Things Are Really Rolling Now -- and the Brakes Aren't Working
The year got going with much-anticipated releases such as Races of the Dragon, War Drums, and Tome of Magic. And, not surprisingly, we're gaining momentum -- release-wise. There's a lot of D&D goodness on the way, including a lot of really big stuff. (PHB II and War of the Dragon Queen spring to mind this month.)
And, while we're hurtling through month after month of products, I'm trying to keep far enough ahead of it all to continue passing along the sneak peeks. It's a fine balance of work and fun that gets kinda nutty when it comes to gathering materials, sifting through it all, and getting things written. (At least three people have to deal with this article after I've written it so you folks can see it -- they're doing a remarkable job of keeping the live-on-the-site deadline solid, 'cause that whooshing noise made by deadlines as they fly by seems to have become a regular sound effect over here at my desk.)
So, moving forward at an alarming rate, I've got a few things I'd like to pass along. Check it out:
Hitting shelves this month is the 160-page hardcover addition to the "Complete ______" series of books that psionically inclined characters, villains, and monsters have been anticipating. (Like the other "Complete ______" books, this one offers ways for characters that aren't traditionally psionically talented to tap into the power of the mind.)
Back in February, you got a look at a big chunk of the back cover text. Last month, I flipped through each chapter and gave you a brief description of what you're going to find there, along with an almost unhealthy amount of samples. Assuming that you've recovered from excerpt overload and want to see a little more of the book before heading out to your FLGS to flip through it on your own, I figured I'd give you a look at the (20-level) variant psion class introduced in Chapter Six: Character Options -- the Erudite.
Also located in a store near you this month is the third installation in the "Fantastic Locations" line of skirmish gaming and roleplaying accessories.Like its predecessors Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drowor Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison, Fantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin includes two double-sided poster maps (suitable for skirmish play) as well as a 16-page adventure (designed for 8th-level characters) that can be dropped into any D&D campaign. Back in February, I showed you the back cover text. Since then, I've been compelled to resist showing off anything else, 'cause of the 16-page adventure portion of the product.
Man, this is a busy month. Also arriving at your FLGS this month is Voyage of the Golden Dragon -- the fourth stand-alone, 32-page adventure created for the Eberron Campaign Setting. Of course, it was designed for DMs to run as the sequel to its three predecessors (Shadows of the Last War, Whispers of the Vampire's Blade, and Grasp of the Emerald Claw), but any intrepid band of 7th-level adventurers should be able to handle the events that unfold aboard the Golden Dragon on its maiden voyage.
Back in February, you saw the block of flavor from the back cover. Last month, I showed you an illustration of the crew of the Golden Dragon. This month, I must resist the urge to divulge anything more.
If there's one book hitting shelves this year that doesn't need previews, excerpts, and other peeks at what's inside to get you excited, this is it -- 224 pages of character-building material wrapped inside a hardbound homage to the original Player's Handbook.
Last month, I had the back cover text to show you, and this month, I thought that I'd grab the entire Introduction section to give you a chapter-by-chapter run-down of what's awaiting you and your character. Take a look:
So, now you've got a very good idea of what's inside the book. But just so you don't walk away empty-handed, as far as excerpts go, here's a look at a handful of the huge array of feats that await your character.
For quite some time, I've been mentioning the impending arrival of this 96-page softcover for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. It's crammed with 40 full-color maps (crafted by Christopher West), each of which is supplied with adventure hooks and pre-generated NPCs. I showed you the back cover text (again) last month.
Since this is a GM-focused book, I have to hold back on showing off the stuff that's inside, but I figure a chunk from the introduction section isn't going to give away anything crucial to future adventuring.
Once you're inside the book, you'll find yourself exploring some of the niftiest maps you've ever seen. And alongside each of those, you'll encounter descriptive information about each location, including structural details, occupants (friendly and un-) you may encounter, special rules and options (such as using a bowling ball as an improvised weapon -- ranged or melee), and -- just in case you're not already overloaded with ideas -- adventure seeds that'll get something going on the premises. This thing's fun to look at, fun to read, and can't be anything less than invaluable for a GM running a d20 Modern game.
Demons. Following dragons, undead, and aberrations, the always-popular (but never fun to fight) chaotic fiends from the infinite depths of the Abyss get their fifteen minutes of fame compressed into one phenomenally comprehensive 160-page sourcebook. If you've ever spend time marveling at the contents of Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons,Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead,orLords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations, then you've got a very good idea of what's lurking within this demon-flavored tome.
But, just in case you want a better idea, take a look at the back cover text:
I don't have a lot of information about this thing yet. I know it's a 160-page hardcover campaign arc (of adventures) for 1st- through 18th-level characters set in one of the more nefarious regions of the Forgotten Realms. (Home to Zhentil Keep, the merchant city of Melvaunt, and Ironfang Keep).
Being a big-ol' adventure pretty much means I won't have much more to pass along in the next month or two, just to keep things behind the DM screen, but I can pass along the back cover text I dug up.
