Previews11/16/2006


Previews for November and Beyond



Nearly Beyond November

Last month, I said "better late than never." This month, I'll say "take vitamin-C and get some rest." By the time this article finally reaches the site, the November products should be on sale. But that doesn't lessen the value of taking a look at them here, and it sure doesn't take away from the stuff that's on the way in December and January -- there's a lot of good stuff hitting shelves around the holidays. Check it out:


November: Cityscape

The Environment series has explored all manner of terrain and locations that your campaigns and characters can discover. This latest installation delves into one of the most intriguing places in which you'll ever find adventure: the cities of your world. Danger and opportunity abound within this 160-page supplement, which details the treacherous territory found within the boundaries of the cities your characters visit. Once inside, you'll discover a complete guide to creating, running, and surviving urban encounters, adventures, and campaigns -- including rules for building cities, creating city-based characters and encounters, and navigating city terrain.

Back in September, I gave you the back cover text. Last month, I passed along the Introduction, including its chapter-by-chapter run-down of the book's five chapters.

This month, I thought I'd give you a look at one of the book's six archetypal cities. (You'll find the military city, the trading hub, port city, slaver city, capital city, and an evolved city.) In addition to being snapshots of cities you can develop and drop into your game, these serve as Cityscape's version of varying terrain types. I'll start with the short intro and a look at Dragonport (the port city).

Cities by Type

The following example cities serve a dual purpose. Each has a name and demographic detail so it can be dropped as-is into almost any campaign. An example city can form the basis for long-term urban adventures, or be simply a brief stopping point for PCs on their way to some other destination.

These entries also serve as models, much like the terrain material in prior environment books. Each demonstrates the most typical features of its function, whether military, commercial, or political. You can simply replace the names and details with your own, or construct your own cities that follow similar patterns.

Dragonport (The Port City)

Large City: Conventional/Monstrous; AL N; 40,000 gp limit; Assets 26,216,000 gp; Population 13,108; Mixed (82% human, 6% halfling, 4% gnome, 2% dwarf, 1% elf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc, 3% other).

Named for the great dragon turtle that once dwelled in the bay, Dragonport has grown from a small village with a single pier into one of the most vital ports on its coast. A constant flux of cargo travels to and from its many docks. Dragonport benefits less from this activity than does a trading city such as Four Winds, however: It is designed to facilitate passage of goods, not to encourage local business.

Dragonport is officially ruled by a council of governors, who covertly cooperate with a tribe of sahuagin dwelling in the outer depths of the bay. The council pays tribute to the tribe out of the city's profits and consults with the sahuagin before expanding the city or changing policies. In exchange, the sahuagin do not raid Dragonport; they also prevent ships from departing without paying docking fees, protect the community from pirate attack, and discourage the development of nearby rival ports.

November: Scourge of the Howling Horde

Also on sale this month is the latest adventure designed for 1st-level characters. In addition to being an excellent way for new players and characters to earn experience points, Scourge of the Howling Horde is also an ideal adventure for aspiring Dungeon Masters. Its all-new encounter format and sidebars will make it easier for anyone to run memorable and challenging encounters -- even someone taking his first turn behind the DM screen.

Back in September, I gave you the back cover text. And, like all of our adventurey-type stuff, I don't want to spoil the fun for anyone sitting at the gaming table, so I'm not going to pass along anything more. But I will reiterate that this 32-page adventure offers a fine opportunity for anyone that's ever wanted to justify their Dungeon Master's Guide.

November: Dragonmarked

Also on-sale this month is a 160-page hardcover supplement for the Eberron Campaign Setting that delves deeply into the thirteen dragonmarked houses and the power imbued to many of their members.

I gave you the back cover text back in September. And last month, I showed you the interior spread artwork by Wayne Reynolds, showed you a chunk from the opening of the chapter that explores the dragonmarked houses, and gave you the beginning of the section detailing House Cannith.

