Summer vacations, as I recall, often involve going away to some interesting location. If you're lucky, you go to someplace that's cool enough that you won't mind writing about it in one of those "What I did this summer" papers. These days, I want to visit places that are cool enough to talk about with people in the kitchen whilst getting another mug of coffee. Dungeons & Dragons is much the same way -- it's always great to go on an adventure in some cool, memorable location that adds a lot of flavor to your endeavors -- it sure makes for more interesting tales and war stories told both in-game and out. This month, we seem to have a number of different locations available for your traveling enjoyment. From Stormwrack (which promises adventure on, above, and under the high seas) to the Explorer's Handbook (don't leave your home in Eberron without it) to the Fane of the Drow (a fantastic location for exploring and skirmishing), and the Underdark miniatures expansion (which drags you into the deepest parts of the earth where you'll most certainly become someone's or something's lunch). d20 Cyberscape allows you to explore a futuristic world of cyberpunk action, and Magic of Incarnum delves into a never-before-seen world of power. Get your paperwork in order and prepare to depart for a whirlwind tour of all of these fine products.
Check it out:
You already know that if you're heading into arctic conditions, you want to have Frostburn: Mastering the Perils of Ice and Snow on-hand. And if you're trekking into a desertlike situation, it'd be Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand you'd find most handy. So, it wouldn't be surprising to know that if you're charting a voyage over, under, or across the sea (or any body of water, for that matter), you'll want to thumb through this, the latest 224-page addition to the Environment Series: Stormwrack: Mastering the Perils of Wind and Wave.
Last month, you took a look at the text from the back of the book, along with a peek at a couple of paragraphs from the Introduction, and a quick rundown of what you'll find in each chapter (plus a couple of nice pieces of art).
This month, I thought I'd show you a few of the bits and pieces floating around inside the book that might be of interest to you and your fellow adventurers. Take, for example, one of the prestige classes you'll find lurking in Chapter 3: that of the Scarlet Corsair. For anyone who has wanted to run a deadly, intimidating, pirate-type sort of character (as a player or DM), this 10-level prestige class takes no prisoners.
Of course, if you're planning on spending any time at sea, unless you've got gills, magic, or some other way of coping directly with the water, you'll probably book passage aboard a fine seagoing vessel. While a voyage across the briny blue could be a pleasantly uneventful break from the rigors of an adventurer's life, putting Stormwrack on your shelf greatly lessens the chances of that happening with any regularity. And because knowing where your character is aboard such a vessel can become very important very fast, you'll find the information and maps in Chapter 5 (Ships and Equipment) particularly useful. (There are 21 ships detailed, five of which are mapped out.) Say, for example, you happened to find Ms. Ironheart and her crew riding the wake of your boat. Sooner or later, you're going to be rolling for initiative -- and that's when you might want to have the layout of a caravel (complete with particularly detailed information) close at hand. (Check out the Map-a-Week feature for different resolutions of the Caravel map.)
Anyone interested in touring around the expansive world of Eberron, players and Dungeon Masters alike, will want to do a little preliminary reading within this new hardcover supplement. Weighing in at 160 pages, the Explorer's Handbook offers a wide variety of detailed information useful to anyone and everyone planning a trek across, over, under, through, or around any portion of Eberron.
Last month, I passed along the back-of-book text, along with a fairly detailed breakdown of what you'll find inside each of the book's chapters. This month, I thought I'd give you a look at a few of the things you'll discover when traversing the opening chapters of the book (remember, the last few chapters are DM territory). I thought I'd start off by pointing out one of the useful-and-entertaining bits I mentioned last month -- a sidebar from Chapter Two: Tools of the Trade.
Not to be outdone by Stormwrack, the Explorer's Handbook also provides detailed information and visual aids for a number of extraordinary vehicles, including the aforementioned airship, a storm ship, wind galleon, and the lightning rail.
Beginning far into the book's entry on the lightning rail, this snippet gives you a pile of information that'll come in handy when traveling inside and fighting atop the shining example of lightning rail travel, the Five Nations Express:
It's character sheets. For Eberron. 'Nuff said. But in case it's not, you can check out last month's article where I gave you the back cover text, along with a description of the various and sundry things you'll find inside this handy-dandy pocket folder -- that is to say you'll find a small handful of stuff in addition to the character sheets you'd expect to find. (Just to save you a mouseclick, it's an introductory character sheet for new players, a character development sheet for fleshing out your favorite PCs and NPCs, an adventure log sheet, and a pile of spell sheets.)
