Still a Pile of Nifty Things on My Desk
By Mat Smith
put together last month's inaugural "Previews" article,I
thought that I'd pretty much covered the D&D products that'd
be on the shelves by the time that article was posted to the website.
I was so wrong.
And while I'm not entirely surprised,
I am nonetheless staggered by how many D&D books we've
cranked out over the past year. (But don't be fooled by the term "cranked
out" -- these books are well-crafted works of art. You really wouldn't
believe how much work the R&D folks spend putting each one together.
And it shows.) It's astonishing and wonderful.
So, this month, I'll catch you all up
on the rest of the books I neglected to cover. (I can never remember things
-- sorry.) I'll start with one of the new guidebooks that comes out in
Now, I didn't really go into this level
of detail last month when I was describing what this article is going
to do, but each installment of "Previews" gives you a glimpse
at the D&D products that I get to see. I get to see
them not because I'm anyone of particular importance, but because I get
to work on projects that involve a lot of D&D products while
they're still in development or nearly finished.
And, I'm a gamer -- like you. I just
thought you folks might like to get an idea of what's coming. Since I
see a lot of it, and because I don't have all of your email addresses
to do this individually, this web article seemed like a good idea. (I
suppose the title could've been "Stuff on My Desk," but then
people might have thought it's a column about electric staplers and plush
This article isn't, by any stretch of
the imagination, the definitive compilation of soon-to-be-released D&D
products. This is more of a "something like having a pal who works
at Wizards who lets you in on some of the stuff that's floating around
here" kind of thing.
So, hey. Wanna know about some of the
D&D stuff we've got going on around here?
Check it out:
October: Better than
Of course D&D books're better
than candy. Wouldn't you rather get a copy of the Player's Handbook
than a fun-sized Zagnut bar? I would. And I like Zagnut bars -- I think.
But if you've got any idea of what it's
like to upend a bag full of Halloween stuff on your bed so you can start
sorting out how many of each treat you got, that's a fine start toward
getting an idea of what flipping through these books could do for you.
And these books are like getting full-sized
candy bars -- pure gold.
last month, I'd only gotten to see the map and a catalog description of
what's in this thing. This month -- right now in fact -- I have a copy
of it. (Okay, I'm borrowing it from my pal, Chris, but I'm looking at
it right now.) I've been flipping back and forth, reading bits and looking
at the art, and basically coveting Chris' book.
Just to reiterate what I'd known last
month: 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.
You'll find new races, prestige classes,
weapons, magic items, spells, monsters, the ultra-cool map, and more inside.
Then there's the cover. And the page treatments. Just everything. (Dawn
Murin is the Art Director for all the D&D products, and she
does make it hard to actually read these things -- you keep getting mesmerized
by how beautiful they are.) The book has everything you need to play in
a fantasy-Asian setting, including an example setting based on the Legend
of the Five Rings' world of Rokugan.
One of the interesting things is that
the world of Rokugan doesn't use everything in the book -- there's a lot
of material that's there for you to use in a campaign setting of your
own design. What strikes me as cool about that is since Rokugan is so
well-defined and fleshed out and doesn't use everything in the
book, you can get an idea of how you can create your own unique setting
by deciding which elements fit your world.
In addition to tracking down the rules
for playing hengeyokai characters (hengeyokai are a race of shapechangers
that can assume a human, animal, and hybrid form -- kinda like lycanthropes,
but different), I wanted to flip through the book to see what else struck
This is one cool thing: Ninjas are a
prestige class. (It's actually called the ninja spy prestige class --
look for it on page 43 and 44.) It surprised me at first, but as soon
as I spent a small sparkly bit of thought on it, it made lots of sense
-- ninja spies are really cool. You just can't wake up one morning and
say, "I am tired of being a potato farmer. I will be a ninja."
By the time you've got what it takes to truly become a ninja spy, you're
already pretty dangerous -- and then you really get started. You get four
Exotic Weapon feats in nine levels (getting the first one when you sign
on), sneak attack damage (of course), and Improved Evasion at 2nd level.
