No Time to Pontificate -- Must Goob
You know, sometimes I don't have any idea what to write for this introduction. Occasionally, I've got a definite topic. Most often, I end up writing something that evolved out of (and then leads into) the bulk of the article. I suppose that I could just skip over this editorial-type section and jump right into the write-ups, but it really seems as if an introduction of some sort is a nice way to get up to speed before plunging into my rambling. Who knows? I guess this month I'm going for a happy medium. So, enough of this introduction -- let's get on with the previews. Check it out!
August: Races of Stone
The first in a new series of race-specific books, Races of Stone is a 192-page hardcover that details various races that live on, under, or around mountains in the D&D world.
Last month,I gave you the back cover copy and a good, long look at the all-new character race that's making its D&D debut: the goliath.
This month, the book is hitting shelves, so you can flip through it for yourself and see all the good stuff it has to offer -- like the huge pile of information about dwarves, gnomes, and goliaths; new subraces (such as the dream dwarf and whisper gnome); new feats, magic items, equipment, weapons, and monsters; and more (like material on rune circles.) But just to give you one more quick look inside the book, and an example of the anyone-can-find-something-useful-in-here nature of Races of Stone, here's a prestige class that will appeal to just about anyone with a character who totes a bow (or makes regular use of any ranged attack, for that matter) -- the cragtop archer.
August: d20 Future
This überdense 224-page hardcover allows you to expand your d20 Roleplaying Game campaign into the near and far distant future with piles and piles of options and "campaign modules" you can pick and choose from to craft the futuristic game of your dreams (which means you can emulate a favorite flavor of the future or concoct an original creation of your own).
Last month, I went a little nuts and loaded you up with the back cover copy, a piece of the book's introduction, a chapter-by-chapter run-down, a peek at the Genetech campaign model, a look at the section on biodroids, and a glimpse of one of the "new" character races: the dralasite.
This month, while there's still plenty of good stuff to show off, I really want to let you flip through the pages yourself -- just so you can experience the head-spinning sensation of information overload that awaits you inside the covers of d20 Future. But, I can't pass up the chance to give you one more peek. Nothing says "futuristic combat" like giant robots, or in this case giant suits of power armor -- that's what you'll find in Chapter Nine: Mecha. And here's an erratic sampling of some of the stuff you'll find there.
August: D&D Map Folio II
As the second in a new series of game-enhancing accessories, D&D Map Folio II offers 32 more one-page, full color maps you can use as inspiration for adventures, as the settings for encounters you've already concocted, and as high-quality hand-outs to engage and intrigue your players. Whereas D&D Map Folio I gathered the best, most useful maps created for the Map-A-Week web feature, , D&D Map Folio II is a collection of entirely original maps created specifically for this product. Last month, you got a look at the back cover text. This month, you can get a look at the real deal on a shelf near you -- check it out.
August: Dungeons & Dragons Dice
It's dice in a bag in a box. And it's here -- finally. If you want more description than that, look through this archived article or go to your game store.
August: Gen Con Indianapolis
This article's going to go up right around Gen Con Indy, which runs August 19-22 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. I pretend that if you've not already made plans to make the journey, there's not a lot I could tell you that might make you drop everything, hop a plane, and get out to Indianapolis for the Best Four Days in Gaming. (But you really should start planning for next year.) If you are hitting the con, make sure you swing by the Wizards of the Coast booth to see what we've got going on, play some games, and pick up some cool promotional stuff.
And you'll definitely want to show up at the D&D Epic-Level Party -- it's Thursday night from 7:00 to 11:00. Just bring your Gen Con Badge and be prepared for music, food, drinks, activities, entertainment, souvenirs and more -- all courtesy of Wizards of the Coast and the D&D brand team. (Hey, we're celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game this year -- you know we'll have some cool stuff to give away.)
September: Monster Manual III
Hey, it's not like you need a whole lot of introduction to this new 224-page hardcover -- it's a book full of critters. (You know, like the Monster Manual andMonster Manual II.) But one big difference you'll notice about this latest collection of over 100 monsters is that each one starts at the top of a page. And each one ends at the bottom of a page. Some entries may take two or more pages to spill all their monstrous secrets, but you won't have any trouble following the flow of information (no stat bocks running from one page to another for one thing.) Getting every monster to behave itself and "start at the top" really challenged the R&D folks and certainly taxed the talents of our editing and typesetting staff -- and you're going appreciate the effort when you start using the book. (You'll also value the every-monster-has-an-illustration feature as well as the round-by-round tactics you'll encounter for some of the beefier baddies.) One other interesting innovation you'll find scattered throughout the book is the inclusion of a brief description of where certain monsters are likely to be encountered in the Forgotten Realms and/or Eberron (you'll see an example or two in the excerpts I'm putting in this thing).
