Summertime Travel
Previews for August and Beyond

Summer vacations, as I recall, often involve going away to some interesting location. If you're lucky, you go to someplace that's cool enough that you won't mind writing about it in one of those "What I did this summer" papers. These days, I want to visit places that are cool enough to talk about with people in the kitchen whilst getting another mug of coffee. Dungeons & Dragons is much the same way -- it's always great to go on an adventure in some cool, memorable location that adds a lot of flavor to your endeavors -- it sure makes for more interesting tales and war stories told both in-game and out. This month, we seem to have a number of different locations available for your traveling enjoyment. From Stormwrack (which promises adventure on, above, and under the high seas) to the Explorer's Handbook (don't leave your home in Eberron without it) to the Fane of the Drow (a fantastic location for exploring and skirmishing), and the Underdark miniatures expansion (which drags you into the deepest parts of the earth where you'll most certainly become someone's or something's lunch). d20 Cyberscape allows you to explore a futuristic world of cyberpunk action, and Magic of Incarnum delves into a never-before-seen world of power. Get your paperwork in order and prepare to depart for a whirlwind tour of all of these fine products.

Check it out:

August: Stormwrack

You already know that if you're heading into arctic conditions, you want to have Frostburn: Mastering the Perils of Ice and Snow on-hand. And if you're trekking into a desertlike situation, it'd be Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand you'd find most handy. So, it wouldn't be surprising to know that if you're charting a voyage over, under, or across the sea (or any body of water, for that matter), you'll want to thumb through this, the latest 224-page addition to the Environment Series: Stormwrack: Mastering the Perils of Wind and Wave.

Last month, you took a look at the text from the back of the book, along with a peek at a couple of paragraphs from the Introduction, and a quick rundown of what you'll find in each chapter (plus a couple of nice pieces of art).

This month, I thought I'd show you a few of the bits and pieces floating around inside the book that might be of interest to you and your fellow adventurers. Take, for example, one of the prestige classes you'll find lurking in Chapter 3: that of the Scarlet Corsair. For anyone who has wanted to run a deadly, intimidating, pirate-type sort of character (as a player or DM), this 10-level prestige class takes no prisoners.

Scarlet Corsair

"The seas run red this night, and terror has a face. You are looking upon that face. Pretty, isn't it?"

-- Adia Ironheart of the Red Wake, a scarlet corsair

Many pirates sail the seas, but few reach the infamy of the scarlet corsair, so called from the trail of blood left in her wake. Where most other pirates are content to use intimidation to cow their opponents into submission, allowing them to plunder as they please, the scarlet corsair revels in combat and slaughter.

This isn't to say that all scarlet corsairs are violent killers, though most certainly are -- a few scarlet corsairs refuse to take on a target unless that target is capable of putting up a good fight. Whether patriotic privateer or self-serving buccaneer, the scarlet corsair relies on the reputation of her quick blade and terrible fighting skills to drive her prey before her.

Learn more about the scarlet corsair in this extended excerpt.

Of course, if you're planning on spending any time at sea, unless you've got gills, magic, or some other way of coping directly with the water, you'll probably book passage aboard a fine seagoing vessel. While a voyage across the briny blue could be a pleasantly uneventful break from the rigors of an adventurer's life, putting Stormwrack on your shelf greatly lessens the chances of that happening with any regularity. And because knowing where your character is aboard such a vessel can become very important very fast, you'll find the information and maps in Chapter 5 (Ships and Equipment) particularly useful. (There are 21 ships detailed, five of which are mapped out.) Say, for example, you happened to find Ms. Ironheart and her crew riding the wake of your boat. Sooner or later, you're going to be rolling for initiative -- and that's when you might want to have the layout of a caravel (complete with particularly detailed information) close at hand. (Check out the Map-a-Week feature for different resolutions of the Caravel map.)

Caravel (Sailing Ship)

The caravel is a seaworthy, nimble ship that can handle long ocean crossings. It has a small forecastle and sterncastle, and three masts. A caravel is a smooth-hulled, full-decked vessel built on a strong internal frame. It is a relatively advanced design, and not every seafaring people have the skills and knowledge to build one.

The sailing ship mentioned under Transport in Chapter 7 of the Player's Handbook is a caravel.

