Previews06/02/2005


Here's What I've Got
Previews for June and Beyond



You know what you're here for -- a peek at what's coming out this month and what's on the way. And while it's always nice to get as much as possible into each one of these things, sometimes I just can't get quite as much material as any of us would like. But, I've got as much stuff collected for you as possible. Plus, the D&D Main Page (and D&D Miniatures Main Page) are constantly offering up interesting, informative, and useful things to keep you sated until I take another crack at this next month. All that said, I do have some cool stuff to show you this month. Check it out:

June: Dungeon Master's Guide II

Out this month, the DMG II offers Dungeon Masters (new and old) 288 pages of information, advice, guidelines, and ready-made resources that will help improve their games. (I'd describe a lot of the material you'll find in the DMGII as being the crunch you use to make fluff for your game -- rules that help you bring your world to life in interesting ways.)

Back in April, I gave you some back cover text. Last month, I passed along page four of the book, also known as the Introduction, along with a series of tables that I pretend demonstrated how you might use just a fraction of the resources you'll find inside this trove of game-building treasure.

This month, the book goes on sale. And while there's sure to be an excerpt or two popping up on the D&D homepage, I figured I'd show you one more slice of the nifty stuff you'll find inside when you pick up and flip through a copy at your favorite hobby shop or bookstore. Let's say your adventuring party is delving into subterranean tunnels and other tight spaces (like a kobold's lair, for example). Well, fighting critters on their home turf is more difficult when your character doesn't quite fit -- something you'll discover when scrambling through Restrictive Tunnels.

Restrictive Tunnels

Classic villains for lower-level characters include goblins, kobolds, and derro. These notorious races, despite their wildly different physical appearances and abilities, have one thing in common: their size. As Small creatures, they gain a bonus to their Armor Class and on attack rolls, but the advantages of being small needn't stop there. Out in the open, large groups of organized goblins, kobolds, or derro can be a menace, but in their lairs they can be outright deadly simply because the size of a comfortable home for them is a major inconvenience for most of their enemies.

Low ceiling tunnels don't just come into play when fighting goblinoids. Natural caverns often constrict down to narrow passageways and low ceilings; these areas make natural haunts for smaller creatures such as chokers and darkmantles. The reverse is also true. A group of Medium PCs can gain substantial advantages by luring a dragon or a giant into narrow confines.

Restrictive tunnels can impede movement in two ways; they can have low ceilings, forcing tall creatures to crouch or even crawl. They can also have narrow widths, forcing larger creatures to squeeze through tight openings.

Read more!

And that's just one of the more mundane, but extraordinarily useful, bits you'll find that will help you make encounters in various locations more interesting and challenging. (Imagine what the encounter between Gandalf and the Balrog would've been like if it'd taken place in a standard-issue 50-foot by 50-foot dungeon room.) You'll also find rules for doing battle upon a precarious rope bridge, navigating the hazards of a burning building, coping with a flooding dungeon, and more.

July: City of Splendors: Waterdeep

Get ready to explore this 160-page hardcover that examines the most famous city in all of Faerûn. Last month, I passed along the back cover text that'll appear on the back of this fine addition to your Forgotten Realms campaign. This month, I figured I'd explore a few of the interesting things you'll find inside, beginning with the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:


Introduction

Across Faerûn, the name "Waterdeep" evokes feelings of wonder, awe, and envy. Although it is not the largest city in the Realms, the City of Splendors is undoubtedly the most famous and most cosmopolitan metropolis on the continent of Faerûn. Having grown rich on a steady diet of trade and industry, this crossroads city combines the best aspects of many cultures into a marvelous shining jewel. Waterdeep's cultural patrimony is all of Faerûn, and its inhabitants are much richer for it.

The City of Splendors lies in the shadow of Mount Waterdeep on the shore of the best natural harbor along the Sword Coast. Undermountain, the greatest dungeon in all Faerûn, lies beneath the city's streets and sewers, and the untamed hinterlands of the Sword Coast beckon to those daring enough to seek their fortune.

