We're 31 Days Closer to Everything on the List
By Mat Smith
Okay, between December's edition of Previews, and the one that posted last month, I've touched on just about everything that is coming out from now until July. I may not have gone into as much detail on some of the stuff as I did for others, but you've got a good heads-up for what's going to be hitting the shelves for the next half a year.
The downside to rattling off everything I've laid my eyes on in one fell swoop is that when it comes time to write the next Previews, I don't always have anything new or different to add about everything on the list. Of course, I could just copy/paste the same stuff over and over, but that'd get old real quick, so I'll just give you links. And, since an article filled with nothing but "read what I wrote last month" would make for some awfully boring reading, I'll do all I can to squeeze a little more of a peek at what's coming whenever possible.
Anyway, while there are some restrictions on what I can talk about, and when I talk about it, I do get to be one of the official "leaks" of information about all the cool stuff we've got going on around here, which is pretty cool. And I sure don't want the fun of that to wear out. So, let's see what else I can let you in on.
Check it out:
February: Savage Species: Playing Monstrous Characters
Okay, I talked about this back in December.
Savage Species is a 224-page hardcover, which is pretty hefty -- check your current copy of the Monster Manual to get an idea of how big that is. (Really, the single-sided printout I got of the manuscript is about an inch and a half thick and needs two big bulldog clips to hold it all together.) That's a whole lotta "How to Play a Monster as a Character." Not only do you get a huge pile of creatures that're set up and ready to go adventuring, but you get all the tools you need to work up the necessary rules for playing anything that's not specifically featured in the book. That means that you can take virtually any monster, from any sourcebook, and adapt it for play as a PC or NPC. Keep that NPC part in mind, 'cause DMs are going to have some really interesting options to throw at the party. Between the monster classes (in which creatures develop their characteristics and abilities) and the rules for transforming into a monster (check out Chapter 11), the potential for creating truly memorable enemies and foils is astounding.
Right, Savage Species comes out this month. So, enough of that, and on with a couple things you can read when it hits the shelves. You can read the copy you'll see on the back cover in the November 2002 Previews article.
And, just for fun, here's a little about one of the prestige classes, and a little more about a spell:
The illithid savant prestige class allows mind flayer characters (PCs or NPCs, remember) to gain new skills, feats, and other knowledge from their victims/lunch.
A new 1st-level spell called spell flower allows a spellcaster to "hold" touch spells -- that is, they keep 'em charged and ready to go -- one per forelimb. (So, a human could charge up a chill touch in his right hand and then ready a shocking grasp for the left.) That's pretty cool. Even more so when you think about playing a marilith, drider, or something else with plenty of arms to spare, particularly if you toss in the Quicken Spell metamagic feat.
February: Dungeon Magazine #97
There will be many things in issue #97. But, my biggest reason for saying "you should pick this thing up" is an adventure, titled "Life's Bazaar," which was crafted by grandmaster adventuresmith, Christopher Perkins.
I told you all that I know about it in last month's Previews, but suffice to say that it's the first installation of a new "adventure path" series. Characters will start playing Life's Bazaar at 1st level, and end up -- if they survive -- somewhere around 3rd by the end of it. It also comes with a poster map of Cauldron, the city in which the adventure is set, which was built in the caldera of a dormant volcano. (Note the use of the term "dormant" and not "extinct" -- just taking up residence might be worth some XP.)
In addition to being the starting point of an amazingly challenging and complex series of intertwined adventures, Life's Bazaar is also the first published adventure that'll be entirely compatible with the revised core rulebooks. (Don't worry -- you can run it with your current books.)
Could there be any more reasons to pick up Dungeon #97? Sure, all the other adventures (and the content of a full issue of Polyhedron) that're crammed in there.
February: Dragon Magazine #305
Right now, I dunno anything (specific) about what's going into this issue, but I do know that Ed Stark's second article about the upcoming revised core rulebooks will be in there.
And, just so's you know, issue #305 (which'll say "March" on the spine) will be hitting shelves somewhere around the end of February. (Subscribers already have theirs -- they get 'em right around the first week of each month, which is about 2-3 weeks before they hit the newsstand.)
