Keeping Up: DC 20
It might not hold up to playtesting, or the scrutiny of the RPG development team, but I'd ballpark the difficulty of grabbing everything available and fitting it into an article every month as being somewhere near the challenge of making a Spot check to "notice the presence of an active, invisible creature." (One of the more achievable skill checks listed in the Epic Level Handbook.)
Now, of course, the upside to that is the torrential flow of new stuff to look at and play with every month -- there's almost always (at least) one thing showing up on the shelves at your FLGS every thirty days or so that you can use to improve your campaign, character, or warband. Want proof? Check it out:
Characters, bust out your lawfully aligned weapons and spells -- 160 pages of hardcover extraplanar chaos is hitting shelves this month. Barely contained within this supplement is a fiendish festival of information about demons, demons, demons, and more demon-related material that leans heavily toward the demonic. If you flip through your Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons and imagine that all the dragon stuff is actually demon stuff, you've got an idea of what Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss is like. (You can do the same with undead inside Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead and the aberrations of Lords of Madness: the Book of Aberrations.) This is the next book in the series.
Back in April, you saw the book's back cover text. Last month, I gave you a look at the even more descriptive (but still concise) introduction to the book, a brief run-down of the sorts of things you'll find in each chapter, and the opportunity to explore level 23 of the Abyss -- the frigid Iron Wastes.
This month, I wasn't sure what bit to grab to show you. But we just finished up our weekly Wednesday-night game with an absolutely horrible cliffhanger-type moment (and by that, I mean it was great) in which Juiblex showed up. (Juiblex has been an amazingly vexing recurring threat in the game for all five+ years I've been in the game. Even our epic-level characters haven't taken him down, and we're playing a 10th-level party right now. We're so screwed.) Anyway, I figured that I'd take that encounter as a sign to show you the form taken by the Faceless Lord in Chapter Three: Demon Lords.
Skulking through the shadows to lurk on shelves this month is the 160-page supplement for the Forgotten Realms Campaign Settingknown as Mysteries of the Moonsea. Focused on one of the most nefarious regions in Faerūn, this thing is a hardcover campaign arc of adventures that will take characters (if they survive) from 1st level all the way to 18th. If you're curious about what deadly secrets lie inside, you should check out the back cover text I slipped into April's article, then head over to your FLGS to flip through a copy.
Also hitting shelves this month is the best thing for new players since the D&D Basic Game, (Not coincidentally, the D&D Player's Kit is designed for new recruits that've finished the Basic Game, as well as for gamers ready to take their first plunge into the world of D&D.)
Last month, I showed you the "Read This First" insert that tells you what else you'll find inside the box, and what you can do with them. That should give you a really good idea of how useful the Player's Kit will be when helping your friends and/or family to get started rolling those funny-looking dice.
One month to go. I'm as anxious as anyone to lay my hands on a couple cases of the first Huge packs since the Giants of Legend expansion. (Man, has it really been two years since GoL? How did we survive that long?)With 60 miniatures, 12 of them Huges (6 Rares, 6 Uncommons), it'll take a while for me to get my fill. (Like, say, until the next set comes out in the Fall.) Until those big boxes of minis land on shelves, we'll have to bask in the glory known as sneak previews. Back in April, you saw the Aspect of Tiamat; Meepo, Dragonlord; and the Dragonwrought Kobold. Last month, it was the Dracolich and Cadaver Collector. This month, I've got another pair for you.
Wizened Elder Watcher -- This guy was spoiled in Preview X, so avid fans will have already seen the mini, but you wouldn't have known for certain what the tree-guy actually was. So, here you go. The Wizened Elder Watcher is a Medium mini that makes a simultaneous debut as a new plant creature in the Monster Manual IV.(Stay tuned for another paragraph or two, and you'll get to check out the MMIV entry for the wizened elder.)
Whether windswept, or just leaning over to grab something, the treelike creature stands about 1-1/2 inches tall (slightly taller than an average human mini). If you look closely at the image, you'll notice that little knob protruding from the (concave) right-hand side of the mini -- that's a nose. From there, it doesn't take much at all to see the furrowed brow, dark socketed eyes, and deeply frowning mouth. (Wizened elders aren't necessarily bad guys, they're just a bit testy.) Beyond that, the Wizened Elder Watcher goes back to resembling a tree -- an animate tree with clublike limbs and clawlike branches. The dark brown of its highly detailed and textured wooden surface is sparsely festooned with the olive drab of a few green clumps of leaves and patches of Spanish moss. Being a Rare mini, it'll take awhile to amass a good-sized copse of these guys, but just like its Huge cousin from the Giants of Legend expansion -- the Treant -- I can imagine the Wizened Elder Watcher will find itself also serving as terrain for many a woodland encounter. (Which, of course, will create much paranoia amongst the players of forest-exploring characters.)
