Previews
Nothing New for the New Year
Previews for January and Beyond
By Mat Smith

Just the same old thing you really can't get tired of -- piles of rulebooks, supplements, accessories, miniatures, and other stuff. Every month's got something in store, and I'm planning on showing you bits and pieces of all of it -- as much as I can, anyway. Some months will be more robust than others (depending on the release schedule, the workload around here, and what's available for the showing), but rest assured that I'll do all I can to make clicking on that "Previews" button worth your while. This month, we've got some good stuff coming out, with more on the horizon. Check it out:

On Sale Now: Three Dragon Ante

Okay. I know I've been pimping this 72-card standalone game (for 2-6 players) month after month since before it hit shelves in November, but it deserves one last piece of hype before I let it go. (I figure that since a copy of the game'll only run you about fifteen bucks, you could return one CD [or other unwanted gift you might've gotten recently], and you'll have enough money to pick up a copy.)

Over the past couple months, I've had the chance to play Three-Dragon Ante many times, with at least one or two new players every time, and it has always been quickly learned and very well-liked.

As the favorite pastime of adventurers and tavern-goers in every realm for ages, Three-Dragon Ante will easily find a home at your D&D table, whether before, during, or after your regular gaming session. (There's an optional rule for playing the game using characters' skills.)

Of course, you'll also find that it's a good game to play on its own. My friends and I have added 3DA into the regular rotation of games we play when we get together for a weekend afternoon/evening of boardgaming. Sometimes we play a game or two whilst waiting for everyone to show up. Last week, 3DA acted as a refreshing change of pace between long, drawn out board games -- as if it were the sorbet of gaming.

The designer of the game, Rob Heinsoo, had a release party for the game a while back. At least four full (six-player) games of Three-Dragon Ante were going on at tables throughout his house for most of the afternoon and evening. I played three full games and most of a fourth. (I was mercilessly crushed into second place in the first game, narrowly avoided losing the next two, and would've won the last game if we'd finished -- curse you, Heinsoo.) During the course of the day, I heard Rob tell the story of how he came up with the idea for the game whilst snorkeling in Hawaii (you can read about that, and more on how Three-Dragon Ante was created over in Rob's "Design & Development" article about designing Three-Dragon Ante.)

I mentioned this last month, but it definitely bears repeating. We sent a free copy of Three-Dragon Ante decks to all of our Premier Stores so they could try out the game and let you demo it. So, it's entirely possible that your FLGS will have a deck on-hand for you to take a look at and try out. Just ask someone behind the counter to give you a demo.

(For more details about the game, including back-of-box text and a quick run-down of game play, check out the write-up I did back in October.)

January:Races of the Dragon

On sale this month, Races of the Dragon weighs in as the latest 160-page hardcover addition to the Race Series, which also includes Races of Stone, Races of the Wild,Races of Destiny, and Races of Eberron.

In the same vein as its predecessors, Races of the Dragon explores a number of player character races descended from or related to dragons. (Introducing two new races -- the dragonborn of Bahamut and the spellscale -- and further exploring kobolds and half dragons as character races.)

Back in November, you got the back cover text. Last month, I gave you a quick chapter-by-chapter rundown of what's inside, which included a look at the spellscale's blood-quickening meditations.

This month, as the book goes on sale, I thought I'd give you a closer look at one of the two new races, the dragonborn of Bahamut.

Dragonborn of Bahamut

Any humanoid race can be reborn
as an emissary of Bahamut

Gods wage war through mortal pawns, and draconic deities are no different. Tiamat creates all sorts of dragonlike beings to manifest her power in the world, breeding warped creatures from her eggs. These evil entities act as the Chromatic Dragon's agents. Of the other draconic gods, only Bahamut stands between Tiamat and her evil goals. The conflict between them has raged for centuries. Those who know of this conflict refer to it as the Dragonfall War.

The Platinum Dragon foreswore breeding creatures to oppose Tiamat's spawn, instead accepting humanoid volunteers to his righteous cause. He only takes those truly dedicated to supporting his ideals and working against vile draconic creatures. A potential recruit's past actions matter little; all that counts is present and future devotion to opposing Tiamat and her spawn. Some wrongdoers have found redemption and purpose in becoming Bahamut's servants.

Those willing to give themselves into Bahamut's care and act as his emissaries in the mortal realms become his daughters and sons. Such humanoids give up all their former racial identity and are born anew. They become dragonborn.

Dragonborn are powerful, majestic creatures that resemble their adoptive father. They fight ceaselessly against the spawn of Tiamat, gaining allies in the Dragonfall War along the way. Dragonborn are great leaders with clear purpose. They are often the motivating nexus of an adventuring party.

January: Player's Guide to Eberron

Also hitting shelves this month, Player's Guide to Eberron is a 160-page hardcover supplement filled with invaluable information, advice, rules, and resources for players (and DMs) embroiled in the action-packed, intrigue-laced world of theEberron Campaign Setting.

