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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Feb 24, 2012

Review – Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (Tabletop)

One of the best things about the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG is the vast amount of imagination that can be added into the game with each session. Though the Player’s Handbook offers up plenty of options for player character creation, with the introduction of D&D 4th Edition there have been releases of new books called “Player’s Options” that supplement the game in many ways. The latest in the set, Heroes of the Elemental Chaos, takes the game to a whole new level by letting players create elemental-themed characters that wield tons of power in their hands. I was able to grab one of these new supplements and thought we should take a look at it. So, without further delay, let’s get to the review!

What is it?

The Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Player’s Option follows the story of a vast reservoir of magical power that’s said to be hidden amongst the depths of the Elemental Chaos. The idea is that Elemental power has shot up through the Plane Below, spilling out into the world at large. Due to this, creatures and beings are becoming infused with tons of energy, making way for characters to gain powerful new abilities.

The book shares the lore of Elemental magic, including where it came from and how it came to to the Plane. It explores the basic elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, and shares some ways that each power can exist in its different forms. Whether it be in Primordial Cults, Elemental Beings, or Residual Energy, Elemental magic has much influence over the world at large. You’ll also learn about different cities in the Elemental Realms, as well as some races of beings in the world who are considered “Elemental-Touched.” It even gives players some examples on how their characters can come by Elemental power, offering up a beginning idea for a back story for your own characters. Finally, you can choose from a selection of Primordials, which serve as deities that players can choose for their characters to follow throughout the game, really bringing your creation full-circle.

What are the new features?

Using the Heroes of the Elemental Chaos supplement, players can choose from themes that will help them on their way to create an Elemental of their own. You can choose from Demon Spawn, Earthforger, Firecrafter, Watershaper, and more. Using these themes, you can work in a story that will help build your character from the ground up. Looking through the themes, they each list Daily Powers, origin, and additional features that players get.

Up next after themes, the classes are laid out, explaining just how each one comes to gain their Elemental powers. For instance, Druids find power through primal forces, where Warlocks gain abilities by making pacts and deals with ancient Primordials. These listings are for players who already want to have a classic class chosen for their character, but also want to add a supplement to their creation. Each class gains new abilities, spells, and powers as they tap into their Elemental precision.

One of the coolest new features of Heroes of the Elemental Chaos are the Paragon Paths. There are ten new Paths available in the supplement, ranging from Doomlord to Favored Sha’ir. Each Path adds new abilities at certain levels, as well as bonus strengths.

A new list of feats shows in the book, each adding to the Elemental background. Some examples are Born of the Elements, which happens to be a favorite of mine, especially if you are rolling a full Elemental character from scratch. The Feat grants a +2 benefit to Endurance and Intimidate, and you gain a Primordial language. Each Feat has a set of prerequisites that must be met, which are all outlined carefully.

Another great addition in the book allows players to summon Elemental Companions. These great creatures are shaped from Elemental substances and formed into the champions they become. They work much in the same way that Arcane Familiars do. They lack the means to protect themselves and they fight on the player’s behalf. In order to pick up a companion, one must choose a Feat that allows them the ability. Much like summons in popular PC MMOs, companions have different modes they act in, such as Active and Passive. Players need to remember what mode their helpers are in, because it could add potential threat to exploring and combat. When in Passive mode, the companion is merged with the character’s body, making it bound. They are shown by many ways, either a fiery ring around the character’s irises, or a glowing set of runes on the character’s clothing. Active mode on the other hand has the companion manifesting into a physical form. When in this mode the companion is considered a creature and it cannot exist more than 20 squares away from the player at all times. You can choose the characteristics of the companion, abiding by the rules listed in the book. This is a great option for players who want a little extra help, but don’t want to completely change their class.

One of the last features of the book explains the Elemental Rewards. Since there is such an overflow of Elemental Energy from the Plane Below, it’s become infused with relics and items in the world. These items lay scattered about the Plane, each with its own powers, waiting for players to wield them. The book offers up different armor sets, weapons, implements, Primordial Shards, and Elemental Gifts. These items can grant players Daily Powers, stat bonuses, and much more. The best thing? They are all appropriate for any campaign.

Is it easy to use?

The new Heroes of the Elemental Chaos supplement is really easy to jump into. Any player can pick up the book and add flair to their character in an instant. Players only need to follow the laid out guide in the book and start building an Elemental force in no time. Each Feat is explained, every character class is detailed, and each new ability is explored. You can check out the highlighted cities and themes to help build a great back story. That’s the one thing I really enjoy with the supplement – it’s really easy to create a character that has everything you need. You can really use your imagination to create something you’ll love to play.

New Fortune Cards?

The Heroes of the Elemental Chaos supplement also comes with a new set of Fortune Cards that can be used to add a new level of chance to every encounter. Each card has a different ability or event that will help you gain an edge in battle. Themed for the supplement, these cards are known as the Spiral of Tharizdun set. Players will build decks by purchasing these cards in booster sets, and using them is easy. At the start of each encounter players will shuffle their deck and draw a single card. You can play only one card per round, and it requires no action to play. The rules on each card state when you can play it and what effect it has. A card takes effect just once unless it states otherwise, and you discard the card when its effect ends. Players can only have one card in their hand at a time, and when you can no longer draw from your deck you may reshuffle it. Of course, the Dungeon Master will have to allow the use of the cards per each game, because no one wants a player to have an unfair advantage over others. Here are a couple of examples of the cards in the new set:

The Bottom Line

When it gets down to the game, the new Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Player’s Option really gives players the means to own an edge in combat. For me, it’s a perfect option to command vast power and make your characters seem like sages of a long lost energy. There’s something about being able to create a half-orc Primordial Adept that can summon a frozen river to trap my enemies that makes me all giddy inside. You can pick up the supplement for $35, and that’s not bad considering what it helps offer players in the end. Add this to the new Spiral of Tharizdun Fortune Cards and you can take out any Gnoll or Beholder in your path. I recommend you pick this up if you’re looking to add a spark to your encounters and meeting each week.

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