Previews07/06/2006


Previews for July and Beyond



Dragons. Lots of Dragons

If 2006 is the Year of Dragons, we're hitting the creamy, draconic center of it. With War of the Dragon Queen, Monster Manual IV, and Fantastic Locations: Dragondown Grotto all hitting shelves at the same time, you could go into shock from the influx of so much dragon. And, if you find that you've got a taste for dragon, you're in luck, 'cause there's plenty more available in the months to come -- Dragons of Faerûn and the Gargantuan Black Dragon miniature in August, and Dragon Magic and the Colossal Red Dragon miniature in September. (And, not to ruin the surprise, but there's more stuff with dragons in them in the pipeline.) Of course, if you're a gamer that leans more toward the "Dungeon" half of the game's name, you've got Fantastic Locations: Dragondown Grotto and The Twilight Tomb, as well as chunks out of Secrets of Xen'drik and Monster Manual IV. (Staunch fans of the ampersand will be most interested in the new D&D Basic Game.) What it all boils down to is this: There's a pile of stuff coming out, there's even more on the way, and there's more than enough breath weapon-using creatures to go 'round. Check it out:

July:War of the Dragon Queen Huge Packs

At last, after two years of waiting, a new set with Huge minis will be hitting shelves and battlemats this month. Every Huge pack in the 60-miniature War of the Dragon Queen expansion will include a Huge mini, as well as seven other-sized minis (ranging from Tiny to Large). And, by now, you should have a great idea of what you're going to be checking off as you tear into each one. That's because Steve Schubert has been showing off minis over on the D&D Minis page on a weekly-ish basis and Dragon magazine has exclusive D&D minis coverage every month. And, there's always something to see here. Back in April, you saw the Aspect of Tiamat; Meepo, Dragonlord; and the Dragonwrought Kobold. In May, it was the Dracolich and Cadaver Collector. Last month, I showed you the Wizened Elder Watcher and the Huge Fiendish Spider. This month, I've got one last duo for you.

Cleric of Laogzed -- If you recall the last line from the description of "Troglodyte Society" on page 247 of your Monster Manual, from your studies, you'll remember that "Troglodytes revere Laogzed, a vile deity who resembles a cross between a toad and a lizard." And while there might not be any more information about the deity listed in a rulebook, he must be out there, granting divine power to his followers -- like this smelly fellow. Actively worshiping Laogzed must be a popular vocation for trogs, since the Cleric of Laogzed is a Common mini. (This guy's another one of those nicely detailed Commons that you could make much use of, particularly if you get creative.) His scaly body has a simple, natural camouflage-type coloration -- a dark green scaly back and a pale grayish yellow-green underbelly. Slung over his left shoulder and draping down to his waist is a crudely fashioned sash crafted from the hide of a black-scaled creature of some sort. The most noticeable feature on the mini is the adornment strapped on his left shoulder -- a dark tan-colored nautiluslike shell (or ramlike horn) that seems more ornamental than protective. Clasped in his three-fingered right hand is a simple, black staff. (The tip of the staff is sculpted with just enough detail to allow you to imagine that it's topped with a crystal or short-bladed spear, though it could just as easily be a simply crafted length of wood.) As the fourth troglodyte in the D&D Miniatures line (following the Troglodyte in Dragoneye and the Troglodyte Captain and Troglodyte Barbarian from the Underdark expansion), the Cleric of Laogzed miniature will fill the much-needed role of troglodyte spellcaster -- as intended holy-reptile of Laogzed, as an arcane caster of some sort, or even as a psionically gifted humanoid. (Pretend that's a bo staff, and you could have a troglodyte monk on your clammy hands.)

