Previews09/07/2006


Previews for September and Beyond



Running on Fumes

You know when the Check Gauge light comes on in your car, telling you that you're running low on gas? Sometimes it's just because you're on a hill, and the sensor just thinks the fuel's low. And sometimes you're actually about to get the chance to take a hike down the highway to the next Chevron 'cause you really don't have enough juice to make it to the exit. Somewhere in there is an explanation for why this article's a little light (for my taste) on content. But that doesn't preclude the fact that there's a lot of really good stuff hitting shelves this month and in the next couple -- head out to your FLGS and see for yourself. And, if you want an idea of what to look for and what to look forward to, check it out:


On Sale Now: Dungeon Tiles

I gave you a heads-up about this hot-off-the-press accessory last month. I don't really have anything more to add to that, but since Dungeon Tiles popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, I thought I'd give it another turn here in the article.

Just to reiterate what the product's all about, Dungeon Tiles is a nonrandomized pack of sturdy, portable, and easy-to-use terrain that will help Dungeon Masters improve every adventure and maximize the use of their D&D Miniatures.

Each double-sided piece is constructed of durable, laminated, game board and features full-color artwork depicting any of a variety of dungeon features and settings. (The flipside of many of the tiles features a plain, 1-inch grid that'll let you build an endless variety of rooms and passages.

This first pack contains over three dozen pieces and provides a number of classic settings and features, including a tavern and magic shop, as well as pits, statues, stairs, doors, chasms, and other elements of a classic dungeon delve. The good bit is that you can pick up multiple copies of the pack and expand your dungeon-building options. And as new releases come out, you'll gain access to more dungeon-building materials, new features, other environments, and terrain.


September: Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game

D&D is easy to play, but it can be hard to learn. Those big hardcover rulebooks can be kinda daunting (or challenging) for someone interested in playing, especially if they've never touched a twenty-sider before. That's why this redesigned Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game provides everything 2-5 people need to sit down and start playing D&D: dice, character sheets, adventures, maps, rules, and miniatures. Back in June, I gave you the back-of-box text. I passed along the list of contents back in July And last month, you got the low-down on which minis are inside the box (and the various reasons why collectors will be interested in them.) That's about all I've got on this thing, other than to point out that it's a great addition to your shelf (for bringing new players aboard) or as an ideal gift that'll pass along the legacy.

September: Dragon Magic

Hitting shelves this month, the hardcover Dragon Magic offers 160 pages of options, guidelines, suggestions, and rules for creating/adapting and adventuring in a world where dragons openly share their secrets and power with the other sentient races. July's article, passed along the back cover copy. Last month, I pulled out a nice chunk of text from the introduction.

This month, I thought I'd give you a look at a swath from Chapter Two, which introduces you to a new base class and seven prestige classes that allow you to create characters that seek to emulate dragons -- these individuals are known as dragon aspirants.

Dragon Aspirants

Dragons are known to inspire fear and terror wherever they roam, dominating their enemies, subjugating the residents of their domain, and making even the most stalwart adventurers quake at the thought of fighting them. However, dragons sometimes inspire something else: ambition. Certain brave and foolhardy people hold them up as models, aspiring to become more dragonlike, expanding their own philosophies and thoughts to encompass the frightening and amazing world of dragonkind. To a dragon aspirant, a dragon is a role model to be studied and emulated.

Some dragon aspirants are friends or allies with dragons already. These lucky few need not go far to find their source of inspiration; they have ready access to the knowledge, wisdom, and practices of dragons. Others are not so fortunate and must embark upon quests to seek an audience with a benevolent dragon. Some dragon aspirants are content to study dragons from afar, learning through history and the firsthand accounts of others. Regardless of how the aspirants come to possess knowledge of dragons, these rare adventurers apply what they learn to their own lives.

A dragon aspirant usually has a profession or course of study before adopting a draconic philosophy; wizards, soldiers, thieves, and religious leaders might take an interest in dragons as a means of furthering their own careers. To a dragon aspirant, becoming more dragonlike will help her do what she already does -- only better.

  • For a soldier, dragons represent the epitome of combat prowess, and so the more ambitious soldier studies to fight like a dragon.
  • For a spellcaster, dragons represent the highest known form of intuitive magic, and so the more powerful caster studies to channel magic like a dragon.
  • For a cleric or paladin, dragons represent proof that the deities can create beings of magnificent power beyond those of their angelic hosts, and so to model oneself after a dragon is to aspire to be like the greatest of all creations.
  • Regardless of a character's role in the world, dragons represent something greater than she could achieve by being merely humanoid. This chapter presents a new standard class, the dragonfire adept, who channels draconic powers in a manner similar to the warlock (from Complete Arcane). Following this are seven new prestige classes for those who aspire to be more like the legendary creatures.