This month, I thought I'd give you a look at one of the book's twelve prestige classes -- one that scions of House Lyrandar (legitimate or not) might aspire to: the storm sentry.

Malena d'Lyrandar, a storm sentry

Storm Sentry

"Fear the fury of the storm!"

-- Malena d'Lyrandar of the Mistral

Members of House Lyrandar call the wind to fill the sails of merchant vessels or summon gentle rain for farmers in need. However, the Mark of Storm is aptly named, and its heirs control a powerful and deadly force of nature. The storm sentry is a colorful warrior who masters the martial applications of her dragonmark, blasting her enemies with terrible winds and charging her weapons with crackling lightning. Woe to the Lhazaar pirate who tries his luck against a Lyrandar vessel only to find a storm sentry on board.

BECOMING A STORM SENTRY

A storm sentry is a soldier first and foremost, and must be a capable combatant. At the same time, she must also be able to move with the wind, and to feel it flowing around her. The swashbuckler (from Complete Warrior) is the best-suited class to proceed to storm sentry, but any swift, lightly armored soldier can successfully take up this path. Though it is not a requirement, storm sentries tend toward chaotic alignments, and many are as restless and changeable as the storm whose power they summon.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Base Attack Bonus: +4.
Skills: Balance 4 ranks, Tumble 4 ranks.
Feats: Least Dragonmark (Mark of Storm -- gust of wind).

November: Blood War Booster Packs

The eternal war between demons and devils spans across the multiverse, touching countless planes of existence, and now it invades booster packs for the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures (DDM) game. In addition to a number of fiendish outsiders and other extraplanar creatures, you'll also find a healthy number of home-grown heroes and monsters that call the Material Plane home. Back in August, I showed you the Ice Devil, Marilith, and Kobold Monk. In September, you saw the Fire Giant Forgepriest and the Blood of Vol Cultist. Last month, I introduced the Valenar Nomad Charger and Earth Element Gargoyle.

This month, I've got two final minis out of the set's sixty to show off. If your party ever gets interested in planar travel, you'll want to know your DM might have these behind the screen -- waiting, plotting.

Ethereal Marauder -- Flip to page 105 in your Monster Manual, and you'll encounter the two-dimensional incarnation of this extraplanar predator. This Uncommon mini captures that illustration with unsurprising accuracy. From its sinuous, barbed tail to its disturbing, three-mandibled maw, the Ethereal Marauder appears to be nothing less than the hunter that it is. Its two, powerful legs are beweaponed with three clawed toes and a fourth spurlike claw. Three gleaming eyes rest just shy of the edge of the creature's three-sided mouth. The pincerlike fangs at the end of each of the three mandibles look capable of piercing deep holes in anything that gets too close to the Ethereal Marauder's mouth. And the rows of black teeth lining the interior of its maw and disappearing down its gullet seem to be well-suited to keeping its latest meal from getting away without an uncomfortable fight. The dark, but vibrant, blue color of the creature's hide is accented by a light drybrush of a grayish blue, and its underbelly and mouth (interior) share a similar leathery tan coloration. The beast's outstretched tail offers stability and balance, as it lunges forward to take a large triangular bite out of its prey.

