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Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud $12.99
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Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud
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Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Joe K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2009 05:41:25

Forgotten Heroes Scythe and Shroud introduces the new power source Death and with it, four new classes. To me, a power source is merely an ‘effect’. Much like the Hero game system where you can have an energy blast that does 1d6 per rank, you get to choose what the effect is. In D&D 4e, they went the opposite route in that they tell you what the effect is, but most of the game mechanics are of a similar level in terms of power.

The book is lightly illustrated and my only complaint would be that the illustrations all don’t follow a ‘type’ if you will. For example, while I enjoy Marcio Fiorito’s art and his known for many of his d20 illustrations in the past, his style is crisp and clean, almost comic book like, and it fails to mesh with some of the others like Doug Kovacs or Brad McDevitt.

Like the previous Forgotten Heroes book, this one does a little more than just throw the classes at you. It provides some other details as to how the classes might get along. What sort of conflicts they may come into. Because it’s also a power source on death, it includes details on some planar destinations for you when a character dies, and some adventure hooks. For example, Sheol is the Final Destination. A group of planar travelers is building a sphere to travel there and deities do not wish this to happen. Or a renegade angel claims that Sheol holds a secret the gods to not wish to learn. These are far from fully fleshed out ideas but the seeds should be enough to get any creative juices flowing.

Each class includes all standard class traits; Role, Power Source, Key Abilities, Armor Training, Weapon Proficiencies, Bonus to Defense, Hit Points, Haling Surges, Trained Skills, Class Skills, 2 build options, class features, and the full allotment of standard powers. After each standard listing of powers comes the paragon paths. Epic destinies are included after all classes.

Assassins are the strikes of the book. A pretty standard fantasy archtype, this isn’t the assassin who merely brews poisons and pricts someone as they walk by and gloats in their death, but rather someone who has abilities called Harrowings and such lovely options as the 23rd level encounter harrowing, Kidney Slice that weakens the target and provides the character with a study point. These study points are part of the class feature and the assassin can accumulate them and then trade them in for bonuses to hit and damage with the bonus changing depending on what tier the assassin currently is.

Deathwardens are the leaders. While the other classes are fairly well represented in the fantasy genre, or at least the d20 genre, the deathwarden strikes me as fairly unique in that they use the connection to death to ‘shield your allies and dispatch your enemies.” Their abilities are also called harrowing and include those abilities which let allies spend healing surges as well as those that inflict damage.

Necromancers the controllers and like assassins, a fairly common archetype in fantasy, especially d20 which had numerous variants of them. My favorite ability of the necromancer, perhaps due to the full page illustration accompanying it, is Necromancer Attack level 29, Summon Dead God, where the necromancer summons the corpse of a god. This daily action conjures forth a dead god with defenses equal to 10 + ½ level + intelligence modifier + implement. If it takes damage, it’s destroyed (which makes me wonder why it has hit points equal to three times your healing surge value), but it inflicts 4d10 + intelligence modifier and as a sustain minor, the dead god can make another attack. Moving the dead god is a move action. To me, that’s a power that showcases a lot of creative thinking.

Spiritsworn the defenders. While perhaps not as typical as the assassin and necromancer, their association with spirits tends to make them like shaman or spirit talkers and are a traditional fantasy role going back to at least 2nd edition’s Shaman sourcebook.

There are two epic destinies included here, angel of death and demilich. Other ‘standards’ of player favored books includes feats for each tier, as well as multiclass tier feats and magical items. Magic items include new or hardly used types such as death masks and poisons.

For those without a DDI subscription and no access to the ‘official’ assassin, or those who are tired of waiting for WoTC to come out with a necromancer class, Forgotten Heroes Scythe and Shroud is worth reviewing.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Florian E. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2009 11:00:05

I was sceptical at first, but reading this fun sourcebook convinced me within minutes, that I've made a good decision in buying this. Assassins and Necromancers have always been my favorite fantasy archetypes and I'm happy to see them transferred to 4th edition without any annoying 3rd-edition-fallbacks or uninspired and lackluster mechanics design. Although the Deathwarden and Spiritsworn seem a little redundant against the shaman or avenger to me, they're still nicely done and have a unique flavour to them. Assassin and Necromancer are my favorite parts of the book and I can't find anything bad to say about them. Their powers are fun to read and seem to be balanced enough (let's see if WotC can keep that balancing up). Even better, they feel unique. The assassin is not just a rogue with more poison and deadlier backstab, and the necromancer cannot be mistaken for a dark wizard character of some sort. All four classes are really unique in style and mechanic. I like it. A lot.

If you long to play an Assassin or Necromancer in 4th edition, this is IMHO the only viable solution so far.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Dale R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/16/2009 20:31:47

Nicholas Bergquist's review does an excellent job giving an overview of what the product contains. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it if you haven't already. What I will focus on is the improvements this book has over the previous Forgotten Heroes installment.

