Previews
Previews for May and Beyond
By Mat Smith

Slow, but Steady. Or Is It Fast?

I'm not entirely sure why, but the way things are moving, I'm having a hard time getting hold of stuff early enough to give you a good look before it's already shipping out to your local hobby shops and bookstores. I'll keep trying to find the things that all of us want to see. And in the meantime, I'll keep showing off what can get. A lot of good stuff is in the works around here, and a small peek inside the covers right as the stuff's hitting shelves is still nice to get. Check it out:

May

May: Drow of the Underdark

Whether your game takes place in the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, or in your own homebrewed world, if you ever head into the dark reaches under the earth (or into deadly jungles and forests), you're likely to run into the infamously evil dark elves. With 224 pages of material focused on the drow (including feats, spells, equipment, magic items, monsters, campaign material, sample NPCs, sample encounters, and more -- including a detailed drow city), it won't matter if you're a player or DM -- there's lotsa stuff in here for you.

Back in March, you got the back cover text. And last month, I gave you a chapter-by-chapter run-down of the book's contents along with a look at a few feats. This month, I thought I'd give you a smattering of stuff that'll prepare you to explore this hardcover supplement as it's hitting shelves. First off is a bit from the Appendix that gives players some information that'll help improve their odds of surviving a trek through the Underdark.

For Player Characters

The drow make for a frustrating and deadly foe for player characters with their gamut of magical abilities, twisted plots and manipulations honed and refined by their own society, and tricks and traps that have had centuries to be developed and perfected. In addition, they are typically found in one of the most hostile environments in a campaign world -- the Underdark.

The dark elves have been the bogeymen of the Dungeons & Dragons game since their first appearance in 1978's Dungeon Module G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King. Since that time they have consistently both captivated and terrorized players ranging from the vilest of villains to the noblest of heroes. Unlike the majority of this book's material, this appendix is for the players. Its purpose is to help players handle encounters with hostile drow and live to tell of it as well as help them to successfully roleplay drow as player characters.

DROW AS FOES

The dangers to a party of adventurers in the Underdark come from all quarters and in every size and shape imaginable, but never far from the mind is the omnipresent threat of the drow. Nothing brings forth loathing and fear like the thought of an encounter with the dark elves in the cold tunnels of the earth, and it is well known that in their own environment an unexpected encounter with drow is likely to end badly for adventurers. Nevertheless, although most adventurers say a prayer to their respective gods for avoidance of the drow before plunging into the endless night, those wishing to trust to more than luck or the whim of a deity have given long thought and used battle-tested experience to come up with countermeasures against this implacable foe of all surface dwellers.

Adventurers prepare before
a sojourn into the Underdark

From the deep halls of fire giant kings to mountain passes of dwarf kingdoms to great cities hidden in cysts below the earth, the drow can be found in just about any setting at any time and always represent a terrible danger. However, it is widely known that as formidable as they are if encountered on the surface, the drow are much more to be feared when in their natural environment of lightless caverns and constrictive stone passages. Therefore, this appendix will primarily deal with methods for countering the drow in an Underdark environment where they are at their greatest advantage. These methods can largely be transferred for use in surface encounters as well, where the light of sun or moon and the great wide-open expanses unknown in the Underdark further reduce the dark elves' effectiveness.

First and foremost in combating the drow is the need for sight. Unless a party is full of characters who have the Blind-Fight feat and are ready and willing to miss on a significant portion of their attacks due to concealment, then they are going to want to be able to see in the dark. That said, Blind-Fight is an excellent feat to have as a backup in case things don't go according to plan and a character does find himself fighting in the dark.

