Incoming! A Barrage of Books
I tell you, when things slow down (just a tad) around here, it's only because someone's about to hit a button on the dashboard that's marked "Nitro." With (only) Complete Divine coming out this month, and the much-anticipated Eberron Campaign Setting and eagerly awaited Giants of LegendD&D minis expansion coming out next month, you can imagine that resources around here have been carefully allocated to make sure everything goes as planned. But when you get a glimpse at what's on the horizon (that is: July), you'll see that we've also been working to make sure that the summer months will bombard you with products -- something like three per month (not counting novels, mind you) for July and August, and perhaps more in September. Anyway, enjoy the soothing calm that is the luxury of having a whole month to drink in the most current releases. When Eberron and those big, honkin' minis are launched your way in June, that'll signal the start of a season in which just reading through the new stuff could become something akin to a full-time job. (Believe me!)
Check out what's coming:
- 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)
- Eberron Campaign Setting -- 288-page D&D hardcover; the exciting, new campaign setting that offers an entire world of action-packed, intrigue-laced adventure
- Giants of Legend Huge Packs -- The fourth D&D Miniatures expansion, featuring 72 new minis, including 12 Huge miniatures (Wait 'til you see these things!)
- Exile -- Forgotten Realms Legend of Drizzt series, Book Two (second in a deluxe, annotated hardcover series of all of the Drizzt books by R.A. Salvatore)
- Dawn of Night -- Forgotten Realms Erevis Cale trilogy, Book Two (paperback)
- The Lone Drow -- Forgotten Realms The Hunter's Blades trilogy, Book Two (first time in paperback)
- Prisoner of Haven -- Dragonlance The Age of Mortals series (paperback)
- War of the Twins -- Dragonlance Legends trilogy, Volume Two (first time in hardcover)
- Planar Handbook: A Player's Guide to the Planes -- 192-page D&D hardcover filled with new options and material that make planar travel accessible for any campaign -- a companion to Manual of the Planes
- Serpent Kingdoms -- 192-page Forgotten Realms hardcover that details various serpentine races throughout Faerūn, including yuan-ti, nagas, dragons, and various lizard races.
- Shadows of the Last War -- 32-page Eberron softcover; the first adventure for the new Eberron Campaign Setting; written by Keith Baker
- Annihilation -- Forgotten Realms R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen series, Book Five (hardcover)
- Lady of Poison -- Forgotten Realms The Priests series, Book One (paperback)
- The Dying Kingdom -- Dragonlance The New Adventures series, Volume Two, an all-new Young Readers series (paperback)
- Wizards Conclave -- Dragonlance The Age of Mortals series (paperback)
- Kaz the Minotaur -- Dragonlance Heroes series, Volume Four (paperback with all-new cover)
- Dungeons & Dragons Dice -- A full set of polyhedrals (d4, (4)d6, d8, d10, d%, d12, & d20) nestled in a cloth dicebag with the D&D logo
- Races of Stone -- 192-page hardcover that details various races that live on, under, or around mountains in the D&D world, with a focus on dwarves, gnomes, and an all-new race: goliaths.
- D&D Map Folio II -- Second in the series; pocket folder with 32 one-page, full color maps originally created for the Map-A-Week web feature
- d20 Future -- 224-page d20 Modern hardcover with new rules, sample campaigns, and campaign modules that may be combined to create virtually any futuristic setting.