Vlaakith the Lich Queen -- You know, liches -- in and of themselves -- are formidable enough foes. But, if you take a deep breath and then take a look at page 150 of your Planar Handbook, you'll gain a whole new appreciation (and dread) for how absolutely nasty a lich can be -- say, when she's a githyanki lich (25th-level) wizard that rules the entire race of githyaki from Susurrus, the Palace of Whispers, in the city of Tu'narath, on the Astral Plane. (That city, for the uninitiated, is built on the dead husk of a long-dead, six-armed god.) So, I can tell you from first-hand experience, you really don't want to tangle with this particular undead lady unless you really have to and are very, very prepared. (Don't forget -- I'm talking RPG here -- I don't have the stat card.) So, all that scariness aside, the Rare miniature of Vlaakith the Lich Queen is an impressive specimen of prepainted plastic villainy. (For your edification, and to stave off any argument around your table, the name's pronounced: vlah-KEETH.) Slender and close to skeletal, the graying flesh and the blood-red eyes of the Lich Queen connote her less-than-living status. Her long, flowing white hair, dark gray wraps, and ragged cloak add to that not-difficult-to-make observation. That deep purple cloak is a fluidly draped piece of magical outerwear, the exterior of which is festooned with a number (thirty to be specific) of eyes. (The Planar Handbook lists a cloak of charisma and a robe of eyes -- my guess is that this is an artistic amalgam, or something that reflects the DDM version of Vlaakith [but don't read into that].) Clasped in her left hand is the archetypal githyanki weapon -- a vorpal silver sword. (Man, one of those things snicker-snacked my character's head back in college.) Resting snugly atop her head is what must be one of her two powerful artifacts: the Crown of Corruption, which she has worn for over 900 years, and used to keep all her followers (specifically would-be challengers) in-line, or dead. Her right hand wields her other astonishingly potent artifact: the Scepter of Ephelomon (which, in addition to a few other things -- like total control over any red dragon that comes within a half mile of its bearer -- serves as the physical representation of the pact between the githyanki and red dragons, forged by the Ephemolon and the first Vlaakith ages ago).

So, since the Blood War expansion hits shelves this month, it won't take long for you to see the whole set, but it's always going to be worth checking out Steve Schubert's Minis Previews articles over on the D&D Minis page, to get his insight and perspective on the minis he's showing off. And when you pick up Dragon magazine every month, you'll get all sorts of other D&D minis previews and exclusive coverage.

November: D&D Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors

I don't have any details about this second set of Dungeon Tiles. But, I do know that, like the first set (D&D Dungeon Tiles), this 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.)

Like its predecessor, additional packs of Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors will help you build bigger, more elaborate, and detailed dungeons. And, future releases (like the one coming in January) will further expand your dungeon delving and terrain traversing options.


December: Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells

This infernal 160-page supplement offers you more information about the inhabitants of the Nine Hells than any character would want to find out the hard way. If you delved into this book's companion title, Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, you've got a chaotic idea of the kind of material you'll find inside this well-ordered book.

Last month, I showed you the back cover text. This month, I figured passing along the introduction would be a good way to start you down the dark path that is Fiendish Codex II.

Introduction

The dwarf sat at the bar, smiling as he surveyed the group of adventurers who gathered around a table. Only the rapid tapping of his fingers upon his hand axe's adamantine head betrayed his calm manner. His eyes lingered on the map the adventurers pored over. He recognized the Dwarven runes even from across the room, symbols foretelling great treasure at the cost of little danger.

The bartender leaned over the bar to whisper in the dwarf's ear. An observant patron might have noticed that his eyes gleamed red for the briefest moment. The dwarf didn't. His eyes were on only the map.

"It can be yours," whispered the bartender. "It would be a simple thing to drip a few drops of spider venom in their drinks."

"That's Sir Geldar in that group. I wouldn't want to mess with him," replied the dwarf.

"True enough. But that map does look like it leads to the last hidden vault of King Urga Orcsplitter. It would be a shame for such treasures to fall out of dwarven hands."

"It would, but I need more than spider poison to get that map. I need something more powerful."

The barkeep's eyes flared red again for the briefest moment.

"I'm sure I have what you need, my friend, as I'm sure you have something I want. Perhaps we can make a deal."

Abandon All Hope

Since the earliest days of D&D , devils have loomed as the mightiest opponents adventurers can face. The Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells supplement provides a travel guide for those foolish, brave, or unfortunate enough to enter the Nine Hells. This book contains options for both DMs and players, expanding the scope of D&D while offering new options for characters and adventures.

