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!]