Previews05/11/2003


Now 30%* Crunchier!



*Okay, I just made up that number. Last month, I bombarded In the Works with many excerpts, illustrations, charts, and images. This month's article is a little shorter, but I think it's still got a very healthy amount of sneak preview content. If all goes well (with fair warning and sincere apologies to both Miranda and Mark and Julia), I'll continue to inject goodly sized chunks of text and pictures.

Just keep in mind that the stuff I'm passing along is usually taken from a very early stage in the production process. Often, I've got only an unedited first draft of the manuscript. Occasionally, I can lay my hands on a first- or second-round galley. The upshot of this is that there are bound to be discrepancies between what I show you and what ends up printed and on the shelves at your favorite hobby shop.

That said, I've got some really cool bits to show you this month.

Check 'em out:

Pipeline-O'-Products

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)

July

  • Dragons of Winter Night -- Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume II (hardcover edition)
  • Dungeon Master's Guide -- 320-page revised rulebook (new cover)
  • Middle of Nowhere -- Dragonlance Crossroads Series (paperback)
  • Monster Manual -- 320-page revised rulebook (new cover)
  • Player's Handbook -- 320-page revised rulebook (new cover)
  • The Sundered Arms -- Dungeons & Dragons Novel Line, Book 8 (paperback)
  • The Thousand Orcs -- Forgotten Realms Hunter's Blades trilogy, Book One (paperback)
  • Twilight Falling -- Forgotten Realms Erevis Cale Trilogy, Book One (paperback)
  • Waterdeep -- Forgotten Realms Avatar Series, Book Three (paperback--all-new cover art)

August

  • The Alabaster Staff -- Forgotten Realms Rogues Series, Book One (this is a new series of stand-alone paperback novels)
  • City of the Lost -- Dragonlance Linsha Trilogy, Volume I (paperback)
  • Dragonlance Campaign Setting -- 288-page hardcover campaign setting for use with the D&D roleplaying game

May: Unapproachable East

Last month, I passed along big, crunchy excerpts that featured three distinct varieties of troll that plague the Unapproachable East: the fell troll, the ice troll, and the mur-zhagul (or demon troll), along with a prestige class that's more than capable of taking 'em on: the Raumathari battlemage.

This month, Unapproachable East is on sale, so you can go grab one off the shelves of your favorite hobby shop or book store, and flip through it a few times on your way to the front counter.

May: Urban Arcana

Again, in last month's In the Works, you got some tasty, yet bite-size chunks of Urban Arcana to tide you over until now. (If you missed them, they include a listing of twelve new Advanced Classes as well as a look at a very interesting and versatile new monster: the Living Dumpster.)

As you read this, your copy of the new 320-page hardcover campaign setting for use with the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebookis waiting on a shelf near you -- don't leave it hanging.

I saw the first-printing copy of this thing on Chas DeLong's desk yesterday, and it looks nifty. It's got a matte-finish cover, which really fits the look Robert Raper was going for. Wait 'til you see it.

May: Condemnation

One last time: Condemnation, written by Richard Baker, is the third title in the six-book War of the Spider Queen series. Here's a bit of what I said about it last month:

It's full of action. It's full of intrigue. It's extremely well-paced in such a way that the story doesn't slow down when it turns your attention to a clandestine conversation or even a scene involving nothing more than single character's observations and musings. You really get to the point where you can't wait to finish one page just so you can get to the next one. And, perhaps best of all, it meshes flawlessly with its prequels.

Over on our Sample Chapters page, you can download a PDF of the opening chapter from book one, Dissolution, as well as the one from book two, Insurrection.Those should give you more than enough of a tantalizing look at what you can expect from this terrific series.

June: Ghostwalk

Last month, I rattled through a very brief, very basic description of the idea behind Ghostwalk, and I passed along the back cover copy to give you some indication of what you can expect to find inside this 224-page, hardcover campaign option. This month, I'll give you a better idea of what's inside the book by showing you a little of, well, what's inside the book.