Caravel: Colossal vehicle; Seaworthiness +4; Shiphandling +2; Speed wind x 30 ft. (average); Overall AC -3; Hull sections 24 (sink 6 sections); Section hp 80 (hardness 5); Section AC 3; Rigging Sections 3; Rigging hp 80 (hardness 0), AC 1; Ram 4d6; Mounts 2 light and 1 heavy; Space 60 ft. by 20 ft.; Height 10 ft. (draft 10 ft.); Complement 30; Watch 7; Cargo 120 tons (Speed wind x 15 ft. if 60 tons or more); Cost 10,000 gp.


This caravel is a typical example of the type, although the internal arrangement can vary greatly from ship to ship. Its notable features include:

1. Quarterdeck: The quarterdeck is a raised, open deck at the stern. The ship's wheel is here, along with a small davit for a ship's boat.

2. Foc's'le Deck: This is a raised, open deck atop the forecastle. The caravel mounts a ballista here; the weapon can't fire straight ahead because of the foremast. On the starboard side is the hawsepipe and tackle for the ship's anchor.

3. Master's Cabin: The largest and most comfortable cabin on the ship is still quite cramped by most standards.

4. Wardroom: The captain, officers, and passengers take their meals here. This room also serves as a drawing room or parlor for the officers and passengers.

5. Main Deck: This open deck features a catapult and two large companionways that descend to the lower deck. The catapult can be fired only to the broadside; it can't train forward or aft (a typical problem with large weapons mounted on small, cluttered ships). The companionways serve as both stairways (ladders, in nautical parlance) and cargo hatches. Chicken coops and pens for goats, lambs, or other small livestock often take up any available space left on the deck.

6. Forecastle: Most of the ship's crew sleeps here, although in good weather many crewmembers prefer to sleep on the open decks. The forecastle holds a dozen cramped bunks.

7. Galley: The ship's galley is in the forward part of the lower deck. It has a small stove and shelving for all kinds of foodstuffs. The ship's cook and his assistant(s) sleep here.

8. Chain Locker: The ship's anchor chain is stored here. It passes through the hawsepipe in the forecastle up to the foc's'le deck.

9. Lower Deck: This space serves as the first of the caravel's cargo holds, as well as the crew's mess deck. Crewmembers take their meals sitting on whatever cargo is convenient. If the ship is heavily laden, this deck might be covered to within a foot of the overhead, leaving only a single fore-and-aft passage between the crates, casks, and bundles.

10. Officer's Cabins: These tiny cabins are the private rooms of the ship's officers. Paying passengers usually bump an officer from his or her cabin to the forecastle.

11. Ship's Office: All the ship's paperwork is kept here, including cargo manifests, pay records, and the ship's paychest (usually in a sturdy, locked chest).

12. Sail Locker: Spare sails, canvas, and sewing gear is stored here, as well as plenty of lines, hawsers, firewood, and heavy tools.

13. Lower Hold: Most of the ship's cargo is stowed here, as well as provisions (including as many casks of fresh water as will fit). Beneath this lower hold lies a small crawlspace where heavy ballast stones help to stabilize the ship.

August: Explorer's Handbook

Anyone interested in touring around the expansive world of Eberron, players and Dungeon Masters alike, will want to do a little preliminary reading within this new hardcover supplement. Weighing in at 160 pages, the Explorer's Handbook offers a wide variety of detailed information useful to anyone and everyone planning a trek across, over, under, through, or around any portion of Eberron.

Last month, I passed along the back-of-book text, along with a fairly detailed breakdown of what you'll find inside each of the book's chapters. This month, I thought I'd give you a look at a few of the things you'll discover when traversing the opening chapters of the book (remember, the last few chapters are DM territory). I thought I'd start off by pointing out one of the useful-and-entertaining bits I mentioned last month -- a sidebar from Chapter Two: Tools of the Trade.

Not to be outdone by Stormwrack, the Explorer's Handbook also provides detailed information and visual aids for a number of extraordinary vehicles, including the aforementioned airship, a storm ship, wind galleon, and the lightning rail.