(If you've ever had a character with it, you know how hard it is to give
it up when you try something new.) Ninja spies can leap small buildings,
walk on water, alter their appearance at will, and do a pile of other
just unbelievably nasty (read: very cool) things.
Okay. I've gotta move on, but when you
see a copy of Oriental Adventures, look at the Snake Darts spell
on pages 113 and 114 (with a nifty illustration of it on that second page)
too. It's neat-o.
isn't a roleplaying game; it's the next book by R.A. Salvatore. I can't
tell you a whole lot about it either, but it does feature the return of
a drow elf ranger who carries a pair of scimitars and tends to be stoic.
Check this out: Every dark elf book from
The Halfling's Gem and on has hit the New York Times
bestseller list -- that's eleven best-selling books in eleven years. Sea
of Swords is weighing in as book twelve in twelve years.
Hey, want a sample chapter?
Get it here.
Settle in for Your Winter Gaming . . .
The dark days of winter should get you
ready to go right into these books! Just as the days get shorter, you'll
find some gaming books that'll make your characters wonder what's going
on out there in that darkness. There's also a special d20 system treat
for fans of Robert Jordan. So, let's get into that good stuff.
is in trouble. That is: Player characters in Faerûn are in trouble.
If you're already running a game in the
new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, you know there are
a lot of bad things going on -- bad things that need good guys to fix
'em. Like the ad we ran for that book said: Evil is everywhere. And it's
Well, that evil has just gotten all over
Now, I've received only a digital file
of the manuscript, but what's in that file is enough to make even the
most stalwart hero feel like locking the door, drinking some warm milk,
and going to bed with the hope that things will look better in the morning.
Lords of Darkness
details evil organizations, villainous leaders of those groups, headquarters,
plots, strategies, resources, and a lot more. If your campaign gets into
more depth than stomping goblins, this book is going to be something you'll
want to take a look at.
A campaign I was running a couple years
back had a plotline running in the background (unbeknownst to the party)
that dealt with the Cult of the Dragon. And if I had known then what I
know now that I've read the detailed entry for the Cult, things would
have been even bleaker for those guys. Sure, any organization that actively
works toward the goal of having the entire world ruled by undead dragons
is bound to be a tad difficult to deal with, but gee whiz.
I've always had a soft spot for the Red
Wizards. They've always been so intriguing. So interesting. So dangerous.
And so far away. (The Dalelands, Cormyr, and Sembia saw most of my Realms
campaigning over the years.) But now, they've established enclaves in
cities all over Faerûn. It's sort of like an embassy. The Red Wizards
have set up shop, selling goods and services to individuals and governments,
all over the place. How uncomfortable.
I told Sean Reynolds (one of the two
authors, Jason Carl being the other name on the cover) that the whole
Thayan Enclave situation reminded me of Lethal Weapon II
where the South African ambassador leers at Riggs and Murtaugh, saying
"Dip-lo-matic Immunity" as he gets away with whatever it was
he was getting away with. Sean grinned, nodded, and said, "Exactly."
Wow -- nasty. Who wants Red Wizards running around doing Red Wizard things
in their backyards? No PC I know.
There's the Zhentarim. The People of
the Black Blood. The Shadow Thieves. And more. Piles and piles of bad
guys with pages and pages of information about each group. (The cover
looks really cool with art depicting Scyllua Darkhope astride her nightmare
steed in the middle of battle.) I can't wait to see the finished book.
This is one of the Adventure Path adventures, so I'm not going to ruin
the thing by going into details about the guts of the adventure. I'll
tell you enough to make you wanna check it out, though.
First off, it's written by Skip "one
of the three names on the core rulebooks" Williams -- he's got some
Second, it's for 13th-level characters.
You know how tough a character is by the time she hits 13th level? Maybe
tough enough to take on what's inside this adventure. Maybe. (I'm exaggerating
a tad -- the Adventure Path series is frighteningly well balanced.) This
is a tough adventure that's going to be a lot of fun to run and play,
with some real risk, real rewards, and a really interesting plot.