Here's a chunk from the Introduction chapter:

Welcome to the Ghostwalk campaign, a high fantasy roleplaying setting. In some very fundamental ways, it is just like many other campaigns for the Dungeons & Dragons game; it is a world with magic and monsters, with gods and demons, and with tales of an afterlife that waits for heroes and villains alike. Players create PCs, DMs create adventures, and you bring them together, resulting in great tales of daring heroism.

But there is one important difference in a Ghostwalk campaign -- when your character dies, you don't have to stop playing. Instead, you can keep the adventure going, playing your character as a ghost and benefiting from a whole new set of skills and abilities. Ghosts in a Ghostwalk campaign are simply the spirits of the dead. They do not "haunt" places or people the way they do in other settings (although that term is sometimes used to describe the home of a ghost). Here, they are free-willed, free-roaming spirits. In fact, you may find that some characters enjoy themselves more as ghosts than they did when they were alive.

A Ghostwalk campaign, at least one based on what's presented in the book, will take place predominately (but not necessarily exclusively) in and around the city of Manifest. Again, from the introduction:

The City of Manifest

The city of Manifest is built around the entrance to the land of the dead. Because of its close proximity to this mystical place, the city has some unique qualities. First and foremost among them is that it is full of ghosts -- spirits who have traveled to the land of the dead's border but are not yet ready to leave behind their former lives.

In most parts of the world, ghosts are incorporeal and unable to affect the people and things around them. But ghosts in the city are continually "manifested," whether they want to be or not (in fact, that is how the city got its name). It's the place where the living can meet, interact with, and touch the dead.

In Manifest, a ghost can pick up an object just as though he or she were a living person with a body. Likewise, a ghost can be felled by a sword or a spell just like a living person would. Ghosts have ectoplasmic forms that serve as their bodies, although ectoplasmic forms do not have all the same properties as bodies (ghosts do not need to eat, they don't need to feel comfortable, etc.).

Okay, that should give you a little bit of an idea of what the book's going to do for you. The basic upshot is that when your character dies, you keep playing as a ghost. That doesn't mean you just slap on the ghost template and keep going as you were. No. You'll be making some character-building decisions when you shuffle off your mortal coil -- if you decide to tough it out in the living afterlife. Once you gain enough experience to level up, you'll be taking levels in one of two character classes: the eidolon or the eidoloncer. And, eventually, you can take a crack at some new prestige classes. Along the way, you've got ten pages of feats to choose from, including a pile useable in any campaign as well as more ghost-specific ones. Like this:

Ectoplasm [Ghost, Shaper]

You can create ectoplasm, a gooey physical manifestation of base supernatural spiritual energy.

Benefit: As a standard action, you can create enough ectoplasm to fill a human's cupped hands (approximately one pound, sufficient to coat a 1-foot-square area with a film). You may manifest this ectoplasm from your hands, eyes, mouth, or any other part of your body. Its color may be pale gray, light blue, light green, or pale yellow. Ectoplasm is naturally ghost touch material and is either sticky or slippery at its creator's discretion. Ectoplasm decays into nothingness after 10 minutes.

Special: A character with the Ectoplasm feat does not suffer the normal -5 penalty to Wilderness Lore checks when trying to track a manifested ghost.

A character with sticky ectoplasm on her hands and feet gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Climb checks (this bonus does not stack with similar circumstance bonuses to climbing, such as from a climber's kit).

A character covered in slippery ectoplasm (10 pounds for a Medium-size creature, 5 pounds for a Small creature) gains a +4 circumstance bonus to Escape Artist checks.

A character with this feat gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Heal checks made to treat ghosts.

A character with slippery ectoplasm on her feet gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Move Silently checks. If she moves more than one-half her speed, she must succeed at a Balance check (DC 10) each round of movement or fall. If she moves more than her full speed, the DC for the Balance check increases to 15.