Back in November, I showed you the back cover text. And last month, you got a whirlwind tour through each chapter of the book, which also included a look at the awesome cover art, the restless wanderer (one of the book's twelve character archetypes), and a look at the book's entry for the Frostfell and Everice.

This month, I thought I'd give you a crash course on what every traveler in Eberron should know about the one thing you don't want to leave home without: the proper documents.

February:d20 Future Tech

This 96-page softcover supplement for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, will quickly become your most invaluable resource when playing in or GMing a d20 Futurecampaign. (Or other game that makes use of futuristic stuff -- like, say, a homebrewed "Return to the Barrier Peaks" adventure for your D&D game.)

Last month, I gave you a general idea of what was inside, along with a look at a chunk of the back cover text. This month, sadly, I couldn't make a manuscript materialize on my desk, so I got nothin'. Perhaps next month, I'll have a little something for you to peek at just before heading out to your FLGS to flip through a copy.

February:The Red Hand of Doom

This is a 128-page softcover super-adventure that will challenge a party of 6th-level characters long enough to take them all the way through 9th.

Last month, I just gave you the back cover text. And, like with any adventure, I don't want to tell you anything more than that. Though, I can say that when flipping through a galley I happened to see a lot of new art and many, many maps in there. It's also worth mentioning once more that The Red Hand of Doom is a non-campaign-specific -- any Dungeon Master out there can easily incorporate into it her campaign. That's it for this one. DMs check it out.

March:War Drum Booster Packs

Two more months to go before this set hits shelves. Man, that's a long time (especially when you consider how long these things have been kicking around here, being sketched, sculpted, painted, and then produced). Fortunately, these articles give us all a chance to glimpse at what's almost here -- they're so close you can almost touch 'em. (In my case, I do get to touch 'em, but I don't get to keep 'em. Bah.)

Last month, I showed you the Wardrummer, Chimera, and Aspect of Hextor -- all of 'em Rare. This month, I thought I'd give you a sample of each rarity level whilst showing off three more minis. (And, I'm still looking at master paints, not production samples, so the paint colors/details could change by the time they're being stuffed in little plastic bags.)

Skeletal Legionnaire -- I know that I want a lot of each of my favorite Common minis, and so will you. The Skeletal Legionnaire definitely falls into that category. (Come on, you just can't have too many undead.) This erstwhile human is still armed with a regulation shield and spear and protected by the remnants of a chainmail shirt and skirt (augmented by a mismatched set of platemail pauldrons, strategically chosen to protect each shoulder based on what was toted by that arm). The Skeletal Legionnaire is a nicely detailed bag of bones, painted and washed with good colors that help pull out the finer touches of the sculpt. He's marching slowly forward (plodding, even), seeming to use his spear as an impromptu walking staff. So, while not immediately threatening violence, he certainly presents a fair amount of menace as he slowly draws nearer, ready to lower that spear into impale-you-through-your-guts position, perhaps even setting the spear for an oncoming charge. His skull and shield both seem to bear a few cracks and scratches from previous engagements -- testimony to the Skeletal Legionnaire's experience, if not prowess. I can easily picture ranks of Skeletal Legionnaires marching right alongside (or better yet, in front of) ranks filled with Skeletal Archers (from the Angelfire expansion) and Warrior Skeleton (from the Archfiends expansion.)

Large Duergar -- Sometimes, the best Large minis are Uncommons -- like this guy -- especially when it's entirely likely that your minis collection includes more than a few Duergar Warriors (from Archfiends) and, perhaps, a handful of Duergar Champions (from Underdark). Since every duergar has a once per day enlarge person spell-like ability, it's great to have the luxury of illustrating that trick with a mini designed for just that kind of thing. (So, I guess you'll want to amass [at least] an equal number of Large Duergars.)

That niftiness aside, the Large Duergar is a well-crafted, yet fairly simple miniature. (Given that gray dwarves tend toward drab and utilitarian, it makes sense that a mini would depict just that sensibility.) His charcoal gray bald head (festooned with a neatly trimmed, white beard) ducks just under 1-3/4 inches tall. And only his head, hands, and feet are unarmored. (Though his feet are shod in a pair of heavy sandals strapped on with laces that tie up to his knees.) The Large Duergar is clad in a full suit of chainmail that covers him from wrist to ankle. On top of that, he also has plate pieces covering his shoulders, knees, and thighs. He's also wearing a heavy, reddish tan, leather surcoat, held in place with a sturdy belt adorned with a single gold rivet in back and a relatively simple gold oval buckle. (There seems to be some sort of design worked into the buckle, but it's not distinct.) Hanging on the back of his left hip is a simple, but sturdy-looking "small" belt pouch. He's holding his small, metal shield (sporting extra bands-o'-metal) in close, while holding his disturbingly heavy-headed hammer out wide (as if to block passage and be poised for a quick inward/downward stroke). That hammer is bad news, being ponderously bricklike (it's very "square") and gouged here and there from use. The Large Duergar seems to be in the midst of taking a crouching step toward some sort of enemy, which I imagine to be a tunnel-running critter that mistook the "before" version of this guy as an easy snack.

