Overview: Martial Power is the newest player-centric sourcebook for D&D 4e. It contains more options for the four martial classes (Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, and Warlord.) Each class gets new class feature options, paragon paths, feats, and epic destinies.
In-depth: 159 pages, hard cover, full-color, $29.95 retail.
The new class builds for Fighter and Ranger are worth the price of admission all by themselves. Fighters get Tempest (two-weapon fighter) and Battlerager (kinda like a Barbarian, gets a lot of temp HP). They both get powers to support the builds, plus powers for any fighter to take.
Rangers get Beastmaster, which focuses on teamwork with an animal companion of your choosing. There are 8 kinds of animals to choose from, with a note saying that you should feel free to change the type of animal and just use its stats, a common 4e method. I have to say, this is the first time in all my years of playing D&D that I want to play a “pet-focused” character. Of course, they also get a full set of powers to bolster your Beastmastery, but like the other two Ranger builds, you can take other powers as well.
Unfortunately, the Rogues and Warlords didn’t come away with as much cool stuff. Rogues get a new build focusing on blunt weapons, and more use of a keyword called “Rattling.” Rattling provides a minor effect, but does not count as a new status effect… so it’s annoying to track, and doesn’t fit in with other similar conditions. It also doesn’t appear in each powers’ description. They do get plenty of new powers, and their new paragon paths are probably the biggest boost in the book.
Warlords get two more builds as well, though they aren’t as “game-changing” as the builds other classes get. Resourceful and Bravura both give new effects when an ally spends an action point, and powers to go along with those builds. Sadly, still no love for the ranged warlord. Like Rogues, their biggest boost is in the new paragon paths.
Powers: In general, you know what to expect now with 4e powers. Some interesting new styles of powers are present, however. There are a few at-will utilities, an ideal choice for power-swapping multiclassers. There are quite a few “gambling” powers that let enemies do one thing so you can do something better. Then there are also a number of powers that require you to be a certain race to use them. Finally, it seems like a number of powers are attempting to provide more options for certain concepts: there are now many more shield-based powers, as well as powers for various weapons.
Paragon Paths: The four classes get twelve paragon paths each, though there is overlap in who can take them, expanding the options even wider. There are also race and class specific paragon paths, including ones for the Drow and Genasi from the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide. It also looks like each paragon path was given much more flavor text than before, referencing legends and famous heroes (new to this book.)
Feats: New feats are available for every tier. They mainly focus on giving more options to specific builds, specific races, or both. The racial ones tie heavily into each race’s core ability: for example, the Eladrin feats mainly rely on teleporting. Given that feats are one of the areas that the Player’s Handbook has a distinct lack of, it’s good to see more available.
Additionally, there are more multiclassing feats, both that can be taken in place of the initial multiclass feat for each of the martial classes, but also more options for multiclass feats when doing paragon multiclassing. Unfortunately, these probably still do not go far enough to address some of the concerns about multiclassing, but they are a welcome addition nonetheless.
Epic Destines: The book ends with 10 epic destinies. They range in scope from fairly mundane sounding (Beastlord) to the truly epic (Godhunter). Epic destines still remind me of the Immortals Handbook rules of old, which I’m quite fond of.
Conclusion: The big selling points, as I stated up front, are the new options for Fighter and Rangers, but it also contains worthwhile additions for all the martial characters. And that’s all this book has: more options for martial characters. It succeeds wildly at that goal, being chock full of new powers, feats, and so on. There’s also nothing that stands out at me as absolutely broken in the book, which makes me feel a bit better about overall power creep- yes, more options does almost always lead to some form of power creep, but so far I’ve yet to see anything that’s on the level of, say, Vow of Poverty.
Sidebars also contain more background/setting/story/fluff (whatever you want to call it) than we see in the core books, giving suggestions for different class/race combinations and more. It, however, does not contain anything that you might have become used to in 3e-era classbooks: no multi-page write up on a Fighter’s Guild or whatever. It is just packed full of rules content from start to finish. It’s certainly not a book I’m going to read from cover to cover. But for introducing new options, without overshadowing the existing ones, it’s a great book that makes me look forward to others in the series, and definitely strikes me as a successor to Complete Warrior, and much better than Sword & Fist.