Is it already August?

By Mat Smith





Okay, it seems like it wasn't very long ago that I got to see a little of the manuscript for the Epic Level Handbook, then I was looking forward to it coming out, and suddenly it's on the shelves. It wasn't so long ago that Gen Con was on the horizon, and now it's around the corner. (I suppose that, really, by the time this is posted, we'll all be back from Gen Con.)

It's kinda like the side-view mirrors on your car: Things on the release schedule are closer than they appear.

Lookit here:

August: Gen Con Game Fair 2002

So, product-release-wise, August is pretty quiet. But that's okay, 'cause we've got Gen Con to pack in all the gaming goodness we could ever want into four far-too-short days. And there are a couple of really good things coming out in September that'll be here before you know it.

Last year was my first trip to Gen Con, and it was unbelievable. I'd wanted to go for years and years, but I never got around to going. And, as a fine side-effect of signing on here at Wizards, I wrangled my way into a trip to Milwaukee to check it out (and do a little work at the same time).

So, here's the deal about Gen Con Game Fair: It's a huge (and I mean HUGE) pile of people that are into the same stuff you are. Really. Like the ad this year says: "You just can't beat four days chock-full of games, celebrities, costumes, prizes, merchandise, free stuff, and over 25,000 people who will listen to your war stories."

Now that I know what to expect, I'm really going to have a blast this year. I'll be all over getting my work in the Wizards of the Coast castle done as quickly as I can so I can get out on the floor and find all the cool stuff to see, do, and buy. And then, there are all the people to meet and talk to. And all the games to play.

Four days of being totally immersed in a world filled with gamers. People just like me. It's just far too good a thing. In fact, it's the best four days of gaming in the world. If you can't make it this year, set your sights on a long weekend trip to Indianapolis next year, 'cause you won't want to miss what goes on for the first one they do there. It's a moral imperative.

August: Foldup Paper Models

Lazz, Todd, and Dennis are still at it! They're making these unbelievably cool, infinitely useful pieces of downloadable gold. Last month, they offered up the amazingly detailed blacksmith's shop. And they're still just going and going and going.

I ran into Lazz in the hall yesterday, and he invited me down to check out all the stuff they've got cooking on the Table-o-Foldup-Paper-Models. What a treat. Understand that they've got everything built and set up on this table: They've got several cottages, something like four square towers, several city (curtain) walls, a couple woodsman's huts, a rustic bridge, a mausoleum, gothic graveyard, and the blacksmith's shop. Those are the models that are fully detailed, in color, and finished (the ones for which they took pictures).

Then, there's all the stuff they're working on that is just waiting for color and textures to be applied. Here's just a quick run-down of what's in the process of getting those final, beautiful, finishing touches:

If all works out as planned, you should have access to each and every one of these by the end of the year, providing you with just about everything you need to put together a fully functional village, town, city, or metropolis. And they've got more ideas percolating in their crafty, talented noggins.

September: City of the Spider Queen

City of the Spider Queen is an adventure that runs concurrently with the story being covered in R. A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen novel series -- not that you'll be running through an adventure that mirrors the books. Instead, the adventure is sparked by the same turn of events that sets the novel series in motion, but your adventuring party will have an entirely different direction to explore.

Like all the adventures I get a peek at, I can't tell you a lot about this one. But like I said, it takes place in the Underdark. As James Wyatt describes it, the adventure is tangential to the War of the Spider Queen storyline -- it starts in the same place, but goes in its own direction. I also discovered that, at some point, there's the opportunity to explore an entirely new drow city. Or at least the ruins of it. (Gee whiz, what would reduce a drow city to rubble? What could? I'm not sure I want to know. I have a hard enough time sleeping.)

September: Monster Manual II

More Monsters. Bigger Monsters. Tougher Monsters. Meaner Monsters. The Monster Manual II is going to serve up almost 200 critters your characters would just as soon never run into. And, while the first Monster Manual had a huge pile of creatures to challenge your low- and mid-level characters, along with some big nasty things for your tougher PCs, the Monster Manual II is weighted more toward challenging your higher-level parties.

Check out the block of text you'll see on the back of that wicked-looking, fanged cover:

Even Greater Threats Await

As heroes grow in power, they seek out more formidable adversaries. Whether sinister or seductive, ferocious or foul, the creatures lurking within these pages will challenge the most experienced characters of any campaign.

This supplement for the D&D game unleashes a horde of monsters to confront characters at all levels of play, including several with Challenge Ratings of 21 or higher. Inside are old favorites such as the death knight and the gem dragons, as well as all-new creatures such as the bronze serpent, the effigy, and the fiendwurm. Along with updated and expanded monster creation rules, Monster Manual II provides an inexhaustible source of ways to keep even the toughest heroes fighting and running for their lives.

October: Book of Vile Darkness

Right. First off, I'm not going to go into details about what you're going to find inside. By virtue of the subject matter, the Book of Vile Darkness is being released as a "Mature Audiences Only" title, so I really can't go into details anyway. But I can give you a general idea of what's in there, and why.

It's filled with an astonishing array of information, ideas, materials, rules, and more that will help in the creation of truly memorable, truly evil villains, organizations, and so on. It checks in on each of the three core rulebooks with prestige classes, feats, spells, magic items, artifacts, monsters, and more.