Built on a plateau settled first by the elves of Illefarn and later honeycombed by the shield dwarves of Clan Melairkyn, the City of Splendors was founded by primitive Illuskan and Tethyrian settlers and heavily influenced by far-wandering Chondathan merchants. Today, Waterdeep remains a predominantly human city, although representatives of nearly every intelligent race make their home within its walls.

Waterdeep is home to haughty nobles, diligent craftsmen, scheming merchants, daring sailors, and bold adventurers of every stripe. It has always been a center of wealth and influence where those who dream of power, riches, or artistic fulfillment can come to to realize their aspirations.

It is also a city of fearsome dungeons.

Undermountain and the Dungeon of the Crypt promise untold riches and deadly monsters to those who dare their depths. Skullport, the Port of Shadow, beckons to those who seek illicit goods and dark dearlings. Ancient feuds divide Waterdeep's guilds and noble houses, and many factions seek to topple the secretive Lords of Waterdeep. The Arcane Brotherhood of neighboring Luskan seeks to weaken its hated rival to the south, while the Red Wizards of Thay hope to dominate Waterdeep's markets. The churches of Selûne and Shar use the City of Splendors as a battlefield in their eternal war, while countless mercenary groups come to the city to spend their hard-won earnings. The Shadow Thieves of Amn plot to overthrow the Lords who once drove them out of the city. Spies and mercenaries such as the Knights of the Shield and the Kraken Society spread rumors and steal closely held secrets, while agents of Skullport's Iron Ring prowl for slaves to abduct into the depths. All the while, the secretive Lords of Waterdeep strive to preserve the city's tolerant spirit, wise rule, and powerful magical tradition.

So, inside the book, you'll find a crazy amount of information about the city of Waterdeep. Chapter One delves into the History of the City of Splendors and provides a broad-but-detailed look at the city itself, touching on Who's Who, the culture and society of Waterdeep, the city defenses, and information that's particularly relevant to visitors (including roads, trade routes, magic portals, trade, research, and more.) Chapter Two introduces you to a staggering number of "people" in the city. That is, you'll find information about guilds, organizations, arcane schools, the city's various armed forces, its churches and other religious orders, fences, smugglers, and thieves guilds, noble families, monsters and other creatures that lair within the city, secret societies, sages, and the Lords of Waterdeep (amongst others.) Of course, you'll find brief descriptions of particular individuals, not detailed stat blocks, but enough information to allow introductions to be made. Take, for example, this character sketch of the figurehead ruler of the City of Splendors, Lord Piergeiron:

Piergeiron the Paladinson: Open Lord Piergeiron (LG male Tethyrian human paladin 17 [Tyr]) is a tall, muscular, handsome man of quiet confidence, poise, and patience. His hair is only slightly graying at the temples, despite his increasing years. The Paladinson speaks so seldom and slowly that he has acquired the nickname (never to his face) of "the Thickskull." Piergeiron is not stupid, but often pretends to be, so draw others out into admissions they might not make otherwise. The Paladinson is the son of Athar, "the Shining Knight," who was famed for slaying the great wyrm Kistarianth the Red.

Despite the many challenges of his tenure, Piergeiron has remained above reproach, ably administering the city and ensuring the rule of law. As such, the Paladinson is very safe from those who wish the city to flourish and a frequent target of attack by those who wish Waterdeep ill. Piergeiron dwells in the Palace of Waterdeep (C75), commonly known as Piergeiron's Palace, ever shadowed by his personal bodyguard, Madeiron Sunderstone (detailed elsewhere).

Piergeiron's wife Maethiira died in the Year of the Moonfall (1344 DR), and the couple had only one child. Aleena Paladinstar (LG female Tethyrian wizard 7/arcane devotee[PG] 4 [Tyr]) has been absent from the city for several years, having taken to planewalking to see new worlds. Some say she might someday succeed her father when his reign as Open Lord comes to an end.

