With the Shadowfell Conspiracy being out for about a week now, I’ve gotten a chance to play around with the iconics we got with the expansion if you got the Collector’s Edition, the Morninglord and Shadar-Kai, and the pre-order, The Bladeforged. The one that comes with the base edition isn’t nearly as exiting to play as the Shadar-Kai, but would work well in concert with both the Shadar-Kai and the Morninglord. The Purple Dragon Knight, like the other two Iconics that come attached to the expansion, are Forgotten Realm Iconics with a different racial bonus that grants them different abilities. While you can go either way with the Purple Dragon Knight being a Fighter base class, I opted to build something I hadn’t done with a fighter yet, a tank. And on top of that I used the default line build they give you when you roll up a character instead of customizing it out. The results were interesting.
While I haven’t played around with the Knight class in Dungeons and Dragons tabletop, in Pathfinder they basically play out as a Paladin without the divine abilities and a few party shouts that help for a brief time and with slightly better saving throws. Turbine has gone that route here basing the Purple Dragon Knight off the Fighter Class and letting the Enhancement lines fill out the class benefits for you. Since I’m going with a path for this character, most of my options are out the window except for Enhancements, which really make or break a character in Dungeons and Dragons Online anyway unless you’ve completely screwed up your stats while you were building your character. Fortunately, if you decide to build your Purple Dragon Knight using the path you can build as a tank or DPS and the path should end up working out pretty decently either way. Fighter is one of the easiest classes to build and using a path makes it even easier. Click of a button easy really.
You start out, like the other Forgotten Realms Iconics, in the Ball and Chain Tavern in the Forgotten Realms. The Purple Dragon Knights are a group in Cormyr that help defend towns from attack. In Menace of the Underdark they’re protecting Eveningstar and are the focus of several quests there before the player heads into the Underdark. The Iconic is not a disgraced Knight, but one released from service and not quite ready to let the fight go. You talk to Elminster to kick things off and tell him what you want to level up, but unlike my other two Iconics, I’d be strictly hands off here and told him to follow the path and in under thirty seconds I was leveled up and ready to pick my enhancements. The Path focuses on your Charisma stat and you Constitution, which isn’t normally how you build a Fighter. Normally it’s Strength, so you can hit things. One of the neat things the Purple Dragon Knight has going for it though is a racial bonus that lets you swap your attack and damage modifiers from Strength to Charisma as long as you’re using a sword, long, short, bastard or great. Yes this is going to keep you from Axes and a few other interesting weapons a Fighter could normally use effectively, but it bumps up other things, like your Intimidate skill which is based off your Charisma bonus so you can keep the bad guys attacking you and not your party.
I mentioned that in tabletop the Knight plays like a Paladin without Divine Spells, and that’s a bit of the case here. You have an aura, like a Paladin, that grants a bonus to your group to help from spell effects and boosts that up your party’s attack and movement speed as well as get them out of a fear effect instantly. You even have access to a shout that can heal once per rest kind of like Unyielding Sovereignty for Divines. Other than that the Iconic plays just like a Fighter. This is only my second Tank build in the game. My other was a sword and board Paladin hate tank that wasn’t very good at keeping aggro but was very good at staying alive. This guy is good at staying alive and keeping aggro and bolstering the party a bit. To be fair my hate tank Paladin was from before Intimidate became a class skill for Paladin’s, so his ability to pull critters to him is hampered by how much he can hit with. But I went for a Sword and Board build for the Purple Dragon Knight mainly because of the nice sword and shield that you get and because all my other fighters are DPS. I wanted to try something new and it looked like this character had this kind of thing really built into it.
Now I’ve yet to take him into the new content. My regular group is in the middle of running some second and third life True Reincarnated characters up to cap and were right around my level with the Purple Dragon Knight, so I kicked him over to Eberron from the main character select screen, picked up no gear besides a healer hireling to try him solo in quests with my group and we headed out to the Necropolis and the Orchard of the Macabre to start running the flagging quests for the Litany Raid. And remarkably, despite not having any means to hit incorporeal critters out there, he excelled at staying alive and holding aggro, even against undead that can’t be intimidated. A few good hits and they’d be back on me, even with Artificers in our group dishing out a lot more damage than I can.
When I did finally pull some bracers with the ability to hit incorporeal, which wiped out an exceptional strength and doublestrike bonus when I swapped gear back and forth, the magic happened. While not great DPS, I was able to clear rooms with a minimal of fuss. The Shield bonus for knockdowns helped keep things off me while I took out the little mobs and the vorpal on the Sword helped kill things that weren’t in need of a head anyway. I do think the one thing this Fighter build has over my DPS fighters, is a nice set of saving throws so I don’t end up held or with a lot of effects on me all the time if I don’t have any buffs on me to prevent them. Usually I have a horrendous time with Fighters in Ghosts of Perdition, a quest in the Orchard where you have to fight through the quest to take on an Undead Beholder which wipes out your buffs through anti-magic. I’m used to getting annihilated as a Fighter through all sorts of magical penalties that end with me dead, but between some amazing DPS from our Artificers and healing from our Cleric when she could get around the anti-magic, we did pretty good and it only ended up with me dead through a lot of negative levels and a disintegrate once through a number of run-throughs to get the necessary sigils to flag.
My final verdict on the Purple Dragon Knight is that it is a pretty useful class. It has some interesting perks over a standard Fighter, but some disadvantages there as well if you build it with the Knight bonuses in mind. It’s not as good as a Paladin for buffing or self-healing, but the party buffs are decent. It’s really just another option, much like the other Iconics. It’s a different way to build the same classes we’ve had in the game for years with a few new tricks up their sleeve. While I had fun playing this one, it probably won’t see as much play as my Shadar-Kai will as I really enjoy that Iconic more, but I do think there’s some decent things within the Purple Dragon Knight Iconic that it makes worth making a new character. The gear is decent for the level, but like any level fifteen character, there are some holes you’ll have to fill to be truly effective in every quest, but as starting equipment goes for a fifteen it’s just about right. I’ll be tackling more of the expansion in my next column, so check back here soon.