Recent Previews
2007: February
2007: January
2006: December
2006: November
2006: October
(ARCHIVE)


Previews
I'll try to slow down long enough to tell you about
some of the cool things we've got going on . . .

By Mat Smith


Seriously, there's so much going on around here right now, I can hardly keep it all straight in my head. We've got rulebooks, novels, miniatures, and more that're all just flying along at breakneck speed. (I'll never understand how our R&D folks do it -- they've all got an elaborate juggling act of projects on each of their desks.)

It's like a kind of torture. I catch glimpses of some things, hear snippets of others, actually glance through a couple, and get my hands on a swath of them, and it isn't enough. I want more. And when you see what I've seen, you'll know why.

Masters of the Wild

Okay, this is just too good. I've been flipping through a printout of the Masters of the Wild manuscript for a short while now. And just as I'm about to sit down to write this article, I stumble across a super-early advance copy of the actual book. So, now I get to flip through the real thing to find bits to show off.

So, Masters of the Wild is the final guidebook in the series. And, if you've been playing a barbarian, ranger, or druid (or want to), this is the one you've been waiting for. It's 96 pages of all-weather material that just about anyone (even those who'd rather not be in the out-of-doors) will want to tuck in a backpack.

Druids, wild shape is going to be even more fun. You've got seven new feats that will make leveling up at 9th, 12th, 15th, and so on even more difficult. Natural Spell is a wild feat that allows you to cast spells while in a wild shape. And Scent gives you the scent extraordinary ability (look that up on page 81 of the Dungeon Master's Guide). Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking that anything that lets you sniff out and pinpoint the location of an invisible attacker is definitely worth a bit of consideration. (Wait until you see the wild armor and shield special ability and the Wilding Clasp magic item.)

Favored enemies everywhere are going to be quite upset by what rangers will find in the Skills and Feats chapter. Favored Critical doubles the threat range of your weapon against a selected favored enemy, and Supernatural Blow lets you do extra damage against one of your pesky favored enemies that's immune to critical hits. And, if for some reason, you've got a ranger who happens to like shooting things with bows or crossbows, one of your first stops as you blaze through Masters of the Wild should be on page 52 to check out the Deepwood Sniper prestige class.

Barbarians are going to be upset by what they find in Chapter 2 as well. Well, not upset, really, but they'll certainly be ready to fly into a rage at a moment's notice. (In even less time if they take Instantaneous Rage, which lets your favorite barbarian go gonzo at any time, regardless of whether it's your turn or whether you're surprised -- you know a particularly nasty hit is coming, you go GRRRRRR, and get the extra rage-inspired hit points you need to stay conscious long enough to hit back hard.) Extended Rage lets you keep that antisocial behavior going for an additional 5 rounds (take that feat as often as you like -- it stacks), and Extra Rage lets you get mean two more times a day. This one can be taken as often as you like, too. And, if rage is a mode of battle your barbarian is into, you need to take a glance at the Frenzied Berserker prestige class on page 59.

If you want to get a big helping of something that every adventuring party will want to take advantage of, flip to pages 92 and 93. I call your attention to exhibit A: regenerate light wounds. You cast this spell and, for 10 rounds (+1/level), the recipient has the fast-healing ability that applies to damage sustained while the spell is in effect. (That is, she heals 1 hp per round and is automatically stabilized.) Think about that. When you're about to jump into a big fight, you have your druid (or cleric) pop you with regenerate light wounds, and you can wade into battle knowing you've got a handful of healing just waiting to go.

The spell also has versions that correlate to moderate, serious, and critical wounds, which restore 2, 3, and 4 hp/round. AND, there're another couple spells (regenerate ring and regenerate circle) that let you apply the fast-healing effects (either 1 hp/round or 3 hp/round) to a group of people (one person/two levels.) Sign me up for a little of that.

The Wheel of Time: Prophecies of the Dragon

It's been a few months since the release of The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game, so you've had enough time to snatch up your copy, daub the drool from the cover, flip through many times, and start getting the hang of all the cool, new stuff inside. If you haven't picked up a copy, it's a really, really good time to do so -- The Wheel of Time: Prophecies of the Dragon is about to hit the shelves.

