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Crisp Fall Days and Scary Autumn Nights
And Other News
by Bill Slavicsek

We’re starting to get those crisp Fall days here in the Seattle area, and that means the rainy season will soon begin. But before that happens, we have clear skies. And clear skies make me think about what’s over the horizon and around the next bend. For example, the R&D team is busy putting the finishing touches on Dungeons & Dragons products for the first half of 2011, and we’re playtesting a number of new board games for 2012. I saw a couple of new designs today, for example, that made me very happy and which open up new play experiences for the D&D brand. It’s way too early to talk about these products, but there are other things coming up in the near term that I can fill you in on.

First, let’s cover some other topics before I let you in on a number of secret D&D goings-on known only to the Director of R&D and a small, select group of other people here at Wizards.

Releasing This Month

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Look for the Dungeon Master’s Kit this month, a D&D Essentials boxed set created especially for new Dungeon Masters or experienced DMs looking to add new components and adventures into their game. The boxed set features a Dungeon Master Book that contains directed information on how to best run a D&D game, two ready-to-play adventures, two double-sided poster maps, three sheets of hero and monster tokens, and a DM screen.

This month also sees the release of the next Dungeon Tiles Master Set. The City boxed set features 10 Dungeon Tiles sheets that let you create encounter areas with either an urban street theme or a sewer theme for when your adventures inevitably move below ground. The box itself features a grid so that you can create multilevel encounters—the street and the rooftops above, for example.

For those of you looking for something completely different, check out the D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game. This box contains everything you need to create wasteland warriors searching for Omega Tech in the ruins of a radiated world. It's a wacky game of post-apocalyptic peril using the basics of the D&D game rules, so you already know how to play. It includes a deck of Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech that constantly change the game experience. If you like this dynamic element of play, look for booster packs of new cards that you can add to your game.

Finally, watch for the new R.A. Salvatore D&D novel this month. Gauntlgrym, Book I in the Neverwinter Trilogy, features the signature drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden and ties into the upcoming Dungeons & DragonsNeverwinter cooperative computer roleplaying game. Bob is going on tour to promote the novel release and meet with fans. You can check our website to see whether the tour includes a stop near you.

Keep on the Borderlands

The new season of D&D Encounters is in full swing, but it’s not too late to get in on the action! Every Wednesday night at your local game store, you can help defend the Nentir Vale and protect the Keep from monstrous threats and ravaging hordes. Use our Locator tool to find a participating D&D Encounters location near you.

D&D Youtube

Want to catch the latest D&D-related videos? Then be sure to subscribe to the D&D Channel at Youtube.

D&D Gamma World Game Day

The next D&D Game Day is approaching fast. This time it’s dedicated to all things postapocalyptic and mutanty. Bring your friends and get ready for a fast and furious romp through a radiated Earth. Become a mutant hero and square off against killer robots, weird aliens, outrageous tech, and irradiated animals. Check the store locator to find a participating retailer near you. It’s the best way to see what all the excitement related to D&D Gamma World is all about.

Adding Fortune to Your D&D Game

Heroes always have an edge. Sometimes that edge comes from deep within, and sometimes it shows up in the form of luck, divine intervention, or the whim of some other supernatural and unfathomable force. Early next year, Dungeons & DragonsFortune Cards: Aspects of Fate debuts to add this optional element to any D&D campaign. Sold in booster packs, D&D Fortune Cards provide minor boosts that help propel the story of every encounter in different and exciting ways. This new element makes a perfect addition to any home campaign, and will also feature prominently in D&D Encounters and other D&D Organized Play programs. I’ll talk more about D&D Fortune Cards next month and show off a few of the cards as well.

Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms Preview

Next month, the second player-focused D&D Essentials product hits the shelves. Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms features new builds for the Druid, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock. It also includes the dragonborn, drow, half-elf, half-orc, human, and tiefling races. Here’s a preview of one of the two Ranger builds in the book, a Martial controller called the Hunter. This is only a preview. Check out the actual product for the complete class entry.


Ranger

Martial and Primal Controller: Rangers such as the hunter use their training and skill with ranged weapons as well as a reverence for the natural world to make them champions of the wilderness.

Martial and Primal Striker: Rangers such as the scout mix a singular two-weapon combat style with a mastery of primal magic to overwhelm their foes.

Why This Is the Class for You: You want to play an adventurer who combines wilderness prowess with primal magic.

