Expansion Pack Pasts: A Guide to Themes

202 posts / 0 new
Last post
Expansion Pack Pasts: A Guide to Themes

Ninja, Miner, Mercenary, Biker, Nobleman's Son, Samurai...yup, this one's truly milking themes for all they're worth!


Themes are perhaps the most interesting element of Fourth Edition introduced after the boards switched from 3.X to the new, more streamlined edition. In response to complains about a dearth of options at first level, some enterprising developer came up with a brilliant idea: what if you could get some extra, inconsequentially small bonuses for your character's backstory, plus an encounter power of some sort so you'd have more to do at level 1 beyond using your first encounter power and spamming that Cleave/Twin Strike/Magic Missile? Debuting in the Dark Sun Campaign Settings, themes have become a mainstay of CharOp, being highly regarded by both optimizers (for their free power) and roleplayers (for their flavor) alike. Here, I will present an up-to-date compendium of theme options, and discuss their pros and cons in fair detail, so you may make an informed decision. If you dare dive into this handbook's depths, be prepared, though: from this point onward, sanity will take a break, and we will address Themes as a power-hungry munchkin would. Hope you enjoy the ride.

---

So, imagine you're a veteran D&D player. You've gone through dozens of campaigns, played with multiple DMs, and maybe even ran some adventures yourself when your dungeon master needed a break from the controls for a while. Whipping up sheets is old hat to you, and you can conjure a five-page, compelling backstory like a magician can whip up cards hidden in his sleeve. You've sat down to put the finishing touches to your latest character, and you've just finished doing items, feats, and powers. What comes next, then?

Why, adding inane and out of place elements to your backstory, of course. You just can't pass up those juicy bonuses, and hey, if you have to be a nobleman who escaped a fiendish cult and joined the circus, so be it. All for that extra edge! Now, let's go over what bits of backstory you should consider adding first!

---

Rating System:

It just isn't the same, bragging about your super-tuned character on an internet forum if you don't have the official, perfectly correct ratings straight from the mouth of god me to boast about picking all great choices. Let's see those ratings.

Red is a terrible, horrible, no good choice. Don't pick this ever. Resist the fluffy siren wails of these choices!
Purple is very, very situational, or mostly outclassed. It might have its uses, but if it does nobody's found them.
Black is a baseline effect. Solid, dependable, and BO-RING. Yawn.
Blue is effective, though perhaps not the cream of the crop. You won't regret picking it up, but there's got to be something better out there.
Sky Blue is what I'm talking about! This is an excellent choice, and you can't go wrong with it.
Gold is a beautiful, superlative choice. If you pass this up, your spouse will leave you, your car will break down, and we will all laugh at you. You have been warned!

Green means you should ask the Eight-Ball again later, as the reply's hazy. It applies to hard to gauge abilities, often out-of-combat ones.


Book Acronym List:

PHB - Player's Handbook
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DA XX - Dragon Annual, year XX
DSCS - Dark Sun Campaign Setting
NWCS - Neverwinter Campaign Setting


Special Thanks to:

Lord_Ventnor for the original theme handbook.
Lordduskblade for the standard 4th ed. handbook format.
Nausicaa for improving upon the format by adding the unranked color to it.
Everybody who contributes to improving perfection (that is, this guide).
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).

Dragon Themes: Supplemental Expanded Pasts



Dragon 399 is the codifier for all the themes that have come after it (a grand total of fourteen. Amazing, huh?). Since these are themes that are widely available in all settings, it would be wise to see what can be poached from them before moving to location-specific themes. Additionally, there is one (1) further theme in Dragon 400, which is rather fleshed out and has its own subsection.

Heroes of Nature and Lore
Alchemist
Overview: If you're looking for ways to use consumables, particularly alchemical items without wanting to kill yourself for wasting gold on something so terrible, look no further than this theme. It offers a 'power' that is easy to reuse, scales without much investment (so anybody can use it, even if it will often not be as accurate as your main class powers), and most importantly, is adaptable. The level 5 feature is pretty terrible, but you're not in it for features with themes, and the level 10 feature is terrific!

Starting Feature: Get a free feat and free loot. It satisfies the inner doorkicker, but it's not that impressive.

Level 5 Feature: An extra formula is nothing mindblowing, but at least it can see some use. It could be worse, I suppose.

Level 10 Feature: Free AB boost for something that will need it. How can you say no?

Utility Powers: Aqua Regia and Alchemist's Escape are terrible and should be avoided. Goblin Oil provides a little bit of extra control and a neat way to obtain a vulnerability that is usually hard to get for most classes. Passable, though not great.



Animal Master
Overview: This ain't The MMO That Shall Not Be Named, sonny. Beastmasters can't really hold their own in a world as wild as this one. It is quite flavorful, but absolutely not worth picking up unless you're the kind of player who can make a Hat of Disguise win a fight more easily than a full complement of daily powers, particularly because until Level 5, a big enough AoE attack renders the whole theme null and void. If you absolutely must pick this theme up, get a hawk. It will stay more safe than landbound critters and the perception bonus is pretty huge.

Starting Feature: There's got to be better uses of your minor action than CA against one enemy. This is one sorry excuse for a power.

Level 5 Feature: Big AoEs now only render the theme null and void for one day instead of until you level! Yay (it still sucks)!

Level 10 Feature: How many times have you had to perform intimidatomancy on a beast? Yeah, I thought so.

Utility Powers: Timely Trick is this theme's sole saving grace, and what I was talking about when I mentioned Hat-of-Disguise-like utility, though lesser. The other two powers are so bad as to not even be worth mentioning by name.



Order Adept
Overview: Perhaps the single theme that lives by its features and not powers. A +2 bonus to Will is great, and getting access to Wizard utilities is all sorts of cool, too. Not really a choice for those who want POWER! MORE POWER!, but good if you want to broaden your options a little.

Starting Feature: A minion popper. Deploy only when strictly necessary.

Level 5 Feature: Choosing wizard utilities if you don't belong to the class? Yummy! For more info on recommended choices, head over to Nausicaa's Wizard Handbook, which does a very good job of covering the choices this baby opens up.

Level 10 Feature: Nice bonus to Arcana, but the Will boost being a Power boost hurts it. Still decent though.

Utility Powers: Friends don't let friends take Extension and Far Reaching. Mnemonic Enhancer can be awesome, but only for certain builds.


Wizard's Apprentice
Overview: None of the parts that make up this Theme are truly impressive (and one of them is outright bad), but none of them are really bad outright, except the usual suspects, AKA the utilities. Not a prime pick, but at least you're not gimping yourself horribly here.

Starting Feature: This starts out being pretty cool and then rapidly loses its luster as you gain access to REAL control. Still, it never hurts to pack some extra control that is likely to hit, does it?

Level 5 Feature: Oh man, a free magic item? That sounds terrific! ...Except it doesn't scale, which makes it garbage after five levels, though It melts faces in the level 5 to 9 range. No free loot for anyone who isn't an alchemist or Harper Agent, I suppose.

