Today we are going to talk about the thirteen character themes introduced in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. We touched on these yesterday in our review of the guidebook, but today we’re going in-depth and seeing which of the thirteen are worth using and what’s worth ignoring.
The gist of a Neverwinter Noble is that you are a potential heir to the Crown of Neverwinter, regardless of how slight the connection. The book suggest that a warrior type class such as a paladin, warlord or fighter take this and it also points out that only a human would be able to trace its roots to any leaders of Neverwinter. At the same time the book does say you COULD try a half-blooded character but that the chances of your claims being heard would be next to nil.
Associated skills with the Neverwinter Noble are Diplomacy and History. The former is great for the game of politics, while the latter is for proving your claims and knowing the region. Which one is worth taking (or adding +2 to) really depends on the character class you go for.
The Neverwinter Noble gains three features: one at Level 1, another at Level 5 and the final one at Level 10. A Neverwinter Noble also has access to three optional Utility powers at levels 2, 6, and 10. This formula is the same for all the themes, so I won’t be repeating it.
The most useful ability is Take Heart, Friend, which is your Level 1 one. An ally gets a +2 power bonus to all defenses and 5-15 temporary hit points. That’s pretty sweet. Your Level 5 feature gives you a +1 bonus when flanking and your Level 10 one gives you a +4 on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks but only towards citizens of Neverwinter. This means unless the character never leaves the area…the features aren’t that great.
The Utility Powers are pretty good though. Your Level 2 one gives you an aura where enemies that attack anyone but you get a -2 to their roll. This is pretty nice, but make sure you’ve got a lot of hit points. Your Level 6 one is a standard position swap ability (meh) but your Level 10 one? +2 power bonus to defenses and saving throws, +5 to Diplomacy…and you can’t move. Still, a min/max gamer playing a Paladin can have a field day with the stacking possibilities here.
Overall, the Neverwinter Noble is…okay. It’s pretty helpful if you only stay in Neverwinter and play a more intrigue based game. Otherwise, some of its key features can’t be used. 5/10
This is a pretty cut and dry one. You worship the God Oghma. There are no racial or class prereqs, although a Oghma Warpriest would be the best choice thematically and stacking wise.
Associated skills are History, Religion and Streetwise. Your starting feature is once again your best, especially if you are playing an intrigue based campaign. With Understand Language you can completely comprehend any language you have heard in the past 24 hours for an encounter. This is amazing and for campaign worlds where there are dozens of languages in close proximity to each other (say, Ravenloft, this ability is pure gold. At Level 5, you can re-roll any skill check, but you HAVE to take the second roll. At Level 10, you gain a +4 bonus to Perception checks involving searches. All in all, these are some great Features.
Your optional Utility Choices are pretty neat too. At Level 2, Learned Response lets you roll an Insight check when rolling for initiative and then you can take either roll. Level 6 gets you another shifting title movement bit, but with your opponent gaining a -2 to attacks and saves. Level 10 lets you shift closer to an enemy and then move any ally within 5 squares of you three spaces on the map as a free action. This is perfect for getting a flanking maneuver in order.
In a more cerebral campaign a servant of the God of Knowledge is amazing. In a combat oriented one, slightly less so, but it’s still pretty helpful in its own way. It’s definitely a Theme I’d take to other campaigns. 8/10.
Umm..you’re a Harper Agent. If you are brand new to D&D, this basically means you’re kind of a fantasy covert ops agent of good. That’s probably the easiest way to explain it (and more detail than 4th edition gives anywhere…) There are no racial or class qualifiers, but since it’s a shadowy figure sort of position, I’d go for something roguelike.
Associated Skills are Bluff and Insight. I’d do the former if you are infiltrating things and the latter if you are rooting out evil. Your starting feature is a pretty interesting one, especially as it upgrades at levels 5 and 10. It gets more interesting in that you can customize which ability you get when. There is Lliria’s Grace, which lets you added 1d6 to a missed attack roll in hopes of now hitting. You also have Mielikki’s Endurance, which reduces damages from an attack by 5+ Ã‚Â½ your level . Finally there is Tymora’s Luck which lets you reroll a failed Saving Throw with a +2 bonus. I’d personally take them in the order of Mielikki, Lliria and Tymora, but then I play defensively and I like raising my odds of survival at low levels. These Features are all combat oriented so keep that in mind with the build you make.
