Previews07/05/2007


Previews for July and Beyond



Previews, Like the Spice, Must Flow

It's been a crazy-busy many months around here. All kinds of folks have been talking and working on getting all kinds of things out the door -- things that include preview articles. Everyone wants to make sure there's good stuff waiting for you folks when you tune in each month, and it will be so. We might look at changing the formatting around a bit, or adjusting the release/posting schedule (so it syncs up better with the production deadlines of the products we produce around here), or whatever. The upshot is, many folks will be working toward making sure we get the previews that you, me, and everyone else wants to see up here! That said, we've got good stuff headed your way. And more good stuff lined up behind that. And additional good stuff waiting in the wings. And, this is the place you'll be able to get a peek at it all. Check it out:

Already Out There: Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition

This much-anticipated book went on sale last month (I believe). Normally, I don't get to do anything with our Star Wars stuff, 'cause this is a D&D article. But this new edition of the game has been so looked-forward to (around here and beyond), that I wanted to give it a little bit of a moment in the sun.

I figure that more than a few of you might spend a little time over on the home page for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and Star Wars Miniatures, so you've already been looking forward to seeing the Saga Edition hit shelves. (Especially since the collection of prepainted, plastic Star Wars minis has been growing and growing, particularly with the release of Starship Battles.)

Of course, there's also going to be a decent swath of folks that don't regularly pop over to that part of the Wizards of the Coast site that'd be interested in checking out the new Saga Edition, if for no other reason than to see how it has changed and evolved. I think it's really interesting how a game system can already be pretty tight and complete, but still be ratcheted down and improved. (And, I understand there's a number of folks that share the same interest -- particularly when it comes to incorporating streamlined material as house rules, regardless of genre.) As is traditional, I'll start with the back cover text.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Experience the excitement and epic scope of the greatest space fantasy of all time! Defend the Republic against the sinister plots of the Sith, join the Rebellion against the oppressive might of the Empire, or save the New Republic from the tyranny of the Yuuzhan Vong. The only limit to the adventure is your imagination. Take control of your destiny and become one of the great heroes of the Star Wars saga.

This book includes everything you need to create your own Star Wars characters and campaigns:

  • Complete game rules for players and Gamemasters.
  • Characters, creatures, weapons, equipment, vehicles, and droids from all six Star Wars movies (including Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) and the expanded universe.
  • Advice for playing in any time frame, including the Rise of the Empire era (Episodes I-III), the Rebellion era (Episodes IV-VI), and the New Republic era (The New Jedi Order).
  • Double-sided full-color battle map.

This game requires Star Wars miniatures to play.

Okay, so one thing I noticed right away, when flipping through the interestingly shaped book is that there are (now) only five classes to choose from -- a streamlining shift in the game that'll really help define and differentiate characters in new ways.


Choosing a Heroic Class

Five basic classes, known as heroic classes, are available in the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Characters with levels in heroic classes are called heroic characters, or heroes. Unlike nonheroic supporting characters, heroic characters have many special abilities that make them extraordinary. At 1st level, you must choose a heroic class for your character. The five heroic classes are:

Jedi: The Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. They learn to master the Force, and their trademark weapon is the lightsaber.

Noble: The noble is a shrewd bargainer and negotiator who inspires confidence and makes a great leader.

Scoundrel: The scoundrel is a tricky, skillful rogue who succeeds by stealth instead of brute force.

Scout: The scout is a cunning, skilled explorer trained to operate in the vast wilderness of space and backwater worlds.

Soldier: A warrior with exceptional combat capability and unequaled skill with weapons.

The Multiclass Character

As your character advances in level, he or she may add new classes. Adding a new class gives the character a broader range of abilities, but all advancement in the new class is at the expense of advancement in the character's other class or classes. A noble, for example, might become a noble/soldier. Adding the soldier class would give her proficiency in more weapons, a better Fortitude Defense, and so on, but it would also mean that she doesn't gain new noble talents and thus is not as powerful a noble as she otherwise would have become. Rules for creating and advancing multiclass characters can be found at the end of this chapter.

And, just to give you something more concrete to look at, which you can compare and contrast with that which came before, I thought I'd give you a look at what will surely be a popular character class choice -- the Jedi. (I know I liked playing a Jedi Guardian long, long ago, so this is what I'd flip to first.) Take a look.

Jedi

Jedi combine physical training with mastery of the Force. Jedi concentrate on battle prowess, defense, and lightsaber training. Additionally, they are ambassadors of the Jedi order, protecting the Republic from all dangers. Few are strong enough in the Force and have the devotion to walk the Jedi's path, but those few are awarded with a powerful ally. They walk in a larger world than those who neither feel nor heed the Force.

