As cliché as likening this month's offering of books to a haul of Halloween candy might be, it sure is hard to avoid. And if you can imagine dumping out a sack-o'-treats onto your kitchen table and seeing nothing but full-sized candybars, you'll have a good idea of what you can expect when sifting through all the stuff we've got coming out over the next few months. It's going to be hard to choose what to crack open first, but once you've had the chance to stand back and take it all in, you'll get a good feel for what you're in the mood for. Check it out:
October:Heroes of Horror
As the second book in the Genre Series (the first being Heroes of Battle), Heroes of Horror offers players and Dungeon Masters a vast boneyard of rules, information, guidelines, and material for immersing your campaign in a realm filled with spine-chilling excitement. Last month, I showed you the text you'll find on the back of this 160-page hardcover. Now that the release of this book has creeped up on us, you can find excerpts on the D&D main page as well as flip through a copy at your FLGS.
Here's a look at one of the book's six prestige classes. It not only allows a character steeped in a horror-based campaign to embrace the inevitable downward spiral that takes its toll on the spirit and body, but it also provides him with better abilities with which he can exact vengeance on those who stand in his way: the corrupt avenger.
Born to the sword, the corrupt avenger has experienced firsthand the devastation that violence can cause. He survived, but someone close to him was not so lucky. As a result, he has sworn vengeance against whoever or whatever caused his loss, whether it's a specific individual or every representative of a specific kind of monster. He accepts any cost to have his vengeance, even to the forfeit of his very soul. What does not kill him makes him stronger.
Read more about this prestige class.
October: Magic of Eberron
Last month, I showed you the back cover text. Just flipping through this thing, trying to find some good stuff to show off, I quickly became overwhelmed with by the sheer amount of ideas filling the 160 hardcovered pages of this new supplement for your Eberron campaign. (Though, you could easily incorporate this material into your Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or homebrewed campaign world.) Really, when you've got an entire campaign world suffused with magic, there's a lot of ground to cover. Take a look at a chunk from the introductory section that gives you a sense of what you're about to delve into:
What Is Magic of Eberron?
When one speaks of magic in Eberron, one is also speaking of weather, or philosophy, or life itself. Magic is as varied, changing, and as little understood as all these, and it suffuses everything. It is part of the fabric of existence, dancing in the Ring of Siberys and echoing in the vaults of Khyber. Magic, whether it comes from some external but hidden source, or whether it seeps from the land itself as one more renewable resource that can be tapped and utilized, is without question the single most important aspect of the world.
But the word "magic" hides myriad categories of thaumaturgical workings, from essentially pedestrian alchemical marvels to the true miracles of artifice, elemental binding, and the magic of dragons. Beyond even that, the term "magic" can cover the corruptive influence of the daelkyr and their aberrational progeny, psionic power of the quori, and even more esoteric arts.
For instance, the homunculi employed by artificers can provide far more options for the experimenter than is generally understood. Indeed, enterprising artificers can choose not only different types of homunculi, but also to enhance homunculi they already own, increasing their constructs' armor, strength, and other qualities.
Just how are elementals bound into items or vessels? The process developed by the Zil is extensive and exacting, but if followed can lead to the perfect binding every time. Adventurous binders have gone so far as to develop elemental grafts, which function similarly to magic items, but which tie the essence of a living elemental to another creature's body.
What of the elves of Aerenal? They are little understood, and often feared because of their obsession with death. Solitary, mysterious, and disturbing, these elves form the basis of any number of rumors throughout Khorvaire. This tome promises to dispel some of those mysteries.
More truly diabolical are the necromantic arts of Karrnath. While Kaius III, current ruler of Karrnath, has publicly made plain that his nation no longer supports the creation of undead for military purposes, the truth is more nuanced.
In sum, the magic of Eberron is a vast field encompassing far more than can easily be identified in a single tome. It is a world in itself, filled with islands of thought and use that can be identified, clarified, and described in greater depth.
