You know how it takes a while to recover from a vacation? That's what it's like around here at the beginning of the year. Since the office shut down between Christmas Eve and January 3rd, we've got a lot of catching up to do. Or at least, we've got a lot of stuff that we would've gotten done during that two-week-or-so break had we all not been off enjoying the holiday. Anyway, it seems like January is always crammed full of more stuff than any other month of the year since everyone is furiously trying to make sure everything gets out the door in time. Anyway, I figure that by this time next month, everything will be moving along smoothly and I'll have the luxury of really sitting back to enjoy flipping through the upcoming products. (Realistically, I'm sure I'll be just as slammed then, just by different stuff.) Regardless, it's always good to take a peek at the things we're working on around here, so check it out:
(If you missed last month's article, you should pop over there and check it out, just to read the boxed text titled "A Public Service Announcement." It's nothing earth shattering, but you may find it helpful when you're trying to sort through any disparities between what you see here and what you see in finished products.)
February: Races of the Wild
Once you've pored over Races of Stone and Races of Destiny, you'll know exactly what kinds of stuff you can expect to find inside this third book in the "Races of" series. Back in December, I passed along the back cover copy. Last month, I showed you the new race introduced in the book -- the raptorans. This month, the book goes on sale and I know we'll be posting another excerpt or two on the main page. Between that excerpt and being able to actually flip through a copy of the book, you should be all set on this one.
February: Lost Empires of Faerūn
You also have to see the back cover copy from this one back in December. Last month, I passed along a chunk from the introduction, a look at a map of ancient Faerūn, and a glimpse at a little piece of history from a region in the southwestern corner of Faerūn once known as the Imperial South -- the ruined imperial capital city of Shoonach. Again, with another excerpt or two hitting the D&D Home Page and the book hitting the shelves at your FLGS, you should have all you need to figure out how to make this book work for your D&D game.
With just one month left until the Deathknell expansion releases, I find myself pleased that it's not a Leap Year, so February's as short as a month can get. This means that we're all that much closer to cracking open boosters for this newest set of 60 minis. By now, you've seen bits and pieces of the set in these articles and in the ones Rob Heinsoo posts over on the D&D Minis page.
Back in December, I showed you the Undying Soldier, Rask, Half-Orc Chainfighter, the Bullywug Thug, and the amazing and cool Beholder. Last month, it was the Mummy Lord, Dire Bear, and Large Blue Dragon. This month, it's three more rare minis for you. Check 'em out:
Spectre -- When I first saw this guy, I thought "Cool -- a medium-sized statue." You know, to go along with the large-sized statue that some people call a Stone Golem. I have to say, I was more than ready to be satisfied with this mini as some sort of animated statue (a caryatid column, perhaps). But when I picked him up and took a closer look, I understood that there was more to this mini than a somewhat stone-toned color scheme. The snapped-off sword could've been the wear and tear that you might expect on a statue long stationed in a dungeon, but that huge gash through his right shoulder -- the one that goes clean through the torso cleaving through collarbone, shoulder blade, and ribcage (not to mention a fair bit of armor) -- that's not the kind of damage you'd expect to see on a statue. And something is not quite right about the face -- its mouth gapes open in a way that might imply that it's calling out, but it really just looks like it's letting out a low, gravelly moan. Hmm. Flip over the mini, check the name on the base: "Spectre" AH! I see. Yes. That's not stone; it's the ghostly pallor of an incorporeal spirit. (That makes this the Undead candidate of this month's article, by the way.) When you take another look at the mini from the perspective that it actually is a Spectre, a lot of the interesting bits stand out all that much more. First off, you have to revisit that horrendous cut that went right through armor, flesh, and bone to deliver a killing blow that probably resulted in a sucking chest wound. The snapped sword is probably a souvenir from a successful Improved Sunder that happened immediately beforehand. So, now we've got a good idea of how this poor soul died, but not exactly when. Interestingly, his armor is somewhat reminiscent of the style of protective wear that you would have seen long, long ago (say, 1st or 2nd edition), which is a really nice touch that makes this Spectre feel ancient (or at least exotic.) Once I finished looking over the armor (and puzzling over what's going on with his helmet -- is that part of the helmet, a plume, or a ponytail rolled up samurai style back there?) I noticed other details like the little belt pouch hanging in back and the mini's pose. For an incorporeal nasty, this guy gives you the idea that he's moving slowly, carrying a lot of weight and pain, as he advances toward you. His head is lowered, but in that horror movie way that allows him to keep his eyes fixated upward on his next energy drain victim -- man, I hate fighting Spectres.