"But, what is Prophecies of the Dragon?" you may ask. Well, true-believer, it's only a 192-page mega adventure for The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game. That's it. Just close to 200 pages of finely crafted challenge for your wilders, woodsmen, algai'd'siswai, and armsmen (and any other help you can coax into coming along). Nothing more than that. Well, maybe a lot more, really.

Prophecies of the Dragon is a six-adventure campaign that actually meshes with the storyline of the first five novels of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. And when I say "meshes," I don't just mean that it takes place in the same setting and timeline. This campaign actually weaves elements of the novels into the adventures. People, places, and events you find in the novels are here. And it's not like you're going to be a tourist visiting all the places that sport a "The Dragon Reborn Slept Here" sign. No, you'll actually be doing some of the things Rand and company hear news of, or discover during the course of the story.

In fact, Charles Ryan (the guy who had the daunting task of editing the whole thing ) sums it up like this: "The heroes are faced with a Darkfriend plot that will destroy Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, unless they can prevent it."

The cover of Prophecies of the Dragon, just like The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game and every book in the Wheel of Time novel series, is painted by Darrel K. Sweet. It makes you feel that the adventure is a part of the Wheel of Time world -- because it is. Your characters are interacting with Robert Jordan's world at the same time as Robert Jordan's characters. (Keep in mind that good Mr. Jordan passes his hand and finely tuned eye over each and every word, picture, and thought that goes into anything Wheel of Time.) And what your characters do matters in a very significant way: The fate of the Dragon Reborn, and thus, the world, depends on it. What a great idea. And what an exciting adventure. It'll be particularly fun to reread those first six novels after you play through Prophecies of the Dragon, so you can pick up on the story elements that refer to what your characters just did.

Autographed Book and the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets CD

When d20 Call of Cthulhu goes on sale in March, we'll be setting aside a pile of them for John and Monte to autograph. (We try to do this with all the hardback rulebooks, you know.)

And when you pick up an autographed copy of Call of Cthulhu from our online store, you'll also get a limited-edition compilation CD by a band called the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. If you've heard these guys -- or better yet, seen them -- you know what a cool deal this is. (For those of you who were at Gen Con a few years back, the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets opened for They Might Be Giants. They've changed costumes, again, though.)

If you're unfortunate enough to not know who they are yet, you've got to check them out. It's a moral imperative.

The music on the CD features twelve of their songs (sampled from all three of their albums) with H. P. Lovecraft-inspired lyrics. And it's not mood music for creating an eerie sense of something spooky. These guys are a rock band with an amazing range of sound -- they're almost indescribable. You can listen to a few of their songs over at mp3.com. (Check out "The Innsmouth Look" and "Six-Gun Gorgon Dynamo," if you want to hear a couple tracks that'll be on the compilation CD.)

Okay, as if getting a free CD wasn't already cool, and as if the fact that the music's chock-full of Lovecraftian cleverness didn't make the deal even sweeter, here's the last bit that will push the Nifty-o-Meter right over the edge: Roleplaying R&D is creating a set of game mechanics that tie the CD into the game. It's an optional, official rule where you play the CD (on shuffle/random) whilst you're playing Call of Cthulhu. Depending on what track is playing at any given moment, you might get some sort of bonus, penalty, or other effect. For example, when "Six-Gun Gorgon Dynamo" is playing, you get a +1 to all ranged attacks.

Übercool.

Call of Cthulhu

I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start on this one, so let's just get "Wow" out of the way.

Wow. This is going to be a good one. No. A great one. A Great New One, if you will. If you've played Call of Cthulhu before, you're going to be quite pleased with what is about to be unleashed upon the world. And, if you've never delved into this particular realm of horror before, get ready for a real treat.

(Veteran investigators might consider a lot of this to be a recap of the game they already know, so treat it as a therapy session that restores 1d8 points of Sanity. Folks who didn't understand that will, soon enough.)

First off, just to get the basic premise into everyone's head, Call of Cthulhu is a roleplaying game based on the literary works of H. P. Lovecraft. That is, it's about chilling horror and terrifying discovery of things we were not meant to know. Set here on our little planet Earth in any of a variety of modernish eras (any time between the 1890s and today), characters slowly come to realize there are immensely terrible things out there, of which most people remain blissfully unaware. It's up to the PCs to do something about it. Sometimes you can fight it. Sometimes you can delay it. But often the best you can hope for is just to make sure no other unfortunate souls come to learn the terrible knowledge you've just discovered.

