I thought things were slowing down!
By Mat Smith





I've discovered that the release schedule is a tricky thing. Here, I thought we'd be all caught up, having a minute or two to breathe, and all that. And I was wrong. The schedule opened up a little right around Gen Con, so I thought that'd give me a break. But, no -- the reason it slowed down was because of all the stuff that goes on around here right before Gen Con. On the good side, when you've got a pile of things to look at, read through, and write about in a short amount of time, it doesn't hurt that it's all this cool D&D stuff. I guess I'll just have to deal with that. Keep reading, and you'll see why:

September: City of the Spider Queen

I saw many, many copies of this thing walking off the Wide World of Games stage at Gen Con, and I know the retail store at the back of the booth was doing a fair amount of bagging 'em up to send home with many devious DMs. And, from hearing some of our R&D guys talking about playing through City of the Spider Queen, I can understand why it's called a superadventure. I don't know how often they were playing, but it was a good eight-month trek through the Underdark. Not only did the party go up several levels, but they haven't even fully explored everything they could've yet.

So, make sure you pack some extra lantern oil, or invest in a few continual flame-ified copper pieces. Your characters are going to be on their own for quite a while as they fight for their lives and acquire a taste for mushrooms and rothé.

September: City of the Spider Queen Miniatures Boxed Set

While you're running through City of the Spider Queen, you might want to have some minis on hand to help keep track of who's who and what's what. Nifty Chainmail minis and a completely original model created specifically for the boxed set will get you headed in the right direction when you start figuring out where those fireball and web spells are falling.

Here's whatcha get:

  • Drow Archer
  • Drow Ranger
  • Drow Soldier
  • Drow Warrior
  • Drow Wizard
  • Irae T'sarran

September: Monster Manual II

You know what this is. Nearly 200 monsters you'd rather not run into all packed into a book that looks like something that should get statted up and put out there as some sort of evil library-guarding/book-eating meany.

If you didn't check out the excerpts, here's the link that'll hook you up with three of the nasty critters you'll find inside the fanged covers of Monster Manual II.

And check out the web enhancements for the thing. (By the way, if you've not been checking out the web enhancements we've been posting here, you're missing out on many cool things.)

October: Book of Vile Darkness

I got to see the full-color galley of the finished book a short while ago -- this thing can't get here fast enough for me.

Since the Book of Vile Darkness is being released as a "Mature Audiences Only" title, I'm not going to go into detail about what you'll see when you flip through, but the art is quite remarkable. And, like the content of the game material, we really didn't pull any punches with the art, but we did choose which punches to throw. You're going to read and see a wide range of stuff you've never seen before in a D&D book -- stuff that's been on the wish lists of a lot of you out there.

That's one of the really interesting things about the Book of Vile Darkness: Just about everything in there is something that someone has asked to see. That is, a lot of people have been requesting rules for this stuff, and we've worked up the steam needed to put it out there. (Have you noticed how a lot of products we've been putting out recently have been reflecting the requests and commentary of all of you fine folk? Your feedback and suggestions really do have an impact on what we're doing.)

So, basically, many, many gamers have been asking for rules, suggestions, and examples of how to incorporate some of this stuff in their campaigns, and we asked Monte Cook, really nicely, to give 'em what they've been asking for.

Now, remember that the whole point of the Book of Vile Darkness is to provide the means for a Dungeon Master to present truly evil villains and situations. So, even though the Book of Vile Darkness doesn't have a blue cover, it is a DM-specific book. Players aren't generally going to be making active use of any of the stuff inside, though they will find themselves confronted by what it presents. And this isn't just a book full of really, really nasty bad guys who do bad things. The Book of Vile Darkness is also full of stuff that will challenge your characters with situations that aren't black and white. Sometimes the right decision to make isn't clear, which makes picking the right course of action a whole lot harder. Of course, sometimes, there might not be a right course of action. And with the Book of Vile Darkness behind the DM's screen, you can be sure that decision making is going to get very tricky -- choosing between the lesser of two evils is a lot harder when both of those evils are really evil.

October: The Thousand Orcs

You've heard of this R.A. Salvatore fellow. He's written some books -- you know. A lot of those books include a drow ranger named Drizzt. He's written twelve of those so far. And, not coincidentally, he's also written twelve New York Times bestselling books in a row now.

So, if you're a fan of Drizzt, you probably know all of this, and you also know that the next book (number 13) is on the way.

The Thousand Orcs is the first book in R.A. Salvatore's new series called The Hunter's Blades trilogy, and it's got that Drizzt guy all through the thing. In fact, you might say it's focused on him. And, if you think that's a good thing (which I know I do), you're in for a real treat. 'Cause as the storyline unfolds, and the trilogy continues, you're going to be seeing a whole lot of that scimitar-swinging dark elf.

October: Dragons I and Dragons II

These are the newest D&D miniatures boxed sets. There's an evil set and a good set. So, depending on your dragon needs, you can pick up one or both of 'em. If you've been playing Chainmail, you'll already be familiar with some of the additional models inside the sets, but the dragons will be entirely new. Here's what you'll find inside the sets:

Dragons I

  • Abyssal Skulker (x2)
  • Tiefling Fighter
  • Very Young Red Dragon

Dragons II

  • Crested Felldrake (x2)
  • Half-Dragon Mage
  • Spitting Felldrake
  • Very Young Brass Dragon

I got to take a look at the dragons the other day -- they're quite cool. "Very Young" dragons are relatively small (when you compare them to things like the übercool Black Dragon miniature we put out a while back), but they're still nasty critters to run into. And, the way I figure it, you're much more likely to run into small dragons than really big ones. That is, if you're lucky.

