Previews
Mat Smith reveals what's "In the Works" for fall.
By Mat Smith

My Desk and the Stuff Upon It -- Still on Display

Starting this month, "In the Works" gets a new name: Previews. But this column by any name is still the best place to get the inside scoop on what's new from Wizards of the Coast.

If you take a look at the "In the Works" archive (over there on the left-hand navigation bar), you'll notice that it goes all the way back to September 2001. That makes this the 24th installation of the column, which means I've been doing this for two full years now. While it's not surprising that I haven't run out of things to show off (because we keep coming out with cool new products), it is kinda interesting how much fun it still is to sit down and take a look at what's on the verge of hitting the shelves. Like all this fine stuff I've got piled up here today.

Check it out:

New Releases

September

  • D&D Miniatures Entry Pack -- 16 randomized minis, stat cards, basic rulebook, d20, terrain mapsheet & cards, checklist
  • D&D Miniatures Harbinger Expansion Pack -- 8 randomized, pre-painted, plastic minis with double-sided stat cards
  • Menace Manual -- 224-page sourcebook for the d20 Modern roleplaying game
  • Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set -- boxed set of all three core rulebooks (v.3.5)
  • The Annotated Legends -- fully annotated by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (hardcover)
  • The Black Bouquet -- the Rogues Series, Book Two
  • Legacy of the Drow Gift Set -- boxed set of all four Legacy of the Drow (paperback) novels
  • The Prince of Lies -- the Avatar Series, Book Four (paperback--all-new cover art)
  • War of Souls Gift Set -- boxed set of all three War of Souls trilogy (paperback) novels
  • Fist of Emirikol -- custom-tooled 55mm d20, free giveaway item from the RPGA's D&D Player Rewards program (Part of the Con-in-a-Box mailer)

October

  • Book of Exalted Deeds -- 192-page hardcover sourcebook for mature audiences; companion to Book of Vile Darkness
  • Miniatures Handbook -- 192-page D&D hardcover for expanding combat in your RPGs and playing skirmish-, squad-, and mass-battles with miniatures
  • Underdark -- 192-page Forgotten Realms supplement exploring the region of the Realms Below
  • The Lone Drow -- Book Two in R.A. Salvatore's Hunter's Blades trilogy (hardcover)
  • Return of the Damned -- Dungeons & Dragons novel series, book nine (paperback)
  • The Nightmare Lands -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume Two, Part 1) (paperback)
  • To the Gates of Palanthas -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume Two, Part 2) (paperback)
  • Redemption -- The Dhamon Saga, Volume Three (paperback)
  • Riverwind the Plainsman -- Preludes, Volume Four (paperback)

November

  • Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons -- 288-page hardcover, an illustration-filled D&D supplement dealing with all things draconic
  • Complete Warrior -- 160-page D&D hardcover for combat-focused characters of all classes
  • The Best of the Realms -- the first Forgotten Realms anthology (paperback)
  • The Sapphire Crescent -- the Scions of Arrabar Trilogy, Book 1 (paperback)
  • Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad -- the Avatar series, Book Five (paperback)
  • Dark Thane -- Dragonlance, the Age of Mortals series (paperback)
  • Flint the King -- Preludes, Volume Five (paperback)

September: Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures

The D&D Miniatures line finally goes on sale this month with the Entry Pack and Harbinger expansion. To give you an idea of what you get when you open an Entry Pack, I got hold of one for a "Based on a Real Story" run-down.

I won't go into detail on the materials that weren't miniatures, but I will list them for you:

  • Eight 5x8-inch terrain cards
  • Checklist for the Harbinger expansion
  • Counter tokens
  • 22x34-inch battle grid (with Cone and Burst area-of-effect templates on back)
  • 40-page Skirmish Rules book
  • Quick-reference Skirmish Rules summary sheet
  • 16 double-sided statistics cards
  • Customer Response Card
  • d20

Right. On to the good stuff. First, the Rare. (You get one in every box, whether it's an Entry Pack or an Expansion pack -- good deal.) I got the Umber Hulk. Not only is it arguably the coolest mini in the set, but it's definitely something that will instill jealousy in Dragon Magazine's Chris Thomasson, who was really hoping to get one of these big bugs in the Entry Pack he got at a press event we held at GenCon. Not a bad start.