To counter the effects of darkness, the party should come equipped with darkvision, either naturally or through use of magic. Low-light vision is useful but probably will not cut it in the lightless environment of the Underdark. A must for all adventurers who are or might be facing drow is the daylight spell. It provides an incomparable advantage against the dark elves, rendering them blinded for the first round and dazzled every round thereafter that they remain within its area. Every ambush on drow should begin with a daylight spell, and even if the party finds itself on the receiving end of a drow ambush (a much more likely prospect), the first thought even before taking cover should be the use of daylight, because it buys time and reduces the ambushers' effectiveness. However, a single daylight spell is probably not enough, since it can be countered by deeper darkness or by a single ambusher with a readied action to disrupt spellcasters. Therefore, preparation of multiple daylight spells is a must. The inexpensive daylight pellets (see page 101) are especially useful in this regard.

Always interesting and useful is the section on equipment -- this is the stuff that adds authenticity to an excursion to a new locale, and it gives DMs and players the opportunity to create, encounter, and overcome new challenges in interesting ways.

Chapter 4: Drow Equipment

Drow employ a wide range of sinister items. From the insidious poisons with which they coat their weapons to the strange and unusual magic items they create, the dark elves demonstrate their ingenuity through their crafting skills.

Adventuring Gear

Prompted by the hazardous nature of the Underdark, the drow have learned to fashion tools and special equipment to help them survive its perils. Resources are scarce, and crafters commonly face shortages of materials that surface dwellers take for granted. To compensate, the drow have access to rare materials. Many wield adamantine and mithral weapons, and the dark elves have found ways to extract workable materials from other strange ores. Additionally, drow have created a variety of innovative weapons, armor, and tools, all aimed at helping them to overcome their inhospitable environment.

Equipment

Although not everyone can afford magical solutions to the hazards and obstacles of the Underdark, several practical and inexpensive items help less affluent drow survive in the subterranean world.

Breathing Hood: This hood composed of flexible lizard hide completely covers the head of the wearer and extends down to the chest and upper back, creating a seal. Two glass lenses set into the front of the hood allow for vision; oftentimes, these lenses are replaced with sundark goggles (see Races of the Dragon) or cinnabar eye cusps (see below). Two long, flexible breathing tubes of the same leathery material extend down from the neck of the mask, wrap under the wearer's arms, and drag on the ground just behind the wearer. The last foot of the tubes is filled with a fibrous filter.

Though somewhat ungainly, breathing hoods come in handy when one must enter caverns or tunnels with questionable air quality. The tubes fit along the wearer's body, draw air up from ground level, and filter it several times before it reaches the user. See page 159 of Chapter 6 for the effects of air quality and the use of a breathing hood. Furthermore, a breathing hood provides a +8 circumstance bonus on saves against all inhaled poisons, whether they originate from attacks, spells, or traps.

Guest Cloak: These mundane-seeming cloaks of an olive or pale green color are handed out to visitors to Erelhei-Cinlu by the drow guards at the entrance to the Vault. The fabric of these cloaks is suffused with darkvision powder (see Alchemical Items, below) so that they glow brightly when viewed with darkvision. The drow use these to easily identify foreign guests within their city. Any non-drow caught in the city and not wearing one of these cloaks is usually executed.

Mister: This small steel hand-held device can contain a single dose of poison or a potion. As a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity, you can use it to deliver that dose in droplet form to any single target within 5 feet as a ranged touch attack. The mister is an effective vehicle for both contact and inhaled poisons. Ingested poisons allow the victim to attempt a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid contact with the mist and escape the poison's effect. Mister-borne injury poisons are effective only if the victim is wounded and hasn't been treated with a Heal check.

If the mister delivers a potion, that potion can be used against an adjacent creature that breathes. You can automatically do this to yourself or to a willing or disabled subject. Oils, salves, and elixirs cannot be delivered through a mister.

Refilling a mister requires a full-round action and provokes attacks of opportunity.

Alchemical Items

The drow have created several innovative alchemical substances to help them negotiate the tunnels and caverns of the Underdark.

