Product Spotlight12/05/2003

Complete Warrior
Andy Collins, David Noonan, and Ed Stark

In this month's exclusive interview, the designers of the Complete Warrior discuss the book that proves some things are worth fighting for.

Wizards of the Coast: Let's start with a very significant statement from the introduction to Complete Warrior: "This is not 'the fighter book.'" With the book also covering martial options for the nonfighter types in D&D, which character classes get the lion's share of new, upgraded martial bonuses?

David Noonan: In short, anybody who makes attack rolls. That's often the fighter, of course, but there's something in Complete Warrior for the polymorphed wizard, the wild-shaped druid, and any number of archetypes who don't trundle around in heavy armor heaving a big battleaxe.

Ed Stark: Any players who want their characters to get better at fighting, or at combat in general, will find things in this book. Certainly, those who wield weapons--from fighters and rangers to rogues and clerics--will find more options they can explore through feats, tactics, and prestige classes, but we went out of our way to make sure there were fighting options for non-sword-swingers. There's one prestige class designed specifically for bards who want to be better at fighting, and there are even options for barbarian/sorcerer hybrids.

If you play a fighter-type of any class, you want this book. If you are more of a pure spellcaster or a nonfighting bard or something like that, you should still look at the options, but there will be other books more "for you." Honestly, though, a large part of D&D as a game is fighting monsters. I can't imagine a character who wouldn't find something interesting in this book.

Wizards: You introduce three new classes in Complete Warrior: the samurai, the hexknight, and the swashbuckler. Each clearly has its pros and cons. What's the selling point of each of these new classes?

Andy Collins: The hexknight is the arcane answer to the paladin or ranger--a warrior-type base class with limited arcane spellcasting ability and a few special abilities. The class's key ability is the hex--the ability to imbue opponents with penalties to their attacks, saves, and so forth. The swashbuckler is the base class for all those fighters out there who never want to put on plate armor. It's all about agility and style.

David: The samurai is a bit of a different take than the one presented in Oriental Adventures. This one has a squinty-eyed gunslinger feel about him--and a related prestige class: the ronin.

Ed: In fact, the samurai is the honorable warrior. Players who might not want to be paladins (perhaps because they aren't interested in spellcasting) will like this class.

Wizards: The prestige classes run deep in the new book, with a wide range of options. (I find the reaping mauler to be a very cool class, for instance.) Do you have favorites from among them? Will players gravitate toward any in particular?

David: I like the master of the unseen hand, a spellcaster (or creature like a githyanki) who uses telekinesis to fight rock-'em, sock-'em style. The tattooed monk has cool flavor and it's interesting mechanically. And the new spellsword can really hold his own in a fight now.

Ed: It's always hard to guess which prestige classes will work in your game and which won't. My preferences have always been very campaign-specific. I like the prestige classes that take "suboptimal" but interesting choices and make them powerful and exciting. The dervish, for example, is a character who uses no armor and only slashing weapons. Her shtick is all about movement and multiple attacks. Normally a character would be very vulnerable using those choices, but she's pretty interesting.

Wizards: Some of the prestige classes, like the cavalier, have been around for a while. As you went through old material, were there interesting options for prestige classes (or other parts of the book, for that matter) that just couldn't be updated adequately for inclusion?

Ed: Nope. We rose to the challenge, though it was sometimes difficult. Okay, maybe I'm kidding a little bit there, because everyone will make different choices. Seriously, though, when we chose to pick up an idea or upgrade an existing prestige class, we did it because people asked for it and we saw a challenge to be overcome. The cavalier is a good example--the 3.0 cavalier tried to reflect the nature of the old cavalier class but didn't go far enough, and had a few "broken" elements. We hope the 3.5 version really hits the mark.

David: Updating things adequately wasn't a problem, but inevitably with a book like this, you have to ask yourself, "Is this the right book for this prestige class/feat/magic item/whatever?" There are only so many pages in the book, after all. With prestige classes in particular, it's almost like we're the casting directors and there's a long line of example characters, studying their scripts, waiting for their turn on stage. We fill all the roles we have room for, and the rest have to wait for an audition for the next book.