Tavis and company most definitely improved greatly in producing this book. It both looks and feels better than Fang, Fist, and Song.

  • BETTER CENTRAL PREMISE: This is the foundation upon which the success of the entire book rests. In Fang, Fist, and Song, the central premise was a post-apocalyptic setting... the Ancients (bards and monks) and the Primals (barbarians and druids) were lost sects of society who emerged as major players because they were better equipped to handle the post-apocalyptic environment than the classes in the PHB. This weakened the connection between the four classes. This time around, however, the book focuses on a single power source, Death, and all the things associated with it (like final destinations, undeath and the combating of such, and whatnot). This single, stronger central premise strengthened the connection between the classes and allowed the design team to focus their energies on that single premise.

  • SINGLE, NEW POWER SOURCE: Admit it, Fang, Fist, and Song was really an exercise of getting the barbarian, bard, druid, and monk on the floor quickly since WotC wasn't going to do it for almost a year. Sadly, the Advanced Player's Guide and a multitude of fan works already had that covered. Tavis' team's efforts were viciously wasted. Plus, I didn't like the (woefully incomplete) exploration of the primal power source before WotC was ready to release details on it. If the team had made all four classes from the same power source and named that power source something else other than primal, I would have been happier. This time around, however, the team created a whole new power source and explored it deeply and religiously, free of the constraints of stepping on WotC's toes. The result is a gorgeous selection of classes that fills all four role niches. This makes the book a lot more useful to me.

  • CLEANER FORMATTING: While Fang, Fist, and Song was readable enough, the formatting of the power headers killed it for me. The team fixed this in Scythe and Shroud by right-aligning the Class/Level designator to the right margin rather than left-aligning it to the center of the header. The power headers look a lot, LOT less crowded because of this. A minor adjustment, but one that I wholeheartedly appreciate.

Overall, the team did an excellent job on this book and I'm happy to have bought it. It makes an excellent addition to my "player's options" library.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forgotten Heroes: Scythe & Shroud
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/08/2009 16:14:29

Outstanding book, and I've been messing around with it all day, building characters and enjoying the unusual class combinations and power sets that can be found within. So far I've rolled up some 1st level characters, 16th level characters, and experimented a bit with one of the epic paths, and found them all to have some well-thought out design principles.

This book is definitely better and more evolved than the first Forgotten Heroes book, benefitting from a year of insight and evolution for 4E. It has the following bits, for those looking for a run-down:

4 Classes:

Necromancer - a variant on the classic, with emphasis on summoning powers (plays a bit like the summoner features introduced in Arcane Power). The summonings are of classic undead, and the class models the archetypal D&D necromancer fairly well, I think.

Spiritsworn - Anyone who's played too much Guild Wars will notice more than a passing thematic resemblance to GW's ritualist class (this is meant as a positive correlation with an MMO, I love GW!). The Spiritsworn is easily my favorite new class in this book, with the theme being a sort of necromantic fighter who calls upon the spirits for aid in battle. They like scythes, too. Very creative class, and I easily figured out some interesting power combos with the characters I built on it. I'll be using these builds as NPC allies and foes in my pending weekly game, as well.

Assassin - this is an interesting combat class, which I might call a "necromancer rogue" in how it appears to function. Not quite as exotic as the other classes, but it might give fans of the swordmage and avenger a new class to drool over. It uses a Study Point mechanic to give the assassin an edge over time, something I'd like to see in action, to see how well it works.

Deathwarden- this class surprised me, because I was expecting it to be some variant on the death knight, anti-paladin or whatnot, but it turned out to be a strange and interesting idea: a sort of defender-themed warlord type who has an uncanny ability to sense impending doom and uses this to his advantage to protect those around him. Probably my next most favorite of the classes after the spiritsworn, and a genuinely interesting concept with excellent implementation.

New Stuff: the book introduces a few new rituals of appropriate theme, some interesting and thematically appropriate feats, a selection of magic items (no new armor items though, a pity!) and I was especially happy to see details on setting up NPC versions of the classes in the last section of the book, along with precalculated charts of NPC stats for ease of reference. This is something, I will point out, that not even WotC can do right, forcing DMs to invent their own approach to NPCs in the PHB2 while waiting for a DMG2 release in September.

Presentation: 5/5 Clean and well edited; I've only caught one power so far that felt like it was missing something or needed clarification so far (spiritsworn Vortex of Souls Levevl 5 Daily -- the effect should be until the end of the encounter, I am pretty sure, although it does not state such).

Production Quality: 5/5 Nice graphics and layout, readable and (important) easy to print. I'll be picking up the actual print edition as well when I see it, but it's nice to have the PDF on file as well.

Overall Value: 5/5 I'm using this in my game tonight, and encouraging my players to mine it for new characters. Well worth the money invested, and these classes are interesting and different enough to have legs of their own. As an aside, aspiring developers for 4E who want to get a sampling of new class design done right from a 3rd party source should take a look at this! They did an fantastic job.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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