Previews02/15/2004


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



Two More Months of Exciting Releases

While Punxsutawney Phil might predict how long the winter weather will last, you can't rely on a celebrity groundhog to tell you what to expect from Wizards of the Coast over the next couple months (even if you have a gnome with the ability to speak with burrowing animals). Of course, if you're reading this, you already know that you can always get a glimpse at our upcoming products by popping over here to the Previews article every month. I can tell you that, regardless of whether Phil saw his shadow (Ed. note: He did.), you can expect six more weeks (and beyond) of really great stuff at your favorite hobby shop or bookstore.

Check it out:

New Releases

February

  • Unearthed Arcana -- 224-page D&D hardcover filled with optional, alternate, and variant rules and game options
  • d20 Weapons Locker -- 192-page d20 Modern hardcover armed to the teeth with an arsenal of 500+ firearms
  • Paths of Darkness Collector's Edition -- Forgotten Realms; Four of R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt-filled NYT bestsellers (hardcover)
  • The Yellow Silk -- Forgotten Realms Rogues series, Book Four (paperback)
  • Night of Blood -- Dragonlance Minotaur Wars trilogy, Volume One (paperback)
  • The Wizard's Fate -- Dragonlance Ergoth trilogy, Volume Two (paperback)

March

  • Player's Guide to Faerûn -- 192-page compilation of Forgotten Realms character-building material, updated to D&D v.3.5, including 1st and 2nd Edition favorites (hardcover)
  • Archfiends Expansion Packs -- The third D&D Miniatures expansion, featuring 60 new minis
  • Homeland -- Forgotten Realms Legend of Drizzt series, Book One (first in a series of deluxe, annotated hardcovers of all of the Drizzt books by R.A. Salvatore)
  • Venom's Taste -- Forgotten Realms House of the Serpents trilogy, Book One (paperback)
  • A Dawn of Dragons -- Dragonlance Young Readers (Chronicles Volume Three, Part 2) (paperback)
  • Time of the Twins -- Dragonlance Legends trilogy, Volume One (first time in hardcover)

April

  • Expanded Psionics Handbook -- 224-page D&D hardcover with completely updated rules and an entirely new psionics system
  • D&D Map Folio I -- Pocket folder with 32 one-page, full color maps originally created for the Map-A-Week web feature
  • The Rage -- Forgotten Realms The Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy, Book One (paperback)
  • Windwalker -- Forgotten Realms Starlight & Shadows trilogy, Book Three (first time in paperback)
  • Stormblade -- Dragonlance Heroes series, Volume Two (paperback, new cover)
  • Tides of Blood -- Dragonlance Minotaur Wars trilogy, Volume Two (hardcover)

May

  • Dungeons & Dragons Dice -- A full set of polyhedrals (d4, [4]d6, d8, d10, d%, d12, & d20) nestled in a velvet dicebag with the D&D logo
  • Complete Divine: A Player's Guide to Divine Magic for All Classes -- A 192-page D&D hardcover for divinely inspired and empowered characters of every class, including material for heroes with an interest in gaining the favor of the gods and other divine powers
  • Elminster's Daughter -- Forgotten Realms, the latest book in Ed Greenwood's Elminster series (hardcover)
  • Condemnation -- Forgotten Realms R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen series, Book Three -- the New York Times bestselling book by Richard Baker (first time in paperback)
  • Temple of the Dragonslayer -- Dragonlance House of the Serpents trilogy, Book One (paperback)
  • The Search for Power: Dragons from the War of Souls -- Dragonlance, newest anthology of stories focused on the dragons of Krynn in the era following the War of Souls, with introduction by Margaret Weis (paperback)
  • Weasel's Luck -- Dragonlance: The New Adventures series, Volume One -- an all-new Young Readers series (paperback)

March: Player's Guide to Faerûn

This 192-page hardcover supplement provides a comprehensive, completely updated single source of character-building material for creating and leveling up characters in the Forgotten Realms. That's one book filled with all the Realms-centric races, feats, spells, prestige classes, and more.

In December, you got the back cover copy, a couple adapted regional feats, and a look at the Harper Agent prestige class (an updated version of the Harper Scout). Last month, you saw an all-new prestige class that's particularly well suited to divine spellcasters with an affinity for the Mulhorandi god and a strong dislike for undead -- the Eye of Horus-Re. This month, I thought I'd show you a couple ideas for dealing with the problem that arises (in any campaign setting) when creating characters at 1st level when you want to play character races that normally have a level adjustment.