March: Arms and Equipment Guide
Again, check out the Previews column from December for a basic rundown of what you're going to see, chapter-by chapter. Here's what you'll see on the back cover:
Heroes need to be prepared for anything, which means having the right weapons and gear on hand at all times. The well-stocked pages of this book hold an impressive inventory of merchandise to get you into and out of all manner of trouble, including:
The Arms and Equipment Guide is a 160-page hardcover (same as your Psionics Handbook), and it is jam-packed with material. As I was reading it through, it reminded me a bit of the old Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog -- it's just wall-to-wall nifty stuff. Don't misunderstand me in that comparison: Aurora's was as much a novelty as it was a gaming resource; the Arms and Equipment Guide is a very crunchy sourcebook filled with page after page after page of all kinds of stuff for which you can easily imagine having need. Like this:
Ghostoil: Ghostoil is an alchemical substance you apply to a weapon, which allows it to affect incorporeal creatures. (This is just one of over two dozen new alchemical items.)
Useful Buckler: The useful buckler is a +1 buckler that has the additional property of transforming into an assortment of specialized tools (like a grappling hook or shovel). It's a little like a robe of useful items, but it's reusable *and* doesn't eat up a slot -- bonus.
You'll also find one table that gives you a guide for determining how wealthy and how well-guarded any particular merchant caravan is, and another that provides a great list of possible trade commodities that a wagonload of goods might contain. There's a great table of sample mercenary equipment that outfits everything from six types of 1st-level skirmishing troops to three different groups of heavy mounted troops (which span 10th to 12th level). It has rules for using rust monsters as mounted creatures. It has rules for when your party's bard insists on downing tankard after tankard of dwarven ale. It has rules for flying a masterwork dirigible into battle against a wyvern (carrying an armored rider), in a rainstorm, along with rules for what happens when one runs into the other.
It has a lot of stuff.
March: Races of Faerûn
December, again, was when I spilled the beans on this one.
Races of Faerûn is a 192-page hardcover that provides tons of information about all the various folk running around the Forgotten Realms setting. Here's just a small part of the nearly three pages (in the all-text, nonformatted manuscript) of information about a subrace of dwarves who come from the land of ice and snow.
Abilities and Racial Features
Arctic dwarves have all the dwarven racial traits listed in the Player's Handbook, except as follows:
One thing you'll notice, in addition to how tough these guys are, is how easily you could drop arctic dwarves (and just about everything else you find in this book) into your campaign or adventuring party, regardless of where your game is set. Like most of the Forgotten Realms stuff, you don't have to play in Faerûn to make use of the materials produced for the setting. And Races of Faerûn certainly falls into that category of wholesale usefulness -- regardless of where your campaign calls home -- you can adopt and adjust the races, subraces, and ethnicities to fit your game.
When I was reading through the book, each one of those entries evoked some sort of idea of how I could incorporate those particular gnomes, or halflings, or whatever into my game. And, the whole time, I was looking forward to reading through the appendices -- to discover all the equipment, weapons, spells, and more that were tucked away for safekeeping.
This is just one of the cool specialized arrows you'll find in the equipment section:
|Arrow, Signal: This masterwork arrow is specially designed to emulate a bird's call when fired. Wood elf fletchers craft the arrows to make calls that will be recognized as signals by the elves of the community. For example, a hawk's cry might be used to signal an attack, and an owl's cry might be used to signal a stealthy advance. A successful Wilderness Lore check (DC 20) determines whether the birdcall comes from a bird or another source. The intricate carving of the arrows makes them clumsy in flight, resulting in a -2 penalty on attack rolls.|
And, it doesn't matter where you grow up: If you're a gnome or halfling rogue, you'll appreciate the advantage afforded by this new feat (one of 83 in the book):
Low Blow [Fighter, General]
You can get underfoot and attack creatures larger than you.
Prerequisites: Dodge, Mobility, base attack bonus +4 or higher.
Benefit: As a full-round action, you can enter an area occupied by an opponent who is at least one size category larger than you. You can then make a single melee attack at your highest attack modifier against this creature, who is considered flat-footed against the attack. After your attack, you return to the 5-foot square from which you entered the opponent's 5-foot square. Using this feat provokes attacks of opportunity.
This feat first appeared in Dragon Magazine #285.
Whether you wander around Waterdeep, delve under the Dalelands, or traipse around Thay, you'll want to know all about the Races of Faerûn. Even if you adventure in Ansalon, roam around Rokugan, or explore a world that's entirely your own, the Races of Faerûn will feel right at home.
July: Revised D&D Core Rulebooks
Okay, I talked a little about these last month, but I really didn't have anything crunchy to pass along. And that's still essentially the same -- I'm still waiting to get my hands on a copy of any one of the manuscripts, but they're still feverishly banging away on them down in R&D.