September: The Twilight Tomb

This is a 160-page adventure set in the Forgotten Realms, designed to challenge a party of four 3rd-level characters. I showed you the back cover copy for this thing back in July. And, it goes on sale this month, so you'll just have to take an adventure hook and find out what it's all about for yourself.




September: Faiths of Eberron

If you play in or run a game that uses the Eberron Campaign Setting, you're going to find this 160-page supplement to be invaluable, as well as inspirational. It offers an exhaustive amount of information and detail about all of the established pantheons in Eberron, as well as a number of secret cults and other religious organizations. Dungeon Masters will find campaign-expanding material to help flesh out NPCs, encounters, adventures, and campaigns. Players will sift through the shiny treasure contained within the pile of new prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items.

I got things started by passing along the back cover copy back in July. Last month, there was a moral imperative to show off Wayne Reynold's stunning interior spread artwork. I followed that with the book's introductory section, which included a chapter-by-chapter overview of the book. And I finished with a snippet from Chapter Six: Other Cults, which provided insight into the warforged faith of The Becoming God.

This month, I thought I'd give you a look at a chunk of Chapter Four (and some background that might be useful when looking at one of this month's Blood War minis) -- the lawful evil chapter detailing The Blood of Vol.

The Blood of Vol

Few religions are as misunderstood as the spiritual path known as the Blood of Vol. Seekers, as followers of the faith call themselves, do not worship a divine entity, nor do they revere their ancestors, as do the elves of Aerenal. Indeed, it would be difficult to classify the Blood of Vol as a religion at all were it not for the fact that its adherents do believe in a divinity -- albeit a most unusual one.

Doctrine

If any single religious doctrine unites the Blood of Vol, it is the concept worshipers call the Divinity Within. This notion is embodied in one of the Seekers' most treasured axioms, spoken at the opening of almost every ritual gathering:

Look not to the skies, nor to the depths below, nor even to the distant past or future. Seek the divine within, for the blood is the life, and in its call can be heard the promise of eternal life. One has but to listen.

This chant illustrates how the faith stands apart from more traditional religions. Seekers believe in no divinity but that which courses through their own veins, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of any "god" on principle alone. To them, followers of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six are living deluded lives that will ultimately end in despair. Seeker philosophy does not exclude the three great Dragons but views them more as concepts than as literal beings. Worshipers believe in the power of things seen and grasped, and a dragonshard can be held in the hands, power coursing through it. Seekers hold that any "creator" who would devise the plane of Dolurrh as a soul's final reward is worthy only of contempt. Thus, the faith focuses on the pragmatic -- specifically, the life-or-death coin toss that is existence.

Seekers believe that traditional faith is a self-indulgent conceit, a means for small minds and even smaller souls to come to terms with the true nature of existence. In a world as unforgiving as Eberron, the only faith that is not misplaced is faith in oneself and one's own capabilities. When priests of Vol meditate on their daily spells, for example, they are praying not to deities or to concepts, but in truth, to themselves. The Divinity Within grants the power to shape reality, not some outside force.

History

Before moving onto the details of the Divinity Within, it is instructive to learn how the Blood of Vol came to be. Most would be surprised to learn that the roots of the faith stretch back tens of thousands of years to the time of the giants in Xen'drik. It was not until the lost mark -- the Mark of Death -- appeared among the elves of House Vol, however, that the Blood of Vol as we know it was born. In a misguided attempt to put an end to the conflict that had ravaged both elves and dragons, the matriarch of House Vol mixed the blood of the two races, resulting in the birth of a baby girl who embodied both. The matriarch, a powerful necromancer named Minara d'Vol, named her daughter Erandis after her grandmother. Unknown even to the rest of House Vol, Minara fell deeply in love with the girl's father, a mighty green dragon known as the Emerald Claw (his true name is believed known only to Vol), over the course of her pregnancy. Erandis was raised in secret while both House Vol and the Emerald Claw tried to secure a peaceful end to the conflict.

How word of the half-dragon's existence got out is still a mystery to this day. Some claim the baby girl was betrayed by one of the elves of House Vol, but none can explain who did so or why. The prevailing belief is that the girl's own father, desperate for an end to the intermittent but devastating conflicts between the elves and dragons, announced the news of the successful union between elf and dragon. Whatever the cause, revelation of Erandis's existence did indeed unify of the two races (and ironically, brought an end to the periodic conflicts) but not in the House Vol as they had hoped. Mutual outrage brought elves and dragons together, and they immediately began a campaign to obliterate all traces of both half-dragons and House Vol from the face of Eberron.

