Heroes Of The Fallen Lands, by Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek, and Rodney Thompson
If you are reading this book, you are almost certainly a dedicated table top gamer  looking to imagine the path of a fairly standard track character throughout the entire progress of one’s campaign, all the way to the end of the epic level at hundreds of thousands of experience points and likely months or years of playing. It is hard to imagine anyone else getting much out of this book if one was not a role playing gamer, unless it was for someone who was writing about such people or about fantasy characters, and was looking for help in what kind of questions to ask themselves when it came to constructing such characters. Still, it is far more likely they are avid gamers, and there is nothing wrong with that. Although about 350 pages in length, this is not a book that is a daunting read, nor is likely to be read straight through by most people, but rather something kept by an avid gamer as a resource for making certain decisions about their characters or reflecting on their general party balance.
The contents of this book are well-organized, and this is clearly a book that has benefited from a certain polish and expertise on the part of its graphic design and publishing team. It is divided into eight chapters, introducing Dungeons & Dragons, giving a game overview, and giving advice on how to make characters and understand powers. After this the book provides four classes, each with at least one path: Cleric (Warpriest), Fighter (Knight, Slayer), Rogue (Thief), and Wizard (Mage), with various skills to choose from on the heroic, paragon, and epic level. After this the author briefly discusses the races of dwarfs, eladrins, elfs, halflings, and humans. The book then discusses skills, feats, gears and weapons before having a glossary and index. In many ways, this book sacrifices the breath of looking at a wide variety of options for a character in exchange for a great deal of depth in terms of examining how a character moves from humble beginnings to epic power, something gamers may need to be reminded of.
In terms of what a reader gets out of this book, it is the sort of power trip that one can imagine was felt by those who fancied themselves alchemists in days of old. This sort of character creation and shepherding for long periods of time amounts to an extended power fantasy, where humans gain power to the level where their behavior affects the fate of entire planets and planes of existence. This sort of fantasy is certainly a popular one, and it is hard to criticize it without criticizing my own love of role playing games and their epic scope. It is intriguing to see how the designers of a game seek to make it worthwhile to go the extra effort to play a character and to make it stronger and stronger over time, while providing sufficient challenges to test that character and make it of the utmost importance to value the luck of a good role. With great imaginary power comes great imaginary responsibility, after all.
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