Previews03/08/2007


Previews for March and Beyond



Back Up to Speed

It has taken far too long, but I've finally dug myself out from under just about everything that got piled up and backed up. I've tracked down enough information to show off. And with the (merciful) extra helping of adventures in the release schedule, I can get this thing written and over to Mr. Carroll (and on to everyone else that has to touch this article to get it online) on time. So, there's a lot of stuff on the way. And more to come. Check it out:


March: Unhallowed Booster Packs

Finally on sale this month, this undead-fest of an expansion adds 60 new minis to your ever-growing collection. You already saw the Pseudodragon and Beholder Lich in December, and the Shield Guardian and Stone Giant Runecarver in January. Last month, I gave you a quick look at the Caller in Darkness and the Pentifex Monolith. This month, I've got two final minis to pass along -- a couple critters we've not seen since Harbinger.

Displacer Beast Manhunter -- Few critters in the game are as iconic as this six-legged, two-tentacled cat. Filling its Large base with ferocious feline grace, the (Rare) Displacer Beast Manhunter outweighs and out-menaces the original Displacer Beast we got in the inaugural set of D&D Minis. The creature's powerful body is most impressive at the "shoulder" area where the front legs, middle legs, and tentacles all come together -- the musculature is beefy, impressive, and fairly believable. Each of the tentacles is about 2-1/4 inches long and ends with that familiar section of toothy/raspy nastiness (two rows, lining either side of the tentacle end). From its neck forward, the Displacer Beast Manhunter looks just like a stocky, powerfully built great cat -- fanged mouth open to take a large bite or to let out a snarling roar, its pointed ears laid back, eyes narrowed (okay, they're red -- so it's an evil-looking great cat). The creature's body is covered in a nicely detailed fur texture that really stands out with the mini's coloration. The black plastic of the actual sculpt lends its shadowy darkness to what seems to be a dark purple wash and an iridescent purple drybrush -- that sheen suggests the whole "displacer" thing. Pose-wise, the mini seems to be slowly stalking forward, preparing for a quick, short pounce and powerful swipe with that left-hand claw and tentacle one-two punch.

Stormrage Shambler -- Another mini we've not seen re-done since Harbinger, the (also Large) Stormrage Shambler is sure to make forest, swamp, and other outdoorsy adventures a bit more interesting. Whereas the first Shambling Mound could've easily been used as a prop, looking a lot like a small bush (with a bundle of kindling stuffed in the side), this Uncommon creature can't possibly be mistaken for anything other than a big, hulking, green mass of monster. There's a sort of Swamp Thing-iness about this mini, with the tentaclelike roots, leaves, and other vegetation-emulating nodules and knots. Clearly humanoid in shape, the Stormrage Shambler doesn't seem to have any eyes, but it certainly has a mouth, complete with nasty-looking mustard-yellow teeth jutting from its lower jaw. Sticking out of its head and right-hand shoulder and upper arm are a series of small, stumplike pieces of brown wood. The rest of the mini is a wash of dark, dirty brown and a foresty green drybrush. The combination really calls out the leaves (particularly on its back) and the number of writhing tendrils wrapping around its arms and legs. When you look closely, you'll see that the Stormrage Shambler's feet are very much like tree roots that wrap over and around a pair of black stones. Those bits of black plastic would be merely lumps of plastic on the base of the mini, except for the fact that there's a trio of other black stones jutting out of the Stormrage Shambler's backside (his left cheek, if you will). It's a neat detail that suggests the organic nature of this frightening foresty menace.

If you have an insatiable need to see more Unhallowed minis before you start dumping them out of booster packs, check out Steve Schubert's Miniatures Previews articles on the D&D Minis page, and flip through Dragon magazine to see their minis content and exclusive coverage.

March: Magic Item Compendium

So, if and when you're outfitting a character, NPC, magic shop, or encounter with stuff that glows when detect magic is cast on it, you're going to have much use for this 224-page tome of mystical toys. Much in the same way that Spell Compendiumoffered up all the coolest/useful/popular spells (without reprinting those in the Player's Handbook), Magic Item Compendium is an exhaustive compilation of all the best/most useful/interesting magic items floating around out there (not reprinting items from the Dungeon Master's Guide, but including them in all the relevant tables.)

Back in January, you got the back cover text. And last month, I gave you a quote from Andy Collins, the Introduction and Chapter-by-Chapter description of the book, and a look at the extremely handy Magic Item Record Sheet from the back of the book. This month, I wanted to give you a look at one of the interesting ideas that's explored in detail (fourteen times) in Chapter Five: Magic Item Sets.

