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


Previews
Has it already been a month?
By Mat Smith


You know how it seems like you never have enough time to do everything you want to do? And how deadlines sneak up on you? And how time flies when you're having fun? Well, all of those things seem to have converged (again) all over my desk, 'cause it sure doesn't seem like it has been a month since I sat down to write the last Previews. I suppose I got shorted a couple days by that sneaky 28-day February, but really, we've just got so much going on around here, I don't think it makes a difference one way or another.

The thing that still boggles my mind is how the folks in R&D keep up with the pace at which things are moving through down there. They stay on top of all kinds of projects in various stages. While they're polishing Deities and Demigods for its release next month, they're also working on other projects that are scheduled for release in April -- of 2003. (Some are scheduled even further out -- if you can imagine that.)

Think about it. That means when Skip Williams was taking one last look at the Monster Manual before it went off to the printer, it's entirely likely that he was already working on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Tome and Blood, Deep Horizon, and maybe even Monster Manual II.

Okay, you probably want to know what's coming out in April of 2003. "Hey, if it's on your schedule, you know it is coming. Spill it," you say.

"I would if I could. But I can't, so I won't," says I. The schedule changes around too much -- or at least, it has the potential to -- and nobody wants to get hopes or anticipation built up before those release dates are firmed up.

Since I've been privileged to sit in on the R&D team meetings (there are three teams, by the way) and the RPG scheduling meetings, I have seen how projects move through here and how they can shift around on the release schedule. A lot of factors can affect each and every product we make.

That's actually why there's not always a definite release date for the stuff that's out there on the horizon, and why we can't tell you about what Skip (or any of the fine folks in R&D) are working on for release in 2003. It's not because we don't want to -- you won't find a more excited group of people when it comes to wanting to talk about this stuff -- it's 'cause nobody wants to be disappointed.

Anyway, if you want find out about all the things that are coming up (the things we can talk about, that is), this is place to find out about 'em. By the time our products are to the stage where I have anything to do with them, they're firmed up enough on the schedule to start talking about 'em. And, I'm going to try to start giving you an even more comprehensive update on everything I know about. I won't always have a lot to say about everything, but you'll at least know about it.

Check it out:

Forgotten Realms Dungeon Master's Screen

This is already out there. Back in December, I told you how beautiful the art is. And I'd mentioned the charts and tables on the inside as being something you'd expect on a DM screen. Which is true. What I didn't know was how great the information in there is. It's uber-useful stuff you actually need as a quick reference, such as circumstantial modifiers to attack rolls, cover and concealment bonuses and modifiers, and more. You can find a horde of information about actions in combat -- whether you can move normally, take a 5-foot step, or not move at all, and whether they provoke an attack of opportunity. It has multiple examples to demonstrate what's a free action, move-equivalent action, partial action, or full-round action. Weapon and armor hardness and hit points are available for those impromptu Sunder attempts. The same information is there for various objects and substances. And light sources are detailed, providing the radius and duration of ten different modes of illumination. And that's only about half the information you'll find in there.

Along with the screen, you get a 32-page booklet titled Encounters in Faerûn. This thing gives you encounter tables for dungeon levels 1-20, as well as wilderness encounters for over 30 different combinations of climate and terrain. And the really cool thing about these tables is that they're not just Forgotten Realms-specific, but they're specific to regions. Check out pages 12 and 13 and look at Table 26: Northern Low Mountains. It starts out telling you that adventuring there is EL 6-12, so you know how daunting travel there is, right off the bat. The results of your percentile roll differ, depending on whether it's day or night. And, if you roll an encounter with a local creature, you move down to Table 26B, which breaks down the encounter by which Northern Low Mountains you're in. (It could be the Anauroch, Dragonspire Mountains, Giantspire Mountains, Greypeak Mountains, Nether Mountains, or Rauvin Mountains, if you're curious.)

And, lastly, the gutter -- I had no idea. All of the Forgotten Realms materials have the same look: a collection of weathered pages inside a leather-bound, canvaslike cover. They're all beautiful books. (Robert Raper is the guy who makes 'em look so good.) And when I opened the screen (and Encounters in Faerûn), I noticed what I thought was a new touch -- the gutter shows the leather thongs that hold the pages in place. It's not new. It's been there from the beginning. If you carefully press the pages down in your Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book, you'll see those little strips of leather in there. (Don't press too hard, or you'll end up with something that'll remind you of an old copy of Unearthed Arcana.) I don't think I would've ever noticed that bit of detail if it weren't for this terrific screen. I love that. Robert put that in there, even though the binding on the hardcover and perfect-bound books would hide it, because it should be there. Wow.

Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game

Last month, I gave you a basic introduction to the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game and had started telling you about some cool stuff. But I got cut short, 'cause I had to turn the galleys back over to R&D so they could finalize it to send off to the printers. (See, even the contents of this little article can be altered by the schedule.)

This month, I've got the galleys in my hands again, and I can point out some more cool things inside.

I'll jump in on one of the touchstone elements of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game: Sanity. The entirety of Chapter Four of the book is dedicated to the subject, and it deals with it in a way that really typifies the rest of the book -- it's extremely thorough. The chapter begins with a description of Sanity and how you lose it, how Sanity points work (including a table of examples of Sanity Loss-provoking events. Then comes the section on Insanity. You've got a couple tables that cover the effects of short-term and long-term temporary insanity, another that deals with indefinite insanity (that can go away after an amount of time), and the brick wall that all Call of Cthulhu characters race toward: Permanent Insanity. So, now, your character is Insane (to some degree), what do you do? Move on to recovering sanity through mental therapy, psychiatric medication, level gain, and private or institutional treatment. Mental disorders are covered next. Included here is an impressively relevant list of phobias, along with a brief definition of each (my favorite is maniaphobia -- the fear of going insane), a psychiatric glossary of terms, symptoms of substance abuse, and an array of medications and treatments.

Oh. If you wanna see a great illustration of a one-guy-with-an-axe-against-three-zombies battle in a bayou, check out page 79. The investigator got in a pretty good first shot. And he'll probably get in a few more, but it's not looking good for him. The illustration really starts off as a heroic, action-packed, "Yeah! Take that, you undead swamp scum!" kinda moment. But when you spend another few seconds taking in the rest of the information there, you know that Captain Lumberjack isn't going to last very long. Unless he can make it to that rowboat.

Guess what? A croquet mallet does 1d4 points of damage. A stiletto that would run you two bucks in the 20s goes for the low-low price of $24.99 today. And the Lee-Enfield Mark I Rifle (manufactured in the UK in 1896) is a standard-firing, bolt-action firearm that uses .303-caliber British ammunition and takes a 6-round magazine. It deals 2d10 points of damage (x3 on a crit) at a range increment of 175 feet.

The weapon section of the Equipment chapter is very robust. (You'll find five more paragraphs about the Lee-Enfield, for example.) There's a terrific range of melee weapons (covering just about anything you'd be likely to want) and a staggering arsenal of firearms. Pistols, rifles, automatic rifles, submachine guns, and shotguns are all available, with many different flavors of each to choose from. There are illustrations and expanded descriptions of particularly notable firearms (those with historical or criminal importance, and even those commonly depicted in movies and historical documentaries), which are unbelievably detailed. You can also find information on how hollow-point and armor-piercing ammunition works, what kinds of modifiers are associated with using a silencer, and some other mechanics (and pricing) related to various firearm accessories. Gun control laws and explosives finish off that section and lead in to the one on investigative gear.

From a Union suit or spandex bicycle shorts to a worsted wool dress suit or leather motorcycle jacket, you've got prices on a shopping district's worth of clothing. Communications equipment includes everything from telegraph service and a Cray supercomputer to laptops and fountain pens. Entertainment prices range from 95 cents for a Ouija boards in the 1920s to about $360 for a digital camera. Medical equipment, outdoor and travel gear, spy tech, tools and more -- it's all here and all have prices for the 20s and today. I was stunned by how complete this section was. (If you look through medical supplies to make sure they didn't forget the straitjackets, you won't find them. But take a look over in miscellaneous gear, and you'll find that one will run you 350 bucks.)

On page 285 is my favorite drawing. It focuses on a gigantic, powerfully built, winged, octopus-headed creature fending off an elf mage, half-orc barbarian, and dwarf fighter. (You'll see a human fighter in the picture, too, but it seems like poor Regdar didn't fare too well in round one against Cthulhu.)

That drawing is on the second of five pages in an appendix that gives you the guidelines for incorporating Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game material in your D&D game (and vice-versa). What a terrific new twist to add to your campaign! Even if you don't want your party of seasoned adventurers to run into a Shoggoth, you could incorporate the Sanity rule, or a few new spells to keep things fresh (and a tad frightening).

