Previews
At Last, I Can Actually See My Desk.
By Mat Smith


So, last month, I went a little nuts with the writing for this article. And more than half of the content was for the Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game, which if you've gotten the chance to flip through a copy, you'll know why.

This month, the article will be a tad shorter. Not because of any sort of lack of enthusiasm, or lessening of the quality or interest in our stuff, but because of what's moving through the pipes right now. The release schedule for RPG products actually has a small amount of much-appreciated breathing room that's setting in here at the end of the year. It won't last long -- there's a monsoon of things on the schedule.

If you've been keeping score at home, our R&D folks have been cranking out an unbelievable number of products over the course of the past year. (Since the release of the new edition of D&D, they've crafted over 30 D&D-related products alone.)

Those folks are like small gods of imagination.

Okay, on with the real reason to be here.

Stuff Out Now: Things You Can Go Get Your Hands On

At last! Take a gander at three books you should already have (or at least should have already taken a look at).

The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game

Like I said earlier, there's a ridiculous amount of stuff about this work of RPG art in last month's article, so I won't wade back into it for fear of becoming lost in another writing goobfest, to use a Rob Heinsoo term.

Robert Jordan came out to Seattle to sign many, many books a few days after I wrote the last Previews. I got to meet him, talk a little, and get a couple copies of the RPG signed. He's a really, really nice guy and is chock-full of stories. Anyway, he also was good enough to autograph 200 copies of the RPG for our online store. I'll leave it at that.

Song and Silence

If ever there was something to be thankful about in November, it was the early release of this masterwork of a guidebook for bards and rogues. It's crammed full of prestige classes, feats, equipment, spells, magic items, poisons, traps, trapmaking rules, example thieves' guilds and bardic colleges, and more.

I've said it before: For me, the biggest, bestest reason to pick up the book (even if you've no interest in bards or rogues) is the section on feats. There are over two dozen of 'em, and 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.

Sea of Swords

R.A. Salvatore's newest book, featuring the return of everyone's favorite scimitar-toting drow elf ranger, came out at the end of October and promptly hit the New York Times best-seller list. That's twelve books in a row for R.A. "Juggernaut" Salvatore and his series that Drizzt built.

 

 

December: Being Home for the Holidays is Great for Downloading Cool Free Stuff

Song and Silence was about as close to a December release as we had on the schedule, and that's already out there. But there's no reason to despair. You can almost always get your New-D&D-Stuff fix right here on our website.

And the good bit is the highly attractive price of zero dollars and zero cents.

Web Enhancements

If you haven't checked these out yet, you're really missing out on some good stuff. Some of the web enhancements are pieces of their corresponding books that were begrudgingly trimmed out when the content was larger than the page count. Some of them are entirely original creations put together just for the web.

All of them are worth checking out.

Right now there are something like 14 different web enhancements up there. Check 'em out:

Seriously, if you've got any of those books and haven't looked at the web enhancement for them, it's like skipping over several pages.

You'll notice on some of our newer products (Oriental Adventures, Lords of Darkness and the Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game to list a few), there's a big black and white logo-type-thing that says "Web-Enhanced Product, Additional content online." That tells you that there's a nice e-treat waiting for you.

Map-A-Week

Every week, there's a new map created by the guys down in cartography. These things are great, extremely well-rendered (in a wide variety of styles), and full of detail. The really great thing is there's a lot of thinking behind them -- just taking a look at one with your imagination turned on just a little will result in an increasing flow of adventure and campaign ideas.

Lemme just throw this out one more time: Map-a-Week = Free Map. Every. Week.

Foldup Paper Models: Cottages

Okay. This is quite possibly the coolest, bestest, Must-Send-the-Link-to-Your-Pals thing we've got on the website.

A couple years back, I was DMing a game in which I wanted to have the party fighting around some small buildings in a village. I must have spent close to two or three weeks building and painting little cottages out of milk cartons. They actually turned out pretty good, but were so labor intensive.

Now, the übertalented guys down in cartography have created exactly what I needed -- foldup paper models of a series of cottages of varying size. You just download them, print them out (if you don't have a color printer, don't worry -- they look good in black and white too), cut-fold-n-glue 'em. It's not hard, and they look unbelievable great.