March: D&D Miniatures Archfiends Expansion Packs

OK. After two months of squinting, speculating, and even colorizing the big bag-o-black "first shot" minis good Mr. Toepker let me post in December and again last month, you're probably more than ready to get a good look at a handful of the 60 new minis in the Archfiends expansion. If so, you're in luck, 'cause I've got some finished, painted, and in-focus stuff that will make you wish that it wasn't a leap year just so the March release could get here a day earlier. Check 'em out:

Halfling Ranger -- This is one heroic-looking halfling. He's clad in dark brown leathers, armored in chainmail, and wearing a rich, dark green cloak that's still in motion as the ranger leans forward just a little in anticipation of letting his readied bow do its business. He's got a sword hanging behind his right hip and a full quiver of arrows slung over his right shoulder. His long, black hair is swept back with a topknot to keep his face clear -- a face fixed with a very determined look that gives the impression that he's zeroed in on his target and is just waiting for the right moment to let his shot fly (like in The Untouchables, when Andy Garcia's character has the gangster in his sights on the steps of the train station.) He's tough. He's rugged. He'll make you want to play a halfling ranger.

Dalelands Militia -- I think this is the first Common I've featured in one of these articles, though I didn't realize he was a Common when I pulled him out of the set. He's just a really nicely crafted woodsman-type miniature of which you'll want to have several. Making the most out of a limited color palette, the Dalelands Militia is dressed from head to toe in leather of varying shades of brown (with bracers and boots that are black.) His long leather cap-type helmet is a sort of burnt sienna, which contrasts with the dark brown cloak and blends nicely into his medium tan-colored tunic and breeches. He has a broad-bladed dagger belted on his right hip and a steel-tipped spear/javelin strapped over his back. He's got an arrow (which it is a little short for his draw length) nocked and ready for him to raise his longbow into position to draw and let fly. While the patient confidence of the Dalelands Militia miniature gives him more than enough presence to warrant a turn as a player character, I'd imagine that most everyone will recruit a half dozen or more of these guys to use as woodlands scout-type folk. Regardless of how you end up incorporating this nicely crafted mini into your campaign (or warband), it's exciting to see just how high the quality level has already risen, for even the common minis.

Red Wizard -- This solid addition to the "bad guys" side of your campaign seems to have been strongly inspired by, if not entirely based on, the illustration of Zulkir Aznar Thrul from page 50 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, or page 194 of your new Dungeon Master's Guide. If you start at the top, you'll notice the mottled flesh on his shaved head, which gives the impression of the Red Wizards' tattoos without being too distracting. At the other end, you've got gold embroidered flames licking upward from the hem of his flowing crimson robe. With his golden staff clutched tightly in both hands, the Red Wizard advances toward something or someone with much intent and more than enough menace.

Bone Devil -- Straight from page 57 of the Monster Manual, the sculpt of the bone devil is dead-on. The monster description of having "dried skin stretched so tight as to outline and emphasize every bone" really comes across, particularly in its tail, which has a vertebrae-like appearance (and is very reminiscent of the tails on the monsters from the Alien films.) It curves up and over the bone devil's head, ending in a purple-to-maroon stinger that's poised to deliver dose after dose of lethal poison. The skull-like head is nicely misshapen and features eyes that take the form of pinpoints of light within dark sockets, which further emphasizes its evil presence. One of its oversized and claw-tipped hands reaches outward while the other is cocked back to its chest, ready to shoot outward to snatch some poor soul.

Aspect of Orcus -- I remember having a cool Orcus miniature way back in junior high, but he was nowhere near as menacing as this incarnation. This mini is a representation of just a fragment of the awesome might and power of the demon prince of the undead. (Check out the Miniatures Handbook for rules on using "aspects" of various gods, goddesses, devils, demons, and so on.) The Aspect of Orcus is powerfully built, with a muscular chest, arms, and wings. Ramlike horns curl upward from his snarling face and narrowed eyes. A golden, clawed gauntlet protects his left hand, while his right wields the infamous, skull-topped wand of Orcus. The Aspect of Orcus stands nearly two inches tall from cloven hooves to shaggy mane, with his immense wings tipping out at 2-3/4 inches, making him one of the biggest and most intimidating minis in the Archfiends expansion.

One really nice thing you'll discover about the Archfiends set is that the rarity symbol of each mini is marked on its base right along with the mini's name, number, alignment, point cost, and set logo/bug.