After pausing to admire my new Umber Hulk, I launched into a frenetic sifting of the remaining 16 minis. After looking at all of them, I tore open the little plastic bags in which they come individually wrapped, and arranged them on top of my monitor.

Here's what I ended up with (in no particular order):

  • Umber Hulk
  • Elf Archer
  • Skeleton
  • Orc Spearfighter
  • Human Wanderer
  • Lidda
  • Ghoul
  • Man-at-Arms
  • Human Commoner
  • Crested Felldrake
  • Dwarf Axefighter
  • Wolf Skeleton
  • Drow Fighter
  • Tiefling Captain
  • Ember
  • Gnome Recruit

A pretty good assortment. With a halfling, gnome, dwarf, elf, and four humans, I've got a stairstepped offering of each of the standard character races except for the half-orc and half-elf (for which I could easily substitute one of the humans). I got three undead -- the start of a nice graveyard or crypt encounter. The Orc Spearfighter and Drow Fighter will serve as my first recruits into the larger forces of each I intend to create.

Once I added the four promotional minis we handed out (the Dwarf Axefighter at Origins, and the Elf Ranger, Orc Archer, and Lizardfolk at GenCon), I had two dwarves (the same mini), my second orc, a great companion for the Elf Archer, and an owner for the Crested Felldrake. So now I'm up to twenty minis total, and I'm ready for more. (I'm particularly anxious to start amassing a huge, unstoppable army of kobolds.)

The great thing about these guys is that they're ready to play. I know "pre-painted" is the thing everyone keeps harping on to make you want to buy these things, but honestly, it's so nice to have a good handful of minis I can just play with. I like painting minis as much as anyone, and have a decent amount of ability to do a good job (sure, sure, I too could paint each one better than they come out of the box). But when it comes down to it, I'd rather play than paint.

While the pre-assembled, pre-painted aspect of the D&D minis isn't a feature to be overlooked, the nicest thing about them is the resilient plastic of which they're made. I can scoop up all twenty of my minis in one overstuffed handful and toss them in my shoulder bag to take to my next game, and they'll tumble out onto the table none the worse for wear. Really. When Chris Toepker brought the full set of 80 D&D Miniatures to put on display at ComicCon, he packed them, loose, in a large manila envelope. He showed up, pulled the envelope out of his backpack, and dumped out the minis, which were more than ready for show-and-tell. No chipped paint. No broken bits. And anything that was bent because it was stuffed into a carry-on bag for four or five hours fixed itself as the minis sat and waited to be put on a pedestal.

When I opened my Entry Pack, the Orc Spearfighter's spear, Ember's staff, and the Skeleton's short sword were a tad bent. But after holding them under my halogen desk lamp for about 30 seconds, each bit of plastic was nicely warmed and actually straightening itself out. I held each of the pieces, keeping them straight, while they cooled, and ended up with nicely serviceable weapons.

These things really are, first and foremost, a great accessory for any D&D game. And the skirmish rules give you something to do with them outside your campaign.

Anyway, we should be getting some images of minis from the Dragoneye set any time now. (Watch for that set to release in January.) I'll start passing that stuff on to you as soon as I get my hands on it.

D&D Miniatures Resources & Features

Fold-up Paper Models

This treasure trove of print-cut-n-fold structures will help you fulfill all your wall, tower, building, bridge, cemetery, mausoleum, tavern, blacksmith, and other 3D building terrain needs.

September: d20 Menace Manual

Last month, I gave you a look at the Litter Brute -- just one of the nasty monsters you'll find inside this 224-page hardcover sourcebook for use with the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. This month, I'm giving you a few small chunks from just one of the factions that make up the hefty Chapter Three.



