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Lemme Catch My Breath.
By Mat Smith


Gee whiz, a lot has going on around here -- tons of work, piles of projects, all kinds of stuff. The past few Previews articles have been getting longer and longer and longer. (I hope people really are reading these things.) This month's article is going to be a tad shorter, but I'm going to try adding a somewhat comprehensive list of things coming out. Once I get all of that stuff in line, you'll know when everything is coming out (at least everything within a few months), and I'll keep you in the loop on the cool stuff going through here. How'd that be?

Check it out:

Great Things to Come

April

May

June

July

April: Deities and Demigods

At last, I've got my hands on a galley. It's got little Post-It note flags sticking out all over the place, marking pages that have a change to be made, but they're all minor things that won't make a difference between the galley and the finished book.

So, working around the multicolored paper fringe, I started flipping through.

If you're familiar with the original Deities & Demigods, you've got a basic idea of what this one is like -- but only the most basic idea. The old version gave you stats, a line art drawing, and a basic description of each of the deities and other affiliated creatures in a number of different pantheons. The new Deities and Demigods gives you so much more.

It details only four pantheons. Don't read that to mean that the book is skimping on content, because it's not. Whereas the original Deities & Demigods rattled off stats and a descriptive paragraph or two about each deity in somewhere around a dozen or so pantheons, the new-and-improved Deities and Demigods scrutinizes four select pantheons (D&D, Olympian, Pharaonic, and Asgardian). Each deity has an entry that spans close to two pages in length. Full-color illustrations of each deity (along with one representative symbol) are accompanied by a complete stat block (with descriptions of special qualities, divine immunities, domain powers, spell-like abilities, and more), descriptions of other divine powers, and details on how its avatar(s) function (including an abbreviated stat block). Most entries are also accompanied by a description of the dogma, clergy, and followers of each deity. And some even have maps of archetypal shrines or temples. Lastly, once you're through looking at pantheons, you can move on to the chapter that gives examples of other types of fantasy religions: monotheistic, dualistic, and cultish.

By the time you finish those five chapters, you should have a fine idea of how any sort of religion should function in any campaign setting. And that's pretty much where the comparison to the old Deities & Demigods ends.

What this fine, new incarnation also offers is a wealth of information about how deities and religion function in a D&D game. This content actually fills the first two chapters of the book, which definitely leads me to consider Deities and Demigods as being less of a catalog of supra-powered beings and more of a "how-to" book -- how to incorporate deities and religion into a D&D game, as well as how to define and create deities.

Away with the "If it has a stat block, you can kill it" mentality. Gruumsh isn't just a big, one-eyed orc. He's a deity. And now, you have the tools you need to truly make that distinction. It's really a boon to have suggestions and guidelines for dealing with entities that are so beyond anything mortal, because it really puts into perspective the way in which a PC would or could interact with a deity (if it's even possible in your campaign).

And by giving your players a mindset in which deities play the roles they should, it really can open up entirely new realms of possibility for your campaign.

In addition to all that, Deities and Demigods also introduces close to 100 salient abilities (special powers) and 30 new feats that are available only to deities. Divine spellcasters will be interested in 13 new domains (along with accompanying new spells). You'll also find some new monsters, new weapons, and prestige classes.

Also, just in case you have a character with lofty aspirations, there's Appendix 2: Divine Ascension.

April: Chainmail Set 3

  • 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

May: Faiths and Pantheons

Following on the heels of Deities and Demigods is a similar, but different book. It's chock-full of information about the deities of Faerûn (major, minor, and more -- over 115 of 'em), and it also features 20 new prestige classes, extremely detailed maps and descriptions of three temples, and more. Whereas Deities and Demigods gave you guidelines for incorporating deities into your campaign world, Faiths and Pantheons has the luxury of having a huge head start on that sort of thing. The Forgotten Realms has always been a place where the deities have been involved to a large degree. Virtually everyone in the Forgotten Realms acknowledges at least one deity, if not more.

Since Faiths and Pantheons can jump right in on information, details, and descriptions of the deities of Faerûn, it does it with a phenomenal amount of attention. The 31 major deities are covered in Chapter 1, which spans 78 pages. If you do the math, that's an average of 2 1/2 pages per deity. That's a lot of space, and none of it is wasted. The descriptions are astonishingly thorough, covering virtually every detail you could want to know about each deity in a manner similar to the entries in Deities and Demigods, but even more exhaustive -- including a history and relationships with other deities, dogma, clergy and temples, complete stat block, descriptions of specific divine powers, and avatars (with abbreviated stat block).

