only" had the fighter, cleric, and magic-user and enjoyed the game. No reason he can't, either.
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on July 22, 2013
This book is pretty much an abridged players handbook with a little bit of additional fluff added in. If you have a phb already I don't think I would really recommend buying it. It is also soft cover which makes it not really fit in with the rest of the books on the shelf.

Other than that this book maintains the high quality of the books I have come to expect from dungeons and dragons books.
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on May 29, 2013
Very nice upgrade from the red box. There are even different paths to choose when it comes to leveling up your character. Very helpful, however the leveling guidelines could be a bit more straightforward. As a new DM I was very concerned with ease of use because i'm still getting used to the game. Overall extremely useful and informative when it come to D&D 4e
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on May 30, 2014
I got this as a beginners type set for me and my buddies. It is easy to learn and gives you everything you need to play. You may want to consider getting the "Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms" and the "Monster Vault" to go with it.
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on May 7, 2012
Now with the Essentials line you can play a fighter without spells ("daily exploits"); a thief whose main job is backstabbing; or a cleric in heavy armor who beats people with a mace. Classic! This is the Essentials core book, which is compatible with all the rest of 4th edition. It's not 4.5, like some have said. I'd call it 4.1 if anything.

Other pros: It's coat-pocket sized and cheap. It's not available in PDF and you don't need to pirate anyway it at this price.
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