Exploits

All Jedi journey into the galaxy at large to further their own knowledge and to help those in need. They take their responsibility seriously, considering even mundane missions to be personal tests. Most Jedi follow the light side, but some become darksiders and use the Force for evil or selfish intent. Those imbued with the light side refrain from using the Force for every task, preferring to find other solutions and save the Force for when it is truly needed. Those who succumb to the dark side use every advantage at their disposal, wielding the Force to solve problems as a soldier would use a blaster to destroy a stingfly.

JEDI GUARDIAN TALENT TREE

Jedi that follow the path of the guardian are more combat-oriented than other Jedi, honing their skills to become deadly combatants.

Acrobatic Recovery: If an effect causes you to fall prone, you can make a DC 20 Acrobatics check to remain on your feet.

Battle Meditation: The Jedi technique known as Battle Meditation allows you and your allies to work together seamlessly and with a level of precision that can only come from the Force. As a full-round action, you can spend a Force Point to give you and all allies within 6 squares of you a +1 insight bonus on attack rolls that lasts until the end of the encounter.

This bonus does not extend to allies outside the range of the effect, even if they move within 6 squares of you later on. Allies who benefit from the Battle Meditation must remain within 6 squares of you to retain the insight bonus, and they lose it if you are knocked unconscious or killed. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Elusive Target: When fighting an opponent or multiple opponents in melee, other opponents attempting to target you with ranged attacks take a -5 penalty. This penalty is in addition to the normal -5 penalty for firing into melee (see Shooting or Throwing into a Melee, page 161), making the penalty to target you -10.

Force Intuition: You can use your Use the Force check modifier instead of your Initiative modifier when making Initiative checks. You are considered trained in the Initiative skill for purposes of using this talent. If you are entitled to an Initiative check reroll, you may reroll your Use the Force check instead (subject to the same circumstances and limitations).

Resilience: You can spend a Force Point as a swift action to move +2 steps along the condition track (see Conditions, page 148).

To help you get a really good grasp of what else you'll find inside the book, I chatted with the lovely and talented Rodney Thompson, who told me about the series of preview articles he has been writing. The good bit is, he's already done the excerpting/previewing/writing stuff. Even better, he's one of the guys listed on the front of the book. So, who better to pull out things to show off than Rodney? Not me, I say -- he knows this book backward and forward. (In addition to settling into a chair here, Rodney has also joined the Wednesday-night game run by Chris Perkins. So, he's all hooked into the system. Of course, he's playing a paladin, which I can't fully endorse. But his character does heal up my character on frequent occasions, so even the goody-goody guy has his uses.)

Anyway, if you wanna know what's inside without pulling a copy off the shelf, take a look at the Saga Edition Previews by Rodney Thompson (That link takes you to the final article, number eight, which has links to its seven prequels.)

July

July: Night Below Booster Packs

Back in April I showed you the Kobold Trapmaker and the Frost Giant Jarl. In May, you saw the Kuo-Toa Whip and Kuo-Toa Hunter. Last month, you got a peek at the Brass Golem and Greater Basilisk. This month, I've got two more Rares for you -- a couple of undead nasties that'll make you want to find ways to get 'em into your game. Of course, since Night Below goes on sale this month, you'll get your chance.

Skeletal Courser Mind Flayer Lich

(You know you can find uses for a skeletal rider on a skeletal horse. And if a Mind Flayer is bad -- and a lich is nasty -- you know the combination is just plain mean. There's a Reese's peanut butter cup joke here somewhere, but trying to jam "Alhoon" in there would just ruin it.)

At some point soon -- maybe even now -- you'll be able to get a look at the gallery of Night Below minis over on the D&D Minis page. (That'd be the same place you can always go to check out Steve Schubert's Miniatures Previews articles and find out more details, statistics, and strategies.)

July: Monster Manual V

Now that we've put Monster Manual,Monster Manual II,Monster Manual III, and Monster Manual IV out there, you can make a very educated guess as to what you'll find on the 224 pages you'll flip through within Monster Manual V. If you're not so much into guessing, I'll spell it out for you: new monsters.

But not just monsters. You'll find a few variants of existing creatures, a number of sample encounters, maps of monster lairs, and tactics DMs will find helpful when running some of the more-complex creatures. And, there's also information on many of the monsters that will help DMs find a place for them (specifically speaking) in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron . All of that kind of information is probably familiar to most of you, so you already know how useful it'll be. Back in May, you saw the back cover text. Last month, you encountered the ruin elemental.

