Previews07/07/2005


Getting Caught Up
Previews for July and Beyond



So, I'm not even going to wax philosophic about this -- I've finally laid my hands on a pile of stuff to show off. After a couple months of less-than-I'd-like-to-show articles, I think this one should do a decent job of balancing things out. So, grab a beverage, some snacks, and a comfy chair, and check it out:

July: City of Splendors: Waterdeep

Just in case you're looking for City of Splendors: Waterdeep stuff ('cause it was originally supposed to release in July), I thought I'd let you know that you should run, don't walk, to your FLGS right now -- this 160-page hardcover of Faerûnian goodness went on sale last month. (It swapped places with Five Nations.)

Of course, that doesn't get you your excerpt fix right now. If you still want a little taste of City of Splendors: Waterdeep to hold you until you make it to your game store, try checking back on the D&D Main Page. And if that doesn't do it for you, you can always revisit last month's In the Works for a look at a section from the book's Introduction, a rundown of each chapter's content, and a taste of what an NPC character sketch is like (using Lord Piergeiron as the example.)

Okay. Enough of that living in the past. On to this month -- and beyond . . . yond . . . yond.

July: Angelfire Booster Packs

If Heaven doesn't want you and Hell's afraid you're going to take over, you're well-prepared to experiment with an assortment of warbands, playing on both sides of the extraplanar war between Good and Evil that's tearing its way out of Angelfire booster packs as they go on sale this month.

I started showing off Angelfire minis with the Kobold Soldier, Imp, and Large Copper Dragon back in April. I gave you a peek at the Mounted Paladin, Dwarf Mercenary, and Barbed Devil back in May. And you saw the Skeletal Archer, Elf Swashbuckler, and Hezrou 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. Some of them are the same minis I've got here; others are all his. And it's worth noting that his tantalizingly succinct write-ups skim the surface of what you can do with these pieces of plastic perfection when you bust 'em out in skirmish play.)

Efreeti -- (You might've already peeked at this guy in Rob's Angelfire Preview 4. Hey, he's still interesting enough to look at now.)As the poster child from the original (1st Edition) Dungeon Master's Guide, as well as the all-new Dungeon Master's Guide II, the Efreeti holds a special place in the world of iconic D&D monsters. So, it's good to finally have this Rare specimen to conjure forth onto the battlemat. Just topping 2-1/4 inches tall, the Efreeti isn't even standing at his full 12-foot height, since he seems to be rising up from an interdimensional portal obscured by thick plumes of billowing pyrotechnical smoke -- quite an entrance. His well-muscled, brick-red frame seems well up to the task of swinging that elegantly curved falchion, if he decides that's what's going to be needed this time around on the Material Plane. Clearly based on the illustration from his entry on page 115 of the Monster Manual, the Efreeti has assumed a more pensive and thoughtful pose (as opposed to the casual hanging-about-the-iron-flask stance he has in the book). His fiery (almost fluorescent) eyes peer out observantly at whatever it is that has grabbed his attention (perhaps whoever was bold or foolish enough to summon him here). And his right hand, cupped to his tusked mouth that seems to be turned up in a reservedly amused manner, makes him look like a bad poker player with a good hand. His flaming mane of hair (just as fiery as his eyes) has been pulled back, away from the whitened horns sprouting over his temples, and a black band/scrunchie binds it back into a ponytail that falls just down to his shoulderblades. His jewelry, straight from the illustration, is a fine collection of heavy, golden pieces of fairly simple design. The bracers and medallionlike buckles festooned on the chain hanging at his waist (another rests at the small of his back) have scrollwork ornamentation that seems to have been fashioned from wire. The narrow arm cuffs encircling his biceps have a simple alternating triangle design carved into their surface and the baldriclike chain slung around his torso is comprised of square links connected in such a way that they lay flat. He has a handful of hoop earrings piercing his pointy little ears. And there's the blue loincloth-ish, bikini-brief-type garment -- again as depicted in the Monster Manual illustration. I suppose it probably does get uncomfortably warm on the Elemental Plane of Fire -- perhaps even for the natives. And hey, any creature that shows up for a fight wearing nothing but gaudy jewelry and a Speedo certainly deserves some respect and maybe a little extra personal space. (At least 15 feet to stay out of his reach.)