Level 10 Feature: One of the most boring features ever. It technically helps with about four or five skills through creative use of Skill Power, but that doesn't make it that great anyway.

Utility Powers: All of them are gimps except maybe Minor Polymorph, but since true shapeshifting themes exist I can't truly sing its praises.
[/sblock]

Heroes of Tome and Temple
Ordained Priest
Overview: The only thing that saves this theme is its opening power. The rest is all garbage. Avoid it if possible.

Starting Feature: Take Shining Symbol if at all possible. Mass debuffing beats making one ally deflect attacks better, for the simple reason that AoE makes Smiting Symbol cry. Assuming you can do that, this is a pretty cool opening feature that wipes minions and keeps the party safe.

Level 5 Feature: No bonus to something that isn't a skill, no sale. Religion is useful for you, but this will probably only help take it from horrible to mediocre because usually the stats of divine characters don't line up with it.

Level 10 Feature: Gives everybody Human Perseverance for free, at the low, low price of terrible positioning! Yeah, no, pass.

Utility Powers: These powers COULD have been good...and then somebody went and added horrible caveats to them. Don't pick any of them up.


Scholar
Overview: The starting feature can be powerful, but the rest is heavily campaign dependent. Don't pick this unless you can think of smart ways to use knowing all the languages out there.

Starting Feature: Can backfire on you, but when it works it provides a big buff against that target. It's serviceable, I s'pose.

Level 5 Feature: A free feat and a language. Could be worse

Level 10 Feature: Needs tricky optimization to make it work, but it has its uses. Interesting feature

Utility Powers: Nichey, too short-ranged, nichey. That's the size of it.


Seer
Overview: This path would have been rated higher had NCS not come out with a theme that kicks its hinny so hard it kisses the moon. If you can roll the bones pre-encounter start, foreknowledge can be very powerful. Otherwise, don't even bother, the rest is mostly horrible.

Starting Feature: Pull this off before combat starts and it's gold. Pull it off in combat and you're dead because you wasted a valuable action as a leader or controller.

Level 5 Feature: Two decent skills. Not a huge fan of skill boosts, but they're both usable.

Level 10 Feature: This can actually be pretty decent, since rerolls are great for preventing ambushes. Color me surprised!

Utility Powers: Maaaaaaaybe give the level 6 a look. Steer well clear of the rest.


Heroes of Virtue
Chevalier
Overview: Amusingly enough, this theme is nice for...blackguards, of all people. Not great, mind you, but you won't kick yourself for deciding you wanted to be the knight of Horseland before you fell.

Starting Feature: Solid CC on a charge, which is nice, and a meaty bonus to handling things with your mount. Could be much worse.

Level 5 Feature: Two alright skills get boosts. Yawn.

Level 10 Feature: Free Human Perseverance, no strings attached. Not bad!

Utility Powers: Indefatigable is sort of useful. The other two, not so much.


Guardian
Overview: Are you a melee weapon striker, a defender, or a particularly tough leader? Then you probably want this theme. Being the last scion of an agent order translates into huuuuuuuuuugely awesome powers of defending apparently. Must be the Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu at work!

Starting Feature: A free save for an ally, repositioning for you, and a free attack, too. It also lets an ally proc defender marks or catch-22s on top. This is all that and a bag of chips, bay-bee.

Level 5 Feature: Take a wild guess about what I have to say about this feature. Since one of the skills is Perception though, it gets a rating bump from situational to solid.

Level 10 Feature: Look at the fluff text, specifically the line "You might be partnered with a wizard or a cleric, sworn to accompany your charge on his or her travels and guard him or her with your very life.". What this means is that when the squishiest member of your party gets attacked, not only do you get to slap the offending enemy silly, but the can of whoop-ass you unleash will be even deadlier than usual. Incredible!

Utility Powers: Terrible as usual, but who cares, you get TWO amazing features when other themes would kill for just one!


Knight Hospitaler
Overview: What a path, ladies and gentlemen. You get not one, but two doses of surgeless healing per encounter and they come with an attack bonus buff on top just 'cause. Oh, and you have an utility power that isn't totally terrible. Ain't life grand?

Starting Feature: Use this on an ally who is knocked out, watch as he bounces right back up and gives the offending enemy a fierce reply come his turn. Oh, and you can defend/strike/control even better for it.

Level 5 Feature: A purely fluffy bonus? In my powerful-ass background?

Level 10 Feature: See the starting feature? Yeah, now imagine doing that again every encounter. 'Nuff said.

Utility Powers: Fight On, Friend gives an ally a TON of surgeless healing if they're bloodied or KO'd and shakes off hard control, so it's actually a worthwhile pickup. Don't bother with the other two.


Noble
Overview: It's intended to be a leadery path, but a certain NCS path does it better. And no, I'm not talking about Human Noble here. Also, the trap feature hurts it.

Starting Feature: A defensive boost and some repositioning. Hey, it IS free, sort of...

Level 5 Feature: Trap feature because it doesn't scale, Though it rocks around the time you get it. What a pity.

Level 10 Feature: Two good boosts makes this OKish. It could be worse, I guess?

Utility Powers: Were you expecting decent utilities? Oh, you silly goose.


Heroes for Hire
Explorer
Overview: Garbage. You couldn't make a more situational path if you tried. Skip it, please.

Starting Feature: Whoopdee-freakin'-doo, a small bonus when you put yourself in a bad position. Who thought this was a good idea?

Level 5 Feature: Say it with me: No bonus to something that isn't fluff, no sale!

Level 10 Feature: Small bonus is small. Ugh.

Utility Powers: Worthless to the last power. Stag's Bound is weak compared to real repositioning powers, and the less we say about Eagle Eye and Lynx's Reflexes the better.


Guttersnipe
Overview: A solid opening move, semi-decent features (but only semi), and a neat lowbie utility. Usable, at least, which is a big upgrade from the Explorer.

Starting Feature: If you're one of those characters who likes expending every action he has on a big turn 1 nova, this can help you close the distance without missing out on an attack, and it slows to boot. Not bad!

Level 5 Feature: No great shakes, but hey, you don't say no to extra $$$$.

Level 10 Feature: Huge bonus to Streetwise, which isn't THAT rare a skill in skill challenges. You can work with this.

Utility Powers: Infuriating Taunt is both comedy gold and a nice debuff to keep enemies missing, and it lasts a loooong time. The other two aren't quite so great.

 
Mercenary
Overview: An alright theme. Takedown Strike has its uses, and the other two features are serviceable. The powers are amazingly bad, though.

Starting Feature: Can be nifty for defending, or for adding some extra control on that daze. It's OK, nothing bad.

Level 5 Feature: Not the best skills to get a bonus on. Better than nothing though.

Level 10 Feature: 50% of the time, you're 5% harder to hit, just when you need it. Nifty.

Utility Powers: Sellsword's Ploy is in the running for worst power ever, with luminaries such as Loyal Squadron and Godstrike. That isn't good company to be in, and the other powers aren't much better, either.


Outlaw
Overview: It's a pity the features suck, because the theme power is really solid. A sad casualty of conservative game design. You'll be mourned, outlaw.