Chapter Three provides access to a small handful of new prestige classes, including the Gray Hand Enforcer and Moon Star Agent. Chapter Four tours you through the various and sundry areas of Waterdeep, exploring each of the city's eight Wards (providing map location information for notable structures within each.) Chapter Five: Adventures in Waterdeep offers up a wealth of Things to Do for characters -- from dangerous sections of the city to the dungeons and sewers of the City of Splendors, the hazards to be found above and below the city streets are almost limitless. This is the section of the book that touches on the vast subterranean dangerfest known as Undermountain.

Return to Undermountain Web Feature

Hey, if you're headed into the City of Splendors, it wouldn't be surprising to discover some reason to head down into the infamous dungeon that lies beneath the streets of Waterdeep known as Undermountain. If that's the case, you should first explore the Return to Undermountain web feature crafted by the wily Matt Sernett.

Complete with an updated map you can download, (as a poster map or tiled out on letter-size paper), the Return to Undermountain web feature details various rooms throughout Level One the dungeon (a couple each month), giving you both a great resource and devious inspiration for fleshing out the rest of the treacherous chambers and passageways.

(Even if you're not kicking around the Forgotten Realms, you can certainly make use of this überdungeon. Matt even offers up a few thoughts about where you might encounter a location such as this if you were exploring Eberron or Greyhawk.)

Of course, in addition to all the monsters you'd encounter elsewhere, Waterdeep (and Chapter Six) is home to a handful of creatures your characters may not have encountered before. Chapter Seven rounds out the book with a number of new feats, magic items, and spells of which your characters will be interested in taking advantage.

This book traded places in the release schedule with Five Nations, so it goes on sale this month. That means you can look forward to another excerpt or two on the D&D Main page, as well as being able to find a copy at your FLGS to pick up and flip through.

June: d20 Apocalypse

This 92-page, soft-covered addition to your d20 Modern roleplaying game library opens up a postapocalyptic world of rules and options you need to create your own, unique, postapocalyptic world of adventure. Back in April, I passed along the back cover copy. Last month, I gave you a look at the introductory section of the book, which guides you through the various and sundry options you can explore (and mix-and-match) to lay the groundwork for your d20 Apocalypse game. (That is, several different ways the world as we know it could come to a devastating end, allowing your new campaign to flourish in the aftermath.)

This month, with the book going on sale, you'll probably be able to scrounge up an excerpt or two on the d20 Modern Main Page. But, just to help you in your quest, you might consider taking a few levels in the postapocalyptic prestige class known as the Salvager.

Salvager

The Salvager is a master scrounger, adept at finding long-lost treasures and useful items in the wastes of the apocalypse. He has an uncanny knack for locating items that others have overlooked, as well as being able to repair gear that appears too mangled to be worth anything. A Salvager can be a community's savior, finding goods needed for survival, or he might be a stingy merchant who sells his find to the highest bidder.

Select this advanced class if you want your character to excel at finding and making the most of useful goods among the dwindling resources of the postapocalyptic world.

Read more!

June: Angelfire Booster Packs

The Angelfire expansion hits the streets next month.

I showed you the Kobold Soldier, Imp, and Large Copper Dragon back in April. And you saw the Mounted Paladin, Dwarf Mercenary, and Barbed Devil here last month, (Of course, the lovely and talented Rob Heinsoo has been showing off Angelfire minis over on the D&D Minis page every Thursday for a while now.