- Secret of the Spiritkeeper -- Knights of the Silver Dragon series, Volume One; an all-new Young Readers series (ages 8 & up) (paperback); (Also introduces membership in the Knights of the Silver Dragon)
- Riddle in Stone -- Knights of the Silver Dragon series, Volume Two; an all-new Young Readers series (ages 8 & up) (paperback); (Also introduces membership in the Knights of the Silver Dragon)
- Amber and Ashes -- Dragonlance The Dark Disciple series, Volume One; an all-new series by New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis (hardcover)
- Forsaken House -- Forgotten Realms The Last Mythal trilogy, Book One (paperback)
- The Gates of Thorbardin -- Dragonlance Heroes series, Volume Five; all-new cover (paperback)
May: Complete Divine: A Player's Guide to Divine Magic for All Classes
Complete Divine: A Player's Guide to Divine Magic for All Classes is the second installation in a new series of accessories that focuses on specific elements of the Dungeons & Dragons game to provide rules, guidelines, suggestions, mechanics, and other material that every character and DM can use. The160-page hardcover contains with everything you need to create divinely inspired characters of any class: new character classes, prestige classes, feats, a new faith-based variant rules system, new domains and spells, and new magic items (including "relics" -- powerful new magic items powered by the strength of a character's connection to the divine.)
Back in March, I gave you a look at the back cover copy. Last month, I offered a peek at the pious templar prestige class, a look at a Shrine of Vecna map (just one of a pile of maps you'll find scattered throughout the book), and a small handful of new feats.
This month, I thought I'd provide a look at a new faith-based variant rule you'll discover inside the hallowed pages of Complete Divine: faith feats (and faith points).
The concept of faith points is a terrific idea. It allows DMs the chance to reward players who choose to play characters who are truly faithful to their chosen deity's dictates in a way that empowers the characters and encourages the player to continue roleplaying well. While faith points are, admittedly, a finite resource at any given time, a character's access to faith points is really limited only by the opportunity to perform acts and deeds that advance the cause of his or her religion -- something that's likely to be an ongoing effort in every game session anyway.
Seeing as Complete Divine hits the shelves at your FLGS (Favorite Local Gaming Store) this month, paging through the actual book will give you an even better idea of how useful it will be in your campaign. So, I'll leave off with the excerpts, but I will show off my two favorite illustrations. One is from the updated hospitaler prestige class entry; the other is from a section titled "Organized Religion in the D&D Campaign," which deals with theocracies, global churches, sect and schisms, regional churches, and cults. You can sort out which illo is which.
Richard Baker hit the New York Times best-seller list with this third installation to R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen series. Now that it's finally available in paperback, you can snatch up this thing, read it voraciously, and pass it on to a pal without worrying about the dust jacket getting crumpled. When Condemnation was first on its way to bookstores (in hardcover) last year, I went into a little detail about the story and the series itself in the April 2003 installation of Previews. (The Condemnation stuff is about halfway down the page.)
May: Temple of the Dragonslayer
If you're around the age of ten, or know someone who is, this book is right up your alley. In fact, it's just the first in a series of books that are right up your alley -- the all-new "Dragonlance: The New Adventures" Young Readers series. Written for readers ages 10 and up, Temple of the Dragonslayer, by Tim Waggoner, introduces younger fans to the world of Dragonlance and fantasy fiction. (Let the book reports begin.)
June: Eberron Campaign Setting
Just one more month to go before you can pick up 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, a couple different sources of information lend insight into the setting and offer a look at some of the stuff inside the book.
Dragon Magazine -- Countdown to the Eberron Campaign Setting
If you want 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 the Eberron Campaign Setting"articles. It's a six-part series that introduces you to various aspects of the new D&D campaign setting.
Flip through #320 to check out the final article in the series, in which you'll learn about the setting's mysterious dragonmarks and the various abilities they confer to certain members of the powerful dragonmarked houses. You'll also get information about the different types of dragonshards, where they come from, and what they do.
Gearing Up for Eberron web feature
Just click over to the Eberron page, and take a look at the seven-part web feature series that's a counterpart to the "Countdown" magazine series. This month's "Gearing Up for Eberron" will give you a look at a small handful of the creatures you may come face-to-face with when exploring the Eberron Campaign Setting.
Between the "Gearing Up" and the "Countdown" articles, you should have enough information and insight to keep you sated for this last month.