Autographed Book and the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets CD

You'd have to be insane to pass up an autographed copy of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game -- especially when a limited-edition CD comes with it!

Ancient knowledge and dark secrets await any who are brave enough to delve into the depths of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game -- that and the autographs of the authors of the book.

An exciting and much anticipated d20 System adaptation of the popular horror roleplaying game based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this 320-page hardback contains everything you need to start investigating things humankind was not meant to know.

Additionally, the first 200 people who order will not only receive a copy of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game signed by Monte Cook and John Tynes (using a special ink developed by Miskatonic University that wards off Deep Ones), but they'll also get a free copy of Let Sleeping Gods Lie -- the limited-edition compilation of songs by the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets that features an official, optional rule that alters game play.

Only slightly less frightening than running into a Shoggoth in a dark tunnel is the prospect of missing out on the chance to pick up an autographed copy of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game along with a copy of Let Sleeping Gods Lie.

Order your autographed copy of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game online now, and get the limited-edition CD by the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets for free.

If you still don't know the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, you've got to check them out. It's a moral imperative. And, you can listen to a few of their songs over at mp3.com.

The music on the CD features twelve of their songs (sampled from all three of their albums) with H.P. Lovecraft-inspired lyrics:

1. A Thousand Fists
2. Colour Me Green
3. Goin' Down to Dunwich
4. Shoggoths Away
5. Yig Snake Daddy
6. Please God No
7. Six-Gun Gorgon Dynamo
8. The Innsmouth Look
9. Sounds of Tindalos
10. The Chosen One
11. Yog-Sothoth
12. Cthulhu Dreams

And, as if there needed to be any more reason to pick up a copy of the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game, there's the online sales promotion I told you a little about last month.

And, here's the official, optional rule (minus the effects on game play) that was developed with the more than capable talents of Call of Cthulhu co-Developer Brian "Chainsaw" Campbell and co-Creative Director, Christopher Perkins:

Chaos of the Thickets (Optional Rule for the Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game)

Each track has its own minor effect on game play that lasts only as long as the song is playing. To invoke the Chaos of the Thickets, set your CD player on shuffle/random, and then play. (If you don't have that feature, roll a d12 and start play on that track.)

I can't wait to sit down with my Lee Enfield-toting dilettante to play with the Thickets rocking in the background.

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 Wheel of Time: Prophecies of the Dragon

This is the mega adventure for The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game that'll take your characters from 1st to 6th level in style. I went into detail on this last month, and can't add a lot more without starting to ruin the surprise for the players.

March: Bastion of Broken Souls

This adventure, written by Bruce Cordell, may get you all the way to 20th level! If you've been playing through the adventures we've been putting out, you'll be as prepared as you can be after you survive Lord of the Iron Fortress. If you're thinking about dropping this adventure into an existing campaign, keep in mind that it's designed for 18th-level characters.

Again, so as not to ruin the game for anyone, I'll limit the rest of my description to a bit of text from the back cover:

The Blood of Ancient Battles Rises

An eternal demonic war draws dangerously close to an end, threatening the balance of all existence. At the crux of this chaotic feud resides a legendary terror fixated upon immortality at any cost. Only the most powerful heroes can hope to defeat a force that lies beyond the influence of the gods.

March: Fold-Up Paper Models

Gee whiz, I can't get enough of these. This month, Lazz and Todd put together a covered bridge with river sections for all your running water-crossing needs.

They're still working on that tavern/inn, along with a set of signs you can attach to the buildings that are already available to make 'em into a blacksmith's, weapon shop, and such things. They're also working on a new idea: a long catacomb wall that is textured and detailed so that you can score and fold it however you like. You'll even be able to cut doorways and niches into the walls to allow access to other rooms or to house the remains of your favorite undead surprise.

It really doesn't get much better that this. These things are free, and there's already enough stuff available for you to build a small town. And there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

March: Chainmail

This is really exciting. All the terrain cards from Set 1 are going to be available for download. So, if you didn't pick up the Ahmut's Legion faction box, but you still want to duke it out over the top of a row of headstones, you're in luck.

And, for those of you out there with a decent amount of wargaming experience under your belt, the Chainmail Technical Rules will also be available to download. This is the uber-complete set of rules that addresses a huge swath of complex, strategic, and tactical questions you might have, but didn't find the answers to in the Official Rules from the Starter Set. Now, if you're just getting in the swing of miniatures gaming, keep this in mind -- the Technical Rules are definitely for the hardcore minis gamer. No diagrams, no pictures. Just pure rules. But, if you're used to waging war across tabletops and really want to get into the detailed rules for whipping up against your opponent's puny warband, you'll want to take a look at this.