Hezrou -- So, I know you already got a look at this guy back in May when Rob included it in his Angelfire Preview 1, Nonetheless, the Hezrou was on my list of minis to show off -- and so I shall. Summoned from pages 43 and 44 of the Monster Manual, this large, Rare outsider wades in on the Forces of Hell side of the Ultimate Battle that's brewing within the Angelfire expansion. The dark, green hide that covers most of this hulking demon seems thick and rubbery, particularly where it stretches across his chest (where the skin tone shifts to a dark gray.) Dark, featureless, black eyes scowl out from under a menacing brow, seeming to be focused on a space 10 feet away that's about where a human head might be. It's bad place for any kind of head, particularly because that meaty four-fingered fist on his upraised, beefy arm is clenched and ready to smash down on whatever species' noggin might be in the way. The Hezrou's squat, but powerful legs are widely spaced, providing extra stability, though he seems to have taken a small, shifting step forward with his right foot to get into a better position to smash the aforementioned melon. His wide mouth is filled with a row of sharklike, triangular teeth (which the Monster Manual reassuringly points out are blunt), more than up to the task of processing a Medium meal with efficiency. As you start to look around the Hezrou, particularly as you begin to spin him around, you quickly notice a lot of the more interesting details -- many of which are in the Monster Manual illustration. The curious coiling design on his left shoulder is distinctly picked out since the green skin is spiraling out over flesh with a dark, reddish tone -- perhaps this is where the Hezrou's hide has been flayed away to mark (or decorate) him -- like an insignia, brand, or demonic tribal scarification. You'll notice that same could-be-blood color in several other places around the Hezrou. The big, shoulder-mounted überspike is the most noticeable, and while it might simply be a hellishly asymmetrical physical feature, I wonder if it's not some sort of symbiont. (Look closely and you'll see the green orbs that might be eyes.) Interestingly, that kind of explanation could support the other occurrences of the reddish color, which are a collection of hoselike tubes that erupt from various locations, only to burrow back down into the Hezrou's body (though they could also be externalized veins and/or arteries). The tangle of tubes around his left elbow is the most noticeable, though there's a trio surfacing on his right forearm and a few individual tubes scattered around his back torso and legs. (There's even a bit of a biotech/cybernetic feel to these things. The most curious feature is what appears to be a belt pouch, fed (or drained) by one of those tubes, which is fixed directly to the Hezrou's back, just to the right of his spine -- somewhat near where a kidney might be. (Maybe it's there for medicinal purposes.) The last feature that stands out on this big guy is the rows of spines that run down his back. Big, impressive, curving, and hornlike, the primary row of spines erupts from the demon's back, running along his backbone. The secondary rows of spines run parallel along ridges that start at the back of the Hezrou's skull and continue back past its shoulderblades. Various divots and interesting cavities pockmark the Hezrou here and there, adding additional detail and interest to the mini.

Skeletal Archer -- I always love seeing Common minis of which I'll want a handful, and the Skeletal Archer is no exception. While I realize that this isn't the most intricate, hyper-detailed mini I've ever showed here, you can't deny the fact that it doesn't really need anything more to be exactly what it is -- an animated human skeleton armed with a bow. The elegant simplicity or the Skeletal Archer reminds me of the Warrior Skeleton from the Archfiends expansion. And the two of them together look like creatures you'd expect to see in a Ray Harryhausen film. (I'm specifically thinking of the sword-swinging skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts.) So, yeah, this is a nicely sculpted skeleton (the skull really is particularly well done) painted with what seems to be two steps -- a basecoat of a great bone color, and a light, reddish-brown wash to help pull out all the skeletal details. With a full quiver slung across his chest, the Skeletal Archer is ready to reload and fire his shortbow again and gain. (He seems to have just fired a shot.) And, just in case the arrows don't do the trick, he's got a longsword belted at his bony hip. Interestingly, like the Mounted Paladin you saw last month, the Skeletal Archer seems to be a left-hander as well. (At least when it comes to firing his bow -- the sword looks like it's for right-handed use, but could be drawn with the left, particularly if he held the scabbard with his other hand.) Ambidextrous or not, the Skeletal Archer is standing confidently (immune to fear effects, you know) and ready to continue peppering enemies with arrow after arrow after arrow like only a bow-wielding undead creature could do. And, he doesn't have to worry about the string hitting his arm -- man, that can hurt.

