So I recently finished reading the Player’s Strategy Guide which is written by Andy Collins and Eytan Beernstein and published by Wizards of the Coast. What is the Player’s Strategy Guide you ask? Well its’ kind of a guide to help players in creating and managing the raddest character they can while highlighting their role in helping craft rewarding and fantastic game experiences through battle tactics, party composition, player etiquette, and story crafting. Why did I buy it you ask? Well I am a bit of a compulsive shopper and it had cosmo-style quizzes that promised tell me all about who I am as a D&D nerd (you can never go wrong praying on my narcissism).
The quizzes revealed that I am a Story Teller and Thinker when it comes to my role-playing style or gamer motivation. This essentially tells me that I gravitate towards the narrative aspects of gaming and immersion into the fantasy of the story that is being told and developed (AKA as a fantasy nerd who has read too many novels and engages in escapism) while also enjoying plotting out how to build a pimp character that can open a malt liquor size can of whoop-ass all over the bad guys (a polite way of saying that I am bit a min-maxer). I also apparently prefer to play Human or Half-Elf characters that are either wizards or warlords and who are generally of good alignment. I also apparently have a high Sex IQ, can never tell when a guy is into me, and am an over-sharer.
The majority of the book is about building mechanically sound characters through things such as matching racial stat bonuses with optimal character classes to feat and power choices and combinations that enhance the particular role of your character. (On aside note I am hopeful that eventually they will retcon the pre-PHB3 races into allowing more flexibility with ability stat bonuses to allow you to create whatever class/race combinations your heart desires without worrying about them sucking balls) I found this section only marginally helpful, as previously mentioned I am a bit of a min-maxer and find the “optimization threads” in the various online forums allow for a more in depth tutelage in this area. However, for people who are not as neurotic or consumed with such things, I think that this section offers a nice way to make sense of the mechanics of building an effective character in 4th Edition when particularly faced with the veritable plethora of choices and options available that can make things a little confusing.
The sections on strategy and tactics and building a party were pretty cool, particularly the sample parties that they provided. I think these sections are really helpful in educating how combat works in the game and how the particular class roles were designed to function independently and as a whole. It also provides helpful tips on how to organize and manage your character to help prevent the deer in headlights look when their name is called in the initiative order. For those either coming from other game systems or older editions of D&D, the combat system in the 4th edition is sufficiently different that it can be a little perplexing. For example it took a while for my players to understand why their fighters and paladins were always doing less damage than the rogues and warlocks that were in the party. If that had been clearer during character creation we probably would have had a very different party composition, more like 4 strikers and 1 leader (I forced the newb into playing the cleric in a hazing/paying your dues move).
The last section of the book emphasis the players’ responsibility in creating a good game, through being invested in the game and being an active participant in helping the DM craft stories and adventures around their characters. Peppered throughout the book were little sections where different people within the industry and entertainment world would describe their characters with cool back stories and other ways that they bring them to life within the game world. This was by far my favorite aspect of this book and well worth the purchase and read.
Overall, I liked this book but I can see it wouldn’t be right for everyone. I think for those new to the system and maybe struggling with the overwhelming number of character choices from feats, powers and skills and how they relate to character role and fit into your overall vision of the character then this book might be helpful. It can also be helpful for those who are struggling tactically in combat and are unsure why they keep getting smacked around. I can’t say I learned a lot in terms of character building or tactics, but I enjoyed the read and it helped reinforce not just mechanics but the importance of creating a character with a vivid personality and identifiable motivations which interact with and help shape the world that the DM provides.