The Green Brigade

The main objective of the Green Brigade is a virtually impossible task: stop the governments, corporations, and special interest groups of the world from destroying the world through their greed, inattentiveness, and lies. They see this as not merely a noble cause, but a righteous fight, as indicated by their motto, "The world is our mother and she cries out in pain. We are her last line of defense."

Agenda: Save the ecology through whatever means necessary and destroy the organizations that are the worst offenders.

Structure: Hundreds of independent 3-person cells scattered throughout the world, loosely guided by a master cell.

Most Common Allegiances: Nature, chaos, socialism, communism.

Requisition Limit: 24 (restricted).

Overview

As the world's ecology comes under assault by pollution, population growth, urban sprawl, and the wanton rape of resources, it has become increasingly obvious that humanity's presence on the planet is having a seriously detrimental effect. Every day, scientists utter dire warnings of imminent ecological disasters -- drought devastating farmland worldwide, massive forest fires consuming fragile woodlands, and the melting of huge portions of ice from the Antarctic shelf. Despite these warnings, the governments and corporations of the world give little heed and continue blindly harvesting everything in sight and polluting the earth, water, and air. In the minds of the silent majority, little can be done to stop the devastation. However, others watch the destruction with a critical eye and will do anything in their power to stop the killing of the planet. The Green Brigade is one such organization.

Some of the typical activities of the Green Brigade include the following:

  • Destroying or disabling oil tankers and oil processing facilities
  • Bribing officials to keep dirty power plants from being built
  • Kidnapping, extorting, blackmailing, or murdering key officials in major corporations and government agencies
  • Releasing captured animals from zoos and medical research laboratories
  • Killing or driving away poachers of endangered species
  • Blowing up major engineering projects, such as dikes and dams
  • Disseminating incriminating documents to the public about ecological crimes committed by the government and large corporations
  • Disrupting or hijacking radio and television broadcasts
  • Establish ties with other leftist and radical groups willing to assist the Green Brigade's cause

Structure

The Green Brigade has organized itself into a cell structure. This method ensures that if one cell is arrested or killed in action, the rest of the Brigade can continue to function with little or no disruption to the greater cause.

Each cell acts independently, taking on whatever missions its members deem necessary, occasionally working with other cells if more manpower is required. Of course, such compartmentalization has its disadvantages. For one thing, the dissemination of information between cells is slow and sometimes spotty, as each bit of information slowly makes its way through the twisting chain of communication. This also means that some information arrives to a cell far too late, forcing each cell to be as resourceful and independent as possible.

You can quickly imagine how The Green Brigade could easily become an ally or adversary for a group of PCs, perhaps even serving as the organization the characters join or are members of from the beginning of a campaign. Depending on how you want to play out the cell structure of the group, the interaction the characters have with The Green Brigade could change over time, or even from encounter to encounter.

Here's one more nifty bit, also from the section on The Green Brigade, a map of the headquarters of the leaders of organization -- a ship named The Vigilant. Whether you actually have an encounter with "Cell Abel" on their floating HQ or not, you can probably find a use for this cool blueprint for a modified 120-foot fishing trawler. (And this is just one of several cool blueprint-style maps you'll find in the d20 Menace Manual.)

October: Book of Exalted Deeds

This 192-page hardcover is a companion to the Book of Vile Darkness, which also makes it the second book in the mature audience product line. While Book of Vile Darkness focuses on how to challenge the heroes of a D&D campaign with the most horrifyingly evil and despicable villains (allowing the unwavering light of good to struggle valiantly to win the day), the Book of Exalted Deeds offers a preponderance of material that illustrates the challenges of playing good characters and provides a host of information for running truly heroic campaigns. To give you a more succinct description of what's inside, here's a look at the back cover copy:

Strike Down Evil with the Sword of Enlightenment

"Only those who are pure in word, thought, and deed may look upon the knowledge gathered within this blessed tome. For the blinding truths inscribed within offer nothing but redemption or destruction for the wicked. May these consecrated pages forever illuminate the paths of the righteous."