Magic Item Sets (Chapter Five)

A magic item set consists of three to six thematically linked magic items that provide extra bonuses or effects when worn together. The abilities scale or accumulate with the number of items worn. A character gains a particularly potent effect when all the items of a set are worn or used together.

Behind the Curtain: Magic Item Sets

The concept of thematically linked sets of magic items that provide more power when used together has a great pedigree in fantasy fiction, but D&D has largely ignored this concept. Magic Item Compendium presents item sets to remedy that. The collection benefits of each set are carefully designed to provide appealing bonus abilities that aren't unbalancing. The character never pays gold for these extra powers: Their value is not added to the costs of the items in the set. We don't want a player whose item set components have not yet yielded any additional abilities to feel like he has paid too much for his items. If a character must somehow pay for the ability, collecting the set feels more like working off a debt than seeking something fun. Instead, the balancing factor of the sets comes from the PC using his item slots for the items of the set instead of items that might be more advantageous.

The value of a collection benefit stays within certain boundaries. The collection benefit for two pieces should equal roughly 10% of the combined cost of the two cheapest items in the set. Thereafter, collection benefits are valued at roughly 25% of the cost of the cheapest item or combination of items you need to reach the threshold of gaining the ability. The capstone ability of the set might be as much as 30% of the value of the most expensive item in the set.

To give you an even better idea of what a magic item set is all about, I'll give you a peek at one of the fourteen you'll find detailed in Chapter Five -- the Garb of the Hunting Cat. {{link to Cat excerpt}}

Garb of the Hunting Cat

Although made of mere steel and skin, the garb of the hunting cat presents a powerful combination of abilities that makes any wearer a deadly predator. This garb gives you the rending claws, incredible stealth, and hunting ability of a tiger. While anyone can wear the garb and become like the beast, only the most skilled combatants can use the abilities of the garb of the hunting cat to their fullest.

Characters of any melee-oriented class can find the garb of the hunting cat useful, but the set provides benefits most suited to rangers, rogues, ninjas, and scouts. Feats that help you capitalize on the set's abilities include Spring Attack and Two-Weapon Fighting.

Lore

Characters who have ranks in Knowledge (arcane), or who have the bardic knowledge ability, can research the garb of the hunting cat to learn more about these items. When a character succeeds on a check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC 15: The garb of the hunting cat first came to light due to a number of shocking attacks upon human and elf settlements. The countryside was terrorized by strange, tigerlike people who would slaughter whole villages. The creatures were difficult to track and, when overmatched, vanished into thin air. When at last one was killed, the victors discovered not a monster but a man wearing the garb of the hunting cat.

DC 20: Those who attacked the elves and humans were members of a cult of rakshasa worshipers. Each of the cultists was outfitted with a set of the garb of the hunting cat, and participating in a "hunt" against other humanoids was a necessary part of the rite of passage to receive a set. Most of the sets ended up in the hands of those who survived the cultist assaults and were later sold. Many who now wear parts of the garb of the hunting cat are ignorant of the set's bloody history.

DC 25: The rakshasa at the center of the cult was confronted, but it escaped and might still be alive. It's said that the evil creature can be recognized in any form it adopts because its natural form has pure white fur without stripes, and it seems incapable of creating hair with any pigment when it adopts another shape.

Many of those who have collected the entire garb of the hunting cat set have died by the claws of some kind of an animal. Stories abound of hunting trips gone wrong, supposedly domesticated beasts going wild, and even of terrible bloody deaths behind locked doors that no animals should be able to penetrate. The common thread through al these stories is that the death occurred when the owner of the garb was not wearing it. If the rakshasa is at fault, as many suspect, its motives remain a mystery because the pieces are always left behind with the body of their owner.

DC 30: A check result of 30 or higher reveals the location of another piece of the set. Use this to drive further adventure and direct the PCs toward some location or story you would like them to explore.

Collection Benefits

The garb of the hunting cat provides you with a deadly rending attack and the power to disappear from sight. When wearing the entire garb of the hunting cat, you take on the appearance of a humanoid tiger during combat. When this occurs, the fur on the various items appears to be that of a living creature, making you appear something like a bestial rakshasa or weretiger.

2 Pieces: If, during your turn, you hit a single foe with both a primary claw glove attack and an off-hand claw glove attack, the second attack rends, dealing an extra 3d6 points of damage. You can rend only once per round.