Beginning far into the book's entry on the lightning rail, this snippet gives you a pile of information that'll come in handy when traveling inside and fighting atop the shining example of lightning rail travel, the Five Nations Express:

Sample Lightning Rail: The Five Nations Express

Departing daily from Sharn through Aundair and Thrane, the Five Nations Express is House Orien's premier lightning rail route, allowing travelers to cover much of the continent in comfort. Despite its name, the route has not truly reached Karrnath or the remains of Cyre since the end of the Last War (though Karrnath at least can still be reached by way of connecting routes). The Five Nations Express bypasses all but a handful of Khorvaire's largest cities, stopping only at Sharn and Wroat in Breland, Passage and Fairhaven in Aundair, and Thaliost in Thrane. House Orien strives to keep the Express on a tight schedule, which means that the coach rarely pulls more than a single cargo cart.

All the cart types used by the Five Nations Express are also commonly found on other lightning rail routes, though often in different ratios. Trains bound for small villages often pull more cargo carts and no first-class carts, for example.

Learn more about the Five Nations Express in this extended excerpt.

August: Deluxe Eberron Player Character Sheets

It's character sheets. For Eberron. 'Nuff said. But in case it's not, you can check out last month's article where I gave you the back cover text, along with a description of the various and sundry things you'll find inside this handy-dandy pocket folder -- that is to say you'll find a small handful of stuff in addition to the character sheets you'd expect to find. (Just to save you a mouseclick, it's an introductory character sheet for new players, a character development sheet for fleshing out your favorite PCs and NPCs, an adventure log sheet, and a pile of spell sheets.)

September:Magic of Incarnum

While just the first of a swath of things for which I gave you back cover text last month, this 224-page hardcover is sure to be one of the most intriguing books you'll see on shelves this year, since it introduces to the Dungeons & Dragons game an entirely new magical substance (and accompanying rules system) -- incarnum. "What is incarnum?" you may well ask. Well, here's your answer (along with some additional material that explains a lot of the basics of how incarnum works):


Incarnum is an amorphous magical substance made up of the soul energies of all sentient creatures -- living, dead, and, it is theorized, those even not yet born.

In its pure form, incarnum resembles a radiant mist, deep blue in color. Those trained or gifted in manipulating incarnum can shape it into physical objects (called soulmelds) or simply use it to imbue themselves with power.

Shaping incarnum has no ill effect on the soul energy used. Incarnum is not consumed when it is manipulated by a meldshaper or other character -- it is merely "borrowed" from the nigh-infinite supply in the multiverse. That said, the wielders of incarnum recognize that the substance is more than mere magic. It is, very literally, the essence of all creatures. Talented wielders of incarnum learn to harness specific qualities of incarnum (and by extension, properties of the souls tapped for this power), including particular alignments, insights, experiences, and the like. In fact, most wielders of incarnum have strong moral and ethical outlooks inextricably linked to their use of the substance.


A soulmeld is a semipermanent magical effect crafted from raw incarnum. Soulmelds are "worn" much like magic items. Once shaped (a daily process much like prepping spells), a soulmeld lasts as long as its creator wants it to.

The characters who make use of the options in this book -- new classes, prestige classes, feats, and other options -- gain the ability to shape incarnum into magical objects called soulmelds. Characters who can shape soulmelds are called meldshapers.

A soulmeld somewhat resembles a magic item or a spell effect in physical form. It is the physical embodiment of incarnum, linked to the meldshaper's body and worn almost like a physical item. Shaping incarnum into soulmelds requires time and effort, much like a wizard preparing spells. Unlike spells, though, soulmelds generally last until the meldshaper decides to unshape them, withdrawing the incarnum for future use.


Essentia is a character's personal store of incarnum. Most characters can't access this pool of energy, though certain classes and feats open up this potential. Essentia can be invested into soulmelds in order to enhance their effects. Essentia can be reinvested each round to augment soulmeld and other effects as the meldshaper wishes.

Essentia is the substance of a character's personal soul energy. Everybody has it, but only some characters learn to manipulate it to enhance magical effects. Meldshapers, for instance, can invest it into soulmelds to make them more powerful. Every soulmeld can be enhanced by investing essentia into it, in much the same way as spells improve with higher caster levels. Unlike caster level, a soulmeld's invested essentia is not a fixed number; it can shift up or down as the meldshaper desires. The more powerful the character, the more essentia he can invest into his soulmelds and thus the more powerful they can become.

