Previews for September and Beyond
Monsters, Minis, Music, and More -- On the Way
Things are really stacking up around here. As I'm writing this, we're all gearing up to head to Gen Con. That means we've got a lot of deadlines that are a week or two earlier than they'd normally be, along with a small pile of things that need to happen specifically for those four days of gaming. Regardless of the effects of the con-induced time crunch, I think I've pulled together a decent amount of stuff to show you this month. With Monster Manual III hitting shelves this month along with the D&D Basic Game, Frostburn, and Whispers of the Vampire's Blade, you've got plenty of things to flip through and look at just waiting for you at your favorite local game store right now. And with the Aberrations expansion, Libris Mortis, and Shining South headed your way next month (followed by Sharn: City of Towers), you've got a lot of stuff stacking up too -- check it out:
With entries for each creature starting at the top of a page (for your monster-hunting convenience), Monster Manual III serves up over 100 critters (with illos), many of which come with a helping of round-by-round tactics and/or a side of information about where they're likely to be encountered in the Forgotten Realms and/or Eberron. Last month, I gave you the back cover text along with a four-monster-sized slice of this new 224-page hardcover. This month, I thought I'd give you another quartet-sized chunk of the book, which includes two all-new monsters (the cadaver collector and skindancer) and two of the old favorites you'll rediscover inside (the flind and kenku). Take a look:
Last month, I told you what you'll find inside the box. And, like I said, while more experienced gamers will certainly make use of the miniatures, dice, and map tiles in their existing campaigns, what the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game really offers is a great way to draw new players into those games. Because the rules were written to teach D&D to first-time gamers, the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game can be given as a gift to be explored without expert supervision. Dungeons & Dragons isn't hard to learn, but it can be hard to teach. And that's what the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game was designed to do. It's on shelves now -- go check it out.
Last month, I gave you the back cover copy and an igloo-sized chunk of text from the introduction. And while I was fairly certain that I could lay my hands on a galley to pull out some cool stuff to show you, I wasn't able to. (The galleys were doing an extra tour of duty and weren't available for me to snatch up this time.) The upside is that Frostburn goes on sale this month, so you can flip through a real-life copy of the 224-page hardcover.
Last month, I gave you the back cover copy for this, the second action-packed adventure for use with the new Eberron Campaign Setting. And, like I told you then, you aren't going to get any more detail than that out of me. Though, I will reiterate that this 32-page adventure hurls you all over the continent of Khorvaire. Written by David Noonan as a stand-alone adventure for 4th-level characters, Whispers of the Vampire's Blade is (not coincidentally) a perfect sequel to the first adventure written for Eberron, Shadows of the Last War. With a third adventure on the way next year, your adventuring party has a lot of work cut out for it -- you'd better get moving.
So, last month, I showed you the Yuan-Ti Abomination, Sahuagin Ranger, Mountain Orc, Hook Horror, and Gibbering Mouther. Back in July, I couldn't wait to show off the Kobold Champion and Kobold Sorcerer. This month, I'm going to load you up with six more minis from the Aberrations expansion. Just look at 'em:
Destrachan -- Flip to page 50 in your Monster Manual, and you'll see that, once again, we've got a 3-D execution of the illo straight out of that red core rulebook. Its vaguely reptilian form really does seem to have been inspired by a predatorial dinosaurlike creature. And the thick, black claws and those bony ridges running down its spine just reinforce its terrible lizard look and feel. Then, there's the oddly shaped three-part ears that pull the destrachan out of the Jurassic period and put it in the realm of dragons. It has a lean, muscled build protected by a tough, mottled hide that is covered by an assortment of bumps and nodules that just add to the destrachan's natural armor bonus. The lighter coloration on its underbelly, which is hinted at in the illo, is a really nice detail that adds to the realism of the mini. Those shallow depressions over what might be vestigial eye sockets are also straight from the illo, but in the mini, they really call attention to the fact that hiding from one of these guys isn't all that easy -- 'cause it doesn't need to see you to find you. And that's when you have to start worrying about that gaping, toothless, purplish maw. (It really gives the impression of a dark, open mouth better than plain ol' black would.) Now, knowing that you're staring down the gullet of the poster child for the sonic energy type, you can just imagine the horribly destructive vowel-sounding noise belching forth from that cavernous mouth. You might also wonder if a set of custom-molded earplugs would do your character any good.
Mad Slasher -- You'll find these guys lurking on page 64 of your Miniatures Handbook. Every time I look at this spindly, one-eyed, six-legged-spiderlike . . . thing, I imagine a horrible wave of them swarming toward a cluster of heroic characters. It'd start with the sound of those blood-red (blood-soaked?), spike-tipped legs scrabbling across a stone floor getting nearer and nearer to the party. Just as the Mad Slashers come into view, you'd see the light glinting off their single, gold-flecked eyeballs (which seem kinda like a cross between a frog and a cat), and you'd start to hear their primal chittering grow more intense as they fixate on their latest prey. They'd flood toward and around the heroes, and immediately begin flailing and slashing with their deadly limbs, tearing through flesh and punching through all but the strongest armor in a frenzied flurry of attacks -- things go poorly for the heroes. Of course, that's just my Aliens/Starship Troopers/Eight-Legged Freaks-inspired vision of what an encounter with a pile of these guys would be like. (I'm setting aside a nice-sized compartment in one of my tacklebox trays for as many of these uncommon nasties as I can get.)