Wizards: You also offer up an exceptional range of new feats--general, divine, weapon style mastery, and so forth. You also have some engaging new spells, with emphasis on the hexblade spells for the hexknight class. What do you find most intriguing of all this new material?

Ed: Well, the hexknight is so cool it had to be its own class! Beyond that, though, I really like the divine feats. I know they aren't original (for the most part) to this book. Defenders of the Faith introduced most of them and there are plenty more to come in future products. However, knowing that players of paladins and clerics will want this book, I thought it imperative that we took some of the more martial divine feats and put them in here. I like giving paladins, in particular, things to do with their turning checks that keep the option interesting. Realistically, a paladin is seldom in a situation where turning undead is a viable option. Now she has reason to keep track of those turning attempts per day.

Wizards: It's a bold stand to try to define "War in the D&D Game" in chapter 4, because war in the game has been the crux of many a campaign for many years. How did you even begin to encapsulate such vast and sweeping subject matter?

David: By cheating--or at least by trying to have it both ways. Some D&D players imagine war as knights in shining armor, vast arrays of rank-and-file troops, and colorful standards fluttering in the breeze. Other D&D players imagine stealthy units employing magical camouflage, commandos teleporting from place to place, and dragons providing air support. We tried to cover both the traditional and more modern approaches to war without shoehorning DMs into one paradigm or the other.

Ed: It was definitely something that had to be talked about. We felt that since wars are a big part of D&D campaign history, and this book is about martial character choices, we needed to discuss some options for the players and the DM in a war setting. You'll notice, however, that we didn't try to set up complex rules for resolving a war--that would take a whole, special book on its own, and this book is about characters.

Wizards: What will players find most beneficial in these new rules?

Andy: I think it's the basic variety offered by the book that will be most interesting and beneficial to players. There are a lot of new options here, from base classes to feats to prestige classes to exotic weapons and beyond, and knowing that there's always something new for your character to strive for is one of the most compelling elements of D&D.

David: There's obviously a lot you can use in your game right away--feats and equipment come to mind--and a lot that you can point your character toward as your game progresses, such as prestige classes. In the end, every character who likes to fight will probably pick up a few feats, an item or two, and maybe a prestige class from this book. And DMs will naturally use all those tools for their NPCs, too.

Wizards: How did you playtest these new rules? Did you generate the classes and then do battle with them, or did you run them through standard sessions?

David: Some of both. Often we'll create a few characters that use the rules bits we're trying to test (feats, a prestige class, etc.) and run them alongside our straight-from-the-factory Mialee, Jozan, Tordek, and Lidda in a number of encounters--generally one or two sessions' worth, although we just run the mechanically intensive parts like fights, traps, and other hazards. That way we have two ways to assess them: How did the new characters handle the monsters? And how did the new characters perform compared to their more traditional counterparts?

Ed: Right--usually, it's a mix of both. Sometimes a prestige class is actually a multiclass combination that someone has tried out and recommends. Sometimes it's just a collection of feats and ideas that point in the same direction. Writing up the prestige class, mechanically anyway, then becomes a lot easier. Our development staff, however, has their work cut out for them on any book that features a lot of prestige classes, and they do a lot of discussion and playtesting whenever they can.

Wizards: What was left on the cutting room floor because of space, focus, logic, etc.?

David: A smattering of things from most of the categories you'd expect: feats, prestige classes, magic items, and so on. They probably aren't gone for good--we found good homes in future products for most of them.

Ed: I created a walk-through of creating prestige classes (and a prestige class from my home campaign to go along with it), but it turned out to be just a slight reiteration of the article in Dragon magazine on prestige classes. Since we didn't have anything new to say, and the book was tight, we cut it.

Wizards: Finally, what are you working on now?

Andy: I'm working on a project for late 2004. Unfortunately, our schedule is planned out so far into the future that current projects are well beyond the extent of any available catalogs and thus can't be discussed. My next published work will be Unearthed Arcana, a treasure trove of variant rules and new subsystems for players and DMs to add to their campaigns.

David: Like Andy, I can't announce one of the projects I'm working on. The other one's fair game, though: I'm helping develop the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide.

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