Primal Power (Dungeons & Dragons), by Mike Mearls
While this book is disappointingly a 4th edition D&D supplement, and therefore not very useful to those of us who prefer the 5th edition, there is still something worthwhile here in the way that this guide gives some more options to more primitive characters who wish to play various character classes. For a variety of reasons, including the sheer lulz, I have played a couple of lizardmen in my recent campaigns, and this has led to a great deal of humor in terms of how to roleplay a primitive sort of character. This book does a good job at presenting those kind of options to at least some characters (though admittedly my lizardman wizard was by far more of a stretch when it comes to roleplaying and no such character is discussed in this book as an option), and those who want their characters to be more primal and less civilized will have at least a few options here. As usual, of course, this usefulness is somewhat limited because of the limitations of the 4th edition compared to others, but those limitations are going to be present in any book of this kind and that is something that readers will likely take into account anyway.
This particular book is a bit more than 150 pages and is divided into five chapters. The book begins with a discussion about barbarians, an obvious class to benefit from primal options, and includes some discussion on playing a barbarian as well as new builds, powers, and paragon paths for them (1). After that there is a similar discussion about druids, another case where primal options make obvious sense that also includes the same approach (2). After this comes a discussion of how to play a primal shaman and some new builds, powers, and paragon paths for them as well (3). After this the same is done with the warden class, which is perhaps a less familiar one than the others (4), and also is well suited to primal options given its own nature protection focus. Finally, the book finishes with a chapter that discusses primal options including a discussion of primal spirits, new feats (including multiclass feats), and epic destinies and new rituals that also flesh out the ideal of primally focused characters for those who have a real nature-based set of interests for their roleplaying, which is likely to be at least somewhat popular.
What does primal power offer to a character? For the most part, these various options show characters who are more focused on nature than they are in civilization, and as such this particular guide offers an expansion of the spread of D&D to deal not only with characters who wish to be civilizational heroes springing from towns and villages or big cities but also those who are more misanthropic and more focused on the protection of creation. Given the increasing interest that many people have in environmentalism it makes great sense why there would be supplements where characters can roleplay in a way that also matches their own environmental interests in a fantasy setting. If this particular option is of limited interest to me personally it was something that I at leat found interesting and it is certainly possible in the future that I may roleplay a character with this sort of focus as a way of providing laughter and amusement. And that is all that one can expect from a book like this, some useful suggestions for roleplay and some options that may be of interest if this particular approach is ported into 5th edition for more contemporary game play.