Previews09/01/2005


Quick -- What's Coming Out?
Previews for September and Beyond



It's not a pop quiz -- that's just the look and feel of this month's article. I've got a lot of things to cover and not enough time or information to shoot your way right now. (By the time this goes live, Gen Con will have come and gone, but it sure is impacting the flow of things around here right now.) Add to the frenetic pace of the release schedule with the curious combination of products that are almost way-too-vast-to-summarize (like Magic of Incarnum) and others that are so straightforward, there's not terribly much upon which to elaborate (the Race Series Gift Set, for example). Fortunately, other stuff, such as d20 Cyberscape and the Underdark expansion for the D&D Miniatures game, pick up the slack and give me something to show off.

Check it out.

September:Magic of Incarnum

You saw back cover text from this 224-page hardcover back in July. Last month, I passed along some of the introductory text, which explained a bit about incarnum and how it works, along with a handful of incarnum feats that any character could take to tap into the power of this intriguing new magical substance.

Arstor, a Pentiflex Monolith

Seeing as this book introduces an entirely new magical substance, its accompanying rules system, and various and sundry ways in which to incorporate it into your game (for example, base classes, prestige classes, spells, and so on), it's kinda tough to figure out what the ideal excerpt might be. I want to show something that gives you a good idea of what incarnum does, while not requiring you to wade through several chapters of support text to fully appreciate it. Since the book goes on sale this month (and you can explore the book firsthand at your FLGS), I think I'll leave well enough alone and let the excerpts selected by the designers/developers do the heavy lifting -- check them out on the D&D Main Page and flip through a copy of the book when it surfaces in your FLGS this month.

September:Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow

You'll find back cover text in July's In the Worksarticle. Last month, I gave you a look at the introduction and text that described how you might go about incorporating the two double-sided poster maps into your D&D campaign (using the 16-page adventure booklet) or D&D Miniatures skirmish play.

I don't have a lot to add to that, but I did want to mention once more that you can find additional suggestions on how the maps can be re-used and variant encounters that use the Fantastic Location maps inside the pages of Dungeon Magazine, RPGA adventures, and somewhere around here on the D&D or D&D Minis webpages.

(Since one of those poster maps -- the Fane of Lolth -- is the official battlemat for the D&D Miniatures 2005 Championship tournament, you can get a look at it over here.)

September:Sons of Grummsh

Again, I can't add much more than what I've already said about this one. You saw back cover text in July, and I've just been reiterating the fact that the author of this 32-page adventure, Christopher Perkins, is a guy who knows what he's doing behind the DM screen. So, take a look through this one. Whether you run it as-is in your campaign, tailor it to fit your world a little more, pull out choice encounters and NPCs, or just draw inspiration from its expertly crafted design, it'd be well worth it. And if you want to go back to the well for more, flip through Dungeon Magazine's Adventure Path series titled The Shackled City, which released as a hardcover compilation back in July. Chris was one of the instrumental authors of that series.

September:d20 Cyberscape

Back in July, you saw back cover text for this softcovered, 96-page supplement for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. Last month, I gave you a glimpse at what lies within this cyberpunk-flavored book, with a chapter-by-chapter rundown of its contents (pausing here and there to show off one of the prestige classes, a few programs you might employ when running in the VRNet, and the description of the book's new campaign setting: the CyberRave campaign).

This month, the book is on sale, so you can pick it up and scan through it on your own. But, while you're here, I thought I'd show you an assortment of cybernetic enhancements with which your characters might gear up before leaping into futuristic trouble.

Standard Cybernetics (Enhancements)

Sensory Recorder (PL 6)

A sensory recorder is a small memory chip in the brain that connects directly to the optic nerve, cerebrum, and thalamus, recording everything the cyberware recipient experiences with his five senses.

Benefit: A sensory recorder can be turned on and off as a free action and automatically records everything the cyberware recipient experiences unless specifically deactivated. It has 24 hours of memory. The recipient can choose to save or overwrite memories at will. A small computer port allows the memories to be downloaded into another computerized medium (including a sensory playback computer or the HINet), allowing others to observe or even experience the memories. The cyberware recipient can turn on or off individual senses as he wishes. It's very difficult to fake the feed from a sensory recorder. It requires successful DC 30 Computer Use and Forgery checks to make a change to an existing sensory recorder memory, or to create one from whole cloth. Even when successfully done, an investigator who makes Computer Use and Investigate checks that beat the forger's results realizes the recording is altered.