The chapter on the minor deities of Faerûn is a whirlwind of descriptions for dozens of deities, beginning with more general deities, and then moving on to compartmentalized pantheons (drow, dwarven, elven, gnome, halfling, Mulhorandi, and orc.)

Three completely different places of worship are the focus of Chapter 3. The Abbey of the Sword (a fortified stronghold dedicated to Tempus) is detailed with seven maps depicting various levels (both above and below ground), a sampling of book titles that can be found in the War Library, and three adventure hooks. The Darkhouse of Saerloon (a temple to Shar cloaked within the trappings of a lighthouse) includes maps, magic items, a couple interesting surprises, and four adventure hooks. Lastly, the Wyvernstones of Hullak is an outdoor place of worship that was once consecrated to Eldath but has been corrupted by worshipers of Malar and features four adventure hooks, several NPCs, and more.

Twenty prestige classes, each focused upon a particular deity or type of religion, offer a tantalizing array of reasons to be the party cleric. Here's just one: The Ocular Adept, follower of the Great Mother (deity of beholders) is a humanoid who has the central eye of an eyeball beholderkin implanted in its forehead, which develops various beholder-type ray powers as the ocular adept advances in level. (Sure, you have to be lawful evil or neutral evil, but hey -- you get beholder ray attacks. Sign me up.)

Deity feats, salient abilities, and a page full of monster deities take you to the end of the book, which concludes with a convenient spread that gives you a quick, alphabetically arranged list of the major deities with all of the basic information that would be relevant to a cleric. It's quite handy.

And wait until you see this thing. I think each one of the Forgotten Realms books has been more beautiful than the last (and that's pretty tough, considering how awesome the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is), and Faiths and Pantheons definitely supports this theory. It starts with the terrific page treatment (with those cool leather strips in the gutter) that evokes the Forgotten Realms feeling at each page turn, and then adds phenomenal illustrations of the deities of Faerûn. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, they're interesting, unexpected, and rewarding -- it's a real treat to flip through the book just to see how each deity is depicted. I keep thinking of the specialty priests from Forgotten Realms Adventures, and I guess I expected the deities to emulate their archetype priests. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, really, I'm glad. These illustrations give each deity a truly unique, individualistic, and appropriate feel. They're really brilliant. Each one is so interesting, well thought-out, and just right. Malar, for example, isn't a brutish hulk wearing furs and skins. He's depicted (in one of his two avatar forms) as a human-sized, cat-like beast with feral yellow eyes, wicked claws, and black fur that's matted with blood. He's crouching on a gnarled tree branch, not quite ready to pounce, but completely aware of his surroundings and ready to act. His pose and manner is more bestial than humanoid, and that's what Malar's all about.

May: Stronghold Builder's Guidebook

Last Wednesday night, my character and his fellow party members were given a mid-sized stronghold as a reward for our sterling service to the Coalition during the ongoing war. The Stonethorn Monastery encompasses around 90,000 square feet, boasts a large courtyard, a small inn, a large temple (of course), barracks, stables, a multitude of offices, chambers and quarters, a couple of secret rooms, a bell tower, and (my wizard's favorite) a library.

After a few obligatory minutes of deciding who gets which room, we started talking about all the improvements and modifications we would like to make to the place. Almost immediately, Matt Sernett asked me, "Does Vellus have Craft Wondrous Item?" That led to a meandering discussion about the various augmentations and items in the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook.

I think, for us, one of the more useful augmentations would be Magical Warding, which would provide SR 21 to anyone within 5 feet of the inside of our exterior walls. Of course, that's 22,500 gp/800 square feet of freestanding wall -- a tad pricey, even for our band of heroes. Of course, since a couple of our party members were thinking about taking the Leadership feat, one of them could attract a cohort who happens to have the Landlord feat from Stronghold Builder's Guidebook, which provides a set allowance of gold pieces that can be applied directly to the stronghold. That way, we'd have a 10th- or 11th-level character who can stay at Stonethorn, help run the place, defend it while we're away saving the world, and bring in some extra cash to help improve the stronghold as a whole.

The Stronghold Builder's Guidebook covers everything we need to add rooms, make modifications, add traps, and more. And that's just working with an existing stronghold. If we were building one from the ground up, we could seriously consider a flying citadel or a castle that shifts to the astral or ethereal plane. And if that cohort was a spellcaster with the Craft Wondrous Item feat, we could easily start adding magic bulwarks, alarms, guardians, and all kinds of crazy things to really make our headquarters a place no one would dare assault.

Which, of course, means someone would.

May: Chainmail Set 3

  • 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

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 finally taken the Jack-of-All-Trades feat for his Kenku wizard and gotten Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability for his pseudodragon familiar. That's not really exactly work-related. But it kinda is considering this is part of the 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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