Elf Swashbuckler -- A strong candidate for use as a character's mini (or that of a specific cohort/villain), the (Uncommon) Elf Swashbuckler lunges into the Angelfire expansion as one of its earthly heroic-type minis. His leather armor looks well-traveled, with lighter areas where the dark brown dye has weathered a bit. The armor also seems to be festooned with a series of small pouches (six on his chest and one on his right thigh), which makes me think that it wouldn't be tough for this guy to multiclass into an arcane spellcaster as well. The leather armor is picked up again by the leather-covered bracer protecting the Elf Swashbuckler's right wrist. The bracer also serves to keep the billowing sleeve of his white shirt out of the way while at work. His bright, mid-toned green cape is very eye-catching (not a coincidence), and is also being held out of the way by his upraised left arm, which is thrown back for balance. I imagine that cape might also serve as an impromptu shield from time to time. That green cape makes the elf's long, yellow hair stand out all that much more. His slender, but strong facial features are confident and noble -- he seems very calm, nearly placid, in a way that makes him seem as if his latest challenge will require no more of his skill than a fencing dummy. Tight black leather pants and cuffed boots complete the ensemble (the mini I've got in front of me has black boots, by the way.) Compared to other elves, the Elf Swashbuckler is a little on the smallish side, which might explain his preference for being light and maneuverable. This size difference seems to be a stylistic choice rather than a scaling issue, because his rapier is about the right size for a medium-sized mini. Its silvery blade is tinged with a slight golden hue, which makes me think it's made of an interesting material, perhaps enchanted as well. Interestingly, if you set the Elf Swashbuckler 10 feet away from the Hezrou, they seem poised in the middle of battle, with the demon looking down the elf's blade as they each contemplate their next move.

July: Weapons of Legacy

Last month, I showed you the text that's going on the back of this 224-page hardcover, and it provides a wealth of material about magic weapons that have rich histories. This month, I've got a few nice chunks-o'-book for you to take a look at. Let us begin with a little section from the opening of Chapter 1: The Legacy, which gives you a firm grasp on what Weapons of Legacy is all about.


Chapter 1: The Legacy

After thousands of years of epic history over an infinite and expanding stage of worlds and planes, certain stories still resound with mythical significance. Of those, tales of mighty weapons, relics of exceptional power, and artifacts of previous civilizations are especially potent. Who doesn't thrill to the tale of Excalibur, the sword that can be drawn from the stone only by one worthy to rule? All shudder to think on the soul-drinking blade Stormbringer, and the price that its wielder must pay. So, too, do we read in awe of the One Ring, with its ability to confer on the wearer powers so vast that only those of already exceptional ability can unlock the ring's potential.

These are weapons of legacy. Many are items crafted in a long-ago age when legends walked the mortal world. These mighty tools have since been lost, secreted away, or destroyed, so that now they are no longer within the reach of mortals.

Perhaps they are still among us, but unrecognized as the mighty relics once hailed throughout the lands.

The world also holds new heroes, who are creating new legends and forging new items of legacy in their telling.

What Is a Weapon of Legacy?

"Weapon of legacy" describes all the items created using the rules in this book, even those that wouldn't normally be described as weapons (such as rings or shields). Usually, this book uses the more general term "item of legacy" or "legacy item."

An item of legacy has the capacity to grow in power as its wielder advances in level. In addition, it confers increasingly powerful special abilities on its wielder. That character might carry and treasure the same item over her entire career as a hero (or villain). Why not? As her own talents and abilities progress, so too do those of the legacy item, assuming the wielder takes the time to learn its complete history and awaken its quiescent power with the appropriate rituals.

As a player character, you could discover or inherit an item of legacy. Initially, it might seem like nothing more than a standard magic item. Only when you learn something of its past do you begin to understand that this object has untapped potential. By uncovering the item's full history, you can discover the keys that unlock the item's full power.

You might even found your own item of legacy. After all, the player characters are the epic heroes of a campaign, from which arise myths, relics, and weapons of legend. By founding an item of legacy, you gain some degree of control over its abilities, although how you wield it is in the hands of fate (and the Dungeon Master). See Chapter 4: Founding Legacies for more about this option.