The Utility Powers are varied. Your Level 2 one lets you take half damage from an attack, which stacks nicely with Mielikki if you took it as your level 1 Feature. The Level 6 power prevents your enemy from making attacks of opportunity on you and grants you target advantage until you attack that specific enemy. The Level 10 Utility Power gives you +4 to defenses if you have the slightest bit of cover or concealment (Bring a hooded cape!) and you can ignore difficult terrain.
All in all, it’s an interesting theme but the only things that really stand out for me are the early level bits. A big disadvantage is that if you lose your Harper Pin, you lose ALL your Theme Features, which makes this a no go for me – especially if you have a sadistic DM. It’s too big of a weakness to assume it won’t be exploited regularly. 3/10
Dead Rat Deserter
Wererat! Playable PC WERERAT! To me, this is as awesome as it is eclectic and the simple idea behind it made this my favorite choice simply for role-playing possibilities. You can be of any class, but only a Human, Half-Elf or Halfling for a race. Your Associated Skills are Intimidate, Stealth and Thievery. Due to the Feature stacking, I’d take Stealth. Read on to see why.
So, your features? Lycanthrophy! Or Rodenthrophy. Whatever works. At Level 1, you can turn into a regular little rat. At Level 5, you gain a +4 to Bluff and Stealth checks (stacks up to +8 in rat form, +10 if you took Stealth as your Associated Skill. Who says you can’t third edition 4e?) and at Level 10 you gain your hybrid form along with a savage bite attack. Of note however is that a) you cannot spread lycanthropy, nor do you get the invulnerability to silver, but I’m sure a lot of games with make house rules on these aspects. Same with how much control you have over your lycanthropy. I know some people might also be disappointed to know you can’t hybrid form out at level one, like monsters, but I think this is a good way of balancing out having a Wererat in the party.
Your Utility Powers are kind of neat. At Level 2, anytime you score a critical hit, any enemies in a burst 5 radius get a -4 to their attacks until the end of your next turn. OUCH. At Level 6, you get a +2 bonus to Stealth and Thievery rolls (Stacks with all of the above!) If you dislike the roll, you can re-roll it as a free action with a +5 bonus. Insane! Finally at Level 10, you get a +4 bonus to your initiative. Imagine how deadly that can be in the hands of a stealth machine rogue.
Overall, Dead Rat Deserter is amazing as it is an interesting idea for a character. It’s best left to a stealth based rogue but for sheer fun, this is the concept I like best. The only thing missing are a few Lycanthropy traits only monsters seem to get. 9/10
I just want to say I have no idea how to pronounce this, but the Guardian is an Eladrin only theme representing one who has just returned to Toril from the Feywild. You’re kind of a shifting ruin explorer.
Associated Skills are Arcana and Nature. Pick what best fits your class build. Your starting Feature is interesting as it lets you fey step, but you can take one adjacent ally with you. This has a lot of storytelling and tactical possibilities. At Level 5 you get +2 to Nature and History checks. Finally, at Level 10, you can use fey step as a minor action. So, nothing really great here, but all things that can be useful.
Your optional Utility Powers include being able to teleport up to two squares if an enemy ends its turn next to you (Level 2), automatic use of fey step if an enemy attacks you, regardless of whether or not it hits (Level 6) and +2 bonus to Will and to saving throws coupled with stackable temporary hit points (5 + Wisdom modifier) each time you make a saving throw (Level 10). The only real interesting one is your Level 10 Utility and it’s pretty powerful if you’re a lucky roller. The others though? Less than impressive. Two neat things out of six aren’t enough to let me recommend the Theme. 4/10
I’m not sure why one needs a Barbarian Theme when there is already a Barbarian class, but whatever. The book says your race needs to be human, although they can make exceptions for half-orcs and half-elves, but it frowns on it. Class can be anything, although the things you get from this Theme seem to favor…Barbarians. SURPRISE!
Associated skills are Athletics and Nature. Both stack with the optional Utility Powers we’ll look at in a bit. Your starting feature gives you an Aura 2 where enemies cannot make attacks of opportunity until the end of your next turn. At Level 5 you get +4 to Perception and Insight checks regarding tracking, beasts and your fellow Uthgardt. At Level 10, you get +3 to Intimidate checks. Nothing impressive but nothing horrible either.
Your Level 2 Utility gives you a +5 bonus to re-roll any History, Nature or Religion check you don’t like, but you have to keep the second roll. Your Level 6 Utility gives you +4 to Athletics and Strength checks for an encounter. Finally, your Level 10 Utility creates a zone around you where enemies can neither regain lost hit points nor gain temporary ones. As well, any allies that end their turn in that zone get five temporary Hit Points. That’s pretty impressive, but it’s the only thing about the Uthgardt that is. Still, at least it’s somewhat interesting. Thumbs in the middle here. 5/10.
