The Saving Throw
Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition ~ Player's Handbook 2 12.31.2009
Saving Throw's review of the Player's Handbook 2

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Player's Handbook 2
published by Wizards of the Coast reviewed by Martin Drury
224 pages, 2009, $34.95
Content 4
Organization 4
Consistency 4
Intelligibility 3.5
Review Scoring

   The Player's Handbook 2 is the first major addition of player content for Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition. The book adds five new races and twelve new Racial Paragon Paths. Of the new races, the gnome and half-orc will feel familiar to players of the previous edition, while the deva, goliath, and shifter will be new to most players. Players who had a soft spot for the previous incarnation of the gnome or half-orc are likely to be a bit annoyed that the two races were relegated to the second Player's Handbook. These five races, like the eight core races, fit into some interesting niches, such as the shifter with his ability to make minor changes to his body without being a lycanthrope. The twelve racial paragon paths cater to the new races and old races alike, allowing players to take advantage of certain types of racial builds that lean toward certain racial stereotypes.

Eight new classes are added in the book, four of which draw on the new Primal power source. Four classical classes, the barbarian, the bard, the druid and the sorceror also return via the Player's Handbook 2. Again, the omission of these classes from the core list for 4th Edition has frustrated many players, but the changes and time taken to flesh out the Primal power source make the classes feel fresh and unique. The other four classes, the Avenger, Invoker, Shaman and Warden also bring new and varied options for players.

Rounding out the book are a slew of new character options, including backgrounds, feats, gear, magic items, and rituals. Since the Player's Handbook 2 introduces the Primal power source, a large number of these new options cater to the classes that make use of that power source, with a good number of options for the other four classes and the classes introduced previous. Also, six pages of rule updates are provided, so that players and Game Masters alike can have a concise source for rules changes that happened after the printing of the first Player's Handbook.

While it does not contain as many races and classes as the first Player's Handbook, volume two does include several that are likely to draw players to it's pages. It might be slightly overpriced, but for players of the previous edition, especially those with a affinity for Barbarians, Bards, Druids or Sorcerors, the price will not be an issue.

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