Starting Feature: Dazing Twin Strike? Dazing Sly Flourish? Dazing charges? Where do I sign up?

Level 5 Feature: Ugh, "situational" doesn't begin to describe this. It's a wasted slot 90% of the time except in themed campaigns!

Level 10 Feature: Once more, with feeling! Get more than minor skill bonuses, or get out!

Utility Powers: Don't get Dragon Theme utilities. Advice from a friend here.


Iron Wolf Warrior
Overview: A debuff on charges works for a bunch of people, some features with niche uses...and some really scary powers (no, that wasn't an indication of their quality, just emphasis. They kick ass). It requires some hoop-jumping to exploit to its fullest potential, but boy does it get good when you do. For more info, see this thread.

Starting Feature: Debuff everybody whom you're not killing. That doesn't sound like a bad plan, eh? Pity that second attack is an automatic miss due to lacking keywords. Still, damage is damage.

Level 5 Feature: Skill boost. Nuff said.

Level 10 Feature: A mini-Ferocity, like the minotaur racial. You don't want to use this unless you're a revenant or using some trick to do sub-zero fighting, but if you get knocked down an extra swing is nice. If you ARE a sub-zero fighter,  this is a hella awesome feature.

Utility Powers: Savage Tenacity gives you free attack buffing on a trigger likely to happen. Pass on the rest.

Encounter Powers: You need some sort of AoE to apply them to, but the Wolf's Bound powers can function as multiattacks. Need I say more?
[/sblock]

Born from Shadow
Student of Evard
Overview: Garbage. Sacrificing health for damage didn't work for the shadow warlock or anybody else except for the hellock. It doesn't work for themes either.

Starting Feature: Piddly extra damage and you deal more damage to yourself, relatively speaking. Monsters just plain have way more HP to throw around than you do - don't make their job that much easier.

Level 5 Feature: This one merits it: No bonus to something that isn't a skill or ritual, no sale.

Level 10 Feature: Mildly serviceable, but STILL no excuse to pick the theme up.

Utility Powers: Don't even think about it. Just...don't.


Gloomwrought Emissary
Overview: This theme has got to be the most solid and even one in the whole game. There's nothing exceedingly powerful about it, but nothing terrible either. Every feature is at least decent, and even the powers have some use! An alright pick, nothing to feel bad about like the Student of Evard.

Starting Feature: Debuffing AND repositioning on an easy trigger. Nifty.

Level 5 Feature: Usually I scoff at skill bonuses, but Diplomacy is one of the Golden Skills you want to buy into, and streetwise sees lots of skill challenge play. Not breathtaking, but for a change the bonuses are useful.

Level 10 Feature: Once per day, reroll a skill challenge roll. Could be much worse, even if it isn't particularly combat-worthy.

Utility Powers: Jibber Feint is kind of bad, but the other two are good. Auto-succeeding at a diplomacy or intimidate check and halving all damage for a little time while gaining flight is pretty cash.


Fatedancer
Overview: The only reason this theme is listed green is because not many people play D&D TCG. It's deliriously overpowered if you play with cards though. Every single piece of it is good or better!

Starting Feature: Broken good with a decent deck. Can be way more powerful than even Guardian, to give you an idea.

Level 5 Feature: An anti-surprise feature is nichey, but solid. Even the skill bonuses don't suck here!

Level 10 Feature: Get a crack at the cards you need, when you need them. Excellent.

Utility Powers: Unbelievable...every last power is solid here. Seize Fate in particular is downright brutal, given it lets you cycle through your deck and get to the good stuff ASAP. Truly, this is a sign of how hard someone was trying to sell the fortune cards to the world.


Escaped Slave
Overview: A pretty cool theme. A weird entry power (but in a good way), a nice feat, and an 'OK' PP, plus one or two great powers. Not a bad choice by any means, but remember that it comes down to your ability to sell the entry power to get this theme to give you all it can give.

Starting Feature: Eyebite's effect as a free action is cool, but the selling point is the bluff, which can make the attack act as a dominate or do nothing. It really runs the gamut there - the better you are at convincing your GM to play ball the more and more awesome this power becomes.

Powers: Who is Master Now is quite nice, and Wary Defense can allow for all sorts of wonderful shenanigans as your enemies are forced to pay a huge price to smack you. The rest ain't all that good.

Paragon Path: Usable, but no great shakes. Gets better if your GM loves Soldiers and you play a defendery Leader, but still not a top pick.

Utility Powers: Slave To None is a great way to become just a little more resistant to one of the nastiest status effects in the game (plus slows and immobilizes). Pass on the rest.


Neverwinter Redeemers
Son of Alagondar
Overview: This theme merges some of the best portions of Mercenary and Neverwinter Noble into one, then tacks another nice feature on top, making it a powerhouse pick. Can't go wrong with it.

Starting Feature: Takedown Strike, minus the slide and with a small caveat, and a power bonus whenever you flank. Terrific!

Level 5 Feature: Small bonus, but for the right characters it can come in very handy and it has no limitations.

Level 10 Feature: A nice amount of THP, right when you need it. There's never a time when a defensive buffer doesn't come in handy, especially one that scales respectably with levels.

Utility Powers: Size 'Em Up is like a Foe Stone but better, and being such a low-level power it's definitely worth looking at. Pass on the other two.


Seeker of Illefarn
Overview: This theme looks really cool on paper...but in practice it doesn't really work out. Its starting feature kicks in only once in a blue moon, and the other pieces don't pick up the slack. A pity really, but it's just too situational to pull its weight.

Starting Feature: Rerolling automatic misses is awesome, but how many times are you going to get the reroll when it matters? Sure, bombing an at-will attack kinda sucks, but compare this to using the Harper Agent's pin to secure a hit on a daily and it's easy to see what the problem is. Not having control over when this feature kicks in nerfs it big time.

Level 5 Feature: Bonuses to Perception are always nice, even if they're power bonuses. Nothing more to say about it!

Level 10 Feature: Avoiding surprise and getting a free buff to defenses on the round where the enemy team is at full power is neat. Pretty decent feature, I've got to admit.

Utility Powers: Wild Guidance and Hunter's Focus are damn nice. Springheel is god-awful.

Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).

Dark Sun Themes: Age of Post-Apocalyptic Pasts



These themes will use a slightly different rating block from previous ones. Powers will be rated in bulk, alongside a starting feature, feats, and paragon paths. Feats and the starting feature influence the rating most deeply, though some paths and powers can boost it in a pinch.

Athasian Minstrel
Overview: Focused on poisons, the Minstrel doesn't really impress me. There's too much freedom given to Team Monster for too little payoff. Cool, so the monster took the gamble with your power...and he just gets doubly debuffed against mobility? Pfffffffffffft. What a ripoff. Not HORRIBLE, but not great either.

Starting Feature: Piddly damage, and if the target disobeys, proned. It's...workable, but there's too much wiggle room for a feature that doesn't scale at all with levels.

Powers: Fever Poison has interesting tradeoffs for the monster because it eats up its turn if it moves without charging, basically a super lite stun. The rest? Don't even bother.

