MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS THE BEST THEY CAN BE
Whether you’re creating a new character or improving an existing one, the Player’s Handbook II supplement has something you need. This volume provides new character options for all players:
- New class features for all of your favorite classes
- A rebuilding system that allows you to update existing characters
- New advancement options and affiliations
- New starting equipment packages
- New teamwork benefits
- New feats and spells
Featuring Additional Design by Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, Frank Brunner, Luke Johnson, Christopher Lindsay, Robert J. Schwalb, and Matthew Sernett. For use with these DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® core books: Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual.
Player's Handbook II (2006), by David Noonan, is an example of superb 3.5 D&D design. While this book may not be essential for playing the game, it's difficult to name more interesting supplements or ones that do a better job of rounding out characters. The PHII offers one intriguing idea after another, with a slew of useful advice for running and improving the game.
New Classes. The PHII introduces four new classes into the game:
- The beguiler is a mechanically superior example of the spellthief, a magic-using and trap-fighting class that focuses on illusion and enchantment spells. (These are characters meant for roleplay-heavy games, best for campaigns where the adversaries are intelligent and worth talking to.)
- The dragon shaman builds off the earlier marshal class, creating a dragon-themed character who uses auras to mitigate damage and buff allies.
- The duskblade is a magic-using thief who uses spells to boost his effectiveness. (There are prestige classes that already do this, but the duskblade carries the concept back to 1st level.)
- Finally, there's the knight, an armor-clad meat-shield who focuses on major threats and protects the allies around him.
Combat Roles. Interestingly, these new classes introduce "combat roles" into D&D, several years before such roles became a cornerstone of 4e D&D. Beguilers act as controllers, influencing the minds of those around them; dragon shamans are leaders, using auras instead of spells and combining healing abilities with martial prowess; duskblades are strikers, channeling their spells into their weapons for extra damage; and knights are defenders, controlling aggro through their Test of Mettle and challenging foes with their Knight's Challenge.
Expanded Classes. Arguably the best chapter in the book, this one walks through all the core D&D classes and offers both expanded options and roleplaying advice. Many optional classes from rulebook supplements are also included, such as the hexblade, the marshal, the scout, and the warlock. Each class is granted a new class feature that can replace an existing class feature (such as druids giving up the ability to summon animals in exchange for granting fast healing to their allies, or trading their animal companion for the ability to shapeshift.) Sample Starting Packages are given for each class, allowing a quick-start method for starting a new character with these options.
These options can result in flavorful, interesting characters without grossly over-balancing any classes. At the same time, the excellent roleplaying advice helps players better understand the class and conceive of new ways to play the game.
Feats and Spells. There are a lot of new feats as well, including Heritage feats to better customize the sorcerer and Combat Form feats which briefly improve the fighter. New spells are generally flavorful and useful; the spells chapter also introduces the Polymorph subschool, once more adjusting the ever-changing polymorph spell (which had turned out to be too powerful in 3e D&D).
Building Your Identity. Chapter Five explores themes and histories for your PCs, and the personalities that likely arise from them. Want your character to have grown up a guttersnipe? This section tells you what your youth might have been like, gives you options for transitioning into your adventuring career, and describes how your background still affects you on a day to day basis. The chapter also describes thirty personality traits and gives advice for being a good player at the table.
The Adventuring Group. Often, without adequate DM involvement, players create their characters in a vacuum. This chapter discusses how adventuring groups form, how they're organized, what roles different classes often take, and what sorts of mechanical benefits teamwork may gain you. It's an excellent tool for improving team play.
This chapter also has one of the most inspiring pieces of art in the book, on page 152 - three adventurers gazing upon the Caves of Chaos.
Affiliations. Want organizations in your campaign that really matter? Not sure how to track the way rank and influence might work in them? This chapter comes to the rescue by laying out rules for new and sample organizations such as guilds and magical societies.
Redesigning Your Character, and Quick NPCs. The PHII also provides formal rules that might seem counterintuitive for so simple a process, but it gives explicit permission for DMs to allow PCs to retrain or "respec" powers and abilities over time. Guidelines help ensure that characters don't change dramatically overnight, and players become more likely to end up with characters that they truly love. The book's appendix has charts and guidelines for quick PC and NPC generation, useful when you need a complicated character and you need him quickly.
Overall? A Must Have. If you're running a 3.5 D&D campaign, the Players Handbook II is quite simply one of the best supplements you can add to your game. This is even more true of your players are relatively new to roleplaying or D&D.
About the Creators. David Noonan joined Wizards of the Coast in 1998 and departed in 2008. During that time he worked on numerous books, including the core 3rd edition D&D rulebooks. Additional design by Frank Brunner, Luke Johnson, and Robert J. Schwalb.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.