Troll Slasher -- (Again, another of the minis Rob and I both wanted to show off for our own separate reasons. You'll find Rob's crunchy write-up in his Angelfire Preview 3.) At long last -- it's the new Troll we've all been waiting for. (Sure, an Ice Troll was in the Aberrations expansionand a Forest Troll was in Deathknell, but this is the first pureblood, plain, good, old-fashioned troll we've gotten to lay our green, rubbery, clawed hands on since the D&D Miniatures Game released almost two years ago with theHarbinger expansion.)With a face that only a mother could love (assuming the mother also looked like the illustration on page 248 of the Monster Manual), the Troll Slasher is the bigger meaner brother of the Harbinger Troll. He's almost a half inch taller than his predecessor (stance aside, he's just taller) and nearly twice as broad across his gnarly shoulders. His thick muscles are clearly defined under that thick, rubbery hide (which is a dark olive drab washed with black) Bright yellow eyes (like Mom's) peer out from under a brutish, but not entirely menacing brow. The classically pointed troll nose turns sharply downward and actually continues past his lower jaw (again, like the illustration). Bright white toothy fanglike teeth jut upward from a jaw that's set in underbite mode. His hair is a thick mass of ropey strands that have stopped growing just at the point where they reached a height that forms a flat top either Frankenstein's monster or Don King would find hauntingly familiar. (Though, the hair on the mini I'm looking at is the same color as the rest of the body -- the wash on the master paint [which is what you're looking at] is a little thicker up there on the coiffure, providing its dark appearance.) His legs and arms are speckled with cystlike bumps and his upper back is defined by a row of thick, knoblike protrusions on his spine. (None of those features break or discolor the skin, by the way.) With one gangly arm hanging at rest by his left knee and the other upraised in what feels like a slow, but powerful swipe at something that may not be quite within reach, this guy's not worried about whatever stumbled into the muck he calls home. If you're into counting, check out the digits on his hand. Three fingers and a thumb. Harbinger's Troll seems to have regenerated an extra set of digits to have four fingers and a thumb. Slowly stepping forward with one heavy, three-toed footfall at a time, the Troll Slasher's dirty burgundy loincloth not only complements his grimy skin tone, it also offers all the coverage any swamp-dweller could want without compromising comfort or mobility. So, how many Troll Slashers will be too many to pull from this set? No such thing, I'm thinking. And a good thing too, 'cause this guy's one of Angelfire's eight -- count 'em eight -- Large Uncommon minis. And seeing as you're going to get one Large Uncommon in every booster this time around, chances are pretty good that you won't have to wait long before assembling your first Troll Slasher gang. (Which may well be Chris "Can I play a Troll?" Thomasson's wildest dream come true.)

Orc Wolf Shaman -- Hey, new meat. So, the (Rare) Orc Wolf Shaman is pretty short when you compare him to the orc-head-taller Orc Savage from Deathknell, and the yet-even-taller Mountain Orc the Aberrations expansion. (Both seem to be fine candidates for kicking around with an orc shaman.) But, I suppose that makes sense -- if you're the runt of the litter in an orc horde, you'd better find a way to make yourself useful. What better way to get instant spooky power that makes the bigger, brawnier orcs stop picking on you and start protecting you than to look to your favorite animal totem and take up shamanism? And that brings me right away to my favorite part about the Orc Wolf Shaman -- his wolf pelt cloak. When you get the chance to turn this guy around, you'll see that the cloak was fashioned from the intact pelt -- including all four legs and tail -- of a gray wolf (gray with a dusting of white fur). And that erstwhile wolf, my friends, is the only dog you'll find in Angelfire. The hood of the cloak, constructed from the wolf's head (akin to the Crow Shaman's crow-headed cloak), is pulled down just over the Orc Wolf Shaman's furious red eyes. His toothy mouth is half open, probably in the middle of barking out an order or growling some sort of chanted incantation. Underneath the cloak, he's wearing what seems to be a banded suit of dark, ruddy leather armor. A pair of tan, leather pants and a rough leather apron protects his legs. His feet are shod in what appear to be some sort of short open-toed boots or sandals trimmed with a little more of that wolf's fur. Check out his left bicep there, and you'll see another nice shamanic touch to this guy. At first glance, I thought those might be a trio of bird skulls strung on a leather thong, but considering this guy's theme, they're probably dire wolf teeth -- either way, it's a great piece of adornment. Firmly clenched in the Shaman's upraised right hand is a metal disc adorned with a stylized lightning bolt, which I imagine might be some sort of talisman or magic item (though it could also be a badge or holy symbol of a recently dispatched adversary held aloft to demoralize any remaining enemies.) Joining the ranks of Angelfire's left-handed minis, the Orc Wolf Shaman is wielding a short sword that looks like it was based off some sort of medieval torture implement. (The tip of the sword curves back to form a hooklike point that seems suited to slitting open an abdomen of a prisoner.) The sword's hilt reminds me of a World War I trench knife, with a set of brass knuckles incorporated into the grip. And the way he is holding the sword, it looks like he's prepared to try out a short, quick, backhanded slash on a captive/sacrifice.

July: Weapons of Legacy

Back in May, I revealed the text that's going on the back of this 224-page hardcover that passes itself off as a book, but is actually a treasure trove of powerful magic items, all of which have interesting backgrounds and rich histories. (As attractive as toting around a +5 flaming sword might be, it's much more interesting to be the wielder of Durindana, the legendary longsword/reliquary consecrated to undead-hunting followers of Pelor.

Last month, I showed you a big block of text from the introduction, a quick rundown of the content of each of the book's five chapters, and a look at one of the items of legacy, a scimitar known asDesert Wind.

This month, I thought I'd show off one of the items of legacy that's not a weapon. Try on, for size, a pair of enchanted leather gloves any rogue, bard, or other stealthy/sneaky character would find invaluable -- Ghostfolly's Gloves.

Ghostfolly's Gloves

The wearer of Ghostfolly's Gloves is superbly garbed for missions of infiltration. Ghostfolly's Gloves are a pair of fine gloves crafted from studded leather. The garments are long, covering the wearer's entire forearm, and they were made from the skin of a great hart.

Omen: The gloves always stylishly match whatever you're wearing, and they don't leave marks on anything you touch.

Learn more about Ghostfolly's Gloves in this extended excerpt.

July: Five Nations

Originally scheduled for a June release, this 160-page hardcover traded places with City of Splendors: Waterdeep.

But here it is, July, and Five Nations is ready and able to help you and your adventurous companions explore, thrive, and survive the challenges and opportunities that await within the powerful nations that form the heart of the continent of Khorvaire.