In addition to its use in soulmelds, essentia can sometimes be invested into feats, class features, and other abilities. Chapter 3: Character Options presents a new type of feat, the incarnum feat, which grants abilities that scale up with invested essentia. Chapter 5: Magic introduces spells and magic items that have similar scaling effects. Any character, regardless of whether he can shape soulmelds, can gain access to his personal pool of essentia by the selection of the proper feat or other option.

The text of the book likens the use of incarnum to that of the psionics rules -- it's a new system that's similar to magic, but different. Everyone has the capacity to learn to wield the power of incarnum (any class can access it through feats or spells, for example), but particular races and classes have a greater affinity or talent for doing so. Being such a flexible and accessible rules system allows you to incorporate incarnum-wielding characters into an existing campaign with very little effort and explanation. Just to give you an idea of the sorts of things you can do with the power of incarnum, here's a smattering of incarnum feats your characters might find useful.

Azure Turning [Incarnum]

You can blast undead with incarnum-purified positive energy. When you use this feat, your brow is enveloped in a brilliant blue corona.

Prerequisites: Con 13, turn undead class feature.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. When you make turning checks, any undead whose HD are low enough to be potentially turned or destroyed by your checks are also dealt 1d8 points of damage per point of essentia invested. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

Cobalt Charge [Incarnum]

You can channel incarnum to deal devastating strikes when charging. When you make a charge attack while this feat is active, your weapon momentarily turns deep blue.

Prerequisite: Con 13.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. You gain an insight bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls equal to the invested essentia on all charge attacks. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

Indigo Strike [Incarnum]

You can channel incarnum to enhance your ability to deal damage with your skirmish attack, sneak attack, or sudden strike. When you do so, your eyes turn dark blue.

Prerequisites: Con 13 and skirmish, sneak attack, or sudden strike class feature.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. You gain an insight bonus on damage rolls made when delivering attacks with the skirmish, sneak attack, or sudden strike class feature equal to twice the invested essentia. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

If you have more than one of the listed class features, the bonus applies only once on any given attack. You can't gain the benefit of this feat on more than one class feature simultaneously.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

Psycarnum Blade [Incarnum, Psionic]

You can forge your mind blade from a mixture of mental and soul energy, enabling you to deal devastating strikes with the weapon.

Prerequisites: Con 13, ability to form a mind blade.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. You can expend your psionic focus to gain an insight bonus on damage rolls with your mind blade equal to 1d6 per point of invested essentia. You must decide whether or not to use this feat prior to making an attack. If your attack misses, you still expend your psionic focus. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

Soulsight [Incarnum]

You can attune your soul to sense living creatures near you. When you use this feat, your eyes glow with a blue luminescence.

Prerequisites: Con 13, Wis 13, Concentration 4 ranks.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. While essentia is invested in this feat you can activate a limited form of blindsense, capable of pinpointing living creatures only, as a move action. This blindsense has a range equal to 5 feet per point of invested essentia. The blindsense lasts until the start of your next turn. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

If you have the ability to bind a soulmeld to your brow chakra, the blindsense granted by this feat is capable of detecting both living and nonliving creatures.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

Soultouched Spellcasting [Incarnum]

By fusing your spells with incarnum, they become more capable of overcoming enemy magic and spell resistance.

Prerequisite: Con 13.

Benefit: Once per day, you can invest essentia into this feat. You gain an insight bonus on dispel checks and on caster level checks made to defeat spell resistance equal to the invested essentia. Once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours.

You gain 1 point of essentia.

September:Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow

You'll find back cover text in last month's article for this, the first of a new series of accessories designed for both roleplayers and miniatures skirmish gamers. Check out this chunk of text from the Introduction that gives you a quick rundown of what's inside and how you can use all of it:


This 16-page adventure booklet contains several challenging encounters that can be combined to form a short Dungeons & Dragons® adventure intended for four 4th-level characters. The encounters play out on the battle maps included in this product. To run these encounters properly, you (as the Dungeon Master) need the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, as well as some D&D miniatures. The Adventure Background (see below) contains all of the information you need to get the adventure underway. Although designed for 4th-level characters, this adventure requires only minor adjustments to adapt it to lower- or higher-level play.

