Wizards of the Coast is offering a preview of the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide, which is slated for release in September. The Living Forgotten Realms campaign is set to kick off at Gencon. (Thanks to Critical Hits for bringing the link to my attention.)
The preview includes PC drow and genasi races, a peek at the swordmage class, and lists of regional benefits.
Drow are identical to their writeup in the Monster Manual, except that they explicitly count as fey creatures now, whereas before Fey Origin was implicit. There’s some flavor text and a couple of minor changes in wording to the powers, but no real differences. They’re going to make scary rogues; either one of their encounter powers gives them combat advantage free for a turn. (Well, the faerie fire — I mean Darkfire, because everyone knows “dark” is cool — has to hit. But it gets a nice big bonus, and it gives advantage to the drow’s allies, too.) It’s probably not a big deal in the end, because rogues can generally set up their sneak attack fairly easily if they try. But it will definitely help fill in in those situations in which the rogue otherwise might not be able to. And the Cloud of Darkness power has other applications.
Genasi count as elemental creatures, and they get to choose one of five elemental associations. (Yes, five. Fire, water, earth, air, and lightning. Why lightning? Beats me.) Each one offers an encounter power, plus an additional benefit, like water breathing, a bonus to a defense, or an elemental resistance.
There’s apparently going to be a racial feat to allow an extra element to be taken, too, so the genasi can have multiple benefits. Including multiple encounter powers, as far as I can tell, which worries me a bit. Some of these powers are quite good. The water power, for instance, is a move action that lets the character shift their speed, move through enemies, ignore difficult terrain, ignore penalties for squeezing through a tight space, and ignore any damage if they move across something that would normally damage them (like a lava pit). A lot of that is situational, yes, but the “shift your speed” alone is a pretty amazing encounter power.
Genasi get +2 Strength and +2 Intellect, a pretty weak combination for anything other than the new Swordmage class (but very good for that). They also get +2 bonuses to Endurance and Nature. Endurance is a pretty nice bonus to have, with its role in fighting off disease, and the knowledge is a knowledge. Nice, but situational; maybe very useful in a given campaign, maybe not much more than a nifty parlor trick.
Speaking of the new Swordmage class: it’s an arcane defender. I was not expecting that. The “fighter/wizard” of older games was typically a blasty, striker-ish sort, with the smarter ones being controller-like “save or die” specialists. (Of course, the really smart ones were straight wizards…)
Their powers so far seem to lean toward the controller, much like paladins lean toward leader and fighters to striker. They’ve got quite a few area-effects in those early levels, including an at-will that’s a close burst 1. Their damage seems very respectable. As for their defending, when they mark something that attacks someone else, they can (depending on which build option they chose) either teleport next to their mark and take a basic attack, or they can reduce the damage the mark inflicts. That could be an interesting mechanic.
Only the first three levels of powers are in the document, and most of those only offer two powers per level. Those who choose to create swordmages for the Living campaign will be allowed a free “respec” once the book is officially released, to help compensate. Any drow or genasi also get one, to allow for taking racial feats that aren’t released yet, and such.
Oh, those regional benefits? They’re not feats this time around. You just get to pick one. Mostly, they add a skill to your class skill list and give you either a small bonus with that skill or a “reroll and take the second roll, even if it’s worse” when using that skill. A couple go beyond that; there’s one that gives resist 2 to fire, cold, and thunder, for instance (which increases to 3, then to 5 at paragon and epic tiers, respectively).
I could take or leave most of this, but I’m kind of looking forward to the swordmage now. It looks as if it’ll be a different take on the sword-swinging spell-slinger concept.