3 Pieces: Once per day, you can use invisibility on yourself (CL 3rd) as a standard (mental) action.

Claw Gloves
Price (Item Level): 5,604 gp (10th)
Body Slot: Hands
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) transmutation
Activation: --
Weight: 1 lb.

These gloves are made from tiger skin and fitted with sharp steel claws on the end of each finger.

Claw gloves are treated as a pair of +1 punching daggers for the purpose of fighting with them when both are worn. However, wearing claw gloves does not inhibit your ability to wield other weapons or otherwise use your hands.

In addition, if you charge or use Spring Attack while you are wearing claw gloves and both your hands are empty, you can make an off-hand claw glove attack in addition to the normal claw glove attack granted (though both attacks take normal penalties for fighting with two weapons). You can't combine this extra attack with an attack with any other weapon, nor is it cumulative with any other effect that grants you extra attacks when charging or using Spring Attack.

Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item, magic fang, possession of a piece of the set.

Cost to Create: 2,500 gp (plus 604 gp for two masterwork punching daggers), 200 XP, 5 days.

Mantle of the Predator
Price (Item Level): 8,000 gp (11th)
Body Slot: Shoulders
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) transmutation
Activation: --
Weight: 2 lb.

This short, flexible cape is made from tiger skin and feels warm to the touch.

A mantle of the predator grants you a +5 competence bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks. In addition, you deal an extra 1d6 points of damage with melee attacks against foes denied their Dexterity bonus to AC. Creatures with concealment, creatures without discernible anatomies, and creatures immune to extra damage from critical hits are all immune to this extra damage.

Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, cat's grace, possession of a piece of the set.

Cost to Create: 4,000 gp, 320 XP, 8 days.

Mask of the Tiger
Price (Item Level): 4,000 gp (8th)
Body Slot: Face
Caster Level: 7th
Aura: Moderate; (DC 18) transmutation
Activation: --
Weight: 1 lb.

This steel mask is covered with tiger skin and fitted with actual tiger teeth.

A mask of the tiger provides you with the benefit of the Track feat (or, if you already have that feat, a +5 competence bonus on Survival checks). In addition, you gain low-light vision.

Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, low-light vision (SC 134), possession of a piece of the set.

Cost to Create: 2,000 gp, 160 XP, 4 days.

Garb of the Hunting Cat Pieces and Abilities
Piece Body Slot Price (Level) Ability
Mask of the tiger Face 4,000 gp (8th) Gain Track (or +5 Survival); low-light vision
Claw gloves Hands 5,604 gp (10th) +1 punching daggers; two claw attacks on charge or Spring Attack
Mantle of the predator Shoulders 8,000 gp (11th) +5 on Hide and Move Silently; +1d6 against foes denied Dex bonus to AC
Garb of the Hunting Cat Collection Benefits
Pieces Worn Benefit
2 pieces Rend with claw gloves
3 pieces 1/day invisibility

March: Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave

This is a 160-page adventure for a party of 4th-level characters tromping around the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, so I won't go into any real detail about it. But I will reiterate that this is the first hardcover super-adventure we've done for those of you that call Faerûn home -- and it's the first installation of an epic three-part series. (Though the adventure works just fine as a stand-alone.)



March: Dungeons & Dragons Deluxe Dice

A lot of folks (especially new gamers) have a hard time getting good dice -- especially if they don't have a game store nearby, or even know that they exist. I bought my first set of dice at a Waldenbooks bookstore, and this box-o-dice will offer a lot of folks that same opportunity. (Not that you won't find 'em at your FLGS, too.) The great thing about these dice is that they're actually really, really nice dice -- the kind even long-time gamers would be happy to bring to the table. (I'm replacing my current set of dice with some of these, as soon as they're available.) I really rambled on about how t'riffic these dice (and the bag) are back in January.

But, just to go over the basics again, this is a full set of polyhedrals (d4, three d6s, d8, d10, d%, d12, d20) and a black suede bag (embroidered with the D&D logo.) The dice were produced for us by Dice & Game Limited. And the dicebag holds a lot more than the dice that come with it. In fact, I know from firsthand experience that you can stuff all the dice you'd need to run a 20th-level wizard (that is, a set of five d4s for your magic missile and a full set of twenty d6s), along with a short pencil, eraser, and a few minis.


