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There's Still a Pile of Nifty Things on My Desk
By Mat Smith

When I 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 October.

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 Cthulhus.)

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 Trick-or-Treat Candy

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.

Oriental Adventures

So, 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.

It's true.

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 me.

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.

Sea of Swords

This 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.

November: 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.

Lords of Darkness

Faerûn 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 spreading.

Well, that evil has just gotten all over this book.

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.

Deep Horizon

Okay. 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 skills.

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.

The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game

If 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 as well.

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…

Song and Silence

Ah, at last -- the true reason for this month's article. This doesn't release until December.

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 right now.

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.

Go to the D&D main news page for more articles and news about the new D&D or check out the D&D message boards for a lively discussion of all aspects of the D&D game.


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