Although *I* prefer the Wererat, this is the Theme most gamers are going to gravitate towards. Why? It’s a playable werewolf. How is that not tempting? There are no class prereqs, but you do have to be a human or a shifter. Personally I’d go human. Cat person thingie that turns into a wolf person thingie? That’s just asking for years of therapy, and shrinks are hard to find in a fantasy game.
You Associated Skills are Nature and Perception. Both will be helpful but I’d go Perception in case your DM does a lot of dungeon crawls. Your Level 1 feature has you turn into a wolf with +1 speed and a 1d8 bite. At Level 5, you and your allies get combat advantage towards any enemy adjacent to you. At Level 10, you get +2 to Athletics and Intimidate. Notice unlike the Wererat Theme, you DO NOT get Garou form as a feature. It’s actually an optional Utility Power at Level 10. But what an option it is. Besides your hybrid form you get: 10+ Constitution modifier bonus Hit Points while a hybrid, your bite attack, +2 to Fortitude, Athletics, Intimidate and DAMAGE, +2 to speed AND changing form is a free action. Holy hades.
Your Level 2 Utility causes any enemy you hit to fall prone and your Level 6 gives you regeneration against any damage that isn’t caused by a silver weapon. Why the Wererats don’t have this I don’t know, but hey, HOUSE RULE IT. You regenerate 1+ Con modifier while bloodied, or as a minor action, you can spend a healing surge. Insane.
By far and away, the Pack Outcast is the Theme to take. God knows it’s pretty overpowered compared to everything else. “Oh, I’m sorry Xanathar. You don’t have any silver eyestalks? Too bad – you’re puppy chow.” DMs – Pack Outcast + power gamers = a headache for you, but it really is the best Theme out of the bunch. 10/10
Heir of Delzoun
This is the only pure Dwarf oriented Theme and it revolves around being an explorer in search of Gauntlgrym. You can be any class but I’d go for a class with a LOT of healing surges as powers involve trading them for special effects. Your Associated Skills are Dungeoneering and History and considering where your Dwarf is heading sooner rather than later, take the former.
Your starting Feature give you poison resistance of 5+ one half your level. This stacks with any other poison resistance you might have (or get). At Level 5 you get one extra healing surge per day and at level 10 your HoD gets a +4 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate – but only to other dwarves. Still, it’s a decent ability considering this character’s end goal is to find and restore an ancient Dwarven Kingdom.
Utility powers are…interesting. At Level 2 you can make a History check instead of any other Intelligence based check or Dungeoneering in place of any Wisdom based check. This can be very helpful if you buff those two skills. At Level 6 the optional Utility Power lets you exchange one healing surge in exchange to a)negate any forced movement against your character and b) shift however you want up to three squares. At Level 10, you can exchange a healing surge to automatically succeed at ANY saving throw. These are all powerful defensive abilities and so an Heir of Delzhoun should be based off a defensive class with high Wisdom and Intellegence. Perhaps an Artificer or a Paladin?
Regardless what you choose, the HoD has some potential, but you really have to min/max the characters stats and the right character class to really make it fulfill it. Still, a savvy gamer can pull this off and get some rewarding story hooks because of it. 6/10.
Renegade Red Wizard
This is a very weird Theme indeed. I’m a big fan of Thay in all its incarnations and I was excited to have a Red Wizard option. Unfortunately, this Theme is a bit underwhelming to me. First of all, instead of getting three Features and three utility Powers, you just get five features. On one hand, you get everything instead of having to pick between the optional Utilities along with what else you character could get. On the other, they all kind of suck. There’s also the additional “Secondary School: Red Wizardry” clause that actually does more harm than good because, somehow, the designers though the features were too powerful and thus you needed an ADDITIONAL handicap.
See, most Wizards gain the option of your school bonus at 4th and 8th level via the Apprentice/Expert Mage feature. Not Renegade Red Wizards. Also, because you are a Renegade, you’ve turned your back of Necromancy, so you can’t use those spells either. All you get is a single school. Yep. Instead of being a Wizard that is really good at magic, you get one that is…mediocre at best with the following five features.