Rhek -- Chris Perkins was throwing rhino men at our Wednesday-night adventuring party for a while before they became good guys and showed up on page 181 of Book of Exalted Deeds. I remember him showing us the illo of the Rhek so we could see what they looked like, and it was really cool to see a rendering of the critter we'd all been picturing in our heads -- a big, heavily built humanoid with a thick, gray hide and rhinoceros-like horn coming out of its forehead. Though, the Rhek on page 181 is more of a kung-fu guy, whereas we had been going up against heavily armored fighter-types -- pretty much like what you're getting in the Rhek miniature. Not even counting the rhino horn, the Rhek is nearly a head taller than a human-sized Medium mini (like the Stalwart Paladin, for example) and is built like a linebacker. As if the thick muscles and tough hide didn't already afford him enough protection, he has strapped on a fairly refined-looking suit of armor consisting of many overlapping plates layered over a sleeveless chainmail shirt. If anything, his bare arms, hands, and three-toed feet just add to the perception that this guy doesn't really need the armor -- it just helps. Gripping his heavy-hafted halberd in one hand (consisting of three thick fingers and one indispensable opposable thumb), the Rhek seems to be standing at the ready -- waiting to take some sort of martial action. The intent look on his face, complete with narrowed brow and stern jaw, makes it quite clear that you don't want to do whatever it is that's going to set this guy off -- 'cause you know that once he gets going, nothing's going to slow him down.
Alusair Obarskyr -- If you flip to page 114 in your Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, you'll see an illo and a write-up for Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent of Cormyr. When you check out the miniature, you'll see that it's more than just a great representation of that iconic Forgotten Realms character -- it's a perfect mini for anyone playing a noble female warrior-type character -- she's regal, confident, and unquestionably heroic. The muted gold tones of her breastplate, helmet, and armored leggings are complemented by her long maroon tunic and the rich, deep blue of her pants, shirt (sleeve), and the plumelike cloth draping down from her helmet -- she definitely got suited up by the royal tailor and armorsmith. Her pose just reinforces her from-the-throne-room-to-the-battlefield look as she strides confidently forward, with head held high and eyes focused intently on what stands before her. Alusair's slender longsword is gripped firmly in her left hand, with its tip just nearing the ground (close enough for it to attach to the base to keep it from curling or bending.) Her right arm is upraised, as if to signal her troops to begin an advance. Strapped to that deceptively delicate-looking arm (she has a Strength of 16) is the most interesting bit of detail on the mini -- her shield, the curved surface of which is festooned with the royal standard of Cormyr: a rampant purple dragon on a black field. When I saw the master paint mini (which you're looking at now), I was amazed by the detail on the shield (the coat-of-arms is even upside down), and when the first wave of samples came in yesterday, I checked them out and confirmed that the shield on the straight-out-of-the-factory finished mini looks mighty fine.
Warforged Hero -- As if the Warforged Fighter in the Giants of Legend expansion didn't already make me want to roll up a new adamantine-based character for an Eberron campaign -- along comes the Warforged Hero, which is just far too cool for its own good. Not only does it look tough enough to take on the Warforged Titan single-handedly, but the phenomenal amount of detail on the Warforged Titan makes it one of those minis that you'll want to hold just inches from your face so you can scrutinize every riveted inch to discover all the small finishing touches. Even at arm's length, you can see that the Warforged Hero is a mini to build a PC around. His wide stance, with knees slightly bent, coupled with his sword and shield held at the ready (but not actually being used in a threatening or defensive manner) make this guy seem as if he's taunting an opponent to bring it on. And, man, is the Warforged Hero ready to take a beating if anyone is capable of delivering one -- just look at all of those overlapping iron and brass armor plates he has bolted everywhere (and take note of all the intricate decorative work that has been tooled into most of it -- this is a well-crafted work of art built for battle). While the curiously wrought longsword is certainly the Warforged Hero's primary weapon, he's packing plenty of other surprises. Things like the elbow spikes and those spurlike protrusions on his ankles give you some notion of what this guy might send your way if his sword was detained elsewhere. But that brass attachment on his forehead (which evokes a helmet's raised visor) certainly looks axe-bladelike to me -- talk about a vicious headbutt. Interestingly, the Warforged Hero's shield really takes the blue ribbon for imagination-sparking detail. One nice touch is the row of spinelike spikes lining the outer edge of the shield, which look as if they can be deployed or retracted like a metal frill. My favorite bit is the pair of daggerlike claw-type spikes jutting out from the other edge. They're clearly spring-loaded and hinged to allow them to lock, out of the way, on either side of the Warforged Hero's arm while being ready to snap into place (switchblade-style) at a moment's notice. *snickt*