If sticky ectoplasm is placed on a weapon, the weapon is treated as a ghost touch weapon, but only deals half damage. Special properties on a weapon that create energy (such as flaming, frost, or shock) destroy a coating of ectoplasm in 1d4 rounds.

Of course, there are new spells, magic items, deities, and monsters. You'll also see many, many pages of information on the City of Manifest, which includes maps and a smattering of nicely detailed (and well-mapped) adventures to really get you going. And, just in case you don't want to start up a Ghostwalk-specific campaign, you've also got advice on how and where you might drop the city of Manifest into your existing Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms campaign.


Insight and Answers from Ed Stark, Dungeons & Dragons Design Manager

3.5 Revision Update

If you want the best insight on what's going on with 3.5, you should be reading Ed Stark's monthly article in Dragon Magazine.

D&D Revision Spotlight

This is a monthly Q&A with Ed, which is created from questions and discussions taking place on the D&D message boards that you can read right now.

July: Revised D&D Core Rulebooks

So, the brand-new covers of each of the three core rulebooks are finally finished. When you compare them to the Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master's Guide you've already got on your shelves, you'll see why I say "brand-new," and not "all-new." Art directed by Dawn Murin, Direttore Artistica: Dungeons & Dragons and sculpted by Henry Higgenbotham, the covers of these new books really epitomize the shift from 3.0 to 3.5 -- they're very reminiscent of their predecessors, while being notably different.

Right, so how 'bout a look at some of the stuff you'll encounter when you crack open the new Monster Manual?

Keep in mind that all of this information is taken from the first galley of the Monster Manual v.3.5. That means they're one galley out-of-date, and two complete steps removed from being the final versions you'll find in the printed book when it comes out.

First off is the gauth. Imagine a smallish beholder with only six eyestalks, and you've got a good idea of what you're dealing with here.

Excerpt: Gauth

Gauth
Medium Aberration
Hit Dice: 6d8+18 (45 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 5 ft. (1 square), fly 20 ft. (good)
Armor Class: 19 (+2 Dex, +7 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+3
Attack: Eye rays +6 ranged touch and bite -2 melee (1d6-1)
Full Attack: Eye rays +6 ranged touch and bite -2 melee (1d6-1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Eye rays, stunning gaze
Special Qualities: All-around vision, darkvision 60 ft., flight
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +9
Abilities: Str 8, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 15, Wis 15, Cha 13
Skills: Hide +11, Knowledge (arcana) +11, Listen +4, Search +15, Spot +17, Survival +2 (+4 following tracks)
Feats: Alertness, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Iron Will
Environment: Cold hills
Organization: Solitary, pair, or cluster (3-6)
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Usually lawful evil
Advancement: 7-12 HD (Medium); 13-18 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: --

The gauth, sometimes known as the lesser beholder, is a 4-foot wide orb dominated by a central eye. Six smaller eyes on stalks sprout from the top of its body. It is a rapacious and tyrannical creature that seeks to exact tribute from anything weaker than itself, and often attacks adventurers simply to acquire their wealth.

Eye Rays (Su): Each of a gauth's six eye rays resembles a spell cast by an 8th-level caster. Each eye ray has a range of 100 feet and a save DC of 14. The save DCs are Charisma-based. The six eye rays include:

Sleep: This works like the spell, except that it affects one creature with any number of Hit Dice (Will negates). Gauths like to use this ray against warriors and other physically powerful creatures.

Inflict Moderate Wounds: This works like the spell, causing 2d8+8 points of damage (Will half).

Dispel Magic:This works like the targeted dispel function of the spell. The gauth's dispel check is 1d20+8.

Scorching Ray:This works like the spell, dealing 4d6 points of fire damage (no save). A gauth creates only one fiery ray per use of this ability.

Paralysis: The target must succeed on a Fortitude save or be paralyzed for 2d10 minutes.

Exhaustion: This works like the spell ray of exhaustion (no save).