The whole point of the Book of Vile Darkness is to provide the proper means for presenting truly evil villains. These are the kinds of individuals, organizations, and creatures that go far beyond the scope of the "ordinary" evil things you may have come across in your campaigns. The Book of Vile Darkness allows a DM to present an extreme. And, with an impressively straightforward, cut-and-dried presentation of the material, you get a very clear understanding of a wide swath of several aspects of evil that will fill virtually every campaign niche you can imagine, and a few you can't.

October: The Thousand Orcs

This is the first book in R.A. Salvatore's new series called The Hunter's Blades trilogy, which features your favorite scimitar-wielding drow ranger. The truly exciting thing about it is the fact that the ever-stoic dark elf is going to be striking out on his own. I'm still in the middle of reading the Advanced Reading Copy of the book, so I'm not entirely sure of how it all comes to pass, but Drizzt is going to be out there in the wilds of the North with nothing but his scimitars, and no one but Guenhwyvar. And there's going to be a lot of orcs out there too. Some sort of altercation is sure to happen.

Since this is the first book in the trilogy, there are a lot of events that are taking place to set up the whole story. It's a matter of getting everybody and everything into place. A small pile of plotlines and events are being crafted, ever so deftly, to create a lot of interesting situations I can't wait to see unveiled.

It's going to be a bumpy ride. And a lot of things will happen along the way. I've got absolutely no idea of what's going to occur, or even the vaguest notion of how it will all turn out. But it's sure to be an exciting trip.

November: d20 Modern Roleplaying Game

Okay, first off, if you want a rundown of what's going to be in the book and all that you need to check out the monthly Countdown to d20 Modern web feature over here. Then, you're ready to read the stuff I put here -- the stuff that's not necessarily between the brushed metal-looking covers.

Like this:

While the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is a comprehensive, self-contained roleplaying game that offers an endless number of adventure, campaign, and character ideas all by itself, we thought it would be an even better system if you had enough source material to choke a horse.

This is just a short list of some of the other publishers who are currently working on sourcebooks you'll see on the shelves at the same time or soon after the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook hits the streets:

Pretty cool. From what I've heard, those fine folks are all working really hard to divvy up all the cool stuff they want to do so there's little or no duplication of information or genres. Isn't that just nifty? It's a ton of source material that doesn't get redundant or repetitive. All I can say is that you'd better start making room on your shelves, 'cause there's going to be far too much fun once you pick up a copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook.

And, when you do pick up you copy, you might be a tad interested in snatching up a cool doodad, too. There was a lot of information about it last month, but I'll give you some highlights and a little more now.

Knights of the Silver Dragon Patch

Check out the cover of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook. Russell Whitfield, the Strong Hero wielding the bastard sword in the center, is wearing a Knights of the Silver Dragon patch.

That's what we're giving away -- a custom-made, embroidered patch that measures, roughly, 2.5" x 3.5" (so, it'll be easy to sew onto the shoulder of a jacket, a backpack, or even a dicebag). Here's a look at the basic art file we'll be using to actually make the patch:

And here's the write-up you'll find about the Knights of the Silver Dragon inside the Urban Arcana campaign section of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook:

Knights of the Silver Dragon

During the Dark Ages, the Knights of the Silver Dragon was an order of monks in Ireland. In the Middle Ages, it was a knightly order in France. During the Enlightenment, it was a Masonic brotherhood in England. In the colonies, it was a band of rebels on the frontier. In the modern age, it is a secret organization of those who know the truth about Shadow, and have sworn to act as the protectors of all things innocent and good -- no matter where they come from.

The group takes its name from its founder and mentor, a silver-scaled dragon who first appeared in England over 1,500 years ago and was trapped in human form when the tide of Shadow receded. He made this world his home, creating various organizations over the centuries to deal with all things relating to the arcane. Individuals with open minds and adaptable attitudes have trained to become his front-line knights.

This silver dragon, whose ability to shift back into dragon form has returned, serves as mentor to a number of cells, each unaware of the others. As a result of his dispersed attentions, he is not always available when his servants need him. While he has grown in power with the increase of magic, he is unable to be everywhere at once. Further, while he possesses extensive knowledge, he has been betrayed a number of times by individuals who used what they learned from him to their own ends. (The dragon claims Merlin as one of his students, and does not speak highly of the mage.) Now that magic has returned, his students have the opportunity to exercise what they have learned. They must stand on their own, and their training will be severely tested.

The Order of the Silver Dragon may sponsor promising adventurers, providing information and background for those who see both the threat and opportunity presented by the arriving creatures and abilities arising from Shadow. Similarly, the Order can be a rival group, which seeks to investigate, recruit, and if necessary remove the organizations that threaten their protection of the mundanes.

Not just everybody can join the Knights of the Silver Dragon, and not just everybody will get a Knights of the Silver Dragon patch with their copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, 'cause we're only making so many of them to give away at Wizards of the Coast Premier Stores. If your hobby shop isn't a Wizards of the Coast Premier Store (look for a sign in the front window or door, or just ask 'em), you'll want to check out this Retail Locator to help you find one.

We started taking preorders for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game from our Premier Stores at the beginning of this month, and the Silver Dragon patches are going fast. So, if you want to make sure you get a patch along with your copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, get in there and ask 'em to preorder one for you. And just to make it easier for you, we made a nifty form for you to download, print out, fill out, and take in to your favorite hobby shop. Download the "Hey, Preorder My d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook and Get Me a Silver Dragon Patch." form-thingy here.

I think that'll do for a month.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who has been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing length of time, and now he gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.

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