Let’s Get it On! An Ass-Kicking Review of ‘Martial Power’Written by Janna - Published on December 4, 2008
Martial Power is a crunchy sourcebook for PCs who like it rough. It has one purpose: to make martial characters Kick More Butt. Does it live up to its promise? Yes. Yes it does.
With 4e’s retraining system, this book is great for characters new and old. You don’t have to draw up a new PC just to try out the cool new exploits; just retrain your old PC at leveling time, and you’re good to go. (This was a smart decision by Wizards. Now everyone has a reason to buy the new sourcebooks as they come out.)
More builds, paths, exploits, feats
Martial Power leads us down the blood-soaked paths of the fighter, the ranger, the rogue, and the warlord. Each of these classes receives new builds, a dozen paragon path options, and a ton of exploits and feats. The book also introduces ten new epic destinies. Let’s break the book down into bite-sized pieces and explore it further.
With colorful exploits like ‘Knee Breaker’ and ‘Bell Ringer’, it’s immediately evident that fighters are meant to be brutal mofos. Martial Power doesn’t disappoint on that front; the new Tempest build excels at two-weapon melee combat. They receive bonuses when dual-wielding, plus more bonuses when wearing the right armor and using the right weapons. They also gain the Two-Weapon Defense bonus feat.
The Battlerager build gains temporary hit points whenever they get hit. When those hit points are present, the Battlerager does more damage as well – even more if he’s wielding specific types of weapons. And the new battleragers have a distinct advantage over their 2e and 3e ancestors: you won’t die or get fatigued when your temporary hit points are lost.
This chapter also introduces the ‘invigorating’ and ‘rattling’ keywords. The sidebars give a breakdown of fighters by race, and tell you how to cultivate the proper fighter ‘tude. A dozen paragon paths round out the fighter section. You’ll find race-specific options like the Tiefling Warfiend, Halfing Bounder, Inner Dragon, and Dwarven Defender. Some kick more butt than others, but they’re all interesting concepts well worth a read.
Rangers are the stars of Martial Power. Sure, they only get one new build, but calling the Beastmaster a mere build is like calling D&D a dice game. It might be technically accurate, but there’s a lot more to it.
So what makes the Beastmaster so eye-poppingly awesome? The unparalleled bond between man and beast. The Beastmaster’s animal companion is an extension of the ranger himself. He can command his companion, use it in combat, and even raise it from the dead. For every player who’s ever wanted a loyal animal companion, this build is the answer.
An entire host of exploits and feats are presented which center on the Beastmaster’s tag-team style of play. Some of them have funny names. (‘Boar Assault’ sounds downright illegal, and we won’t even touch ‘Ferret an Opening’.)The ranger sidebars discuss how to gain a beast companion, how to get inside a ranger’s head, and the pros and cons of melee and ranged builds.
Rangers get twelve new paragon paths to choose from, including two based on the Beastmaster’s choice of animal companion – the Pack Runner for those who favor wolves, and the Wildcat Stalker for those who prefer big cats.
Meet the Aerialist and the Cutthroat. One is a high-flying master of maneuvering, and the other oozes predatory menace. The Ruthless Ruffian rogue tactic is also introduced for those who prefer blunt force trauma.
Some rogue skills make use of the ‘rattling’ keyword. That is, the rogue is so intimidating that whenever they do damage to a foe, they also scare the crap out of that foe. The sidebar text in this section is sparse, but there are some suggestions for how to personalize the damage dealt by a sneak attack, as well as the relationship between rogues and the gods Sehanine and Avandra.
Twelve hugely diverse paragon paths complete the chapter. As with the other classes, some of these paths are better than others. There’s something for every style of play, though, from the uber-smooth Rakish Swashbuckler to the fatal Raven Herald.
The builds and exploits in Martial Power really bring the warlord class into its own. You can almost imagine these master tacticians whipping out a dry-erase board and drawing out their plan of attack. “You go here, you go there, I’ll do this, you rush in, and we’ll totally own them. Ready?? GO!”
Warlords get two new builds. The Bravura warlord goads his allies into making daring attacks. The Resourceful warlord is a deadly observer who finds the holes in his enemy’s strategy and then exploits them.
A plethora of new exploits enhance the warlord’s themes of tactical strikes and formations. The sidebar text is pretty interesting; it describes how a warlord actually heals their allies, and discusses the benefits of polearms and the ins and outs of warlord personalities. They, too, get a dozen paragon paths to choose from, including some that are specific to your build or alignment.
Martial Power is a hardcover sourcebook with 159 pages. I really wish that one of those pages contained an index. Also, the table of contents is very small. But those concerns pale in comparison to my geekish delight at the sheer number of exploits, paragon paths, feats, and epic destinies presented therein. Ten new destinies make an appearance, as do multi-class feats and feats specific to the drow and genasi races.
This hard-as-nails book contains very little fluff to get in the way of the rules mechanics. Most flavor text is neatly contained in sidebar entries, and the things they did include are actually worth reading.
I learned a valuable lesson from the artwork in Martial Power: No matter what class you are, no matter how many enemies you’re slaying, if you’re an eladrin or a drow, your hair will look absolutely perfect. (That’s a racial advantage I can live with!) All kidding aside, the artwork is pretty good. It fits in well with the look of the core rulebooks. The fighters look appropriately blood-thirsty, and the high-flying rogues appropriately defy the laws of physics. Some of the rangers take things a little too far by color-coordinating with their animal companions. The warlords are typically grizzled and appear to be strategizing. Nothing stands out as being particularly bad, and the art captures the butt-kicking spirit of the book.
Martial Power retails for $29.95, and it’s well worth the cost. There is plenty of useful material here to kick-start a campaign or make existing characters more deadly. I highly recommend it.
What did you think about Martial Power? Was it worth the cost? Did you think the Beastmaster was as cool as I did? I’d love to see your comments!