This month, as the book goes on sale, I wanted to give you a look at a couple more monsters. Flipping through the book, looking for something interesting to show, I came across the illustration for the solamith, which you'll see somewhere around here. I saw that and thought to myself, "Holy crap, that's the thing we fought in the dwarf necropolis." The upside (or downside, if you're an unwitting PC) of playing in our Wednesday-night game here is we run into things that're on their way into books. Oftentimes, we'll get a chucklingly evil apology from one of the R&D guys who designed or developed that particular creature, and now has to face it as a PC. Anyway, I remember fighting this thing. Not nice. I'm playing a warmage/recaster and felt kinda safe from a lot of the stuff we'd been facing -- a lot of melee and monsters that had to deal with our heavy-hitting front line. But the solamith makes everyone on the battlefield take stock of where they are and how much cover they can get. (Plus, it's a creepy-looking thing. Eew.) Take a look.

Solamith (Demon)

A corpulent monstrosity at least 10 feet tall lumbers forward on slablike legs. Rings of flabby flesh cradle its horned head. Pressing out against the green-veined and pallid skin of its great gut are screaming faces.

A solamith is a manifestation of depraved gluttony and burning hunger, drawing energy from the spirits it devours. That power charges its flesh with spiritual fire, which it uses against its enemies by tearing away and hurling bits of its own body.

Strategies and Tactics

Solamiths don't bother to close with enemies, instead hurling soulfire from the beginning of combat. Although dim-witted, they have keen spatial awareness and an intuitive sense of how to best use this ability. A solamith opens with a soulfire attack that deals maximum damage, and it increases the area of its soulfire burst whenever doing so allows it to catch more enemies in the blast. If it can, it maneuvers to continue using its soulfire as long as possible. A solamith that has lost more than half its hit points makes the smallest soulfire attacks it can.

When forced into melee, a solamith might still use soulfire, but it can also use its formidable slam. It uses a soulfire cone whenever it can, but first maneuvers to catch other foes in the blast.

Ecology

Solamiths prowl the Abyss in search of lesser demons and petitioners to eat, even though they require no sustenance. A solamith tears its victims to pieces, but then becomes a dainty eater, chewing slowly and appreciating the spiritual effervescence of each morsel. Once a meal is finished, a new face appears just under the skin on a solamith's gut, silently pleading for release.

You just can't go wrong with a troll. That is, as a DM, you can always be sure of having a really good fight (if not a full party of living adventurers when you're done) when you design an encounter with a troll. And with a new subtype of this classic critter, your favorite PCs will find themselves coping with the dilemma of the known and unknown.

Troll, Bladerager

A snarling and muscular giant lumbers into view, plates of steel embedded in its rubbery green skin. A cap of steel is riveted to its head, and steel claws are affixed to its hands. Blood oozes from around the plating and down the claws. The creature's wild eyes betray unthinkable agony.

Ecology

A fire giant orders her bladerager
trolls into battle against dwarves

Bladerager candidates are selected from among the hardiest troll specimens. These ill-fated giants are flayed alive as steel is riveted onto their bones and magically augmented to work with troll physiology. Claws are then mounted on their forearms, and enormous steel jaws resembling bear traps are screwed to their skulls.

Environment: Bladerager trolls are most commonly found near where normal trolls live and breed, usually in the vicinity of mountain ranges in colder climates. After their augmentation, bladerager trolls go where their masters send them. An independent bladerager troll wanders blindly, so it might be found far from where trolls normally range.

Typical Physical Characteristics: Bladeragers resemble mighty trolls that have armor plating covering large areas of their body, as well as steel claws and teeth. They are recognizable for what they are, but their grafts are horrific and bloody. Skin seems to seethe and recede around the armor due to the troll's regeneration ability, and blood sometimes escapes from near the edges of the troll's plating. A typical bladerager troll is slightly taller and broader than a normal troll, and the large amount of metal inserted into its body makes it weigh about 650 pounds.

Alignment: Trolls are fearless and remorseless hunters that know nothing of mercy, and bladeragers add unhealthy doses of madness and brutality to that foul demeanor. Bladerager trolls are always chaotic evil.

Since the book goes on sale this month, I figure that it'll be easy enough for you to grab a copy and flip through it to see all the nastiness that lurks within. But, just so you can prepare yourself (and maybe know just what you wanna go look at first), here's a look at the last sidebar in the book -- the list of monsters, grouped by type and subtype.

