I was actually very surprised while looking through the Wizards Spring 2011 catalog when I stumbled across a new book coming out in March, Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow. There are a lot of aspects to this book that are interesting, for one it is supposedly going to be a 6″x9″ and 320 page book selling for $19.95 in trade paperback format. The description for the book mentions three specific classes that it will support – Assassins, Necromancers, and Hexblades. Any other content beyond simply introducing the Shadow power source is not defined, but I think the inclusion of those two new classes alone is enough for most people to get excited about it.
I am a big fan of the decision to make this book something more unique than simply another power source supplement (and “Shadow Power” doesn’t have a great ring to it anyway). The shadow power source was introduced with the Assassin, a D&D Insider exclusive class which will apparently be supported by this book as well, but was not addressed at all in the Player’s Handbook 3. On top of that, this book seems to be the beginning of the Player’s Option series, which is described with:
Player’s Option books are aimed at players who are ready to move beyond the Player Essentials books, Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. The Player’s Option series presents advanced Dungeons & Dragons character options as well as new ways to customize and optimize one’s existing character.
I’m confused as to the tie-in between the Essentials line and this book that seems to be more in line with the previous books released. Heroes of the Fallen Lands is going to have content for Clerics, Fighters, Rogues, and Wizards while Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms will have content for Druids, Paladins, Rangers, and Warlocks. With such a limited selection of the classes that are now available for 4th Edition, it seems odd to bill the Player’s Option series as an expansion to the Essentials line. That said, I am a very big fan of the Assassin class (so much so that I asked Mike Mearls some questions about it when it was released) and its Hex based abilities so I can’t wait to see how the other shadow classes come out!
My guesses for right now are that the Hexblade will be a defender (or maybe leader) class, possibly utilizing the ki focus rules like the Assassin and Monk do but either way I would imagine it more like a melee version of the warlock/seeker in how it uses its weapon to inflict various effects on enemies. The Necromancer I would peg as being a controller, but could end up as a leader or strongly lean that way, and pretty much would be a shadow magic version of the invoker with a much darker twist to its powers and abilities. I’d love to see some classes that go into new conceptual ground for a shadow defender or one of the other roles not covered above.
I’ve also updated our 4th Edition Character Class Reference with this new information and will try to keep it up to date as we learn more.
Update: Here is a better quality scan of the image from the catalog!