Previews03/03/2005


In Like a Beholder, Out Like a Beholder
Previews for March and Beyond



Hey, what can I say? Deathknell goes on sale this month. I've got eye tyrants on the brain. And, if floating, eye-ray-shooting monsters hold any fascination for you, you'll want to stay tuned until next month, 'cause Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations is on the way, chock full of eyestalks, tentacles, and slime (among other oogy things.) "But surely there's more to D&D, and this month's In the Works/Previews column, than beholders," you say. "Well, yeah," I say. I just needed something interesting to talk about in my intro -- there's all kinds of stuff going on around here.

Check it out:

March: Deathknell Booster Packs

Remember how I mentioned that Deathknell is finally on sale this month? (It was just 112 words ago.) Well, when you're standing at the counter of your FLGS, impatiently waiting to purchase your first booster pack, you can daydream about what you might find inside when you start cracking those lovely little boxes open. If you need some help visualizing, you're in luck. Between this article, and the stuff thatRob Heinsoo posts over on the D&D Minis page, you've already got plenty of images to rattle around inside your noggin. But just in case you've got room for a few more, here you go:

Centaur Hero-- You'll probably remember the Centaur we got way back in the Harbinger expansion. He was a pretty cool mini, made a terrific NPC (particularly as a soft-spoken guardian-type that provided a party with information about a dangerous part of the forest or something), and could've been used as a character. But now, we've got the Centaur Hero -- he's action-packed, armed, armored, and aggressive. Where the Centaur seems well suited to an idyllic woodland glade, the Centaur Hero looks like he's more at home charging into battle (with Ride of the Valkyries playing over loudspeakers).Rearing up on his hind legs, this large, rare mini is pointing at some distant objective, directing his troops/companions to follow him as he takes off at a full gallop to get into the thick of things. His body has a white-on-black coloration (like a pinto horse), giving him a lot of character right from the get-go. His long hair at first glance may look like a mohawk, but when you take in the length of it, you quickly realize that it's a flowing mane (emphasizing the "horse-ness" of the centaur's nature, while giving it some attitude.) And this guy's all about attitude -- his face is confident and determined, spelling trouble for what- or whomever it is he's going after. The human portion of his body is clad in an interesting two-toned leather armor that's a dark reddish-brown and an interesting green tone (actually the green portions of the armor might be metal -- that color looks like the patina that forms on bronze or copper.) So, he's well protected (but not weighed down), and ready for battle. His left hand is brandishing a big, wavy-bladed bastard sword that's poised for a sweeping upward stroke as he rides by his first target. At his right hip/foreleg, he has a large quiver of arrows (sporting a couple nice, simple decorative elements) to go along with the longbow he has strapped to his back.

Zombie White Dragon -- A lot of folks were hoping to see an undead dragon in Deathknell, and here it is. Okay, you might've already seen this corpsified specimen of large draconic nastiness back in January when Rob included it in his Deathknell Preview 6 -- Dragons. (You might also recognize this poor fellah as the sample of the zombie dragon template presented on page 198 of the Draconomicon.) Even though you've gotten a chance to peek at this rare undead critter, I thought I'd point out some of the really cool detail you might not appreciate until you've got one in your hands. First off, the "White Dragon" part of the mini is accurately depicted, with the appropriate species-specific details (such as the sleek shape of its head, short snout, and single crest atop its skull). But, at some point, this snowbound predator met his match (probably at the hands of a group of well-armed folk.) You can see all the gashes, cuts, and rents in the armor and flesh that are scattered all over the White Zombie Dragon. And, considering most of those injuries are filled with a dark, blood red color, I'd imagine they're souvenirs from its final battle as a living, cold-breathing monster (seeing as zombies don't bleed.) You can't see it on this image, but on left side of the mini, just behind its front leg, a huge chunk of flesh had been removed (possibly by another predator) during that last battle as well, exposing a section of its ribcage. So, this poor dragon went through a lot. And then it was animated as a zombie. In its new capacity as an undead creature, the White Zombie Dragon must have been doing things right, 'cause it seems to have been around for quite a while. This is evidenced in the wear and tear that its body has sustained, but has been incapable of healing. One thing I noticed was that the mini has sections with details of scales and sections where it's smooth. That might just be an artistic thing with the sculpt, but I like to imagine that the nonscaly sections are smooth because the scales have been worn away over time. My favorite detail, though, is something you can see in the image, but might not realize that you're seeing it. (You're looking at it with a white background.) The webbing on the wings has been worn through in a number of places -- leaving a number of holes piercing the membrane and giving them a ragged and somewhat battle-worn appearance. One of the cool things about this undead dragon being an erstwhile white dragon is that its coloring makes it easy to imagine that you're dealing with a skeletal dragon (or even a dracolich), so you can use it over and over. (Be nice to your clerics.)