Some heroes are more at home among the trees or in open fields than they are when walking the streets of a city. In ages past, rangers kept the peace along the farthest frontiers of civilization, wandering the land to root out monsters and keep the roads clear of threats. Today, the empires of old are long gone, their roads fallen into ruin. Yet even as the encroaching darkness grows ever bolder, rangers continue the valiant fight to keep the borderlands safe and secure. So well do they perform this task that many of those on the frontier never realize the debt they owe to those who protect them.

Many common folk are suspicious of rangers, knowing their kind only as loners who have no ties to kin or community. Indeed, some rangers eventually become little more than hermits watching over specific areas of the wild. However, as the darkness encroaches upon civilization, many rangers take on a protective role that prompts them to wander throughout all settled lands. A ranger’s abilities reflect the divide between civilization and wilderness. Although rangers learn to master weapons, most commonly bows and those used in two-weapon fighting, they augment this martial training with their knowledge of primal magic. A ranger in the wild counts on his or her woodcraft and mastery of magic to survive.

The types of ranger you can create with this book are the hunter and the scout.

Hunter

Key Abilities: Dexterity, Wisdom

Hunters are the masters of ranged weapons, and they draw on cunning battle tactics to deter their enemies. Reverent allies of the natural world, hunters train in the deep forests and wilderness, tracking down and slaying monsters intent on attacking villages and towns. At the same time, they seek to find harmony with the beneficial creatures of nature, and they learn to dabble in primal power—the magic of nature itself.

A hunter is a controller first and foremost, manipulating the battlefield using high-precision ranged attacks. Against single targets, however, a hunter’s attacks pack a punch that make it lean toward striker as a secondary role.

CLASS TRAITS
Hit Points: You start with hit points equal to 12 + your Constitution score. You gain 5 hit points each time you gain a level.
Bonus to Defenses: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex
Healing Surges per Day: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged, military ranged
Class Skills: Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Dungeoneering (Wis), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), Nature (Wis), Perception (Wis), Stealth (Dex)
Trained Skills: Dungeoneering or Nature, plus four more from the list of class skills

Heroic Hunter

In the heroic tier, you master both the mysteries of primal magic and the intricacies of the bow. With your aspects, you learn to combine the two into a deadly fighting style.

HUNTER HEROIC TIER
Total XP Level Feats Known Class Features and Powers
0 1 1 Archery Style
Expert Archer
Disruptive shot
Weapon Talent
Aspects of the wild
Wilderness knacks
1,000 2 1 Utility power
2,250 3 Improved Disruptive Shot
3,750 4 1 Ability score increase
Wilderness knack
5,500 5 Reactive shift
Weapon Mastery
7,500 6 1 Utility power
10,000 7 Aspect of the wild
Improved Disruptive Shot
13,000 8 1 Ability score increase
Wilderness knack
16,500 9 Close Combat Archery
20,500 10 1 Utility power

Level 1: Archery Style

All hunters are archers, and your choice of ranged weapon defines an archery style that you will hone and perfect over the course of your adventuring career. Many hunters—from the elves and eladrin of the wild forests to the humans and half-orcs of the plains and tundra—choose the longbow as their signature weapon. Most halflings prefer the shortbow due to its ease of use by smaller combatants, but either weapon excels at mowing down groups of marauding goblins, orcs, and other foul creatures.

The crossbow is often a more useful weapon in the cramped quarters of the Underdark. The dwarf hunters who took up their profession in the ancient caverns of their race’s fallen strongholds favor the crossbow, as do hunters who spend their time in the gloom-tainted forest ruins spread across the borderlands. You gain one of the following features depending on your choice of ranged weapon.

Bow Hunter

You have spent so many hours training with the bow that you have learned, on your own, to use the weapon as capably as someone who received special training.
Benefit: You gain the Bow Expertise feat.

Crossbow Hunter

As an expert with the crossbow, you can reload bolts in the blink of an eye. You have also mastered the intricacies of this weapon, attaining a high level of skill through focused training and practice.
Benefit: You gain the Crossbow Expertise feat.
Also, if a crossbow you wield has the load minor property, you can instead reload it as a free action.

Level 1: Expert Archer

In the hands of a hunter, a ranged weapon becomes the most fearsome tool on the battlefield. Each arrow or bolt you fire is part of a deadly assault that no foe can stand against for long. You learn a number of tricks and techniques with ranged weapons.
Benefit: You gain the following three powers.

Aimed Shot
Your focus and training allow you to draw a bead on your target despite cover, fog, and other impediments. Your mind clears, your foe comes into focus, and you unleash a shot.

Aimed Shot
Ranger Attack
Your mastery of the bow allows you to disregard cover, concealment, or some other hindrance.
At-Will Martial
Standard Action Personal
Effect: You make a ranged basic attack with a weapon, ignoring the penalty to attack rolls imposed by partial cover and partial concealment. In addition, the penalty to attack rolls imposed by superior cover and total concealment is no worse than –2 for this attack.