Eldritch Giant -- You might've already gotten a glimpse of this guy back when he was spoiled in Preview X. But, if you didn't get a good enough look to match it up with the illustration on page 56 of your Monster Manual III,now's your chance. This Huge Rare is definitely based on the illustration, but presents him in a somewhat more active mode -- he has tossed aside the sword and axe he's holding in the illustration, drawn the sword sheathed on his back, and is starting to walk toward some unfortunate target in the distance. His purple-eyed gaze has that "thousand-yard stare" kind of quality to it -- a Medium mini seems to hit the giant's line of sight at a distance of 12 inches (just beyond a single move and reach, but not too far for a charging attack or tricksy quickened dimension door-assistedsurprise attack.) His dark purple skin is marked in several places with violet-blue tattoos (three on each arm and one on his face). Of course, most of his skin is covered in a thick, protective layer of full plate armor -- accurately detailed with striking precision to that of the illustration (right down to the elongated skull device on his belt/fauld and the eight laminated sections of the spiked bracer on his left arm). His long, chestnut-brown hair and dark burgundy loincloth seem to be billowing forward as if a moderate breeze were at his back. Strapped across his back (by that heavy brown leather belt buckled across his chest) is a black scabbard decorated with copper-colored ornamentation (some simple scroll work and an interesting horned skull). Just like the scabbard's belt, those heavy-linked chains you see hanging from his belt buckle drape around to connect in back with the bottom of his breastplate. Thick, heavy, brown fur (possibly from a dire bear or other inordinately large furry critter) wraps around his lower legs (reaching just shy of his knees), adding an extra layer of warmth to his black leather boots. His left arm is weapon- and shield-less, but is clearly held at the ready (possibly for a grapple, but probably for spellcasting). His right hand is tightly clenched around the hilt of the thick-bladed sword recently extracted from that scabbard.

Size-wise, the Eldritch Giant most definitely steps into the role of "Biggest Giant in the Game." He stands just short of 5 inches tall, which is a good half an inch taller than the Storm Giant from Giants of Legend. (Though, her two-handed sword hits the 6-inch mark.) Height aside, this purple-skinned giant is still absolutely enormous when compared to the lithe, green-skinned warrioress -- his muscular bulk (and armor plating) make him about a Storm Giant and a half in size. Comparisons between the Eldritch Giant and the Storm Giant are even more interesting when you take into account the fact that the two races hate one another (enough to make it the subject of the second paragraph in the Monster Manual III entry). Another thing to notice is that if you imagine the glowering gaze of the Eldritch Giant being fixed on a Storm Giant, she'd only be about 15 feet away -- just within his (and her) reach.

July:Monster Manual IV

This book has 224 pages of monsters, fully illustrated and detailed in a new stat block format, so players and Dungeon Masters will want to take a look at this creature-filled hardcover. In addition to the easier-to-run stat block, the Monster Manual IV offers sample encounters, pregenerated treasure hoards, and advice for incorporating these new creatures into your already-in-progress Forgotten Realms or Eberron campaigns. And, as icing on the XP-filled cake, many of the monsters you'll find inside the book are also available in prepainted plastic miniature format. (You'll find several new monsters that also appear in the War of the Dragon Queen expansion, as well as monsters that previously existed only in D&D minis stat card form.)

Back in May, you could take a look at the back cover text and three monster sketches. Last month, I gave you a look at what the book's like on the inside with a glimpse at the monster entry for the Wizened Elder, which is just one of the monsters simultaneously appearing in the War of the Dragon Queen expansion.

This month, as the Monster Manual IV pounces onto (and then begins leaping off) shelves, I thought I'd show you a monster that offers something for everyone -- DMs, players, and skirmish gamers -- the redspawn firebelcher, which is just one of the fourteen creatures listed under the Spawn of Tiamat entry on the contents page. Clearly, DMs can use the redspawn firebelcher as a monster encounter on its own, but the sample encounter offers a glimpse at just one idea of what else you could do with them. And, for those DMs running Eberron or Forgotten Realms campaigns, you'll find sections that'll give you even more thoughts. The monster entry has a section that offers characters a way to make use of these creatures -- as fireproof mounts. And, for the D&D minis-skirmishing folks (as well as everyone else), there's the added benefit of the redspawn firebelcher being one of the new monsters you might find lairing inside a War of the Dragon Queen Huge Pack. (In case you're curious, six creatures in the MMIV appear in WotDQ.) In fact, you might have already seen the Redspawn Firebelcher mini a little while back, when it was spoiled in Preview X.

