Defenders of the Faith
Defenders of the Faith Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 24/04/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 3 (Average)
It’s a nice book, but the uneven quality of the content marks it down to “Buy only if you must.”
Product: Defenders of the Faith
Author: Rich Redman and James Wyatt
Company/Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Line: Dungeons & Dragons
Cost: $19.95 (US)
Page count: 96 pages
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 24/04/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
Defenders of the Faith is the second of the character builder supplements published by Wizards of the Coast in support of Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. The focus of this supplement is upon clerics and paladins. As with Sword & Fist, this book has new feats, prestige classes, magic items and enchantments and more meant for use by those characters that possess levels in either class. Unfortunately, many of the problems first see in Sword & Fist persist in Defenders of the Faith. Fortunately, so do the good bits.
The cover artwork, which depicts Jozan the cleric and Alhandra the paladin in combat against a non-human cleric of Hextor, is an improvement over the Sword & Fist cover. It’s not much of an improvement due to the fact that the evil cleric is the focus of the piece, and not our two Iconic characters, but it is an improvement. The interior artwork remains competent, and the layout again makes it easy to read the book and use it during play. So, saying that the style is classy and well done isn’t an understatement.
The content, on the other hand, varies in quality. The new Divine category of feat isn’t the problem, and neither are the new spells. The advice on playing a cleric or a paladin is useful for veterans as well as rookies; it focuses upon practical gameplay issues over esoteric issues that really are campaign-specific cultural issues. I appreciated the expanded treatment of the paladin’s special mount, divine intervention and the new uses for old skills. This collection of content seems small at a glance, but this is the prmary reason for why such a supplement exists and I am pleased to see it addressed as well as it is in this book. The element at the end that sums up all of the official non-human gods in Greyhawk in terms that allow gamers to play clerics of that god is quite nice, and much appreciated. This is the quality content.
The problematic content, again, is the content that sells all of these books: the new prestige classes. The Hospitaler, Templar, Sacred Exorcist, Consecrated Harrier and the Church Inquisitor are straight out of medieval and early modern Christianity; as written, the context is removed and all of these classes suffer for it. Had there been some sort of Greyhawk context presented, this would’ve gone a long way in making these classes presentable. The Sacred Fist is just plain absurd, as the most like class—the monk—is highly unlikely to qualify in a reasonable amount of time. The Master of Shrouds and the Hospitaler are notorious for their errata, as both are wide open to abuse if the version in the book is used. The Knight of the Middle Circle and the Knight of the Chalice are the least problematic as both are given a sort of organizational context and neither are possessed of broken rules. The same goes for the Hunter of the Dead. (The worst that can be said is that these three are overly focused.) The Divine Oracle is worthwhile, but not the Warpriest—trading half of a PC’s caster levels for this class’ suite of powers is a bad trade—usually not the Contemplative. (The latter, ironically, is better suited to the wizard.) In total, this bag is definitely mixed. Use with caution.
The new magics, which include the prestige domains, is the second hit-and-miss section of content. Some of these are great—Glory, Mind, Community and Madness for example—while others, such as Summoning and Inquisition, are questionable. With the new domains come new spells, but most of these are quite nice additions to the spell lists of clerics, paladins and druids. The new equipment, items and enchantments are welcome additions as well; the armor of speed received some errata, but otherwise these are all right.
The third are the sample churches, using the Greyhawk gods, each of which epitomize an alignment. Most of these, as examples of alignments, are weak at best and usually less than worthwhile. As sample churches they do better, but most veterans and those with some knowledge of how religions of various types function will do far better than what is here. Rather, these are best used as sample locations for a GM to plop down when he’s pressed to include something of this sort into his campaign. They also serve nicely as set pieces for the PCs to sack, loot and burn to the ground—be it for fair reasons or foul—of for them to defend (ditto) against those who seek to do so.
Overall, Defenders of the Faith is a marked improvement over Sword & Fist. Just the same, there are still many issues regarding the quality of certain elements within the book and as such I cannot recommend it for anyone other those who are in dire need of the new powers—spells, feats, skills, items, etc.—or for those who have no clue whatsoever about how to effectively play either a paladin or a cleric. If you want access to the variant rules, then consider buying a used copy or one on clearance instead of getting one brand new. Otherwise, you will not miss that much if you skip this one all together. It’s a nice book, but the uneven quality of the content marks it down to “Buy only if you must.”