-- Raziel the Crusader, ruler of the Platinum Heaven

This sourcebook for the D&D game is intended for mature audiences and provides players and Dungeon Masters with inspiring subject matter that will broadenany campaign. Included is a detailed look at the nature of good and the complex challenges that face those who join the eternal struggle on the side of the moral and just. Along with exalted feats, prestige classes, and spells, the Book of Exalted Deeds also provides descriptions and statistics for a host of creatures and celestial paragons to ally with virtuous characters.

Assuming you're playing in a heroic campaign, where (for the most part) your characters are out doing things for the common good, you could run into all sorts of situations where the material in this book would come into play. The various conundrums, conflicts, and catch-22s are just a few of the challenges characters in a heroic campaign face. Some of them are much, much more direct -- for example, being attacked by the physical manifestation of a deity's vengeance:

Aleax

Physically manifesting vengeance, a deity sends forth an aleax to punish and redeem those who stray from the dictates of their alignments, who fail to make the proper sacrifices, or who otherwise enrage the deity. An aleax looks like its intended victim except that its eyes glow bright gold or silver.

An aleax does not exist until it is called into being by a deity. The deity imbues the aleax with a fragment of his or her consciousness before sending it to the location of its intended victim. When it appears, the aleax may utter a few brief words in the language of the deity (which may or may not be understandable to the victim), stating the nature of the transgression and insisting that its victim submit to punishment. After the decree is spoken, the aleax attacks without quarter or mercy. No discussion or plea is heeded.

A deity may have only one aleax at any given time, and an aleax cannot be sent after more than one creature. A deity cannot send a new aleax to exact vengeance against a character who has killed the deity's aleax once before.

Creating an Aleax

An aleax has all of the statistics, abilities, qualities, racial traits, and possessions of its intended victim (referred to hereafter as the "base creature") except as noted below:

Type: Changes to construct.

Hit Dice: Changes to 10-sided Hit Dice. An aleax of Small size or larger gains a number of additional hit points based on its size: Small 10, Medium 20, Large 30, Huge 40, Gargantuan 60, or Colossal 80. These bonus hit points do not change when the aleax shapechanges into a larger or smaller form.

Initiative: The aleax gains a +1 insight bonus on initiative checks.

Armor Class: The aleax gains a +2 perfection bonus to AC.

Special Abilities: The aleax gains all of the intended victim's special abilities plus the following:

Searing Light (Sp): Once per round, as a standard action, an aleax may fire rays of light from its eyes. The rays duplicate the effect of a searing light spell (caster level equals the aleax's Hit Dice).

Shapechange (Sp): An aleax can shapechange at will, as the spell. An aleax typically has one or two favored alternate forms reflective of the deity it serves. (For example, Bahamut's aleax has been known to take the form of a gold dragon.) The aleax retains its extraordinary and spell-like abilities regardless of the new form. Caster level 20th.

Sudden Death (Ex): If the aleax kills its intended victim, the victim's spirit is instantly transported to the aleax's deity, who gives the fallen character one last chance to barter for its life. The deity can demand a service, a sworn oath, a magic item or other precious item, or some similar sacrifice. If the character does not pay, his spirit is destroyed, and the character cannot be returned to life by any means.

If the intended victim destroys the aleax in battle, the aleax and all of its equipment vanishes. However, some portion of the divine essence infusing the aleax merges with the character, who immediately gains the following benefits: a +2 bonus to Wisdom, a +1 insight bonus on all initiative checks, a +2 perfection bonus to AC, and spell resistance equal to the aleax's Hit Dice. The deity's wrath is annulled, and no more attacks will be made against that character for whatever offense begot the aleax (regardless of whether that character is now acting in an appropriate manner).

Special Qualities: The aleax gains all of the intended victim's special qualities plus the following:

Construct Traits:An aleax has immunity to poison, magic sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromancy effects, mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects or is harmless. It is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or energy drain. Cannot heal damage, but can be repaired. An aleax is immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points or less. Since it was never alive, an aleax cannot be raised or resurrected. Darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision.

