Previews11/16/2003


See what's "In the Works"
for November and beyond



Filling up Bookshelves and Tackle Boxes

There's nothing I like better than having to shift the bookends on my bookshelf to make room for yet another addition to my D&D library. Though I must say, I've discovered that it's just as much fun to slide the plastic dividers into the trays of my new tackle box to make room for new D&D Miniatures. I just wrote my name inside the cover of a new Miniatures Handbook this afternoon, and had to create a compartment for Kobold Warrior #31 last night. While my D&D bookshelf is getting seriously crowded, and my tackle box is starting to run out of room, I don't have any plans for putting a stop on either of my growing collections any time soon. With two great rulebooks coming out this month, and sixty new miniatures coming out at the beginning of the year, how could I?

Once you've gotten a look at the stuff I'm talking about, don't be surprised if you find yourself dusting off a few more inches of space on your bookshelves and wandering around in the fishing aisle of a sporting goods department. Check it out:

New Releases

November

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

December

  • The Crimson Gold -- The Rogues series, Book Three (paperback)
  • The Death Ray -- Dungeons & Dragons novel series, Book Ten (paperback)
  • Insurrection -- War of the Spider Queen, Book Two (paperback)
  • Sacred Fire -- The Kingpriest Trilogy, Volume Three (paperback)
  • Tanis, The Shadow Years -- Preludes, Volume Six (paperback)

January

  • Dragoneye Expansion Packs -- The second D&D Miniatures expansion, featuring 60 new minis
  • Deluxe Dungeon Master's Screen -- DM Screen with Bonus d20 Modern GM Screen
  • Deluxe Player Character Sheets -- Newly formatted PC record sheets
  • Extinction -- War of the Spider Queen, Book Four (Hardcover)
  • Hope's Flame -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume Three, Part 1) (paperback)
  • The Legend of Huma -- Heroes, Volume One (NYT bestseller, paperback)

November: Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons

This 288-page hardcover is a fully illustrated sourcebook that provides an incredibly detailed examination of all things draconic. If ever a dragon (or something even close to a dragon) shows up in your Dungeons & Dragons game, you're going to find something inside the Draconomicon to really help you out -- whether you're a Dungeon Master or player. (Though players should attempt to steer around Chapter Two, since that details how to incorporate dragons in a campaign, covering combat strategy and tactics, feats, prestige classes and spells.)

Last month, I gave you a look at the back cover copy, a run-down of the basic contents of each chapter, and a look at some of the art detailing black dragons. This month, I thought I'd give you several small glimpses at a variety of things, starting with one of the dragon prestige classes:

Without any special conditions, feats (aside from taking Iron Will), or other outside assistance, any of the typically lawful dragons (blue, green, bronze, gold, and silver) could qualify to become a hidecarved dragon when it reaches the Adult age category -- as if any 101+ year-old dragon needs an edge in combat. So, for a blue dragon, which already has a base attack of +21, a breath weapon that does 12d8 points of damage (DC25), several special abilities, spell resistance (SR 21), frightful presence (DC 23), and the ability to cast spells as a 5th-level caster (assuming it's not been studying up on spellcasting class levels), a blue hidecarved dragon becomes even harder to take down. Particularly when the two feats it gets at 2nd and 5th level kick in and reduce (then remove) the best Achilles' heel characters have to exploit -- the dragon's energy vulnerability.

Here's a look at those two feats:

Note that since both of those feats are marked "Monstrous," any sort of monster or monstrous character could take them. Another great feat that's available to any critter with a damaging breath weapon, but seems particularly well-suited to dragon use, is Clinging Breath:

At this point, you're not even halfway through the book, and things are looking pretty bleak for the heroes or anyone who wants to tangle with a dragon. Take heart, stalwart adventurers -- one of the best things you could take into a fight against a dragon is a spell from the Dragon Spells section (you need not be a dragon to cast these spells).