At Level 1, you can attack with magic while hidden and instead of being automatically visible to your target, they have to make a Perception check to see you. At Level 4, instead of your school you instead cause your opponents to get a -2 to a saving throw against any spell that has a prolonged effect. Okay. At Level 5, you can exchange a prepared power for an unprepared one with a short rest. At Level 8, instead of your Expert Mage feature you get…+2 to Bluff and Intimidation checks. At Level 10, you get …+1 to attack Red Wizards or the Undead.
Yeah, That’s it. What an utterly worthless theme from beginning to end. Oh wait. We can’t forget your associated skills. You can choose between Bluff, Heal, Religion and Stealth. Like the rest of the “Features,” none of these are of express benefit to you. Jesus, what a horrible theme. Even though I’ve read the book several times and I’ve just written about it, I’m still flabbergast at how anyone could have thought these balanced out the loss of the Apprentice/Expert Mage features. The Level 1 Feature is okay if you specifically go for a ranged assassin build, and Level 5’s Feature would be good in 3rd Edition, not 4th. The rest is just…not enough. Pass. Pick any other mage Theme and you can still make it work better than this. 1/10
Scion of Shadow
A Scion of Shadow has no class restrictions but racially, it needs to be a Human, Shade, or Shadar-Kai. The concept here is that you are the offspring of Netherese royalty or nobility and you’ve abandoned Netheril. It’s very much the “good Drow” but with Shadowfell born characters instead of the Underdark.
Associated Skills are Arcana, Bluff and Stealth. I’d take Stealth unless you are a magic based character due to the Features and Powers associated with it. The starting Feature allows you to activate blindsight 10 which will last until the end of your next turn. At Level 5, you get to add 4 to your healing surge value when in dim light or darkness. At Level 10, you get a +2 to Bluff and Stealth. See how that stacks with your Associated skill? I can’t say any of these are incredibly impressive, but they’re not broken or usless either. It’s a nice build, especially for a rogue or assassin type character. Plus, anything that increases your hit point recovery is fine with me.
At Level 2, your optional Utility Power is a pretty complicated one. After any teleportation power, your character becomes insubstantial and gains phasing and vulnerable 5 radiant. It also lets you automatically make any Stealth checks to become hidden if there is the slightest bit of cover. This includes your allies by the way. This power lasts until the end of your next turn or when you attack, whichever comes first. This is a handy power for tactical maneuvering. At Level 6, you gain partial concealment and combat advantage after you hit with an attack. At Level 10 you can teleport up to 6 squares and then as a move action, you can teleport up to 3 squares once a round until the end of the encounter. The catch is that the destination must be a square in dim light or darkness. Again, these are all neat powers that stack together pretty well and it kind of reminds me of how annoying Stealth plus Hypersonic Speed or Phasing could be in Heroclix. A lot of potential here. 7/10.
Your work, intentionally or otherwise, for Asmodeus – a devil who has plans for the Neverwinter region. There are many ways to play this, but my fear is that a lot of players will to do Devil’s Spawn what happened to Malkavians back in Vampire: The Masquerade , which is ignore all the potential and just focus on being utterly annoying. DMs should be careful here because a bad player will take this Theme just to be a dick to other players and say, “But I is the Devil Man/Lady.” This theme seems like something the characters in Dorkness Rising would have taken if that involved 4e instead of 3e.
Associated Skills are Bluff and Religion. If you’re going spot-on evil, take Bluff and if you’re going for something more Damion Hellstrom, take Religion. Your starting Feature is a pretty impressive one. You gain a burst 2 attack where those in the burst take 5 damage and gain a -2 to all attack and defense rolls while in the burst zone area. As you level up, the damage goes to 7 and 10 fire damage. For a level obe power, that’s pretty intense. At Level 5, you gain +4 to Diplomacy checks, but only with devils, duegar, cultists and other likeminded thingies. At Level 10, you gain Resist 10 Fire or an extra 5 resiost if you already have that somehow. I really like how these features stack and just looking at these I picture this Theme as a wonderful one if you are trying to do a homebrew Planescape campaign.
Utility Powers are even more powerful if you can believe that. At Level 2, you can shoot a fireballout of your chest brand(!) with does 1d6 fire damage to an attacking enemy (within 5 squares) as well as to anything adjacent to it. If you have a Fiendish Pact, you deal extra fire damage based on your Int modifier. At level 6, you can enter a defensive stance that gives you an extra resist 5 fire and +4 to Stealth checks. If you have an Infernal Pact, you also get a +4 to damage rolls with fire based attacks if your Warlock’s Curse is triggered. Finally at Level 10, you gain a devil form that you can turn into once a day. In this form you get +2 to AC, flight equal to your speed, fire resistance of 5+ your level (minimum of 15) and you must attack each round or take damage based on your level. Also, you cannot heal. This entire power is a shout out to the old Pit Fiend card from Magic: The Gathering and it’s pretty awesome that they did that. You gain some nice bits, but the having to attack every round can be potentially harmful. Oh, and if you have an Infernal pact, you gain 10 extra hit points in this form.
