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Martial Power (4e)

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 Martial Power™ is the first of a line of player-friendly supplements offering hundreds of new options for D&D® characters.

This tome focuses on the martial heroes: characters who rely on their combat talents and keen wits for survival.

This book provides new archetypal builds for the fighter, ranger, rogue, and warlord classes, including new character powers, feats, paragon paths, and epic destinies.

Product History

Martial Power (2008), by Rob Heinsoo, Nicolas Logue, David Noonan, and Chris Sims, is the first Powered splatbook for D&D 4e. It was published in November 2008.

Expanding the 4e Line. The D&D 4e line kicked off in June 2008 with a standard set of core books: a Dungeon Master's Guide (2008), a Player's Handbook (2008), and a Monster Manual (2008). Two months later Wizards released a trilogy of Forgotten Realms supplements, beginning with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008). The plan was to continue to publish trilogies of core rulebooks and trilogies of setting books year-after-year. Meanwhile, adventure production had also begun with 4e's "HPE" adventure path (2008-2009), which had already reached the Paragon tier.

However six yearly books, plus multiple adventures, wasn't enough to maintain a healthy D&D line. Fortunately, Wizards had plans for another series, and one that would cleverly interweave with the core rulebook releases in future years, the Power books.

Introducing the Power Books. The 4e Player's Handbook is subtitled "Arcane, Divine, and Martial Heroes", which was a first clue that the fourth edition of D&D was different. In fact, that subtitle hinted at a whole new organization for the D&D game. Though the arcane and divine power sources had been around for ages, the idea that warriors had their own "martial" power was something new. More power sources were suggested for the future, including elemental, ki, primal, psionic, and shadow.

The 4e Player's Handbook also introduced another new idea. Rather than each character class being set in stone, they could now be "built" in many different ways. For example, the Player's Handbook provided two priestly builds: the battle cleric and the devoted cleric.

Putting together the ideas of power sources and builds created the basis of 4e's Power series — which was already under development at Wizards before the core 4e books were even finished. Each Power book would spotlight one power source and provide alternate builds for all of that source's core classes. Related paragon paths, epic destinies, and feats would fill out each book. Martial Power would be the first in the series.

Though 4e was more carefully organized than previous editions, the Power series was the latest example of an old idea: D&D's class-based splatbooks. TSR originated the idea in the '90s with the Complete "PHBR" series (1989-1995), while Wizards published class splatbooks for both 3e and 3.5e. Past martial splatbooks included PHBR1: The Complete Fighter's Handbook (1989), PHBR11: The Complete Ranger's Handbook (1993), Sword and Fist (2001), and Complete Warrior (2003).

It's no accident that martial splatbooks led off the splatbook series for 2e, 3e, 3.5e, and 4e. Martial classes were popular and easy to understand, so the martial splatbooks were popular too. Wizards had previously seen Sword and Fist sell quite well, and so were eager to lead off with another winner.

About the Fighter. The fighter is one of the oldest classes in D&D, dating back to the hero and superhero of Chainmail (1971). These primordial heroes became the fighting men of OD&D (1971), then the fighters of AD&D (1977) — though they were moved into the new warrior category under AD&D 2e (1989). The fighter's biggest expansion ever came in Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006), which gave them the ability to do cool stuff in combat, rather than just mindlessly swinging weapons at their foes. It was a direct ancestor of the power-focused foundation of D&D 4e.

About the Ranger. Rangers weren't a part of OD&D until The Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975), where they appeared in an article by Joe Fischer as a "subclass" of the fighter. Those early rangers were based on Aragorn in Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), and in the years that followed, rangers were often seen as bowmen. In AD&D 2e (1989), they started dual-wielding weapons, creating a second ranger archetype. Then in D&D 3e (2000), a third type of ranger had appeared: one with an animal companion. The classic builds of bowmen and double-weapon wielders both appeared in 4e's Player's Handbook. Beastmasters then debuted in Martial Power — allowing players to take on the roles of any of the three sorts of rangers that had appeared in D&D over the previous 35 years.

About the Rogue. The rogue first appeared as the thief in Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9 (June 1974), with an official version appearing the next year in D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975). In AD&D 2e (1989) thieves were moved into the new rogue category, but the class remained much the same. Things changed somewhat in D&D 3e (2000), which was the first set of rules to really codify the rogue's sneak attack ability. This was probably what led them to becoming a martial striker in D&D 4e — though they wouldn't have been grouped with the fighters in older days.

About the Warlord. The warlord premiered with D&D 4e (2008). However, the idea of martial leaders dates back to Chainmail, where the heroes and superheroes could take on that role. The idea was better codified in Miniatures Handbook (2003), which introduced the slightly similar marshal class.

Future History. Martial Power was the first in a series of Power books, which soon expanded to include the other two core 4e power sources with Arcane Power (2009) and Divine Power (2009). Meanwhile warriors would get additional support in Martial Power 2 (2010).

Martial Power also spun off a series of Martial Power Power Card sets (2009), which made it easy to use the powers from this supplement, underlining 4e's heavy interrelation with unique components such as cards. Many other Power books would receive similar card sets in future years.

About the Creators. Heinsoo was, of course, the leader of the 4e design team. Noonan and Sims would both continue to do D&D writing for Wizards for the next couple of years, while Logue was splitting his writing between Paizo and Wizards at the time.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (4)
Discussions (0)
January 4th, 2009
For 4e this is an excellent expansion to the PHB. Finally the rules for animal companions. Most of the rest of this product, I could have done without as it presents the same problem as feats in 3.x edition. Namely proffligation of powers. The new Rang [...]
Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
December 10th, 2008
The Introduction begins by discussing the true tools of a warrior: not so much his weapons and armour, but his skills and techniques. The best fighters may even be know for a particular style or manoeuvre that has become a trademark. This book is laid [...]
December 8th, 2008
Martial Power offers new options for fighters, rangers, rogues and warlords at all levels of play. New powers, new class features, new paragon paths, epic destinies, feats... the whole kit and caboodle. I think the fighters did best out of the [...]
November 22nd, 2008
I had problems processing my credit card and had to use PayPal. Look into it please. [...]
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This title was added to our catalog on January 20, 2015.