Monsters by Type (and Subtype)

Aberration: Ethereal defiler, madcrafter of Thoon, shadow flayer, spirrax, Thoon disciple, Thoon elder brain, vivesector.
(Air): Ken-sun (elemental mage), ruin chanter.
(Aquatic): Kuo-toas (all).
(Baatezu): Gulthir devil, remmanon devil.
(Chaotic): Dalmosh, demons (all).
(Cold): Morlicantha,
Construct: Force golem, magmacore golem, merchurion, scouring slinger, scouring stanchion, scyther of Thoon, shardsoul slayer, slinger scorpion, stormcloud of Thoon, Thoon hulk, Thoon soldier.
Dragon: Chorranathau, Morlicantha.
(Dragonblood): Greenspawn zealot.
(Earth): Ken-kuni (elemental mage), ruin chanter, ruin elemental.
Elemental: Ruin elemental, spawn of Juiblex (all).
(Evil): Dalmosh, demons (all), devils (all), ember guard, Illurien.
(Extraplanar): Arcadian avenger, Dalmosh, demons (all), demonthorn mandrake, devils (all), ember guard, ethereal defiler, garngrath, Illurien, siege beetle, spawn of Juiblex (all), spirrax, steelwing.
Fey: Banshrae, frostwind virago, jaebrin, master of the hunt, ruin chanter, shaedling.
(Fire): Ember guard, ken-li (elemental mage).
Giant: Bladerager troll, elemental magi (all).
(Goblinoid): Hobgoblins (all).
(Good): Arcadian avenger.
Humanoid: Hobgoblin duskblade, Nozg'g (god-blooded orc), Singh the Immense.
(Incorporeal): Haunts (all).
(Lawful): Arcadian avenger, devils (all), ember guard.
(Living Construct): Merchurion.
Magical Beast: Deadborn vulture, garngrath, gem scarab, guulvorg, hound of the hunt, malastor, mockery bugs (all), rylkars (all), steelwing, Thrym hound, tirbanas (all), tusk terror.
Monstrous Humanoid: Greenspawn zealot, hobgoblin spellscourge, hobgoblin warcaster, hobgoblin warsoul, kuo-toas (all), Thoon infiltrator, Thoon thrall, ushemoi (all).
(Obyrith): Draudnu demon.
Ooze: Graveyard sludge.
(Orc): Nozg'g (god-blooded orc).
Outsider: Arcadian avenger, Dalmosh, demons (all), devils (all), ember guard, Illurien.
Plant: Burrow root, demonthorn mandrake, fetid fungus, verdant reaver, vinespawn.
(Swarm): Rylkspawn swarm (rylkar).
(Tanar'ri): Adaru demon, gadacro demon, solamith demon.
Undead: Blackwing, bonespur, bridge haunt, forest haunt, Kugan (phantom ghast), sanguineous drinker, serpentir, skull lord, spectral rider, taunting haunt, vampires (all), deadborn vulture zombie.
Vermin: Siege beetle.
(Water): Spawn of Juiblex (all).

July: FR2 Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land

This 160-page superadventure is part two in a three-part series that began with Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave. I gave you the back cover text back in May.

Beyond that, I can just tell you that it's designed to challenge a party of 8th-level characters (if you're thinking about running it as a standalone). Any character with a vested interest in the welfare, care, and feeding of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Settingwill want to get in on this heroic action -- somebody's gotta stop these guys.

August

August 16-19: Gen Con Indy

Go. I'm just sayin'.

August: Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk

Last month, you saw back cover text. And, of course, because this is an adventure -- and a big one at that -- I don't want to spoil any of the fun for anyone on either side of the screen. But I will go ahead and reiterate a couple thoughts about what we're looking at here. The legendary Castle Greyhawk awaits an intrepid party of 8th-level characters in this 224-page superadventure that explores the vaunted castle and the sprawling dungeon that lies beneath. Of course, your campaign doesn't have to be set in the land of Mordenkainen for you to use Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk. Really, you don't even have to center your campaign around the massive adventure, if you don't want to -- it can be parceled out as a major story arc (amid what you've already got going on), or as a series of smaller side-trek adventures that lead toward a climactic ending.

September

September: Exemplars of Evil: Deadly Foes to Vex Your Heroes

I know this is an anticipated book, 'cause I've already seen it talked about on the message boards. It's a bit too far away on the horizon for me to get hold of it, but I can tell you that it's a 160-page supplement that's got a blue cover (for DMs) and features a piece of art that looks awfully lich-y. What I know about the book beyond that is based wholly on what I've read about on the back cover-to-be.


Villains for Your Campaign

Every memorable adventure needs a great villain. You know the type: corrupt, reviled, and rotten to the core. The villains featured in this tome are the best of the worst, sure to test the heroes' mettle. The canny pirate lord, the vicious blackguard, the tyrannical fire giant queen . . . your players won't know what hit them!

