You Should See the Cool Stuff On My Desk
By Mat Smith
So, it was about this time last year that I started working on a project that entailed getting a section of the (then) still-in-development Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. What was the project? I wrote a web article each month that told folks all about the setting! It was lots of fun to work on -- especially since I got to see all that stuff, interact with the game designers, and take all of you on little sneak preview trips through bits of Faerûn each month.
Since the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is out there in stores now, you can pick it up and see for yourself how nifty it is -- so, there's nothing more to do on the Realmswatch. But a lot of other Dungeons & Dragons stuff is Previews around here. And since I work on the advertising for D&D, I get to see most of it. (I have to know what to say in the ads and stuff like that.) So, I asked if I could keep on writing a monthly column to show off some of the things that cross my desk.
They said, "Yes."
So, every month, I get to put together one of these articles to give you a little glimpse at what's in store in one or more of the D&D products that's coming down the pike. I think that's pretty nifty.
September: It Has Been a Busy Summer Here at Wizards of the Coast
Okay. It has been a couple months since the new Forgotten Realms setting came out, and we've put a couple of things out there you may or may not have taken a look at. Since they're in stores, I won't go into a vast amount of description, but I'll tell you about some of the things I saw come across my desk.
Magic of Faerûn
If you followed the Realmswatch, you've probably snatched up your copy of Magic of Faerûn. If you haven't, you really should seek it out. Even if you don't play in the Forgotten Realms setting, it's well worth considering -- it's wall-to-wall magical goodness. Over 200 new spells, nearly that many magic items, 11 new prestige classes, and lots of magic, magic, and magic.
Check out the harper mage prestige class on page 28. (It's one of those five-level prestige classes that you get in and get out of. I think those are a pretty interesting idea -- you can add a new dimension to your character without completely redefining him or her.) It's a great addition to the harper scout from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. And you get some really great special abilities -- one of them is the new metamagic feat called Eschew Materials. With that handy feat in your back pocket, as long as the material components of your spell don't cost more than 1 gp, you don't need 'em. And, even better, it doesn't bump the spell into a higher spell slot. Never again will your fireball-loving mage need to mess around with little balls of sulfur and bat guano.
Tome and Blood
This is the guidebook to sorcerers and wizards, and has a pile of feats, spells, prestige classes, magic items and more. (The dragon disciple prestige class on page 55 is awfully tempting.)
Again, this is already out there. But I've got to show you something I noticed tonight when I was flipping through it during my Wednesday night game.
Chapter One has a section on improved familiars. You'll see on page 17 a listing for the stirge familiar. It's not the toughest, meanest, baddest familiar you could take, but look at this: It has a touch attack at +8 that allows it to latch on and drain up to 4 Con points. (If you've ever taken Con damage, you know how painful that is.) Now, couple that with the 3rd-level ability to deliver touch-ranged spells (like Vampiric Touch) through your familiar, and you've got a flying pal that'll send (at least) 5d6 points of healing your way while having a light lunch.
Manual of the Planes
This hasn't been on the streets for very long, so I'll hit some stuff you might not have seen yet.
The Manual of the Planes is a 221-page (223 if you count the index at the back) hardback that gives you all the guidelines you need to explore the planes of existence -- and to make up your own. It does a great job of explaining (and simplifying) some pretty complex ideas (how the planes interconnect and such things) by depicting cool mechanical doodads that look like something from Aughra's workshop in the Dark Crystal.
Want new prestige classes, spells, monsters, and items? You got 'em, of course.
You'd also expect some basic descriptions of each of the various planes. But you don't get basic descriptions -- they're really detailed, multiple-page-long descriptions that include some sort of map, the various traits of the plane (physics, how magic works, etc.), links to other planes, the indigenous inhabitants, how movement and combat work, and features (like places of interest.)
If you read my pal Ed Greenwood's new book, Elminster in Hell, you might want to take a look at Avernus -- the first layer of the Nine Hells of Baator. (The Nine Hells span pages 115-123.) Even if you haven't read it, you might be interested in scoping out a little five-headed dragon named Tiamat. Page 118 is Tiamat's stat block. The whole page. Her treasure hoard is described as being equal to the treasuries of a hundred worlds. Gander at page 118, and you'll understand (1) how she amassed it and (2) why she's still got it.
Okay. If you've been waiting for a small taste of something that hasn't gone to the printers, here you go:
Sadly, all I've gotten to see, aside from a product description and the cover art (which is terrific), is the map. Or at least the state in which the map was a few months ago when I was talking with Rob Lazzaretti about the process for making the new Forgotten Realms map. The OE map was really well done. Lazz composited several really nice pieces of handmade paper to give the map a great texture. The actual artwork looks like a brush art depiction of that section of the world. I probably spent five minutes just looking at it. (I'd have stayed longer, but I had to get on with the interview -- you know!)
If you played with the old (1st Edition) Oriental Adventures, you know how cool this one's going to be. If you didn't, you're in for an amazing fantasy-Asian-flavored treat. Nuts and bolts-wise, the book has got new classes, races, spells, items, equipment, monsters, and stuff like that. I can't wait to flip through -- I wanna see the hengeyokai.
I'd tell you about Lords of Darkness, but I've gotta have something left for next month.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who has been here for just barely over a year now, but who has been playing Dungeons & Dragons and waiting to get a job with the company that makes it for well over 18 years. Now he gets to spend most of his days and nights thinking about new ways to tell everyone in the world to play D&D, which is, without question, the coolest thing ever.
This month, he's just happy to write something for the web to let folks know about all the cool D&D things he gets to see before they hit the stores. That's one more small thing that's phenomenally cool about this whole job at Wizards of the Coast thing.
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