Using the Battle Maps

Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow includes four miniatures-scale maps that provide exciting battlegrounds for RPG encounters or miniatures skirmishes. These maps allow for dynamic and challenging encounters, encouraging you and your players to make important tactical decisions while combat is underway.

For the Roleplaying Game: Fantastic Locations battle maps don't depict your average dungeon complex. The maps aren't meant to represent an entire adventure, either. Instead, the maps provide interesting locations for key scenes and important battles. The monster tactics take advantage of the maps provided, ensuring that the battles range over large sections of the map terrain.

For Skirmish Play: The maps in this product are carefully designed for fast and exciting D&D miniatures play. You can use these maps for any D&D Miniatures games. Starting in 2006, you will be able to use Fantastic Locations maps in sanctioned miniatures tournaments.

The two double-sided poster maps have a lot of interesting detail, but aren't so crowded that you couldn't easily repurpose each one over and over again. In fact, there's a sidebar at the bottom of that introductory page that gives you some suggestions on how the maps can be re-used along with a suggestion to check the Wizards of the Coast website, RPGA adventures, and Dungeon Magazine for variant encounters that use the Fantastic Location maps.

September:Sons of Grummsh

In addition to the back cover text I included last month, I also gushed a bit about the adventure's author, Christopher Perkins. (Again, you might've already sampled his adventure-writing expertise in Dungeon Magazine's Adventure Path series titled The Shackled City, which released as a hardcover compilation last month.)

As always, I don't want to give away any details about an adventure, but I will reiterate the notion that this 32-page adventure is well worth taking a look at -- whether you use pre-fab adventures or not, whether you play in the Realms or not. It's a solid adventure that will engage every character in the party and challenge everyone at the table in the best ways possible.

September:d20 Cyberscape

You saw back cover text for this 96-page cyberpunk-flavored, soft-covered supplement last month. As one of the most-asked-for supplements for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, d20 Cyberscape draws from and builds upon the cybernetics rules from d20 Future.

This month, I thought I'd give a quick nuts-and-bolts look at some of the inner workings of the book. I pretend that it's never a bad thing to let the book speak for itself, by way of passing along a chunk from the introduction. So, here it is:


The Cyberscape is the realm of all imaginable cybernetics -- artificial components designed to become part of a living biological creature. It covers everything from peg legs to entire body replacements, but it's more than just replacement parts; it includes every imaginable add-on, be it driven by machinery, chemistry, magic, psionics, or vat-grown specialty organs, and it consists of everything from simple limb replacements to chemical brain boosters, psychic circuitry, wetware poison filters, grafted animal claws, and bone runes.

This book is based on the rules for cybernetics found in d20 Future and is fully compatible with those rules, but offers expansions, alternatives, and clarifications to them. The list of cybernetic devices has been expanded considerably and new ways of handling cybernetics in a campaign are provided. Use d20 Cyberscape to enhance a game set in the modern day, or the fantastic world of the mystic old west, the far-flung future, a true medieval fantasy, or anything in-between.

So, the introductory section of the book goes on to break down the availability of cybernetics based on Progress Levels (PL), beginning at PL 0-1 (which really doesn't offer anything more than leather coverings for stumps); PL 2 offers the benefits of peg legs and pirate-type hooks. PL 3 is where wooden teeth and glass eyes enter the picture (along with clockworks and other more fantastic scientific breakthroughs, such as that which you'd acquire in Dr. Frankenstein's lab). Crude artificial organs and anthropomorphic prosthetics surface in the era of PL 4. In PL 5 (current day), artificial organs become reasonably reliable and the groundwork for more "futuristic" cybertechnology is laid. PL 6 is the point at which independently powered cybernetics (including replacement limbs and subcutaneous cell phones) become available, but not-as-yet perfected. In the era of PL 7, cybernetics have become safe, acceptable, reliable, and even somewhat commonplace -- even to the point of becoming cosmetic in purpose. Technology such as that which allows for the replacement of eyes enhanced with HUD targeting and the creation of the first cyborgs (essentially robots with human brains) becomes possible. And on the far, distant horizon of PL 8 (as far-reaching as the technology in this book goes), cyborgs are indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood humans and anything the laws of physics allow can be accomplished, and even a few things that break those laws.)