I have even less to write about this product than the ones before it. If you're reading this article, you're probably not the person for which it was created. But chances are good that you know somebody (or several somebodies) who would serve as the ideal candidate for the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Kit. In a nutshell, it's an all-in-one box of everything you'd need to get started playing D&D.
Here's what (I believe) you'll find inside: a paperback version of the Player's Handbook, a full set of polyhedral dice, and a supplementary booklet that will help guide new players through creating and leveling their characters.
I know we're all still sifting through the spoils of the War Drums expansion, but I also know that none of us can wait to lay our hands on the War of the Dragon Queen. If you didn't already know, this is going to be the second expansion to feature Huge miniatures. (And you remember how impressive the Giants of Legend expansion was.)
So, there are 12 Huge minis to look forward to in the set. And it’s a 60-miniture set—not 72. The Huges are mixed in with the other minis, keeping the set size the same as any other expansion. And, of course, you’re going to get a Huge in every pack you open. There’s a lot to look forward to in this set. (Such as the first real stab at clear plastic; Large bases, slightly increased in diameter, that entirely fill their 2x2 square; another Tiny; and three “kobold” miniatures—that is, there’s another mini beyond the two you’re about to see that has “Kobold” in its name.) Over the next several months, you’ll see what I mean. Let’s get on with the first set of preview minis, taking care of all my self-imposed requirements.
Aspect of Tiamat -- The name of the set kinda gives her away, but there's no way I could start off this first preview article without showing the poster goddess of the set. As one of the set's six Rare Huges, the Aspect of Tiamat certainly sets the bar for sheer base-filling presence: The crest on that green dragon head easily slides past the 3-inch mark and her wings clock her in at 4-1/2-inches tall. From red dragon snout to tail, she's 5-1/2-inches long -- but from the black dragon head's horns (the front-most feature) to the trailing tips of her wings (the rear-most), she's around 6-1/2 inches in length. The wings make her 4 inches wide (on a just-shy of a 3-inch base), so she could make use of her sheer size to warrant a nasty frightful presence. Though, I'd wager to say it's the five dragon heads that really drive home what makes Tiamat (or, in this case, the Aspect of Tiamat) the intimidating, fear-inducing, awesome creature that she is. It seems as if the arrangement of the heads varies by depiction, but this incarnation of the Chromatic Dragon has them configured in the same order as they appear on the holy symbol depicted on page 158 of Races of the Dragon. (But a mirror image of their arrangement in the old Saturday morning cartoon.) Each head is a well-rendered sculpt that incorporates each of its respective species traits (those black dragon horns, the blue dragon rhinolike horn, the red dragon's frill, the green dragon's alligatorlike teeth, and the white dragon's beakish snout). Each head (and neck) has little touches and treatments that help give them a little character unto themselves. (The blue has a metallic sheen in paces, the white has a blue/green patina.) The majority of the Aspect of Tiamat's beefy body is a reddish-black, or blackish red, whichever you prefer. The reddish tones are most noticeable on the frill running down her spines and tail and on the limbs of her wings, though the scales that cover her body have a drybrush/wash treatment that picks out the color there as well. Her wings are leathery black with tufts of grayish fur at the base of each "thumb." At the end of her tail is the detail that sets apart this authentic Aspect of Tiamat from all those knock-offs you find when on vacation -- her stinger. The scorpionlike bulb and barb are held casually off the ground, ready to impale or inject (depending on just how big her target may be -- that stinger is 3/4 of an inch long, not taking its curvature into account). All in all, menacing.
Meepo, Dragonlord -- At last. After his debut in The Sunless Citadel, Meepo has enjoyed a grassroots celebrity unparalleled by any other character or creature introduced in 3.0 or since -- not bad for a kobold. So we finally get a Meepo miniature, and an impressive (Rare) one at that. Since we all last saw him, Meepo has been hard at work on the self-improvement front. This isn't the weepy Keeper of Dragons upset over the loss of his tribe's pet white dragon -- this is a fierce warrior ready for action and able to handle himself. If his confident, somewhat aggressive, pose doesn't convey competence, you have to consider that armor he's wearing; the most notable feature on Meepo, Dragonlord, is that sturdy-looking suit of armor, which seems to have been fashioned out of white dragon hide. (Perhaps Meepo got tired of taking abuse from Calcryx, his former charge.) Wherever -- or however -- he got it, the armor's really nicely crafted, with laminated sleeves, a high neck that also protects the back of his head, laminated cuisses that protect his upper legs, and a skirt that even has a tail hole. Meepo's large metal shield is also noticeably unique in its design, having a section that appears to allow him to take maximum advantage of the shield's coverage over his torso and shoulders, while affording him a clear view. The curved notch at the bottom might be decorative but could also serve as an impromptu weapon. It might also be a feature that plays a part in some unique fighting style Meepo has devised: The way he's holding his short sword in his fully outstretched arm (who knew Meepo was a Lefty?) gives you the impression that he's up to something. It might be nothing more than a powerful, sweeping upward stabbing motion, but you know how tricksy those kobolds can be. When you get the chance to turn the mini around, you take more note of the fashionable bright red pants Meepo's sporting, as well as the brown leather belt, beltpouch, and backpack (which is closed with a large brass clasp). That backpack is the detail that makes me think Meepo, Dragonlord, has embarked on an adventuring career. If I were to create a new kobold character, I think it'd be a moral imperative to roll up a fighter that could make use of this mini; he's a great character-worthy mini and would also make a great companion to the Kobold Champion and Kobold Sorcerer in a band of tough bad-guy kobolds.