So, that'll give you an idea of the scope of what the book is trying to encompass. But assuming that you're somewhat curious about what you'll actually find inside each of the book's six chapters, I figured you folks might like a little chapter-by-chapter description.
But first, a look at the action-packed piece of art Wayne Reynolds crafted for the book.
Okay, so Chapter One: Magic in Eberron covers a lot of ground. You'll find information about artifice, elemental binding, dragonshards, daelkyr magic, and psionics -- along with details about the draconic prophecy, dragon totem rituals, the peculiar magic indigenous to the folk of Aerenal and Karrnath, as well as overviews of a couple of organizations that have a particular interest in things-magical.
Chapter 2 offers up a number of character options, including 21 feats, an all-new character race (the daelkyr halfblood), and an offshoot race of warforged known as the psiforged. You'll also find a new character class that explores the realm of psionics from an artificer's point of view. A number of dragon totem rituals (eight) are presented, offering characters an interesting array of benefits that linger for 24 hours. Here's one of 'em:
Ritual of Breath
A dragon's breath weapon is its most legendary ability. Fire, lightning, cold, and acid are wielded with ease by true dragons, requiring only an exhalation. The ritual of breath focuses on the energy of a dragon's breath, granting the participating warriors a modicum of this power.
Prerequisites: Con 11 or Concentration 1 rank, 5 HD.
Benefit: You feel the energy of a dragon burning within your lungs. You can release a breath weapon up to three times during the ritual's 24-hour duration. The shape of the breath weapon and the type of damage dealt matches the dragon totem of the individual performing the ritual.
Your breath weapon deals 4d6 points of damage of the indicated energy type to all creatures in its area. Creatures caught in your breath weapon take half damage if they succeed on a Reflex save. The DC of the saving throw is 10 + 1/2 your Hit Dice + your Con modifier.
Dragon Totem: You can choose to match the breath weapon to the dragon of your dragon totem. In this case your breath weapon deals 6d6 points of damage.
Cost: Siberys dragonshards worth 800 gp.
Okay, so then it's on to Chapter 3: Prestige Classes. As you might well imagine given the title of the chapter, this chapter has some new prestige classes in it. Eight, to be specific. Each of these shiny, new prestige classes focuses on a particular area of magic or psionics. Here's just a bit of text from the chapter opening: "Specialists of magic, mind, skill, life, death, or alien philosophy, these classes can be found on the furthest continents of Eberron, as well as on the most trodden streets of the capital cities of the Five Nations. Some expand an arcane spellcaster's tactics, while others grant combatants new magical abilities." In addition to all the information you'd normally find with a prestige class, this chapter's offerings also provide expansive tips on incorporating each one into your Eberron campaign (including roleplaying advice, notes on appropriate organizations, and a sample NPC ready to aid, join, or thwart your favorite company of adventurers).
Not surprisingly, Chapter 4: Spells and Powers is crammed full of new infusions, spells, and psionic powers. (Fourteen pages' worth, if you were to keep track.) Here's a smattering of samples to give you an idea what your artificers, bards, clerics, druids, magewrights, paladins, psions, psychic warriors, rangers, sorcerers, wilders, wizards, and other mystically inclined type characters can anticipate:
Level: Artificer 3
Components: S, M
Casting Time: 1 minute
Target: Weapon touched
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless, object)
Spell Resistance: No (object)
This infusion temporarily alters the substance of one weapon, transforming it into adamantine. This effect replaces the properties of any other special material the weapon might be constructed from. Only weapons made of metal can benefit from this infusion.
Material Component: A pinch of powdered adamantine.
Glimpse of the Prophecy
Level: Bard 6, cleric 6, sorcerer/wizard 6
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Duration: 1 hour/level or until discharged
You gain powerful insight into the workings of the draconic Prophecy, granting you inner strength and a potent sixth sense in relation to your surroundings. You gain a +1 insight bonus to Armor Class and a +1 insight bonus on saving throws for the duration of the spell.