Overall, this is a pretty nice set of powers, but they just scream for a Tiefling Warlock if you want to maximize the potential. You don’t have to go that route though. There is a lot of storytelling potential here as well; you just have to make sure you don’t go foaming at the mouth supervillian evil unless you want to piss off everyone you are playing with. 8/10.
When I first saw this Theme, I was hoping it would be similar to Aoth Fezim from Richard Lee Byers Forgotten Realms novels, but it’s not. It’s similar, but it doesn’t give the abilities or powers you seem associated with his Spellcarred eyes. Sadly, if you take this Theme, you are given additional handicaps above which puts you at a disadvantage as most of the Harbinger’s abilities aren’t that impressive. To start, you get a -2 to all rolls involving the spellplague or when attacked by a fellow Spellscarred being. On top of that, any Spellscarred character can detect another of their kind within 5 squares of them. Basically, don’t be a rogue if you take this because a good/smart DM will build in a Spellscarred recurring adversary for you.
Associated skills are Arcana and Heal. Take whichever. Your Starting Feature is actually a choice of three. You can either have: a) the ability to teleport up to 2 squares as a minor action once per encounter, b) the ability to reroll a saving throw once per encounter, or, c) Become invisible for a turn once per encounter. I’d personally take C as that’s a pretty nice power to start out with. The others…kind of blah. At Level 5 you can use your spellscar to daze an opponent until the end of your next turn…but you also take damage of 5 + half your level. Yuck. That’s pretty awful. At Level 10…you get to pick one of the other Level 1 options you didn’t take. Yes, your Level 10 Feature is a Level 1 one. That’s pretty crappy no matter how you look at it.
Utility Powers are somewhat better. At Level 2, you can activate an aura 2 that gives enemies -2 to their rolls when within it. As well, if they try and recharge a power, they must roll twice and take the lower of the two rolls. At Level 6, you can redirect an attack on you to any other adjacent character or creature. Not bad. At Level 10, you can recover ANY attack power of Level 7 or lower…but only if you have already expended all your powers AND you hit an enemy granting you combat advantage. Bleck.
Really, the Spellscarred Harbinger has crappy features and two pretty nice OPTIONAL Utility powers. This is a pretty unbalanced choice and it’s definitely up there with the faux Red Wizard and Harper as the worst choices out there. Remember, any power where you take more and more damage just to daze something is an automatic failure. 3/10
Bregan D’Aerthe Spy
…and here we are with the last Theme in the book. It’s been a long piece, eh? This is a pretty easy to grasp theme. You’re a Drow member of Bregar D’aerthe – an organization of outcast Drow who work as mercs or spies in the above world. If you wanted to play a quasi-Drizzt, here is your chance.
Associated Skills are Bluff, Dungeoneering and Stealth. Since your theme is that of a Spy, I think you can guess that the latter is probably the most helpful here. Your starting feature is a VERY powerful one if you have a good mind for battle tactics. You can levitate/fly up to 4 squares horizontally and 1 vertically. You also don’t take falling damage when you end your flight. At Level 1, that’s insanely powerful. At Level 5, you gain sustained levitation and can levitate for two turns in a row. At Level 10, enemies to not get bonuses to their attack rolls against you when it comes to combat advantage. These are some really nice Features.
Optional Utility Powers include: making a Stealth check to hide as a free action with the slightest bit of concealment (Level 2), the ability to shift up to 3 squares per round as a move action (Level 6), and +5 to Insight and Perception checks for an encounter (Level 10).
Overall, the Spy Theme isn’t too insanely powerful but it’s Level 1 Feature is amazing and it can’t be understated how unbalancing a flying ally can be at Level 1. The rest of the bits with this Theme are more understated but as a Theme, this is one of the better ones. 7/20
So there we are – a full rundown of the 13 Character Themes in Neverwinter and a look at how good they are. Remember to stay away from the Red Wizard, Harbinger and Harper unless you want them specifically for the storytelling potential. Feel free to let us know which ones YOU like best and what are being used in your campaigns!
Tags: Dungeons & Dragons