Type: Internal.
Location: One head.
Hardness/Hit Points: --/4.
Base Purchase DC: 25.
Restriction: Res (+2).

Camouflaged Skin (PL 7)

Offensive Kata Calculator

The cyberware recipient's skin has tiny sensors able to observe nearby surfaces and tiny projectors able to change its texture and appearance to match its observations.

Benefit: As a free action, the recipient's skin takes on the color and texture of nearby objects, including floors and walls. The recipient receives a +10 equipment bonus on Hide checks if wearing nothing to block his skin's appearance and a +5 equipment bonus if wearing scant to normal levels of clothing and equipment. If his body is fully covered, the recipient's skin gives him no bonus. This implant can be combined with luminous skin (see page 198 of d20 Future) for a total purchase DC of 20 and taking only one implant slot.

Type: Internal.
Location: One torso.
Hardness/Hit Points: --/2.
Base Purchase DC: 19.
Restriction: Lic (+1).

Kata Calculator, Offensive (PL 7)

An offensive kata calculator is a small chip that stores millions of battle sequences and constantly compares them to the situation the cyberware recipient is currently facing, giving advance warning and taking minute actions to help her place accurate and effective blows against foes.

Benefit: The recipient gains a +1 insight bonus on attack rolls, as well as weapon damage rolls made against targets within 30 feet.

Type: Internal.
Location: One head.
Hardness/Hit Points: --/4.
Base Purchase DC: 23.
Restriction: Mil (+3).

Tactile Touch Wires (PL 7)

These sensitive implants are dozens of long, prehensile wires that can snake forth from the recipient's hands and forearms. Each wire has a tiny touch sensor, allowing the recipient to feel with them and distinguish extremely fine details on any surface.

Benefit: A recipient with tactile touch wires can make a Search check in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area, or on a volume of goods 10 feet on a side, as a single action. Making Search checks becomes an attack action for the recipient (rather than the normal full-round action). Additionally, the recipient gains a +5 bonus on Search checks.

Type: Internal (external in use).
Location: One in each arm.
Hardness/Hit Points: 2/5.
Base Purchase DC: 19.
Restriction: None.

Antigrav System (PL 8)

A cybernetic antigrav system includes a primary antigravity generator of great energy efficiency that draws power from the recipient's own body, along with two directional thrusters also powered by the recipient's biomass.

Benefit: An antigrav system allows the recipient to fly at a speed of 40 with perfect maneuverability.

Type: Internal
Location: One torso, one in each leg.
Hardness/Hit Points: --/5.
Base Purchase DC: 25.
Restriction: Res (+2).

October:Heroes of Horror

Remember Heroes of Battle? Whereas that first title in the Genre Series provided a war chest of information for playing a campaign based in or around a time of war, Heroes of Horror is the follow-up title that provides a tomb full of rules, information, guidelines, and material for immersing your campaign in a creepy realm of horror. For an idea of what you'll find inside, turn on all your lights, lock your doors, and take a look at the back cover text from this 160-page hardcover-o'-frights:

In the Dungeon, No One Can Hear You Scream

A darkness deeper than the blackest pit. A dread whisper carried on a chill wind. A disturbing sound echoing in the night. The trappings of horror enhance any D&D® game, whether used to build a terrifying encounter, a frightening adventure, or a horrific campaign. Get to the root of what really scares you, the things that go bump in the night, and see what happens when the heroes of D&D bump back!

This book provides Dungeon Masters with a toolkit for adding the elements of horror to any D&D game, including tips and advice for infusing an adventure with everything from creepiness to unease to nightmarish despair. It features new rules to evoke a sense of dread and foreboding, new monsters and templates, and ways to use existing monsters in horrific and unsettling ways.

For players, this book offers two new standard classes, new prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items designed to help hold off the encroaching darkness for another night. From the archivist and the dread necromancer, to the fiend-blooded and the tainted scholar, you'll discover ways to prepare your hero -- or antihero -- for the struggle against fear itself.