Every item of legacy is distinct from the next, and each has its own unique story. Unearthing that story (or creating it, when founding an item of legacy) allows you to gain the full benefits of the item. For example, the story of Caladbolg, which appears only when a great hero has need of it, contrasts sharply with that of Stormchaser's Cudgel, whose heritage involves the murder of the weapon's original owner, Suldan Kabrel the giant slayer.

No matter what items of legacy you eventually discover or create, using such items entails a steep personal cost. The specifics are different for each item, but the costs are always substantial. You must consider the consequences before taking up a legacy item.

For most characters, these costs are well worth paying.

Here's basically how it works: Once a character has taken possession of an item of legacy, she must discover the secrets of its past. Each piece in the item's historical puzzle reveals a ritual to be performed by the item's wielder. As each ritual is successfully completed, the character gains a Legacy Feat that unlocks a portion of the item's powers. Over time, a character will slowly tap into the full extent of the item of legacy's power, most likely creating legendary stories of her own.

Chapter Two: Heroes of Legacy provides a number of new feats, spells, and a prestige class (the Legacy Champion) that will allow your character to gain even greater benefit from joining his fate with such a potent magic item.

Chapter Three: Items of Legacy reveals a trove of items that include swords, hammers, spears, bows, staves, gloves, and more (including a horn, nunchaku, and a whip.) While extensive, the list of items isn't exhaustive. Chapter Four: Founding Legacies provides information on how new items of legacy may be created (including a huge swath of powers and abilities your new item may exhibit). Chapter Five: Optional Rules offers several different ways in which you can use items of power in your campaign, including a way to convert standard magic items into items of legacy.

What better way to give you an idea of what your character may be wielding this summer (if all goes well with treasure division) than to reveal to you one of the items of legacy from Chapter Three? Behold, the exotic scimitar forged by an efreeti, enchanted by a djinni, and then lost in the sands of time: Desert Wind.

Desert Wind

This slender and graceful scimitar is crafted of shining steel, lustrous ivory, and polished gold. Its hilt is set with brilliant blue sapphires and fiery red rubies. At first glance, the weapon appears to be nothing more than a showpiece, a gaudy bit of belt-jewelry for a foppish noble. Closer examination, however, reveals the blade's perfect balance and keen edge, as well as a grip wrapped in wire -- it will not slip in a hand slick with sweat or blood.

Omen: When you grasp the hilt of this weapon, you feel a soft, warm breeze, scented with the smells of date palms and exotic spices, as though wafting from a desert bazaar. Only you feel this breeze, which might cause an occasional ripple in your clothing or through your hair. It has no other effect. The blade grows very hot when wielded in battle, glowing red or even white.

Read more!

July: Five Nations

So, this book slid on the release schedule from being a June release to a July release. Even so, I haven't received much of anything about the book, but I did give you the back cover copy for this book back in April. However, I couldn't get anything to show off last month, and I'm afraid that's still the case this month -- they're working right down to the wire on this one. But seeing as Five Nations goes on sale next month, you'll soon be able to pick it up and check it out for yourself.

If you're running an Eberron campaign, playing in one, or planning on doing either, you definitely want to have this 160-page hardcover on your shelf -- 'cause it's filled with information about the powerful nations that form the core of the continent of Khorvaire.

July:Deluxe Eberron Dungeon Master's Screen

I gave you back cover text from this thing last month. I mentioned that it would have some Eberron-specific material on the DM side. I told you that it'd come bundled with a full-color poster map of the continent of Khorviare. And I said a little something about the Wayne Reynolds artwork that'll appear on the front side. There's not much more I can add. Though, I can show you what that four-panels of player-side eye candy will look like.

August

This would normally be the point where I delve into the products coming out in August. Often, I'd just be passing along the back cover text. But I've not gotten hold of anything just yet, so we'll all have to relax and wait until next month. But just so you know what we're all waiting to see, I can offer up the product shots and links to the product catalog page. How'd that be?

August: Explorer's Handbook

August: Stormwrack

August: Deluxe Eberron Player Character Sheets

I'll have something for you next month. Really.

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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