Okay, lemme pass along the back cover copy and then we'll just jump straight into some excerpts:
September: Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game
If you're reading this article, chances are you're well beyond the scope of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game. It's an all-new boxed set designed to introduce new players to the greatest fantasy roleplaying game of all time. (Remember the Red Box? That's where I got my start.) It's got everything you need to sit down with some friends and jump right into the D&D experience, but it won't let you get in over your head too quickly. The adventures you'll find inside the First Adventure Book will slowly introduce more and more of the game's rules as they increase in difficulty. As the characters progress through the book, they'll gain enough experience to level up to 2nd level, at which point they'll have fully viable characters ready to play in any D&D campaign. So, if you've got a sibling, friend, or significant other that's interested in learning to play D&D (or is someone you'd like to draw into the fine, fine world of adventure), this is a great way to do it. Give it as a gift or get one to have on your shelf to recruit new players for your campaign.
Hey, you get 16 minis with the thing, 14 of which are monsters you'd want multiples of -- couple that with some new dice and the map tiles, and you've got reason enough to pick it up.
September: Frostburn:Mastering the Perils of Ice and Snow
So, Frostburn is a 224-page hardcover and the first in a new series of books that will focus on how the environment can impact game play. Since more explanation is in order, check out the back cover copy:
Basically, this book is filled with a meat locker worth of rules, information, and material you'll want on-hand any time your characters run into a situation, encounter, monster, adventure, or campaign that involves cold -- which, in a world filled with magic, can be anywhere. Here, check out this large chunk from the introduction
Next month, I should be able to lay my hands on one of the galleys for this thing, and I'll hook you up with some crunchy bits.
September: Whispers of the Vampire's Blade
This is the second action-packed adventure for use with the new Eberron Campaign Setting. Written by David Noonan, this 32-page rollercoaster plunges you into action and intrigue that will have you racing all across (and over) the continent of Khorvaire. If you want a little more flavor to whet your heroic appetite, just check out the back cover copy:
While designed to work just fine as a stand-alone adventure for 4th-level characters, Whispers of the Vampire's Blade also meshes quite nicely with the first adventure written for Eberron, Shadows of the Last War. (And it will leave characters -- those who survive -- ready to take on the next adventure in the series, which will be along early next year.) As with every adventure, the back cover text is as much of a glimpse at the real product as I'm going to give you.
So, last month, I couldn't hold off showing you the expansion's two kobold offerings, the Kobold Champion and Kobold Sorcerer (because I love so my kobolds.) This month, I'm serving up a healthier portion of the Aberrations expansion -- and I've even got a few of the set's aberrations for you to look at. If you're keeping score at home, you've probably noticed (as we all have) that the sculpts and paint jobs on the minis seems to be getting better with each set. Well, the trend continues, my friends -- just take a look at these things.
Yuan-Ti Abomination -- Taken right from page 263 of the Monster Manual and given very clear instructions to eliminate anything that gets in its way, the large Yuan-Ti Abomination is more than ready for action. In fact, it kinda looks happy to see you -- in a sinister "foolish intruders, now you die" kind of way. It could be slithering slowly toward its next victim, but with the way it's holding that nicely crafted masterwork scimitar makes me think that he's biding his time, waiting for some warm-blooded fool to approach his guard post. (Really, just imagine a pair of these guys flanking a door you want to go through.) The sculpt really blends "snake" and "muscle-bound humanoid" in a seamless way -- those tail and belly plates are almost too realistic, and if you take a look at this guy's back, you'll see that he's really been focusing on his traps and lats during twice-a-day workout sessions. All that serpentine excellence and fitness-center brawn aside, the thing that really makes the Yuan-Ti Abomination come to life is its ophiophobia-inspiring face. Its heavy brow ridges are overshadowing its burning, orange pinpointed eyes in a way that makes it nigh impossible to look at this guy without picking up on the fact that it's eeeevil. His open mouth shows off his forked tongue and poisonous fangs in a way that you know should be accompanied by an Aliens-esque hiss.
Mountain Orc -- This newest addition to the orc section of your collection was almost certainly recruited from a less disciplined tribe than many of the others that already swell the ranks of your orc horde. That's not to say the Mountain Orc doesn't know how to fight, just that he's probably not a soldier. His studded leather armor and fur clothing give him a kind of barbaric gladiator feel -- he's rugged, even a touch primitive, but experienced in the art of brutal combat. Check out the detail on the leather armor. The pauldron on his left shoulder has stitch marks where each panel was sewn together. His heavy, studded leather belt/girdle even has a pair of small buckles in back holding it in place (with a leather strap and metal ring to connect the two). Take a look at all of his carefully woven braids, and you'll see that each one has been decorated with a small bone (which may be the finger bones of fallen enemies or the remnants from a big platter of tasty drumsticks.) His wide-open mouth and fixed jaw, coupled with that furrowed brow and flaring nostrils give the impression that this guy is roaring out in feral rage just before really laying into someone. Even his pose, which at first glance may seem static, gives you the idea that he's about to charge, but has just paused for a moment to choke up on his grip to get a better swing at you with his greataxe.