Fast Healing 5 (Ex): The aleax heals 5 points of damage per round. Fast healing is otherwise like natural healing. Fast healing does not restore hit points lost from starvation, thirst, or suffocation, and it does not allow the aleax to regrow or reattach severed body parts.

Singular Enemy (Ex): Although the aleax is visible to all, only its intended victim can harm it. Attacks made by other creatures are rebuffed, dealing no damage and hindering the aleax in no way.

Spell Resistance (Ex): The aleax has spell resistance equal to 10 + its Hit Dice or the spell resistance of its intended victim, whichever is higher.

True Seeing (Sp): An aleax can use true seeing at will, as a free action. Caster level 20th.

Abilities: An aleax has no Constitution score.

Skills and Feats: An aleax has the skills and feats of the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As the base creature +3.

I can tell you, from first-hand experience, while the actual confrontation with an Aleax is quite nasty, knowing that it's coming for you and waiting for the encounter to happen is even worse.

October: Underdark

You already know the Underdark is a dangerous place. You know it's big. You know it's filled with all sorts of things you really don't want to tangle with. You also know that you can't resist trekking down there just to see it for yourself.

The latest addition to the growing set of books that detail specific regions of the Forgotten Realms, Underdark offers 192 hardcovered pages of information about one of the most nefarious (and most popular) hotspots for adventurers. Check out the back cover copy:

Descend into the Darkest Reaches of the Realms

The ebon depths of the Underdark have spawned more fables and fears than any other region of Faerūn. In this lightless world, the hazards of its unforgiving wilderness are exceeded only by the perils found within the communities of races such as the aboleths, illithids, duergar, and drow. Explore the labyrinthine tunnels and endless caverns of the Realms Below to encounter denizens and dangers of one of the most intriguing, inhospitable regions in the Forgotten Realms game setting.

  • 60 cities and sites of interest
  • 16 character races
  • 25 new feats

When you start exploring Underdark, you'll find all kinds of great stuff: character races like the chitine and gloamings; feats like Tunnelrunner and Graft Illithid Flesh; prestige classes such as the arachnomancer, shadowcrafter, and vermin keeper; rules for portals, the Faerzress, and a new type of spellcasting native to the Realms Below: node magic. You'll also run into a bunch of critters that will have you thinking a third and fourth time about going down there -- things like the mindwitness (which is a beholder with the new half-illithid template):

Sample Half-Illithid (Mindwitness)

This nightmare of eyes and lashing tentacles flies across the ground without apparent support.

This sample half-illithid (called a mindwitness) uses a beholder as the base creature.

Large Aberration
Hit Dice: 11d8+44 (93 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 5 ft. (1 square), fly 20 ft. (good)
Armor Class: 27 (-1 size, +2 Dex, +16 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 24
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+12
Attack: Eye rays +9 ranged touch and tentacle +3 melee (1d6)
Full Attack: Eye rays +9 ranged touch and four tentacles +3 melee (1d6)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Extract, eye rays, improved grab, mind blast, psionics
Special Qualities: All-around vision, antimagic cone, darkvision 60 ft., flight, spell resistance 21, telepathy
Saves: Fort +9, Ref +5, Will +13
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 21, Wis 19, Cha 19
Skills: Hide +12, Knowledge (arcana) +19, Listen +20, Move Silently +16, Search +19, Spellcraft +21, Spot +20, Survival +2 (+4 following tracks)
Feats: Alertness, Flyby Attack, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Iron Will
Environment: Underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, or cluster (3-6)
Challenge Rating: 16
Treasure: Double standard
Alignment: Usually lawful evil
Advancement: 12-16 HD (Large); 17-33 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: --

A mindwitness is a 6-foot-diameter orb dominated by a central eye and a small, lampreylike maw. Ten smaller eyes on stalks sprout from the top of the orb, as do four waving tentacles.

Mindwitnesses speak their own language and the Common tongue, plus they can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet that has a language.

Combat

Mindwitnesses begin combat by using mind blast on their foes, then follow up with their devastating eye rays. They usually refrain from attempting to extract the brains of creatures that have not been stunned or otherwise befuddled.