If you're tuning in late, or just want a little more of an idea of why those folks are banging away on D&D 3.5, think about this:
Since Third Edition released, back in August of 2000, we've all been slowly finding bits and pieces of the rules that can be tweaked, clarified, improved, and/or toned down. And by "we," I don't mean Wizards of the Coast, I mean all of us -- everyone who plays D&D -- we've all been playtesting the game.
That's not to suggest that the game wasn't thoroughly playtested before its release, because it was exhaustively run through its paces before going to the printers. It's just that the efforts of hundreds of "real" playtesters gaming for thousands of hours simply can't compete against the acid test of millions of rabid gamers banging away at a rules system over the course of two full years.
Think about it. No two games are alike, and no two gamers are alike. Characters and campaigns around the world are all totally unique (even if they're set in an established campaign setting, like Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms). And that adds up to an effectively infinite number of playtesting situations that are bound to discover things that even the most well-intentioned, meticulous, and professional minds in the gaming industry didn't think of while they were busy creating a completely new rules system.
And, between all the gaming (and talking about gaming) we do around here and all the feedback we've gotten from all of you on the message boards and through our Customer Service department, we've got a pretty good idea of what we need to do to steer the rules closer to the game we're all playing.
Like I mentioned before, starting with last month's issue (#304), Dragon Magazine will be running articles by Ed Stark, who will introduce you to different aspects of what's going on with the revised books.
Attendees of Winter Fantasy got a sneak preview of some of the stuff that'll be going into the new brown, red, and blue books. In addition to the seminar(s), those folks also got a nifty t-shirt we made, specifically for the con, which featured a glimpse at the new and improved stat block for the pit fiend, which includes more than simple adjustments to statistics (that is, the naughty baatezu got even nastier) but demonstrates how the new stat block format will include a lot of information (like the touch AC and base attack bonus) that'll make it much easier to run monsters.
Even better is the inclusion of what I think is the coolest new thing in the revised Monster Manual -- round-by-round tactics. If you want a good idea of how a pit fiend prepares for a fight and what he might want to do every time his number comes up in the initiative order, you've got it -- blow-by-brutal-blow. Of course, that's just an example, and you can have your pit fiends (or other critters) do whatever you want 'em to, but it sure will make it a lot easier to wrap your head around those particularly complicated creatures (dragons, beholders, and so on) so you ran run 'em as effectively as players run their PCs.
And that's just the beginning. I should be stumbling across some real-live new rules soon enough (they've got to stop writing the books and start printing them sometime).
Some Other Stuff: d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
There is a really interesting thread I found on the d20 Modern message boards. It's (currently) twelve pages of "Groups and Organizations" you can use in a game -- all created by you folks. It's a really interesting and thought-provoking thread that involves one person posting a name for an entity, and the next person writing up a description for it (and offering up the next organization's name). Even if you don't port these things directly into your d20 Modern game, you'll most certainly come across something that sparks a thought or idea that'll set you off. Check it out.
Some More Stuff: Foldup Paper Models -- Rural Church
Between the end-of-the-year rush, and the beginning-of-the-year rush, I haven't been down to check on what Rob Lazzaretti, Dennis Kauth, and Todd Gamble have been up to. But, a little exploration of the website uncovered their latest downloadable masterpiece of papery architectural gold -- a rural church. It's a great addition to any burgeoning cardstock village just as it is. Opt to not put on the steeple, and you've got another fine, very sturdy-looking building that can be whatever it wants to be.
A Whole LOT of Stuff: Chainmail Freebies
I also stumbled across a pile of stuff I'd not seen posted for the Chainmail miniatures game. Even though no new materials are being produced for the game, a lot of people are still skirmishing across tabletops.
Downloadable Chainmail Terrain: Whether you play Chainmail, or just want some cool terrain to use with your minis in a D&D game, you can fill acres and acres of battlefield with all of the terrain from the Chainmail Starter Set, Faction Boxes, and the GenCon Chainmail 2002 Championship Tournament.
Here's what you'll find: Briars, hedgerow, high wall, hill, hut, low wall, mausoleum, quagmire, row of headstones, row of trees, stake barrier, woods, magma pool, boulder piles, chasm, sinkhole, row of stalagmites, and subterranean pool.
Chainmail Set 4 and Set 5 Stat Cards: The product line was canceled before models, or even artwork, were made for the last set of Chainmail models, but the game designers had already statted 'em up. So, if you wanna add more contenders to your battlefield, you can download their vital information, pick an appropriate model from your own collection, load up your warbands, and go at it with some new meat. We also have Set 4 stat cards available for download!
If I don't stop now, I won't have anything for March.
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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