"Hey, look: the Dungeons & Dragons ride!" -- Bobby the Barbarian
If you've ever ridden on a rollercoaster, you know what it's like to be strapped into your seat, slowly ratcheting your way to the top of that first big drop. It's a tad maddening, extremely exciting, and can seem like it lasts forever.
That was December.
Now, you've reached the peak of the climb and have been hanging on the brink for a few extra-long heartbeats, just waiting for that click of the 'coaster being released. And this is it:
Revised editions of the Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks will be coming out in July.
That's usually the point at which your stomach tells you that the ride has begun.
Now, a little information about this trickled out back in December, but whether you heard about it back then or are just getting the news now, if you're anything like me, you experienced a moment or two of disorientation. I know I sat in disbelief and tried to figure out "What are they thinking?" Well, since I got the news in a meeting that'd been set up to tell us about the revised rulebooks, I got to find out.
The long and the short of what I took away from the meeting was the phrase "It's D&D, only better." And, honestly, I didn't buy it -- mainly because I wasn't really getting what they meant.
Well, since I'm supposed to be working on all the various ways we get to tell you folks about the revised rulebooks, I set up a meeting with Ed Stark, the Creative Director for D&D, to get the viewpoint from the front lines of R&D.
Ed explained the rationale for the revision from the R&D side of things (which is, essentially, the ultimately passionate gamer's viewpoint). Basically, between all the gaming (and talking about gaming) we do around here and all the feedback we've gotten from all of you on the message boards and through our Customer Service department, they've got a pretty good idea of what needs to be done to steer the rules closer to the game we're all playing. He also offered up a large handful of examples of the kinds of stuff we're going to be seeing in each of the three revised core rulebooks (including the fact that each one will be 320 pages long).
I have to say, sitting down with Ed and having him go through what's going on and why made me feel a lot better about the revised rulebooks.
No -- it made me excited about them.
I thought, if only everyone could sit and listen to Ed talk about the revised rulebooks, they'd be really excited about 'em, too.
And later that day, I found out that it was possible -- Ed's going to be writing an article that'll appear in each Dragon Magazine between now and July that gives you a rundown of what you can expect in each of the revised core rulebooks, complete with examples and excerpts -- do not miss it.
You know, after only a few seconds of that gut-wrenching sensation, the thrill and excitement kick in. The rush of adrenaline hits, and you're shooting through loop-the-loops, corkscrews, hairpin turns, and heart-pounding drops -- one right after another.
When you check out the upcoming releases, that's what's in store for you: month after month after month of some really cool new stuff that'll keep you pumped full of roleplaying supercharged excitement.
Check it out:
January: Dragon Magazine 304
The best part about this month's lack of a new RPG book is the easiest coping mechanism for dealing with it -- picking up Dragon Magazine.
Issue 304 (which'll say "February" on the spine) will be hitting shelves around the 28th of January. (Subscribers already have theirs -- they get 'em right around the first week of each month, about 2-3 weeks before they hit the newsstand.)
Along with a pile of all the cool stuff you expect in Dragon Magazine, this one has an article on mercenaries, another on cool new mounted combat rules for intelligent mounts, and the first OGL article ever, which introduces rules for prestige races (which allow characters to spend experience points to gain supernatural powers and/or physical alterations, like having a spell-like ability, damage reduction, and so on.)
Not to discount all of that, but the super-compelling reason for picking up this month's issue of Dragon Magazine (and the next five) is Ed Stark's article about the revised core rulebooks.
February:Savage Species: Playing Monstrous Characters
I talked about this last month, so I don't have a whole lot to add as far as giving you an idea of what else is in there. But I can emphasize the idea that there's a whole lot of stuff that's not in there. Now, that probably doesn't sound right (or much like a compelling reason to pick it up), but lemme explain.
With the rules, guidelines, and examples that're provided in Savage Species, you aren't limited to the monsters listed in the book. Here's a fine example: pseudodragons. They're not included as an already-done-for-you potential monster race, 'cause pseudodragon player characters aren't really something you hear a lot of players clamoring for. Savage Species focuses on the most obvious, most viable, and most interesting of the choices players and Dungeon Masters are likely to want to play. And it doesn't matter -- the book also gives you everything you need to do it yourself.
