So, Wizards of the Coast did a simultaneous launch of their new book Heroes of Shadow alongside a Compendium and Character Builder update, so those of us who choose not to buy the books aren’t forced to wait a month to see the new stuff. Like most of the Essentials classes, the vampire is … interesting.

First, a bit of background. Fourth Edition classes, which I guess are now “classic,” versus the the new “Essentials,” generally gave you two flavors per class on release, and a minimum of four choices per power whenever you got to pick a new one, encounter powers at 3rd, 7th, 13th, 17th, 23rd, 27th, daily powers at 5th, 9th, 15th, 19th, 25th, 29th, and utility powers at 2nd, 6th, 12th, 16th, 22nd, 26th.

Essentials, rather than giving two separate flavors, gives you a choice of vanilla with chips or vanilla with flakes. (What those chips and flakes are made of is a different question entirely.) Also, your power choices are eliminated entirely: you get the powers the class gets at the levels it gets them. With some classes, you’ll get a choice of stances, like the fighters, or some movement powers, like the rogue, or some weird utility powers, like the rangers, but generally your choices are severely limited.

Now, the vampire looks to be the only new class in the book. Sure, there are more Essentials variations of the paladin (Blackguard), the mage (Necromancer), and the warlock (Binder), but those are variations on already-existing classes. Bored now.

The Vampire does a couple interesting things. First of all, it has only two healing surges for a class that’s meant to be on the front line of combat. Of course, during a short rest, a Vampire can mooch off his friend’s healing surges (maybe the fighter will finally run out!) and during combat, the Vampire can use its Blood Suck ability (it has another name, but it’s wrong, of course) to gain a surge from an enemy.

Mostly, I look at the class and think “That has some cool ideas. Damn, I wish it had the versatility of the classic Fourth Edition classes. Oh well, I’m the DM and I can make monsters that use the same types of powers and give them additional things that make them cooler.” That’s pretty much how I view all the Essentials classes. *sigh*