The detail is remarkable, too. Super-rich colors and textures really make these little cottages come to life. (If you look at one of the windows on Part 2 of 4, you'll even see the silhouette of someone who's apparently in the middle of a barroom brawl -- cool!) I want to build a pile of them to make a little village to set up at my apartment just for fun.

Designed to be used as terrain for the D&D Chainmail miniatures game, these cottages are only the first installation on what will be a regular (possibly even monthly for a while) feature on the D&D Chainmail page.

I'm going to be talking some more with Todd Gamble, one of the three guys involved in the crafting of these gems of papery treasure, to see the other models they've already designed and to find out what else is coming.

January: A Happy New Month's Worth of Adventure and Miniatures

With the new year comes some new stuff. So, look at what we've got coming out and set some time aside to read and paint, and put some space aside on your shelves!

Lord of the Iron Fortress

Okay. Seein' as telling you terribly much about what's inside the covers of this latest D&D adventure would kinda ruin the surprise for you, I'll tell you what's on the outside.

If you've been playing through the adventures we've done as they come out, your characters should be ready to jump in by the time you finish Deep Horizon. If you're just thinking about dropping this adventure into an existing campaign, just keep in mind that it's designed for 15th-level characters.

Here's a bit of what's going on the back cover:

Legendary forgemasters now serve an evil warlord and his dark purpose. Their hammers ring upon anvils dedicated to remaking a terrible weapon that was destroyed in ages long past. As the very fate of the world is being shaped, only the strongest heroes can shatter the diabolical plan.

Here's an immensely important thing you'll want to have in mind:

Designed to challenge 15th-level D&D heroes, it opens the perilous gateway to planar travel.

Planar travel -- just when you think your character is getting to be the toughest thing on the block, you move to a much bigger block.

Remember, we're talking about wizards with access to 8th-level spells, druids who can wild shape into Huge creatures five times a day, fighters with three iterative attacks and eight bonus feats, monks who can hit with the quivering palm attack, and rogues who do 8d6 with a sneak attack -- and they're all going to be outclassed by just about everything you go up against. But in a good way.

(You don't have to have the Manual of the Planes to run this adventure, but it'll help.)

Chainmail Miniatures

Oh my.

I saw them. I saw some of the new minis that're coming out.

There was a table full of finished minis, waiting to have their pictures taken, and I got to spend way too little time looking at them all. Not only are they pure eye candy, but they just seem like they'd be a ton of fun to paint. (I can't imagine how much more cool they'd be if I'd found out their stats and abilities.)

The guy we've got painting our display minis, Jason Soles, is some sort of brush-wielding demigod of acrylics. I suspect he could make one of those weights you attach to a fishing line look cool.

We've got a small horde of sculptor-savants crafting these 35mm works of art. (Roy Eastland, Will Hannah, Bobby Jackson, Jerzy Montwill, Paul Muller, Ben Siens, Jim Warner, and Jason Wiebe, with a few more being added to the group, I understand.)

I still can't imagine actually carving so much detail into something so small, but these guys do it. And they do it as well or better as anyone out there. Seriously, there's a couple other miniatures companies out there that have me as a customer for life, but they're going to have to share my dollars with Wizards now that I've seen these beautiful, beautiful things.

Anyway, I'll tell you about just a few of the minis I saw, which will be finding their way to pegs on the wall of your favorite hobby or game shop in January.

Ahmut's Legion will be joined by the Slaughterpit Zombie -- a huge, 2-headed, 3-armed gnoll. Now, your standard living gnoll comes with one head, and I daresay, even undead gnolls are normally equipped with a single noggin as well. This vile abomination of undeath, unless I miss my guess, has been assembled from what's left of a couple of Naresh's finest. He's got an axe and a sword, and a shield that looks as dangerous as the other two combined. He's a nasty fellow you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley -- or a well-lit one for that matter.