You saw the back cover copy for this book way back in April, but I couldn't get anything to show you until this month. (Of course, since Five Nations goes on sale this month, you'll find an excerpt or two popping up on the D&D Main page, and you can pick up a copy and check it out for yourself.) But, like I said, I couldn't show you anything until this month. So, let's get on with the bean-spilling already.

Introduction

The humans of the Five Nations, from left to right: a cleric of the Silver Flame from Thrane, a fighter from Karrnath, a wizard from Aundair, a sorcerer from Breland, and a bard from Cyre

"The Five Nations refers to the ancient kingdom of Galifar, harkening back to a legendary time of peace and prosperity."

Once the great kingdom of Galifar stretched across the continent of Khorvaire, providing the stability needed for peace and prosperity to reign over the land. That all changed when the last king of Galifar, Jarot, died in 894 YK. His children, the lords of the Five Nations that comprised the kingdom, decided to break with tradition and throw off the rules of succession. Instead of a smooth transition of power to the eldest scion, the five lords each sought to take control of the kingdom. This led to the terrible, century-long conflict known as the Last War.

Over the course of the last hundred years, the character of each of the Five Nations changed and developed. Today, while each of the Five Nations obviously has its roots in the great kingdom of Galifar, each has grown into a separate nation with a character and outlook all its own.

During the war, alliances formed and were broken countless times. At some point during the century, each of the Five Nations fought side by side or against each other -- and in many cases these patterns were reversed time and time again as the conflict progressed.

Now, though the Last War has ended and the Treaty of Thronehold promotes peace across the land, conflict continues to bubble below the surface of everyday life. Within the Five Nations, words of peace fill the air and hands of friendship extend across the borders even as various power groups secretly engage in endless intrigue and espionage, and those touched by the war struggle with mixed emotions of hatred, loss, relief, and revenge.

Chapter 1: Aundair ........................ 13
Postwar Aundair ............................ 14
Royals of Aundair ......................... 14
Roleplaying an Aundairian .............. 14
Aundairian Style ........................... 16
Plots and Factions ......................... 17
The Triumvirate ........................ 17
Mosaic Committee .................... 19
Dust Motes ............................. 20
Foreign Relations ........................... 20
Notable Aundairians ....................... 21
Queen Aurala ........................... 21
Prince Jurian ............................. 23
Margana Corleis ........................ 23
Royal Eyes of Aundair ..................... 24
Adventures in Aundair .................... 29
Fairhaven ................................. 29
Whisper Rock ........................... 33
Crying Fields ............................ 35
Floating Towers of Arcanix ......... 37
Prestige Class: Knight Phantom ........ 41
Dragonhawk ................................. 45

The Last War is over, but the current peace is nothing more than a prelude to the war to come. The Treaty of Thronehold didn't do enough to address the abundance of grievances, slights, pain, and fundamental disagreements that developed or were compounded during the century of war. The kingdom of Galifar was born in war, and it died in war. During this calm, the Five Nations work to gain every advantage so that -- individually at least -- they can weather the coming storm.

Most adventurers active in the land were born during the Last War, shaped and defined not only by this terrible conflict, but by the traditions and attitudes of the nations in which they were raised. Many fought in the Last War, either for national pride or for plunder and profit. Today, they must reevaluate the course of their lives and learn to work with or at least tolerate adventurers that hail from nations they once fought against.

Using This Book

Five Nations presents detailed information on the major countries that occupy the central region of Khorvaire -- Aundair, Breland, Karrnath, Thrane, and the Mournland, the area that used to be the nation of Cyre. It is an invaluable resource for anyone playing in or running an Eberron campaign.

Players will discover details about the nations their characters hail from or adventure in, as well as new options for spells, equipment, and prestige classes, among other things. Dungeon Masters will find all kinds of campaign hooks, adventure ideas, and a wealth of details to help their adventures in these regions come alive.

For those playing in any other Dungeons & Dragons campaign, these five regions can be easily modified to drop into any setting. Don't pass on all these great ideas just because you're not using the Eberron setting.

Each of the Five Nations are explored in detail, providing all kinds of information, background, flavor, and other material that both Dungeon Masters and players can find extremely useful and helpful. (Though, players have to use some restraint when thumbing through each chapter and resist the urge to read too much about NPCs, adventures, and so on. Or at the very least, players should engage their player/character knowledge filters) Just to give you a quick idea of the wide array of information covered in each nation's chapter, here's the table of contents from the chapter covering the nation of Aundair.

Amid the exhaustive amount of information packed into each chapter, you'll find a number of boxed sidebars that provide succinct nuggets-o-flavor that will really help characters on both sides of the screen to identify themselves more closely with their home nation. Here's a sampling of a few of the helpful sidebars you'll find throughout the book; one comes from each nation's chapter.

Aundairian Views on the Five Nations

Arwyn Clearwater, an Aundairian farmer, gives her opinions about the Five Nations.

Aundair: "We may fight among ourselves, but I'll gladly follow another Aundairian before I'll surrender to an invader. I was born here, and I'll die here, if that's what it takes to defend my land."

Breland: "Sharn's only one small part of their country, no matter what the Brelish may believe. Those arrogant braggarts think they're the center of the world, but they still send their merchants to us for food and wine. I've talked to some who say the Brelish would have won the Last War if they kept fighting. I don't believe that for a second, since I know Aundair would have never surrendered. Queen Aurala, maybe, but not me and my neighbors."

