The Calm Before the Storm
(Coping with the Holidays)
By Mat Smith




  • The Bloody Eye -- D&D Novel Line, Book 5
  • Dragons of Autumn Twilight -- Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume I (hardcover edition)
  • Legacy of the Drow -- Paperback edition
  • Winterheim -- The Icewall Trilogy, Book 3


  • Darkness & Light -- Preludes, Volume One (paperback)
  • Daughter of the Drow -- Starlight & Shadows trilogy, Book One (awesome new cover art)
  • The Players of Gilean -- Dragonlance paperback
  • Savage Species: Playing Monstrous Characters -- D&D rulebook (hardcover)


  • Arms and Equipment Guide -- D&D rulebook (hardcover)
  • Dragons of a Vanished Moon -- The War of Souls trilogy, Volume III (paperback)
  • Lord of Stormweather -- Sembia series, Book 7
  • Races of Faerûn -- D&D (Forgotten Realms) rulebook (hardcover)
  • Tangled Webs -- Starlight & Shadows trilogy, Book Two (awesome new cover art)
  • Treachery's Wake -- D&D Novel Line, Book 6

If you checked out last month's Previews, you already know that no RPGs are releasing this month. And none are coming out next month either. That may seem like a desperately long time to go without a picking up a shiny, new D&D book, but you can find a lot of things do to ease the pain and discomfort of a lull in the release schedule.

First off, and easiest of all, you can troll around that navigation bar on the left and find all kinds of cool, free stuff in the Web Enhancements and Features sections.

Next, if you don't have a subscription to Dragon Magazine and/or Dungeon/Polyhedron Magazine, you should. For about the same cost of two rulebooks, you can get one-year subscriptions to each. That's twelve issues of Dragon Magazine for under 40 bucks and six bimonthly issues of Dungeon/Polyhedron Magazine for under $30. You can find more material in each of those things than even the most prolific gamer could possibly squeeze into a single month of play. And that's assuming you don't use your imagination to come up with your own spin-off ideas.

Lastly, unless you've snatched up every rulebook, guidebook, and sourcebook we've ever made, there's still something out there for you. Maybe two books came out at the same time, and you had to choose one over the other -- now is the time to pick up that second book. Or maybe you thought that a particular book didn't fit your game, 'cause you don't play in a particular campaign setting, or use a certain set or rules, or whatever. Just keep in mind that just about everything in every one of these books can be modified to work in whatever game you're running. (With a quick name change, the Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep can be the huge ocean-side metropolis of any campaign world.)

Regardless of what you do to make it through December and January, just remember that this is just a couple months of breathing room. 'Cause when February comes, you can expect the release schedule to hit the ground running at breakneck speed. That is, month after month after month of really cool stuff. Big stuff. I can't go into detail about what you'll be seeing terribly far into the future, 'cause it's all still on double-secret probation, but I can give you a peek at what's looming on the horizon.

November: d20 Modern Roleplaying Game

Okay, this came out last month, and I've been going on about it for months and months before that, but the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is just worth mentioning again.

I'm in the midst of starting up a d20 Modern campaign, and the thing that strikes me as infinitely cool is how much source material there is out there. Specifically, I'm staggered by the possibilities offered up by the Internet. Once you've got even an inkling of what you want to do with a character, adventure, or whatever, you can jump online and find all kinds of stuff to flesh out your idea.

One of my players wanted a background that involved being moved around, specifically back and forth from the U.S. to assorted foreign countries. She got online and found a biography of a Lt. Colonel in the Army who fit the bill as her character's father -- now she's an army brat who shuttled along with her parents from army base to army base. She lived in Seattle, New York, and Germany as a kid. Add in back-story about stealing her mom's passport, doctoring it up, and backpacking around Europe and Japan, and the character's background is complete. She's got a ready-made NPC father (just lacking stats), rationale for learning a couple of languages, a reasonable place to have become well-skilled with personal firearms (years of weekends at the firing range with Lt. Col Dad could easily provide training for Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot), and a really interesting start on her starting occupation -- Criminal (specifically, forgery).

Another player wanted to play a character with a background as an anarchist. He got online and found some news stories and information about the rebel Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. He also got information about a human rights volunteer program for English/Spanish translators in Chiapas that gave him a great reason to be down there in the first place. So, now the character's got some background as a revolutionary. To bring the character back to Seattle (where the campaign will be set), he dredged up a small pile of articles about the WTO riots in Seattle. He even got a couple images of the crowds of protesters, and circled the one "suspected" to be his character. He highlighted pieces of information, and added some notes in the margins, and assembled a great police dossier that really brings his character concept to life.

The thing that's still boggling my mind is how flexible the whole d20 Modern roleplaying game actually is. You want magic? You've got it. Psionics? It's there. Don't want either? Poof, they're gone. You really can do anything you want -- you just need some creativity. Inspiration is all around you -- every movie, video game, and comic book you pick up can turn into a campaign, character, or adventure. And since source material from any genre can be adapted to fit the d20 Modern rules, anything you already have on your shelves or find at your hobby shop can be used as a supplement to your d20 Modern campaign. The only limit to what the game can do is your imagination.

December and January: Stuff

Like I said before, there's nothing on the RPG front coming out in December or January. But, you can bet your continual flame-enchanted copper pieces that those web features I mentioned up top will be updated.

I described a small chunk of these last month, but it's worth listing 'em again:

FREE Original Adventures

Find some complete ready-to-play adventures for your gaming fun.


Download-print-and-go! Just add your imagination.

Character Closeup

Discover some good guys, bad guys, and neutral guys, too -- NPCs with flavor!

Fight Club

Print out some very detailed, interesting individuals to meet and beat upon.

Monster Mayhem

Get some new (and updated) critters and templates.

Random Encounters

Grab some interesting episodes to drop into your game.


