In the 4e campaign that I currently run, I've been slow to incorporate third-party options for the player characters. I haven't opened the door to Goodman Games's barbarians, bards, monks, and druids from the misnamed Forgotten Heroes book, or Ari Marmell's martial artists, nature priests, savage warriors, and troubadours in the equally misnamed Advanced Player's Guide by Expeditious Retreat Press. That "conservatism" hasn't kept me from checking out third-party options, though, and I have found myself very intrigued by the alternate warlock pact offered in Adamant Entertainment's Pact of the Angelic Choirs.
The warlock definitely occupies the lowest slot on my current ranking of class preferences in D&D 4e. Call me prudish--well, call me whatever you want--but I don't much like the dark overtones of the warlock for heroic PCs, though I like them just fine as NPC villains. In fact, the only house rule in my current campaign is that infernal pact warlocks exist only as NPCs in my campaign world.
Enter Pact of the Angelic Choirs. In this booklet, author Stefen Styrsky presents a warlock pact that involves tapping the brighter powers of the Astral Sea. Styrsky maintains the independence of the angels over against the gods, following the standard 4e storyline, but still balances the standard warlock's infernal pact with a compelling supernal counterpart. Styrsky brings out the flavor of an angelic pact quite well, as long as you think of avenging angels meting out righteous fury rather than sweet little Raphael cherubs. Angelic pact warlocks maintain the striker role perfectly, and Strysky has a good explanation for why they remain arcane strikers, though he tips his hat to DMs who want to redefine angelic pact warlocks as divine strikers.
If I were playing in a 4e campaign right now, I would probably ask the DM to let me play one of these angelic pact warlocks--that's how much I like the flavor that Styrsky has put together here. I don't like everything about the pact, though. In particular, I cringed when I saw that Styrsky had made the "true name" trope a part of his angelic pact. I find the whole "true name" trope to be hokey, but more importantly, I recoil when third-party products introduce such significant concepts in bits and pieces without a larger exploration of the implications. Also, a few of the powers seem, well, overpowered to me, chiefly those that boost all defenses on a scale determined by the PC's Intelligence modifier. Consider the warding presence power (utility 2): "Until the end of the encounter, you add 1 + your Intelligence modifier to AC, Fortitude, Reflex and Willpower defense." Now imagine a tiefling warlock with an Intelligence of 16 (+3). Granted, warding presence is a daily power, but adding +4 to all defenses until the end of the encounter is over the top, I think, for a 2nd-level utility spell. Compare forge fire heart, a power presented in Martial Power for the dwarven defender paragon path (utility 12): "Until the end of your next turn, you gain a +4 power bonus to all defenses, and any ally adjacent to you gains a +2 power bonus to Will." Again, I grant you that warding presence is a daily power while forge fire heart is an encounter power, but the angelic pact allows a 2nd-level character to generate for an entire encounter a bonus that forge fire heart enables a 12th-level character to generate for one round. In most cases, the angelic pact powers seem to me to play on the same field with the standard pacts, but a few powers like this one do seem out of whack. I'd love to play an angelic pact warlock as a player, but as a DM, I have a problem with some of the some powers giving too much bang for a PC's buck.
Oh, and "angel" on the front cover is the same stock art figure who appears as a "demigod" on the cover of an LPJ Designs product--an effect almost like two socialites wearing the same dress to a fancy ball.
Overall, though, I like what Adamant and Styrsky have done with this product. Even if a few powers might need small tweaking--and I would really need some playtest time with the pact before knowing for sure--the pact of the angelic choirs strikes me as a good addition to the warlock toolbox.
[4 of 5 Stars!]