Extract (Ex): A mindwitness that begins its turn with all four tentacles attached and wins a grapple check automatically extracts the opponent's brain, instantly killing that creature. This power is useless against constructs, elementals, oozes, plants, and undead. Extraction is not instantly fatal to foes with multiple heads, such as ettins and hydras.

Eye Rays (Su): Each of a mindwitness's ten small eyes can produce a magical ray once per round as a free action. During a single round, the creature can aim only three eye rays at targets in any one 90-degree arc (up, forward, backward, left, right, or down). The remaining eyes must aim at targets in other arcs or not at all. A mindwitness can tilt and pan its body each round to change which rays it can bring to bear in any given arc.

Each eye's effect resembles a spell (caster level 13th), but follows the rules for a ray (see Aiming a Spell in the Player's Handbook). Each ray has a range of 150 feet and a save DC of 19. The save DC is Charisma-based. The ten rays are charm monster, charm person, disintegrate, fear, finger of death, flesh to stone, inflict moderate wounds, sleep, slow, and telekinesis. See the Beholder entry in the Monster Manual for more information.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a mindwitness must hit a Small, Medium, or Large creature with its tentacle 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 attaches the tentacle to the opponent's head. A mindwitness can grab a Huge or larger creature, but only if it can somehow reach the foe's head. If a mindwitness begins its turn with at least one tentacle attached, it can try to attach its remaining tentacles with a single grapple check. The opponent can escape with a single successful grapple check or an Escape Artist check, but the mindwitness gets a +2 circumstance bonus for every tentacle that was attached at the beginning of the opponent's turn.

Mind Blast (Sp): Once per day, a mindwitness can produce a mind blast in a cone 40 feet long. Anyone caught in this area must succeed on a Will save (DC 19) or be stunned for 1d4 rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based. This ability is the equivalent of a 4th-level spell.

Psionics (Sp): 3/day -- charm monster, detect thoughts, levitate, suggestion. Caster level 8th; save DC 14 + spell level. The save DCs are Charisma-based.

All-Around Vision (Ex): A mindwitness's many eyes give it a +4 racial bonus of Search and Spot checks, and it can't be flanked.

Flight (Ex): A mindwitness's body is naturally buoyant. This buoyancy allows it to fly at a speed of 20 feet and grants it a permanent feather fall effect (as the spell) with personal range.

Telepathy (Su): A mindwitness can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet that has a language.

Of course, you'd expect to run into horrid, horrid things like that when you're running around the Underdark. What you might not expect to come across when flipping through the book is the wealth of information about the various civilized areas you might stumble into. With 60 different cities and sites of interest lurking under the surface of Faerūn, you'll never run out of places to visit or places from which to escape.

October: Miniatures Handbook

Don't be fooled by the title: The Miniatures Handbook offers far more than just hardbound rules for playing tabletop miniatures battles. Even though you will find extensive rules and guidelines for running head-to-head skirmishes, squad-based battles, and mass combat, that's only the beginning. (Really, it's the end -- the miniatures-specific rules are at the back of the book.) That's because the whole point of the book (and the miniatures line, by the way) is to make your Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game even better. Since every D&D game will, from time to time, have some sort of fighting, it just makes sense that you might want 192 pages of material to make that aspect of your game even more fun. Check out the back cover copy:

Cries of Battle Fill the Air

Bold adventurers' tales are filled with harrowing combat punctuated by clashing swords and flashing spells. From minor scuffles to climactic battles, the conflicts between heroes, villains, monsters, and minions range across sweeping battlefields and verdant forests to dank caverns and treacherous dungeons. Victory awaits those well-versed in the arts of war.

This supplement for the D&D game provides expanded rules and guidelines for running dynamic combats and creating daunting combatants. Inside are new base classes and prestige classes, over 30 new feats, more than 65 new spells, new magic items, and weapon special abilities. Included are three dozen new monsters, including the formidable "aspects" of deities and archfiends. Along with complete rules for everything from fast-paced skirmishes and squad-based encounters to mass battles, random dungeons, and miniatures battle campaigns, the Miniatures Handbook assembles a legion of information, options, rules, and guidelines to keep you fully engaged in every combat.