Ice Troll -- If you want to check out the D&D stats and illo for an Ice Troll, you'll need to crack open your copy of Unapproachable East to page 77 (plus 78 and 79 to get it all). Don't linger long, though -- the mini really takes a few cues and then goes off in a direction that's all its own (though the stooped posture and super-sized hammer made it into the plastic-ified translation.) If you remember how popular and sought-after the Troll from the Harbinger expansion was, you can be sure that this arctic cousin is going to be at the top of a lot of I Need More of These Guys lists -- not just because it's a troll, but because it's got a lot of nice detail. The Ice Troll's somewhat hunchbacklike pose just adds to its Intimidation check as it leans forward and down to look a Medium mini right in the eye. That's right before it straightens up and brings that ponderously large maul right down on your insufficiently protected noggin (probably driving you through the permafrost like a Teflon-coated tent stake.) The Ice Troll's armor is full of great detail. Its large-sized scale mail is strapped on with a thick leather harness held together with heavy leather stitching. Its icy-blue skin is highlighted with what appears to be frost and icicles, but it could easily be explained (for those nonsnowbound encounters) as being some sort of bone spurs or spikes. Spiky black hair (which looks dangerous enough in its own right) tops off a face that even a mother wouldn't want to linger on too long -- a heavy brow; a long, beaklike nose; mouth full of sharp, little teeth; and beady, blood-red eyes. That eye-level, menacing look is full of pure dislike -- not necessarily hate. It's nothing personal, the Ice Troll just wants to turn you into mush. The only thing worse than locking eyes with this guy when you come face-to-face is having to cope with its foul halitosis, which you know you'd see hanging in the air.
Whether you're using your minis for roleplaying or in skirmish combat, you'll want to check out the Aberrations Previews Rob Heinsoo is putting together. They're compact, fuel-efficient articles that offer up ideas of how specific minis could work into your D&D game along with insight as to what each one brings to the table in a D&D Miniatures skirmish warband. While Rob and I are sharing some of the minis we're showing off, he's going to offer up several you won't see here. So, pop over there and take a peek.
Imagine what your Draconomicon would be like if, instead of dragons and draconic stuff, it were filled with undead and things related to unlife -- that's what you'll be looking at when you crack open the cover of Libris Mortis: Book of Undead.
In a nutshell, Libris Mortis is a 192-page hardcover that offers a comprehensive look at undead creatures and characters in the D&D world. Take a look at the back cover copy:
I'll go a little more nuts with the excerpts next month, but for now, check out this handful of feats that'll give you an idea of how useful the stuff inside Libris Mortis is -- you're going to find stuff that's useful to undead, for those who make (or command) undead, and those who fight undead. In the world of D&D, that pretty much covers everyone.
If you're curious about the book's title (and translation), you'll want to take a look at this sidebar from the book's introduction. Hey, even if you don't have some Latin rolling around in your noggin, you'll find this interesting.
This 192-page hardcover is filled with an array of new character races, feats, prestige classes, spells, magic items, and more. Shining South offers more than just detailed information about one of the more distant regions in the Forgotten Realms -- it provides a wealth of material that can be adapted for use in a homebrewed campaign setting in need of a new exotic culture or interesting locale. Check out the back cover copy:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll try to lay my hands on a complete galley to pull out some excerpts for you next month.
So, last month, in addition to passing along the back cover copy, I told you about the bonus soundtrack CD you'll find inside this first printing of Sharn: City of Towers. If you were at Gen Con Indy, it's entirely likely that you picked up the sample CD we handed out, which contained three of the real disc's nine tracks. If you didn't make it to the con or didn't lay your hands on one of the CDs, don't fret. Just pop over here to check out the Eberron Soundtrack sample tracks.You can download and listen to Cut to the Chase, Sharn: City of Towers, and Exploring Xen'drik -- over fifteen minutes of music composed specifically for use in your Eberron campaign. (That's out of the 45+ minutes you'll get on the real Eberron Soundtrack disc.) Check these things out. You're going to be amazed by how good they sound -- the music literally is cinema-quality music created by a composer who creates music for feature films. One of the great things about the Eberron Soundtrack is how varied the music is -- each track takes you to a different situation/location. Even better is how well each track meshes with the one that follows it -- some of them blend so nicely, you hardly notice that you've actually popped from one track to the next (Cut to the Chase and Sharn: City of Towers are consecutive tracks on the real CD. Listen to them back-to-back and you'll hear what I mean.)
I pretend that between now and next month, I'll have a chance to lay my hands on a galley of this 192-page hardcover filled with tons of material detailing one of the cornerstones of the Eberron campaign setting.
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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