Goliath Barbarian -- If you're unfamiliar with goliaths, they were introduced as a new character race in Races of Stone. My pal Chris "Can I Play a Troll?" Thomasson, who did a little editing for that book, has been playing a goliath cleric for quite some time now and has been looking forward to the day we did a mini he could use in our Wednesday-night game. (Man, there's nothing like coming across a mini that's so well suited to your particular character. Of course, if Chris had his way, this big guy would be toting a large magic great club instead of that immense axe.) While goliaths are Medium, they're really pushing the upper limits of that category. (A normal human could probably fit inside a goliath as if it were an exoskeleton.) So, this rare mini does a fine job of presenting the powerful, burly humanoid race from the craggy mountaintops. His mottled gray skin ranges from a dusty light gray to a dark slate gray, and it is festooned with a number of hard bone-and-skin growths known as lithoderms. His eyes, peering out from under a heavy brow, are a vibrant sky blue that almost seems to glow. Secured with leather straps across his chest and back, the Goliath Barbarian's left shoulder and arm are protected by pieces of heavy metal armor. A long, thick, leather skirtlike garment protects him from the waist down, with armor-reinforced boots covering his feet. Gripped in his unquestionably powerful hands is a weapon that looks a little like the biggest headsman's axe you've ever seen on steroids. (But, it's not comically oversized -- it definitely suits this mini.) An interesting thing about the double-headed axe is that it's not symmetrical -- one side is a traditionally shaped convex axe head while the other side is a heavy, straight blade. (I wonder what it's for, but I wouldn't want my character to find out.)

Voice of Battle -- It's a bard. A nice, clean, straightforward (uncommon) mini that could easily join any group of heroes as the party's resident instrument-playing, spellcasting, lore-knowing, jack- (or jill-) of-all-trades. The Voice of Battle's face is set with a pleasant, knowing smile that suggests that she's calmly strolling into a troublesome situation, confident that she's about to handle the situation before her with stylish efficiency. And she's apparently going to do it with a combination of song and steel. Her right hand is reaching to draw the slim sword hanging on her left hip, while her left arm is pulling a long-necked mandolin out of a leather sling hanging on her back (a particularly nice detail that's just a cool touch -- I've never seen anything like it.) So, in addition to the magical and martial weapons, the Voice is ready for battle with a jerkinlike suit of leather armor and a pair of high leather boots. Right after the cool instrument sling, my favorite bardic detail on this mini is the party-colored outfit she's wearing underneath the leathers (with its red/white top and white/red bottom.)

Ashen Husk

March: Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand

Last month, I gave you back cover copy, a short description of the Waste, a look at one of the Supernatural Waste Hazards (Flaywind), and a trio of new feats that'll serve your characters inside the Waste as well as out. Since this 224-page second book in the "Environment Series" (following hot on the heels of Frostburn) goes on sale this month, I know that some other excerpts will be posting on the D&D main page.

Still, I thought I'd show you a small handful of other stuff from this hardcover Supplement of Survivalfor those of you who might be planning (or just want to be prepared) to trek out into the Waste. So, here's a sampling from Chapters Five and Six -- take a look.