Feats: Stinging Poison has its uses in CClock setups, facilitating them a little. The other two feats are horrible though.

PPs: Arms-Trobadour is a skill-centered PP with bad powers, and consequently worthless. Unwelcome Guest ain't much better, as poisons are a bad niche to spec in.


Dune Trader
Overview: Gosh, it's been so long since I've been able to rate a theme as being unconditionally good, but the time has come and that is what the Trader is: powerful, versatile, and nifty. It has a good opening power, an alright set of powers, serviceable PPs, and even passable feats. Nothing (with one exception) is an eye-popper, but you can't go wrong with this theme. Its power far exceeds the usual bottom-feeders, that's for sure!

Starting Feature: Bail yourself out of a jam, or get your team into position. For a freebie power, this is amazing, particularly since certain leaders cannot afford to invest into mobility powers. It being a standard action hurts of course, but nobody's perfect.

Powers: The dailies are garbage and the same goes for the utilities...but hot damn, Sly Gambit is one sexy beast. It might as well read "the target is stunned, or dies, its choice" against certain monsters. Additionally, it has TONS of combo synergy, because you can use dominates to squeeze extra shots out of it, among other fun ideas. Suffice is to say that I'd consider picking this up on every Leader, from a Sentinel to a Warlord, and wouldn't regret it all because it forces a lose-lose scenario for a large batch of monsters (and when you're about to get pulverized the other option can be helpful too. Extra bonus!).

Feats: Eh. They're alright, particularly Quick Defense, which turns Quick Formation into a mobility and defense power all in one, but nothing to get excited about. That's for other themes.

PPs: Nothing amazing, but at least they're usable. Caravan Master is kinda bad, and Shady Dealer has crap features but alright powers. Look elsewhere for PPs unless they're the only sources of enabling you can get.


Elemental Priest
Overview: Really cool path. A nice opening power, an excellent pair of powers afterward, and the PPs have a couple nifty surprises. You can't go wrong with this path if you're a leader, even though there's tough competition elsewhere.

Starting Feature: Free bonus to defenses if properly placed, and a potential debuff too. What's not to like?

Powers: If the extra dice from Vengeful Elementals stack if you have more than one elemental beside you, that power is so kickass it defies categorization. It's got a bunch of nice utilities and a screwy power that gets better as you level, but only by making you want to miss with it a lot. Mostly though it's all about the vengeful elementals, which are absolutely ridiculous at low levels and pretty nice at higher ones, even if the extra dice don't stack.

Feats: Ehh. Not terrible, but not incredible either...except for Warding Elemental. Excuse me while I pick up my jaw from the floor at granting potentially encounter-long Resist 5 for the low, low price of a feat and a minor action. Damn!

PPs: Rainbringer makes your whole party become vampires that don't suck outside of battle, massively increasing surge efficiency, adding a truckload of free temp HP with your heals, and, if I'm reading the daily right, giving you what is basically both Consecrated Ground pre-nerf AND free multiattacks with a single power. Terrific! Pretend Smoking Crown Initiate doesn't exist while you're at it, it's nowhere near Rainbringer's tier.


Gladiator
Overview: This path is a gamble. The powers suck, the feature sucks, one of the PPs sucks...so what's interesting about it? Three words: Keep. Them. Close. Automatic slowing, and potentially proning, for every marked enemy is just cash. On top of that, Gladiator Champion has a very interesting feature that blocks any form of shifting that lets an enemy withdraw, which has the potential for some truly nefarious setups where the enemy has to stay with you or suffer a barrage of OAs trying to escape. Overall though, it's all about that feat. Take this if you know you'll be able to make use of it, or are interested in Gladiator Champion. Otherwise, pass.

Starting Feature: A little control and some battlefield repositioning. Alright, but no eyebrow raiser.

Powers: Bloody Blades is...usable. The rest, though? No way.

Feats: You're here for that feat and if you don't take it, the universe will drop a ten-ton-anvil on your head. Any questions?

PPs: Jazst Dancer's existence should be ignored. Gladiator Champion is serviceable and has a kickass L16 feature that makes it usable, as well as alright powers.


Noble Adept
Overview: You could call this the Black Lotus of the Themes, if you're into Magic: The Gathering. It works on every dec- errrrrr, character, it empowers it, and it was even super dominant at one point in time because no other theme compared. Today, it has more competition, but it's still great...and damn near an autopick for Ardents and Psions. Battleminds struggle about the decision of taking this or Guardian. If you're unsure about what theme to pick, you can never go wrong with this one IMO.

Starting Feature: A power point, which is beyond precious for some people, and an attack or save boost on tap. 'Tis great, it is.

Powers: So much leadery goodness here, if you're into psionics. Unnerving Suggestion has decent control, but then on top of that it can provide the single biggest nova boost in all of 4th Ed if the ally who benefits from it is an ace at rolling well in the clutch. Even if that isn't the case, an average 10 points added per hit is nothing to scoff at, though it does cost a billion PP. Slave's Sacrifice can allow for nifty damage/CC redistribution, though it has a short range, and potentially even punishment attack shenanigans, and Cruel Decree is a finicky, but useful AoE damage buff. Lastly, Psionic Sustenance can allow a psionic character to refuel midfight, to devastating effect, and Face of Defeat is pretty much a stun barring terrible luck. Really good selection, all in all, and everything is useful at some point excepting the level 5 power.

Feats: You add repositioning, defense boosting, or a higher boost to the power that is given to this theme. Nothing super flashy, but they get the job done.

PPs: Neither PP is too special: Mind General has some enabling and a funky L16 for redistributing defenses, and Psionic Scholar provides information and a couple alright powers. You can do better though.


Primal Guardian
Overview: An usable defendery path. It has a bad starting feature and feats, and worse PPs, but the rest is pretty solid. Unexceptional, but solid. It's an alright choice, but there's better ones out there.

Starting Feature: Some mild extra punishment to the opponent who disrespects your mark. The piddly damage makes it crappy at actually deterring people.

Powers: A bunch of alright stance-err, polymorphs and some meh but usable utility powers. Storm of Debris is probably the best of the bunch, but even that one isn't all that good. You can do better than these choices.

Feats: You add a mark to the theme powers and make the feature power Save Ends at Heroic, which is...usable, I s'pose, if you don't mind expending a precious pair of feat slots. At paragon you get a cute pulling trick against a marked target, but it eats up your immediate action so it isn' that amazing.

PPs: Guardian of the Land does basically nothing and doesn't have keywords, so it's pretty skippable. Voice of the Ravaged's powers are controllery and it has OK features, but nothing that could beat class standbys. You should probably pass on these.


Templar
Overview: A scarily versatile power, two nice ways to boost it, a bunch of mostly bad powers, and a really nice PP. While it's tagged as a Leader path, it really feels more at home with controllers for the most part. Any arcane character will like the options it opens though.

Starting Feature: A slow and a meaty bonus to attack rolls. What's not to like about this power?

Powers: The utilities are pretty cool, while the encounter powers are kind of bad. The dailies are in the middle - not prime picks, but not trash either.