Once during the spell's duration, you can gain an insight bonus equal to one-half your caster level (maximum +10) on any saving throw. Activating this effect is an immediate action, but it must be done before you make the roll to be modified. Once this ability is used, the spell ends.
If you have the Dragon Prophesier feat (see page 46), you can enter a state of prophetic favor as an immediate action instead of a full-round action while this spell is in effect. This still counts as one of your daily uses of prophetic favor. Once this ability is used, the spell ends.
You cannot have more than one glimpse of the Prophecy spell active on you at the same time.
Level: Sorcerer/wizard 5
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Targets: Up to one creature/level touched
Saving Throw: Fortitude partial; see text
Spell Resistance: Yes
Your hand crackles with the pent-up energy of storm-tossed lightning, dealing 9d6 points of electricity damage with a successful melee touch attack. Touched creatures are also stunned for 1 round by the burning pain unless they make a successful Fortitude saving throw. You can use this melee touch attack up to one time per level.
Special: A character with any Mark of Storm dragonmark, or with the Favored in House feat (Lyrandar), deals an extra 1d6 points of electricity damage with each touch.
Telepathy (Charm) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Psion/wilder 2
Manifesting Time: 1 standard action
Range: 30 ft.
Area: 30-ft.-radius spread centered on you
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates
Power Resistance: Yes
Power Points: 3
This power is favored by the Inspired leaders of Riedra, who use it to enhance their influence over the humans of that land. When you manifest this power, you radiate psychic energy that reflects your innate power, granting a +4 morale bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks made to influence others. When you stop concentrating on this power, any enemy within the area becomes shaken for 1 minute unless it succeeds on a Will save.
Augment: You can augment this power in one or both of the following ways.
1. For every 2 additional power points you spend, this power's save DC increases by 1.
2. For every 2 additional power points you spend, the bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks increases by 1.
Of course, not every character comes with magic-slinging powers built right in. Good thing there's Chapter 5. As you flip through this shopper's dream/nightmare of items and equipment, you'll find artificer items, dragonshard items, minor schemas, psionic items, warforged components, weapons, armor, clothing special substances and materials, and more -- including a "new" type of item for your characters: Grafts.
The idea of magically modifying one's body is not new, as demonstrated by the daelkyr's experiments with symbionts. However, a few years before the end of the last war, factions across Khorvaire began a new type of magical experimentation and research. Similar only peripherally to symbionts, grafts were viewed as a safer way to grant an individual greater inherent magical power.
Grafts involve taking a portion of an existing creature and transplanting it into or onto the body of another living creature. Grafting is a complex and, for the most part, new method of item creation, and its many benefits are still being fully explored. Bearers of grafts can gain the powers of many types of magic item without actually wearing those items. Many grafts are difficult to spot under casual observation, allowing their bearers greater opportunities for stealth.
Many different types of grafts have come into use since their initial discovery. Even so, the new magic of grafts has yet to spread beyond a few select nations. This section contains information on grafts representative of a few of the different cultures discussed in Magic of Eberron. (The rules presented here might deviate from those of the grafts presented in other books. These rules apply only to the grafts in this book, and not to any other form of graft previously introduced.) Regardless of origin, all grafts in this book have the following rules in common.
- Grafts can be created and applied only by someone with the appropriate feat.
- An individual can have a total of only five grafts grown on his body, and all such grafts must be of the same kind.
- Using a graft requires a sacrifice from the host.
- All grafts come from a donor creature, or are grown from tissues taken from one or more creatures.
- Grafts are difficult to remove.
- A graft is not a magic item.
NOTE : Each rule is explained in detail in the book.
There are three different types of grafts introduced in this book: deathless, elemental, and plant. Wanna see an example of each type? Check out this excerpt on Grafts.
