Turn widdershins thrice,
follow the Yellow Brick Road,
cross the Sea of Blood.
I'm sorry, the cover of this book is just awful. kingtycoon has widely derided the art direction of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, saying everyone looks like they are constipated, & that is in full effect here, to my chagrin. The rest of the book...well, really lives up to the promise of the cover, in that I think it is pretty terrible. It is heartbreaking-- I liked 4e, & I thought it had promise, but they never really gave it the tweaks it needed. I would have fixed it by adding an "Unearthed Arcana" line, putting out a Big Book of Non-Combat Options along with a Big Book of Low Magic Options, allowing people to actually play the game in their own way. When the "Essentials" line came out, I realized they weren't really interested in the toolbox approach they took with 3e, & I wrote the system off more or less. That being said, I still have a lot invested in the mythology of Dungeons & Dragons, & I enjoy reading books like The Demonomicon Underdark...but this doesn't even hit those notes. It is just a laundry list of new Player options, as if the bloat of powers wasn't part of this edition's problems. & nothing for the Warlock? Seriously? I mean, "Fey Pacts" is one of the core options for the class!
It isn't all bad. It has Themes, first introduced in Dark Sun, which I think are great ways to add to Character development & Player investment in the setting. & the Themes are good, too: Sidhe Lord & Unseelie Agents are both evocative as heck. The Epic Destinies Wild Hunter & Witch Queen are both neat options that I could see someone aspiring to. & Boons! Another thing I like about Fourth Edition-- the ability to give Players new abilities instead of treasure is great. I mean, it is a necessary solution to a problem that DnD creates by having disposable items that don't scale, but that is neither here nor there. The point is, I like Boons, & they fit with a "fairytale" setting especially well. & speaking of the Grimmy nature of the Feywild, there is a neat Pan's Labyrinth homage picture in here, too. The items are pretty nice as well-- the Unseelie Candle, which sheds only dim light but illuminates invisible creatures, is something I invented myself, back in the first Oubliette campaign. I always like those little moments of convergent evolution.
I don't like the races in the book. They aren't bad, but they aren't fantastic, either. I felt the same way about the races in Heroes of Shadow as well, actually. Of the lot, the hamadryad is the most interesting, but perhaps I just think that because elladorian had made a racial conversion to play as a dryad in fordmadoxfraud's Orrery campaign. The pixie...is meh. First off, the flavor text? Rubbish! There is a cute little "Sleeping Beauty" set up, but the gifts the ur-pixie receives are trite as heck. "Whimsy, play, care & laughter"? Barf. & then Corellon Latherian shows up to give the final blessing, "...the gift of wonder that is the purest form of magic." So much vomit, everywhere. Speaking of fluff, there are these "Bard's Tale" sections all over the book, & not a single one of them is an interesting story hook. The actual design of the pixie is...a little on the nose, don't you think? I mean, they have fairy dust that the can sprinkle on people to make them fly. Now, one of the guiding principals of my current Oubliette campaign is just to say "fuck it!" & go whole hog, but even for me, the Peter Pan thing is a bit much. As for the satyr-- well, this is me trying to clean up their clutter, but wouldn't have been neat to just say "tieflings who come from the Feywild are called satyrs" & then have an alternate racial power? I mean, how many guys with horns do you need?