This supplement shows you how to build memorable villains for your D&D campaign and presents 9 ready-to-play villains of various levels. Each villain comes with complete game statistics, as well as adventure seeds, campaign hooks, statistics for minions, and a fully detailed lair.

Of course, even though I don't know what the contents are, in specific ways, I can make the observation that one of the best tools a DM can have at his or her disposal is a really, really good villain -- someone you can hang your hat on. Someone that will plague characters, directly and indirectly. A villain offers opportunities for a DM to introduce any number of lesser bad guys, minions, adventures, tasks, and quests. Just the mere mention of that special villain can be enough to send characters howling off on a life-threatening path of destruction -- again and again. (I know that when I created a foil-type cleric of Bane for my old D&D campaign, all I had to do was place her mini on the table, and the initiative dice were ready to roll.)

September: Fortress of the Yuan-Ti

This 64-page adventure is the climactic conclusion to the three-part series that began with Barrow of the Forgotten King and continued with The Sinister Spire. Of course, you can play it as a standalone adventure -- you'll just need a party of 6th-level characters that don't suffer from ophidophobia. As always, 'cause this is an adventure, I won't go into details about what you'll find inside. (Though, I'd venture to say that I'm probably not too far out of line by mentioning that having some sort of poison resistance wouldn't be a bad thing. I'm just guessing, of course.) Here. Let me show you the back cover text.

Storm the Nest of Vipers

Evil yuan-ti conspire to destroy a kingdom using dark rituals and the bones of a long-dead king. To win the day, heroes must storm the yuan-ti fortress and wrest the bones from the cultists' clutches before they complete their rituals and unleash a far greater menace upon the world.

This Dungeons & Dragons adventure is designed for 6th-level characters. It can be played as a stand-alone adventure or as the concluding adventure in a three-part series. Each encounter contains special tactical information for the Dungeon Master and expanded map features for ease of play.

I'm sure I've probably covered this before, but one of my favorite parts about working here is finding out how to correctly pronounce the crazy names of the monsters. This evil race of these snake dudes, for example, is pronounced YOO-on TEE.

September:D&D Dungeon Tiles V: Lost Caverns of the Underdark

More of the same. That is, more of the same crazy-useful dungeon-/map-/encounter-building accessories you've seen these past many months. If you've picked up a copy (or four) of D&D Dungeon Tiles,D&D Dungeon Tiles II: Arcane Corridors,D&D Dungeon Tiles III: Hidden Crypts, or Ruins of the Wild: Dungeon Tiles 4, you already know exactly what you'll be looking at -- in a general way: 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. Want more specifics? Check out the back cover text:

Build Your Own Dark Labyrinths

Your tabletop never looked better! With Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures and this pack of customizable dungeon tiles, 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 Underdark adventures you want to play. Pick up additional packs to create larger, more elaborate cavern complexes!

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

So, I just got a printout of this set (a tad early, which is never a bad thing). I started quickly flipping through and saw tunnels and tunnel intersections, and cavern sections, and so on. And, I was puzzled for a moment by the fact that I wasn't overwhelmed by flashy stuff and colorful things. (Understand that I was looking through a sheaf of single-sided printouts.) Then, it occurred to me -- this is the first subterranean set. As in, it's the first one that delves through natural caverns and tunnels. This is like a base set. The light went on. One you'll want several copies of, 'cause this is the kind of terrain you explore all the time. Then I sifted through each individual page. That's when I saw the colorful/flashy stuff for this set -- a subterranean river, underground pools, lava pools, slime, stalagmites, and more. Normally, this wouldn't happen until next month, but I figure that since I got a peek, I'll give you a peek.

Rat City Rollergirls Safety Bumper

Just in case you didn't catch the snippet of a news article when it was on the D&D home page, this is kinda cool. Seattle is home to the Rat City Rollergirls, one of the top leagues in the explosively growing Women's Flat Track Derby Association. (Take a look -- there might be a league near you.) Anyway, when a group of us started going to bouts last season, we discovered that the RCRG was in need of sponsors to defray the cost of buying padded safety bumpers to line the outside edge of the track (to protect the girls *and* the audience.) The audience seemed like the kind of folk that'd appreciate a D&D reference (and the players did as well), so we made arrangements to have some fun with a sponsored bumper of our own. If you make it to an RCRG bout, or come to Seattle for a championship, look around the track -- you'll see the D&D bumper just waiting for a Blocker to check a Jammer into its vinyl-covered paddedness.

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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