Chapter Six struggles to contain a menagerie of creatures that should make your characters work hard to earn their XPs. You'll actually find a handful of monsters, a trio of homunculi, and seven symbionts -- so most of the critters back there are designed to be helpful to your heroic types. Take for example, the persistent harrier. (Rogues, add one to your must-have list.)
Hit Dice: 2d10+10 (21 hp)
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
AC: 18 (+1 size, +3 Dex, +4 natural), touch 14, fl at-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/-2
Attack: Spike +3 melee (1d6+1)
Full Attack: Spike +3 melee (1d6+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Sneak attack +1d6
Special Qualities: Construct traits, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision
Saves: Fort +0, Ref +3, Will +0
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 16, Con --, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 7
Skills: Jump +14, Tumble +12
Challenge Rating: 1
Alignment: Any (same as creator)
Advancement: 4-6 HD (Small)
Level Adjustment: --
A small, wiry figure darts between the legs of combatants, poking dangerous-looking spikes toward its foes.
Barely 2 feet tall, a persistent harrier is designed to be in the middle of combat, distracting opponents or setting up flanking opportunities.
A persistent harrier will move around into flanking position, taking a 5-foot step or using the Tumble skill where appropriate. If it does not attack, it can be directed to use the aid another action to provide an Armor Class or attack roll boost.
Sneak Attack (Ex): A persistent harrier deals an extra 1d6 points of damage when it is flanking an opponent or at any time when the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus. See the rogue class feature, page 50 of the Player's Handbook.
A persistent harrier is crafted from leather, metal, clay, and a pint of the creator's blood. The materials cost 50 gp. Creating the body requires a DC 14 Craft (sculpting) check.
A persistent harrier with more than 1 Hit Die can be created, but each additional Hit Die adds 2,000 gp to the cost to create.
Craft Construct, arcane eye, mending; Price -- (never sold); Cost 1,250 gp + 93 XP.
Like I said before, this book's jam-packed with all kinds of good stuff for players as well as DMs. And, also like I said before, it wouldn't be hard to imagine any or all of this stuff showing up in any campaign world. Take a flip through the pages when you see it (and check out other excerpts as they show up on the Eberron main page), and you'll see what I mean.
October: D&D Race Series Gift Set
If you remember the D&D Core Rulebook Gift Set, you've already got a great idea of what you'll be getting with the D&D Race Series Gift Set.
Just to avoid leaving anyone in the dark, that'd be a sturdy-yet-decorative slipcase that contains a set of three books -- in this case, those books would be "the Race Series." (Races of Stone,Races of the Wild, and Races of Destiny.) On sale this month, this hefty shelf-filler will allow you to greatly add to your character-building options (or those of a good friend) with one library-expanding purchase.
October: Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
I gave you the run-down of this much-anticipated tome last month Much like the Special Edition Player's Handbook, the Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide will be bound in embossed, black leather (with a DMG-flavored) cover design, have the same gilt-edged pages, a blue marker ribbon, and errata (making the book extra useful.) Hey, it goes on sale this month, so check it out and add it to your collection (or wish list). If your DM doesn't have one before long, you'd be hard pressed to find a better gift. And you know that keeping your DM happy can be key to keeping your characters alive. Anyway, once you take a look at this thing you'll want to put it on the shelf next to your Special Edition PHB. (Be sure to leave a little room, though.)
November:Underdark Booster Packs
Back in August, you saw the Kobold Miner, Artemis Entreri, and the Roper. Last month, I showed you the Iron Golem, Spider of Lolth, and the (Uncommon) Nentyar Hunter. Over on the D&D Minis page, you can check Rob Heinsoo's Minis Preview articles (which post every Thursday) for a glimpse at some minis along with a little insight as to what you'll find on the skirmish game side of their stat cards. And, keep a eye on Dragon magazine for glimpse at upcoming minis as well -- some of which you won't see until the set's released. If you're still reading this, rather than jumping down to see the minis, you have great patience and should be rewarded -- let's get on to those minis.