Feats: You can turn your Templar's Fist into a swiss army power with these tools. Dazing, slowing, buffing attack rolls, AND damage rolls? Sure, why not! And it'll just cost you two feats, which is pretty great for the nasty CC AND bunch of bonuses you'll slap down with one action.

PPs: Master Defiler gives you rerolls and the ability to keep your encounter powers from going to waste. It requires some unorthodox tactics or a certain disregard for your allies' wellbeing, but given how some arcane dailies can turn encounters around many won't mind. The daily lets you do inflict a ton of extra damage on an enemy to boot! Cast it on a solo and watch as he loses a hundred points or more. Pretend Praetor Legate doesn't exist, BTW.


Veiled Alliance
Overview: A solid base power, a bunch of lacklustre powers, some cool PPs, and a couple alright feats. This is a weak blue, make no mistake - but the theme is still a pretty good one because it can be absolutely devastating when it can come into play.

Starting Feature: Eyebite as a theme power. This gets better as you face less enemies. Against a solo it is facemeltingly awesome, against a bunch of standards it kinda sucks. In general though, this power gets better as you level because elites and solos become more prevalent.

Powers: Pretty weak powers, except for Sandman's Veil. Play your cards right, and it can act as a mass blind, and effectively a free turn for your party to pewpew Team Monster from afar. The other powers...aren't that great though.

Feats: Every feat focuses around improving your Excise from Sight power...and consequently, they're all as good as it is. Concealed Conspirators is the best of the bunch, allowing you to double up the benefit from it, but they all have their uses if the base power works for you often.

PPs: Surprisingly, both PPs have their uses. Master Preserver has crap features, but good powers, particularly an absolutely incredible daily. If I'm reading it correctly and it doesn't preclude you from using forced movement to benefit from it, Veiled Guardian's stance is also absolutely bonkers, providing an extra hit per round. That alone could make the path worthwhile if you ask me, and the fact that it also happens to have a couple neat features and a nice encounter power is icing on the cake.


Wasteland Nomad
Overview: Don't take this theme. Seriously, just don't. The starting feature is terrible, the powers are terrible, the PPs are terrible, and the feats are mostly terrible. Do yourself a favor and pick a real theme, like Guardian or Mercenary.

Starting Feature: If there's ever a situation where you want to use this power, you're doing it wrong. Turn in your striker card at the front door.

Powers: Bad, bad, bad, bad. Nothing useful here, not even the utilities.

Feats: Dazing while using your feature power might make it worthwhile once in a while. The other feats are awful, awful, awful.

PPs: Why would you pick PPs with such terrible features? Why?!


Wilder
Overview: There's only one reason to take this path and that is a certain PP and one feat. The rest is all pretty terrible.

Starting Feature: Critfishing from level 1. Pity it only lasts for a couple actions!

Powers: So conditional it hurts. Avoid like the plague.

Feats: Terrible...except for Enhanced Psychic Surge, which gives you a massive crit range when you use Psychic Surge, making it actually worthwhile for a change! If you're going down this theme, might as well pick up the good stuff.

PPs: Resurgent Wilder gives you access to critfishing, which is something only a few paths do, so it's an option in certain cases. Don't bother with Wielder of the Way though.

Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Neverwinter Campaign Setting Themes: City of Troubled Pasts

These themes follow the mold of the Dragon themes. In general, they're a fair bit better, with a couple exceptions. Without further ado, let's see what they're made of!

Neverwinter Noble
Overview: Sort of like the vanilla noble, but with somewhat better features that don't die off a few levels later (even if they're nichey). Surprisingly, a pretty neat theme for defenders of all things, thanks to the utility powers.

Starting Feature: Free THP and blanket defense boost for a minor. There's much, much worse out there than this.

Level 5 Feature: Free Nimble Blade for flankers. Sure, it overlaps with Leader bonuses, but any turn you're not getting some power bonuses (hey, it happens occasionally), this comes into play and is grrrrrreat.

Level 10 Feature: Great (for a skill bonus) if you play in a Neverwinter campaign, useless if you don't. Given the place this theme was published in, I can only lower its rating so much for being situational.

Utility Powers: No eyebrow raisers, but the level 2 power stacks with marks, and the level 6 is Guardian Lite, which can be a lifesaver. Pillar of Lordly Might is terrible though, don't touch it with an 11-foot pole.


Oghma's Faithful
Overview: Noncombat theme...but it deals with a quantifiable thing, skills, for the most part. And it doesn't really impress there, so it doesn't gain much of a rating.

Starting Feature: Depending on how your GM reads this you might not be able to speak the language you learn, which makes it suck for the most part. If he rules you can write and speak it, it's pretty good if languages ever come into play.

Level 5 Feature: A reroll is pretty neat. Not amazing, but there's certainly nothing bad about this feature.

Level 10 Feature: A bonus only for searching? Pfffffffft, what a ripoff. It can still be useful, but that neuters most of what makes Perception a top skill!

Utility Powers: All of the powers are usable, just...not impressive. It's like they got nerfed for being too powerful at some point. Bad Idea's range gimps it, for instance. Not that they're bad, but they're no killers either. More like filler if you ask me.


Harper Agent
Overview: This could be a pretty good path...if only it had features. Ah well, some you win, some you lose.

Starting Feature: Liira's Grace is a pretty awesome thing to have. Too bad it's the only thing you have if you pick this path. The other too options are situationally better, but in general the first choice is the one you'll use most.

Utility Powers: A bunch of wastes of a slot. Pass on them.


Dead Rat Deserter
Overview: Three words: At. Will. Polymorph. All this path has going for it and all it needs to be a solid choice.

Starting Feature: The usefulness of this feature depends on how creative you can get with it. In general though, it's pretty damn awesome.

Level 5 Feature: Alright bonuses. Solid, if unspectacular.

Level 10 Feature: Nonononononono, why would you even bother with this? It's strictly worse than staying in human form and doesn't have the perks of a rat form. Don't take this!

Utility Powers: Each and every one of these powers is an inferior choice for pretty much everybody. At least they've got usable effects though.


Iliyanbruen Guardian
Overview: A surprisingly decent theme for Warlords in particular, as it gives you what is more or less a free Knight's Move. Not amazing by any means, but hardly a bad pick.

Starting Feature: For a move action, you get to let an ally do something other than move  with their move action this turn, or bail them out of a jam, or...lots of uses for a free teleport.

Level 5 Feature: Unimpressive bonuses, really. Could be better.

Level 10 Feature: Knight's Move AND free movement for a minor. This is pretty awesome, honestly.

Utility Powers: Pretty lame powers, intended for teleport monkeys but not competitive enough. Pass on them.


Uthgardt Barbarian
Overview: Mediocre features and powers. Skip this, it has nothing useful for most any character.

Starting Feature: You stop OAs in a short area around you, for two turns. Neat, except you could just buy a Badge of the Berserker and pick a theme with a better power.

Level 5 Feature: Skill boosts, but clipped and limited to specific situations. Truly a paragon of theme features.

Level 10 Feature: A flat bonus to Intimidate is at least usable, even though Intimidate tends to have lots of built-in failsafes in skill challenges. But hey, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.