Cyre: "Kind of moot, isn't it? I heard the Cyrans who survived are all Brelish now. I don't know whether it was their own fault or someone else's, and to be honest, I don't care. We survived the war, they didn't, and that's what's important."

Karrnath: "No country that refuses to let its dead rest in peace is worthy of respect. Oh, they fight well enough, and they make a mean wheel of cheese and a hearty mug of ale, but they use skeletons and zombies to fight their battles. It's a dark and strange land to be sure, and such a land breeds dark and strange people."

Thrane: "I prefer my religion on the side, not running the country. The people of Thrane are fanatics. . . ."

Breland at a Glance

Data based on parliamentary census records, 997 YK.

Population: 3.7 million
Area: 1,800,000 square miles
Sovereign: Boranel ir'Wynarn
Capital: Wroat
Major Cities: Sharn, Starilaskur, Galethspyre, Xandrar
Climate: Temperate in the north, tropical in the south
Highest Point: Erix Peak in the Blackcaps Range, elevation 13,256
Heraldry: A roaring bear surrounded by gold wyverns on a crimson shield
Founder: Wroann, fifth scion of King Jarot
National Motto: "We gain what we give."

Five Things Every Cyran Knows

1. Where they were on the Day of Mourning. No Cyran will ever forget that terrible day and how they survived as so many others did not. "Tomorrow in Cyre" has become an expression of hope, a reflection of sadness, and a promise to win back what has been lost.

2. Some form of artistic expression. Cyrans are artists to their core, whether that art takes the form of drawing, painting, sculpture, song, or arcane spell. Cyrans love to experiment with art, pushing the borders and shocking others with just how far they will go to advance the form.

3. The Cyran appreciation. This philosophy and lifestyle promotes the appreciation of beauty and magic in avant-garde and unconventional ways.

4. What happened on the Day of Mourning. Every Cyran knows what happened on the Day of Mourning and who caused it. They know. And every Cyran will tell you a different version of the events. An accident, a deliberate attack, a cowardly act of terrorism, an act of nature, a punishment from the gods -- these are just some of the explanations that Cyrans share in their homes and in taverns.

5. How to perform a Cyran tago. This highly charged form of dance that has been described as frenetic, movingly beautiful, and extremely erotic, is the birthright of every son and daughter of Cyre. It is taught at a young age and perfected at social events throughout a Cyran's life. No Cyran performs the tago badly, and some perform it with exquisite grace and precision.

Karrnath and the Undead

Early in the Last War, plague- and famine-ravaged Karrnath resorted to using undead soldiers in its army -- a desperate decision that might have saved Karrnath from utter ruin. Even today, Karrnath keeps undead legions to defend its borders and to use in case hostilities resume.

Karrnath is not, however, a place where the undead are integrated into society (unlike Aerenal, for example, where the undead and the living coexist). During the Last War, the undead formed separate military units from Karrnath's living soldiers, and only rarely performed in joint operations. Today, the legions of undead remain hidden, both from the average citizen and the eyes of the other nations. A relative few Karrnathi skeleton and zombie troops patrol the borders and serve as special guards in Korth and Atur, usually at facilities tied to the crown.

The average Karrn finds the intelligent undead to be at best creepy and at worst completely terrifying. Karrnathi soldiers have better tolerance, but few want to socialize with the undead. Everyone appreciates the role that the undead play in defending Karrnath, however, and the typical soldier feels a sense of pride in knowing that he or she can continue to protect the nation even after death.

Thrane Speech

The following turns of phrase are uniquely Thrane.

"Crooked!" An expletive, similar to "drat!"

"Flame forgive me." An expression usually preceding or following a nasty curse or insult.

"What filth!" An expression of discontent or an indication of nonsense, similar to "hogwash!"

One last bit I'll show you is a look at one of the staggeringly detailed prestige classes you'll find inside Five Nations. (There's one for each of the nations.) Continuing with the trend that began inside the Eberron Campaign Setting, the prestige classes offered up inside Five Nations have been carefully constructed to give them a look and feel that's specifically at home in an Eberron campaign. (Not that you couldn't adapt them to another campaign world; they're just tailor-made for Eberron.) That said, take a look at the prestige class that came into being with the destruction of the nation of Cyre. The Day of Mourning not only heralded the creation of the devastated landscape known as the Mournland, but it gave rise to a number of vindictive patriots that proudly wear the mantle of "Cyran Avenger."

Prestige Class: Cyran Avenger

"Everything I love has been destroyed. All that's left is my revenge."

-- Mirasandra ir'Thavar, a Cyran avenger

Cyran avengers remember where they were and what they were doing on the Day of Mourning -- the day their nation was destroyed. A few bore witness to the cataclysm firsthand and were driven from their homeland by rolling clouds of dead-gray mist. Others were fighting battles on foreign soil that day and escaped the devastation. They have spent the past four years piecing together their shattered lives and coming to grips with the loss of friends and family. Now, these vindictive survivors seek to uncover the cause of the cataclysm and avenge their people against the architects of the Mournland. Cyran avengers also harbor lingering animosity toward those who threatened or betrayed Cyre during the Last War, and they struggle daily to harness or put aside this hatred. They refuse to believe that Cyre had any hand in its own destruction or that the Cyran people should be unduly punished while the remaining Five Nations enjoy the peace afforded by the Treaty of Thronehold.

Learn more about the Cyran avenger prestige class in this extended excerpt.