For DMs, Fiendish Codex II gives details on a variety of new devils along with feats and other options to modify existing ones. With the background material given in this book, you can make devils even more frightening and threatening than ever before.

In terms of campaign design, the information on the Nine Hells gives you new playgrounds of adventure. Rather than send the characters into another dungeon or untamed wilderness, the very depths of Hell itself are now open to adventure. Characters can bargain with devils for the soul of an innocent person. They can launch a raid on a devil's palace to recover a powerful artifact of evil, or track down and defeat an evil conspiracy at its source.

For players, Fiendish Codex II offers new options for characters who want to battle the forces of evil. A batch of new feats and four new prestige classes expand the choices that heroes can make to face down the minions of evil. A new character race allows a player to adopt the role of a tragic figure, an evil soul who has one last shot at redemption. With the powers of Hell eager to claim his soul, such a character must fight long and hard to earn his place in the exalted heavens.

Devils In The Campaign

Fiendish Codex II serves as a complete guide to devils. It aims to make it possible for such enemies to become the centerpiece of a campaign. As DM, you can thrust devils into a starring role as villains or use them as just another monster that the PCs face. In either case, Fiendish Codex II has options you can use to customize devils. In particular, this book presents new devils at a variety of CRs to make them viable opponents for any adventuring group.

Most important, Fiendish Codex II focuses on the lawful nature of devils. A lone devil is a representative of the will and goals of a creature further up Hell's chain of command. When adventurers take on a devil, they fight not only the creature but the entire system of tyranny and corruption that it serves. This book emphasizes the strange politics and cruel order of Hell. A single demon represents a rampant, physical threat. A lone devil is the advance scout for a hidden, malevolent agenda.

Now, particularly because of the fact that this book offers a huge amount of material that's going to give you plenty of opportunity to bust out the minis you'll pull from this month's release of the Blood War expansion, I thought I'd give you a look at the devils' perspective on the eternal war between the evil forces of law and chaos.

The Blood War

The other primary activity in Baator, besides the harvesting of souls, is fighting the eternal Blood War against the demonic horde, which is collectively called the tanar'ri. (Although other demonic races besides the tanar'ri exist, devils tend to lump them all into this one category for convenience.) Each layer of the Nine Hells boasts its own army, large portions of which are deployed permanently to Avernus, Baator's blood-soaked first layer, where the bulk of the Blood War battles in devilish territory are fought.

Devils engaged in the Blood War participate in soul harvesting only as the recipients of divine energy, which is granted to them by their superiors. Devils engaged in either activity take great pleasure in sneering at those occupied with the other. Soul harvesters claim that without them, the Blood War combatants would wither and die. Their martial colleagues respond that without them, demons would lay waste to all of the Nine Hells, bringing about an even swifter demise.

The diabolical forces in the Blood War are headed by Bel, Archduke of Avernus. Demonic invasions into Baator have never gotten farther than this layer, primarily because powerful magic inherent in the plane prevents demons from teleporting to any layer lower than one that they currently control. So to truly invade the Nine Hells, the tanar'ri would first have to occupy and reconsecrate the entirety of Avernus, then do the same to Dis, and so forth. To date, they have never occupied territory on Avernus for more than a day, thanks to the exceptional martial prowess of Bel and his forces.

Reporting directly to Bel are the formidable pit fiend generals known as the Dark Eight. Each of these generals commands the forces contributed by one layer of the Nine Hells. Archdukes are technically permitted to function as generals too, but they rarely deign to meddle. Waging the Blood War is drearily necessary but not nearly as interesting as corrupting mortal societies or jockeying for power with fellow archdevils.

The demons enjoy one major advantage in the Blood War: vastly superior numbers. Fortunately for the devils, demons are undisciplined fighters and almost absurdly poor strategists. Devils hold their own through superior tactics, unbending morale, and better equipment. Their mastery of military science is second to none, as is their dedication to subterfuge.