The deadly grace of the Snakestrike Duelist will add to Ravilla's formidable forces. She's a beautiful figure with an elegant sash that flows around her, contrasting against the sinuous length of her deadly spiked chain. I think this is our first mini to have a spiked chain, and it just looks cool. She's a phenomenally sculpted mini that has the same "you don't want to mess with me" feel as the Grey Elf Duelist from the faction box, but the Snakestrike Duelist has her own style of attitude.

Then, there's the Drow Mercenary.

That is, the Kilsek faction Drow Mercenary.

Ah, yes, the drow are entering the fray. When the new rulebook, Blood and Darkness (I haven't seen it yet), comes out, it will introduce rules for fighting underground, as well as a backstory that expands the lore of the Sundered Empire. And you know what you run into when you stumble into the darkness beneath the earth? You see drow who don't take kindly to anything stumbling around in the darkness beneath the earth.

The Kilsek faction of drow is going to be coming out later this year (sometime in the summer, I think), bringing the total number of groups vying for dominance over the Shattered Lands up to seven.

But the Kilsek Drow Mercenary will be out in January, ready to fight for and against anyone. He's got a nasty-looking buckler with a wicked, curved blade arcing out to prove that shields aren't just for defense any more. In his other hand is a hand crossbow, cocked and ready to show anyone and everyone the business end of an adamantine bolt.

Check this out too -- the rules introduced in Blood and Darkness are going to be used in the following season of the D&D Chainmail League. So, you can try out new strategies and tactics, and fine-tune the best group of skirmishers to hit the tables.

That's actually the formula that'll be used for all the new D&D Chainmail League rules: they'll be available three months prior to the beginning of the season in which they'll be used. Power gaming with new rules is fun and easy -- inquire within.

February: Nothing Heart-Shaped or Doily-Covered, But You'll Love This Nonetheless

So, are you ready to dive right into February's fun stuff? You'll fall in love with the art on the Forgotten Realms Dungeon Master's Screen. But I get ahead of myself.

Forgotten Realms Dungeon Master's Screen

It's a DM screen, sure. And it's for the Forgotten Realms, yes. But it's so much more. Wait until you see this unbelievably sweet piece of four-paneled art suitable for framing.

Justin Sweet, the same guy who did the covers of Lords of Darkness and Magic of Faerûn, has created another beautiful piece of art that even those who are not Forgotten Realms gamers will love.

On one panel is the best depiction of Drizzt and Guenhwyvar I've ever seen. I think I like it so much 'cause he looks so real, and he seems to be patterned off Todd Lockwood's painting on page 177 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. In the background is one of the many portals that've been recently rediscovered in Faerûn.

Another portal opens into the panel of the right, but in that scene, you see Artemis Entreri about to finish off his latest target, who obviously didn't have the sword-swinging chops to stand up to the deadliest assassin to ever walk the streets of Calimport.

The center two panels sport an awesome scene of a battle between a death tyrant (undead beholder), some minions and a small group of adventurers. The thing that strikes me about the image is how vibrant the magic is. The energy streams of three different spells are blasting back and forth. I'm not sure what two of them are, but the mage in the foreground can't be casting anything other than burning hands (check your 1st Edition rulebooks for a diagram of that semantic component.)

Inside, you'll find the charts and tables you'd expect. You'll also find a 32-page booklet filled with random encounter tables for dungeon levels 1 to 20, and wilderness encounters for over 30 climate and terrain combinations.

Like I said, even if you don't play Forgotten Realms, you'll want to pick up this screen to add to your Dungeon Master power base.

Okay. That's all I can dredge up just now.

Next month, I'll get some stuff on Masters of the Wild, the guidebook for barbarians, druids, and rangers.

I'll also get a look at the next D&D Chainmail mercenary miniature -- an Otyugh, which I hear is so very, very cool.

There'll be Prophesies of the Dragon, the superadventure for the Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game.

And maybe a little about the new Call of Cthulhu d20 roleplaying game.

How'd that be?

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here for something like 15 months 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 can almost make out the light at the end of the tunnel-o-work. He suspects it's really just a freight train filled with more work, but it doesn't matter 'cause it'll just be more projects like all the other great stuff he's gotten to tackle 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
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