Arcane and divine -- discover much mojo for your spellcasters to sling.

The Mind's Eye

Psionics abound -- feats, prestige classes, monsters, and more!

Art Gallery

Pictures from the books make great visual references for your game.

Foldup Paper Models

Download, print, and assemble an entire 3-D city.

February: Savage Species: Playing Monstrous Characters

If you've ever wanted to play something that wasn't a standard PC race, this book is for you. If you've never really thought about it before, this book is for you. Once you've flipped through the 224 pages of this super-crunchy hardcover, you'll be more than ready to roll up a new character -- something with fangs, scales, claws, wings, fur, or another characteristic you don't normally find in your run-of-the-mill characters (like a level draining ability, or a breath weapon).

Savage Species does more than just show you how to create a new character that's a critter -- it also gives you guidelines and rules for changing an existing character into a monster. And there's more than one way to do it -- fast or slow.

And, what if you're not entirely keen on "blowing" levels on the ECL of a particular monster you wanna play? That's when you use the Monster Class rules for deconstructing a monster to create a level progression that starts at 1st, and ends with your character becoming a fully grown version of whatever critter it is you've been developing into. The example in the book is that of a minotaur, which starts as a Medium-size creature with a gore attack and a little natural armor. Over a few levels, your bull-headed character increases in size and strength, becomes more and more cunning (unable to get lost, or caught flat-footed, for example), and ends up as a fully-grown creature resembling the nasty surprise Theseus found in the labyrinth.

In addition to the nuts-and-bolts you need to build a monstrous character, you've also got the stuff you need to customize your new player critter. There are over 70 feats, something like 60 spells, 10 prestige classes, 18 new templates, and a trove of new weapons and armor, special and superior items, and magic items.

Players are going to have a lot of fun looking into playing some extraordinary characters, and DMs will have a field day with the unbelievable possibilities for creating new enemies and allies.

March: Arms and Equipment Guide

I've just finished reading through this thing. And, I have to say, it was an impressive assortment of stuff.

Sure, you've got new weapons and armor, as well as new equipment. But that's what you'd expect inside a book titled Arms and Equipment Guide. You've also got new armor- and weapon-making materials (like Baatorian Green Steel and Ysgardian Heartwire). There's a swath of special and superior items, including over two-dozen new alchemical items/substances. The comprehensive list of poison includes seven new toxic substances characters will want to avoid (or take advantage of). There's even a whole section on trade goods and commodities, so you can really flesh out caravans and merchants' warehouses.

That's pretty impressive, for a 160-page hardcover. Especially when you consider that, so far, I've covered what you'll find in the first two chapters only.

Keep going, and you'll find stats for a fleet of land, sea, and air vehicles. Along with rules for making 'em go (propulsion, maneuverability, and control), you've also got rules for taking vehicles into combat. Spellcasting, melee, and ranged attacks aboard vehicles are all covered, along with rules for collisions, leaving a moving vehicle, and running over opponents. You can attack vehicles, repair vehicles, and build new ones (perhaps even those of masterwork quality). Of course, no vehicle would be complete without augmentations, such as armor, mounted weapons, or special magical devices -- reason enough for the material that rounds out the rest of the chapter.

Next come rules for hirelings, mercenaries, mounts, pets, and animal companions. From purchasing a single casting of identify to hiring a troupe of troglodytes, and from training a creature to disarm your enemies to buying a war rhinoceros, you'll find everything you need, including specialized magic items, to complete your party's retinue. Just remember to bring extra provisions and/or feed.

Lastly, you'll flip through a little over sixty pages or so of magic armor, weapons, and items (including artifacts). No big deal. That's just about as much material as you'll see when you flip through the Dungeon Master's Guide. Okay, that is a big deal.

March: Races of Faerûn

In this hardcover book, you'll find 192 pages of staggering information and detail about all of the major and minor races, subraces, and ethnicities on, above, and below the face of the Forgotten Realms. And I have to say, the whole time I was reading through this book, I was getting ideas about stuff I've love to do in a campaign with each and every one of 'em.

Here's what you'll see on the back cover:

Discover the Diverse Denizens of the Realms

Encounter reclusive avariel, arrogant Calashites, noble centaurs, and bold Rashemi. From the steppes of Thay to the shores of Evermeet, the inhabitants of the Realms are as distinct as the regions from which they hail, whether hero, henchman, villain, or villager. With complete information about the noteworthy races, subraces, and ethnicities scattered throughout Toril, Races of Faerûn offers a detailed look at the many and varied peoples who inhabit the Forgotten Realms game setting.

  • 83 new feats
  • 26 new magic items
  • New spells and prestige classes

Each of the entries for the eight major races includes a pile of information, starting with racial data such as the region(s) in which a particular subrace or ethnic group is normally found, racial feats, prestige classes, and level adjustments (if any). The history of each subrace is detailed, along with its outlook (how they interact with the world, character classes normally chosen, and favored classes). You'll get an overview of the society of each subrace, details on language and literacy, racial adjustments to ability scores, as well as any special proficiencies, skills, or feats. Magic is covered next, including any new racial spells or feats, along with particularly common magic items, and those magic items that are specifically manufactured by that subrace. Racial deities, relations with other races, and equipment (including weapons, armor, animals, and pets) flesh out the entry.

The entire time I was devouring the text, chapter by chapter, I found it nearly impossible to keep myself from flipping back to the appendices when they were referenced. Not because I was bored with what I was reading, but because of what was to be found back there: new equipment, weapons, armor, adventuring gear, feats, magic items, monsters, prestige classes, and spells.

The only thing I can think of that could possibly make this book any better is the addition of the artwork, which I've been told is phenomenally good. I can't wait to see the color galley of this thing.

I think it'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 number of years, 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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