According to legend, the Emerald Claw vanished not long after the purge began. Some say he was killed defending the race of half-dragons (of which his daughter was now the most famous example). Others claim he withdrew from the world in shame over what his hubris had wrought. Twenty-six hundred years ago, House Vol was brought low, and the Mark of Death was lost in the process. Rather than see her daughter destroyed, Minara used her powers over life and death to transform Erandis into a lich. She had just enough energy left to send her daughter to safety before a powerful red dragon named Avothirax arrived at the head of a thousand elf warriors.

[Note: You can see the rest of this chapter when we post our monthly excerpts.]

September: Colossal Red Dragon

This thing is on sale this month. You shouldn't be reading about the biggest D&D Miniature ever made; you should be standing with awe in its presence at your FLGS. (Try not to drool or paw over the package too much, unless you're standing in line at the cash register with it.) You'll know the CRD's box when you see it -- not just because it's got a Colossal Red Dragon inside, or because it says so on the outside, but because the box is immense -- it's 16 inches wide, 15 inches tall, and almost 10 inches deep. Have wire cutters and/or patience when extracting this guy from his cardboard lair -- keeping a creature like this in its place during overseas shipping takes a lot of restraints. Anyway, as I've been saying for a while now -- you really need to see this thing if for no other reason than to really get a sense of how big a Colossal creature actually is. And, this is just the second installation in the D&D Icons line -- there's more on the way.

September: d20 Dark*Matter

As if aliens or government agents in black helicopters swept in and confiscated all documentation and evidence, I still don't have anything to show you for this book. So, I'll just point out, once more, that this is a d20-ified update of the original Dark*Matter Campaign Setting that will now take the form of a 160-page softcover supplement for thed20 Modern Roleplaying Game, And, if you're curious about the back cover copy, you'll find it tucked away at the very bottom of July's article. Unless it's been disappeared.



October: Special Edition Monster Manual

Right. If you've been paying attention around this time of year the past couple of years, you're probably familiar with the Special Edition Player's Handbook and Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. So, at last, you'll be able to complete your collection of 320-page core rulebooks bound in embossed, black leather, complete with gilt-edged pages, a red marker ribbon, and errata.



October: Dungeons & Dragons Limited-Edition Chess Set

It's a chess set. Bahamut and good dragons are on one side of the board; Tiamat and the evil dragons are on the other. Last month, I gave you a run-down of the various and sundry features and details, including a mention of the special optional rules that put a particularly D&D-esque spin on your game.

October: Complete Mage

This'll be short: I couldn't find anything to show you from this 224-page hardcover, which, I'm led to believe, offers a wizard's tower's worth of new rules, options, and material for those of you interested in magic of the arcane variety. If that doesn't grab you, take a look at the back cover copy, which I grabbed for you last month.




October: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft

Based on one of the most popular and (in)famous adventure modules of all time, this 224-page hardcover adventure updates and expands upon the classic horror adventure that made Count Strahd von Zarovich the household name he is. Seeing as this is an adventure, and I'm not inclined to pass along any chunk from its interior, we're all set and ready to include the link to last month's article, which contained back cover text and then move on. Okay, wait -- spoiler space -- there might be a vampire.




November:Blood War Booster Packs

Sixty more miniatures are on their way. And the eternal struggle between demons and devils will soon rage across gaming tables in kitchens, dorms, living rooms, game stores, and elsewhere. Last month, I showed you the Ice Devil, Marilith, and Kobold Monk. This month, I've got two more to show you -- one's Rare, the other's Common. See if you can guess which is which.

Fire Giant Forgepriest -- I don't know what they feed Fire Giant Forgepriests, but this guy seems to be almost twice as big as King Snurre and the Fire Giant from Giants of Legend. He's also a Large mini, on the updated, bigger base, so perhaps he's just grown in proportion to his base -- nearly two heads taller (not counting the frill on Snurre's white dragon headgear). It could just be that this mini is from an entirely different tribe -- one that gets plenty of vitamins and exercise -- as his hair, clothing and armor are reminiscent of his fire giant kin, but not the same. Dark reddish orange hair erupts from the top of the Forgepriest's black-skinned skull (kinda like the Heat Miser), and is mirrored by his thick, chest-length goatee. Smoldering orange eyes glower from beneath heavy, furrowed eyebrows that match the rest of his facial and cranial growth. The Forgepriest also wears a heavy reddish tunic/shirt that's not as dirty or disheveled as his predecessors'. The Fire Giant Forgepriest's piecemeal plate armor lacks the reddish tint of Snurre & Co., but is festooned with a number of light, golden accents and adornments (many of which, as might be expected, have a flame motif), the most interesting of which is the flaming anvil device on his left poleyn (kneepad). And if you buy into the theory that an anvil may serve as the Forgepriest's holy symbol, just imagine the turning power of the massive maul he's hefting with both of his bare hands. This is my favorite bit on the mini: The head of his hammer is an enormous anvil mounted on a sturdy, metal shaft. And that hamvil seems to be on the verge of being put to use in a violent manner because the Forgepriest is taking a menacingly short step forward to get within reach of his victim (which, if you follow the angle of his gaze, must be a Medium creature about 15 feet away). Tithe -- quickly.

