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Powers, Implements, Feats ...
Countdown to Essentials
By Mike Mearls, Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Group Manager

As the release date for the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials products draws nearer, we’ve shown off a number of new features and options. This time, we look at some of the changes to the roleplaying game that the Essentials products bring to the table.

Implements

Going forward, the Dungeons & Dragons game will feature a system of proficiency with implements that works just like weapon proficiencies. If you are proficient with an implement, you can use it with any of your implement powers. It doesn’t matter where that power comes from—a paragon path, a different class, a new build, whatever—you can use any implement that you’re proficient with to use your power.

Previously, a power’s class determined the implements that could function with it. This change was made to make it easier to understand how implements interact with powers and to make multiclassing less arduous.

Powers

The Essentials products update a few powers. These updates fall into a few categories.

Rules Updates

If we planned on updating a power included in an Essentials product, we went ahead and printed the updated version in that product. For example, weapon of the gods had its keywords updated and its text clarified. Nimble climb explains its effect in a way that better interacts with the rules for climbing.

Wizard Encounter Spells

The wizard’s encounter spells can now include an effect on a miss. This change helps the wizard to better function as a controller. While some spells, notably burning hands, deal half damage on a miss, others provide for some sort of forced movement, condition, or other effect that deals no damage but harasses an enemy in some manner.

For example, charm of misplaced wrath now forces the target to make an attack on a hit or miss. The hit effect allows the wizard to slide the target and daze it.

Races

If you have looked at Player’s Handbook 3, you’ve seen a preview of how races change in the Essentials products. Each race now provides a +2 bonus to one specific ability and a +2 bonus to an ability chosen between two options. For example, dwarves now gain a +2 bonus to Constitution and a +2 bonus to either Strength or Wisdom.

We’ve made this change to make the races a little more flexible and give players stronger options when creating characters. It also better matches the Dungeons & Dragons world. Dwarves make good clerics and fighters. Elves excel at both archery and arcane magic.

Humans still gain a +2 bonus to one attribute, but they also have a new option for a racial power. If you’ve followed along with our previews, you’ve seen that some classes no longer utilize at-will attack powers. Human characters get the option to choose from either selecting an at-will attack power from their class (if the class and the type they choose have them) or taking a new power called heroic effort.

Heroic effort shows why you should never count a human out when the chips are down. It is an encounter power that grants a +4 bonus to an attack or saving throw. Best of all, you can use it after missing with an attack or failing a save to change the result.

Feats

The Essentials products roll out a new take on feats. Feats are arranged in categories. Each category embodies a concept, tactic, or some other unifying factor that ties together the feats within the category. For example, the Enduring Stamina category encompasses feats that make your character hardier and more resilient. A feat like Toughness gets slotted into that category.

The categories themselves have no mechanical effects. They serve to organize feats and make it easier to choose the best feat for your character.

The Essentials products no longer organize feats by tier. All of the feats in Heroes of the Fallen Lands, for example, are available at 1st level, provided that you meet any other prerequisites. The biggest effect of this is that some older feats have been surpassed in power by new ones. For example, you can now take feats that provide a bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, or Will defense in the heroic tier. Previously, such feats were reserved for paragon levels.

Whenever we introduced a new feat that makes an older one obsolete, we did so only because the feat was just as useful but no more powerful at lower levels. In some cases, such as feats that provide a bonus to defenses, the new versions provide a smaller benefit at low levels and scale up at the appropriate rate. In other cases, a feat was reserved for paragon tier but lacked any specific balance reason for that placement.

For example, Seize the Moment is a paragon tier feat that grants combat advantage to enemies with a lower initiative on the first round of combat. Aggressive Advantage grants that benefit against all enemies. Aggressive Advantage is clearly a better feat, but the benefit it provides scales perfectly with level. Nothing has changed at 11th level to make that benefit weaker. In this case, we’ve taken a useful feat and made it available earlier in a character’s career.

Finally, as you’ve seen in earlier previews, many classes in the Essentials products rely on basic attacks. The Melee Training feat allows a character to use any ability to modify such attacks. That feat has been updated so that it provides the new ability’s full bonus to attack rolls but only half to damage rolls. Melee Training offers its intended flexibility in creating characters without becoming a default choice.

For instance, a slayer who uses Melee Training to attack with Dexterity matches a Strength-based slayer in damage while gaining superior mobility by relying on light armor. A knight who opts to attack with Constitution gives up some damage but has more hit points and healing surges. Such characters are viable without becoming clearly better than ones without Melee Training, at the expense of using up a feat slot.

Magic Items and Equipment

Finally, there are a few changes to magic items and equipment. The big change makes it easier for Dungeon Masters to control access to magic items in the campaign. Do you like the idea of turning the players loose to buy any item in the game, or would you rather restrict access based on an item’s complexity and impact on the campaign? The new rules help you answer that question, and they demand an article of their own. Look for that preview coming up later this month.


About the Author

Mike Mearls is the Group Manager for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. His recent credits include Player’s Handbook 3, Hammerfast, and Monster Manual 3.