Huge Fiendish Spider -- If you start with the entry for a Huge monstrous spider on page 289 of your Monster Manual, and add a full dose of "Creating a Fiendish Creature" from page 108, you'll end up with something resembling this Uncommon Huge of eight-legged doooooom. I'm not sure if the sculpt was based on a real-word arachnid, but it bears a striking resemblance to the black house spider, which you might find lurking around buildings in Australia. (Though, the mini is about five times bigger and has those fiendish, bone-colored bits.) The Huge Fiendish Spider stands comfortably at 2 inches tall, but could easily get another inch of height by going up on its tiptoes (or tiptarsi, if you like etymology, entomology, and made-up terminology). Of course, it could crouch, squeeze, and crawl under a space half its height without much effort. The mini is shifted slightly forward of the center of its base, as if it's leaning in to make an attack. And that clawed, front left leg reinforces the notion as it reaches another 1-1/2 inches beyond the base -- far enough to reach over a human-sized enemy to grab at a more irritating/threatening target. Those two, thin, bony, lobsterlike (fiendish) claws on its forward-most legs are backward, as far as albino lobsters would be concerned, making them ideal for grasping and lifting objects -- such as rocks that might be obscuring tasty PC-flavored morsels. Once you're acquainted with those claws, you might be introduced to the jointed (skeletonlike) pedipalps that are reaching out on either side of the creature's head to help its fangs get to where they're going. Its eight, dark red eyes manage to look familiar, but still alien and menacing, especially when you consider that (to scale) they're slightly larger than a human's fist.
A slight gray wash helps define the full-bodied furriness of the hair covering the uniformly black miniature. Piercing the fur on the back of the Huge Fiendish Spider's abdomen is a number of hornlike spikes (thirty-nine) arranged in five rows that run parallel to its body (from side to side, they're in rows of 6, 8, 11, 8, and 6). The thing that really makes the Huge Fiendish Spider so engaging is how impressive it is, even outside the realm of D&D -- the thing is so big, it nearly fills the palm of my hand (like a good-sized apple -- but black, hairy, and with eight legs and eyes.) And on the battlemat, its creepiness is just disturbing. (If you put a halfling mini next to it, you've got the beginnings of a great shadowbox diorama of the scene with Frodo in Shelob's lair.) I can already imagine all-spider encounters where the Huge Fiendish Spider is accompanied by swarms of Spiders of Lolth (from Underdark), and Large Monstrous Spiders (from Dragoneye). And then, just to push things further, you could toss in the Aspect of Lolth (from Archfiends) and the Drider Sorcerer and Ettercap (from Giants of Legend). Of course, I'll want to get one of these just to leave it on the chair of our arachnophobic media buyer.
I mentioned this last month, but speaking of Dragon Magazine, those guys wanted to do something cool to celebrate their 30th Anniversary issue (#344). And that cool thing is an exclusive, limited-run, alternate paint mini from the War of the Dragon Queen expansion -- the first Huge repaint -- Sorcerer on Black Dragon.
There are only 5,000 being produced. They're available only to subscribers. And they went on sale on June 1st. To get more details -- and to order fast -- check out their website.
Dungeon Masters and players alike will want to pick up this 224-page hardcover stocked with monsters. Every monster in the book is illustrated and detailed in a new stat block format that was designed to make running the monster better, faster, and easier. In addition, there's also a pile of sample encounters, pregenerated treasure hoards, and advice on seamlessly incorporating many of the creatures into your Forgotten Realms or Eberron campaigns. And, the extra good bit: Many of the monsters are available (or will be) as prepainted, plastic minis. (Chances are good you've already got some, and you'll be picking up others very, very soon.)
Last month, I gave you a look at the back cover text and a peek at three monster sketches.
This month, I thought I'd give you a look at one of the new monsters. And what better way to show off the book than to show you the entry for a new monster that's also got a mini coming out in the War of the Dragon Queen expansion? None better -- take a look at the entry for the Wizened Elder.
Also looming on the next-month horizon is Secrets of Xen'drik -- the 160-page hardcover supplement to the Eberron Campaign Setting, that offers Dungeon Masters and players the first in-depth exploration of the lost continent of Xen'drik. This hardcover trove of previously undiscovered material explores the port city of Stormreach as well as the monster-filled, ruin-laden land beyond. You'll encounter new monsters, adventure seeds, ready-to-run encounters, and a number of sites of interest. To aid characters in their trek(s) across, over, through, and under the lost continent, the book also comes fully equipped with a number of feats, prestige classes, spells, magic items, and more.