Stunning Gaze (Su): Stun for 1 round, 30 feet, Will DC 14 negates. The save DC is Charisma-based. Any creature meeting the gaze of the gauth's central eye is subject to its stunning gaze attack. Since the gauth can use its eye-rays as a free action, the creature can use a standard action to focus its stunning gaze on an opponent and attack with all eye rays that bear on its foes at the same time.

-This is a great example of how the game designers have been working to provide an interesting array of monsters that offer a full range of challenges to characters at every level. A party of characters that are just capable of handling a CR 6 monster aren't going to fare very well against a beholder (that is, if they skip the Diplomacy skill check and just try to attack the thing), but they could run into a gauth and have a fighting chance. No antimagic cone. No instant death attacks. Really, the gauth has no "permanent" eye ray effects. So, while it's got a lot of the qualities associated with a beholder (difficult to sneak up on, fast-acting, just plain mean), is capable of doing a respectable amount of damage, and can inconvenience or incapacitate a lot of characters at once, it's a monster that you could throw at a low- to mid-level party so that they can experience a really tough encounter and expect to have survivors. The idea of having access to scaled-back versions of some of the more interesting or iconic monsters, particularly when you can pull them straight out of the book ready-to-go, is quite good. I think we'll be seeing more of that.

Another thing the game designers did with the Monster Manual is to take a look at the types of creatures available at each CR level to try to make sure that there were representative monsters of various "types" available. A good example of this is in the range of undead you find in the game: First-level characters can expect to stumble across skeletons and zombies. A few more levels brings them ghouls, ghasts, and wights. Then on to spectres, shadows, vampires, liches, and worse as they really get up there in levels.

So, when the designers looked at demons and devils, they noticed that a good number of them were bunched together in a knot that spanned a relatively small number of CRs. After much painstaking work, they sorted out each demon and devil, determined where on the Challenge Rating scale each one would best fit, and modified each one to fit. That pit fiend you got a peek at on the Winter Fantasy t-shirt is a great example of how they took a powerful devil and pushed him up to his rightful place on the CR chart.

But what do you tangle with when you're only halfway to taking on senior pit fiend? Something that's about half his CR. Just to make it interesting, perhaps you'll encounter something that's half his CR +1 -- something like a barbed devil.

(Check out the new illustration -- every one of the demons and devils has an illustration in the Monster Manual v.3.5.)

Excerpt: Barbed Devil

Barbed Devil (Hamatula)
Medium Outsider (Baatezu, Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful)
Hit Dice: 12d8+72 (126 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 29 (+6 Dex, +13 natural) touch 16, flat-footed 23
Base Attack/Grapple: +12/+22
Attack: Claw +18 melee (2d8+6 plus fear)
Full Attack: 2 claws +18 melee (2d8+6 plus fear)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Fear, improved grab, impale 3d8+9, summon baatezu
Special Qualities: Barbed defense, damage reduction 10/good, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to fire and poison, resistance to acid 10 and cold 10, see in darkness, spell resistance 23, spell-like abilities, telepathy 100 ft.
Saves: Fort +14, Ref +14, Will +12
Abilities: Str 23, Dex 23, Con 23, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 18
Skills: Concentration +21, Diplomacy +6, Hide +21, Intimidate +19, Knowledge (any one) +16, Listen +19, Move Silently +21, Search +16, Sense Motive +17, Spot +19, Survival +2 (+4 following tracks)
Feats: Alertness, Cleave, Improved Grapple, Iron Will, Power Attack
Environment: Nine Hells of Baator
Organization: Solitary, pair, team (3-5), or squad (6-10)
Challenge Rating: 11
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Always lawful evil
Advancement: 13-24 (Medium); 25-36 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: --

This creature looks like a tall humanoid covered with sharp barbs, right down to the tip of its long, meaty tail. Its eyes shift and dart about, making it appear agitated or nervous.

Barbed devils, also called hamatulas, serve as guardians of vaults and bodyguards to the most powerful denizens of the Nine Hells.

A barbed devil is about 7 feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds.