Finally, I have the guidelines I need to take the extremely self-centered familiar my 17th-level wizard (and the rest of the party) has been putting up with, and actually turn him into the all-powerful sorcerer he has always claimed to be.
With abilities like darkvision, see invisibility, telepathy, natural armor, and spell resistance, his ECL is going to be up there, maybe around +3 or +4 (I'm just ballparking that based on scanning through the section on Estimating Level Adjustments), so he'll probably have to start his own adventuring career with a mid-level party. And after a few months of rigorous sorcery fun, he could get into the dragon disciple prestige class. Or maybe he'll start taking levels as an actual dragon. By epic level play, he'll actually wield the awesome power he's already laid claim to.
Of course, that'll be the point at which the pseudodragon's air mephit familiar might decide to strike out on his own.
February: Dungeon Magazine 97
Inside, you'll discover the first published adventure that's entirely compatible with the revised core rulebook. (Don't worry -- you can run it with your current books.)
Written by Christopher Perkins, this masterwork adventure, titled "Life's Bazaar," is the first in a new "adventure path" series. Characters will start at 1st level and end up somewhere around 3rd by the end of it -- if they make it there alive. Chris describes "Life's Bazaar" as being "really, really nasty," and I have to say, based on my experience in the Wednesday night campaign he runs, that's really, really saying something.
I really can't say enough about Mr. Perkins' talent for crafting an adventure. He's highly inventive, unbelievably imaginative, unfathomably meticulous, and extremely devious. You can be certain of a very challenging, no-punches-pulled (yet, extremely fair) adventure that's going to be devastatingly fun to play because survival will truly be a reward in and of itself. (Not that you won't find some nifty treasure along the way, as well.)
And, not only will you get to see bits and pieces of material from the revised core rulebooks woven in there, you'll also run into a few nasties from (and, therefore a little preview of ) an April-release product, the Fiend Folio.
This first adventure is particularly important, even if you want to join later on in the "path" with higher-level characters, because it gives you an overview of the adventure path's main story arc, as well as many of the possible minor story arcs.
Another great reason you'll want to pick up this thing is the poster map that's included of the city -- a huge city, built in the caldera of a dormant volcano, which is called Cauldron. Really, the poster map and all the information about Cauldron makes it a super-sweet resource you can pop into your existing campaign all by itself.
Chris gave me a run-down of the basic story and some of the particularly interesting and/or deadly bits. And I gotta say, when you sit down at your gaming table to take a crack at "Life's Bazaar,"you're all in for a treat -- DM and players alike. (For the players out there: Make sure you play smart.)
April: Fiend Folio
Long-time gamers will recognize the title of this 224-page hardcover, but they'll remember only about a dozen of the critters inside. And, since it's got over 150 monsters lurking in there, that's pretty exciting. More exciting is the fact that about 100 of 'em are all-new.
Okay, math whizzes out there will quickly divine that somewhere around forty of the monsters aren't "all-new." That's because, in addition to the handful of favorites from the original Fiend Folio (like the blood hawk, dark skulker, and yellow musk creeper), you'll also find the most formidable foes from sources such as Dungeon Magazine, Dragon Magazine,Living Greyhawk Journal,D&D adventures (like Heart of Nightfang Spire), and this fine website. And, lest anyone freak out over "recycled" monsters, keep in mind that those critters are (1) really cool monsters (2) easily accessible and (3) now 100% official.
Anyway, Fiend Folio is a particularly vicious addition to your gaming bookshelf -- it focuses on extraplanar creatures. Rest assured that you'll get an array of all creature types, with a full range of CRs. But adventuring parties with a DM who owns this book will definitely find themselves in situations where a dismissal or banishment spell would do a world of good.
Windwalker is the third book in Elaine Cunningham's Starlight & Shadows trilogy. If you read the first two books (Daughter of the Drow and Tangled Webs), you may have been eagerly awaiting this one for as many as eight years -- it's been that long since the second book in the series originally came out.