While just the first of a swath of things for which I gave you back cover text last month, this 224-page hardcover is sure to be one of the most intriguing books you'll see on shelves this year, since it introduces to the Dungeons & Dragons game an entirely new magical substance (and accompanying rules system) -- incarnum. "What is incarnum?" you may well ask. Well, here's your answer (along with some additional material that explains a lot of the basics of how incarnum works):
The text of the book likens the use of incarnum to that of the psionics rules -- it's a new system that's similar to magic, but different. Everyone has the capacity to learn to wield the power of incarnum (any class can access it through feats or spells, for example), but particular races and classes have a greater affinity or talent for doing so. Being such a flexible and accessible rules system allows you to incorporate incarnum-wielding characters into an existing campaign with very little effort and explanation. Just to give you an idea of the sorts of things you can do with the power of incarnum, here's a smattering of incarnum feats your characters might find useful.
You'll find back cover text in last month's article for this, the first of a new series of accessories designed for both roleplayers and miniatures skirmish gamers. Check out this chunk of text from the Introduction that gives you a quick rundown of what's inside and how you can use all of it:
The two double-sided poster maps have a lot of interesting detail, but aren't so crowded that you couldn't easily repurpose each one over and over again. In fact, there's a sidebar at the bottom of that introductory page that gives you some suggestions on how the maps can be re-used along with a suggestion to check the Wizards of the Coast website, RPGA adventures, and Dungeon Magazine for variant encounters that use the Fantastic Location maps.
In addition to the back cover text I included last month, I also gushed a bit about the adventure's author, Christopher Perkins. (Again, you might've already sampled his adventure-writing expertise in Dungeon Magazine's Adventure Path series titled The Shackled City, which released as a hardcover compilation last month.)
As always, I don't want to give away any details about an adventure, but I will reiterate the notion that this 32-page adventure is well worth taking a look at -- whether you use pre-fab adventures or not, whether you play in the Realms or not. It's a solid adventure that will engage every character in the party and challenge everyone at the table in the best ways possible.
You saw back cover text for this 96-page cyberpunk-flavored, soft-covered supplement last month. As one of the most-asked-for supplements for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, d20 Cyberscape draws from and builds upon the cybernetics rules from d20 Future.
This month, I thought I'd give a quick nuts-and-bolts look at some of the inner workings of the book. I pretend that it's never a bad thing to let the book speak for itself, by way of passing along a chunk from the introduction. So, here it is:
So, the introductory section of the book goes on to break down the availability of cybernetics based on Progress Levels (PL), beginning at PL 0-1 (which really doesn't offer anything more than leather coverings for stumps); PL 2 offers the benefits of peg legs and pirate-type hooks. PL 3 is where wooden teeth and glass eyes enter the picture (along with clockworks and other more fantastic scientific breakthroughs, such as that which you'd acquire in Dr. Frankenstein's lab). Crude artificial organs and anthropomorphic prosthetics surface in the era of PL 4. In PL 5 (current day), artificial organs become reasonably reliable and the groundwork for more "futuristic" cybertechnology is laid. PL 6 is the point at which independently powered cybernetics (including replacement limbs and subcutaneous cell phones) become available, but not-as-yet perfected. In the era of PL 7, cybernetics have become safe, acceptable, reliable, and even somewhat commonplace -- even to the point of becoming cosmetic in purpose. Technology such as that which allows for the replacement of eyes enhanced with HUD targeting and the creation of the first cyborgs (essentially robots with human brains) becomes possible. And on the far, distant horizon of PL 8 (as far-reaching as the technology in this book goes), cyborgs are indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood humans and anything the laws of physics allow can be accomplished, and even a few things that break those laws.)
Chapter One: Cybernetics Rules offers up all the guidelines you'll need for determining availability and installation of cybernetics (including drawbacks and side effects) in a number of different rule options that govern the role cybernetics will play in your campaign. You'll also find a handful of cybernetic feats and three advanced classes, including the Cyberwarrior.