Regardless of whether you've played before, the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game is definitely going to be something you want to take a look at -- with all the lights on.

Okay, I guess a fine place to start on this is the cover. (I love what we're doing with our covers -- the whole "looks like a book you'd find in the game" thing. Just nifty.) Anyway, Call of Cthulhu seems to be an ancient tome covered in dark leather. The skull shape on it is particularly evil looking and not quite human. (And is it part of the leather, or is some entity trying to force its way through from the other side? It's probably best to not think about it.) And the tentacles. Nothing says "Cthulhu" like some tentacles.

And nothing says "Cthulhu rulebook" like John Tynes. So, if you've played other versions of Call of Cthulhu before and are wondering what Wizards is going to "do to your game," you can rest easy (and remember that Chaosium will be crafting all the other d20 Call of Cthulhu materials). Mr. Tynes, veteran Call of Cthulhu game designer, was on the case. He was one of the book's two primary authors, so you can be sure that this big, scary hardback will be something you don't have to be afraid of.

So, Mr. Tynes was one of the primary authors. And Monte Cook was the other. That's Monte "in charge of writing the Dungeon Master's Guide" Cook. There's a fella who knows how to put together some d20 rules for you. (And a guy who really knows how to write some über-great game material.)

You really couldn't ask for a better combination when it comes to creating the d20 Call of Cthulhu. It's like a Reese's peanut butter cup. The best Cthulhu-flavored goodness combined with the creamiest d20 expert know-how. Yum.

Okay, when you pop open the book and start flipping through, the first thing you'll notice is how odd the columns of text are. They're crooked. The gutter between the two columns rakes across the page, lending a really interesting look, a slightly chaotic feel, and just a tiny, tiny touch of "this isn't right" to the whole book.

And you've got 320 pages of "this isn't right" to discover.

Seein' as this is a d20 game, and assuming you might have spent a little time with one, you'll be able to jump right into character creation. All the familiar d20 stats are there (plus there are rules for converting existing characters over to the new game).

One really cool new innovation is a choice you get to make about your character's base save and base attack bonuses. Since the game doesn't have classes (you define your character by profession), there needed to be a way to assign those bonuses, and this is a really, really great solution.

There's a Defense Option and an Offense option, which give you either an accelerated progression of saving throws, or a quicker path to those iterative attacks.

Take a look at the first three levels of bonuses for each:

Defense Option
Level
Base Save Progression 1
Base Save Progression 2
Base Save Progression 3
Base Attack Bonus
1st
+0
+2
+2
+0
2nd
+0
+3
+3
+1
3rd
+1
+3
+3
+1
-
Offense Option
Level
Base Save Progression 1
Base Save Progression 2
Base Save Progression 3
Base Attack Bonus
1st
+0
+0
+2
+1
2nd
+0
+0
+3
+2
3rd
+1
+1
+3
+3

One thing you'll notice pretty quickly is that those columns for the base saving throw bonuses don't read "Fortitude, Reflex, and Will." It's not because the saving throws for this game are different. It's because you get to decide which saves you want assigned to which column. Cool. So, your Defense Option character might be a little more likely to survive because she's got a good head on her shoulders and is quick on her feet (assigning Will and Reflex to the two "good" columns), while your pal's Defense Option character makes it through the game because he has a sound mind and body (plugging Fortitude and Will into the "good" slots). Offense Option characters get to make the same type choices, but they've only got one "good" save. But, the idea of an Offense Option character is to take out the bad guys/things before the need for a saving throw arises.

A couple elements that were ported directly over from previous editions of Call of Cthulhu are Sanity and Cthulhu Mythos (along with their diametrically opposed relationship.) You start out with a maximum Sanity score (five times your Wisdom score), which slowly (or quickly) dwindles as you are exposed to the horrors of the game. You also lose Sanity when you learn Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. That is, as you gain points in Cthulhu Mythos (which is basically a knowledge skill you can't just opt to put points into), you lose Sanity -- your mind is trying to cope with information that's simply beyond the capacity of human thought. You gain points in Cthulhu Mythos by reading arcane tomes or encountering creatures, phenomena, and such things.