The entry for the Cyran avenger prestige class concludes with a stat block detailing Magdalora ir'Thavar (a self-contained CR 9 encounter). Depending on the makeup of your particular adventuring party, she could be an invaluable ally, helpful source of information, or a particularly vexing nemesis.

All that said, since Five Nations goes on sale this month, you can pick up a copy to flip through on your own. And you can probably expect to see an excerpt or two popping up on the Eberron main page.

July:Deluxe Eberron Dungeon Master's Screen

Hey, if you're reading this, you've probably got a good idea what the Deluxe Eberron Dungeon Master's Screen is. It's a DM screen. (Four panels, landscape format.) It has Eberron-flavored art on the frontside (which you should've peeked at last month).The DM-side guts are standard-issue charts and tables, with a few Eberron-specific bits worked in there. And bundled along with the screen is a full-color poster map of Khorvaire, which DMs and players alike will enjoy having on-hand (or on the wall.) That's it. If you're playing in an Eberron game, or are gearing up for one, check it out. (If you're curious about the back cover text, it was the very last tidbit I passed along back in May.)

August: Stormwrack

First there wasFrostburn: Mastering the Perils of Ice and Snow.Then came Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand. Now, your characters and campaigns can prepare themselves to take on the dangers of the deep in adventures above and below the sea -- with a little help from the latest addition to the Environment Series: Stormwrack: Mastering the Perils of Wind and Wave. The water-resistant hardcover of this D&D supplement contains 224 water-absorbent pages that offer a full range of character- and campaign-building options that can greatly expand any D&D game by opening up watery realms of all shapes and sizes. Take a look at the text from the back of the book:

Conquer the Maelstrom

Sometimes an adventure takes an aquatic turn. You might find yourself exploring an ancient city lost beneath the waves, navigating an underground river plagued by monsters, plotting a course to some stormwracked isle, or battling pirates on the high seas. Well, fear not, brave adventurer. Here is your guide to overcoming such perils.

This supplement examines various marine environments, from flooded dungeons and subterranean seas to mystical islands and the gloomy deep. It provides rules for adapting to, navigating through, and surviving hazardous seaborne, underwater, and stormwracked conditions. This book also includes new character options (races, spells, psionic powers, feats, and prestige classes), magic items and monsters associated with seas and storms, adventure sites, and a narrative ship-to-ship combat system.

Here are a couple paragraphs taken from the Introduction section of the book, which give you an even more detailed idea of what you'll find inside as you continue your briny voyage.

Terrible sea demons guard great treasures in the vaults of drowned cities. Sahuagin warbands terrorize the towns and villages of the coast. Malevolent wizards lurk on distant islands, leaving the wretched spawn of their experiments to prey on any who pass near. Bold explorers roam the seas in search of new lands and marvels never before seen by human eyes, while cruel pirates plunder their way across the watery divides. Deadly aberrations lurk in the ebon seas of the underground realm, and swift, lightless rivers cascade down through dungeon chasms into unimaginable depths below.

Stormwrack examines the perils and wonders of maelstrom adventures -- that is, adventuring on or in the water, from ocean-spanning voyages to quests across the seas of the Outer Planes. A Dungeons & Dragons game can embrace anything from exploring the dark depths of an underground lake or rafting down a jungle river to magical journeys into the lightless deeps of the ocean. Stormwrack is not just a book about sailing ships and seafaring campaigns but also about the hazards and challenges of watery environments that adventures are likely to encounter in caves, dungeons, rivers, and even other planes.

Chapter One: Into the Maelstrom dives into a wide number of subjects including the variety of adventures and environments in which waterborne hazards may be encountered, information about those hazards and other perils of the sea, marine (and other submerged) terrain, and material useful to adventurers setting out on a voyage.

Sibi alin Zakor, a sea witch

Chapter Two delves into the Races of the Sea, introducing three new seafaring races (the aventi, darfellan, and hadozee) as well as aquatic elves, a handful of seafaring subraces and cultures (including seacliff dwarves and shoal halflings).

Chapter Three wades into various class options for characters who are adapted to or specialized in seafaring environments, including a smattering of 5- and 10-level prestige classes (such as the leviathan hunter and sea witch.)

Chapter Four skims the skills and feats section of character building, offering alternate and expanded uses for a variety of skills as well as a couple dozen feats specifically tailored to characters who spend a lot of time in or around the water.

Chapter Five: Ships and Equipment sets afloat a number of vessels (with maps), shipboard weaponry, armor (that won't make you sink like a lead weight), weapons , and equipment -- all of which would be particularly useful, handy, or common amongst those who sail or swim the seas.

Chapter Six launches a flotilla of spells and magic items. You'll find four new cleric domains (Blackwater, Ocean, Seafolk, and Storm), along with spells for your seafaring bard, cleric, druid, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, and wizard characters (including a few epic spells). Those characters who can't take their minds off the briny blue will love the handful of new psionic powers. Special materials and special abilities start off the weapons and armor section, which is followed by a haul of wondrous items that any buccaneer would be keen to find.

Thar be monsters in Chapter Seven. A good number of them to be sure, including the amphibious template, character races, a number of animals, and guidelines for adapting water-based creatures to more landlubbing environs. Surely nobody who plays D&D ever thought it would be safe to go into the water. With over two-dozen more sources of XP swimming around (in both salt- and freshwater), there's even more reason to make you want a bigger boat.

One last bit -- my favorite illustration in the book is one that will be somewhat familiar to those who've been rolling dice for a while now. While revisiting a scene that has appeared in each edition of the D&D game (all the way back to a black-and-white illustration in the 1st edition DMG), this illustration drives home the notion that water doesn't have to be terribly deep to pose a real threat to any character -- even an iconic paladin.