Balor -- This guy was summoned to Gen Con Indianapolis to serve as the First Place trophy at the 2005 D&D Miniatures Championship Series. Once Underdark booster packs arrive, you'll be able to put the infernal power of this Large Rare to work for you. If you thumb through your Monster Manualto page 41, you'll find yourself staring down the illustration of this demonic outsider that served as the sculptor's reference. Though, in between the illustration and the sculpture, the Balor did some serious toning and bulking up -- he's significantly more muscular and powerful-looking in three dimensions, which just adds to his awe-inspiring presence. Towering 3 inches tall (3-1/2 with the wings), the Balor really exudes an ominous presence that stands out on the battlemat. (We ran into a pair of them in our Wednesday-night game last week and they definitely commanded a significant amount of attention from the party.)
Aside from the musculature (and application of some hair product to tame his mohawk/mane), the Balor you'll want to pull out of a booster pack looks very much like his on-paper counterpart. The Balor's bright red pupils stare out from blackened eyesockets with a sneer echoed by his jagged collection of bared teeth. His black, downward-curving horns, which jut out from the sides of his skull, are adorned with a few, choice pieces of muted gold jewelry. His brick-red flesh is tempered with a black wash, which lends an effect similar to that of what happens to the glowing coals of a bonfire when a breeze blows across -- some bits grow brighter while others cool slightly. His hulking frame is made all the more impressive by his massive batlike wings (black with a dark brown drybrush), which are held back and away from his body, giving his arms room to move so that he can wield his formidable weapons in combat. Those iconic, flaming weapons are nicely executed -- the swirling red/orange/yellow coloration on each promises molten, fiery death to anyone that gets within reach. In his left hand, his +1 flaming whip coils slowly, almost with a sentience that's patiently awaiting permission to snap outward to entangle a foe. The flames sculpted onto the upward-facing edges of the whip are nicely done and add a nice amount of interesting detail without verging into the realm of hokey. The +1 vorpal longsword in his right hand doesn't have any sculpted flames and doesn't need them. The sword curves slightly inward and a lightning-bolt-like serrated blade similar to the weapon depicted in the Monster Manual illustration. The interesting thing about the Balor's sword (in both the art and mini) is the blade is turned 90° from the direction you'd traditionally expect to see a sword blade. (Does anyone know why that is? I'm curious.)
Satyr -- So, if you flip to page 220 in your Monster Manual, you'll have a woodland encounter with the illustration upon which this Uncommon mini was based. Having just leapt over that fallen log, this Satyr has drawn his shortbow from its leather "sheath" slung across his back in preparation for some ranged combat. But first, a magically charged musical interlude, provided by his infamous set of pan pipes. The reddish chestnut-brown fur that covers his goatlike legs covers his back and head, while leaving the tanned skin of his chest and arms exposed. His left forearm is protected from any errant bowstrings by a leather bracer, while his right wrist and left bicep are adorned by simple gold cuffs. The dark leather straps buckled across his torso hold the aforementioned sheath for his bow and a reddish quiver of arrows (which don't seem to be conveniently placed for a right-hander archer, really). The heavy, black horns growing out from the sides of his head curl slowly around and outward to form elegant, but dangerous natural weapons that'd certainly leave a mark in a headbutting contest.