Utility Powers: The swarm zone is passable. Skip the rest.


Pack Outcast
Overview: Perma-CA at level 5 and a polymorph. I shouldn't even have to sell you on this further: What costs Frostcheese two feats, paragon tier, and a weapon choice to get, you get for free at level 5, and on top of that, Hat of Disguise levels of utility. Damn, son. Damn.

Starting Feature: Polymorphs are too variable to rank, but in general they rock. This is no exception.

Level 5 Feature: Yup. It's that good. This might as well read "+2 to attack rolls", and who in their right mind would say that isn't worthy of gold?

Level 10 Feature:
Intimidate ain't that useful, but Athletics is and these bonuses are icing on a tasty cake.

Utility Powers: Blood of the Wolf is pretty awesome. The other two aren't worth the time of the day.


Heir of Delzoun
Overview: One of the worst themes out there, this is a defensively minded theme...that doesn't really help a lot against the vast majority of the enemise you'll face. There is always a better choice out there, compared to this throaway pick.

Starting Feature: Poison resistance. Cute. Now how many times do you have to deal with poison as opposed to radiant, necrotic, or fire damage?

Level 5 Feature: An extra Healing Surge is undeniably good, and what saves this path from a red rating. You can't go wrong with 25% more HP.

Level 10 Feature: Heavily restricted bonuses. On the plus side, it covers three skills and they're sizeable enough.


Utility Powers: Scholar of Ancient Ways is pretty neat. The other two chew up surges too fast to be worthwhile.



Renegade Red Wizard
Overview: For the most part, this theme kinda sucks. It starts nichey and gets more and more situational as you go - with the exception of the Level 4 feature, that is. That one makes this theme a top choice for savelockers. If you don't dabble in that art, give this a pass.

Starting Feature: So basically, you have to be a warlock, proficient in stealth, with a way to use it, and this still only kicks in on a miss. Yeah, this one goes to the dustbin.

Level 4 Feature: Characters who specialize on telling monsters to sit down and shut up find this a terrific improvement to their arsenal, providing a sort of extra spell focus but seven levels earlier. The reason to pick this theme.

Level 5 Feature: Versatility is always neat, even if (AFAICT) it doesn't allow for Tomelike shenanigans.

Level 8 Feature: Intimidate drags this bonus down and Bluff can't quite pick up the slack. Mostly because it's a small bonus, useful but not that useful.


Level 10 Feature: I can't believe I'm giving out such a low rating to an attack bonus...but it's too limited to come into play in most cases. A pity, really.


Scion of Shadow
Overview: Like Heir of Delzoun...but worse, somehow. Avoid like the plague.

Starting Feature: Blindsight. As a daily. Really. Compared to the usual standbys this isn't just bad, it's actively harmful by clogging up a spot that you could use to get something actually useful in more than 3% of the situations out there.

Level 5 Feature: Very situational, and not really worth all that much even in the best of cases (16 HP, tops). Not at all impressive.


Level 10 Feature: Two decent skills, but the bonus is typed and tiny. Usable and that's about it.

Utility Powers: The level 2 power can make you significantly beefier for a round, which has some use. The other two powers are pretty terrible though.


Devil's Pawn
Overview: This theme rides entirely on its encounter power...which is a pretty awesome one admittedly, particularly for Leaders, so it works out. Not an absolute prime pick, but definitely worth considering for the leader that wants an extra accuracy buff/enemy debuff.

Starting Feature: Like giving CA out and marking, except it stacks with both things AND it is a minion popper. It's party-unfriendly, sadly, but otherwise this is a terrific way to start a nova turn. Leaders take note.

Level 5 Feature: Situational, but less and less so as you get out of the nobody- err, Heroic tier. The ability to swindle your foes has lots of uses - you just have to find that opportunity where you can put it to work.


Level 10 Feature: The most common damage type, and you resist it pretty decently now. Not a killing feature, but there's way worse out there.

Utility Powers: Shielding Hellfire is for Warlocks only, but manufacturing leader boosts for yourself is rather awesome, Mr. Striker. Pit Fiend Harbinger has a bunch of strange caveats, but easy access to flight and an encounter long bonus to AC is pretty awesome in most circumstances. If you're an Infernal 'lock, it becomes wicked cool, as you can get yourself a comfy buffer of THP even if you don't kill anything that turn.


Spellscarred Harbinger
Overview: Like Harper Agent, except it actually has a feature beyond its starting power (singular, not plural), and it has a more defensive bent. I'd say it balances out, considering offensive boosts are in general better but having more features is kinda nice.

Starting Feature: I am most partial to the invisibility feature, as it is the one that is hardest to reproduce outside this theme, and also the one that sorta covers the reroll option - don't have to save against attacks that can't hit you, after all. The teleport option should never be picked unless you have some telecheese prepared.

Level 5 Feature: Occasionally, you just have to throw down some control. For those times, Spellscar Empowerment comes in handy. Most of the time though, eating extra damage ain't worth it.


Utility Powers: All three powers have some decent uses. Torture Reality can save your butt in a heated fight AND cripple an enemy at the same time, Plague Disruption can screw that big ol' solo out of his smooth moves, and Morphic Recovery is just plain useful because getting a mini-mini (mini-mini-mini-mini) Demigod refresh at level 10 can come in handy.


Bregan D'aerthe Spy
Overview: Don't get me wrong, this theme isn't a super amazing boost, but you gotta admire the way it pulls off its schtick. Every single feature and all but one of the powers are very useful, and a canny player can squeeze tons of utility out of it. Consider this a high Black, bordering on Blue.

Starting Feature: Ghetto flight. Hey, laughing at melee mobs for a turn is pretty damn nice. Not amazing, but you can't say that getting to ignore a good two thirds of all the monsters out there isn't great.

Level 5 Feature: Ghetto flight is suddenly not so ghettoish, as you can laugh at melees for a whole encounter. Given how early it comes into play, that's really nice to have.

Level 10 Feature: You never grant an attack bonus from CA again. Daaaaaaamn, that's good. Monsters use tactics too for the most part, and out-and-out saying "no, cheap ways to gain to-hit don't work on me" is priceless.

Utility Powers: Sudden Stealth is a very early way to gain an easy escape once per encounter, and Fluid Steps is like Shifty on crack for an encounter. Spy Sight isn't quite as awesome, but two out of three ain't bad.

Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Return of the Reserved.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
When Reserved Met Reserved.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Much Ado About Reserving.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Reservator II: Judgement Day.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Reservoir Dogs.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Montana Smith and the Last Reserve. Post away!
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
it will be interesting to see where you and I differ on ratings. I think it is good for Charop to have two handbooks on a single topic, as it allows more opinions to be aired. Best of luck with the handbook.
It's not a matter of Right vs. Left, it's a matter of right vs. wrong My Charop Works Who Am I Really? The Theme Handbook I'm an
D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium
The Dragon themes are up! I'll see if I can't get the Dark Sun themes up tomorrow, and the neverwinter themes shortly after. More to come soon!
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
I think you're selling the Mercenary's encounter power a bit short; any PC that pushes or slides will appreciate the action denial (at-wills off the top of my head include Savage Rend, Eldritch Strike, Beguiling Strands, and Thunderwave).  Even if you keep the rating (since it is build-dependant) you should at least mention the synergy.
That is a stunning amount of red and purple (which I suppose is red-ish).
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I think it was the July errata, but the Hospitaler theme is now called Knight Hospitaler to distinguish it from the Paladin PP.
Order Adept also gives +4 to Arcana, which is fantastic for those looking to optimize around Sage of Ages ED
10/10 Would Flame Again: An Elite Paladin|Warlock The Elemental Man (or Woman): A Genasi Handbook The Warlord, Or How to Wield a Barbarian One-Handed The Bookish Barbarian Fardiz: RAI is fairly clear, but RAZ is different That's right. Rules According to Zelink!
This guide could already use more green. We all know Armisael is all about the MOAR POWA, but stuff like knowing every language is really fun and, I think, warrants a green.
This guide could already use more green. We all know Armisael is all about the MOAR POWA, but stuff like knowing every language is really fun and, I think, warrants a green.



The thing that made me give that a red is that there's the Oghma theme that is "you know every language, all day, erryday", except it works at level 1. Given that, there's no reason to give the inferior Scholar anything but a red. Is there anything else you think could use green more though? If so lemme know and I'll give it some thought.

That is a stunning amount of red and purple (which I suppose is red-ish).



It gets better, trust me. The dragon themes are almost all terrible and I figured I might as well make it clear what is and isn't good from the get-go. That way, when I get to the Dark Sun and Neverwinter themes I can have fun with the actually decent stuff.


I think you're selling the Mercenary's encounter power a bit short; any PC that pushes or slides will appreciate the action denial (at-wills off the top of my head include Savage Rend, Eldritch Strike, Beguiling Strands, and Thunderwave).  Even if you keep the rating (since it is build-dependant) you should at least mention the synergy.



I'm in a sleep-deprived state ATM. Can you go into a little more detail so my inner munchkin gets it and decides whether it's worth something more? After all, I did give the Iron Wolf Warrior's Level 10 feature a specific note marking it as amazing under the right circumstances. What's good for the IWW is good for everybody else.

I think it was the July errata, but the Hospitaler theme is now called Knight Hospitaler to distinguish it from the Paladin PP.



Noted. If anybody is aware of specific great synergies beyond starting out with insane Diplomacy, Insight, Perception, and Arcana values for their basic uses I'd love to hear them. I WANT to give the themes better ratings, I just can't because they seem so bad ATM. :P

I think it was the July errata, but the Hospitaler theme is now called Knight Hospitaler to distinguish it from the Paladin PP.



Lastly, fix'd! Thanks for bringing it to my attention lit.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
> there's the Oghma theme that is "you know every language, all day, erryday",
> except it works at level 1.

Is there any way (generally) to leverage Insight to do unusual things?

If so, Scholar might have one corner-case benefit: unlike the Oghman theme (which effectively gives you a per-encounter Comprehend Language ritual), it actually grants you knowledge all of the languages in the PHB list, so the Traveler's Insight feat would grant you a +10 bonus.
Scholar doesn't require a campaign setting specific deity. That at least is worth a note.
A Beginners Primer to CharOp. Archmage's Ascension - The Wizard's Handbook. Let the Hammer Fall: Dwarf Warpriest/Tactical Warpriest/Indomitable Champion, a Defending Leader. Requiem for Dissent: Cleric/Fighter/Paragon of Victory Melee Leader Ko te manu e kai i te miro, nona te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai i te matauranga e, nano te ao katoa. It's the proliferation of people who think the rules are more important than what the rules are meant to accomplish. - Dedekine
You could write the overall rating also outside the sblock... this way



This way people will know istantly which themes are worthy.

(Thanks for adding me in the... thanks block ^^)

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/14.jpg)

Hmm...true that. I'll give it a Green mark with the caveat that it only applies if you don't have access to the Oghma theme tomorrow, once I wake up. That should be fair to the use the Scholar has.

---

And on another note...no, AFAIK there isn't anything cool to do with insight that isn't a couple skill powers. Not even a defense swap.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
You could write the overall rating also outside the sblock... this way



This way people will know istantly which themes are worthy.

(Thanks for adding me in the... thanks block ^^)



...Well damn. That is one really handy trick that I'd never have guessed was possible. Thanks Naus!
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Scholar doesn't require a campaign setting specific deity. That at least is worth a note.



Not just that. The Oghma power gives you knowledge of a language in five minute spurts, and you have to rest to get it back. There's lots of in-game situations where the DM won't let you rest, or you need to speak or read a language for a longer period of time ("excuse me, Mr. Orc captor, I have to rest for five minutes, and then I can resume negotiations for my freedom"). Granted, that kind of situation probably isn't going to come up in a delve, but it's possible in a real home campaign. Same with some of the other stuff, like the Knight Hospitaler lvl 5 feature that lets you into any noble house. Pure fluff, but it might make the difference in an urban skill challenge, for example.

When I see a red grade in a guide, I think of a purely mechanical game element that either sucks so hard the designer should be ashamed, or is obsoleted by some other mechanical game element. I'd like to see fluff stuff get the green.
Scholar doesn't require a campaign setting specific deity. That at least is worth a note.



Not just that. The Oghma power gives you knowledge of a language in five minute spurts, and you have to rest to get it back. There's lots of in-game situations where the DM won't let you rest, or you need to speak or read a language for a longer period of time ("excuse me, Mr. Orc captor, I have to rest for five minutes, and then I can resume negotiations for my freedom"). Granted, that kind of situation probably isn't going to come up in a delve, but it's possible in a real home campaign. Same with some of the other stuff, like the Knight Hospitaler lvl 5 feature that lets you into any noble house. Pure fluff, but it might make the difference in an urban skill challenge, for example.

When I see a red grade in a guide, I think of a purely mechanical game element that either sucks so hard the designer should be ashamed, or is obsoleted by some other mechanical game element. I'd like to see fluff stuff get the green.



The Knight Hospitaler feature will stay red, because odds are you're already precisely the type of character who would be accepted into any household anyway if you're thinking of picking up the heals it provides (and AFAIK, it is the ONLY feature that does literally nothing at all valuable mechanicswise across all themes - so not only is it redundant from a fluff standpoint, it's the very definition of a wasted slot!). I will indeed edit the Scholar to point out that it has actual uses once I finally recover from cryosleep though. And the Traveler's Insight combo...it might have uses for auto-acing an insanely difficult check or somesuch. That's enough to take it out of the red gutter, at least in some cases.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).

The Knight Hospitaler feature will stay red, because odds are you're already precisely the type of character who would be accepted into any household anyway if you're thinking of picking up the heals it provides (and AFAIK, it is the ONLY feature that does literally nothing at all valuable mechanicswise across all themes - so not only is it redundant from a fluff standpoint, it's the very definition of a wasted slot!).