August: Explorer's Handbook

If you're interested in trekking across the world of Eberron, take a look at the Explorer's Handbook. This 160-page hardcover offers a wealth of information for both players and Dungeon Masters alike. (Players should try to resist venturing beyond the first 75 pages of the book -- the second half of this tome is a realm of DM-centric material.) But I'm ahead of myself. Here's the text from the back of the book.



Fortune Favors the Bold

Eberron holds many wonders beyond the soaring spires of Sharn. Explorers who chase distant horizons might find themselves infiltrating the demon-haunted city of Ashtakala, prowling the jungles of Xen'drik, snatching relics from the City of the Dead, or invading a dragon observatory in the mountains of Argonnessen. The secrets of an entire world are within your reach, but be warned: Glory and peril walk hand in hand, and a journey's end can come sooner than you think.

This book gives players everything they need to explore the many continents of Eberron, including modes of travel, exploring tips, and rules for joining organizations such as the prestigious Wayfinder Foundation. For DMs, the book describes several likely "launching pads" and destinations, complete with maps, ready-to-play encounters, and pregenerated NPCs. Explorer's Handbook also provides rules and maps for various modes of transport, including lightning rail coaches and elemental-bound vessels.

So, you're ready to take off and explore the vast, expansive world of Eberron. Chapter One: Travel deals with the "Why are we going?" and "How are we getting there?" portion of your expedition. You'll find information, guidelines, advice, and direction for really immersing your characters in the world of Eberron. After all, when you're adventuring around a multicontinental word, replete with distinct regions, cultures, and indigenous folk (and monsters), half of the fun -- and a decent amount of the XP -- comes from Getting There. There's even a nice section that discusses a number of in-game reasons your characters might not make use of the teleport spell, even when they have access to it. (Expedient, yes. Exciting, not so much.) You'll find information about the dragonmarked houses that are most relevant to travelers (Lyrandar and Orien) as well as important tips on making use of their varied services.

Page 18 contains a table that details the cost of various forms of transportation, from a passenger's fare aboard an airship (which is 1 gp/mile, traveling 20 mph, covering 480 miles a day) to the cost of shipping cargo aboard the Lightning Rail (which will run you 5 cp/mile/100 pounds at a speed of 30 mph traveling a total of 720 miles a day) to the expense of chartering a wind galleon (for 750 gp, traveling 20 mph, for a total of 480 miles each day) to the luxury of procuring your very own Lyrandar sailing ship (which crosses 144 miles a day at a rate of 6 mph) for the reasonable sum of 18,000 gp. Each mode of travel is also described with details such as who might have access to such vehicles/creatures.

Travel on the lightning rail is illuminated further by tables that detail the distances between each of the stations along the three main lines that survived the Last War. In addition to the distance from each of the lines' main station (details on the Western line, for example, are based off travel to and from Sharn), the tables also provide the distance and time from each subsequent stop along the route. Schoolchildren across Eberron may now calculate word problems that begin with "A train leaves Wroat traveling 30 miles per hour . . ."

Chapter One is polished off with a couple more pages festooned with information and a long table that will be of more use to you DMs out there -- a rundown of the various basic combat-related encounters into which travelers might be swept up, and a lengthy table filled with interesting descriptions of Mysterious Travelers. (These could be merely window dressing, interesting side-treks, contacts, or new adventure hooks waiting to happen.)

Chapter Two: Tools of the Trade provides an amazing amount of detail about the very-Eberron-ish elemental vessels. (My favorite bit is a beefy sidebar entitled "How to Survive a Crashing Airship.") Once you're past all the information about bound elementals and airships (including a sample ship, complete with map), you'll get to the section detailing travel along the lightning rail. Not only does it include a map, but you'll also find all kinds of information about the various insane things you and your companions can attempt to do whilst engaged in battle aboard the thing. (You know, like climbing onto the roof and detaching carts -- stuff like that.) The chapter goes on to highlight the other predominant modes of travel, including stormships, undersea ships, wind galleons, sea galleons, sea ships, and Orien coaches. You'll also find information about international travel (including traveling papers and forged traveling papers), border guards, and a sidebar that will help you and your unfortunate companions understand "How to Survive Slavery in Darrguun."

Chapter Two then moves on to describe other things useful to outward-bound folk, such as explorer's marks (which help guide travelers to fresh water, steer them clear of hostile natives, and other hazards) and a pair of organizations -- the Wayfinder Foundation and The Twelve's Acquisitions Directorate (including information about joining and the benefits derived from membership). DMs will gain additional benefit from this section's sample NPCs, adventure ideas, and table covering the results of expeditions, in case characters opt to invest in funding one of the Foundation's endeavors) Chapter Two is rounded out by three new prestige classes -- the cataclysm mage, thunder guide, and windwright captain.

Players, this is where your page-turning should probably end. Dungeon Masters, your trek through the Explorer's Handbook has scarcely begun. The last three chapters of the book detail, in turn, points of origin, midpoints, and destinations for those intrepid adventurers you have sitting on the edges of their seats around your gaming table. Here's a short paragraph from the beginning of Chapter Three that gives you an idea of why and what you'll be poring over for the remainder of the book:

Like all good stories, adventures have three phases: beginning, middle, and end. The beginning phase deals with the starting-off point -- a port of call, a meeting place, a secret hideout -- all which can be summed up as the place where the adventure hook is well and truly set. It is the place where the characters commit to their course of action and from which the events to come spring. This initial location is called the point of origin, and typically serves as a base of operations for the characters throughout the travails and triumphs to come.

