I just picked up the XRP Advanced Player's Guide
, and a preview of the WotC barbarian from Player's Handbook 2 is available at the Dragon site
Ari starts his chapter on classes with a great "Word from the Author" where he talks about knowing that official versions of these classes would soon be available. His Advanced Player's Guide lays out three design challenges for 4E classes:
* Balanced and fun to play
* Unique in play; offers different feel than other PCs in the party, including other versions of the same archetype
* Captures original spirit; good options for converting PCs from your existing campaigns to 4E
Looking at the APG's savage warrior and the PHBII's barbarian, I'd say that each of us did an awesome job of meeting these goals, and that the results of our separate approaches are different enough that all three books deserve a place in your campaign. Players who like mighty warriors able to meet hordes of enemies head-on without relying on heavy armor are going to go from having few options to getting a lot of love.
Here's my quick take on each of those goals:
* Balanced is hardest to judge. I wasn't sure that our classes were balanced until I got to see a dozen different parties in action at the Forgotten Heroes tournament. Each version sure does look fun to play, though!
- Forgotten Heroes' barbarian: fun of being the last man standing. The tournament barbarians were notorious for taking a licking and still managing to leap, swim, and charge into a new knot of enemies.
- APG's savage warrior: fun of being the Incredible Hulk. Lots of class features that kick in when you're bloodied.
- PHBII's barbarian: fun of being the death dealer
. Fills the niche left open by the first PHB: a melee class that's simpler to build than the fighter and easier to play than the rogue.
* Different feel than other versions, definitely.
- FH: Indominable tribesmen with totem spirits and a close kinship with druids and nature.
- APG: Furious warrior shaped by the savagery of the wilderness or the gladiator pits.
- PHBII: Mighty rager, capable of dishing out whopping amounts of punishment.
* Captures original spirit, yes, because there's so much D&D history to draw from.
- FH: Closest to AD&D conception. Good for converting melee skirmishers and druid/ranger types.
- APG: Closest to 2E conception. Good for converting brawlers and low-AC, high-HP frontliners.
- PHBII: Closest to 3E conception. Good for converting characters meant to step up and fight without having to worry about complexities like marking and opportunity attacks.
Once I read more, I'll post some ideas for how to combine powers and class features from these different sources to make your own ultimate barbarian class. It looks like the APG has lots of powers, feats, and paragon paths that would work with your Forgotten Heroes barbarian and visa versa. The PHBII is tricker to customize because their barbarian is a striker, while ours and Ari's is a defender, and the guys at WotC built striker bonus damage built into the powers - it'll take more than that preview for me to understand how that's going to work with paragon paths and multiclass feats.