Explorer

March: d20 Past

Last month, I also gave you the back cover copy for this one, along with some insight into how to approach a d20 Past campaign, and a very brief run-down of the sorts of things you'll find inside this 96-page supplement that lets you create a world of adventure in any historical era from the Renaissance to World War II.

Of course, since d20 Past goes on sale this month, we'll probably be posting an excerpt or something on the D&D main page. But, I figure that since you're here, you might be interested in discovering something interesting and new -- you might even fill the prerequisites to move into one of d20 Past's new advanced classes -- the Explorer.

Elder Orb

April: Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations

You saw back cover text for this one last month as well. And, like I said back then, Lords of Madness is the next in-depth, monster-scrutinizing book to come after Draconomicon and Libris Mortis.

Sadly, I don't have a whole lot on-hand to show you right now. But I thought I'd give you a look at the first big chunk of the introduction you'll find covering page four. Take a look!

And, since you might find a Beholder in one of your shiny new Deathknell booster packs, you'll want to get as much use out of it as possible -- you'll probably want to take a glance at a small section from Chapter 3: The Eye Tyrants to see all the different Beholder Variants.

Illithid Sorcerer

Chapter Four: The Illithids offers a wealth of information for you to cram into your tasty brain. Not the least of which is a mini adventure (complete with map) that pits your characters against a particularly unpleasant mind flayer (and all of his guardians, pets, and thralls.) I won't pass along any more information about the adventure than that, but I will offer up the terrific illustration of the antagonist.

I'll try to grab some more stuff for next month.

April: Races of Eberron

Back cover text. Last month. Check.

Races of Eberron is the latest addition to the "Race Series." (You know, like Races of Stone,Races of the Wild, and Races of Destiny.)And what that means is that inside its protective hardcover, you'll find 192 pages of character-building material suitable for any campaign in any campaign world.

In lieu of crunchy and or fluffy excerpts, I've got the introduction for you, along with the "What's In This Book" section, which gives you a short-and-to-the-point description of what you'll find in each of the book's nine chapters:

Dauntless adventurers arise from among the spirited races of the warforged, shifters, changelings, and kalashtar.

Introduction

Races of Eberron is a rules supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game. It is primarily a player resource focusing on new options and expanded rules for D&D players whose characters are shifters, changelings, kalashtar, or warforged. DMs can use this book as a resource for creating NPCs and adventures, either in the Eberron campaign setting or in any setting of their own creation that includes these unique and interesting races. This book also includes the basic descriptions of the races that it covers, making it possible to make and play characters of these races even if you don't own the Eberron Campaign Setting book.

WHAT IS A RACE OF EBERRON?

The four races described in the Eberron Campaign Setting -- the subtle changelings, the introspective kalashtar, the feral shifters, and the mighty warforged -- are all thoroughly described and fleshed out in this book, making them part of the core D&D experience in addition to preserving and accentuating the roles they play in the world of Eberron.

Why is Races of Eberron a core D&D supplement and not an Eberron-specific book? Changelings, kalashtar, shifters, and warforged are excellent additions to any D&D campaign, offering fun and unique play experiences and enriching any setting. However, players should check with their DMs before creating such characters, just to be sure they're valid options in the campaign. And, frankly, we're so pleased with these new races that we want all DMs and players to think about including them in their games.

WHAT'S IN THIS BOOK?

This book contains information for players and DMs, showcasing new options for characters and creatures with a connection to these races.

Warforged (Chapter 1): This chapter goes beyond the warforged description in Chapter 2 of theEberron Campaign Setting, detailing warforged psychology, with its emphasis on the strange mindset that these living constructs have, the limitations inherent in their recent creation, and many of their traditions and abilities. This chapter also discusses how to act and talk like a warforged and describes what it's like to spend time immersed in warforged culture.

Shifters (Chapter 2): Swift and feral humanoids with a trace of lycanthrope blood in their lineage, shifters can take on animalistic characteristics for a short time. In addition to the traditions, roleplaying advice, and descriptions of shifter attitudes that you'll find in this chapter, it includes four new shifter traits, providing even more options for this powerful race.

