A Blockbuster Summer of Releases
So . . .Giants of Legend and the Eberron Campaign Setting got things rolling in a big way when they released last month. As you take a look at what I've got to show you this month, you'll see that the rest of the summer is going to filled with one release after another. (Gee, whiz -- we've got two 192-page hardcovers, an adventure, and a big novel releasing just this month!.) Follow that up with the stuff coming out in August in conjunction with the four days of gaming goodness known as Gen Con, and you've got one hot summer season. (Take a look at the New Releases sidebar over there, and you'll see that autumn is shaping up the same way.) You've got a lot to read through once you're done with this intro, so I'll sum up: We've got a ton of stuff coming your way.
Check it out!
This 192-page hardcover filled with indispensable planar-traveling material hits shelves this month. Last month, I gave you a run-down of what you'll find in each chapter of the Planar Handbook, a look at one of the new character races, and a quick tour of a "planar touchstone."
This month, I thought I'd offer a couple of the ways you can help ensure your characters survive the rigors of extraplanar adventuring. The first is the option of taking planar substitution levels (which give you specific class-related abilities useful to planar travelers in lieu of the normal class-related abilities you'd normally gain at specific levels). The other is a few new spells -- two will help you survive hazardous planar environments while the other provides a safe place to rest and recuperate while you're traveling. Take a look and then flip through a copy of the product at your favorite local game store to read even more.
This 192-page hardcover is crawling with information about the malevolent serpentfolk and lizard races of the Forgotten Realms game setting (which can easily slither into any campaign that's got lizardfolk, nagas, yuan-ti, and other scaly critters.) Last month, I gave you an idea of what lurks in each chapter, along with a good, hard look at the (playable as a character) monster race known as the tren. This month, I still have a couple more things to show you to get you thinking while you're on the way to see the book for yourself.
First, I've pulled out some good-sized chunks from Chapter Five: The Sarrukh, to give you a look at the powerful progenitor race along with a little idea of what bits and pieces of the dedicated-to-a-single-race chapters are like. Once you've taken a look at that, and start to understand what kind of no-good those scalyfolk are up to, you'll probably want to check out the prestige class that's built to fight everything else in the book: the serpent slayer.
Shadows of the Last War is a great way to get your brand-spanking-new Eberron campaign off the ground and moving at breakneck speed. As it was written by Eberron's creator, Keith Baker, you can just imagine how well Shadows of the Last War demonstrates what adventuring in the action-packed, intrigue-laced world of Eberron can be like. (And this is just the beginning.) Last month, I gave you the back cover copy, and that's all you're going to get out of me.
I talked about Annihilation last month. Since it's the fifth book in the six-part War of the Spider Queen series, I don't want to say terribly much about the book ('cause you're either in the middle of the series and want to discover what happens for yourself or you haven't yet picked up book one -- Dissolution -- and wouldn't have a clue about what I was talking about anyway.) What I will reiterate is that Phil Athans did a remarkable job while taking his turn at the helm of this six-author storyline. The characters are dead-on, the action is exciting (with really good fight scenes, whether they involve weapons or just spells), the intrigue is engaging, and he really gets the storyline moving at a pace and direction that leaves you wanting more -- which is exactly what book five of six should do.
Races of Stone is the first in a new series of race-specific books. It's a 192-page hardcover that details various races that live on, under, or around mountains in the D&D world. I'll let the back cover copy do a little more explanation:
While the book starts out with a chapter on dwarves and moves on to the gnomes, I'm going to jump to Chapter Three to show you the book's all-new race: the goliath. Chris Thomasson has been playing a goliath barbarian/cleric named Keanak Scarmaker Gaukanithanu in our Wednesday-night game. Keanak has been a lot of fun to have around, particularly during and after fights (though his/her tendency to enthusiastically experiment with new, untested, magic items has lessened since the accidental discovery of that suit of gender-bending plate armor). Chris had been playing Keanak for a while before I had a chance to examine Races of Stone, and while I was reading about goliath culture, I recognized a lot of things that typified Keanak's behavior. That's because in addition to the nuts-and-bolts information you need to fill out a character sheet, Chapter Three is full of all kinds of information that really help you bring your character to life in a way that's particularly goliath-ish. Check out this excerpt, which is a cobbled-together collection of bits and pieces from Chapter Three: Goliaths.