I really like the idea of having a couple small-sized dragons in my box-o-minis, 'cause it gives me the option of throwing a dragon or two at a party without having to worry (very much) about whether the PCs will survive. Believe me, they'll definitely feel it in the morning, and one or two of them might not walk the same or ever play the violin again. But they'll get the thrill and excitement of facing a real dragon without having to wait for those upper-level encounters.

November: d20 Modern Roleplaying Game

If you hit Gen Con, you got a chance to see a preview of what's to come. If you didn't make it or didn't attend the preview seminar, you'll definitely want to check out the monthly Countdown to d20 Modern web feature over here.

The closer we get to the release date, and the more I get to see and think about the book, the more excited I am by it. There's just so much potential being built into the d20 Modern game, and the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is at the heart of it. When you take a look at it and consider just how well-designed it is, you'll be amazed. It's a completely solid framework you can use to build just about any kind of game upon, and it's an astonishingly flexible framework upon which you can build just about any kind of game. It's like those eyeglasses with titanium frames -- you can twist and bend 'em, and they hold their shape without breaking.

Here's an extra good bit of information about this fine rulebook. Back when it went on the release schedule, it was a 320-page hardcover. That's a pretty beefy book. But when the guys in the R&D department got to the point at which they'd filled those 320 pages they said, "Hey, we need more room." And the folks who decide such things said, "Okay, you've got 64 more pages." So, how 'bout that? The d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is now a 384-page hardcover (which is the same size as the immense Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Rulebook) and isn't going to cost any more. How cool is that? (Answer: Very cool.)

Another nifty bit is the Knights of the Silver Dragon patch we're making to give away with copies of the book, which I've been yammering on about for the past few months. Back in July, I gave you the basics of the promotion.

And, last month, I gave you an excerpt from the book that gives you some background information on the Knights of the Silver Dragon.

And, this month, I've got a picture of the actual patch. Check it out:

This was a quick digital shot of the prototype the patch-making place sent us for approval. I thought it looked even better than I'd hoped -- particularly in the way they filled in the dragon silhouette. The scalloping on the wing, and the texture on the neck really adds a subtle level of detail that makes the flat black image pop off the patch just a little more -- what a great job those patch-making folk did on this thing.

I'm looking forward to getting my samples, 'cause I've got to have one, or two (as many as I can lay my hands on, really). Of course, if you want one, you'll need to make sure you're picking up your copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook at a Wizards of the Coast Premier Store. Keep in mind that a WotC retail store isn't the same thing as a Premier Store. You'll want to go into your favorite hobby shop and make sure they're a Premier Store. (If your hobby shop isn't a WotC Premier Store, you'll want to check out this Retail Locator to help you find one.)

Now, we started taking pre-orders for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook from our Premier Stores last month. And, we're only making so many patches, so this definitely falls into the "supplies are limited, offer is good only while supplies last" category.

So, if you want to make sure you get a patch along with your copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, get in there and ask 'em to pre-order one for you. In fact, take a copy of this nifty form in with you just to make it clear that you want to make sure you get a copy of the rulebook along with the patch.

Download the "Hey, Preorder My d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook and Get Me a Silver Dragon Patch." form-thingy here.

November: Heroes III and Monsters III

The Heroes III and Monsters III boxes will be the next D&D miniatures boxed sets. You've got a box-o-heroes and a box-o-monsters. And, just like with the dragons miniatures, if you've been playing Chainmail, you'll already be familiar with some of the models inside the sets. But each one has something you've not been able to pick up before. The Heroes III set includes an alternate sculpt of the Human Glaiver, and the Monsters III set includes the Hill Giant. Here's everything you'll find inside the sets:

Heroes III

  • Dwarf Zealot
  • Gray Elf Snakestrike Duelist
  • Half-Orc Fighter
  • Human Glaiver
  • Human Sorcerer
  • Wood Elf Scout

Monsters III

  • Goblin Scout
  • Hill Giant
  • Orc Berserker

November: Sands of the Soul

Sands of the Soul is the next book in the Sembia series. And, I really can't wait for it. If you've been reading the series, you know why. If you've not been keeping up with the series, you should.

Not only is this set of books a great entry point for someone to get a good foothold in the Forgotten Realms, it's also a really interesting way to approach a series. The entire seven-book series is centered on the various activities, adversities and adventures of the Uskevren family in the intrigue-rich city of Selgaunt. Each book is written by a different author and focuses on a single member of the family.

The series begins with The Halls of Stormweather, which is an anthology of short stories that introduces you to each of the seven main characters. It's the 0-level book you'll want to tear through on your way to the rest of the novels in the series.

So, Sands of the Soul, written by Voronica Whitney-Robinson, is the fifth novel in the series (though it's the sixth book, if you include The Halls of Stormweather). It's focused on the daughter of the Uskevren clan, Thazienne. I can't really give away terribly much about what's inside, 'cause I've not gotten a look at it yet. But I can tell you that Thazienne has got more than a couple levels of rogue, which seem to keep her life a tad more interesting than you'd normally expect from the young daughter of a successful Sembian nobleman.

I think that'll do for a month.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who has been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing length of time, and now he gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.

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