In short, if your D&D game ever involves the phrase "Roll for initiative," you're going to find something of interest inside the Miniatures Handbook. Just open the covers and start flipping. You'll immediately pass through a section populated by new character classes, like the favored soul, healer, marshal, and war mage. Past that, you run into a swath of prestige classes that really come into their own in the thick of battle. Check out the war hulk -- a prestige class that focuses on the kind of damage a really big creature can do against a whole bunch of smaller ones.

War Hulk

Against the marshaled forces of the enemy army, the war hulk stands large, confident in his power against lesser soldiers. And why not? He is a creature of great size and talent who is specifically trained to shock and awe opposing massed troops. A war hulk indeed, the character knows how to spread his mighty blows across a wide area, creating carnage on the battlefield. While a single opponent might evade this massive attack, a massed unit of terrified soldiers are meat on the pounding block.

Drawn most often from more intelligent individuals among the various giants, war hulks are trained to fight by similarly large tutors. Other than being big, a war hulk must come to the training already knowing how to fight. Thus the martial classes, such as fighter, ranger, paladin, and barbarian, are most often promoted into this prestige class -- although many giants qualify for the class with no class levels at all.

When an NPC war hulk is spied at the head of the army, it is too significant to call merely an omen. Instead, it is a clear sign that the enemy army is in deadly peril.

Hit Die: d12.

Requirements

To qualify to become a war hulk, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus: +5.
Feats: Cleave.
Special: Must be size Large or larger.

Class Skills

The war hulk's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Intimidate (Cha), and Jump (Str).

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table 1-12: The War Hulk
Level Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special
1st +0 +2 +0 +0 No time to think, ability boost (Str +2)
2nd +0 +3 +0 +0 Great swing, ability boost (Str +2)
3rd +0 +3 +1 +1 Mighty rock throwing, ability boost (Str +2)
4th +0 +4 +1 +1 Mighty swing, ability boost (Str +2)
5th +0 +4 +1 +1 Ability boost (Str +2)
6th +0 +5 +2 +2 Sweeping boulder, ability boost (Str +2)
7th +0 +5 +2 +2 Ability boost (Str +2)
8th +0 +6 +2 +2 Massive sweeping boulder, Toughness, ability boost (Str +2)
9th +0 +6 +3 +3 Ability boost (Str +2), Toughness
10th +0 +7 +3 +3 Massive swing, Toughness, ability boost (Str +2)

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the war hulk.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: War hulks gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Ability Boost (Ex): As the war hulk gains levels in this prestige class, his Strength ability score increases as noted in Table 1-12: The War Hulk. These increases stack and are gained as if through level advancement.

Great Swing (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, the war hulk is able to make a great, sweeping swing with a melee weapon. In melee, as a full-round action, the war hulk can choose three squares adjacent to each other (he must threaten all of them). His attack applies to all creatures in those squares. Make one attack roll and apply that roll as an attack against each defender. If the war hulk rolls a critical hit, only the first creature suffers the critical hit.

Walls and similar obstacles can block the great swing. Start with one square that the war hulk threatens. Each successive square chosen must be adjacent to the previous square and have line of effect from that square. Two squares separated by a wall, for instance, can't be chosen as adjacent squares for the great swing.

The war hulk may skip creatures, attacking only those he wants to. For example, if there are three creatures in a row -- an enemy, an ally, and another enemy -- the war hulk can choose those three squares for the great swing but strike only the enemies.

If the war hulk drops one of his foes with a great swing, he may cleave normally. However, he may cleave only once for every time he swings, even if he drops more than one foe.

If the war hulk deals sneak attack damage, it applies only to the first creature struck with each attack.

MightyRock Throwing (Ex): Starting at 3rd level, the war hulk gains a powerful rock throwing skill. The war hulk can throw rocks that deal 2d8 damage with a range increment of 50 feet. (Like all thrown weapons, they have a maximum range of five range increments.) The war hulk uses his Strength modifier instead of his Dexterity modifier on the attack roll. The rock must be approximately 50 pounds in weight.

