Heroes Of The Forgotten Kingdoms, by Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek, and Rodney Thompson
In many ways, this book is the less glamorous twin to its companion volume, Heroes Of The Fallen Lands . The reasons why are easy to see. For one, the books are written in the same fashion, share the same preliminary information and much of the same information about items as well. Considering this book is about 350 pages as well, it is good that at least some of the material does not require rereading, as it helps the pages go by easier. Like its companion volume, this book is mostly of interest to those who are playing or dungeon mastering in Dungeons & Dragons . Unlike the most essential and popular classes and races, though, this book gets the more odd-ball and obscure ones. This is not necessarily a bad thing–some of us like reading what is obscure and oddball after all, and this book contains plenty that meets those specifications–but this book feels like an add on and not quite as essential as the other, as there are many parties that would not include any of the races/classes focused on here, though plenty that will, especially among those who like more unusual character choices.
Like its companion volume, this book benefits from the polish of its publishing efforts, from the heavy texture of its paper, from the gorgeous artwork of various characters in action, and its careful and even comforting organization. There is something comforting in everything being in a consistent and proper order and format that makes reading more enjoyable, an aspect of planning that is not considered by everyone who writes a book. In terms of its contents, the book is divided into eight chapters, giving an introduction and helping readers to make characters and understand the powers characters have in the game. After this, the book discusses the following character classes (and paths): Druid (Sentinel), Paladin (Cavalier), Ranger (Hunter, Scout), Warlock (Hexblade), all given the epic path of Destined Scion, which sounds somewhat ominous but involves many of the same kind of powers discussed in the companion volume. After this the authors discuss the races of Dragonborn, Drow, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Human, and Tiefling, the human information being the only that carries over from the other volume, and the other races being far more rare than the others discussed, many of them not coincidentally from forgotten and obscure realms with dark histories but with their own fascinating role playing choices and contexts, something this book really helps a reader get a handle on. Closing out the book are chapters on skills, feats, and gear and weapons, matters that are always of interest to players of Dungeons & Dragons or related role playing games.
Although this book is not likely to be of interest to those who are not fond of tabletop role playing, there are a few elements of this book that are worthy of thought and reflection about the implications of carrying views from this fictional universe into the real one. For one, many of the powers and feats involved among these characters involve a certain degree of coercion against others, forcing others, whether friend or foe, to do one’s will. For a variety of reasons, I find this to be deeply troubling. Given the fact that this game involves so much random change, so much rolling of many- and few-sided die, it is striking that so many abilities would involve a degree of oppression that is contrary to my belief in the free will of sentient creatures, regardless of how unusual they happen to be, and in fantasy games that can be pretty unusual. Being loath to coerce people, and especially resistant to being coerced, I do not find a great deal of enjoyment in the coercion of even imaginary beings. Another troubling aspect of this book, discussed with regards to the Tieflings as a race and the Warlock as a class, is the aspect of making pacts with various demonic powers, especially with the goal of outsmarting demons. This is a bad plan–certainly a foolish thing even to conceive of, much less attempt to do, even in a fictional realm. Don’t try this at home, kids.
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