Chapter Two: Standard Cybernetics starts off with guidelines for using a Gadget System (in addition to the gadgets offered in d20 Future) to build and modify cybernetics in order to create customized cybernetic devices. The chapter then touches on cybernetic replacements (using the hook and peg leg as examples), quickly moving on to the lengthier section covering familiar cybernetic enhancements such as Artificial Muscle Fibers (which increase your strength score), Spurs (retractable blades built into a forearm or foot), Targeting Optics (replacement eyes that provide a bonus on attack rolls with ranged weapons), and Neural Computer Links (for "jacking in" to a computer system). Along the way you'll find innovative technological advances such as an Antigrav System (which lets you fly at a speed of 40) and Rocket Hands (which fire off, like Baron Karza, and may make melee attacks or take other actions that normally could be performed by a hand, but at a range of 60 feet).
Chapter Three: Computer Networks enters the virtual realm known as the VRNet (Virtual Reality Network). This is where virtual avatars explore, gather information, and battle in a wholly computer-generated environment. (Standard cyberpunk fare, you know.)You'll find rules for generating VRNet avatars for your characters, along with all the rules you need for exploring the VRNet -- including hardware, hazards, software, and a specialized prestige class that rules the virtual realm: the Cybernaut. Check out some of the programs your character might run on the VRNet:
Chapter Four: Alternative Cybernetics offers some alternate approaches to cybernetics -- FX Cybernetics (magic-based implants), Nanites (microscopic robots that alter or enhance the body), Necrotic Implants (reanimated limbs and organs), and Wetware (technology based on living organisms genetically designed and grown for implantation).
And the book finishes off with a sample campaign setting -- the CyberRave campaign setting. Take a peek at a couple chunks from the opening description of what you might consider to be a classic cyberpunk game setting.
In addition to establishing some ground rules for the CyberRave campaign setting, Chapter Five also introduces a couple new factions (with headquarter maps), a new advanced class (the CyberRaver), some new starting occupations, the Street Broker feat, and some alternate CyberRave settings you can use as-is, or as guidelines for crafting a chrome-plated world of your own.
So, the Angelfire expansion went on sale last month. And, of course, as always, as excited as you can be about collecting the latest set of miniatures, you can't help but start looking forward to the next set. And while November's a long way off at this point, we might as well start looking at some of the minis you'll find inside Underdark boosters when they finally arrive.
Just to maximize your miniature sneak peeking, make sure you check in over on the D&D Minis page for the articles Rob Heinsoo writes. Since he works on such things, his articles tend to divulge real information about the minis in regards to skirmish play. Once they start flowing out into the world, you can usually find a new article every Thursday. Sometimes we'll overlap on the minis we show, but that's only because we aren't going to knife fight over exclusivity.
Anyway, let's get on with our first delve into the realm of the Underdark with a look at the three minis I absolutely had to show off first.
Kobold Miner -- You might've noticed by now, but if there's a kobold in the set, it's at the top of my list of minis to show. And as much as I've always said that I can't get too many kobold minis, this one has just shot to the top of the list of kobold minis of which I want the most. And, since he's a Common, I'm hoping to load up on a ridiculous number of them. (Imagine encountering a whole cavern filled with kobold miners working away at expanding various tunnels and caves, with warriors, skirmishers, soldiers, and the occasional sorcerer scattered throughout.) Right, so take a look at this guy. He's got the same physical build as the Kobold Warrior from the Harbinger expansion, but has the same basic facial features as the Kobold Champion from the Aberrations expansion. His scaly hide is a rusty tan color, a bit different from all the other kobolds that've come before him. He's wearing what seem to be short, black leather overalls; I'd call that appropriate garb for anyone planning on spending several long hours chipping away at rock. (At the very least, it's a sleeveless shirt and knicker-length pants.) He has metal kneepads, which seem to be more functional than protective (kinda like a cross between the kneepads you'd see on a carpenter and the ones worn by SWAT teams -- only made of shiny steel.) Heavy, elbow-length, black leather gloves protect his hands and forearms from shards of flying rock. In this guy's hard-working little claws is a heavy pick that looks just like the miner 49er-sort of implement you'd expect to see. Strapped to his back, in a backpacklike fashion, is a small wooden crate filled with kobold fist-sized gray stones -- he's either carting rubble out of the mine or collecting ore-filled rocks to bring back to his tribe's metal workers. His pose seems to suggest that he's slowly creeping forward, trying to spot something up ahead. You'll notice that he's craning his head forward, eyes squinting to pierce further into the dark shadows ahead. And, he's choked up his grip on the shaft of his trusty pick, ready to take a powerful but controlled swipe at whatever has caught his attention.