REDSPAWN FIREBELCHER

A red-scaled, dragonlike creature lumbers toward you with surprising speed. As it opens its fearsome jaws to roar, you can see fire flare within.

Ferocious but stupid, redspawn firebelchers serve Tiamat's more intelligent spawn as mounts. When left to their own devices, they live like crocodiles, lounging around pools of lava instead of water.

REDSPAWN FIREBELCHER LORE

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can learn more about redspawn firebelchers. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs. Those who recognize the creatures' ancestry can also use Knowledge (religion) to learn more.

Knowledge (Arcana)

DC Result

16 This creature is a redspawn firebelcher, a ferocious magical beast related to red dragons. This result reveals all magical beast traits.

21 Redspawn firebelchers are vulnerable to cold and immune to fire, paralysis, and sleep. They live in volcanic areas but periodically leave them to hunt.

26 Redspawn firebelchers spit gobs of fire and have devastating, fiery bites. They possess the chaotic evil nature of red dragons and kill more than they can eat.

Knowledge (Religion)

DC Result

16 Redspawn firebelchers are some of Tiamat's spawn.

21 Redspawn firebelchers are used as mounts and guard beasts by other spawn of Tiamat.

For Player Characters

Redspawn firebelchers make interesting if challenging mounts. They are exceptionally ornery creatures and difficult to train. Only a very skilled trainer's rearing one from infancy has resulted in successful domestication. For all but the spawn of Tiamat, Handle Animal DCs with redspawn firebelchers increase by 10 and Ride check DCs increase by 5.

Because of the time and effort involved, a domesticated firebelcher mount costs 35,000 gp.

Carrying Capacity: A light load for a redspawn firebelcher is up to 350 pounds; a medium load, 351-700 pounds; and a heavy load, 701-1,050 pounds.

Redspawn Firebelchers in Eberron

Redspawn firebelchers live in the Menechtarun desert and the Skyraker Claws mountains of Xen'drik. Scholars speculate that they might once have been beasts of burden or guardian beasts for fire giants long ago, when giants were cultured builders.

Redspawn Firebelchers in Faerûn

Redspawn firebelchers inhabit many of Faerûn's mountainous areas, often in volcanic caverns hidden beneath snow-covered peaks. Many large colonies of firebelchers exist in the Crags near the Neverwinter Wood and in the Smoking Mountains of Unther. The creatures can also be found in a few areas near civilization. For example, Thraxata, a young adult red dragon, resides at the top of the Blood Horn in Deepingdale and encourages redspawn firebelchers to live near her lair.

July:Secrets of Xen'drik

Also finding its way into your FLGS this month is the 160-page hardcover guide for DMs and players interested in an in-depth exploration of theEberron Campaign Setting's lost continent of Xen'drik. By in-depth, I mean a sourcebook that scours the port city/staging ground known as Stormreach, and then heads off into the ruin-filled, monster-laden jungle-y land beyond. With new monsters, adventure seeds, plug-n-play encounters, and sites of interest, as well as feats, prestige classes, spells, magic items, and more, everyone on either side of the DM screen will find valuable treasure inside this book.

Back in May, I showed you the back cover text. Last month, I felt there was a moral imperative to show off the book's cover art, crafted by Wayne Reynolds. I also gave you a good slice of introduction (that gave you a chapter-by-chapter run-down of the book), as well as a look at one of the interesting creatures you might encounter (in Xen'drik, or anywhere else), the alchemy beetle. This month, I thought I'd give you a look at the sidebar that offers a number of different reasons for characters to head for the Lost Continent.

WHY GO TO XEN'DRIK?