(By the way, for those of you keeping score, Mike Donais mentioned that the Spectre's point cost and power in skirmish play are what really qualify this mini for the star on its base -- I can't wait to see what it can do.)
Greenfang Druid -- It has been a couple months since we saw Rask, Half-Orc Chainfighter, so it's about time for another heroic mini. And the Greenfang Druid fits the bill nicely. This guy will quickly make the top of the list of minis I'd want to use as my PC or NPC druid -- no contest. He's standing tall, scimitar raised, but waiting -- someone else is going to have to make the first hostile move. (Though that large shield, styled to look like a large leather-covered leaf, is held ready to come up to block that initial strike.) His green eyes (which match his simple, flowing cloak) are definitely fixed on whatever caused the druid to have a readied action. The long, auburn hair, held back with a simple black, leather band, could be covering the tips of elven ears, but doesn't seem to be. (This mini does strike me as one that could be human, elf, or half-elf. And, though his build does seem more masculine, this druid could just as easily be used for a male or female character.) There are a lot of small details not to be missed on this guy. You'll notice the bright green leaves attached to straps (and tucked into his belt) on his right hip. Check out the cuff of his right boot (or puttee, to be geekily accurate), and you'll notice what appear to be a string of white claws or teeth -- trophies of a kill or totem animal -- very cool. My favorite detail probably won't be visible in the image you're looking at, but when you get a good look at his dark leather armor, you'll see that it's not leather -- it's a suit of armor fashioned from wood. (Or at least it's crafted to appear so.) The black ink wash on the armor picks out the wood grain detail on each of the armor's plates. The organic and asymmetrical lines of that bit of detail suggest that this armor really was carved, not cured or forged.
Griffon -- You might have already got a look at this guy back in December in Rob's Deathknell Preview 1 article. Nonetheless, I shall show it to you here in all of its feathery glory. Okay, I'm going to ignore the wings for now (which is awfully hard -- they're enormous). Just check out the body on this large, skybound predator. If you cover up the head and claws (and ignore the wings), all you see is a powerful, muscular lion in the midst of leaping forward. Reverse that, and you've got a fierce-looking giant eagle with a formidable set of talons -- one is firmly planted on the ground and the other is reaching out to pluck off your head as if it were a dandelion. So, put all of those bits together, including those wings, and you've got one nicely sculpted Griffon. But about those wings -- they're just over 4 inches, wingtip-to-wingtip (that is, as the wings are sculpted, if you could really spread 'em out, you'd probably have a good half-foot wingspan.) The sculpt on the wings alone is enough to make you go cross-eyed -- each feather is detailed, with little bits and pieces where the barbs on some of the quills have separated. (You know, like feathers do.) And, each of the different types of feathers that comprise a bird's wing is differentiated. The covert feathers (the small ones on the forward edge of the wing) are short and broad and picked out with a tan-colored drybrush that echoes the feathers on the Griffon's head. The secondary feathers (the big ones that make up the bulk of the wing) are medium-length and densely packed, providing all the surface area necessary for getting some air beneath them. And the primary feathers (the ones used for fine control) are long, broad, and fanned out at the ends of either wing -- ready to maneuver. The wings themselves are unfurled and seem to undulate upward in preparation for that first downstroke that will send the Griffon hurtling into the air in search of someone's horse.
