Excerpts 05/01/2006


Player's Handbook II Excerpt
By David Noonan



The Player's Handbook II builds upon existing materials in the Player's Handbook by expanding the options available for players by both providing new material and increasing the uses for existing rules. Included are chapters on character race, background, classes, feats, spells, character creation, and character advancement. New rules include racial affiliations that make race matter as a character advances in level, new character classes and alternate class features for existing classes, new feats, tools for rapid character creation, and additional organization and teamwork benefits -- an option first introduced in Dungeon Master's Guide II and Heroes of Battle. The excerpts below include the table of contents and introduction, the knight class, expanded barbarian material, a feat table, the polymorph subschool and sample spells, and some material about rebuilding your character.

Introduction to Rebuilding, Feature Retraining, and Divine Conversion

The Dungeons & Dragons game offers a great deal of flexibility in character creation and advancement. When you make a character, you can choose any race or class combination, select from a wide variety of feats, and buy ranks in any skills you wish. Once you've made these decisions, however, they cannot be changed. Most of the time those early decisions work out fine, but sometimes you might regret your previous choices. Maybe you didn't fully understand the ramifications of the choice you made. Or maybe you constructed a character around a great concept, but in play, the particular set of circumstances that would let your character shine never cropped up. And even if you built your character to perfection, each new supplement presents new classes, feats, spells, and special abilities, many of which might better serve the needs of your character or the campaign than those you previously selected.

It's true that part of the D&D game's challenge is making smart choices in creating or advancing your character. But a DM who forces someone to play a character he doesn't find enjoyable isn't making the game fun for that player or the others at the table. In such a situation, the player usually either throws away the character and rolls up a new one, or quits the game. If your campaign values character continuity (as many campaigns do), neither of those outcomes is especially attractive. Why force Mike to throw away the elf fighter he's been playing for three months just because he made a couple of bad feat choices, when allowing him to change those choices would be so much better for the storyline? If Mialee has been an integral part of the campaign since Day 1 but has regretted being an elf since Day 2, wouldn't it be better to let her become the halfling she would prefer to be by undergoing a dramatic transformation at the Necrotic Cradle (see page 203) than to abruptly replace her with Liamee the halfling wizard? The fact that Liamee the halfling coincidentally has the same spells, feats, skill ranks, and familiar as Mialee the elf did but has no connection to the campaign or the rest of the party is stretching credulity perhaps a bit too far.

This chapter presents rules for revising various aspects of your character during play. With this system, you can modify elements of your character to better fit your vision of who your character should be -- both to meet the needs of the party and to face the threats presented during the course of an entire campaign. Though character revision does allow you to "rewrite" certain elements of your character, the rules presented here ensure that the changes remain within reason and do not upset the story that has already been created by each character's deeds in the campaign.

The two methods of character revision described below are retraining and rebuilding. Each description defines the scope of the allowed revisions and includes clear guidelines on how to adjudicate the changes.

Retraining involves small-scale changes to your character, such as reallocation of feat slots and skill ranks. Such changes are relatively simple to apply, and they don't usually lead to dramatic changes in the character's capabilities or party role.

Rebuilding, on the other hand, encompasses much broader alterations to your character's identity -- up to and including such cornerstones of identity as class and race. For that reason, rebuilding can be achieved only by completing specific DM-chosen quests. Since such missions typically center on visiting some legendary location or overcoming a tremendous challenge, they should always be completed in cooperation with your DM so that they can be woven into the storyline of the campaign.

For players and DMs who are accustomed to treating character creation and advancement decisions as permanent, the idea of character revision can seem strange or daunting -- and some might even think of it as a form of cheating. Such reactions are natural, but if you think about it, normal people "revise" their abilities all the time. Skills you learn early in life are forgotten as new talents supplant them. For example, a foreign language mastered in high school might be virtually forgotten only a few years later from disuse. Likewise, a college student might change her major halfway through her junior year, or an unexpected job transfer or layoff could result in a new position in a totally different field, requiring quick mastery of new skills. Viewed from that perspective, allowing D&D characters similar opportunities to reinvent themselves seems perfectly reasonable.

Maybe your group already uses some form of character revision, such as a house rule, or even a reliance on ad hoc decision-making by the DM. If your method works for your group, don't let this chapter stop you from playing the game your way. However, if you're looking for a coherent system that balances fun and playability with story and believability, this chapter might be just what the healer ordered.

After your character goes through the retraining or rebuilding process, you might notice that he doesn't quite match the specs of a similar character built up to the same level by the normal method. Maybe his skill points don't add up quite right, or his hit points are off a bit from the expected value. But the small variations that crop up in this process don't significantly impact play balance, and writing rules to eliminate them would complicate the process without really improving the quality of your game.