Whether you're a player or a Dungeon Master, what does Xen'drik have to offer? Why make the trek across the Thunder Sea? Consider the following.

The Undiscovered Country: Khorvaire holds its share of dark places (including the Demon Wastes, the jungles of Q'barra, and the Shadow Marches), but Xen'drik is almost completely unexplored. Anything could be hidden in its interior: a lost city of gold, a dragonshard the size of a mountain, or a fountain of youth. Xen'drik is an unknown land that offers PCs the chance to be explorers as well as adventurers.

Pursuit of Legends: An ancient elf war prince, said to be the forebear of Vadallia of Valenar, once turned whole lakes red with the blood of giants -- or so the stories say. It is rumored that the secretive elven sect of the Qabalrin gave birth to the first vampires, and that these undead lords still sleep in hidden vaults. Some say that the titans shattered the lost thirteenth moon on a vast altar of obsidian and brass. Xen'drik is a land of legends, allowing characters to take on challenges that are larger than life.

An Untamed Land: Travel within the Five Nations is relatively safe. Characters wandering the trade roads of Breland are unlikely to encounter hydras or manticores. Xen'drik, on the other hand, is completely wild. Anything could be lurking in the shadows: feral drow, ancient constructs, rogue dragons, or worse. Xen'drik is the place for any hero in search of a challenge, or for a Dungeon Master who wants to test a party with some new and fearsome beast.

Forgotten Lore: From the fallen empires of the giants to the nomadic drow, each of the cultures of Xen'drik has its own martial and magical traditions. Whether a party seeks to wrest long-lost secrets from the ruins of Bazek Mohl or to master the arcane Ritual of Binding, Xen'drik provides explorers with opportunities they could never find in Khorvaire.

Untold Power: The lost magic of the Age of Giants exceeds even the wildest dreams of the Arcane Congress or the Twelve. The titans of Xen'drik could forge artifacts and even shift the orbits of the planes. Expeditions to Xen'drik provide a chance to seek treasures far beyond the capabilities of the wizards and artificers of Khorvaire -- artifacts that could alter the course of history.

The Evil Mastermind: A journey to Xen'drik might not be a matter of choice. The lich-queen Vol, the Dreaming Dark, the Lords of Dust -- all the forces of darkness on Khorvaire hunger for the power hidden within the mysterious continent. PCs bound for Xen'drik might not be doing so for themselves, but to keep some artifact or secret out of the hands of those who would turn its power to evil ends.

War and Peace: Danger can arise from mundane sources as easily as dark cults and conspiracies. The Treaty of Thronehold is an uneasy truce, and many believe that it is only a matter of time before war begins again. Every nation in Khorvaire is preparing for the possibility of violence -- and what better way to prepare than by laying claim to the mighty artifacts of the ancient giants? Adventurers might be hired by kings and queens or dispatched by agents of the Chamber to stop others from claiming weapons too dangerous to be wielded by mortal hands.

Neutral Ground: Stormreach stands outside the authority of any of the Five Nations, and the wilds of Xen'drik are governed by no one. The free city can be an excellent place to wait for trouble with the law in Khorvaire to blow over, and it offers the opportunity to deal with traditional enemies more openly.

Anything Goes: Any element in the Dungeons & Dragons game can be found in the Eberronsetting, and more than any other location, Xen'drik shows the truth of that statement. Between the strange magical forces that have warped the continent and the vast arcane power of its fallen civilizations, almost any spell, object, or creature could be hidden in the depths of the shattered land.

You'll find that sidebar on page 8. By the time you get to the back cover, you'll have plenty of other ideas for stuff to do, places to go, and things to avoid at all costs -- which, of course, will be the bits that appeal to the DMs. (The spread on pages 116 and 117 is a list of 100 Adventure Ideas.) Chapter Two: Adventure Sites offers mapped-out-and-ready-to-explore locations that can be incorporated into any foray into the wild of Xen'drik. When you move on to Chapter Three: Encounters, you'll find an amazing array of information, ideas, suggestions, advice, and statted-up NPCs you can use to make every encounter in Xen'drik more exotic, mysterious, and/or deadly. Here's just a tiny snippet of a piece of a column that offers up an idea for just one of the dangers that awaits in the jungles.