June:Giants of Legend Huge Packs
Finally! At last, I get to show off some of the Giants of Legend minis. If you're still reading this (and haven't skimmed down to look at the Behir or the other cool stuff I've got in store), I'll just mention that out of the 72 new minis you'll find in the Giants of Legend expansion, 12 of them are HUGE. That means 60 of them are Small, Medium, or Large. Well, 59 of them anyway -- Giants of Legend also takes the D&D Miniatures line one step in the other direction (size category-wise) with the introduction of the first "Tiny" miniature. I can't go into any detail about the littlest D&D mini, but I can say that once you've seen it, you'll probably need at least one -- and then you'll go nuts coming up with ideas for what other Tiny minis we should do. (I know I've got a nice list started.)
Enough of that. On with the runway show.
Mordenkainen the Mage -- If ever there were a legendary giant of a character in the Dungeons & Dragons game, it's Gary Gygax's own character: Mordenkainen the Mage. You may have caught a glimpse of him on the cover of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. If so, you'd certainly recognize this guy -- the bald, goatee-sporting wizard in blue (punctuated by gold "military-style" buttons), complete with flowing cape (with a deep red amulet/brooch), leather gloves and pauldrons, and his funky staff. The mini's pose is calm and unmoving with that funky staff held nonthreateningly and an upraised palm that could be hailing a party with an understated "well met," on the verge of conjuring a fireball, or possibly in the process of opening the portal into an his extradimensional Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion. Regardless of what he's up to, Mordenkainen is confident and comfortable in whatever circumstance he seems to be caught. Whether you use this guy to represent your character, a powerful NPC spellcaster, or Mordenkainen himself, you're sure to find a use for a mini based on one of the most iconic D&D characters ever.
Rakshasa -- As soon as I saw this tiger-headed baddie on the shelf, my eyes immediately snapped to his clawed hands to see if they were done correctly. Yep -- they're backwards. (Check out page 212 in your Monster Manual for the physical description that mentions this odd bit of physiology.) Flip-flopped hands aside, when you take in the rest of this mini, you'll be impressed by its regal and exotic air of power. His flowing robes are luxuriant, from the gold-tasseled corded sash to the dramatically upswept shoulder pieces. (Only the really, really bad villains have collars like that, you know.) When you get a look at the backside of the mini, you'll notice one of the mini's more interesting touches of flavor in the form of the heavy collection of dreadlocks draping down his back (kept in check by an array of golden rings and bands). The rakshasa's outstretched arms and confident stride make it quite clear that this screamingly evil shape changer is coming for you.
Zombie -- The most exciting thing about this undead beauty (right next to the sculpt and paintjob) is that the Giants of Legend zombie is a Common. You just can't have too many zombies. That said, take a look at the detail on this "healthy" specimen of necromancy. This is definitely an advanced case of a decaying body that's been animated and is angry about it. It's got whitened, exposed bones slipping from between chunks of moldering flesh. Even its dirty beige robes are tattered and tearing off (just like its musculature). The metal disk-ornamented belt around its waist seems nice enough to consider salvaging -- if you can get past its vicious bite and wooden club (complete with tetanus-ridden spike driven through the business end.) The sculpt's pose really captures the horrifying image of an animated corpse, filled with unnatural rage, that's struggling to shamble slowly (almost painfully) toward whatever living creature has caught its attention. This is not a mindless creature. It's a menacing entity filled with unlife, hate, and evil. I'd like a pocketful of 'em.
Otyugh -- Of all the monsters that live in trash heaps and dung piles, the otyugh must be the most interesting. The tough, thick hide of this hefty lurker-in-the-latrine is wrinkly, bumpy, scuffed, and scratched up in a way that really gives the impression of being more than well accustomed to harsh treatment. And the coloration of the hide (and all of its festering details) is very rich and earthy -- right on the money if your money is riding on the illustration from page 204 in the Monster Manual. Each of the otyugh's three legs is tipped with heavy-duty claws that are digging in as it positions itself in battle. (Check out the back leg -- it's definitely preparing for a quick lunge at whatever seems like lunch.) The two thorny-tipped tentacles, which seem to be caked up with a mixture of blood and other material, are writhing about as if jockeying for a good angle to take a swing, while the central tentacle (the one with the three beady eyes) is stretched upright to get a good look at its next victim. (Those tentacles set the otyugh's height at just over the three-inch mark, putting it in the same arena as the Large Red Dragon from the Dragoneye expansion.) My favorite feature on this offal-dweller is its snaggletoothed maw. Both rows of mismatched teeth seem to be growing in unsteady waves (with a few new ones just coming in), much like a shark's. The webbed corners of its mouth give the impression that when this guy wants to open wide, he's going to do so with remarkable ability (and nothing he's chewing on with be able to make a fast escape out of the corners of his toothy mouth).