It's good in a heavy politics campaign, which you get in a Neverwinter campaign, or Eberron. Reading through the Knight Hospitaler fluff, they are like the Night's Watch in A Game of Thrones - a politically neutral group that just protects people, doesn't get involved, and is welcome in every noble house in the realm because of it. I can even think of a few LFR skill challenges where a dude probably doesn't want you in the house, but he has to let a Hospitaler in because of the feature. If he rejects the Hospitaler, the group knows they found the evil guy! Skill challenge success.

I was thinking of writing my own theme guide before the last few sprang up because I really think a lot of the themes were written with campaign fluff in mind as well as some of the mechanical stuff, and I love commenting on fluff! But I think we have enough for now. 

Enjoy your cryosleep.
Except that KH aren't usually former killers, thieves or rapists ^^

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/14.jpg)

Except that KH aren't usually former killers, thieves or rapists ^^



Depending on when in the timeline of the SoIAF world you're looking at, the Night's Watch might not be either Tongue out
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Except that KH aren't usually former killers, thieves or rapists ^^



Depending on when in the timeline of the SoIAF world you're looking at, the Night's Watch might not be either



You have to go really back into the past to change the situation :D

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/14.jpg)

Don't forget the two Shadow themes from D401 - Gloomwrought Emissary and Student of Evard.

The former is probably black (encounter weaken and shift on melee hit at level 1, bonus to bluff and diplomacy at level 5, reroll a social skill 1/day at level 10) as weaken is a very nice status effect that is really uncommon; the latter, I don't know much about.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Love the Troperiffic title.
Alright, changes implemented from yesterday, and I've gone and added Fatedancer and the shadow themes in, too. Thanks for pointing those out!
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
The point of Iron Wolf is "my Melee Warlock wants encounter powers".  It's the only theme with encounter attack powers, and while they aren't great, they either boost your at will, or have the melee keyword, for cross-grain builds.

Of course, all Dark Sun themes do that better.  But Iron Wolf is LFR legal, and Darksun themes are not. 

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

Nice work here Armisael. However, I have a few disagreements I'd like to air.

First, Guardian. I think it is not a good idea to rate a Theme, Race, or Class Gold. Gold rating, at least in most handbooks, means you are gimping yourself if you don't take it. Just because you choose a theme other than Guardian doesn't mean your character will be non-optimized. Guardian is definitely skyblue, but not mandatory.

I think you are dramatically underrating Mercenary. There are many characters that won't want to be hit often and will avoid Guardian, that would definitely like to Prone their enemy. The fact that it is applied after you hit means you can't waste it, unlike many other theme encounters. I think that it is definitely a blue feature, and the theme as a whole should be black.

You should also mention synergy with Rogue and Rattling powers in the Gloomwrought Emmisary Opening feature.    

Iron Wolf Warrior is definitely Blue, possibly Skyblue. Ferocity for everyone is a great feature at level 10, and the only competition to this for chargers should be Chevalier, which is inferior to this in most cases. Also, since when is Wolf's Rend and the [2/3/4W] +Str only slightly more than an MBA. Also, you have a +2 to hit on the secondary if you hit with the primary attack (which you should, given that it is Weapon vs. Reflex)

Skill bonuses should be black. I agree that they aren't very powerful, but there is one on every theme iirc. This means that the Devs meant for one of your features to be a skill increase, so it should be black (average). Perception bonuses should be blue imo, as Perception is the most important skill in the game.

That's all, looking forward to the Neverwinter themes.

It's not a matter of Right vs. Left, it's a matter of right vs. wrong My Charop Works Who Am I Really? The Theme Handbook I'm an
D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium
Having seen it in play in my own game, I'm stunned at how potent the Seer's feature is.  I even made it cheese-proof by making it only work on an attack roll, save, or skill-check-that's-part-of-a-skill-challenge, and it's still tactically amazing.

-O
I don't understand the hate for Argent Rain.  Seems like a solid enough power for any implement using class--it does decent damage, is a ranged AoE which many implement users otherwise have difficulty obtaining, and the zone is reasonable though difficult to abuse.  I'd consider it Black.

t~
I don't understand the hate for Argent Rain.  Seems like a solid enough power for any implement using class--it does decent damage, is a ranged AoE which many implement users otherwise have difficulty obtaining, and the zone is reasonable though difficult to abuse.  I'd consider it Black.

t~



It's worse than a basic at-will power. It's there for killing a bunch of minions and nothing more.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Blech, the dumb forum format ate my post no matter what I tried. This addresses two posts from before, separated for clarity.

Find me a better pick than Guardian. Or a comparable one, hell. There's none for a big bunch of characters. Hence, gold. My gold rating has always been and always will be "a choice so good it is practically a non-choice, if not a tax". Guardian fits that.

Mercenary is trash. If you want to prone, you can do that through other theme powers that have the same "not wasted" property and don't suck. The only thing it has going for it is the level 10 property, and you can't waste a slot on a 5% situational defense increase.

I'll make a note of mentioning the rattling bit later on. That sort of stuff goes elsewhere in the guide.

Ferocity is trash. Why are you going down in a fight instead of making your ENEMIES go down? Plan for ultimate success, not overwhelming failure. It's only good if the character WANTS to do sub-zero fighting. Otherwise it's a last-ditch effect you do not want to rely on. Lastly, extra Ws are peanuts. That's +7 damage more than your basic attacks, not worth ditching a REAL power for it. A stun is worth 12 Ws. A multiattack is worth 9 to 15 Ws, or more. It just doesn't work, man.

Lastly, I could care less about what the designers thought. They thought Toughness was a good feat in 3.X, their vision of the world is generally absolutely terrible and they're bad at optimization compared to us. We play by the RAW rules, not the designer rules here. They stay red or purple, a slot is too precious to waste on skill boosts.

---

Why...why would you BUFF an already stupid good feature? Why?!
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
I second that Seer is being vastly underestimated. Nothing stops you from making the Seer check immediately after each and every short rest. Being able to tell an ally when a daily is going to crit is awesome.

As for Guardian being gold... eh. The fact that it's an MBA (need to be an MBA friendly melee class), immediate action (need to be a class that doesn't already have a bunch of immediates) and redirects the hit to you (good and bad) is enough that I'd downgrade it to skyblue.
I don't understand the hate for Argent Rain.  Seems like a solid enough power for any implement using class--it does decent damage, is a ranged AoE which many implement users otherwise have difficulty obtaining, and the zone is reasonable though difficult to abuse.  I'd consider it Black.

t~



It's worse than a basic at-will power. It's there for killing a bunch of minions and nothing more.



How so?

Sure, it is worse than some controller at-wills, but my Battlemind|Swordmage 14 really likes it for when targets are bunched up. It isn't his first option, but it is a decent option, especially if there's someone in the party capable of solid movement control.
Thanks for the Themes Guide Armisael, i know i said it before but i love Themes !


I think Guardian is overated too and would lean more toward Skyblue.  Its good but not supreme. This Theme is perfect for a melee character with a decent MBA and not too much traffic in the Immediate department, for everyone else, not as great.
Sign In to post comments