Demons, devils, and other outsiders dominate the much-anticipated third D&D Miniatures expansion, which features 60 new minis. You'll also find a pile of heroes, villains, and monsters taken straight from D&D rulebooks, such as the Monster Manual, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Miniatures Handbook,Psionics Handbook, and Savage Species.

Next month, I'll give you a look at five more minis, which might tide you over until you're able to lay your hands on the real thing.

April: Expanded Psionics Handbook

The Expanded Psionics Handbook is a 224-page D&D hardcover with completely updated rules, an entirely new psionics power system, and a whole lot more. (The book's got 66 more pages than its 158-page predecessor -- so you know there's a lot of good stuff that's been added.)

Let's just jump right in with the back cover copy:

Tap into the Power of the Mind

Through sheer force of will, a psionic character can unleash awesome powers that rival any physical force or magical energy. Within these pages, you will discover the secrets of unlocking the magic of the mind -- the art of psionics.

With updated and increased content, including a newly balanced psionics power system, the Expanded Psionics Handbook easily integrates psionic characters, powers, and monsters into any Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

The book's introduction goes through all of the stuff you'd expect to find there, along with a succinct two-paragraph answer to a question many of you might be wondering: Why did Wizards do this book?

A Revision?

The new psionics system debuted in 2001. In the three years since then, we have observed the reaction to the rules, saw the release of various d20 products that attempted to steer psionics in new directions, and of course saw a revision in the core Dungeons & Dragons game. If for no other reason than remaining true to the core system, the psionics rules also required a revision of their own.

And what a great opportunity this revision was! Three years of feedback, notes, observations, and new ideas could finally come to light in a completely expanded, revised, and updated version of the Psionics Handbook. The inclusion of races, more core classes, more prestige classes, more feats, more powers, and so on was just as important as revising the original classes, feats, and other elements. For instance, if anyone had lingering doubts that psions were still weak compared to a wizard or a sorcerer, all those doubts should now be dispelled. Do not fear for the balance of your game when you use the Psionics Handbook. Have at it, and enjoy!

The Expanded Psionics Handbook offers up an array of character races with an affinity for psionics. Some are new, some old, and some not usually available to PCs. Here's an example of a character race that's been around for a while and is getting a new lease of life in the races chapter of the Expanded Psionics Handbook. (If you've ever spent any time adventuring in the Dark Sun campaign setting, you may recognize these impressive folk)

Of course, once you've settled on a character race, whether it's a half-giant, githyanki, dromite, druergar, or even a human, you'll be flipping onward to choose your character's class next. It's entirely likely that you'd be interested in taking a look at one of the four base classes you can choose from: an entirely new class, the wilder.

April: D&D Map Folio I

If you've ever spent any time looking around the Map-A-Week web feature, you've probably seen (and possibly downloaded and played with) the stuff you'll find inside the D&D Map Folio I. The idea behind this game-enhancing accessory was to gather the best, most useful maps created by Rob Lazzaretti, Todd Gamble, and Dennis Kauth and reproduce them in full color on a sturdy paper stock that will stand up to game play. What you end up with are 32 one-page, full color maps you can use as inspiration for adventures, as the settings for encounters you've already concocted, and as high-quality handouts to engage and intrigue your players.

June: Eberron Campaign Setting

You've still got four months to go before you get the chance to look at the Eberron Campaign Setting. But while you're waiting to determine whether Eberron is going to be the setting for your next campaign or a source of inspiration and material for your ongoing campaign, you can check out a couple different resources that provide insight into the setting and a look at some of the stuff inside the book.

Dragon magazine: "Countdown to the Eberron Campaign Setting"

To get the sense that you've already got a chunk of the book in your hands, just pick up Dragon magazine issues #315-320 and check out the "Countdown to theEberron Campaign Setting"article series -- six articles that introduce you to various aspects of the newest D&D campaign setting. This month's article (in issue #317) offers a quick look at how and where standard D&D character races fit into the world of Eberron, and a preview of three new character races unique to the campaign setting: changelings, the kalashtar, and shifters (with a full excerpt of the shifter racial entry).

Gearing Up for Eberron web feature

Just click over to the Eberron page, and take a look at the third article in a seven-part web feature series that complements the "Countdown" magazine series. This month's "Gearing Up for Eberron" gives you a look at some of Eberron's new artwork, an interview with Eberron's art director, Robert Raper, and Q&A with cover artist Wayne Reynolds and concept artist Steve Prescott.

Between the "Gearing Up" and "Countdown" articles, you should have enough information and insight to keep you sated for at least another 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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