April: Dragon Magazine #294

Hey, it's the April issue. You know it's going to have some good, funny stuff right up front. But, you probably didn't know that once you're past the humorous material, there'll be a huge article on vehicle combat written by Dave Noonan. When I say huge, I mean H U G E. This feature covers tons of craft: land vehicles, water vehicles, air vehicles -- you name it, it's there. You'll find carts, chariots, catamarans, sleds, submersibles, zeppelins, ornithopters, and more -- much, much, much more. It's got rules for movement, attacking, collisions, weather conditions, additional armaments, vehicle augmentations, a horde of new magic items, and more. There are even five fully statted "ships" (with maps) that are ready to rumble right off the page.

And, as if that wasn't enough, you'll also get a quick look at what's coming in the Epic Level Handbook. (There'll be other Countdown articles in the next two issues of Dragon Magazine as well.)

April: Deities & Demigods

I haven't seen anything more on this since I passed the back cover copy along to you last month. I keep hearing that the art is some of the best we've ever had. I can't wait to get a look at it.

April: Fire & Ice

This is the guidebook you need to play with the Set 3 models for Chainmail miniatures. (And wait 'til you see these things.) Like I said last month, you'll be battling upon an expansive plain strewn with the ancient bones of dragons.

Look:

Great Power Lies Amid the Bones of Dragons

Ages ago, great legions of dragons battled in the skies above the Plain of Edora. Their skeletal remains cover the ground now known as Scalebane. Brave warbands have converged on the draconic graveyard, seeking powerful magic and formidable allies.

The material in this book includes:

  • New recruits, such as the Gallowsgaunt, Ice Paraelemental, and Half-Dragon Mage.
  • Two new terrain cards -- the dragon claw and the dragon skull.
  • Rules for using the Set 3 models and statistics for all the ones from Set 2.

April: Chainmail Set 3

The miniatures for Chainmail are getting cooler. We have a really good collection of sculptors crafting these masterpieces, and they're really getting in the swing of things. I don't know anyone who isn't going to like this: The latest models have fewer pieces and better pins and sockets. There'll still be some assembly on the more elaborate miniatures, but you're going to have an even easier time putting them together. A lot of the models I saw were single-piece sculpts, and a couple had only a shield to attach. The game is really streamlining so you can pick up the models you need to tweak your warband, then get 'em on their bases and into play.

  • Ahmut's Legion: Human Shadow Priest
  • Drazen's Horde: Hobgoblin Adept
  • Mordengard: Dwarf Hammer Priest
  • Thalos: Human Paladin of Stratis
  • Naresh: Abyssal Eviscerator
  • Ravilla: Half Dragon Mage
  • Mercenary: Azer Trooper

The Human Shadow Priest is mighty and the Half Dragon Mage is really, really cool. (I think it's the first half dragon I've ever seen.)

I wish I could be more descriptive on what these things look like (and I'll try to get some images added into this), but looking at that shelf filled with the fully painted models is kinda like looking into the sun. It's unbelievable and nearly impossible to describe. You know you were looking at something phenomenally bright, and it's burned into your head, but words can't really capture it. Maybe next month, I'll take a laptop down there and do a more thorough job of burning my retinas with the dreamy images of those minis.

May: Faiths & Pantheons

I got to flip through a full-color galley of this beautiful thing for just a minute or two. That's better than nothing, but I could've looked it over for hours. Maybe I'll get my hands on it again by next month. Until then, ponder the divine greatness that is Faiths &Pantheons by taking a look at the description from the back cover:

Religion in the Realms

Whether cleric or commoner, wizard or warrior, nearly everyone in Faerûn pays homage to at least one patron deity. Some of those divine powers inspire respect, while others elicit fear. Good or evil, all of them coexist within these pages. Complete information for key gods, along with the powers and abilities granted to their most dedicated followers, and descriptions of supporting deities combine to provide this look at all the gods of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

  • Over 115 gods
  • 20 specialty priest prestige classes
  • Maps of four temples

May: Chainmail Set 3

The Dire Boar is big. Very big. Take that Dire Badger from Mordengard and add a hundred pounds or so. (And boy, are those dire critters mean.) The Grey Elf Imperial Noble carries a huge battle standard -- it's very cool, and I'd consider adding him to my warband even if I weren't already working up a little group from Ravilla.