And, just to give you a taste of what's in store, here's the rundown of the four points of origin detailed (with descriptions, sample NPCs, adventure ideas, and a few maps) in Chapter Three:

This chapter provides four different points of origin for use in Eberron campaigns.

Stormhome Docking Tower: The pride of House Lyrandar is a hub for airship travel, allowing characters access to a wide range of destinations.

Lightning Rail Station: The station described here is typical of stations across Khorvaire and can be either the first stop before adventure calls or the last stop before leaving civilization.

The Crimson Ship: This mysterious galleon can travel anywhere the characters wish, but the toll required might be more than they bargained for.

Glitterdust Nightclub: The launching point for countless expeditions and adventures, enticing its patrons into one last night of revelry before they leave the known world behind.

Chapter Four: Midpoints offers four very different locations that serve quite well as interesting places in which characters can explore and discover information and the impetus to continue ever farther along their arduous path. I won't divulge any details about those locations, but I will pass along some of the opening paragraphs to the chapter, which will help to explain the idea and intent behind midpoints.

Midpoints are places of mystery: lonely obelisks on blasted heaths, stone vaults overgrown with jungle creepers, and abandoned mines filled with shrieks and howls. Dungeon Masters can use midpoints to draw characters further into the world with intriguing NPCs, thrilling danger, and the promise of great reward. The best midpoints advance the action of an adventure, raise the stakes of the plot, and offer a few answers while bringing up even more questions.

In an exploration adventure (or campaign), the ideal story arc might go something like this: At a point of origin, the characters learn of a danger they must address. They proceed to the midpoint, where they dodge lethal traps and fight terrible monsters, only to learn that the situation is far worse than they feared. Finally, after returning to their point of origin to rest and gather aid, the characters press on to the destination for the climactic battle against evil.

Midpoints are more threatening, challenging, and dangerous than points of origin. At a nightclub in Sharn, a character is likely to lose nothing more than gold and, perhaps, some dignity; at a barbarian village in Seren, the same character could be slain in an instant under a hail of savage spears.

An encounter at a midpoint usually offers some sort of reward. In some cases, the reward is gold and magic, while in other cases, the reward is political or a granted ability related to the history of the place.

Chapter Five: Destinations provides a number of different places at which your characters will find closure (of one sort or another) for a particular storyline. These ultimate locations serve as the backdrop for the dramatic final scenes of your most exciting, climactic adventures -- the big, nasty battles that inevitably produce the "war stories" characters and players alike will sit around rehashing for years to come. You'll find sample NPCs, monsters, maps, adventure ideas, and more throughout the Destinations Chapter. Just to complete the tour, here's a short chunk from the beginning of this chapter as well:

Unlike the points of origin and midpoints discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, destinations are meant to be explored only once. These are the places about which you'll later tell tales around the campfire or in the lecture hall. Usually remote or completely hidden, adventure destinations offer dangers as great as their rewards.

Whether you risk the trackless jungles of Xen'drik or the subtle machinations of the Lords of Dust, destinations are ultimately what your adventures are all about.

This chapter describes ten destinations -- enough exploration opportunities to last a long time . . . perhaps a lifetime.

Of course, once you've dragged your characters all across Eberron, through all sorts of travel and travail, you're sure to end up with more than a pile of XP and a few odd trinkets. By the time you've overcome everything the world and your DM has to throw at you -- this time -- you might be fortunate enough to limp away with something from the Appendix: Ancient Treasures, which includes a trove of antiquities from the hobgoblin Dhakaani Empire and the giant civilization of Xen'drik. Which would you rather have? A ring of protection +3 or the tunic of Thurrinak +2?

August: Deluxe Eberron Player Character Sheets

Like the Deluxe Eberron Dungeon Master's Screen, this one's fairly straightforward -- it's a folder filled with character sheets tailored for PCs trekking across the world of Eberron. But, wait -- there's more. (And most importantly -- it's a lot of stuff that non-Eberron players will be interested in checking out.)

You'll also find an introductory character sheet that'll make it easier for new players to fill in all of the blanks. Also, a (4-page) character development sheet that can help players flesh out their characters and can assist Dungeon Masters in weaving plots and adventures that involve characters in exciting, but torturous ways. (There's nothing quite like the fun of building a character with a few good adventure hooks waiting to come back and bite you at some point.) The four-page adventure log sheet can be useful for parties that have extended campaigns with details best not forgotten. (I know the parties in both of my D&D games have a document known as The List, which features the names of all the NPCs we need to visit and beat down at out next moment of leisure. Of course, The List rarely has a name crossed off and often has a fresh entry that's even more important than the last.) Spell sheets and a list of infusions round out the remainder of the contents of this fine accessory. So, all that said, here's the text from the back of the package that'll reiterate all of what I just said, but in easy-to-read bullet-point format.

Inside the pockets of this protective folder, you'll find a full set of Dungeons & Dragons character sheets for use in any Eberron or other D&D campaign. Each character sheet features an attractive folio-style layout, giving you plenty of room to keep track of everything that makes your characters unique.

