Heroes of Battle



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Heroes of Battle

Author: Various
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 05/2005
ISBN: 0-7869-3686-X
Pages: 157
Rating: 8 out of 10
Retail Price: $29.95

 

I recently picked this up with a load of other books during a firesale at amazon.com.Included in these books was Heroes of Horror, which I read first.I was quite disappointed with that book, almost to the point of not bothering to take this book off the shelf and read it.I’m glad I fought that urge.

 

The first chapter of this book takes a look at a military-themed campaign.Unlike a more traditional dungeon crawl campaign, a military campaign of the type described in this book is something that is practically required to be planned at least somewhat in advance, since the PCs will be under the command of NPCs with higher ranks than them.They might not get to keep all the loot they find or decide how or when they do certain things, since the military hierarchy commands them.This chapter basically contains information about how to run such a game without your players revolting because they feel like you’re pushing them around or railroading them into doing things they don’t want to do.It also gives a small amount of information about military ranks and organization.

 

The second chapter talks about how to build adventures for the military-themed campaign.In the dungeon, the PCs are usually confined by the physical size of the area, but on the battlefield, they might have to run all over hell and back just to get their day’s work done.What I like the most about this chapter is that it takes a very clinical, technical approach to designing an adventure.It provides sample flowcharts and teaches the reader how to create his own flowcharts and how to use them in conceptualizing an adventure.This could easily apply to any kind of adventure, not just a military campaign.Additionally, it also takes the same technical approach to map-making, giving the reader several icons for various types of terrain features, walls and topography.

 

At the end of the chapter, the book discusses victory points, which is a new mechanic unique to a military campaign.In a standard dungeon campaign, the goals are clear and the end is apparent.The adventure is over when you hack your way through all the goblins and kill their leader who’s been harassing the local town.In a military campaign, you can’t usually just walk through the enemy’s lines and lop off their commander’s head.It’s more like a series of battles that result in a victory or failure overall.In addition to experience points, the PCs can accrue victory points when they successfully complete certain challenges (such as taking a fortified hill or defending their bunker against an attack).At the end of the overall battle, if the PCs have more than half the victory points the DM has assigned to the battle, their side wins.

 

The third chapter details the kinds of encounters that the PCs might face in a military campaign.They might be assigned to stop an enemy supply shipment, destroy enemy artillery or act as reinforcements for harried allies.Several potential tasks with ELs from 4-10 are given, including information about to how scale back the challenge or ramp it up.Additionally, this chapter includes information about specific military units the PCs might have to face off against during their careers.Some of these go all the way up to EL 17, and would be useful even in a non-military campaign.

 

The fourth chapter is titled “The Rules of War.”The largest part of it is dedicated to providing examples of situations the DM can use to create most battlefield situations and the number of victory points the PCs get for performing these tasks.Additionally, the rules for unit morale checks are given, which allow the PCs to potentially scare their opponents off or rally their own fleeing allies.What I like most about this chapter, though, is that it expands heavily on the Player’s Handbook’s list of siege engines, giving rules for their use that are actually useful.

 

The fifth chapter was the most mechanical, I think, and gives a bunch of new feats.I was particularly impressed by the Ready Shot feat, which allows ranged combatants to ready an action against a charging opponent and then deal more damage if they hit that opponent.New uses for skills were given, which is great in any book.In this case, three whole pages of new uses were given, which is probably more than I’ve seen in any other book.A few new prestige classes were given, and while I don’t think any of them were bad, there wasn’t much that was surprising or fresh.For those who use teamwork benefits (first introduced in Player’s Handbook II), there are also several pages of teamwork benefits in this chapter as well.

 

The sixth chapter dealt with how magic can be used to influence the battlefield.Several new spells are given.Additionally, new magic items, including standards, rods and other non-armor, non-weapon items were detailed as well.Even magical siege engines were detailed.A few pages were dedicated to the actual use of magic on the battlefield, and how spells and effects might mimic conveniences we see in modern warfare, such as reconnaissance or instantaneous communication.

 

Finally, a few appendices were given that given stat blocks for generic soldiers and units of soldiers, including basic tactics.Additionally, several new types of mounts were given that commanders or cavalry might use.This is a gold mine for DMs, as it provides on-the-fly stat blocks that can be used when the DM has nothing else.

 

I can see how this book could be very useful.I think that the way it presents a military-style campaign is something the DM would have to discuss with his players to determine if that’s what they wanted to do, since it’s so different than the traditional method of play.However, I can see how a military-themed game could be very fun.If nothing else, this book was much, much better than Heroes of Horror, by leaps and bounds.