Clever Shot
Your skill with ranged attacks comes across in a variety of ways. Aimed shot reflects your focus and accuracy, while rapid shot is the byproduct of your speed and skill in handling your weapon. Clever shot draws on your guile and insight. You aim your shot to strike your foe at just the right angle, hindering its movement or knocking it backward as you see fit.

Clever Shot
Ranger Attack
By carefully judging your target’s stance, you unleash a shot that sends the enemy tumbling.
At-Will Martial
Standard Action Personal
Effect: You make a ranged basic attack with a weapon. If the attack hits, the target is also subject to one of the following effects of your choice:
You slide the target up to 2 squares.
The target falls prone.
The target is slowed (save ends).

Rapid Shot
By sacrificing some amount of accuracy, you unleash a series of attacks against your enemies that encourage them to spread out. When your enemies linger close to each other, your speed and confidence with your weapon allow you to lay waste their formations.

Rapid Shot
Ranger Attack
You take careful aim at a group of enemies before unleashing a succession of arrows.
At-Will Martial
Standard Action Personal
Effect: You make a ranged basic attack with a weapon against each creature in or adjacent to a square within the attack’s range. You take a –2 penalty to the attack rolls.

Level 1: Aspects of the Wild

You have spent uncounted days in the wild, seeking forgotten paths, hunting bandits and monsters that threaten the scattered points of civilization along the frontier, and ferreting out nascent threats before they grow to menace the land. Your hours of isolated wandering build on the lore of the master hunters who taught you what you know, granting you insight into the mysterious workings of primal magic. By channeling this power, you take on the grace and strength of great beasts of the wild as you hunt your foes.

Each aspect grants a particular benefit to your attacks, whether by helping you better control the battlefield through forcing your enemies to move, limiting a creature’s combat options, or dealing damage to additional foes.

Benefit: You gain two of the following powers of your choice.

Aspect of the Cunning Fox
A ranger trains to fight, but sometimes the best tactic is one that allows you to escape from a battle. Like a fox, you use speed and cunning to outwit your foes. They might attempt to hinder your movement, but you easily dodge their attacks. When you strike, you remain one step ahead of your foes, dancing in and out of the battle.

Aspect of the Cunning Fox
Ranger Utility
Like a fox, you move with stealth, speed, and cunning. Your foes cannot hope to harm you while you are in motion, and you always keep an open escape route at hand.
At-WillPrimal, Stance
Minor ActionPersonal
Effect: You assume a stance, the aspect of the cunning fox. Until the stance ends, you gain the following benefits.
You take only half damage from attacks made against you during your turn.
Whenever you hit or miss with a melee attack or a ranged attack on your turn, you can take a free action to shift up to 2 squares.

Aspect of the Dancing Serpent
A serpent strikes like lightning and retreats like a ghost. It lands deadly attacks but never lingers near its enemy. You mimic these tactics with this aspect, pouncing upon an isolated enemy and not letting it bog you down in close quarters.

Aspect of the Dancing Serpent
Ranger Utility
You move like a snake, darting here and there, never remaining within reach of your foe.
At-WillPrimal, Stance
Minor ActionPersonal
Effect: You assume a stance, the aspect of the dancing serpent. Until the stance ends, you gain the following benefits.
You can take a free action at the end of each of your turns to shift 1 square.
When you make a basic attack against an enemy that has none of its allies adjacent to it, you gain a +1 power bonus to the attack roll and damage roll.
Level 11: The bonus to the damage roll increases to +2.
Level 21: The bonus to the damage roll increases to +3.

Level 1: Wilderness Knacks

All rangers learn to survive in the wilderness, whether that realm is a frozen tundra, a verdant forest, or a mushroom-choked cavern deep beneath the earth. You have acquired a couple of tricks and abilities that give you and your allies a key edge.
Benefit: You gain two of the following abilities of your choice.

Ambush Expertise
You have wandered through dangerous realms, such as kingdoms ruled by hobgoblin tyrants and mountain ranges jealously guarded by brooding giants. You know not only how to hide yourself, but also how to hide others.
Benefit: Whenever you make a Stealth check, each ally within 10 squares of you gains a +2 bonus to his or her next Stealth check before the end of your next turn.


Next time, more news, more R&D secrets, and more previews from the Director’s desk. Until then, play a game or two of Dungeons & DragonsCastle Ravenloft board game as the month draws to a close and the things that go bump in the night make themselves heard. You’ll have a great time.

Keep playing!


In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon Magazine.

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