You wouldn't believe the phenomenal mess that passes for my desk right now, but I've got all kinds of nifty stuff to pass along to you because of it. We're only a month away from releasing the 1-2-3-book knockout punch that is the core rulebooks v.3.5, and it's going to be good. In addition to those, we've got lots of other cool stuff going on.
Check it out:
- Brothers 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 with all-new cover art)
- Wind of Justice -- Legend of the Five Rings Four Winds Saga, Third Scroll (paperback)
- The Annotated Legends -- fully annotated by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (hardcover)
- The Black Bouquet -- the Rogues Series, Book Two (paperback)
- D&D Miniatures Entry Pack -- 16 randomized minis, statistics cards, basic rulebook, d20, terrain mapsheet & cards, checklist
- D&D Miniatures Harbinger Expansion Pack -- 8 randomized, prepainted, plastic minis with double-sided stat cards
- Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set -- boxed set of all three core rulebooks (v.3.5)
- Legacy of the Drow Gift Set -- boxed set of all four Legacy of the Drow novels (paperback)
- Menace Manual -- 224-page sourcebook for the d20 Modern roleplaying game
- Miniatures Handbook -- 192-page D&D rulebook
- The Prince of Lies -- the Avatar Series, Book Four (paperback with all-new cover art)
- War of Souls Gift Set -- boxed set of all three War of Souls novels (paperback)
Last month, I gave you a peek at the introduction to this 224-page, hardcover campaign option, one of its many feats, and a couple cool illustrations. Since the book hits the shelves this month, you'll be able to take a look at the rest of it yourself, but just to give you a little bit more insight into what's inside, and how it's different from other stuff you've already seen, check out the Ghost template. Just remember, in addition to this template being different from the one you'll find in the Monster Manual (3.0 or 3.5), this is a template you can expect to apply to your character at some point during your campaign.
July: D&D Core Rulebooks v.3.5
Back in January, that pit fiend t-shirt we handed out at Winter Fantasy gave you a pretty good peek at what kind of information you'll get in the new stat blocks (good stuff like the base attack/grapple bonuses, single attack, and full attack), along with a great new addition: the round-by-round tactics.
But between then and now, the monsters have been further refined and tightened up even more. Last month, I gave you a look at the gauth and the new barbed devil -- a pretty good indication of what the critters in v.3.5 are going to be like. But you can't put a Beholder Jr. next to a pit fiend and even pretend you can really get a good idea of where the monsters of today are compared to way back in January: A gauth is only CR 6, and a pit fiend is -- well, I don't really know for sure, but I think those guys are weighing in at CR 20. I don't have the absolute latest stat block for the pit fiend on-hand, so how 'bout the next best thing? Or, really, something even better -- a completely new entry from the Monster Manual v.3.5: the titan.
Aside from some number and ability juggling, the thing that really makes the new titan formidable is the last chunk of information titled "Tactics Round-by-Round." You already got a peek at what the archetypal pit fiend is going to pull on PCs in five rounds of combat (repeat if necessary). And now for the titan as well -- a trend, you might say. The big and complicated monsters in the MM v3.5 are all going to have round-by-round tactics. (Don't hold me to the "all" part -- I just know they're planning on providing that section for all the heavy hitters. I don't know quite what ended up in there)
With five full rounds of "what does he do?" already plotted out for you, it's a whole lot easier to make sure you're making the most out of your really powerful monsters. What a great resource to have -- knowing what the monster will typically do, so you can make the most of its abilities to really put up a fight. You'll be able to play them smarter and more efficiently. More like PCs. Hey, why wouldn't monsters want to survive to the next game session just as much as the characters? Of course, the tactics listed are just guidelines, and you can do what you want.
Breaking news! I just picked up a comb-bound copy of the finished Monster Manual v.3.5, and discovered that the entry for the kobold starts on a page numbered 161. In the previous Monster Manual, kobolds are on page 124. How's that for adding content?