So if you'd like to change some aspect of your character, give the character revision rules a try. You'll be happier with your character in the long run and, more important, you'll have more fun playing the game.

CLASS FEATURE RETRAINING

Some class features offer two or more different options, such as the choice of combat style a ranger must make at 2nd level. Class feature retraining allows you to swap out one such option for another. Maybe your ranger would prefer to be an archer instead of a melee fighter, or your cleric of Heironeous feels that the War domain would be a better option than the Law domain. The character remains basically the same, since his class levels haven't changed, but he's now highlighting a different aspect of his class.

The Process

Change one class feature option to another legal one. The new option must represent a choice that you could have made at the same level as you made the original choice. Also, the new choice can't make any of your later choices illegal -- though it might automatically change class features acquired later if they are based on the initial choice.

Class features from the Player's Handbook that are subject to change in this manner are given on Table 8-2. Chapter 2 of this book provides class feature options for a variety of additional classes.

Table 8-2: Class Feature Retraining Options

Class Option
Cleric* Choice of domains (each domain counts as a separate choice)
Neutral cleric Choice to turn or to rebuke undead (can be changed only if deity allows it)
Druid or ranger Choice of animal companion
Fighter, monk, or wizard Choice of bonus feat
Ranger Choice of combat style
Rogue Choice of special ability
Sorcerer or wizard Choice of familiar
Wizard** Choice of school specialization and prohibited schools

*A cleric's choice of deity can't be changed by class feature retraining. See the Divine Conversion sidebar for details on how to accomplish this change.

**School specialization and prohibited schools are treated as a single class feature. Thus, a character could change one, two, or even all three choices at the same time.

Example: Upon gaining a new level, a ranger could change the combat style class feature he gained at 2nd level from two-weapon fighting to archery. Thereafter, he would be treated as if he had the Rapid Shot feat instead of the Two-Weapon Fighting feat. If he had at least six levels of ranger before making this change, he would exchange both the Two-Weapon Fighting feat (gained at 2nd level) and the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat (gained at 6th level) for the appropriate archery feats, since both of these features are derived from the choice made at 2nd level. However, the ranger couldn't make this change if he had selected the Two- Weapon Defense feat in the interim, since losing Two-Weapon Fighting means he would no longer meet the prerequisites for that feat.

Example: Upon gaining a new level, a necromancer could change her school specialization to evocation, thus becoming an evoker. At the same time, she could also choose to change her prohibited schools from conjuration and illusion to abjuration and transmutation. Doing so would cause her to lose access to all spells from the newly designated prohibited schools. Even if her spellbook contains one or more such spells, she would lose the ability to prepare and cast them.

Example: Upon gaining a new level, a wizard could choose to specialize in the enchantment school, thereby becoming an enchanter. At the same time, she would have to select two prohibited schools, as normal for a specialist wizard.

Example: Upon gaining a new level, a conjurer could choose to become a wizard. By doing so, she would lose the benefits of specialization. But since she would also lose her prohibited schools, she could then learn spells from those schools as normal.

DIVINE CONVERSION

As noted in the Player's Handbook, a cleric who grossly violates the code of conduct imposed by his deity loses all spells and class features and cannot attain any more levels as a cleric of that deity. All these penalties remain in effect until he atones. But what if he doesn't want to atone? What if a cleric of Hextor finds new meaning and purpose in serving Heironeous after a dramatic conversion experience? Such a character need not become a multiclass ex-cleric of Hextor/cleric of Heironeous. Instead, Heironeous can simply reinstate the character's cleric powers once he has proven his loyalty, talent, and ability.

A cleric who changes his patron deity must complete a quest to prove his devotion to his new patron. The nature of the quest depends on the deity, and it always clearly reflects the deity's alignment as well as his or her goals and beliefs. To start the process, the cleric must voluntarily accept a geas/quest spell cast by a higher-level cleric of his new deity. During the quest, the cleric has no access to spells or cleric class features -- except his weapon and armor proficiencies, which he does not forfeit.

Upon completing the quest, the cleric receives the benefit of an atonement spell from a cleric of the new deity. The character then becomes a cleric of the new deity and is inducted into the clergy during an appropriate ceremony of the DM's choosing. After selecting two of the new deity's domains in lieu of his old ones, the character has all the powers and abilities of his previous cleric level, plus the granted powers of his new domains.

This method is the only one by which a cleric can change his deity. The retraining rules can't be used to accomplish this task -- it is simply too substantial a change in the character's identity (not to mention his source of power) to chalk up to a bit of practice in his off hours.

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