Arcane Ballista -- So, if you were to start toying with the idea of introducing siege weapons into the D&D Miniatures game/line, you might think a ballista would be kinda cool. Of course, if you're Rob Heinsoo, you'd also determine that a plain old ballista might be just a little too boring. (And when you're considering toting it into a game with things like chimeras, dragons, wizards, goblins, and mushroom people, you'd be right.) What you might end up with is some sort of magical construct that can move itself into position, ready to fire. (I won't tell you much more about how it might work in your DDM game, but Stephen Schubert maintains that the Arcane Ballista was conceived by dwarven artificers as a weapon to use against marauding giants.)

So, I imagine the first thing you notice about the (Rare) Arcane Ballista, aside from the fact that it's an object, is that huge, brassy dragon-head-looking structure on the front. Siege engines are often crafted with a little extra something that will instill fear in the enemy (like that battering ram in the Lord of the Rings), and a big dragon head would do it. While crafted from brass and wood, the Arcane Ballista's head is more reminiscent of a red dragon's noggin (those two backward-sweeping horns and black spurs of "bone" protruding from its jaw do the trick for me.) Even the crossbow's prod (the bowlike part) has been adorned with wood and cloth (leather?) to create winglike structures on each limb. The silvery head of the ballista bolt protrudes from the fanged dragon's maw, making it seem as if it's the tongue or, more likely, the leading end of the dragon's breath weapon about to be unleashed. The rest of the construct is sturdy and functional -- heavy wood and steel, adorned here and there with rows of small spikes. The weapon rests atop a rolling platform that raises the business end up to human eye level -- not a good height for any enemy that's around 6 feet tall or taller. Can't have too many of these things, 'cause you know you'll want to use 'em in a castle siege adventure. (I like using them indoors too -- as traps or as a first line of defense set up behind a portcullis.)

If that's not enough War Drums for you, check out the D&D Minis page. Every Thursday, you can devour Stephen Schubert's Miniatures Previews articles. He'll show you a pile of minis you won't see here -- and he gives you a peek at what's printed on those stat cards.

And, you're going to want to pick up Dragon magazine, 'cause they'll be showing off D&D minis with great regularity. You can get a peek at upcoming minis -- including minis you won't see anywhere else -- in their "First Watch" feature. And, definitely take a look at the "Dragon Talk" feature, which will delve into mechanics, strategy, or some other game-specific aspect of a mini or two. Or three.

March: Tome of Magic: Pact, Shadow, and Truename Magic

Not surprisingly (at this point in the article, anyway), I don't have terribly much to pass along for this upcoming release either. Last month, I just gave you a very, very basic inkling of what's inside this 228-page hardcover (three new magic systems, as well as new base classes, prestige classes, feats, magic items, and spells). This month, all I can offer up is the back cover text:



Unlock the Magical Power of Vestiges, Shadows, and Syllables

Tome of Magic presents three new kinds of magic that you can integrate easily into any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. These magic "subsystems" function alongside the existing D&D magic system and offer new game mechanics, character options, and adventure possibilities. Within this tome you'll find three new standard classes -- one for each new kind of magic -- as well as new spells, feats, prestige classes, monsters, and magic items tied thematically to each.

Pact Magic

Powerful entities known as vestiges exist beyond the boundaries of life, death, and undeath. The binder uses pact magic -- a combination of symbols and secret rituals -- to summon these entities, strike bargains with them, and gain their formidable and sometimes bizarre supernatural powers.

Shadow Magic

The Plane of Shadow is a dark, twisted reflection of the real world. The shadowcaster, by understanding the fundamental properties of the plane and unlocking its magical mysteries, learns to harness and channel its umbral gloom, shaping the darkness to serve her whim.

Truename Magic

Every creature has a truename -- the word of its creation. The truenamer knows the primal language of the universe -- the language of Truespeech -- and learns the truenames of creatures and objects to gain control over them, transform them, or destroy them.

March:Power of Faerūn

And to finish things off, here is another book I mentioned last month, for which I have nothing substantial to add. For those of you just tuning in, take a look at the top-line description: Power of Faerūn is a 160-page hardcover supplement (for players and DMs) filled with a wealth of information, advice, guidelines, and rules for high-level play in the Forgotten Realms. Maybe next month, I'll have something from the inside of the book to show off. This month, I've just got the back cover text:

Rule the Realms

You've survived countless deathtraps, slain hordes of monsters, and overthrown your fair share of petty warlords and would-be tyrants. Ever wonder what it would be like to hold sway as an influential member of the royal court, a mighty general, a powerful religious figure, or a successful merchant prince? Power of Faerūn shows players and Dungeon Masters how to play high-level characters and run high-level campaigns in the Realms. It presents worthy challenges and opportunities for heroes who have had their fill of crawling through caverns and plundering forsaken tombs.

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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