Bile Droppings: Distilled from the venomous excreta of certain breeds of monstrous spiders, this substance is a thick, viscous fluid. You can throw a flask of bile droppings as a ranged touch attack with a range increment of 10 feet. Upon hitting a target, this sticky fluid deals 1d6 points of acid damage in the first round and 1d6 points of acid damage in the second round. If the target takes a full-round action to scrape it off, he takes no damage in the second round.

In addition to causing acid damage, a flask of bile droppings releases a powerful stench when broken open, forcing anyone within 5 feet to make a successful DC 13 Fortitude save or be sickened for 1 round. Anyone actually struck by the vile stuff takes a -4 penalty on the save.

Bile droppings can be created with a DC 15 Craft (alchemy) check and the proper raw materials (the spiders that create the droppings are bred by the dark elves, so these materials are readily available in a typical drow city).

Darkvision Powder: This plain gray powder clings to surfaces and cannot be seen with normal vision from more than 10 feet away. It glows brightly when viewed with darkvision, and thus is useful for creatures that have darkvision and wish to write messages that other creatures can't read. Each vial contains enough powder for a message of up to 25 words. By adding a mixture of spider silk oil, an ink can be created with the same properties as the powder.

Darkvision powder can be created with a DC 20 Craft (alchemy) check.

Poisons

The drow excel at making poisons culled from various creatures and substances at hand. Below are a few poisons that can be found smeared on drow weapons or lacing a beverage.

Darklight Brew: Darklight ore (see page 154) is powdered and cut with a mild acid to create this poison. The radiation of the ore is diminished greatly in this process, but its effect becomes acute when it is introduced into the bloodstream. This poison can be made with a DC 28 Craft (poisonmaking) check.

The blindness from the poison lasts for 1 hour.

Fish Glue: The body oil of captured kuo-toas is used to create this poison, which is named for the rigidity it causes in the joints of the victim and its characteristic fishy smell. It can be crafted with a DC 18 Craft (poisonmaking) check.

The sickness from the poison lasts for 1 hour.

And, lastly, I thought it'd be interesting to give you a look at the monster entry for a familiar race of creatures that have been rivals of the drow for eons. (I also thought it'd tie in nicely with the pair of minis I'm trying to show off this month.)

Kuo-Toa

These fishlike beings of the Underdark and the deeps inspire terror with their alien appearance and psyche. The cold, unblinking stare of their bulbous eyes and the horrific reek of decayed sea life that always hovers around them bring a chill to the spine of the most stalwart warrior. What goes on inside the inhuman minds of these cold-blooded creatures defies contemplation, and what ancient horrors they consort with in the deepest chasms of the world are better left unknown.

May: Ruins of the Wild: Dungeon Tiles IV

As the fourth installation to the popular and very-handy Dungeon Tiles series (D&D Dungeon Tiles,D&D Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors, and D&D Dungeon Tiles III: Hidden Crypts), Ruins of the Wilderness adds even more flexibility and encounter-building options to your game. It offers a number of interesting and useful tiles depicting a variety of wilderness terrain features (including streams, pools, meadows, piles of rock, trails, campsites, and more).

Back in March, I passed along the back cover text, along with a couple of sample tiles to look at. This month, more of the same -- these things are just neat-o to look at. And they're even more fun to play around with.

Online Now: Dungeon Tiles Mapper

Speaking of playing around with Dungeon Tiles, you really should pop over and check out the Dungeon Tile Mapper web feature/tool/widget/thing. It lets you drag and drop Dungeon Tile pieces onto a snap-to-grid grid that makes it quick and easy to see what you can build. You can launch and play with it right on the D&D site, or download it to your computer for dungeon-building fun anytime. I just pulled it up and played around with it for about half an hour. Okay, an hour. (I can see myself spending a lot more time designing cool locations. A lot more. It's just fun to drag and rotate the pieces around the grid to see what you can build.) The Dungeon Tile Mapper lets you tell it how many copies of each set you have at your disposal (from 1-8). That'll let you build dungeons based on the Dungeon Tile sets you already have on-hand. Of course you can ratchet up the number, just to see what you can build, and then supplement your Dungeon Tiles collection to be able to lay it down on your gaming table.