Still, the devils win only about half their engagements. Brilliance and pluck doesn't count for too much when their forces are outnumbered twenty to one.

Nature of the Blood War

The erinyes warrior Castalla returns, bruised but unbowed, from another engagement in the eternal Blood Wars

The Blood War is a manifestation of a wider cosmic principle -- the eternal tension between law and chaos. Some prophets say that this battle is about to intensify, and perhaps even resolve itself once and for all with a final victory of one force over the other. Asmodeus, who appears to believe this prediction, is already planning for the aftermath of this apocalyptic clash. He aims to win the Blood War and then proceed to conquer the other lawful planes, establishing himself as the universe's unquestioned sovereign.

As overblown as such dreams might be, Asmodeus understands what the lawful deities of other planes refuse to acknowledge -- that the Blood War is not just an intramural scrap between different varieties of evil. In fact, without the devils' service in this conflict, the tanar'ri would quickly overwhelm all the Outer Planes and decisively win the cosmic battle for the side of chaos. After destroying the rest of existence, they would devour each other, and that would be the end of things.

When his final plans fall into place, Asmodeus intends to punish his former masters of the celestial sphere for daring to look down upon the foot soldiers who did all the dirty work. Until then, he bides his time while they gaze upon the Blood War from their lofty perches.

December: Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift

I gave you the back cover text to this, the fifth installation in the Fantastic Locations line of accessories, last month, Like the others of its kind (such as Fantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin), this one also offers roleplayers and miniatures gamers new, challenging, and exciting places to find adventure and combat, with a 16-page adventure book and two double-sided battle maps. Again, because of the adventure-ness of the book, I'm going to leave it at that.



December: The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde

The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde is the launchpad for a new D&D campaign. Inside is enough activity to take 1st-level D&D characters to 7th level, as well as plenty of raw materials you can use for further exploration. (And as it also uses that new format for combat encounters, it'll be a great second adventure for new DMs to really flex their screen-wielding skills.) Last month, I passed along the back cover text. Beyond that, all I'll pass on about this challenging adventure is that it's 142 pages of material, including an adventure book, campaign book, a players' book, a double-sided map, and a booklet of illustrations.


January: D&D Icons: Gargantuan Blue Dragon

More on this bad blue boy next month!

January: Complete Scoundrel

The latest and long-awaited addition to the Complete _______ line of books (you know, like Complete Mage,Complete Adventurer, and Complete Psionic) Complete Scoundrel is the 160-page hardcover filled with character-building options for players and DMs that want to bring a little deception, mischief, skullduggery, and intrigue to the table. Like the other title in the series, Complete Scoundrel provides a large stash of feats, prestige classes, tricks, spells, equipment, and magic items ideally suited to characters and campaigns that like to dabble a bit on the edges of everything they can get away with. I'll try to grab more next month, but for now, check out the back cover text:

Fair Fights are for Suckers

In a world filled with monsters and villains, a little deception and boldness goes a long way. You know how to take advantage of every situation, and you don't mind getting your hands dirty. Take the gloves off? Ha! You never put them on. You infuriate your foes and amaze your allies with your ingenuity, resourcefulness, and style. For you, every new predicament is an opportunity in disguise, and with each sweet victory your notoriety grows. That is how legends are made.

This D&D supplement gives you everything you need to get the drop on your foes and escape sticky situations. In addition to new feats, spells, items, and prestige classes, Complete Scoundrel presents new mechanics that put luck on your side and a special system of skill tricks that allow any character to play the part of a scoundrel. Tricky tactics aren't just for rogues anymore.

January: D&D Dungeon Tiles III: Hidden Crypts

Unsurprisingly, I also have no specifics about this third set of Dungeon Tiles. But, I do know that it's going to be a lot like the other sets. (That's D&D Dungeon Tiles and Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridorsfor those of you tuning in late in this article.) I'll try to have more details next month. Until then, maybe we can get hold of a sample tile or something.


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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