Chapter One: Cybernetics Rules offers up all the guidelines you'll need for determining availability and installation of cybernetics (including drawbacks and side effects) in a number of different rule options that govern the role cybernetics will play in your campaign. You'll also find a handful of cybernetic feats and three advanced classes, including the Cyberwarrior.


Russell Whitfield, a Cyberwarrior

A Cyberwarrior is an integrated killing machine, a combination soldier and weapon of war. Cyberwarriors are designed to be the ultimate warriors, generally as the result of extensive experimentation by a wealthy nation's military. Armed with impressive cybernetic augmentation, Cyberwarriors can be dropped into any conflict with little need for support or supply. Cyberwarriors can specialize to act as commandos, Special Forces strike teams, or even hostage rescue troops, or be general warriors prepared for any circumstance.

A Cyberwarrior is set apart from other cyborgs by the invasive and preeminent nature of his implants. They aren't mere tools for his use, they're a growing and dominant part of his body. To ensure that an enemy who captures a Cyberwarrior doesn't take his implants, the implants are imbued with a limited ability to grow and respond to outside stimulus. Though not quite as advanced as nanites, the cybernetic systems can modify, repair, and expand themselves. As a Cyberwarrior grows more experienced, his cybernetic devices literally grow with him, eating away at his biological organs and replacing them with more effective cybernetic alternatives.

Find out more about the Cyberwarrior in this extended excerpt.

Chapter Two: Standard Cybernetics starts off with guidelines for using a Gadget System (in addition to the gadgets offered in d20 Future) to build and modify cybernetics in order to create customized cybernetic devices. The chapter then touches on cybernetic replacements (using the hook and peg leg as examples), quickly moving on to the lengthier section covering familiar cybernetic enhancements such as Artificial Muscle Fibers (which increase your strength score), Spurs (retractable blades built into a forearm or foot), Targeting Optics (replacement eyes that provide a bonus on attack rolls with ranged weapons), and Neural Computer Links (for "jacking in" to a computer system). Along the way you'll find innovative technological advances such as an Antigrav System (which lets you fly at a speed of 40) and Rocket Hands (which fire off, like Baron Karza, and may make melee attacks or take other actions that normally could be performed by a hand, but at a range of 60 feet).

Chapter Three: Computer Networks enters the virtual realm known as the VRNet (Virtual Reality Network). This is where virtual avatars explore, gather information, and battle in a wholly computer-generated environment. (Standard cyberpunk fare, you know.)You'll find rules for generating VRNet avatars for your characters, along with all the rules you need for exploring the VRNet -- including hardware, hazards, software, and a specialized prestige class that rules the virtual realm: the Cybernaut. Check out some of the programs your character might run on the VRNet:

Antivirus Software

An antivirus program grants an avatar a +4 resistance bonus on Fortitude saves against viruses (see page 55).

Automation Software

Automation software makes complex tasks easier. All forms of automation software allow the user to ready actions to be performed without having to actively issue a command.

QuickCopy: This program enables an avatar to copy data as a free action instead of a move action.

Teleport: This software enables the user to set up a particular condition that, when triggered, teleports the user's avatar to another node of the user's choosing. For example, a user might input the node address for Lord Vapor's Lounge, with the condition that his avatar teleports there the instant its hit points drop below 10. The avatar cannot teleport into a restricted node; the destination must be a public node or have a public area within it. Altering the condition or the destination requires a full-round action (altering both takes two full-round actions).

Megastrike and Shield


A megastrike program increases the damage an avatar deals with melee weapons (but not ranged weapons). The bonus on damage rolls determines the program's memory cost and write DC, as shown in Table 3-2: VRNet Software.


A shield program protects an avatar against weapon damage by improving its Defense. Shield programs impose no maximum Dexterity bonus and apply no armor penalty or speed penalty. A light shield provides a +1 shield bonus to Defense. A heavy shield provides a +2 shield bonus to Defense. Most shield programs take the visual form of actual shields, from medieval shields and riot shields to translucent, floating disks of energy.