Sahuagin Ranger -- Following right on the heels of those two kobolds I showed you last month, the Sahuagin Ranger is the mini I won't be able to get enough of. Flip to page 217 in your Monster Manual, and you'll see what this scaly guy looked like right before he traded weapons and decided to wade ashore and raid the nearest port town. (That new polearm, by the way, is a fine specimen of barbed trident excellence -- and a really refreshing addition to the variety of weapons being wielded by the D&D Miniatures collective.) A stark contrast from that other green scaly mini, the brawny Yuan-Ti Abomination, the Sahuagin Ranger's toned muscles are thin and wiry -- this guy's muscles are built for speed (yes, he's got a swimmer's build). Whether in or out of the water, he definitely seems ready to move at an alarming speed so that he can impale you on that trident, claw your guts out, or just bite your whole head off. His jaws seem to be in the midst of opening, with lips peeling back to expose vicious-looking sharklike teeth. And to add to that "well, you should be afraid to go back in the water" feeling, just take a look at his eyes. They're black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. But they're anything but lifeless -- that little glint of light adds malevolent intelligence to his fixed predatorial stare. The finlike frills on either side of his head, and the spines going down his back, just add to the mini's sharp and pointy feel that continues all the way down to the claws on his webbed feet.
Hook Horror -- Crouching at a height of 2 inches (2 1/2 if you count that upraised claw), the Hook Horror seems to be ready to keep anyone from traveling down some subterranean tunnel -- there's just no getting past this bulky bad guy. There's no going back either, 'cause his blood-red eyes are narrowed and focusing on what it considers to be its next meal -- you. And it's going to be a tough fight. Its vulturelike head appears to be protected by an almost elephantlike hide. (Check out the wrinkles on the back of its head and neck, and you'll see what I mean.) His heavy-duty beak seems well suited for things like cracking open skulls like they were walnuts. He's got one industrial-strength hook ready for a trip attempt and the other raised to pound you into the ground. His bony exoskeleton has an almost crustaceanlike appearance (particularly on his upper arms), which really seems to mesh with his hooked claws (which are kinda like half pincers). Taking a wide stance on powerful, clawed, armor-plated legs, the Hook Horror isn't going anywhere fast, but it doesn't have to -- it's standing in your way, not the other way around. My favorite touch on this guy is the cockroach-esque shell on its back -- it just adds to the creepy factor of this classic D&D monster. (Crack open your Monster Manual II, (to page 126) and you'll find the illo of this subterranean hunter, which will give you an idea of how well the mini captures and improves upon the vision of what a Hook Horror is like.)
Gibbering Mouther -- I remember seeing this thing at the first cast stage (when it's just black plastic). At that point, it was just an amorphous blob riddled with holes and bumps that were obviously eyes and mouths, but being a homogenous black, they just sort of got lost amongst one another, becoming somewhat overwhelming to consider. I remarked that I couldn't wait to see what it looked like painted. When I borrowed the master paint to use for this article, I found out that about 55 separate paint applications went into bringing the Gibbering Mouther to life -- that's the most we've ever done on a mini (not counting those Huges from Giants of Legend) -- and, man, does it show. Now, as a mottled tan and dull green (a color scheme that might have been inspired by an old bruise), the sculpt of the Gibbering Mouther has really come alive as the roiling and chaotic mass of fleshy goo festooned with an almost countless and erratic arrangement of toothy maws and wildly staring eyes. (I've settled upon 17 mouths and 42 eyes.) The undulating ooze also features a sprinkling of undefined orifices that I imagine are either eyes or mouths that are sinking back into the creature's body or are in the process of erupting onto its surface. Not surprisingly, each eye seems to be doing its own thing, ranging from staring blankly into space to looking right at you (and come in a rainbow of colors ranging from brown, blue, and green to blood red, dull black, and milky white). The assortment of mouths is similarly diverse, going from clenched teeth and gaping maws to crazed smiles and hungry grin. It's not hard to imagine the cacophony of speaking, screaming, moaning, and muttering noises this thing must be making as it takes notice of something edible and begins lurching haphazardly toward it. (Check out page 126 in your Monster Manual to see what a nice job the sculptor did translating the illo into a 3D mini.)
November: Sharn: City of Towers
So, last month I briefly touched on this 192-page hardcover -- really, just long enough to mention the bonus soundtrack CD you'll find bundled inside. (Keep in mind that the CD is going to be in the first printing only, though.) It's going to have somewhere around 45 minutes of feature-film-caliber music composed specifically for use in your Eberron campaign, though you can obviously use it as background music for any game you're running. If you're headed for Gen Con, make sure you don't go home without the promo CD we'll be handing out that's got a few sample tracks from the soundtrack on it. If you're not hitting the con, don't despair -- I'll see if I can get one or more of those sample tracks made available for your downloading pleasure by next month.
Okay. There's more to Sharn: City of Towers than the nifty CD -- a whole lot more. Hey, it was written by Keith Baker and James Wyatt -- that's right, the creator of the world and one of the co-authors of the Eberron Campaign Setting -- so you know it's going to be indispensable (even without considering that Sharn is one of the major focal points of the setting). And, this is just the first major supplement in the heavy-duty release schedule planned for the exciting, new, and fully supported campaign setting. This month, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about what's inside the book, so let's get the obligatory reading of the back cover copy out of the way:
There it is.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.
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