April: City of Peril

I showed you the back cover text for this last month. Aside from that, I can't pass along too much, seeing as there's adventure-/encounter-type material inside the 16-page encounter booklet. And, like the other installments in the Fantastic Locations series (such as Fantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin), this pack of excitement and adventure for skirmish combat also comes with two double-sided battle maps. Whether you run a D&D game or like to send your warband up against your buddies' gang, you'll find much usefulness inside the shrink-wrapped walls of City of Peril.

April: Expedition to the Demonweb Pits

I gave you the back cover text for this 224-page super-adventure last month, and while I won't go into detail about what's on the inside of the book, I will give you the stuff you'd want to know when considering it for use at your gaming table. It's an adventure designed for use in any campaign, and it can serve quite well as the main focus of your (9th-level) party's action, as an ongoing series of side adventures that eventually lead to a huge climax, or even as a one-off mini-campaign.


April: Eyes of the Lich Queen

So, last month, I gave you the back cover text. This month, I can't go into much more detail than to say that this is a 128-page super-adventure (the first for the Eberron Campaign Setting) designed to really challenge a party of 5th-level characters (which will be around 10th when all is said and done).


May: Drow of the Underdark

Have you noticed that drow are popular? It's hard to miss. Though it is kinda hard to understand why it has taken so long to produce a book dedicated to just those lovable, cuddly dark elves. Regardless, at last, we've got 224 pages of hardcover information that delves deep under the earth and into the culture of one of the most-popular races (PC and NPC) in the game. (By the way, drow is pronounced like "how," "now," and "cow." Not like "crow.") I've not gotten to sully my hands with this detailed glimpse into the pitch-black realm of the drow, but I did manage to dig up the back cover text:

Elegant, Dark, and Deadly

Deep below the surface realm, in the perpetual gloom of the Underdark, the drow conspire to subjugate the world in the name of their dread spider goddess. No other race can match their malice and cruelty. No other race holds a candle to their ruthless depravity and thirst for power. Their cities are dark and twisted cradles of treachery and corruption, their myriad schemes a tangled web that snares all who defy the will of Lolth.

This Dungeons & Dragons supplement presents the definitive treatise on the dark elves. Within these pages, you'll find insights into drow culture and society, rules and options for drow characters, new equipment, prestige classes, feats, magic items, and monsters, as well as a detailed exploration of the fabled drow city of Erelhei-Cinlu.

May: Ruins of the Wild: Dungeon Tiles 4

If you've checked out any of the other Dungeon Tiles accessories (D&D Dungeon Tiles,D&D Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors, or D&D Dungeon Tiles III: Hidden Crypts), you know exactly what you're getting inside this shrink-wrapped bundle of potential -- a nonrandomized pack of sturdy, portable, and easy-to-use terrain that will help DMs 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 predecessors, additional packs of Ruins of the Wild: Dungeon Tiles 4 will help you build bigger, more elaborate and detailed dungeons, further expanding your dungeon delving and terrain traversing options with each new release.

Just 'cause I've got it, here's the text from the back of the product:

The Bones of Vanquished Empires Beckon

Your tabletop never looked better! With Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures and this pack of customizable terrain grids, you can add a new dimension to your D&D adventures. Easy to set up and infinitely expandable, this pack allows you to create the wilderness adventures you want to play. Pick up additional packs to create larger, more elaborate landscapes!

This pack contains six durable, fully illustrated map grids, featuring wilderness locales, ruins, rivers, and other terrain elements that you can use to make great D&D encounters that enhance your roleplaying game experience.

May: Complete Champion

The latest addition to the Complete ______ series of supplements, Complete Champion follows the same essential formula for character-building as previous titles (such as Complete Scoundrel, Complete Mage, Complete Adventurer, andComplete Psionic.)

Inside, you'll find 160 pages of rules options for players and DMs who want to build characters who enjoy battling for a cause. You'll find various archetypes, feats, prestige classes, organizations, spells, and magic items. Divine power isn't just for clerics and paladins anymore. Here's the back cover text:

Divine Power at Your Command

Mastery of divine power is no longer reserved for the cleric or paladin. With devotion and dedication, any hero can become a divine champion and a force to shake the heavens. Your strength comes from the universe itself, and you can use your divine gifts to create, heal, or destroy. Your choices shape the world.

This D&D supplement gives players and Dungeon Masters an unprecedented resource for using divine power and religion in their game. In addition to new feats, spells, items, and prestige classes, Complete Champion presents exciting adventure locations, affiliation mechanics for different deities and organizations, and a system for designing your own religions based on the cleric domain system. Alternative class features for every core class and more reserve feats provide extended options for players interested in creating or advancing characters along the road to divine power.

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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