CREATURE ENCOUNTERS

The range of creatures found in the wilds of Xen'drik is limited only by a DM's imagination. This section presents a number of creature encounters to challenge explorers of any level.

Bulette Rampage (EL 7 or 9)

Few predators that dwell in Xen'drik are fiercer than bulettes (MM 30). Surrounded by a veritable banquet of prey, they rarely go hungry, rampaging through the jungle as they hunt. Many bulettes in Xen'drik have grown so accustomed to hunting through dense jungle undergrowth that they no longer lurk underground. These bulettes lose their burrow speed and instead gain the following ability.

Woodland Stride (Ex): A Xen'drik bulette can move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at its normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion still affect it.

The whole book is kinda like a trip to Xen'drik -- there's a staggering amount to things to discover, a seemingly endless number of places to explore and things to fight, and piles and piles of treasure just waiting to be snatched up by an intrepid adventurer.

July:Fantastic Locations: Dragondown Grotto

I already gave you the back cover text for this thing back in May. And, since a good-sized chunk of every Fantastic Locations accessory falls into the "adventure" category, I won't go into precise detail about what you'll find inside. If you've picked up any of the other three, such as Fantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin, you've got a great idea of what this one will be like. If not, here's a quick run-down of the contents -- a 16-page adventure book and four, full-color poster maps. The adventure book pits characters against a number of creatures, including several featured in the War of the Dragon Queen expansion. The poster maps serve as the setting for all of the key encounters in the adventure, as well as being an ideal location for D&D Miniatures skirmish games to take place. (One of the maps was designed specifically for RPG use, though.) So, whether you need a new place to find adventure, a new place to beat down your friends' warbands, or both, you should check out Dragondown Grotto.

August:Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords

If your D&D game includes combat encounters, you're going to want to check out this book. It's a 160-page sourcebook filled with new rules and combat options that will help any character (but especially the fighter-types) do cool things whenever the DM says, "Roll for initiative." Last month, you got the back cover text. This month, I wanted to give you a sense of what kind of stuff is inside the book.



I am Harran Turiyeshor, the swordsage sometimes called the Iron Dragon. It was I who defeated the High Inquisitor of Tiamat in the Dragonskull Temple. It was I who slew the demon Varrash-Kral in the Ebon Tower. And it was my comrades and I who excised the mind flayer infestation from Darkvale three years ago, though two of my friends died horribly in the process. Such are my deeds.

I have wandered the world for twenty years, studying the Sublime Way and searching for my own true measure as a warrior and as a person. I like to think that I am a little wiser now than when I started, but I must leave that judgment to others. I spend my days teaching now, that I may honor the path I have followed my whole life.

Some of my students fall from the Way and turn to other pursuits. Some become champions of good and justice. Others use my teachings to wreak terrible wrongs in the world. But all who seek the Way must be taught, because it is not for the swordsmith to say whether his blades will spill the blood of the wicked or the innocent. Like all knowledge, the Sublime Way can be used for good or ill.

Attend now, young ones, and I will endeavor to teach you some small part of the truth of the sword.

The world of the Dungeons & Dragons game is filled with characters who pursue the ways of battle. Barbarians destroy their foes in berserk frenzies, and rangers are masters of the hunt. Paladins rely on their virtue and courage to sustain them against their opponents. Fighters master an array of special maneuvers and attacks to overcome the monsters and villains they encounter. But the highest of a warrior's arts is the Sublime Way -- the secret lore that teaches a fighting character how to meld his inner strength, training, and discipline into the perfect weapon.