Of course, it's going to take more than just a deftly cast wingbind to take down a dragon. Before you even get a chance to cast a spell or whip out your blade of dragondoom, you've got to get close to your draconic prey. And if anyone can do that, and survive, it's a dragonstalker:

It doesn't matter which side of the screen you're on, if there's a dragon in your game, you're going to want the Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons on your bookshelf.

November: Complete Warrior: A Player's Guide to Combat for All Classes

This 160-page hardcover provides everything you need to mold any character into a force to be reckoned with in combat. Last month, I gave you a look at the back cover copy and a quick run-down of some of the stuff you'll find inside. This month, I thought I'd show you some things that demonstrate how you don't necessarily need to be a strict fighter-type to find material you can use -- Complete Warrior has something for everyone. Even someone who wants to lob fireballs while in a berserk frenzy.

So, that's just one of the two dozen-plus prestige classes, and it gives you an idea of how an arcane spellcaster can make a lasting impression on the battlefield. Of course, divine spellcasters have their own new options to consider. Check out a couple of the divine feats:

I could pull out more to demonstrate the range of material inside the book, but really you should find a copy to flip through on your own. Dungeon Masters will easily find use for huge swaths of the book. Players who have characters (or want to make some) that really come into their own when the DM says, "roll for initiative" will really enjoy the level of detail, customization, and specialization Complete Warrior offers.

January: Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Dragoneye expansion

The Dragoneye expansion packs cannot get here fast enough for me. And if you snatched up even a single expansion pack of the Harbinger miniatures, you're probably in the same boat. I can't get enough of these things, particularly the kobolds -- I've already got 30 and I'm still looking to trade for more.

I never quite understood the phenomenal enjoyment my TCG-playing friends got from tearing open booster packs -- until now. When the Harbinger expansion hit our employee store, I immediately went down and bought as many as I could (we were allocated two entry packs and six expansion packs). As I cracked open each box, and pulled out each mini, I couldn't wait to see what the next one was. It really took deliberate restraint to not just tear through all of them at once. By the time I'd finished dumping all of my new minis into a great plastic-wrapped pile, I was ready to do it again. There were still rares I didn't have, but absolutely needed. Of course, three kuo-toa are nice, but six would be a whole lot better. I only pulled one kobold out of my allocation, and I certainly wasn't going to be satisfied with that. (That's when my pal James showed up with a handful of kobolds ready to trade for any goblins I didn't need.) I've got a great assortment of orcs, a graveyard full of undead, a small caravan's worth of men-at-arms and enough thugs to set up an ambush for them. I've got many, many character-worthy minis, and some really great monsters -- like a mind flayer, troll, ogre, and displacer beast. I've even got a pack of six or seven wolves, eight hyenas, and a half-dozen hellhounds. And that's just the beginning. I'll get more expansion packs. And I'll keep trading. And when Dragoneye comes out, I'll do the same thing. I've still got room in my new tackle box, after all.

Dragoneye is the second expansion for the D&D Miniatures line, and brings 60 new miniatures to your gaming table straight from D&D rulebooks such as the Draconomicon, Complete Warrior, Miniatures Handbook, and the Dragonlance Campaign Setting. While the set emphasizes dragons, half-dragons, draconians, and other scaly critters (including a new kobold), there are plenty of nondraconic heroes, villains, and monsters in there for you as well. And it's about time you got to see some of them:

Gold Champion: If you've ever wondered what a gold half-dragon paladin might look like, this guy will give you a good idea. With a full suit of golden plate armor, a large metal shield (which kinda resembles oversized and overlapping dragon scales), and a longsword forged with a stylized flamelike blade, the Gold Champion is certainly a tough fighter-type you'd want on your side. This is definitely a character-worthy mini that would make you seriously consider talking your DM into letting you use that half-dragon template on your next character.