Troglodyte Barbarian -- So, we've not gotten the chance to add to our troglodyte collections since the first one showed up way back in the Dragoneye expansion. And, as you can see, Underdark's going to change that by offering up (at least) this fine fellow. If you keep flipping through your Monster Manual to page 246, you'll find the illustration that sure seems like the basis upon which the Troglodyte Barbarian mini was based. Covered in dark green scales with a grayish underbelly and frill, this reptilian humanoid is unarmed and ready for a fight. (He must've left his javelins and hammer/axe in his other harness.) With one leather gauntleted fist raised for a brutal punch and the other bare-clawed hand poised to block, slash, or grab, this guy could just as easily be used as a monk. His assortment of sharp teeth (the forward set are downward-facing, while the rear fangs jut upward) aren't to be discounted either. If you look at this guy head-on, his nearly glowing yellow eyes are focused straight ahead angrily, ready to shred what- or whoever gets in his way. A series of leather straps holds in place a patchwork of leather armor that offers protection primarily to his shoulders, upper back, and left flank. If you take a look at the thin cord slung around the Troglodyte Barbarian's neck (strung with an assortment of teeth or claws from previous kills), you'll notice how it's plastered back across his left shoulder, giving the mini the sense that he's making a quick lunge forward (with that clenched fist). His most impressive trophy is that (human?) skull hanging at his waist, which just adds to the barbaric feel of the mini. Since it's a Common mini, you could try to assemble a tribe of Troglodyte Barbarians ready to fill any swamp, dungeon, or battlemat with a terrible stench.
November: Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison
Now that Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow has been floating around, you might have had the chance to explore the dangerous realm of the Underdark, as well as the materials contained inside that first installation in this new accessory series. And next month, you can brave the dangers locked within Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison.Last month, I showed you the back cover text and rattled off the contents (two double-sided poster maps and a 16-page adventure booklet). While I don't have a lot to add to the description of the product, I should mention that, like in Fane of the Drow, the adventure scenarios you'll find inside Hellspike Prison allow you tomake use of a number of D&D Miniatures you might have locked away in (or will soon be adding to) your ever-growing collection. Here are just a few you might want to have on-hand (or be on the lookout for):
- Barbed Devil
- Chain Devil
- Cursed Spirit
- Stone Golem
November: Champions of Valor
As the follow-up to Champions of Ruin, this 160-page hardcover offers a pile of information for the more-heroic folk of Faerûn. Last month, I showed you the back cover text. This month, I'll give you a look at some stuff that'll give you a good idea of what's in store for you all. The Introduction to the book is always a good place to begin -- and here it is.
Champions of Valor is for players and Dungeon Masters who want to incorporate great heroism into their campaigns. This is more than simply a list of good deeds and good traits, for a lowly peasant can do good deeds or embody good traits, intentionally or accidentally. The use of the word "valor" in the book title is significant; it means "courage and boldness," "the qualities of a hero," and "exceptional courage when facing danger." Compare these means to the contextual meaning of the word "good;" a thief might be good at picking a pocket, an assassin good at murder, and a blackguard good at cowing his enemies, but none of those things are valorous or heroic. This book is about valorous characters -- those who might be good or in some cases merely neutral, but are great and heroic in facing down the greatest dangers of Faerûn. Most valorous characters are good, but a significant fraction of them are indifferent to good and evil, and a rare few are evil but recognize that some evils must be challenged (even the mad Halaster has battled on Mystra's behalf).
It's worth noting that if you look at the ratio of good, neutral, and evil deities in Faerûn, there are a disproportionate number of good-aligned deities compared to neutral or evil deities. You see this if you compare the thirty fully described deities in the Forgotten RealmsCampaign Setting, or just the greater and intermediate deities of Faerûn, or all the deities described in Chapter 5 of that book: Good-aligned deities outnumber those with a neutral aspect, and they outnumber evil deities as well. This means there are more good influences in the world than evil or neutral ones (though the evil ones tend to be more overt and careful in their influence). There are more good-aligned adventurers in Faerûn than neutral or evil ones, not just because of divine influence but because Faerûn calls out for good heroes. From the earliest version of the setting to the latest incarnation, Forgotten Realms books assume that player characters are usually good and will sometimes do things just because it's the right thing to do, not for a reward. However, it is unfair to expect the PCs to always behave this way; part of the enjoyment of playing D&D is seeing your character become more powerful, and when the rewards are lacking it detracts from the experience. One of the goals of this book is to provide DMs ways to motivate valorous characters and reward them in atypical ways.