And then you can actually save your masterpiece to pull up later or to send to your friends so you can show off your devious dungeon-building prowess. There are already sample dungeons set up that you can pull up and play around with, or you can start from scratch.

Right now, the Dungeon Tile Mapper is set up with D&D Dungeon Tiles,D&D Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors, and D&D Dungeon Tiles III: Hidden Crypts. And you can expect to see Ruins of the Wild (and future sets) to be added to the mix as they're available and our web guys have time to get 'em in there. This is really a fun toy to play with. Go nuts.

May: Complete Champion

As the latest installation to the ever-growing Complete _______ series of books, this 160-page supplement follows a similar pattern -- offering players and DMs a number of rules and options (including feats, prestige classes, spells, magic items, and more). This time around, the material is focused on enabling characters (and NPCs) to further their struggle for a divine cause.

Back in March, I got to show you the book's back cover text. This month, I finally got a copy of the book so that I could flip through it and pull out some stuff to show off. And, it's hitting shelves this month, so you can flip through the whole thing yourself, too. To help get you started, though, I figured it wouldn't hurt to pass along a few interesting bits, including the text from the Introduction.

Introduction

"We stand between the immortal and the mortal, the divine and the earthly, the material and the sublime. Our duty is clear -- bring the light, purge the darkness, and shield the faithful from the grasping claw of evil!"

-- Dassak Torchin, paladin of the Shining Light of Pelor

In the medieval fantasy world of the Dungeons & Dragons game, religion can become simply a means to an end -- a different sort of resource to exploit on the road to power. Paladins, clerics, and a few other divine classes become the faces of religion in the typical D&D campaign, but many players and DMs devote little thought toward how the divine really affects the world.

This book is dedicated to changing that conception. It gives every character in the D&D world a tie to the divine and a chance to gain benefits (both roleplaying and mechanical) from worshiping a deity or an ideal -- or even from simply following a cause. Your character doesn't have to sacrifice at a temple or give up doing what he likes to do best -- after all, the D&D game is about coming up with interesting ways to have fun. This book turns the myths and legends of the D&D game into usable features of the campaign world and shows you how to make them work best for your character.

True Believers?

In a world of monsters, magic, and miracles, belief in deities ought to be automatic. But your character's beliefs are entirely up to you as a player. What your character believes and how she practices (or fails to practice) a religion aren't aspects of the character that rulebooks should dictate. However, the following tenets are central to the game.

Deities Do Exist: Kord, Hextor, Tiamat, Obad-Hai, and the other D&D deities are all out there someplace. Your character might not believe that these beings are deities -- she might say that they're simply creatures with powers beyond the norm for the Material Plane -- but it's very difficult to disbelieve their existence entirely.

The Power of Belief Is Manifest: Some of those who wield divine power do not follow particular deities. Many druids do not worship Obad-Hai (or any other nature deity), and some clerics simply follow ideals in keeping with their alignment and domain choices. But these people still gain divine power, so some source of it must exist.

Religions Are Not Absolute: With very few exceptions, any character, of any race or alignment, can worship any deity. Yes, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a chaotic evil half-orc to worship Moradin Dwarffather, and this book tells you why, but not everyone who follows Hextor is lawful evil. Some lawful neutral types who believe in a benevolent dictatorship might well feel that the God of Tyranny has the right approach. It's a scary thought, but definitely possible.

Not Everyone Worships the Same Way: Get used to this idea, because it's a recurring theme in this book. Even clerics of the same deity might approach worship and holy missions in different ways. A neutral good cleric of Pelor probably has a completely different interpretation of his god's will than a lawful good paladin of Pelor does -- yet both gain divine power and inspiration from the same ultimate source.