Just to point out that the book's not front-loaded with 37 pages of fluff, the entry for the Aboleth (in MM v.3.5) is on page 8. (It's way back on pg. 11 in the 3.0 version.) And, just so you know it's not back-loaded with fluff, the Monster chapter ends on page 267. It's followed by the sixteen-page Animals chapter and the six-page Vermin chapter, ending the actual critter entries on page 289. (Then you've got monster advancement, monster creation, skills and feats, the glossary, and a two-page Monsters Ranked by Challenge Ratings extravaganza that ranges from CR 1/10 to CR 23, which fills out the remaining 30 pages) I hope that the Titan entry and illo (along with the gauth, barbed devil, and pit fiend you've already seen) make it clear that the rest of the book isn't filled with fluff either. I can't wait until the hardbound, full-color copies get here.
Okay, time for a couple extra bits from the Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. First, the way they organized the material is a really interesting thing to look at. The new DMG starts you off where you want to start (particularly if you're taking the DM screen out for your first spin) -- Chapter 1: Running the Game. After showing you the ropes of how a game typically flows and feels, it then guides you through Using the Rules (like movement, bonus types, combat, skill and ability checks, saving throws, magic, etc.) Then, on to Adventures, which spans from motivation, encounters, treasure, and adventure types to dungeon terrain, dungeon ecology, and traps (check out the cool illustration that puts Lidda and Gimble in the middle of a hallway that looks like a combination of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Pit and the Pendulum, and Dragon's Lair -- if any two iconics could make it out of there, it'd be those two). Chapter 3 also covers wilderness and urban adventures, finishing off the run-down of all the essential adventure-building tools.
Next comes Chapter 4: Nonplayer Characters. (You've got to have an idea of how to run everyone else in the entire world.) Once you've got that down, you're ready to consider the big picture of Chapter 5: Campaigns. That takes you through establishing and maintaining a campaign, how the characters and the world around them interact, various events (such as war) and other calamities, world-building, interplanar adventuring, and creating your own cosmology. After that, you're on easy street with Chapter 6: Characters, which covers ability scores, races, subraces, modifying and creating character classes, 16 Prestige Classes, how PCs improve, cohorts, familiars, mounts, animal companions, and epic characters. Then, the perennial favorite chapter on Magic Items -- 72 pages of things that glow when you cast detect magic. The Glossary follows; it's filled with expansive definitions, descriptions of various conditions (like "energy drained" and "nauseated") and a section on the various effects and damage caused by The Environment -- you know, immersion in acid, exposure to extreme cold, catching on fire, standing in lava. Next comes the handy Index, which gives you the quick, alphabetized way to look up subjects like "altitude sickness", "falling into water", and "quicksand." The Index also includes a listing of all the tables and an extremely handy list of sidebars, so it's even easier to find the variant rule for using Power Components when spellcasting, or to look up the One Hundred Adventure Ideas.
But that's not all -- wedged in there, right between the Glossary and Index, are 12 pages listed in the Table of Contents as "Visual Aids." That intriguing section starts off with three pages of spell effect templates (so you know what squares are affected by your 15-, 30-, 60-, or 120-foot cones, or those 5-, 10-, 20-, 40-, or 80-foot radius effects). Next come three pages that illustrate the space occupied by different-sized creatures and their reach (including the threatened space when they're armed with a reach weapon) It gets pretty sick when you look at what some of those big critters can do with a halberd or spiked chain.
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, created from questions and discussions taking place on the D&D message boardsthat you can read right now.
The remaining six pages are various and sundry things you can use as terrain and dungeon dressing when setting up your battlemat. You've got dungeon flooring and walls. There are stairs (wooden, stone, and spiral), bridges (wooden and stone), piles of treasure, wooden chests, wooden chairs, wooden doors, iron doors, double doors, doorways blocked by stones. Stalactites, difficult terrain, pits, floors inscribed with magic circles, columns, pedestals, and statues. There are coffins, an assortment of dead bodies, and (my favorite) sleeping figures -- a must for those encounters that take place during "second watch" and other inopportune moments.
Whether you're a veteran DM or just settling into the role, the stuff you'll find inside the DMG v.3.5 (along with the order and manner in which you'll find it) will make a noticeable difference in how smoothly your game runs.
July: Dragon Magazine #310
I'm not entirely sure what's going to be on the inside of issue #310, but I can tell you what's going to be polybagged with it -- the first Dungeon Master's screen for use with the D&D core rulebooks v.3.5. It's going to have some really terrific art on the outside, and all kinds of tables, tools, and useful stuff on the inside.