Changelings (Chapter 3): Chapter 3 delves into the difficulties of changeling life, highlighting the ways in which they deal with the distrust that others often show them. Changelings deal with their abilities and the mistrust they engender in remarkably diverse ways, and this chapter provides detailed advice on the ways that changelings express their abilities.

Kalashtar (Chapter 4): The thoughtful kalashtar fight an unending struggle against the dreaming dark and the forces of the Inspired. The kalashtar have developed powerful psionic and martial traditions, and many of these are discussed along with the race's description.

Other Races (Chapter 5): A mix of subraces and cultural write-ups appears here, and the humanoid races from the Player's Handbook are discussed in terms of their role and characteristics within the Eberron setting. Although this information might seem at first applicable only to an Eberron campaign, the traditions, customs, and roleplaying advice described in this chapter can be adapted to nearly any race, culture, or campaign.

Character Options (Chapter 6): This chapter offers new racial substitution levels and new feats for the races of Eberron. The new feat types introduced in the Eberron Campaign Setting for warforged and shifter characters are greatly expanded, and other feat choices designed for changelings, kalashtars, elves, dwarves, and the other races of Eberron abound.

Prestige Classes (Chapter 7): This chapter provides eight prestige classes, two for each of the main races described in this book.

Equipment (Chapter 8): Included here are magic items and exotic gear that enhance the abilities of the races described in this book.

Magic and Psionics (Chapter 9): The final chapter of Races of Eberron offers new arcane and divine spells, artificer infusions, and psionic powers.

And, if for no other reason, you should pick up this book just to look at this awesome piece of art crafted by Wayne Reynolds that you'll find inside.

May: Heroes of Battle

Okay, first things first -- the original title for this book was Battlefield Adventures. The title has changed, but the content hasn't. What players and DMs will find inside this 160-page hardcover is a pile of information for adventuring on and around battlefields (you know, like the kind that you might encounter when entire nations (or just goblin tribes) go to war. That is, you'll find all sorts of interesting and heroic activities for your characters to do in the thick of things -- the crucial actions that turn the tide of war.

(If you're looking for mass battle rules, by the way, you'll find those in the Miniatures Handbook.) Hey, you've got a whole good-guy army to fight the bad-guy army -- leave that to the armies (that's what they do.) Heroes of Battle is all about sending your characters on secret missions and accomplishing everything-hinges-on-this-one-thing objectives. I'm rambling into the realm of "makenosense." I'll find something to show you next month. Until then, check out the back cover copy:

Prepare for War

Great conflicts erupt between rival nations and threaten to sweep across entire continents. As armies clash in epic battles, the actions of a handful of bold heroes can turn the tide of war. Whether in the thick of combat or on a secret mission of dire importance, brave champions have an impact that echoes across the battlefield and resounds through the ages.

This supplement for the D&D game reveals the pivotal roles characters can play in the midst of great battles. With rules and options for creating or playing adventures on and around battlefields, Heroes of Battle plunges characters into wartime situations and challenges them with climactic battles of epic proportions.

May: Champions of Ruin

This is 160 pages of pure evil in the Realms. (Well, mostly evil with an unhealthy helping of moral ambiguity.) Players and DMs alike will find all kinds of information, guidelines, advice, and material tailored to creating characters, villains, and organizations that do not have the welfare of Faerûn in mind. Again, with little to show, I rely on the crutch that is the back cover copy:



Explore the Darker Side of the Realms

Every corner of Faerûn harbors its own sinister element. When opportunities arise, malevolent groups and nefarious individuals emerge from the shadows to make their infamous marks on the Realms. Within these pages, you will discover everything players and Dungeon Masters need to create the most evil organizations, treacherous villains, and morally ambiguous antiheroes to ever afflict the Forgotten Realms game setting.

  • 3 new races
  • Over 30 new spells
  • New feats and prestige classes

There it is.

Excerpts

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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