Behir -- This is my favorite mini in the set and I won't rest until I have at least one in my collection. (Good thing there's a huge mini in every Giants of Legend Huge Pack.) Standing 3-3/4 inches tall, this supersweet mini really shows how a behir actually could -- quite easily -- hold 2 medium, 8 small, 32 tiny, or 128 diminutive or smaller opponents in its gizzard. (If you were to stretch this guy out and measure from snout to tail, it would take all twelve inches of your ruler to do so -- that's a lot of mini to pack onto a three-inch base.) Since you've probably still got it open, flip to page 25 in your Monster Manual and take a look at the illustration there. Not only does the behir miniature do a great job of rendering that creature in three dimensions, but it also really brings it to life. The head and neck are a dead-on reproduction of the illo. The just-unclenching jaw looks prepared to either swallow someone whole or let loose with a deadly stream of electricity. The rest of the sculpt takes the remaining anatomy (all twelve legs and serpentine tail) and charges it with energy of its own. Curling around and back on itself (to accommodate the three-inch base and the packaging), the behir's pose suggests that it has suddenly reared up and whirled to face whatever poor fool thought he was sneaking up on it. The well-muscled arms and legs certainly seem up to the task of moving with ease and attacking with raw power. The spines on the behir's head and neck are phenomenal, particularly as they slowly merge with the sinuous, reptilian scales that sheathe its back and tail. The behir's coloration (which includes at least three or four shades of blue) is extremely vibrant with nicely executed shading and highlights. Even the flat yellow eyes are good and menacing.
Warforged Titan -- Go ahead and re-shelve your Monster Manual: This Huge combat-ready construct hails from the Eberron Campaign Setting. Crafted from an assortment of metals and wood, the warforged titan is quite simply built for battle. Its huge, upraised maul is ready to crush whatever it has fixed its red-eyed gaze upon, and that ponderously heavy axe is just a quick flick of the wrist away from chopping through whatever is left. The detail on this thing is unbelievable: Copper, iron, steel, and brass metal plates held together with 258 rivets covering sinewy, deeply grained wood. Arrays of spikes that appear to be hinged (and currently in a "deployed" mode). The curious sigil on its back. Dents and gashes in its battle-worn hammer. I really like the fact that you can look at this thing and tell how it's supposed to move -- you can see where things should swivel or slide and can just imagine all those bits moving in a well-oiled, armor-clad dervish of death-dealing action. When you place a Small, Medium, or even Large miniature in front of the warforged titan, it really seems to be leaning forward to look down at its next target. If you want to get a very good idea of just how tough these walking tanks are, check out this month's Gearing Up for Eberron article to get a look at the warforged titan monster entry from the Eberron Campaign Setting (which -- have I mentioned? -- releases next month).
If you aren't already dropping by the D&D miniatures web page, pop over there when you're done here. You'll find all kinds of great information, errata, random encounter generators, previews of upcoming miniatures, and more. It's a great resource for anyone who collects and/or plays with the minis (whether in an RPG, skirmish game, or both.) In fact, Rob Heinsoo's previews (which also provides some insight into how each one can find its way into your D&D roleplaying game or D&D miniatures warband) show off minis you won't see here (along with a few you will). Be sure to check it out.