In a game I played last year, I had an elephant-gun-toting dilettante who would've been much better off if he'd stayed on safari in Africa, but thought a jaunt down to the South Pole to look for traces of an old Miskatonic University expedition would be interesting and exciting. He ended up running into a lot of horrifying creatures and learned several terrifying things that left him (as one of the two, pitiful surviving characters) with 8 Sanity points. I can't wait to rebuild Percival as a d20 character to see if he can fare any better. At the very least, he'll try to avoid blowing huge holes in his fellow party members.

I've got to stop now. Not because I've run out of stuff to tell you about. But because the proof I'm looking through needs to go back down to R&D for some final adjustments and edits before the whole things goes off to the printer. This is sad, because I haven't even gotten to tell you about the fully-stocked equipment section, the arsenal of information in the firearms section, or the chapter on using Call of Cthulhu as a campaign accessory for D&D. I guess that'll have to wait until next month

One thing I can still tell you about is a cool promotion for the book that we're working on.

 For more information about Call of Cthulhu and roleplaying in a world of Lovecraftian horror, visit the Chaosium website, home of the original Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game.

Great Things to Come

March: The Wizardwar

This is the third book in Elaine Cunningham's Counselors and Kings trilogy (preceded by Magehound and The Floodgate). I can't wait to get hold of this. I've consumed the first two books and have been looking forward to this one. I particularly like the fact that the story, so astonishingly rich in detail and color, is isolated in one small corner of Faerûn -- it just shows you how exciting the Realms is.

March: Dragons of a Lost Star

If you don't already have the hardcover on your bookshelf, the second book in the War of Souls trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is coming out in paperback. (Both Dragons of a Lost Star and book one, Dragons of a Fallen Sun, were New York Times bestsellers, by the way.) This is particularly exciting 'cause it means that book three (Dragons of a Vanished Moon) is on the way. (It's coming out in hardback in June, so you need to get caught up and ready for an exciting conclusion to this epic story.)

April: Deities & Demigods

I'll go into detail on this one next month, but stick this in your head:

"This supplement for the D&D game provides everything you need to create and call upon the most powerful beings in your campaign. Included are descriptions and statistics for over seventy gods from four fully detailed pantheons. Along with suggestions for creating your own gods, Deities and Demigods also includes information on advancing characters to godhood."

May: Faiths & Pantheons

You play the Realms? You'll want this book. It's got more than 115 gods, 20 specialty priest prestige classes, and full-blown maps of four temples. I can't wait to look through this one.

May: Stronghold Builder's Guidebook

This is going to be an invaluable resource for anyone who has any kind of interest in keeps, castles, dungeons or anything vaguely resembling a structure you'd want to attack, defend, explore or build. I've gotten to read through the initial manuscript of this one, back and forth, many times. (I spent the majority of the holiday season with this thing sitting next to me while I worked on a small project associated with it.) You've got guidelines and rules for building just about anything you can imagine. Building materials, magical augmentations, a horde of magic items, and a ton of advice are just a bit of what you'll find in here. I'll elaborate more next month.

Fire & Ice

The next guidebook for the Chainmail miniatures game takes the battle for the Sundered Empire into a vast dragon graveyard. As the site of an ancient battle between two draconic armies, the field of bones stretches as far as the eye can see (certainly off the edge of any gaming table) and is home to several strange effects, including easily summoning creatures from the elemental planes to fight for your warband. Like Blood & Darkness, this guidebook provides you with all the rules you'll want to master before jumping into the Chainmail league play the following quarter.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here for something like a year and a half now. He's been playing Dungeons & Dragons and waiting to get a job with the company that makes it for well over 19 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 become buried under a freight trainload of projects and products that he could spend weeks and weeks and weeks working on and looking at. Sure, it's tough having to work on Dungeons & Dragons stuff every day, but it's a part of this whole job at Wizards of the Coast thing.

Call of Cthulhu is a registered trademark of Chaosium, Inc. The Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game is produced under license from Chaosium, Inc. The Wheel of Time is a trademark of Robert Jordan.

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.

 





© 1995-2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.


PRIVACY STATEMENT
Printer Friendly
Hasbro.com