Mighty Swing (Ex): Starting at 4th level, the war hulk can make mighty swings. A mighty swing is like a great swing except that it is an attack action rather than a full-round action. Thus, the war hulk can move and make a mighty swing or (if he can make multiple attacks) make multiple mighty swings in a single round.

Sweeping Boulder (Ex): Starting at 6th level, the war hulk is able to throw his rocks with such force that they affect two adjacent squares. (The second square must be farther away from the war hulk than the first -- they cannot be equidistant from him.) Make one attack roll; the roll applies to each target. Only the first creature can be hit for critical damage or sneak attack damage.

As with great swing, there must be line of effect from one square to the next.

Toughness: At 8th, 9th, and 10th level, a war hulk gains the Toughness feat.

Massive Sweeping Boulder (Ex): Starting at 9th level, the war hulk is able to throw his rocks with such force that they affect four squares in a line. (Each successive square chosen must be farther away from the giant.) Only the first creature can be hit for critical damage or sneak attack damage.

As with great swing, there must be line of effect from one square to the next.

Massive Swing (Ex): At 10th level, the war hulk can lash out all around himself. Massive swing works like mighty swing except that it is not limited to three squares. The war hulk's swing affects all squares he threatens that have a line of effect between them.

If you ever played through Against the Giants, or have just been faced with some boulder-chucking, greatclub-swinging bad guys, you can imagine how intimidating a war hulk could be. (And, you can also imagine how much fun you could have by flipping through Savage Species to find a Large-sized critter or two you can play as a player character with an eye toward building a war hulk).

Past the prestige classes are more than 30 new feats, over 65 new spells, a whole pile of new magic items (including a nice bunch of new weapon special abilities.) Beyond that, you'll come across a menagerie of new monsters, including some really tough customers -- the "aspects" of deities and archfiends. "Aspects" are the physical manifestation of just a part of a particular extraplanar being's power. That means you can pit characters against the Aspect of Demogorgon, rather than actually putting them up against the full-blown version, giving everyone an exciting encounter without having to reach epic level play beforehand. You'll find the Aspect of Orcus, the Aspect of Lolth, and several more.

Something interesting you'll want to keep in the back of your head, particularly as you pass through the monsters section, is the notion that the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line will always feature minis based on characters, villains, and monsters you find inside the D&D books. So at some point or another you might crack open an Expansion Pack and find yourself face-to-face-to-face with a mini of an archfiend with two baboon heads.

Moving on past the monsters section, you'll enter the realm of integrating miniatures combat into your D&D game and how to make your tabletop minis games get bigger and more complicated. You'll find guidelines for converting standard D&D characters and monsters to use with the more streamlined skirmish rules. Keep in mind that while you can play the minis skirmishes as stand-alone tabletop combat fun, you can also use those rules as an optional way of running combat in your regular D&D game. Keep going, and you'll find all sorts of rules, guidelines, examples, diagrams, and more that will help you turn a small scuffle to a more involved battle with more and more and more minis. By the end of the book, you'll have everything you need to pit your entire miniatures collection against your friends' miniatures collections in all-out miniatures warfare. Even if you're not interested in straight minis combat, you can probably find a time or place in your campaign where a large war or mass battle would be interesting, and your players could send their characters in to make a difference, either as individual heroes among the troops or as leaders in command of their various forces.

October: The Lone Drow

This is the long awaited sequel to The Thousand Orcs, already a New York Times bestseller and now available in paperback (if you've been holding out).

Like most sequels, The Lone Drow picks up where The Thousand Orcs left off. That means you jump in with Drizzt, separated from all of his allies, behind enemy lines, thinking that his friends have all just been slaughtered. He's surrounded by way more than just a thousand orcs (and far too many giants) -- and he's got nothing to lose. If you read the Dark Elf trilogy, you'll have a good idea of what it means when I say that as The Lone Drow begins, the Hunter returns.

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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