The Sublime Way is not magical -- at least, not in a normal sense. It is a fighting system that harnesses a student's discipline and determination through knowledge, practice, and study. A master of the Sublime Way can perform martial exploits that are nearly superhuman -- and, in fact, some of them actually transcend the natural.

Like fighters, students of the Sublime Way master a number of special maneuvers and strikes to defeat their foes. But, while a fighter's list of feats represents various combat techniques that he can use for attack or defense, the maneuvers of a Sublime Way master represent small moments of clarity, self-knowledge, piety, or perfection. A fighter uses Power Attack to strike harder, but a student of the Sublime Way who wants to accomplish the same goal performs a very specific mental and physical exercise that results in a mighty blow -- if it is executed just right.

Some believe that a practitioner of the Sublime Way creates the power for his maneuvers by invoking a cosmic principle of perfection. This theory holds that if the student moves in a precise pattern while calling to mind the very specific mental images or analogies corresponding to that maneuver, he forges a brief connection with a source of power that lends strength and precision to his strike. Others believe that followers of the Sublime Way draw the necessary power from their own souls by harnessing ki -- the energy of life. But whatever the truth of the matter, the results are spectacular. Few can match the agility, strength, and skill of a master of the Sublime Way.

So, I pretend that a quick and easy way to start getting an idea of what a book can do for your character -- whatever your character might be -- is to take a look at the feats. They're bite-sized chunks of crunch (and fluff) that epitomize some aspect of the Newness of the book. Like many feats, you need to meet some prerequisites to use many of these (and you'll need Tome of Battle to do so), but you won't need to cross reference that material to understand why you might want to pick up one of these at your next opportunity.

Chapter 2: Skills and Feats

New Feats

DESERT WIND DODGE

Your training in the Desert Wind discipline allows you to dance across the battlefield like a blistering sirocco.

Prerequisite: Dex 13, one Desert Wind maneuver

Benefit: If you move at least 10 feet from your original position, you gain a +1 dodge bonus to AC and deal an extra 1 point of fire damage with any attack you make with a scimitar, light mace, light pick, spear, or falchion. This benefit lasts until the start of your next turn.

Special: Desert Wind Dodge can be used in place of Dodge to qualify for a feat, prestige class, or other special ability. If you already have Dodge when you select Desert Wind Dodge, you can choose to lose the Dodge feat and gain a new feat in its place. You must meet the prerequisite for the new feat.

EVASIVE REFLEXES

When an opponent gives you an opening in combat, you know exactly what to do: slip away.

Prerequisite: Dex 13

Benefit: When an opponent gives you a chance to make an attack of opportunity, you can instead immediately take a 5-foot step.

Special: Evasive Reflexes can be used in place of Combat Reflexes to qualify for a feat, prestige class, or other special ability. You can take both this feat and Combat Reflexes.

SHADOW BLADE

In the course of your training in the Shadow Hand discipline, you learn to use your natural agility and speed to augment your attacks with certain weapons.

Prerequisite: One Shadow Hand stance

Benefit: While you are in a Shadow Hand stance and attack with one of the discipline's preferred weapons, you can add your Dexterity modifier as a bonus on melee damage for attacks made with the weapon.

Special: Shadow Blade can be used in place of Weapon Finesse to qualify for a feat, prestige class, or other special ability. If this substitution allows you to gain a benefit that normally applies to all finesse weapons (those described in the Weapon Finesse feat description), it instead applies only to the Shadow Hand discipline's preferred weapons.

TIGER BLOODED

The Tiger Claw discipline teaches students to mimic the rampant, feral qualities of a wild animal. When you assume an animal form, or at least descend into a wild, bestial state, you strike with superior strength and accuracy.

Prerequisite: Ability to rage, shift (such as the shifter ability from the Eberron campaign setting or the bloodclaw master prestige class feature; see page 96), or wild shape; one Tiger Claw maneuver.