Artemis Entreri -- Fans of Drizzt Do'Urden need no introduction to this guy. As the arch nemesis of the legendarily stoic drow ranger, Artemis Entreri has carved out a nice little place for himself in the Realms -- as one of the most deadly assassins to ever walk the streets of Calimport (and beyond.) You can read about him in Servant of the Shard, (which came out in paperback last month), in its hardcover sequel, Promise of the Witch-King (which comes out in October), or check out his stat block and description on pages 158 and 159 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. While you're on page 158, you'll see the illustration that must've been used as source material for the artist designing the great sculpt for this tough customer. As a rare miniature, Artemis Entreri clearly belongs on the battlemat of your D&D game as a recurring villain or as someone's supercool character. (This guy's my favorite rogue-type mini we've done yet, and it would make a great companion to the Sharn Cutthroat from Aberrations.
At first glance, Artemis is clad in a black-on-black-on-black with black accessories outfit. But, when you look closely, you'll see that his pants and the cloth that crisscrosses his chest (like bandoliers) are a dark charcoal gray. His boots seem to be dark brown leather with a black wash. These small, subtle touches give a lot of depth to the mini's otherwise monochromatic paintjob. (Hey, he's an assassin -- they're supposed to wear all black.) Those cloth bandoliers (which probably conceal a handful of throwing daggers) meet at the same place on his chest where his flowing black cloak gathers and is held in place with an elaborate, but muted piece of jewelry. Notice the cloak's length -- long enough to help with concealing his form but not so long that it would get in the way of some dexterous footwork. The shallow hood on the cloak is pulled up, but not so far that you don't catch a bit of his raven-black hair and see his narrowed eyebrows and passionless eyes, which stare unflinchingly at his latest target. His lightweight, black, leather armor protects his torso, arms, and thighs. Those dark boots seem to be two different lengths -- at least the left boot has a turned-down cuff and the right one seems to go just over his knee (or at least behind a kneepad). As he takes a short, measured stride forward, his weapons are held ready for action. In his right hand is a longsword that either is forged of a dull-hued metal or was treated to make it nonreflective. Gripped for an overhand or backhand stab is a short-bladed dagger (that's certainly weighted for throwing with lethal accuracy.) A neat bit of detail is in the placement of each of the weapons' respective scabbards -- they're worn on opposite hips, positioned to be cross-drawn.
Roper -- Man, I hate Ropers. But as much as I hate encountering them with one of my characters, I'm going to love stumbling across them inside booster packs. (If you flip to page 215 of the Monster Manual, you'll find the entry for this subterranean horror.) As one of the most iconic ambush creatures in the D&D game, the Roper has always been one of those miniatures that couldn't get here fast enough. And, not surprisingly, it was well worth the wait to get this large, rare mini. With the mottled coloration that varies from dark gray to light gray, brown, and even a little light beige/bone, the Roper's natural camouflage really works. Of course, the different textures covering its stony hide really contribute to the overall sense that when he's lying in wait, it'd be tough to not mistake the Roper for just another big stalagmite. (And, he does look like a stalagmite, not a tall tree stump.) The smaller stalagmite that sits on the ground next to the Roper (and a few more rocks on the right and behind him) just cements the illusion. (At least I assume it's a real rock formation -- it could just be a part of the Roper's body as well.) Wrapped around the bulk of its body, and writhing just a bit are the Roper's tentacles -- his long, strength-draining tentacles. While gray in coloration, I can't help but compare the wrinkled, but-not-segmented tentacles to an earthworm. Tough, but flexible, it's easy to imagine those prehensile limbs lashing out to grapple an unwary passerby. His single gray eye is peering out at something that's a bit off to the Roper's right. (Because the eye is off-center, compared to the mouth, I get the sense that he's twisting around a bit, as if looking over his nonexistent right shoulder.) As to that toothy maw, it's held wide open, ready to swallow whole anything it gets a chance to. One of the great things about this mini is that it'll be infinitely useful when setting up encounters in any subterranean location. Whether there are Ropers or not, this guy will serve quite well as an awesomely detailed piece of terrain.
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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