Just to let you know right up front, when I first flipped through the manuscript for d20 Future, this is what ran through my mind: "This book is ridiculously full of stuff." And now, a month or so later, when taking a look through the first galley, I've become convinced that they must have used some sort of futuristic technology (perhaps something from Dr. Who) to get this many different things crammed into one book. (Seriously, this is a densely packed 224 pages of material -- just wait, you'll see what I mean. OK, that's out of the way. Now, just in case you don't already know what d20 Future is all about, here's the back cover copy:
And here's a chunk from the introduction of the book:
So essentially, d20 Future offers you a huge pile of options and rules to choose from in order to craft a futuristic setting customized to fit your needs and imagination. The hard part will be deciding what you want to use. Just to give you a sense of what's actually filling the pages, I'll run through each of the chapters.
The Introduction contains one of the key elements of the book (and one of the most important concepts your campaigns will be based around): Progress Levels. Here's a good one-sentence explanation: "Simply put, a Progress Level (PL) is an indication of the state of technology that exists in a particular society or civilization (which, in a science fiction setting, may be located on a planet other than Earth)."
PL 0 is the Stone Age, followed by the Bronze/Iron Age (PL 1), the Middles Ages (PL 2), the Age of Reason (PL 3), the Industrial Age (PL 4), the Information Age (PL 5), and the progress level at which the real world currently exists: PL 6: the Fusion Age. (And we're probably somewhere in the middle of that Progress Level, by the way -- we don't have androids yet, for one thing.) On the distant horizon (past colonization of other planets in the solar system) is PL 7: the Gravity Age, which is marked by the invention of the gravity induction reactor and its derivative technology. (This is where hover cars, laser guns, power armor, and interstellar travel enter the scene.) PL 8: the Energy Age (marked by the miniaturization of induction engine technology to the point where individuals may easily carry a "power plant" the size of a marble in their pocket) is a period where personal force shields, star fighters, and self-sustaining space stations fill the galaxy and beyond. PL 9 and higher is the point at which technology leaves the realm of our comprehension (as the primitive screwheads of tomorrow). This is where time travel, space folding, and anything more impressive than that would exist.
Chapter One is filled with an array of new character-building options, including eight new starting occupations, expanded uses for skills, something like 30 new feats, and a dozen new advanced classes. Of course, you can always make use of the character-building material in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, as well as Urban Arcana, to create your futuristic heroes.
Chapter Two is the part of the book that will help you decide on the overarching flavor and feel of your d20 Future campaign. It offers up eight sample campaign models along with six more advanced classes, each one being specifically linked to one of the campaign models. As with virtually every part of the book, you can always choose to combine a couple of these samples to create a wholly unique campaign. Take a look at just one of the campaign models: Genetech.
Chapter Three: Gear is page after page after page of weapons, armor, and equipment that range from PL5 to PL8. (Load up on high frequency swords, laser pistols, jet packs, power armor, personal force fields, neural implants, and more.) One of the really interesting things you'll discover in this chapter is the introduction of the Gadget System, which is a way to customize your weapons, armor, and equipment by adding new features to create the futuristic doodad your character wants.
A quick run through the five-page Chapter Four: Environments will expose you to rules governing radiation exposure, variable gravity, atmospheric conditions, and the composition of star systems.
Chapter Five provides you with the rules modules for enhancing characters and/or creating civilizations with genetic manipulation (offering several templates and other ways to soup up your character one DNA strand at a time), cloning, nanotechnology (which ranges from the extremely useful to the disturbingly dangerous), and matter replication.
When you're ready for rules for getting here and there around the galaxy, universe, and beyond, it's time for Chapter Six. There, you'll find information governing realistic space travel (which is slower than light speed), which includes rules for time dilation and the introduction of jump gates (which make use of naturally occurring wormholes, as well as those artificially created by advanced technology. The rules for fantastic space travel offer stardrives that move vessels at faster-than-light speeds. Teleportation is covered with rules for matter transference over distances that range from planetary to interplanetary to interstellar. Dimensional travel is another possibility open to characters and campaigns interested in exploring parallel universes and alternate dimensions. (Be warned, dimensional traveler, this section starts off with a host of "Hazards of Dimensional Travel".) Though, when you're really ready to muck about with dangerous science, you'll be prepared for the section on time travel. By the end of Chapter Six, you'll have more than enough ways in which you can radically shift your campaign as often as you like.
