Previews03/16/2003


The Shelves Are Getting Crowded



An actual hardbound copy of Savage Species is finally on my shelf. Not only does that mean the 2003 release schedule dam has broken and a pile of books is on its way, but I'm going to have to rearrange my cube. If you're reading this, you're probably in the same happy boat. Five D&D books, plus Urban Arcana, will be coming down the pipe before the three revised core rulebooks even surface. And more are on the horizon. At this rate, by the end of the year, I won't need bookends.

Check it out:

Pipeline-O'-Products

March

April

  • Dark Thane -- Dragonlance Age of Mortals, Volume Three (paperback)
  • Fiend Folio -- D&D rulebook (hardcover)
  • Kendermore -- Dragonlance Preludes, Volume Two (paperback)
  • Windwalker -- Forgotten Realms Starlight & Shadows trilogy, Book Three (hardcover)

May

  • Condemnation --Forgotten Realms War of the Spider Queen series, Book Three (hardcover)
  • Plague of Ice--Dungeons & Dragons Novel Line, Book 7 (paperback)
  • Shadowdale -- Forgotten Realms Avatar Series, Book One (paperback -- all-new cover art)
  • Unapproachable East -- D&D (Forgotten Realms) rulebook (hardcover)
  • Urban Arcana -- d20 Modern roleplaying game campaign setting (hardcover)
  • A Warrior's Journey -- Dragonlance Ergoth Trilogy, Volume One (paperback)

June

  • Brother Majere -- Dragonlance Preludes, Volume Three (paperback)
  • Ghostwalk -- D&D campaign option (hardcover)
  • Night of Blood -- Dragonlance Minotaur Wars series, Volume I (hardcover)
  • Night of the Dragons -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume One, Part 2) (paperback)
  • A Rumor of Dragons -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume One, Part 1) (paperback)
  • Tantras -- Forgotten Realms Avatar Series, Book Two (paperback -- all-new cover art)
  • Wind of Justice -- Legend of the Five Rings Four Winds Saga, Third Scroll (paperback)

March: Arms and Equipment Guide and Races of Faerûn

I've already talked about this month's double-shot of D&D releases. If you want to skim through all that stuff, you'll want to start with December's In the Works, which gives you a basic overview of the contents. Then, skip January, and check out February's article, which actually gives you some examples and excerpts. Better yet, just pop out to your favorite local gaming store and flip through copies of each book.

April: Fiend Folio

This thing is 224 hard-covered pages of nastiness, much of it extraplanar, and there's plenty for everyone. Read through the back cover copy, and take note of the range of CRs:

Vanquish Terrible Evil

The noblest heroes must contend with the foulest monsters. Whether torn from the darkest planes of existence or spawned as blights upon the natural world, the creatures bound within these covers will challenge stalwart adventurers of every experience level.

This accessory for the D&D game captures over 150 monsters, including some of the most diabolical beings imaginable. While focused on extraplanar and otherworldly creatures, you'll also stumble across new creatures of every type, with Challenge Ratings that range from 1/8 to 25. Along with three new fiendish prestige classes, six new templates, and rules for swarms, grafts, and symbionts, the Fiend Folio offers an irredeemable source of challenge for every hero.

No matter where your party is along the path of XP, there's more than enough stuff in the Fiend Folio to get in the way of surviving to that next level. Like the Blood Golem of Hextor, for example:

Its entry starts on page 84, and it is a particularly nasty construct -- it has reach, it has damage reduction, it is immune to spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural effects, it can heal itself, and more. We've run into these in our Wednesday night game, and there's just something unsettling about trying to go toe-to-toe with a large, whirling-spiked-ball-wielding, armored construct that can wade through a blade barrier like it was a small puddle of lukewarm water.

May: Unapproachable East

Get ready to explore Aglarond, Rashemen, Thay, Thesk, and the Great Dale with this 192-page Forgotten Realms hardcover.

I've only got a partial galley for this thing, which makes me want to wait to go into details, but I'll pass along the back cover copy to give you an idea of what's in there:

Traverse a Mysterious Land of Might and Magic

Tales from beyond the Easting Reach are told with awed voices and hushed tones. Known to most of Faerûn as the homeland of the Simbul, the hathrans, and the Red Wizards, the Unapproachable East is filled with dark secrets, insidious plots, and untold adventure. Discover the people, politics, cities, and societies of the region, along with the monsters, nefarious organizations, and other perils that await unwary travelers in this treacherous corner of the Forgotten Realms game setting.

12 new prestige classes
21 new spells
19 new monsters

-

The first illustration on the interior, which features the Red Wizard of Thay depicted in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, really sets the tone for your tour of the eastern lands of Faerûn. The caption notes the following: Aznar Thrul conjures a pit fiend.

And that's just a little slice of life from the Unapproachable East. The opening paragraph of the introduction to the book just adds to the feeling that this isn't a land to be traveled lightly:

Across the wide lands of Faerûn, bards and travelers tell strange tales of the Unapproachable East, a distant land of proud barbarians, forest-grown ruins, and dreadful wizardry. It is a world filled with ancient mysteries and endless strife, a swirling maelstrom of exotic beauty and hell-spawned peril, where tribes value freedom more than their lives and slaves groan under the worst kind of sorcerous oppression. It is a crossroads and a battleground where East meets West and today struggles to claw itself free of the half-remembered past. So fantastic is the reputation of this region in western Faerûn that in the taverns and taprooms of a dozen western cities, skeptics greet an unlikely tale or fanciful fable with a snort and mutter, "In the East, perhaps!"