Combat

Barbed devils eagerly fight with their claws, trying to impale their opponents. They use hold person to immobilize those who avoid their hug attacks.

A barbed devil's natural weapons, as well as any weapons it wields, are treated as evil-aligned and lawful-aligned for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Fear (Su): A creature hit by a barbed devil must succeed on a DC 20 Will save or be affected as though by fear (caster level 9th). Whether or not the save is successful, that creature cannot be affected by that same barbed devil's fear ability for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Impale (Ex): A barbed devil deals 3d8+9 points of piercing damage to a grabbed opponent with a successful grapple check.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a barbed devil must hit with a claw attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can impale the opponent on its barbed body.

Summon Baatezu (Sp): Once per day a barbed devil can attempt to summon 1d6 bearded devils or another barbed devil with a 35% chance of success. This ability is the equivalent of a 4th-level spell.

Barbed Defense (Su): Any creature striking a barbed devil with handheld weapons or natural weapons takes 1d8+6 points of piercing and slashing damage from the devil's barbs. Note that weapons with exceptional reach, such as longspears, do not endanger their users in this way.

Spell-Like Abilities: At will -- greater teleport (self plus 50 pounds of objects only), hold person (DC 16), major image (DC 17), scorching ray (2 rays only). 1/day -- order's wrath (DC 18), unholy blight (DC 18). Caster level 12th. The save DCs are Charisma-based.

That's probably enough to give you a good idea of what the entries will look like in the new Monster Manual.I'll wrangle one of the big CR monsters for you to take a look at next month. Maybe a couple other things, too.

August: Dragonlance Campaign Setting

I just got my hands on the manuscript for this thing, and I haven't had time to do much more than tie up the printer for about 15 minutes. So, I can't give you any specific details this month, but I'll pass along the stuff I do know. It's a 288-page hardcover that sets you up with everything you need to get started playing a full-blown campaign in the world of Krynn. It runs you through an overview of the world (including historical information that spans from the classic War of the Lance all the way up to the War of Souls), character races, classes, feats, prestige classes, magic, deities, geography, monsters, dragons (a whole chapter devoted to dragons, including expansive rules for aerial combat), magic items, and a few adventures to get you up and running.

Here's the back cover copy:

Sagas from the lands of Krynn are filled with valiant heroes destined to discover ancient secrets and vanquish terrible evils. Like those great champions, you will band together with brave companions to set forth on daring adventures. The tales of those bold deeds will become the newest legends in the world of Dragonlance.

From Solamnic Knights and Dragon Riders to kender, tinker gnomes, and draconians, the rich tapestry of the Dragonlance world comes alive in this campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons® roleplaying game. With historical content covering eras from the War of the Lance to the War of Souls, along with expanded rules for aerial combat, the Dragonlance Campaign Setting provides the character races, prestige classes, feats, spells, monsters, and maps you need to fully explore the world of Dragonlance.

This Fall:Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures

Last month, I passed along a smattering of images of the Blackguard and Owlbear miniatures in the Master Paint stage. This month, I've got some information about the miniatures line itself.

Eighty different D&D characters will available in the first set. The minis will be randomized, fully assembled, pre-painted, collectible plastic miniatures complete with double-sided stat cards (one side for use with the D&D roleplaying game, the other for fast, head-to-head miniatures combat.)

Expansion Packs will contain eight randomized minis (with stat cards). There will be three different packages for expansion packs, with different art on each, but the contents will be the same. Here's a working file for the front of one of the Expansion Packs.

Click Image to Enlarge

Entry Packs will be bigger boxes with more minis, and they'll contain the rules and basic equipment you'll need for playing with the expanded head-to-head minis combat rules:

Here's what you'll find inside the Entry Pack:

  • 16 randomized miniatures with double-sided stat cards
  • Complete Basic rulebook
  • 20-sided die
  • Checklist for the first miniatures set
  • Terrain mapsheet and terrain cards that help create unique situations for every encounter

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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