Reviews of 'Book of Exalted Deeds'
Reviews of 'Book of Exalted Deeds'
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If the Book of Vile Darkness is the tome for the depraved and terrible things in the Dungeons & Dragons world, the Book of Exalted Deeds is the sourcebook designed specifically as its foil. The two books are largely mirror images of one another, complete with classes, spells and items that serve to undo or counter the effects of their counterparts in the opposite book. While obviously designed for a wider audience than the Dragonlance setting, there are nonetheless some good game ideas and rules that can be applied to a Dragonlance campaign. Since I'm writing this review on the heels of finishing up Chris Pierson's Kingpriest trilogy of novels, some of the rules in the Book of Exalted Deeds have a good deal more meaning and may even be more appropriate for a Dragonlance campaign set in that time period.
The Book of Exalted Deeds opens with a chapter discussing the nature of what "good" is. It goes on to describe many of the virtues that many people think of, such as helping others, charity, healing, mercy, hope, and forgiveness. The Book of Exalted Deeds also covers some other topics that may seem a bit out of place, such as redeeming evil. Other discussions put the modern perspective of how many people view "good" in terms of the Geneva Convention, and how those perceptions are oftentimes at odds with how the D&D world operates in the typical medieval setting. The final portion of the first chapter is devoted to the "exalted" classes, or how each of the various core D&D classes fits into the world presented in the Book of Exalted Deeds.
Chapter two discusses some of the variant rules that can come into play in an Exalted campaign. These include things like special cohorts and mounts, to exorcism, voluntary poverty (and the class bonuses it confers since the character is effectively without equipment even at high levels), tithing, words of creation and sainthood.
The third chapter covers exalted equipment, and introduces rules for "sanctified" weapons that are specially purified for any number of purposes. It also covers types of ravages and afflictions (effectively good versions of poison and disease that only apply to evil creatures), as well as exalted relics, and special material components for creating spells and magic items. Chapter four deals with exalted feats, which are generally variations on feats presented in the Player's Handbook that either extend class abilities or present them with a good twist. Examples include Exalted Turning, which immolates undead, Celestial Mount which allows for a mount to be selected from a list of celestials instead of standard creatures, or the Righteous Wrath feat which improves the barbarian's rate ability.
Chapter five spends thirty pages presenting the various prestige classes in the Book of Exalted Deeds. There is basically one prestige class for each type of core class presented in the Player's Handbook, with enough variations to include dual class characters tha may have taken a slightly different path than the "straight" path through their class. An example is the Slayer of Domiel, a class designed for a good rogue with the tendencies of an assassin, but only used for good purposes (as strange as that may sound). The Book of Exalted Deeds contains several three-level prestige classes, so that PCs can deviate slightly from progression in their base class to gain some of the additional features presented in the book.
The chapter on magic is perhaps one of the most extensive. Many of the spells include the good descriptor, which may have an effect on how the spells operate in your campaign; in addition, the Book of Exalted Deeds introduces a number of new cleric domains. The chapter also introduces the concept of a sanctified spell, which has a penalty associated with its casting. In exchange for ability drain or some other sacrifice by the caster, it greatly empowers the spell. Perhaps the best example of this is a new spell, Exalted Fury: all evil creatures within the area of effect take your current hit points + 50 damage with no saving throw, but you die in the process. Other effects include the temporary loss of an ability score or loss of a level, depending on the spell.
In addition to new spells (and some reprinted from other sources), the Book of Exalted Deeds also includes a number of new magic weapons and armor. Some samples include the Celestial Blade, or the Ring of Solar Wings—which causes the wearer to grow the white wings its name implies. Several intelligent items as well as major artifacts like the Regalia of Good are also presented, in addition to rules for redeeming evil magic items, like a black Robe of the Archmagi.
Chapter seven covers celestial paragons: the ability of clerics and other magic users to channel the powers of a celestial being into herself and several of the members of her party for a short duration per the epic spell description. In addition, the chapter also presents a list of the paragons available in traditional monster statistic block format, with descriptions of their abilities, home planes and familiars.
Chapter eight introduces new "monsters", which may be a misnomer when all of the monsters in the chapter are good monsters. New varieties of archons are presented, as well as the undead Crypt Warden, multiple varieties of Eladrin, Guardinals, and several types of swarms. There is also a Sacred Watcher, the Hollyphant (an homage to the scene in Tolkien's The Two Towers comes to mind with the picture), the Leskylor or tiger equivalent of the three-headed dog Cerberus, as well as several other creatures. The monsters chapter also includes rules for sanctified creatures, such as an evil red dragon who has been "sanctified" by the spell. The Book of Exalted Deeds closes with a short appendix listing the various celestials and their challenge ratings.
For players participating in a campaign where the focus of their characters is righteous and their quests are devoted to destroying evil wherever it's found, the Book of Exalted Deeds will be a welcome addition to their library, providing new tools for the characters to combat evil wherever they encounter it. For those whose focus is not nearly so righteous, the Book of Exalted Deeds still contains some interesting new spells and items, but will not be nearly as useful. The Book of Exalted Deeds can easily fit into a Dragonlance campaign, as the vast majority of information presented can be used with no modification, and with minor changes to the spells, feats and features that mention the Greyhawk deities used in the Player's Handbook.
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