This book deals with the above issues and more, providing both game mechanical and roleplaying reasons for a character to embrace the beliefs and tenets of a D&D religion. First introduced in the Complete Divine supplement, the term "divine character" refers to one who has chosen a religious path -- even if she is not a cleric, druid, or paladin.

And, to give you an idea of what awaits your various characters inside, I thought that a peek at Chapter Two: Character Options would do the trick.

Divine Character Options

Your character is defined by your choice of race, classes, and other abilities. With divine characters, belief systems are thrown into the mix as well. Roleplaying and mechanical decisions might depend on the deities such characters worship and the convictions they espouse.

But a divine character is more than a paladin, cleric, druid, and the like. Belief is a powerful force in the D&D world. This chapter presents new benefits and options that allow players of any class to embrace the divine, as well as roleplaying suggestions and guidelines for new divine prestige classes.

Making Characters Divine

Characters with levels in a divine spellcasting class might enjoy direct conduits to the powers they represent, but they do not exist in a spiritual vacuum. Churches and temples require large support networks of specialists, who need not be divinely inspired. Though they may lack the talent for manipulating divine energies, such characters are no less devoted to their deities than are the holy men and women who lead them in daily prayers. Those who are especially deserving -- whether because of the strength of their faith or by virtue of the heroic (or horrific) deeds they have accomplished -- occasionally receive blessings from their deities. Particularly spiritual folk might gain access to such divine power without ever choosing a specific deity or pantheon to honor.

The manner of acquiring these divine gifts varies from one individual to another. In game terms, gaining access to them might require taking the appropriate feat, devoting one or more character abilities to a divine alternative class feature, or taking levels in a divine prestige class. But such characters can never aspire to the heights of holy strength that their more devout colleagues enjoy unless they become divine spellcasters themselves.

Alternative Class Features

Rogue

Few characters are more secular in nature than rogues. But when one of these masters of subterfuge devotes herself to a religion, she looks for ways to turn her assets toward her cause.

Antiquarian

You are incredibly knowledgeable about artifacts, relics, and antiques -- especially those that are religious in nature.

Level: 1st.

Replaces: This benefit replaces the trapfinding class feature.

Benefit: When examining divine items and religious relics, you gain a bonus equal to your Wisdom modifier on all Appraise checks as an extraordinary ability.

In addition, if you examine a magic item created using a spell from the cleric or paladin list, or an item with special religious significance, you can attempt a Knowledge (religion) check (DC 10 + the item's caster level) to identify it exactly as a spell-like ability. This works like the identify spell (caster level equals your rogue level) but requires no material component. You can use this ability on only one item per day.

Death's Ruin

You can channel the power of your faith when making sneak attacks against undead.

Level: 3rd.

Replaces: This benefit replaces the trap sense class feature, including trap sense bonuses gained at higher levels of the rogue class.

Benefit: You can make sneak attacks against undead creatures. However, you roll only one-half your normal sneak attack dice (rounded down) when determining bonus damage for such attacks. This is a supernatural ability.

Friend's Evasion

By giving up one of your high-level special abilities, you've learned to protect others by using your own skills and abilities.

Levels: 10th, 13th, 16th, or 19th.

Replaces: This benefit replaces improved evasion as one of the rogue's special ability choices.

Benefit: When you select friend's evasion as a special ability, every ally adjacent to you gains evasion. This is an extraordinary ability.

Holy Stalker

When you give up one of your high-level special abilities, you gain a link to divine power that helps you destroy undead. This divine energy comes to you through your religious beliefs but is tied to your own natural abilities in subterfuge.

Levels: 10th, 13th, 16th, or 19th.

Replaces: This benefit replaces crippling strike as one of the rogue's special ability choices. Only non-evil rogues can select this class feature.

Benefit: When you select holy stalker as a special ability, you can channel positive energy into your sneak attacks to damage undead creatures.

When you successfully damage an undead creature in a situation in which you would normally apply sneak attack damage, you add 2 points of positive energy damage per sneak attack die you would normally roll. However, you still cannot roll sneak attack dice against the creature. This is a supernatural ability.