Dragonwrought Kobold -- That's right -- a kobold with wings. Not a new subspecies or anything, the (Uncommon) Dragonwrought Kobold is the plastic incarnation of a standard-issue kobold who took the Dragonwrought and Dragon Wings feats. (Which you'll find on page 100 of Races of the Dragon.) So, now we've got a very noble-looking warrior standing ready for action. (He does sort of have that "honor guard" look about him.) Clad in a steel breastplate (decorated with a stylized dragon device on the chest) over a simple leather tunic, the Dragonwrought Kobold is armed with a shortspear (or javelin), held ready to jab, block, or throw. The silver bracer on his right wrist is the only other adornment on the mini. As far as kobolds go, this guy weighs in around the size and build of the Kobold Warrior from the Harbinger expansion and the Kobold Skirmisher from the Dragoneye expansion, but has the style (sculpt-wise) of the more recent additions to our kobold tribes (such as the Kobold Miner from the Underdark expansion.)
The slight build makes sense, when you consider those wings need to take him aloft, particularly when he's wearing that armor. Not that you couldn't have loaded up a squad of kobolds with potions, spells, and items to send them into the air above a landbound adventuring party before now, but the Dragonwrought Kobold throws open the door to that possibility with such force that I can't help but imagine squadrons of flying kobolds sailing overhead, hurling spears, javelins, alchemist's fire, tanglefoot bags, and worse things to the earth below. (Not that it's a flattering analogy, but they'd make great flying monkey-type soldiers for some bad guy.)
Be Careful What You Wish For
Did you ever read the Dork Tower comic where one of the players, Ken, has finally obtained the prefect mini for his character? He found an ideal sculpt, then altered, kit-bashed, and painted it to depict his cleric down to the most minute detail. And immediately upon starting the game session, the cleric was obliterated, rendering the mini worthless. I feel your pain, Ken.
A few years back, our Wednesday-night game changed gears from our epic-level party and started up a second band of adventurers down in the Underdark region of our world. Chris Perkins had (as he always does) created an immense amount of new material for us to explore in his world, some of it in response to suggestions or requests in the group. And so, he'd crafted a kobold variant that would be a (slightly) more survivable character race -- I leaped upon the chance to play one. And for the mere cost of two permanent points of Strength, I could have my character subjected to twisted experimentation by his drow captors that resulted in a pair of dire bat wings being grafted onto his back. (Hey, I was playing a sorcerer, so who needs Strength anyway?)
As the months rolled on, my winged kobold was kept alive by wiliness, cowardice, and more than a little assistance from his companions. In the hallways of the office, casual conversations about vague plans for future sets of miniatures occasionally held rumors of a winged kobold, but never panned out -- until about mid-way through last year, when the initial cast miniatures (the "blacks") for War of the Dragon Queen were in the office, and available to peek at if you knew with whom to talk. And amid the marvelous things arrayed there on the table -- and there was a lot to look at -- was this little guy. He wasn't dressed in typical sorcerer garb, but that was okay, as I'd recently gained a special ability to wear heavy armor without chance for spell failure. My character toted a spear, but didn't use it often. (And I could easily claim that the mini's holding a short-hafted staff.) Sure, the wings weren't as immense as the dire bat wings my kobold was sporting, but they sure do the trick.
Months later, the initial round of production proof minis surfaced, and Matt Sernett brought a Dragonwrought Kobold to our Wednesday-night game for me to use instead of the one I'd been using. Almost immediately, we found ourselves embroiled in a very nasty fight, involving far too many breath weapons. Within fifteen minutes of starting the game, my kobold went down in a horribly inconvenient crossfire of infernally charged flames, and he had no recourse but to croak. That's a whole quarter hour of gameplay with what will be the closest thing I'll ever get to an official miniature created for my character. (Okay, it wasn't really created for my character, but the remarkable coincidence makes for a good case, or at least a short story.)
Just so you know in advance, it's likely that, starting with this set, I'll be showing fewer minis over the four-month span until the release. So be sure to look around for more minis previews so that you can get your fix. Check out Steve Schubert's weekly, skirmish-centric articles over on the D&D Minis page and Dragon magazine for their D&D minis coverage -- including exclusive sneak peeks of minis you won't see anywhere else. (Including a special limited-run alternate paint miniature you can't get anywhere else.)
There it is.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.
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