You stumbled across the long-lost back cover text last month. This month, I felt I had to start by passing along a look at the book's cover art, crafted by Wayne Reynolds. (Man, that adventuring party has seen a lot of action.)
And, why not follow that with a chunk from the introduction that gives you a great idea of what you'll find beyond page 7? No reason. So, here it is:
Scrolling through a PDF copy of the book (snatched up from somewhere between editing, typesetting, and production), I was having a really tough time finding a chunk-of-excerpt to put in here. Not because I couldn't find anything interesting, but because there were too many interesting bits -- some large, some small. Entire sections, sidebars, illustrations, and so on. The thing that jumped out at me as just being a cool snippet that both DMs and players would like -- whether they play in Eberron, the Forgotten Realms, or in a homebrewed world (even a non-D&D game) -- is this little critter: the alchemy beetle.
Next month, I'll pull something else for you -- something that shows you around, gives you a short tour, or offers a glimpse at something that's purely Xen'drik-ian.
With three of these standalone accessories already out there, it's entirely likely you've already adventured through or skirmished within a Fantastic Location. (Such asFantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin.) Like its predecessors, Dragondown Grotto provides a 16-page adventure and four double-sided poster maps. The adventure book includes monsters featured in the most-recent miniatures expansion (War of the Dragon Queen) and is designed to challenge mid-level characters. The poster maps provide the setting for all of the adventure's key encounters and offer D&D Miniatures skirmish gamers an assortment of new places to pick a fight with a friend. (This time out, one of the maps needed to be designed as an RPG-only map.)
I gave you the descriptive bits from the back cover text last month. And, as with pretty much everything adventure-ish, I don't want to give away anything more -- you know how it is.
I don't know enough about this book yet -- other than that it's a 160-page hardcover that introduces new rules and combat options -- but I do know that it has been the topic of much buzz down in the R&D department. (Some of the guys in my Wednesday-night game are charting out future character levels based on material in Tome of Battle.) I'll find out more and check back next month. Until then, I leave you with the back cover text:
D'you know what happens every 1,000 years in the Forgotten Realms? Dragon Rampage. The Year of Rogue Dragons (as it's called) is a very long time to be a citizen of Faerūn. But, it's also a great time to be an adventurer (what, with all the dragons). Dragons of Faerūn is a 160-page hardcover supplement filled with information about specific dragons (and dracoliches), dragon-related organizations, and other material that will give DMs way more than thirty-six tendays' worth of ideas. Take a look at the back cover text and come back next month for a chunk of excerpt.
Black dragons don't get any bigger than this. (Really -- check your Monster Manual.) In that same vein, D&D Miniatures have never been this big -- the Gargantuan Black Dragon towers over everything else you've got maneuvering around your battlemat. And if you like that, you're in luck -- this is just the first product in the new line of limited-edition minis -- D&D Icons. (The next one, which follows right on the Gargantuan Black Dragon's taloned heels, is a fire-breathing offering for your shelf.)
I don't have one of these guys in front of me right now, so I'll just have to pass along what I recall from staring at it whilst compiling the "Top Ten Dragons" article for Dragon Magazine's 30th Anniversary Issue (#344)
First off, as you'll know from page 149 in your Player's Handbook, a Gargantuan creature fills a 20-foot space -- that's a 4-inch by 4-inch square in miniatures parlance. (When working on the ad for this guy, we discovered that a 1/2 gallon carton of milk is just about the exact same size as the base, and a 5-pound bag of sugar gives a decent impression of the bulk/height. Speaking of height, the GBD's frill puts him at the 8-inch mark. (The wings of the Huge Red Dragon from GoL reach just past 4-1/2 inches.) And his wingspan is just under a foot wide (about 11 inches). The "mini" is, as you'd imagine, uniformly black over most of its scaly, spiky, spiny body. Its underbelly, teeth, claws, and those signature horns are all a dirty bone color. The most interesting part of the paintjob is the dark gray/green mottling you'll see on the membranes of the wings. (Which, for me, is what really made the Medium Black Dragon in Dragoneye.)
That's all I can dredge up out of my swampy memory for now. I know it's kinda hard to really get a good sense of what one of these acid-breathing baddies will look and feel like in your game, just from a little image -- wait until you see this thing for real. (Players, start shopping for scrolls of protection from energy (acid) and potions of water breathing. DMs, download some spare character sheets to have tucked behind your screen.)
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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