Sorcerer

Some believe that sorcerers gain their link to arcane energy through draconic heritage. If true, such a connection might seem to cut off divine influence, but perhaps it actually helps a sorcerer open a channel to a new reservoir of energy.

Divine Companion

By sacrificing a possible link to an earthly creature, you gain the ability to store arcane energy in a divine reservoir that takes the form of a spirit creature. Linked to you through your own life essence, this divine companion can then transform that energy into beneficial effects.

Level: 1st.

Replaces: This benefit replaces the summon familiar class feature.

Benefit: You can spend 100 gp to perform a ritual dedicated to the deity of your choice and summon forth a spirit creature to aid you in your adventures. This creature is both invisible and intangible, but it provides you with real benefits.

The divine companion stores arcane energy and redirects it to you according to your level and your needs. To fill this reservoir, you must cast one or more targeted spells at this creature. A spell so cast does not produce its normal effect; the companion simply absorbs the spell's energy. It can store a number of spell levels equal to your arcane caster level. You can cast spells into it at any time, but after you rest and recover your spell slots for the day, the divine companion loses any stored energy.

The divine companion exists outside reality and cannot be affected by spells, spell-like abilities, or any sort of antimagic effect or dispel check. It cannot, however, release its arcane energy within an antimagic field or similar effect. It uses your caster level for any checks required, and when it releases arcane energy, the level of the effect created equals the number of spell levels released.

The divine companion can release its stored spell energy in either of the following ways, at your command. You can use each effect as often as you wish, until the companion's stored energy is depleted.

Healing (Su): As a standard action, you can order your divine companion to convert the energy it has stored into healing power. This is the equivalent of a conjuration (healing) spell. This effect heals you for 1d6 points of damage per stored spell level, or as many levels as you designate (up to the maximum currently stored).

Shielding (Su): As a swift action, you can order the creature to convert the energy it has stored into protecting you. This is the equivalent of an abjuration spell that provides you with a deflection bonus to AC and a resistance bonus on saves each equal to the number of stored spell levels, or as many levels as you designate (up to the maximum currently stored). This effect lasts for 1 round per arcane caster level you possess.

Domain Access

Your depth of belief allows you to channel divine power the way a cleric does. By doing so, you gain access to a single cleric domain.

Level: 5th.

Replaces: To gain this benefit, you do not learn a new 1st-level sorcerer spell and a new 2nd-level sorcerer spell at 5th level. From now on, you know one less sorcerer spell that you can cast at each subsequent level (not counting the domain spells from this alternative class feature).

Benefit: Choose one cleric domain. If you worship a specific deity, the domain you choose must be one to which your deity grants access. You gain the granted power of the chosen domain. In addition, you can cast one domain spell of each spell level available to you per day from that domain.

You'll also find pages of spells in Chapter Three that'll have your divine spellcasters praying for (or being given) all kinds of interesting new mojo to bring to the table.

Bewildering Mischance
Enchantment (Compulsion) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Adept 5, cleric 5, shugenja 5
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft.+ 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One living creature
Duration: 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

Your deity's laughter rains down on your suddenly clumsy foe.

Bewildering mischance causes extreme bad luck to befall the target. For the duration of the spell, the subject must roll each saving throw, attack roll, and skill check twice, keeping the lower of the two rolls.

Body Ward
Abjuration
Level: Cleric 2, druid 2
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 1 minute/level or until expended
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

Your comrade's body grows denser and stronger beneath your touch.

You grant the subject a limited resistance to ability damage. You choose one of the three physical ability scores -- Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution -- when you cast the spell. Body ward absorbs the next 5 points of damage dealt to that ability score, regardless of its source. If, for instance, an ally you had warded against Strength damage were subsequently poisoned for 6 points of Strength damage, she would take only 1 point. The spell lasts until its duration expires, or until the 5 points of protection are used up, whichever comes first.