Benefit: While you are in a rage, shifted, or wild shaped into an animal form, you can attempt to knock back 5 feet a creature of your size category or smaller that you hit with a Tiger Claw strike unless it succeeds on a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 your character level + your Str modifier). This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Whilst reading through those feats, you will have noticed prerequisites that reference maneuvers and stances. And, at that point, you might've wanted to know what those might be, seein' as they're a new mechanic introduced by this book -- in the next chapter, as a matter of fact. Just to give you a general sense of what maneuvers and stances are, here's a slice from the introduction to Chapter Three, along with the one-line description for each of the abilities available at 1st level. (Like the one-liners for feats and spells, you should get a good feel for what the maneuvers do, even without the full entry. Be careful as you read on -- this list is like an inventory list of a combat-flavored candy store. (And it's only the first of nine levels filled with fighting sweetness.)

MANEUVERS AND STANCES

Each of the nine disciplines of the Sublime Way is composed of a number of specific stances and maneuvers -- namely, strikes, boosts, and counters. Much like a sorcerer's spells, each stance or maneuver is a specific ability that a character might know. But while a sorcerer's spells rely on arcane power that is depleted by continuous use, a martial adept's abilities are always available to him as long as he has a few minutes to prepare the maneuvers he wishes to use.

1ST LEVEL

DESERT WIND MANEUVERS

Blistering Flourish: Strike -- Dazzle creatures around you
Burning Blade: Boost -- Deal 1d6 fire + 1/initiator level
Distracting Ember: Boost -- Fire elemental appears, flanks enemy
Flame's Blessing: Stance -- Gain fire resistance based on Tumble ranks
Wind Stride: Boost -- +10-ft. bonus to speed

DEVOTED SPIRIT MANEUVERS

Crusader's Strike: Strike -- Successful attack allows you to heal 1d6 + 1/initiator level
Iron Guard's Glare: Stance -- Enemies take -4 penalty on attacks against your allies
Martial Spirit: Stance -- Heal 2 hit points with each successful attack
Vanguard Strike: Strike -- Allies gain +4 bonus on attacks against target

DIAMOND MIND MANEUVERS

Moment of Perfect Mind: Counter -- Use Concentration check in place of Will save
Sapphire Nightmare Blade: Strike -- Opponent flat-footed, +1d6 damage with Concentration check
Stance of Clarity: Stance -- Gain +2 AC against one foe, -2 against all others

IRON HEART MANEUVERS

Punishing Stance: Stance -- Attacks deal +1d6 damage, but you have -2 to AC
Steel Wind: Strike -- Attack two opponents
Steely Strike: Strike -- +4 bonus on one attack, enemies gain +4 bonus on attacks against you

SETTING SUN MANEUVERS

Counter Charge: Counter -- Ruin charge attack, force charging foe to move away from you
Mighty Throw: Strike -- Grab foe, throw him up to 10 ft.
Step of the Wind: Stance -- Ignore difficult terrain, gain bonus against foes in such terrain

SHADOW HAND MANEUVERS

Child of Shadow: Stance -- You gain concealment as long as you move
Clinging Shadow Strike: Strike -- Foe suffers 20% miss chance on attacks
Island of Blades: Stance -- You and allies flank all adjacent foes
Shadow Blade Technique: Strike -- Roll two attacks, use lower result to deal bonus cold damage

STONE DRAGON MANEUVERS

Charging Minotaur: Strike -- Charging bull rush deals damage, ignores attacks of opportunity
Stone Bones: Strike -- Gain DR 5/adamantine
Stonefoot Stance: Stance -- +2 bonus on Strength checks, +2 bonus to AC against larger foes

TIGER CLAW MANEUVERS

Blood in the Water: Stance -- Gain +1 bonus on attacks and damage for each critical hit
Hunter's Sense: Stance -- Gain scent
Sudden Leap: Boost -- Jump as a swift action
Wolf Fang Strike: Strike -- Attack with two weapons