If you've got a subscription to Dragon that runs through issue 310, you're all set to get the DM screen for free (along with your regular issue of Dragon). If you're picking it up at the newsstand, or your favorite hobby shop, the cover price will just be bumped up a dollar to help make a dent in the cost of producing this four-paneled, art-by-Wayne Reynolds, printed-on-good-quality-cardstock premium of Dungeon Mastering excellence. Look, you really can't beat getting a brand-new DM screen for a buck! And next month, I'll get an image of what the screen looks like, so if you haven't gotten one of your own you'll know why you'll want to.
Why subscribe? (a small soapbox moment)
Here's the deal: Magazines use the sales figures based on subscriptions to figure out their budget for premiums -- those are the dollars they know they can count on, 'cause they're already on the books. And hey, Jesse, Matt, Lisa, and all the other folk at Paizo are good eggs. If you make 'em happy and more solvent by boosting subscription rates, they can keep making great magazines and giving you cool free do-dads (like the DM screen, maps, etc.) to help make your game even better. Plus, since you save some bucks when you subscribe, you can use that money buy other stuff from your favorite hobby shop owner -- so everybody gets something out of the deal.
OK, that's enough of that. On with the crunchy stuff you're here for.
August: Dragonlance Campaign Setting
Last month, I passed along a brief overview and the back cover copy from this 288-page hardcover that sets you up with everything you need to get started playing a full-blown campaign in the world of Dragonlance. This month, I offer a couple crunchy bits inspired by the wraparound art from the cover.
If anything says "Dragonlance" to me, it's two dragon riders (and their more than formidable mounts) locked in a dramatic aerial duel. So, how do you go about making that happen?
Split between pages 69 and 70 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, you'll find about a column's worth of rules (including a nice Maneuverability table) to govern aerial movement. Add falling damage (on pg. 112) and the information on taking damage from falling objects, and you're up to about one full page that covers aerial-specific game mechanics. You can squeeze in the rules for running, charging, bull rushing, grappling, etc. if you want. They're generic combat rules -- which certainly apply -- but they're not "aerial combat rules."
That's when the Dragonlance Campaign Setting swoops in and fills that gap with eight full pages of rules specific to aerial combat, including a terrific table that details Collision Damage based on the speed and size of the objects in contention. The section covers Simple Maneuvers, like a 45-degree turn, climb, dive, or sideslip, as well as Advanced Maneuvers, such as Airbrake (DC 15), Swoop Attack (DC 20), and Wingover (DC varies). It also goes through becoming airborne, gaining altitude, changing speed, using weapons from the saddle, and a small pile of other things -- such as a nice-sized chunk that deals with combat between creatures at differing altitudes, including the pitiful, flightless fodder you find on the ground below (or what you, as the pitiful, flightless fodder can do against flying creatures).
Chase Scale: Altitude is abstracted in the chase scale. A flying creature can be at one of seven altitude bands, as shown below:
||Against Ground Targets
||On the ground
||Melee attacks, all spells, missile weapons, thrown weapons, and breath weapons
||Medium or long-range spells, missile weapons, and breath weapons only
||Medium or long-range spells, missile weapons, and line-shaped breath weapons only
||Long-range spells and missile weapons only
||Long-range spells only
You may find it useful to place a d6 next to each flying creature to mark its current altitude band. Remove the die when the creature is on the ground.
When a flying creature moves, it can choose to gain an altitude band (which reduces it to half speed unless it has perfect maneuverability) or drop an altitude band (which increases it to double speed). Some maneuvers require changing altitude. A creature can only gain or lose one altitude band per turn.
The effect of altitude bands on slant range depends on how many bands are between the flying creature and its target:
|0 or 1
||Add 100 feet to the horizontal range
||Add 200 feet to the horizontal range
||Add 400 feet to the horizontal range
||Add 800 feet to the horizontal range
Like I said, that's just eight pages of the book -- there are 280 more. Next month, I should be able to get some more crunchy bits along with an illustration or two for you.
This Fall: Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures
This month, let's jump right in and show off what is arguably the coolest mini in the Harbinger set -- the Umber Hulk. Check out the concept sketch, drawn by Des Hanley (the same guy who did the awesome concept sketch that redefined the look of the Blackguard) It takes the Umber Hulk from the illustration in the Monster Manual, and puts it in action.