Chapter Four: Alternative Cybernetics offers some alternate approaches to cybernetics -- FX Cybernetics (magic-based implants), Nanites (microscopic robots that alter or enhance the body), Necrotic Implants (reanimated limbs and organs), and Wetware (technology based on living organisms genetically designed and grown for implantation).

And the book finishes off with a sample campaign setting -- the CyberRave campaign setting. Take a peek at a couple chunks from the opening description of what you might consider to be a classic cyberpunk game setting.

The CyberRave campaign setting is a cybernetics-heavy, near-future campaign set a little more than two generations in the future. Megacorporations and smaller business ventures are as powerful as governments. Personal freedoms take a back seat to national and economic security. Consumerism runs rampant, and many people spend their entire lives in pursuit of a better lifestyle -- one filled with more and higher-quality material possessions. To achieve this, most people depend heavily on credit, and thus never truly own the things with which they define themselves. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Information is the ultimate commodity. Governments and businesses vie to have the best thinkers develop new technologies. Market research and advertising techniques are only slightly less valuable than new scientific advances. The value of any material good or service can rocket or plummet based on new advances. The VRNet, successor to the Internet, provides new methods for gaining information, but it makes securing valuable knowledge more difficult.

A CyberRave campaign is about more than independent heroes fighting against a world of tyranny and corporate greed, though those are important elements. It's about exploring human nature and the construction of new societies.

In addition to establishing some ground rules for the CyberRave campaign setting, Chapter Five also introduces a couple new factions (with headquarter maps), a new advanced class (the CyberRaver), some new starting occupations, the Street Broker feat, and some alternate CyberRave settings you can use as-is, or as guidelines for crafting a chrome-plated world of your own.

November:Underdark Booster Packs

So, the Angelfire expansion went on sale last month. And, of course, as always, as excited as you can be about collecting the latest set of miniatures, you can't help but start looking forward to the next set. And while November's a long way off at this point, we might as well start looking at some of the minis you'll find inside Underdark boosters when they finally arrive.

Just to maximize your miniature sneak peeking, make sure you check in over on the D&D Minis page for the articles Rob Heinsoo writes. Since he works on such things, his articles tend to divulge real information about the minis in regards to skirmish play. Once they start flowing out into the world, you can usually find a new article every Thursday. Sometimes we'll overlap on the minis we show, but that's only because we aren't going to knife fight over exclusivity.

Anyway, let's get on with our first delve into the realm of the Underdark with a look at the three minis I absolutely had to show off first.

Kobold Miner -- You might've noticed by now, but if there's a kobold in the set, it's at the top of my list of minis to show. And as much as I've always said that I can't get too many kobold minis, this one has just shot to the top of the list of kobold minis of which I want the most. And, since he's a Common, I'm hoping to load up on a ridiculous number of them. (Imagine encountering a whole cavern filled with kobold miners working away at expanding various tunnels and caves, with warriors, skirmishers, soldiers, and the occasional sorcerer scattered throughout.) Right, so take a look at this guy. He's got the same physical build as the Kobold Warrior from the Harbinger expansion, but has the same basic facial features as the Kobold Champion from the Aberrations expansion. His scaly hide is a rusty tan color, a bit different from all the other kobolds that've come before him. He's wearing what seem to be short, black leather overalls; I'd call that appropriate garb for anyone planning on spending several long hours chipping away at rock. (At the very least, it's a sleeveless shirt and knicker-length pants.) He has metal kneepads, which seem to be more functional than protective (kinda like a cross between the kneepads you'd see on a carpenter and the ones worn by SWAT teams -- only made of shiny steel.) Heavy, elbow-length, black leather gloves protect his hands and forearms from shards of flying rock. In this guy's hard-working little claws is a heavy pick that looks just like the miner 49er-sort of implement you'd expect to see. Strapped to his back, in a backpacklike fashion, is a small wooden crate filled with kobold fist-sized gray stones -- he's either carting rubble out of the mine or collecting ore-filled rocks to bring back to his tribe's metal workers. His pose seems to suggest that he's slowly creeping forward, trying to spot something up ahead. You'll notice that he's craning his head forward, eyes squinting to pierce further into the dark shadows ahead. And, he's choked up his grip on the shaft of his trusty pick, ready to take a powerful but controlled swipe at whatever has caught his attention.