May: Urban Arcana

The folks down in R&D are feverishly working on super-tight deadlines to finish polishing this 320-page hardcover campaign setting for use with the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, so I haven't been able to lay my hands on any type of galley, yet. However, I have flipped through the manuscript a few dozen times.

The first thing I looked for when I started flipping through was rubber bullets. Doing nonlethal damage in a firefight just seems way too important to me, particularly when you imagine what would happen if you and three or four of your friends were involved in a gunfight in downtown Seattle, for example. How long would it take for the cops to show up and all that? Rubber bullets are just one of the twelve new ammunition types with which you can lock and load your weapons.

Even though Urban Arcana is, by definition, a campaign setting with a skewed reality (bringing in magic, monsters, and more), the rulebook goes a long way to reinforce as much of the real world as possible. Here's a particularly impressive example:

What's in an Emergency Aid Vehicle?

Obviously, aid vehicles are loaded a huge variety of medical equipment. Instead of listing every single item, assume that the following "kits" can be assembled together. Most of the items listed here are described later in this chapter or in Chapter 4: Equipment and Vehicles of the d20 Modern Core Rulebook.

  • 1 Crash cart
  • 4 Trauma kits
  • 6 First aid kits
  • 1 Basic evidence kit

In addition, aid vehicles contain a large number of nonmedical equipment, allowing them to provide assistance under almost any circumstance.

  • CB Radio (as professional walkie-talkie with twice the range)
  • GPS Receiver
  • Maps (road atlas)
  • Flashlights (2 standard, 4 penlights, 1 battery flood)
  • Cellular phone
  • Basic mechanical toolkit (including duct tape, bolt cutters, multipurpose tool)
  • Rope (50 feet)
  • Blankets
  • Physical restraints (equivalent to handcuffs)
  • Sand bags (for stabilization)
  • Wood blocks (for setting tires)
  • Searchlight (as a battery flood flashlight, but twice the range. Mounted on vehicle)
  • Winch and cable
  • Hydraulic compressor (50% chance. Mounted on outside of vehicle)
  • Jaws of Life (only if there is a hydraulic compressor)
  • Metal cutting saw (only if there is a hydraulic compressor)
  • Tire chains (+2 on Drive checks on icy surfaces)

"That's a pretty detailed list of stuff," you might say. "But, wood blocks... ?" you might add with a touch of incredulity. Hey, you can't make up that kind of stuff. Well, sure, you could, but why would you? Especially when you can just talk an ambulance driver into giving you a run-down of what's inside the truck. That's what Eric Cagle, who was one of the designers, did. With clipboard in hand, he clambered around inside an ambulance, taking note of all the stuff you can find in there. He also wrangled his way into a police cruiser (Just Visiting) and climbed all over a fire truck to make sure the emergency response vehicles in your Urban Arcana game come fully loaded.

The true benefit of providing such a detailed level of realism in so many aspects of the mundane elements of the game is that when you're called upon to engage your willing suspension of disbelief, it's even easier. The whole point of a modern fantasy setting is to create a world in which those fantastic elements exist, but are still extraordinary. It makes the magic and other fictional elements even more fun.

So, enough with the real-world stuff. Here's a couple tidbits from the chapter on FX items:

Holster of Speed: Any handgun placed in this hip holster fits perfectly. It allows the user to draw or holster the weapon as a free action.

Key of All-Starting: This seemingly ordinary car key can fit into any motor vehicle (including small boats, motorcycles, and ATVs), allowing the user to start that vehicle as if the original key was used. It does not work on ordinary locks.

I'll try to find something else good to pass along next month. Perhaps we'll take a peek at one of the twelve advanced classes, possibly something of the ten prestige classes, a critter, or something else altogether. Or maybe: (E) All of the above.

May: Condemnation

This is the third title in the six-book War of the Spider Queen series, and the story is just getting better. This installation was seamlessly crafted by Richard Baker, who took the characters and situations in the first two books (Dissolution and Insurrection) and turned up the heat.

Action and intrigue in the story are masterfully paced in a fashion that maintains a nicely balanced level of tension throughout. As the story unfolds and the characters' personalities and relationships continue to evolve, everything builds on what has come before and foreshadows what may yet happen.

If you haven't started in on the War of the Spider Queen, you really should take a look. Get started on Dissolution and Insurrection now, and you'll easily be ready for Condemnation when it hits the streets in May.

July: Revised D&D Core Rulebooks

July's just over three months away -- hang on. If you set aside a buck a day from now until the books get to your favorite hobby shop or bookstore, you should have enough to cover all three, with tax.

3.5 Revision Update

Starting back in January, with issue 304, Dragon Magazine began running a series of articles by Ed Stark, which will introduce you to different aspects of what's going on with the revised books. That's where you'll find the most complete and accurate official info about D&D 3.5.

D&D Revision Spotlight

Right here, on this very site, the amazing and talented Ed Stark takes even more time to do a little Q&A on what's going on with the revision. Pop over there and see what questions folks like you have been asking and find out what folks like Ed are answering.

If you've got a question you want Ed to answer, jump on to the D&D message boards, and start a new topic. That's where they're finding the subjects for the Spotlight.

What Happened at Winter Fantasy

Pop over to the RPGA section of the site for a general update of what happened at Winter Fantasy 2003. Like I mentioned last month, attendees (who preregistered) received a special D&D 3.5 t-shirt. On the back of the shirt was a large chunk of the new stat block for the revised Pit Fiend, which you can take a look at, too.

Okay. I literally was just handed a comb-bound copy of the revised Player's Handbook so that I can get up-to-speed and aware of all things 3.5. In light of that, I'm going to end this thing now and start reading.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who has been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, 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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