June: Dragon Magazine #320
This thing should be hitting mailboxes and store shelves any time now. Dragon Magazine #320 is a special "30 Years of D&D" issue that features (among many other things, including that last "Countdown to Eberron" article about dragonmarks and dragonshards) a huge (I think it's going to be about 14 pages long) story about the history of the past three decades of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. Divided up into easy-to-swallow five-year chunks (per two-page spread), the article guides you along the significant events, products, and innovations associated with the game -- along with some of the more interesting incarnations of pop culture references, licensed products, and other "D&D stuff." Several people who played important roles in D&D past and present contributed commentary and observations about their experiences with the game that are broken up into sidebars scattered throughout the piece. At the end of the article, you'll get a first glimpse at the new Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game and a quick peek at Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons -- the 352-page coffee table book coming out this fall.
July: Planar Handbook: A Player's Guide to the Planes
I don't have a lot to offer up about the Planar Handbook just yet. Essentially, this is a player-focused companion to the DM-centric Manual of the Planes, which offers a pile of new material designed to help your characters improve their survival rate when on planar adventures. There's a lot more to it than that, but I'll wait until next month to go into details. To help ease or pique your curiosity, I offer up to you the back cover copy:
Explore Never-Ending Realms of Adventure
Only the most exceptional characters dare tread the infinite paths of the planes. From Sigil, the City of Doors, to the Blinding Tower at the heart of the Plane of Shadow, to the Elemental Plane of Fire's storied City of Brass, countless perilous locations in the multiverse await bold heroes armed with remarkable talents and abilities, more than a little courage, and above all, knowledge.
This supplement for the D&D game provides everything you need to create and play characters prepared for the odyssey of planar travel, including new planar races, feats, equipment, spells, and magic items. The Planar Handbook also introduces the power of planar touchstones, along with details and advice for visiting dozens of planar sites.
July: Serpent Kingdoms
Although the book was designed with the Forgotten Realms campaign setting in mind, just about anyone with a penchant for scaly-type monsters will find this 192-page hardcover to be more than worth flipping through. (If you've been picking up D&D minis, you probably already have at least one Lizardfolk, Bright Naga, and Yuan-Ti Pureblood in your collection -- get ready to break them out for some fun.) I'll pull together some stuff from the inside of the book to show you next month. But until then, I'll show you what's on the back of the book:
Crawling Evils Never Sleep
Chilling fireside tales describe the fell plans and foul actions of the horrors known as the Scaled Ones: lizardfolk, nagas, yuan-ti, and their sinister creator race, the sarrukh. Infinitely patient and ruthless, the insidious serpentfolk seek to enslave all of Faerūn's other races to breed them like cattle. For those bold enough to peer within, Serpent Kingdoms offers an unsettlingly detailed look at the malevolent serpentfolk and lizard races of the Forgotten Realms game setting.
- 27 new monsters
- 27 new feats
- Dozens of serpentfolk sites
July: Shadows of the Last War
Shadows of the Last War is the first adventure created for the Eberron Campaign Setting, which you'll have in your hot little hands for a month before this 32-page accessory wends its way to your gaming table. (That'll give you time to get some characters ready to go.) Seeing as this is an adventure, and all of you Dungeon Masters out there wouldn't want me spilling the beans on the plot right here where your players might see it, I won't go into much more detail right now. (I'll pass along a little more next month.) One thing I will point out about Shadows of the Last War is its author: Keith "creator of Eberron" Baker. That alone should make this adventure something anyone running an Eberron campaign should pick up, even if just to use for inspiration and guidance -- this is an adventure that gives you an idea of what playing in the world of Eberron (as envisioned by the guy who made it up) can be like. Another tidbit I'll share is that this adventure (which is a "stand-alone") was written to dovetail with the short sample adventure you'll find inside the Eberron Campaign Setting. You don't have to have run that initial adventure to launch into Shadows of the Last War, but if you do, you won't have to worry about continuity in your campaign. One final thing about this adventure is that it's the first of three Eberron adventures you can expect to see hitting shelves.
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.