Regardless of whether or not you've already read the first two books, they're being re-released as paperbacks in February and March. So, if you haven't read 'em, that gives you one month for each to get up to speed for Windwalker. And if you already have 'em on your shelf, you'll probably want to pick 'em just for the t'riffic new Todd Lockwood art.
I haven't gotten a chance to read through Windwalker, but I know that it's the much-anticipated conclusion of the story of the dark elf wizard/priestess Liriel Baenre. And from what I understand, it'll be worth the wait.
If you don't mind some minor spoilers about Liriel's background, which you'd discover during the course of the first two books, read on and find out a little of what makes this drow outcast so interesting. Otherwise, you should just skip over the next paragraph.
She's the daughter of Gromph Baenre, überwizard of Menzoberranzan. She was trained (privately) in the wizardly arts long past the time most noble females get sent to Arach-Tinilith, though she doesn't escape indoctrination into Lolth's service. She also isn't wholly swayed by the Spider Queen's influence and finds herself also drawn toward Eilistraee. The truly interesting thing about that whole mix is that someone out there (in the Demonweb Pits, specifically) seems to, so far, be going along with Liriel's behavior. During her travels, she becomes linked with a berserker from Rashemen and discovers an artifact that allows her to retain her drow magic while wandering around on the surface.
May: Unapproachable East
It's about time we got to really explore the eastern lands of Faerūn. (That's Aglarond, Rashemen, Thay, Thesk, and the Great Dale.) Maybe next month, I'll tell you a little something more about how this 192-page Forgotten Realms hardcover lets you do just that.
May: Urban Arcana
If you've already picked up the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, you're most likely familiar with this exciting campaign setting. (If you haven't picked up the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, you should -- it's neat-o.)
I've always thought it'd be cool to live in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. (Not the one in that Saturday morning cartoon, though I would like to have a magic bow like Hank the Ranger's.) But, here I am, sitting at a computer in an office building outside of Seattle -- living in the modern world.
Hey, I like cars, cell phones, and the Internet. I just think it'd be a lot of fun to fight orcs and maybe have a cool magic weapon.
Well, if you were to crumble the mystical chocolate bar of D&D, pack it into the barrel of a shotgun, and then blast it into the extra crunchy peanut butter of the modern world, you'd have something that tastes a little like Urban Arcana.
Hook me up for some of that.
And, if you're interested, check back next month and I'll spill some more. Until then, keep an eye out for kobold street gangs and be aware that some of the people who hold public offices or appear on product demonstration infomercials might actually be mind flayers with illusory disguises.
If you haven't checked out the flash animation thing over on the d20 Modern page, you've gotta see it. It's based on the ad we did for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, but it's got nearly three dozen of those "labels" on the photo to give you an even better idea of what happens when you turn on your imagination and start looking at the world around you as if it's actually full of adventure. (Extra nifty is how the three characters have been statted out, just in case you wanna drop them into your d20 Modern game as NPCs.)
This'll be the third book in the unbelievable War of the Spider Queen series, and this one is written by Rich Baker. That's all I know so far. If you're not reading this series yet, you really should check it out.
Character is created.
Character goes adventuring.
Character gets killed.
Character comes back as a ghost and keeps on adventuring.
Centered on a great city, known as Manifest, this campaign option for any Dungeons & Dragons game provides a completely new way to cope with the death of a favorite PC.
I'm still reading the manuscript for this one, so I'll have to get back to you.
July: Revised D&D Core Rulebooks
After that intro, I'm tapped. And, I haven't actually gotten the chance to sit down and read any of the new manuscripts. My mission is to lay my hands on the latest versions, lock myself away, and read through all three. (Y'know, I've never actually read all three-core rulebooks from cover to cover. This'll be extra cool -- and a lot of reading.)
Oh, here's something you'll want to think about: $5 a week.
If you can set aside just $5 a week for the next five months, you'll have the dough to snatch up the revised core rulebooks as soon as they're available. That's just under than 75¢; a day. So, get a jar. Toss all your pocket change in there, and when July rolls around, you'll be golden.
I think it'll do for a month.
There it is.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who has been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now he gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.
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