If there was one company that could make the board game heavy /RPG-lite role playing system 4th edition playable, it would have to be a long established company with a history of producing products for Dungeons and Dragons that went against the grain of marketing gimmicks.
And thus finally after Wizards of the Coast solved their original Licensing gaffu, Goodman Games produces Forgotten Heroes: Fang, Fist and Song. Having finally read the complete book and playtesting it at the 2008 Gencon, Forgotten Heroes gives 4th edition the Dungeons and Dragons makeover it so heavily needed by bringing back classic archetypes such as the bard, barbarian, the monk and the druid.
It was one of those cases of not missing something until it is gone. 4th editions urge to make a new hotness system deleted the four staples of RPGs and replaced with the likes of warlords and warlocks. The Iconic warrior barbarians, charismatic bards, disciplined monks and nature druids were left to be used as marketing tools for buying more books.
If the current line of accessories are any indication, its doubtful that WOTC will be able to reproduce the creativity and strength of the classes in Forgotten Heroes. At 90 pages, it is obviously not a simple collection of 3 new classes. Instead Forgotten Heroes takes aim at putting 4th edition into a traditional fantasy setting, introducing an optional campaign setting that DMs can use to segway their players into a traditional RPG Setting. The setting revolves around a great apocalypse that presumably destroys the current setting.
After the world is set, each of the three classes is given an in depth treatment. Described in great detail is the class’s power source, and reason for its role. The description scripts how the class plays a role in the world and thankfully does not treat the reader as inept. Nowhere will you read “Play a Barbarian if you like to say “Ugh” a lot and scream.” Instead the writing is creatively tight and speaks to any fan of role playing games. At no time is Forgotten Heroes ashamed of being a role playing game. The entries show a refreshing contrast to the 4th edition classes, often giving various suggestions on ways of play and using the abilities to role-play the class.
The Barbarian class is a powerful brute whose embrace of nature has fueled his warrior prowess. He calls on totems to fuel his powers and his rage. He has two Paragon paths, the Berzerker, whom has increased Rage abilities and the Mundane, whom gains anti magical abilities with his hatred of magic.
The Bard is back in all his musical glory and is one of the best designed bards I have seen. What is unique about the Forgotten Heroes bard is how its power effects change depending on what type of instrument or voice is used. The book has two ways you can build the bard, either swashbuckling or Euphonious. The bard is still equipped with his bardic knowledge and a slew of bardic songs. It is by far the most creative of the classes and will make new fans of the Bard once again. He has two paragons, the song weaver who has increased musical powers and the loremaster, who has a compelling understanding of things.
The Druid can be built with either strong elemental powers or strong environmental powers. Druids attach fetishes to weapons and armor to boost their powers. It has a wide array of spells that effect several different forms of nature. Its Paragons includes the Shapeshifter, who has more mastery over wildshape abilities or the Purifier, who uses its magic to cleanse nature.
Finally, the Monk, is still created as the fighting monk, and, though written fairly faithfully to its traditional Dungeons and Dragons archetype, may disappoint fans who were hoping for at least the option of a more peaceful variation. His two build variations , the grappler and the kickboxer, are both strong, but not as distinctly different from one another as the previous classes. The monk uses a variety of fighting styles and postures that a lot of character to the class.
For the Player
If you have been forced to play in a 4th edition game because you were voted out, beg your DM to let you play the Bard or the Monk from Forgotten Heroes. While the other players are doing tide of irons and tornado blow me down punches, your characters will stand out with its role playing infused actions such as singing anthems that deal psychic damage or breaking a chair over someone’s head with a unique fighting style.
For the Dungeon Master
If you have been holding off from switching to 4th edition despite the constant badgering of your players, this is the book for your game. Forgotten Heroes is the traditional game you want to play with the compromise of using a system designed for tactical board games. It does not fix every problem with 4th edition, but its strong world history provides enough inspiration to build off of.
The Iron Word
Forgotten Heroes is a nice compromise of traditional Dungeons and Dragons with 4th editions shenanigans. Each of the classes promotes the battle and RPG strengths of the class.
If this is an indication of future supplements, which I think it is, 4th edition will have enough 3rd party material to provide a thorough traditional fantasy setting by June 2009. This book actually made me want to play 4th edition again, and considering how awful an Dungeons and Dragons edition it is, that is saying a lot. I do wish the world was more fleshed out and hope to hear more about it in future supplements. Still another masterpiece by Goodman Games.