When cast multiple times upon the same subject, body ward has a synergistic effect. If you use it to affect two physical abilities simultaneously, it wards each against 8 points of damage. If you use it to affect all three physical abilities at once, it wards each against 10 points of damage. To achieve this synergy, the multiple castings must occur in subsequent rounds.

The benefits from multiple castings of body ward that protect the same ability score do not stack.

Healing Circle
Conjuration (Healing)
Level: Cleric 5
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 minute/level or until discharged

A circle of warm comfort emanates from you, enveloping those who enter in positive energy.

By casting this spell, you create an aura of healing energy upon which your allies can draw to mend their own wounds. The spell has five charges when cast. Once per round as a standard action, a single allied creature within 30 feet can drain one charge from the healing circle. The first charge so drained functions as a cure critical wounds spell, the second as a cure serious wounds spell, the third as a cure moderate wounds spell, and the fourth as a cure light wounds spell, and the final charge heals only 5 points of damage. A creature must be conscious to draw a charge from the healing circle.

The spell effect delivered by each charge functions as if you had personally cast the associated spell. Thus, the first charge heals 4d8 points of damage +1 point per caster level (maximum +20), and so on.

Spiritual Guardian
Evocation [Force]
Level: Cleric 6
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: 5 ft.
Effect: A phantasmal knight
Duration: 1 minute/level or 1 round/level; see text
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

The sound of hoofbeats begins in the distance and draws swiftly nearer. As though leaping down from an invisible charger, a translucent knight, clad head to toe in heavy plate, appears by your side. The holy symbol of your deity is emblazoned across his tabard and shield.

By casting this spell, you create a translucent knight made of force. It remains within 5 feet of you at all times, constantly matching your speed and mode of travel -- even if you are mounted or magically accelerated. Any time you are attacked, it moves to parry the attack with its shield or longsword, granting you a +6 deflection bonus to Armor Class. As a standard action in any round, you can command the knight to make a single attack against any creature within 5 feet. It strikes with its longsword, using your base attack bonus and applying your Wisdom modifier to the roll. The attack deals 1d8 points of force damage +1 extra point per three caster levels (maximum +10).

At any point before the spell expires, you can turn the knight loose and order it to fight on its own. It then moves at a speed of 60 feet to attack any foe you designate. It continues to use your base attack bonus and your Wisdom modifier for its attack rolls, and it can make as many attacks per round as your base attack bonus allows. You need not concentrate on the knight as long as it is fighting a specific opponent, but commanding it to change foes requires a move action. If its opponent falls, the knight waits for your direction.

Once you have turned the knight loose, you lose the deflection bonus to Armor Class that it provided, and you cannot regain it. Furthermore, the remaining duration of the spell converts from minutes per level to rounds per level on a one-to-one basis.


June

June: The Sinister Spire

DD2 The Sinister Spire (sequel to DD1 Barrow of the Forgotten King)is a 64-page adventure designed to challenge a party of 4th-level characters. While intended to serve as Part Two in a three-part series of adventures, The Sinister Spire was designed to allow you to run it as a stand-alone adventure in any campaign setting. Last month, I showed you the back cover text, and I can't add much more to describing what awaits DMs and players than that.


June: Expedition to Undermountain

This is another adventure I can't tell you too much about. (Though you can check out its back cover text in last month's Previews article as well.) If you ever played through the old-school boxed module The Ruins of Undermountain or kept up with Matt Sernett's series of web features titled Return to Undermountain, you're already familiar with this infamous location. For the uninitiated, Undermountain is a vast, über-deadly labyrinth of corridors and rooms that lurks far beneath the Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep.

However, this 224-page superadventure doesn't require you to be running a game set in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. All you need is a brave (or stupid) party of 1st-level characters willing to plunge into the dark corridors of one of the most notorious dungeon complexes ever conceived. (And if they survive, they'll emerge as salty, battle-hardened -- and somewhat wealthy -- 10th-level characters.