Starships fill the enormous Chapter Seven. It jumps right in with starship combat. (Why get in a starship if you don't get to blow stuff up with it?) Once you've gotten familiar with how to run combat from the bridge (or cockpit) of your ship, you'll be more than ready to go shopping. From orbital shuttles and colony ships to freighters, battleships, and fighters, you'll find examples of a full range of space-going vessels. Once you've chosen a basic ship type, you'll want to explore all of the options available, which include engines, armor, defense systems, sensors, comm. systems, weapons, and grappling systems.
Chapter Eight puts you behind the wheel of a variety of futuristic vehicles. Civilian vehicles range from hoverboards and hovercycles to hovercars and hoverbuses. Military vehicles include gyrocopters, hovercopters, personnel carriers, and hovertanks. You'll also find rules for outfitting your vehicles with armor, computer guidance, and other gear.
Powered armor (often mistaken a as Big Walking Tanks) is the topic covered by Chapter Nine: Mecha. It ranges from one-man close-combat mecha (which stand about 16-feet tall) all the way to colossal mecha (upwards of 72-feet tall), which require small crews to operate. In addition to the collection of sample mecha, you'll find weapons, armor, flight systems, sensors, cloaking devices, and other equipment with which you'll want to customize your mecha. Rules for movement and combat (including while flying or in outer space) give you all the guidelines you need to take your mecha out for a spin (with guns). And the mecha jockey prestige class, along with a handful of mecha-specific feats, lets you create a character who's all about dishing it out from the driver's seat of a big robotic weapons platform of doom.
Perhaps you're less interested in piloting a robot and more interested in being one -- that's what Chapter Ten: Robotics is all about. Starting with an overview of the evolution of robots, the chapter immediately offers up two options for playing robots as heroes -- biodroids (also known as "androids"), which are available in PL 6 campaigns, and bioreplicas (or "synthetics"), which are introduced in PL 7 campaigns. Check out the section on playing a biodroid.
Chapter Ten also provides a warehouse of rules for creating and customizing a virtually endless variety of robots of all types. You'll find an assortment of robot frames, modes of locomotion, manipulators (hands, pincers, etc.), armor, sensors, software for adding skills and feats, ability upgrades, and a number of accessories, along with some sample robots to get you started.
Don't want to play a robot, but want some cool gadgets built into your character? Chapter Eleven has the technology to make you better, faster, stronger -- Cybernetics. As early as PL 5, a number of cybernetic attachments are available. Divided into two categories, replacements and enhancements, cybernetics encompass everything from artificial organs and advanced prosthetic limbs to subcutaneous body armor and implants that grant the use of various skills and feats. Along with all of the attachments, you'll find rules for constructing, installing, repairing, and removing them - and a variety of drawbacks inherent in installing gadgets in your body (like becoming more vulnerable to electricity).
Of course, you don't need cybernetics to play a character that's more human than human (or more yazirian than yazirian). Chapter Twelve opens up your d20 Future game world to Mutations. The chapter begins with a discussion of how mutants and mutations might arise in your campaign, and offers several possible sources of mutations for you to use, including radiation, experimentation, mutagenic compounds (like toxic sludge or laboratory-produced serums), bioware (grafting genetic material), and natural selection. Once you've settled on a how and why your character mutated, you'll want to select your mutation. This chapter also introduces an interesting system for maintaining game balance while allowing characters to develop beneficial mutations: Mutation Points. By selecting one or more drawbacks (such as a decaying ability score or an allergy to ultraviolet radiation), you gain a number of mutation points you can use to "buy" a beneficial mutation (such as gills, the ability to absorb energy, telepathy, or even x-ray vision.)
Of course, if you're interested in playing a character from another planet (or star system), you'll want to flip all the way to Chapter Thirteen: Xenobiology. Right up front, you'll find a couple templates (extraterrestrial and space creature) you can use to turn all manner of monsters into creatures from beyond the stars. After that, you'll meet eight nonhuman species that are suitable to play as heroic characters, some of which you may be familiar with from playing them in games long past -- like the dralasite (from Star Frontiers).
Anyway, like I said, d20 Future is absolutely crammed full of material for you to pick and choose from to create any sort of futuristic campaign you can imagine. Next month, you'll see for yourself what I mean.