  • Ahmut's Legion: Gallowsgaunt
  • Drazen's Horde: Dire Boar
  • Mordengard: Dwarf Zealot
  • Thalos: Human Templar
  • Naresh: Demonic Gnoll Archer
  • Ravilla: Grey Elf Imperial Noble
  • Mercenary: Hellhound

May: Stronghold Builder's Guidebook

In keeping with this sudden trend of giving you the back cover copy in lieu of a more elaborate write-up, here ya go:

Defenses Wrought of Mortar and Magic

Heroes need impregnable fortresses to assault, wondrous towers to explore, and majestic castles to protect. This book is stocked with everything needed to design any fortified structure imaginable, including:

  • Over 150 new magic items.
  • More than two dozen magical augmentations for stronghold walls.
  • Rules for magic portals, mobile strongholds, and trap creation.
  • Five complete strongholds, including maps, ready for immediate use.

Players and Dungeon Masters who want to create customized strongholds will find all the construction materials they need within these pages.

May: Dragon Magazine #295

What a timely place to mention this! The May issue of Dragon Magazine features some tie-ins to the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook.

June: Book of Challenges

This is a blue-cover book (like the Dungeon Master's Guide), so I'm not going to tell you too much about it. But I can pass on the notion that this is a resource designed to allow all of you insidious Dungeon Masters out there to drop particularly interesting or dangerous (often both) encounters into your campaign with a minimum of work. Each challenge is somewhat modular, so you just need to figure out where you want it and do a little tailoring around the edges to make it fit perfectly into whatever your devious mind is hatching. I got to help out playtesting

June: Chainmail Set 3

The Ice Paraelemental is very craggy and faceted (not gemlike, more like what might walk away after a couple of icebergs collide). The Ogre Penitent is extra cool; he's a huge, monstrous good guy. And, a couple of huge bells hanging from heavy chains are slung across his chest (you've got to see it). He's a really nice, big, simply adorned ogre. He'll be a lot of fun to paint. As nice as the Ogre Penitent is, the Gnoll Cleric is not. His banded armor and huge shield are daunting and the two-headed flail isn't terribly friendly. Kilsek. What more need I say? This second drow miniature is a really nice, dangerously elegant, shortbow-wielding archer. Golly, I like drow.

  • Ahmut's Legion: Skeletal Equiceph
  • Drazen's Horde: Orc Champion
  • Mordengard: Ice Paraelemental
  • Thalos: Ogre Penitent
  • Naresh: Gnoll Cleric
  • Ravilla: Wood Elf Skirmisher
  • Kilsek: Drow Archer

July: Epic Level Handbook

The April, May, and June issues of Dragon Magazine will feature countdown articles that give you tantalizing samples of what's inside the hardbound cover of this Book of Infinite Gaming. I know I can't wait for one of my characters to have the Chuck Yeagerian experience of hitting 21st level. I'll go into more detail on this awesome new book in a month or two. But in the meantime, start hoarding as many XPs as you can.

July: Silver Marches

This is the first region-specific accessory for the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and it's going to be quite cool. It has hordes of orcs, much snow and ice, trackless wastes, impassable mountains and small pockets of civilization. Alustriel, the High Lady of Silverymoon, is the leader and figurehead of this new alliance of cities and settlements. See how the alliance is struggling to provide a safe haven of peace and civility in an untamed land filled with creatures that are as chaotic and dangerous as any you'll find in Faerûn.

September: Chainmail Set 4

I know I skipped a month. I was going to stop with July, but I found out about a really, really sweet miniature that'll be scuttling onto the Chainmail battlefield at the end of the Set 4 release.

A Drider Trooper.

Here's the really intriguing bit: It won't be fighting for the faction you might expect.

I think that'll do for a month.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here long enough to stop keeping up with it on a monthly basis. 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. Hey, play D&D, won't ya!?

This month, he's not sure, but he thinks he may have time to work on his campaign world, get some Chainmail miniatures painted, and start writing up some more stuff for Dragon Magazine. It's hard to find time, what with the gaming and checking out all the RPGs floating around here, but it's a part of this whole job at Wizards of the Coast thing.

Call of Cthulhu is a registered trademark of Chaosium. The Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game is produced under license from Chaosium. 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