Next month, you can start your Deathknell collection. I know that Rob's articles will keep posting between now and then, so you should get a good look at several more. (And it won't be long after release until the gallery of all of the Deathknell minis is posted.) Regardless, there are still a few minis that I'd like to pull out and show off. Now I just have to find someone that'll let me hang on to them.
March: Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand
If you've taken a look through Frostburn, you've got an idea of the kind of ground that's going to be covered in Sandstorm. As the second hardcover installation in the "Environment Series" of supplements for your favorite D&D game, Sandstorm offers up 224 pages of material focused on exploring (and, more importantly, surviving) deserts and other wastelands. Sandstorm is kinda like the Yang to Frostburn's Yin. Check out the back cover copy:
So, you've got an idea of what's in there, but just to give you a better idea of where the book is taking you (so you'll have enough water and appropriate clothing), I'll paste a bit from the beginning of Chapter One, which starts to explain a little about the Waste (akin to Frostfell environments in Frostburn):
And, just so you don't think that we've got a whole book dedicated to drudging through endless dunes of sand, where dehydration and lack of proper sunscreen are your most vicious enemies, here's a snippet from the book where the Waste really starts to feel D&D-ish: when you stumble into an area of the Waste created by supernatural means.
Just one of the many supernatural hazards you'll find listed in Chapter 1: The Waste is a terrible storm known as a Flaywind.
And, as a glimmer of hope, I've got a trio of new feats that your characters will find interesting and valuable (even outside of Waste environments). Check 'em out:
March: d20 Past
The d20 Modern Roleplaying Game gave you the ground rules for finding adventure in the modern world. d20 Menace Manual provided bad guys for you to fight and d20 Weapons Locker gave you the hardware with which to do it. Urban Arcana opened the door for charging your modern campaign with magic. d20 Future gave you the tools for creating any futuristic setting you could imagine.
And now, we have d20 Past. Jump in the wayback machine, set it for any time between Columbus setting foot in the Americas and the end of World War II, and you're ready to explore the world found on the 96 pages of this, the fifth supplement to the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. Check out the back cover copy:
Just 'cause you read about it in a history book doesn't mean that things are going to go down that way in your d20 Past campaign -- it's up to you (and your GM) to decide how much of your adventures are tied to your History 101 books. (Think about the Indiana Jones movies -- those are certainly set in a distinct historical era, with realistic timelines and technology, but who's to say whether there really was a Nazi plot to uncover the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail?) Check out this section from Chapter One that delves into this notion:
Inside d20 Past, you'll find three campaign models that each demonstrate how a fantastic element may be introduced to a d20 Past campaign to create the world of yesteryear you and your friends want to go about saving. You'll find weapons, equipment, and vehicles appropriate for the various time periods (and progress levels) presented in the book, along with a number of new monsters and sample NPCs ready to assist or thwart your most heroic efforts. And, you'll discover a handful of mini-adventures (two for each of the campaign models) that are ready for you to leap in and start making a name for yourself in the history books yet-to-be-written.
If you're familiar with Draconomicon and/or Libris Mortis, you've got a very good idea of the kind of thing you'll find inside Lords of Madness. But instead of dragons or undead, this time out you'll be learning more than you ever wanted to know about some of the most truly terrifying (and curious-to-categorize) creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons game: aberrations. I'll find something to show off next month, so until then, check out the back cover copy:
April: Races of Eberron
Yes, if you've flipped through Races of Stone, Races of the Wild, or Races of Destiny, you've seen the pattern that's forming here in the Race series of supplements. And Races of Eberron is no different -- it offers in-depth information about an array of character races that are well-suited to explore any D&D campaign. Take a look at the back cover copy:
Just 'cause it has the word "Eberron" on the cover doesn't mean that it is useful exclusively to those who run Eberron campaigns. While the four core races detailed in the books first appeared in the Eberron Campaign Setting, that doesn't mean they can't surface in Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, on Krynn, or in any homebrewed world you've got running on your gaming table. Of course, if you do run a game set in Eberron, you'll find the wealth of extra information about the various races invaluable for fleshing out your characters, villains, and the world from which they hail.
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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