Blood of Vol Cultist -- If nothing else, worshiping the Divinity Within must be a confidence-building exercise, because this guy has much attitude (especially for someone who's just standing there). Clad in a heavy burgundy robe with matching cloak, the Blood of Vol Cultist exemplifies what a participant in a secret ritual should look like. His head is held slightly bowed forward, but his gaze is fixed forward (at least the one eye that's not obscured by his cloak seems to be focused forward, rather than down). In his left hand, held across his chest, is a golden, wavy-bladed ritual dagger that's a requisite piece of equipment for this sort of vocation. His other hand is wielding a long-handled mace (perhaps it's just a rod), the business end of which sports a quartet of stylized masks that may be the symbol of the Blood of Vol. Another such symbol hangs on a very long, golden chain draped over his shoulders and down his back. Also strung on a chain hung around his neck (and resting 'twixt his shoulderblades) is a series of five skulls that lend a bit of extra evil to the already sinister presence of this guy. Being a Common mini, multiples of him can form a nice circle of Blood of Vol Cultists that'll make for really cool encounters. And it's a solidly cool mini that'll serve really well as a PC or unique NPC.

When you're ready for more D&D minis, check out Steve Schubert's Minis Previews articles over on the D&D Minis page and pick up Dragon magazine every month to check out their exclusive D&D minis coverage.

November: Cityscape

This is 160 pages full of rules, options, guidelines, and materials that DMs and players can make use of when creating campaigns and characters that delve into the urban areas of their worlds. I don't have much more than that, but, thankfully, I can at least pass along the text from the back of the book.




As Deadly as Any Dungeon

There's more to adventuring than crawling around in dungeons. The city holds many avenues of peril and intrigue. It teems with adventure and offers unsurpassed opportunities and challenges. Dark alleys, busy guildhalls, rowdy taverns, fetid sewers, and palatial manors hold secrets to be discovered and mysteries to be explored.

This supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons game reveals the city in all its grandeur and grimness. It makes the "urban dungeon" feel alive with politics and power, especially through influential guilds. This tome also describes new feats, spells, urban terrain, hazards, and monsters guaranteed to make the party's next visit to the city a vibrant and exhilarating event.

November: Scourge of the Howling Horde

This'll be easy -- it's an adventure. You'll find 32 pages in this adventure book, and it's designed to help a beginning Dungeon Master really get the hang of running a challenging adventure. I recall flipping through an early version of this, and I remember being impressed with how cleverly done it was -- start dicing to see who gets to take the first turn behind the DM screen. Here's the back cover text:



Take Your First Steps

On the Road to Adventure

Goblins set upon the quiet town of Barrow's Edge, and the community cries out for heroes to save them. What has turned the secretive and reclusive goblins into bloodthirsty raiders? Who is the mysterious new leader of the tribe? The truth lies deep within the Howling Caves. . . .

Scourge of the Howling Horde is a stand-alone adventure designed for a group of 1st-level characters. Perfect for new players or seasoned players, it features an easy-to-use encounter format and includes useful DM advice for beginning and experienced Dungeon Masters.

November: Dragonmarked

If you've dabbled around using the Eberron Campaign Setting, you may have heard of the dragonmarked houses, and the members of those powerful entities. And, if you've ever wanted an in-depth look at either or both of those, you're in luck. With 160 pages at its disposal, Dragonmarked delves into the thirteen dragonmarked houses and the power of the marks borne by their members with material that includes roleplaying hooks, feats, prestige classes, and spells. And, here's the back cover copy:



The Mark of Dragons -- a Sign of Destiny

You belong to one of the great dynastic houses of commerce, and you bear an arcane symbol of your house's power on your skin. This dragonmark makes you special. It grants you access to arcane powers. Whether it's a gift of the great dragon Eberron or a sign of the draconic Prophecy, no one knows. However, one thing is certain: Those who possess dragonmarks have a destiny, the exact nature of which has yet to be revealed. . . .

This supplement explores each of the thirteen dragonmarked houses in detail and presents advice for playing dragonmarked characters within a house or house guild. In addition, the book introduces exciting new options for dragonmarked characters, including prestige classes, feats, and spells. Finally, it discusses aberrant dragonmarks and their role in the 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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