If you're a DM, use this book for ideas on how to encourage your players to play valorous PCs, create valorous adventures for those PCs, and build a campaign based on heroic deeds. You can even use this material to guide the behavior of your villains and villainous organizations, for one of the pinnacles of valor is challenging your evil opposite with the fate of the world at stake.
If you're a player, this book presents you with new options for your characters, whether you want them to have humble beginnings and aspire to great heroism or be born destined for greatness and aware of it from the very start. Read this book and talk to your DM about what he expects from valorous heroes; this book can help establish common ground so your character doesn't stumble in mid-campaign over conflicting perceptions of what is valorous behavior.
Forgotten Realms books, usually and conveniently, have a quick description of each chapter's contents. Seeing as Champions of Valor is no exception, including that slice of information is easy for me and helpful to you. And here it is.
Introduction: What is the difference between good and valor? Why are there are so many heroes in Faerûn?
Chapter 1: The Valorous Hero has advice for DMs and players about valorous campaigns, valorous challenges, and valorous archetypes by class and race. It addresses the idea of flawed heroes, atonement, and conflict between different kinds of good.
Chapter 2: Character Options details new regions, feats, spells, magic items, and substitution levels tailored for Faerûnian deities and organizations.
Chapter 3: Valorous Organizations covers several valorous organizations, including information on how to join and the benefits of joining each group. Following that are short descriptions of many valorous knighthoods, monk orders, and other organizations.
Chapter 4: Prestige Classes introduces four new prestige classes for valorous heroes, from the Knight of the Flying Hunt to the Triadic Knight.
Chapter 5: Places of Valor gives sample locations associated with good, from a holy temple to the site of a great battle.
Chapter 6: Agents of Good describes several new NPCs and monsters with descriptions and game statistics, suitable for cohorts, allies, or contacts.
November: Three-Dragon Ante
Coming in under the radar is a new 70-card game that's the favorite pastime of adventurers and tavern-goers in every realm-- Three-Dragon Ante. Each player starts the game with 50 gold pieces and a hand of six cards. The game consists of a series of gambits, each of which is comprised of three or more rounds in which players bet on and play cards in order to win each round's stakes, and ultimately amass the largest hoard of gold. Here's what you'll read on the back of the box:
A Barbarian, a Wizard, and a Cleric Walk into a Tavern . . .
. . . to gather a little information, plan their next dungeon foray -- and kick back with a game of Three-Dragon Ante. Crack open this box and experience the high-stakes game of chance preferred by Dungeons & Dragons characters of all classes and levels.
Play Three-Dragon Ante as a standalone card game when you don't have time for a full-fledged D&D adventure. Or play it as part of your roleplaying campaign -- where your character's abilities give you a unique winning edge!
Three-Dragon Ante is a fast-paced noncollectable card game for two to six players. To play, you'll need chips, coins, or some other way to represent each player's hoard of 50 gold pieces.
In the deck, you'll find a number of cards that depict several of each of the 10 classic dragon races, Bahamut, Tiamat, the Dracolich, as well as characters such as the Dragonslayer and the Princess. Each card has its own special powers that can be triggered under a variety of circumstances, affecting the game in a number of different ways.
In addition to being a fun and challenging card game in its own right (which will be a great way to pass time while waiting for all your players to show up for your regular D&D game), Three-Dragon Ante has a set of rules for incorporating the game into your D&D game -- where the skills of your characters can affect how the game is played out. If your character's got five or more ranks in any of a number of relevant skills (such as Bluff, Concentration, Intimidate, and Profession (gambler)), you can gain special abilities that allow you to affect the way the game is played out. (For example, if you have a character that's using the ability granted by having 5+ ranks in Sleight of Hand, you get to snag an extra gold coin from the stakes whenever the card you play allows you to "steal" gold from the stakes in the center of the table.)