Dire Ape: Someone or something has definitely upset this very large, very mean monkey. Standing right at two inches tall (its fists reaching a little higher) the Dire Ape seems to be roaring and beating his chest just before pummeling and throttling everything in its way. The paintjob on the fur on this super simian is really nice, with several different textures and color treatments. The wide-open mouth, complete with pointy fang-like canines shows off another fine touch of detail in the individually painted lower teeth. I don't think I would have considered throwing a Dire Ape into a game before now, but the mini is certainly nice enough to make me kinda want to add a jungle encounter somewhere. And even if I decided against using a Dire Ape, with a little detail work and quick dry brushing, I could easily put some glacier-bound characters up against a very fierce yeti.

Kapak Draconian: This is just one of the two draconians you can find in the Dragoneye set. And whether your game is set in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting or not, you'll be inclined to find a place in your game to encounter these guys. Clad in black leather armor, this sinister-looking monster carries a sword and wields a bow. My favorite part of this sculpt is the fingers of his right hand, which are positioned to draw and nock the next arrow from the quiver slung off his hip.

Eye of Grummsh: This double-axe wielding orc is bigger and beefier than any of the orcs you saw in Harbinger. (Not too much, just enough to emphasize that this orc is something special.) He's big. He's powerful. And he's pressing an attack. (I can easily imagine this guy stepping in to close the five-foot span between him and the poor PC that didn't finish him off last round.) Being an Eye of Grummsh, of course his right eye has been removed, leaving behind a slightly mangled eye socket and a very nice scar. His ferocious-looking mouth is probably bellowing out a battle cry, but looks wicked enough to be allowed a nasty bite attack. The leather belts, chainmail, and spiked pauldron really add to the heft and ruggedness of this one-eyed menace.

Dwarven Defender: This guy is my favorite heroic mini in the Dragoneye expansion. A stout, sturdy dwarf clad in heavy, golden platemail, the Dwarven Defender is a very nicely detailed sculpt. If you check out either side of his axe head, you'll notice that it's got a stylized dragon's head etched into the metal. His belt buckle and the clasp that holds his braided beard resemble goblinoid faces. If any of those features seem familiar, check out the illustration of Tordek on page 37 of your Player's Handbook. Even though my half-troll dwarf doesn't wear platemail, carry a shield, or wield an axe, I'm planning on getting a Dwarven Defender to use as my character's mini just because it's so cool.

Large Red Dragon: If there's one rare out of the entire Dragoneye expansion I can imagine everybody and their dog wanting, it's the Large Red Dragon. It's the biggest, nastiest dragon in the set, with the claws on its wings tipping past three inches tall (just over twice the height of an average human-sized mini). It seems to be turning abruptly to deal with a character that had been sneaking up from behind. With claws poised and fanged jaws opening, you can imagine the dragon could be on the verge of a quick swipe followed by a breath weapon or possibly in the midst of unleashing a spell. One thing I'm particularly interested in seeing is the results of someone trying to unfurl the dragon's wings. Since the mini needed to fit in an expansion pack, the sculpt had to keep the wings close to the dragon's body. But since they're attached to the mini only at the shoulders, the freedom to manipulate the wings seems to be designed right in. I imagine that with some carefully applied heat, pressure and patience, the wings could be opened up by bending them back at the "elbow" joints.

January: Extinction: R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen, Book IV

Following hot on the heels of Rich Baker's New York Times best-selling Book Three: Condemnation, this fourth book in R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen series promises to continue the exciting blend of action and anticipation that's been building up since the beginning. Written by Lisa Smedman (who also wrote Heirs of Prophecy, from the Sembia series), Extinction picks up right in the middle of a dangerous altercation between two familiar characters, which makes this installment feel like it will dovetail seamlessly into the stunning blend of storytelling the War of the Spider Queen has been packing into each book.

I won't go any further than that, partly because I don't want to give away anything, but mostly because I've only managed to get my hands on the first chapter of the book. Perhaps I'll talk my way into acquiring a manuscript to read through before next month.

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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