What we end up with is a bigger, badder, meaner-looking critter that you don't want to see coming through a wall. If it doesn't get you with its confusion gaze attack, it'll probably put a little old-fashioned fear into you. Notice the little thumbnail sketch that shows the comparative scale between the umber hulk and an average human -- this guy is huge.
Here's a side-view
picture (taken on
a cloudy day)
And here's the rear
view, or what you'd
see if Umber Hulks
ever ran away.
|Click Image to Enlarge
The Sculpt is the next stage. And, just like with the Blackguard, we've got a dead-on 3D version of what the concept sketch was asking for.
After that, we'd get a first casting of the sculpt in plastic, followed by the Master Paint stage. Like before, this is the paint job we send off to the factory to indicate what we want the mini to look like.
The thing that this mini really shows off (aside from a terrific sculpt) is how nice it looks with a relatively limited palette of colors. (All I'd want to do is give it an ink wash and a little drybrushing, and it'd be just as good, possibly even better than the paint job I'd do with an unpainted mini.) The extra reassuring thing I can tell you is that, when placed next to their Master Paint versions, the initial batch of minis we've gotten back from the factory are looking good. The umber hulk looks virtually identical, and the only real difference between the Master Paint blackguard and the "real" one is that the metallic paint on the "real" one is more muted. Really, that works out -- who wants a shiny blackguard anyway?
Keep in mind that the more rare the miniature, the more paint applications it'll get. (There are three levels of rarity -- common, uncommon, and rare.) Of course, the minis you've seen here are rares -- partly because those Large minis are rare, partly because they look the nicest, and partly because that's what worked best -- the blackguard was a no-brainer choice since I could show you the new prestige class in the Dungeon Master's Guide and follow that up with a perfect example of a miniature taken straight from the rulebooks.
Now, here's a real treat. When I first laid eyes on the initial sculpts for the 80 minis that're in this first set (subsequent sets will have 60 minis), the thing that struck me about them was the amazing difference in scale the range of minis covered. (Sure, sure, the sculpts were really good too, but I've babbled about that before.)
No, the thing that's really, really interesting and shows a fine level of attention to detail is the fact that when you stand a halfling next to a human, that halfling really is about half the size (height, build, everything). And when you put a dwarf in-between, he nearly splits the difference. Elves are almost the same height as humans, but are of a more slender build.
So, that's cool. Then, you stick a monster in there -- and wow. Orcs are bigger and beefier than even the most sturdy-looking human. Then, the minis really start to get big. Check out this police lineup-like image that really gives you a sense of just how well the various sizes of minis scale from Small up to Large (and back again very quickly).
|Click Image to Enlarge
As you can see, the gradual shift in height and build is quite good. It really defines the difference between each one of them. That orc (Eye of Grummsh, you'll notice) is quite bulked up (compared to the also-Medium-sized human cleric) and mean. You can't see it in this picture, but his shield has a great holy symbol of Grummsh device on it. The centaur is very hefty-looking -- quite reminiscent of the presence the centaur in the first Harry Potter movie had. The ogre is just plain large. Put the branches back on that club (and add some flocking) and it's most certainly the size of a small tree. (Check out that X-shaped mark on his chest -- he's taken more than a few chops from a sword.) And then there's that easy chip shot for the ogre -- that little kobold. Crack open your Monster Manual to page 124, and compare the mini to the illo. He's very reminiscent, but a tad meaner. The spear's ready for action and the look on his face gets across the idea that he and about two-dozen of his buddies will be back for (hit-and-run) revenge -- Meepo style.
Just so you can keep score at home, the umber hulk is on par with the height of the ogre. The owlbear I showed you a couple months back is about the same size, or at least the same bulk -- it doesn't stand as high as the ogre or umber hulk, but it definitely fills up its 10'x10' square. The blackguard is about the same height as the mace-wielding human cleric (OK, it's Jozan).
Next month, I'll try to get some images of the Factory Paint minis to put next to the Master Paint versions, just so you can see what I'm talking about -- and what you can look forward to when you start cracking open Expansion Packs.
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.