INCLUDES:

  • A four-page introductory character sheet designed for new players, with instructions on how to fill it out.
  • Four-page character sheets suitable for martial characters, skill-focused characters, spellcasters, psionics users, and multiclass characters.
  • Four-page character development sheets, which you can use to flesh out your character's background and personality, as well as track your character's career path.
  • Four-page adventure log sheets, which you can use to keep track of encounters, NPCs, and campaign details.
  • Spell lists for all the spellcasting classes in the Player's Handbook, Complete Adventurer, Complete Arcane, and Complete Divine, plus spell lists for the assassin and blackguard prestige classes described in the Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • A list of infusions for the artificer class described in the Eberron Campaign Setting.

Every character sheet, adventure log, and spell list is easy to photocopy, so you'll always have a fresh sheet on hand when you need one.

September:Magic of Incarnum

I'm just starting to wrap my head around this 224-page hardcover, so I won't go into any detail just yet. But I can tell you that it introduces a new magical substance (called, yes, incarnum) to the D&D game. For those interested in incorporating and exploring the power of this new form of magic, the book also introduces new classes, prestige classes, feats, and more. Check out the text from the back-o'-the-book.


Harness a New and Original Source of Magical Power

Drawn from the ambient life energy that fills the multiverse, incarnum is the essence of all creatures. Incarnum flows as a deep blue, radiant mist, and those with the knowledge to harness this energy can shape it into objects of great power, called soulmelds. Using soulmelds crafted from raw incarnum, an adventurer opens up new avenues of ability never available before.

In the tradition of the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Magic of Incarnum presents an alternative to conventional magic that grants access to a new source of power. Characters of all classes can experience incarnum through feats, spells, psionic powers, and prestige classes, while incarnum-wielding standard classes such as the incarnate and the soulborn allow players to take full advantage of incarnum's amazing properties.

Magic of Incarnum includes a wealth of options and advice about incorporating this new power source into ongoing or brand-new campaigns.

September:Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow

Again, I don't know enough details about this one, but I can tell you that it's the first of a new series of accessories that will be useful to roleplayers as well as miniatures skirmish gamers. It has two double-sided poster maps designed for your adventuring party to explore and your skirmish warbands to clash upon. (And the maps work together to form larger, environments -- a drow temple and an expansive dungeon.) You'll also find a 16-page adventure included that can be dropped into any campaign, as well as a number of skirmish scenarios for minis play. Here's the text from the back:

Battle Through the Underdark

Deep beneath the earth, stoic dwarves spent years laboring to trace and extract precious veins of mithral ore. But now they face the depredations of an ancient and terrible foe -- cruel dark elf raiders. To aid the dwarves, a group of daring adventurers must fight through the most dangerous regions of the mithral mines and into the lair of the dreaded drow.

Fane of the Drow is the first in the new Fantastic Locations series of products. It contains two beautifully illustrated, double-sided battle grid maps scaled for Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, as well as an encounter booklet. The battle grids feature fantastic terrain designed to create large, fluid encounters, key scenes, and exciting game sessions. Rather than simple dungeon encounters, these maps generate the epic struggles that campaign memories are made of.

The maps also make ideal battlegrounds for D&D Miniatures skirmish games. Build your warband and fight for control of the Mithral Mine, Queen Peregrine's Tomb, or the dreaded Fane of Lolth. The encounter booklet includes both roleplaying game encounters and skirmish game options for use with the four battle grid maps.

September:Sons of Grummsh

Okay, I never tell you anything about adventures. But I can tell you one fiercely important thing about this 32-page saddle-stitched Forgotten Realms adventure designed for 4th-level characters -- it was written by Christopher Perkins. And having played in his Wednesday night game for a few years now, believe me when I say that Chris knows how to orchestrate an adventure. Some of you might have even had the opportunity to play through some of Chris' most recent, devious handiwork in Dungeon Magazine's Adventure Path series titled The Shackled City, which just became available as a hardcover compilation. Seriously, even if you don't run an FR campaign, you should take a look at this adventure. Change the placenames, and you're golden. Okay, enough of that. Here's the text from the back cover of this, the first full-length adventure written for the Forgotten Realms in three years:

No One Escapes the Wrath of Gruumsh

Trouble brews in Thar as orc tribes converge on the ruined fortress of Xûl-Jarak, flocking to the banner of a charismatic warlord. What are their wicked intentions, and what connection do they have to six missing nobles from Melvaunt?

Sons of Gruumsh is a stand-alone Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for 4th-level characters. Although set in the world of Faerûn, it can easily be placed in any D&D campaign. To run the adventure, you need the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, and Forgotten RealmsCampaign Setting.The adventure can be played using D&D miniatures.

September:d20 Cyberscape

This is 96 soft-covered pages of pure cyberpunk-flavored material. (Which, as you know, tastes a lot like chrome.) Building on the cybernetics rules fromd20 Future, this latest and much-clamored-for supplement to thed20 Modern Roleplaying Game offers new rules for installing cybernetics in characters (monsters and NPCs, too) rules for playing a cyborg, as well as new advanced classes and other enhancements. You'll also find rules for magical and psionic cybernetics in addition to material covering virtual reality networks. I'll try to jack in to get you an excerpt or two next month, but until then, check out the text from the back cover:

We can improve you. We have the technology.

Take the next step in human evolution. With cybernetics, you can advance in ways nature never intended. Cyborgs are the people of the future, and the world of tomorrow is theirs for the taking -- a world of virtually limitless possibilities! d20 Cyberscape contains everything you need to build cybernetically enhanced heroes and virtual realities, as well as rules for including cybernetics in a modern, near-future, or far-future campaign.

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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