Artemis Entreri -- Fans of Drizzt Do'Urden need no introduction to this guy. As the arch nemesis of the legendarily stoic drow ranger, Artemis Entreri has carved out a nice little place for himself in the Realms -- as one of the most deadly assassins to ever walk the streets of Calimport (and beyond.) You can read about him in Servant of the Shard, (which came out in paperback last month), in its hardcover sequel, Promise of the Witch-King (which comes out in October), or check out his stat block and description on pages 158 and 159 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. While you're on page 158, you'll see the illustration that must've been used as source material for the artist designing the great sculpt for this tough customer. As a rare miniature, Artemis Entreri clearly belongs on the battlemat of your D&D game as a recurring villain or as someone's supercool character. (This guy's my favorite rogue-type mini we've done yet, and it would make a great companion to the Sharn Cutthroat from Aberrations.

At first glance, Artemis is clad in a black-on-black-on-black with black accessories outfit. But, when you look closely, you'll see that his pants and the cloth that crisscrosses his chest (like bandoliers) are a dark charcoal gray. His boots seem to be dark brown leather with a black wash. These small, subtle touches give a lot of depth to the mini's otherwise monochromatic paintjob. (Hey, he's an assassin -- they're supposed to wear all black.) Those cloth bandoliers (which probably conceal a handful of throwing daggers) meet at the same place on his chest where his flowing black cloak gathers and is held in place with an elaborate, but muted piece of jewelry. Notice the cloak's length -- long enough to help with concealing his form but not so long that it would get in the way of some dexterous footwork. The shallow hood on the cloak is pulled up, but not so far that you don't catch a bit of his raven-black hair and see his narrowed eyebrows and passionless eyes, which stare unflinchingly at his latest target. His lightweight, black, leather armor protects his torso, arms, and thighs. Those dark boots seem to be two different lengths -- at least the left boot has a turned-down cuff and the right one seems to go just over his knee (or at least behind a kneepad). As he takes a short, measured stride forward, his weapons are held ready for action. In his right hand is a longsword that either is forged of a dull-hued metal or was treated to make it nonreflective. Gripped for an overhand or backhand stab is a short-bladed dagger (that's certainly weighted for throwing with lethal accuracy.) A neat bit of detail is in the placement of each of the weapons' respective scabbards -- they're worn on opposite hips, positioned to be cross-drawn.

Roper -- Man, I hate Ropers. But as much as I hate encountering them with one of my characters, I'm going to love stumbling across them inside booster packs. (If you flip to page 215 of the Monster Manual, you'll find the entry for this subterranean horror.) As one of the most iconic ambush creatures in the D&D game, the Roper has always been one of those miniatures that couldn't get here fast enough. And, not surprisingly, it was well worth the wait to get this large, rare mini. With the mottled coloration that varies from dark gray to light gray, brown, and even a little light beige/bone, the Roper's natural camouflage really works. Of course, the different textures covering its stony hide really contribute to the overall sense that when he's lying in wait, it'd be tough to not mistake the Roper for just another big stalagmite. (And, he does look like a stalagmite, not a tall tree stump.) The smaller stalagmite that sits on the ground next to the Roper (and a few more rocks on the right and behind him) just cements the illusion. (At least I assume it's a real rock formation -- it could just be a part of the Roper's body as well.) Wrapped around the bulk of its body, and writhing just a bit are the Roper's tentacles -- his long, strength-draining tentacles. While gray in coloration, I can't help but compare the wrinkled, but-not-segmented tentacles to an earthworm. Tough, but flexible, it's easy to imagine those prehensile limbs lashing out to grapple an unwary passerby. His single gray eye is peering out at something that's a bit off to the Roper's right. (Because the eye is off-center, compared to the mouth, I get the sense that he's twisting around a bit, as if looking over his nonexistent right shoulder.) As to that toothy maw, it's held wide open, ready to swallow whole anything it gets a chance to. One of the great things about this mini is that it'll be infinitely useful when setting up encounters in any subterranean location. Whether there are Ropers or not, this guy will serve quite well as an awesomely detailed piece of terrain.

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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