This is the second in a new series of game-enhancing accessories. Whereas D&D Map Folio I gathered the best, most useful maps created for the Map-A-Week web feature, D&D Map Folio II is a collection of entirely original maps created specifically for this product. At its heart, MF2 offers the same game-enhancing benefits as MF1: 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. You can, of course, use each map individually, but the real impact comes when you use them all as parts of a whole -- to explore an ancient walled port city. Check out the back cover copy:
Just in case you're tuning in to this article for the first time, I'll go over this one -- but quickly. (Check out the archived article from in March if you want more detail.) This is a dicebag (embroidered with the D&D logo) filled with a full set of polyhedrals: d4, (4)d6, d8, d10, d%, d12, & d20. It's ideal for a new player or someone who just wants more dice (and a nifty dicebag.)
Gen Con's getting close. If your calendar's not already marked, you should try to clear space August 19-22 to come hang out at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Gen Con website offers details about what all's going on during the Best Four Days in Gaming, along with the ability to preregister (hurry -- the preregistration deadline is July 12!) and sign up for events. You can always register onsite if the preregistration deadline has passed by the time you read this. If you're planning to go, you won't want to miss out on the D&D Epic-Level Party we're throwing from 7:00 to 11:00 on Thursday night. (You might have seen the ad we've been running with that supersweet Todd Lockwood art.) There's going to be music, food, drinks, activities, entertainment, souvenirs and more -- just show up with your Gen Con badge and have a good time celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.
OK, I know that most of you, like me, are probably still in the middle of amassing your Giants of Legend collection. But while we've got three long and painful months until the Aberrations expansion hits stores, I couldn't resist asking around for permission to show off just a couple minis from the next 60-miniature expansion. While the set is based around monstrous aberrations (like Dragoneye focused on a bunch of draconic minis), it was a moral imperative for me to show off the set's two new kobolds -- 'cause I like kobolds (and I know I'm not the only one) and because I get to show them off before Rob Heinsoo can. Keep an eye on the D&D Miniatures page for Rob's preview articles, along with other cool features.
Next month, I'll have some more aberrant Aberrations to show off. But for now, check out the kobolds:
Kobold Champion: Let's start with the really good news -- this guy is a common. He'd be perfectly acceptable as an uncommon mini, being obviously well-suited to the role of martial leader of a troop of kobold warriors and kobold skirmishers (from Dragoneye), but because he's a common, you'll be able to put together a vicious strike force of well-trained kobolds (which makes me think of my all-time favorite Dragon Magazine editorial, written long, long ago by Roger E. Moore: "Tucker's Kobolds".) Regardless of whether he's part of an elite kobold force or a more iconic figure, the kobold champion cuts a fine figure on the battlemat (or display shelf). He's suited up in scalemail armor reinforced with pieces of banded mail that protect more vital areas. I like the overlapping armor plates that run the length of his spine. They really add to the serpentine feel of the mini. His kobold-skull-shaped metal shield is a nicely detailed accessory that, along with his determined expression, make him seem like he'd make a great paladin of Kurtulmak (though, since paladins can't be lawful evil, I guess he'll have to settle for becoming a blackguard of Kurtulmak.) Slightly crouched and in the midst of advancing, the kobold champion has his wicked kobold-sized longsword poised for a quick lunging thrust.
Kobold Sorcerer: Draped in heavy red robes with a hood pulled up to obscure most of his face (his eyes are peeking out from small slits in the hood), the kobold sorcerer is a fairly mysterious and somewhat imposing little spellcaster. (At one inch, he stands a full kobold head taller than Harbinger's kobold warrior.) His curiously long tail, visible where his robe splits at the floor (at least, I assume it's his tail), seems to loosely twine around his feet (like a large coiled snake). He's certainly not planning to move anytime soon, which definitely adds to the "something about this guy is actually menacing" factor. The metal pauldrons adorning his shoulders may or may not provide an armor bonus (or chance of arcane spell failure), but they certainly make him look like he's a part of the same kobold party as the kobold champion. His right hand is raised level with his face, and pointing in a way that seems to imply that he's targeting someone with a spell or possibly singling someone out to impart some particularly ominous threat. His left hand holds a ceremonial dagger sculpted to look like a pair of intertwining serpents -- their outward-facing heads form the dagger's pommel while their tails form a serrated blade that's split down the center. (It reminds me a little of the dagger Thulsa Doom and his snake cultists used in Conan the Barbarian.)
This product's release is way, way too far distant for me to have stuff to pass along for you yet. But I'll let you in on a little secret about this 192-page hardcover that details the metropolis that sprawls at the center of the Eberron campaign setting: Inside, you'll find a CD with somewhere around 45 minutes of feature film-caliber original music composed specifically for use as the background music/soundtrack for your Eberron campaign. That's all I've got for now -- just four months to go.
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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