October: Magic of Eberron

I don't know a lot about this book just yet, but its title does seem to suggest that you're going to find a wealth of magic and magic-related material within its 160 hardcovered pages -- and that it's primarily for your Eberron campaign. (Not that you can't incorporate this stuff into your Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or homebrewed campaign world with little or no effort.) So, if the title of the book gave you a good idea of what's inside, the text on the back cover should really drive home what's in there. Take a look:

A Trove of Magical Lore for Spellcasters and Artificers

Magic suffuses the world of Eberron, enriching it with power. Dragons were the first to master it, but over time it has evolved to serve the needs of countless others, from the giants of Xen'drik and the elves of Aerenal to the citizens of modern Khorvaire. Whether you choose to explore the magic of the present age or delve into the truly ancient arts is up to you.

This book exposes the magic and eldritch wonders of Eberron. In addition to presenting new arcane and divine spells, feats, prestige classes, and magic items, Magic of Eberron offers new options and infusions for artificers, explores dragon totem magic and the twisted experiments of the daelkyr, sheds light on the process of elemental binding, and touches on other types of magic present in the world.

Just in time to hit stores and wish lists for the holiday gift-giving season, the D&D Race Series Gift Set will make a fine addition to your gaming shelf or that of your favorite Dungeon Master. (Keeping your DM happy is a good thing.) If you remember the D&D Core Rulebook Gift Set you've got a great idea of what you'll be getting with this thing. Packaged in a sturdy-yet-decorative slipcase is a set of three books some folks like to call "the Race Series." (That'd be: Races of Stone,Races of the Wild, and Races of Destiny.) It's pretty straightforward, and not a bad way to expand your character-building options in one fell swoop.

October: Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide

Ever since the Special Edition Player's Handbook hit stores, folks have been remarking: "They should do this with all three core rulebooks." Coincidentally -- or not -- it's time to add another leatherbound rulebook to your most decorative of bookshelves -- the Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. Also bound in embossed, black leather (identical in style to the SEPHB), this fine reference will sport a new cover design (akin to the DMG), the same gilt-edged pages, and a blue marker ribbon -- along with errata.

November:Underdark Booster Packs

We're one month closer to November and the release of the Underdark expansion. And while it's sad to think that we have to wait, at least there's the opportunity to get a little look at what lies ahead. Last month, I showed you the Kobold Miner, Artemis Entreri, and the Roper. And good ol' Rob Heinsoo has probably been writing up his Check-Back-Every-Thursday preview articles that show off minis and give you a little info on how they'd work in skirmish play. (See the miniatures page.)

So we've still got just under a couple months to wait. Be strong. Take heart. And take a look at three more minis for which you'll want to make space on your shelf.

Iron Golem -- The only downside to this mini is that it's not one of the Large Uncommons in the set. The upside to that? It's a Large Rare you'll never be sorry to see -- unless your DM sets it on the battlemat in front of you. If you flip to page 135 in your Monster Manual, you'll see the Wayne Reynolds illustration that inspired the sculpt of this fine, fine mini. Whereas the construct in the illustration seems to be passively standing guard, the Iron Golem mini is definitely active and in the midst of dishing out some hurt. The red glow emanating from that slit visor adds a touch of menace to the mindless automaton's head. That upraised, wide-bladed sword (complete with circular notch, like in the illustration) is poised for a brutal backhanded slash. And the clenched fist (augmented by the blade-bearing bracer) on his left hand is cocked for a follow-up punch that'd put tweeting birds around any character's dazed little head. But it's the rest of the golem -- that is its armorlike body -- that really makes the greatest impact on your first (and possibly last) impression of this guy. Looking very much like an "armored giant," the Iron Golem is a well-orchestrated sculpture of form and function. Those wide, boxlike feet create a sense of sturdiness and weight that would dishearten anyone with the Improved Trip feat. The rivets and spikes on the golem's legs seem to blur the realm between construct and armor, which makes the rest of the mini feel all that much more like a big, living suit of armor. (So much that this mini could easily fit the bill for a large humanoid in full plate.) My favorite bit of detail on the mini (and there's a lot of it) is the array of pits and dents pockmarking the entire creature. They drive home the sense that this thing has been around for a very, very long time, has taken a crazy amount of damage, and is still going. When you can get a good, close look, you'll notice little stains here and there. They could be rust. They could be dried blood. Regardless, they just reinforce the sense of history you get when you look at this marvel of magical science.

Incidentally, any character with access to the shapechange spell should take a look at this thing -- the combination of construct qualities and spell immunity makes the Iron Golem a potent form from which to unleash much arcane power (whilst shrugging off a lot of punishment.) It's not a foolproof form, but I think it's definitely the best one my wizard ever played around with -- right up until he shifted back and died of old age (long story).