June: The Forge of War

Right, so this is a 160-supplement for the Eberron Campaign Settingthat finally details the world-altering event known as the Last War. Of course, while history can be interesting, illuminating, and inspiring, you're going to want more than just a run-down of what happened. And, if you're really interested, you might find yourself adventuring during that historical era. I understand you'll find material that'll help players and DMs create characters, encounters, and adventures that revolve around, are based upon, or have ties to that monumentally long and devastating battle. That's about all I know. I had the back cover text for you last month.

This month, I got nothing. Hopefully, next month the stars will align and I'll be able to get hold of some stuff to show off -- I wanna see this book as much as anyone.

July

July: Night Below Booster Packs

Last month, I showed you the Kobold Trapmaker and the Frost Giant Jarl. This month, I couldn't lay my hands on production minis to look at, and we're still coordinating who gets to show what. But rather than skip a month, I thought I'd include a couple minis I could build a case for showing -- a couple critters that'll come in handy for those of you trekking around in the dank darkness (like, say, around the Drow of the Underdark) -- two new frog/fish monsters (that seem like something out of the nontentacles section of Lovecraft's mind): the (uncommon) Kuo-Toa Whip and (common) Kuo-Toa Hunter.

Kuo-Toa Whip Kuo-Toa Hunter

If you want to see and learn about more Night Below minis, go to the D&D Minis page to check out Steve Schubert's Miniatures Previews articles, and pick up a copy of Dragon magazine to see their exclusive minis coverage.

July: Monster Manual V

You know what you can't have too many of? Monsters. (This opinion, of course, skews slightly from the DM's perspective.) This is 224 pages of new challenges to overcome, in the form of things that want to kill your characters. (Though, I'm sure there are one or two critters that're PC-friendly in there. Probably.) As you'd expect, MMV offers new monsters, variations of existing creatures, sample encounters, maps of monster lairs, and tactics sections to help DMs make the most of the more-complex critters. (And, for those who call the Forgotten Realms or Eberron home, there's information for a number of monsters, describing where they're most likely to be encountered.) I'm hoping to get a copy of this thing for next month too, but until then, you can check out the back cover text.

The Darkest Dungeons of Your World

Just Got a Little Darker

This supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game presents more than a hundred monstrous foes to challenge even the toughest heroes, including draconic masterminds, demonic horrors, vengeful fey that haunt ancient ruins, and mind flayers driven mad from their journey beyond the planes. This book also provides powerful, ready-to-play varieties of popular monsters such as the hobgoblin, the kuo-toa, and the vampire, saving Dungeon Masters precious time at the game table.

In addition to scores of new monsters, this tome features sample encounters, easy-to-follow tactics, and guidance for integrating these new creatures into any D&D campaign setting.

July: FR2 Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land

So, this is another 160-page super-adventure for characters roaming around the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. It's the second in the three-part series that started with Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave, but, of course, you can play through it as a stand-alone adventure. All you need is a band of hearty 8th-level characters ready to take on a group of baddies that have razed Elminster's tower. That's all. Check out the back cover text:



Shadowdale Lies Conquered! Who Can Free This Oppressed Land?

Zhentish soldiers, Maerimydran drow, and Sharran cultists have forged a dark alliance to subjugate the peaceful land of Shadowdale. Elminster's tower lies in ruins, Lord Amcathra governs at the sufferance of the dale's conquerors, and the very Weave of magic in this embattled land seems to fray with each passing day. The Zhentish yoke lies heavy over Shadowdale -- but the Dalesfolk are ready to fight for their freedom, if only they can find true heroes to lead the way!

This Forgotten Realms campaign adventure is designed for characters of levels 8-13. It can be played as a stand-alone adventure or as the second adventure in a three-part series. Each encounter contains special tactical information for the Dungeon Master and expanded map features for ease of play.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and used to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same. Now, he's back to just playing the game 'cause it's fun.


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