Third, it's set in the Underdark. That's
really more than enough to interest me, and, as a bonus, it gets my characters
quaking a little. (I'd like to tell you one of the bits that makes this
particular romp into the dark, dark recesses under the surface interesting
to me, but it might ruin the surprise.)
Anyway, if you've been playing through
the Adventure Path, you'll not be disappointed at all with this installment.
If you've not done the Adventure Path, it's worth checking out. And, if
you're just interested in a challenging foray into the Underdark, pick
this thing up.
Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game
you've read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, you're going
to like this thing. If you haven't read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
series, you're still going to like this thing. (Though, you really should
get out there and read 'em -- they're good.)
The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game
is a completely self-contained, single volume, d20 system game set in
Robert Jordan's vastly detailed world. It's got character classes, prestige
classes, skills, feats, monsters and everything else you need, including
a totally new system for channeling the One Power.
And it's approved by Robert Jordan. Not
just authorized, or sporting his name -- good Mr. Jordan actually passed
his hand over the whole book, making sure it was right. He wrote the foreword
If you think the cover of the book looks
a lot like the covers of the Wheel of Time novels, it's because
the same artist that paints those did this one.
As with Lords of Darkness, I haven't
gotten to see the finished version of the Wheel of Time Roleplaying
Game, and I have only pieces of the manuscript to look at, but it's
got a lot of great stuff. Wanna play an Asha'man? Me, too. Wanna play
an windfinder? Me, too. Those are just a couple of the prestige classes
you can aspire to, and I'd tell you more about 'em, but that was one of
the chapters I didn't get.
I seem to be excited by each of these
books, and I don't think it's going to be stopping any time soon.
December: Watch Your
Pockets . . .The Rogues are in Fine Form
Well, I've got only one thing to tell
you about, but it's a biggie. Without further ado
at last -- the true reason for this month's article. This doesn't release
I've been in nearly insurmountable
love with the rogue class since 3rd Edition D&D came out, and
Song and Silence isn't going to make it any easier for me to consider
playing something else.
Song and Silence
is the guidebook for bards and rogues. Like with Sword and Fist,
Defenders of the Faith, and Tome and Blood, this book is
crammed full of prestige classes, feats, equipment, spells, magic items
and more. This one also has a laundry list of rather nasty poisons, pages
and pages of traps and trapmaking rules, and examples of thieves' guilds
and bardic colleges.
If you've missed the thief-acrobat class
from Unearthed Arcana, you'll be pleased to know that it has returned
as a prestige class. Regardless, if you like the idea of a roguish-type
that's particularly unbelievable at balancing, jumping, climbing, tumbling,
and other feats of agility that help in clandestine activities, you're
going to want to take a gander.
But for me, the biggest, best reason
to pick up the book (even if you've no interest in bards or rogues) is
that good ol' section on feats. With just over two dozen of 'em, I'm hard-pressed
to find one that I wouldn't like to tack on to at least one of my characters
-- they're all good. I've got only the manuscript, so I can't give you
page numbers, but you'll probably be unerringly drawn to this section.
Here are some examples:
Fleet of Foot allows you to make a single
direction change in your movement while running or charging. (Normally,
you could only run or charge in a straight line.) And Dash increases your
base movement by 5 feet. Both of those require light or no armor, but
that's got bard and rogue written all over it. Anything that affects movement
is huge. (Try out a pair of boots of striding and springing if
you want proof.)
Flick of the Wrist lets you use
your Quick Draw feat (with a light weapon) to make your first attack as
if the opponent were flat-footed. An instant sneak attack once a combat
-- very nice.
That's about all I've got around here
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 actively cultivating
an insomniac's lifestyle for no other purpose than to make sure that all
of you know as much as possible about D&D products. This isn't
so bad 'cause it means he gets to see lots of cool stuff as a part of
this whole job at Wizards of the Coast thing.
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