Just to give you a little sense of how the game is played, here's the quick version of game play:
Each player takes 50 gold and draws six cards.
Starting the Gambit
Each player chooses a card from hand to ante.
The strongest ante card (ignore ties) determines the leader for the first round.
Pay the strongest ante card's strength (include ties) to the stakes.
Playing a Round
The leader takes the first turn. He or she plays a card and the card's power triggers. Play proceeds clockwise.
The next player takes a turn. If his or her card is no stronger than the last card played this round, its power triggers.
After each player takes one turn, the round ends.
The strongest card played in the round (ignore ties) determines the next round's leader.
Color flight: Three dragons of the same color earn a player the second-strongest dragon's strength in gold from each player.
Strength flight: Three dragons of the same strength earn a player one of those dragons' strength in gold from the stakes and all remaining ante cards (up to a ten-card hand).
Ending the Gambit
After three rounds, if any flights tie for the strongest, play another round.
Otherwise the gambit ends. When it does, the player with the strongest flight wins the stakes. Then discard all flights and ante cards and each player draws two cards (up to a ten-card hand).
Emptying the stakes ends the gambit immediately.
Ending the Game
Keep playing gambits until someone has no gold at the end of a gambit. The game ends and the player with the most gold wins
November:Limited Edition Art Prints
This is the first series of limited-edition, museum-quality art prints (lithographs) offered by Wizards of the Coast. (The complete series includes five pieces of D&D art and five pieces of Magic: the Gathering card art.) Printed on archival-quality (acid-/lignin-free) materials, each piece is an authenticated collectible accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, which includes a description of the piece and a thumbnail sketch of the artwork. And, best of all, every print is hand-signed by the artist.
For each work of art, there will be 1,000 pieces printed on archival-quality, acid-free paper, matted with a museum-quality matte board. And only 250 pieces printed on archival-quality, acid-free canvas, framed with a museum-quality, solid wood frame.
Check out this page to get more information about the prints, and details about each of the pieces of art.
December: Spell Compendium
After playing a high-level wizard for a few years now -- and lugging around four different books so I'd have access to all the stats and descriptions of the various and sundry spells I'd accumulated -- this fine book arrives. And I imagine that anyone who has a spellcasting character is going to want to flip through all 288 pages of this hardcover compilation of the most useful/popular/useful spells out there.
Apparently, the formatting for the spells is being tweaked and redesigned to make things easier to use. I've not seen it yet, but when I lay my hands on something, I'll slug it into my next article. For now, you can take a look at the descriptive text from the back cover of the book:
The essential spellcaster's companion, Spell Compendium gathers over 1,000 of the best spells from previously published Dungeons & Dragons game supplements and campaign settings, Dragon magazine articles, and articles posted on the Wizards of the Coast website. The spells contained herein complement those presented in the Player's Handbook and have been updated to include official errata. In addition, this book contains descriptive read-aloud text telling you what a spell looks like, sounds like, or feels like to cast.
December:d20 Critical Locations
I don't know a lot about this thing just yet. But here's what I do know. It's 40 full-color maps of modern-era settings, each one complete with adventure hooks and pre-generated NPCs. And the best part about these maps is they're all crafted by Christopher West, cartographer extraordinaire and all-around good egg. (If you don't recognize the name, check out his site -- you'll recognize his work. Chris is a map-making savant.) Perhaps I'll be able to grab a sample to show off next month. Until then, there's always some back cover text:
A gunfight in a sleazy bar. A heart-pounding chase through a subway station. A tense standoff on the top floor of a corporate high-rise. Wherever an adventure takes you, this book has the maps you need. d20 Critical Locations features 40 amazing, full-color maps around which Gamemasters can build encounters. The book also includes special rules, game statistics, and adventure seeds designed to save Gamemasters precious time.
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.