Spider of Lolth -- Did anyone get enough Large Monstrous Spiders in their Dragoneye boosters? Me neither. And while I still might not get enough of these eight-legged freaks, it won't be because of their rarity. Arachnophobes, be warned -- these Medium vermin are Commons. So, you can expect to see a fair number of these sleek-bodied spiders scuttling out of your booster packs this fall. In fact, judging from the way the Spider of Lolth is poised, you can probably expect them to leap out of the box. The way those front six legs are gathered, as well as the angle of the spider's body, seem to suggest that it's getting ready to pounce on some unfortunate victim. All eight of its beady, red eyes seem fixed on something directly ahead, and its mandibles are ready to inject a nasty toxin in preparation for a future liquid lunch. The rounded body and large abdomen (complete with spinnerets) is primarily black, highlighted with a light swirl of purple and burgundy. Its segmented legs overhang the base by about a half-inch, but are pliable enough to not be much of a problem when ganging them up to surround other minis.

Nentyar Hunter -- If you've flipped through your copy of Unapproachable East, then you've almost certainly stumbled across the prestige class and accompanying illustration (on page 28) upon which this beautiful miniature was based. If you're curious about the pine green skin tone, you'll want to check out the racial entry for the volodni on page 28 -- they're a race of treefolk created over a thousand years ago. (If you look closely at her skin, you'll even see the textured pattern of wood grain, particularly on her arms and legs.) Her long, tan-colored hair may seem a bit thick, until you realize that a volodni's hair grows in locks that resemble strips of bark. Her eyes are glowing with some strange, eldritch, green light (not a racial trait), and are accented by the glowing yellow gemstone set on her forehead. (Both of these features are depicted in that prestige class illustration.) Her studded leather armor, bracers, and leggings are dyed a rich, reddish brown, and her skirt looks like it might be a lightweight deerskin. Her feet are shod in sandals, which just reinforce her comfort and ties to nature. (Her armor is for protection against attack, not the elements.) Slung over her shoulder is a quiver full of arrows -- one of which she's in the midst of drawing forth. In her left hand is a finely crafted composite shortbow (check out the scrollworklike décor at the end of each of the bow's limbs). Taking the whole mini in, at a glance, she seems to be in midstep while drawing an arrow to shoot at something in the distance -- almost casually confident in her ability to take down her target, while not taking her eyes off it. Anyone playing a female ranger or other archery-centric character would be hard-pressed to find a nobler and heroic mini -- she's like a D&D incarnation of the goddess Artemis.

November: Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison

Once Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow shows up at your FLGS and you take a look at it, you can start looking forward to its successor: Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison. At that point, you'll also have a firm grasp on what you'll find inside: two double-sided poster maps and a 16-page adventure booklet (with material to keep your RPG adventuring party busy whilst your D&D Minis warbands are engaged in battle). There's not much more to pass along at this point. Except for the text you'll find on the back cover:

The tyranny of the Iron Regent ended the night Castle Ferrule sank into the earth, but the regent's former minions continue to kidnap villagers from their homesteads, and an even greater evil stirs below the despot's crumbled fortress. In the magma-filled caverns beneath the ruins, a sinister obelisk called the Hellspike holds the secret to one fiend's power over the realm. Can you thwart the fiend's plot in time?

Hellspike Prison is the second in the 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 Castle Ferrule Ruins, the Mushroom Cavern, the Magma Caverns, or the dreaded Hellspike Prison. The encounter booklet includes both roleplaying game encounters and skirmish game options for use with the four battle grid maps.

November: Champions of Valor

If you picked up Champions of Ruin back in May, you've already seen the bad guys' version of this 160-page hardcover. Well, now it's time that the heroic folk of Faerûn got their day in the sun and on the shelves. Take a look at the back cover text this month, and come back next month for a peek within:



Faerûn Needs Mighty Heroes, Now More Than Ever

Sinister forces conspire to ravage the lands and cities of Faerûn, and only the most valiant heroes can thwart their dark agendas. If you are a player, this book will help you to create heroic champions with the might and conviction to destroy the worst evils of the world. If you're a Dungeon Master, this book contains everything you need to create worthy challenges and rewards for your valiant heroes as they struggle to save the Realms from the darkness that threatens it.

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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