WHITE RAVEN MANEUVERS

Bolstering Voice: Stance -- Allies gain +2 bonus on Will saves, +4 against fear
Douse the Flames: Strike -- Target cannot make attacks of opportunity for 1 round
Leading the Attack: Strike -- Allies gain +4 bonus on attacks against foe you strike
Leading the Charge: Stance -- Allies deal +1 damage/initiator level on charge attacks

August:Dragons of Faerûn

Okay, the Forgotten Realms has more than its share of dragons. And every now and then (say, every 100-700 years or so), something sparks a Faerûn-wide rampage known to many as Dracorage. What do you do about that kind of event? Make a 160-page sourcebook about it. In addition to illuminating the phenomenon that sends the wyrms of Faerûn into a draconic tizzy, Dragons of Faerûn provides an exhaustive amount of information about unique dragons (individual, named dragons), dragon-focused organizations (such the Cult of the Dragon), sample lairs (as well as traps and hazards you can add), dragon-related creatures, new dragon types (mercury, steel and mist), dragon-related spells, weapons, and magic items (including nine artifacts). By the time you finish looking through all the material in the book, you'll understand why the Rage of Dragons only sweeps across the world every few centuries -- there's enough source material to make it from one to another. Last month, I passed along the back cover text for this book as well. This month, I thought I'd start with a healthy chunk of text that explains what the Rage of Dragons is about.

The Rage of Dragons

The Year of the Rogue Dragons trilogy (The Rage, The Rite, and The Ruin) by Richard Lee Byers, as well as Byers's Queen of the Depths, his short story "Traitors" in Realms of the Elves, and the anthologies Realms of the Dragons and Realms of the Dragons II, collectively tell a tale of the greatest peril to all living creatures of Faerûn, a tale rooted deep in the arcane mysteries of the past.

Thousands of years ago, before the Reign of Giants and Elven Crown Wars, Faerûn lived in the Time of the Dragons, an age when dragons ruled with impunity over all the lesser races ("meat"). The elves in particular chafed under the yoke of the dragons and sought a way to free themselves from their oppression. After years of secret research in the frozen north of Faerûn and extensive debate about the costs and risks, the elves weaved the Dracorage mythal*, a permanent crafting of elven high magic and one of the most powerful spells ever woven into the Weave. This epic spell made it impossible for dragonkind to continue its collective dominion of Faerûn. The Dracorage mythal caused all dragons (including those of type dragon and creatures with the dragonblood subtype) to become reckless and run amok across their lands, slaughtering their young and vassals, and destroying all in their wake, but it also gave the Fair Folk the opportunity to break free of dragon rule, marking the denouement of the Reign of Dragons.

As a result of this ancient curse, dragons have periodically gone berserk, rampaging across the Realms. Like some sort of disease, the so-called Dracorage (sometimes known as the Dragon Rage or simply the Rage) lays dormant, erupting forth every several decades or even few centuries -- an event seemingly associated with the reappearance of the King-Killer Star (actually a bright red comet that winks like a baleful eye) -- to infect dragons for several tendays at a time.

The intensity, breadth, and duration of a Dracorage has historically depended on the astrological position of the King-Killer Star. As a result, sometimes the effects of the Dracorage have been localized, leading to a so-called "flight of dragons." The most recent Flight of Dragons occurred in the Year of the Worm (1356 DR) and resulted in the destruction of cities and deaths of thousands across the Moonsea, Dalelands, Cormyr, and beyond. At other times (approximately every 300 years, but recorded intervals have ranged from 100 to 700 years), the Dracorage has affected all Faerûn, precipitating a full-blown Rage of Dragons. The last true Rage of Dragons precipitated by the King-Killer Star occurred in the Year of the Dracorage (1018DR).

So, now that you know why there's so many dragons romping across Faerûn this year (the Year of Rogue Dragons, according to the FR calendar), you're more than ready to find out what's inside the book that'll help you do something about it. And, being an FR book, I can give you a quick-and-easy run-down of what's inside the covers of the book by grabbing the opening and chapter-by-chapter overview straight out of the introduction.

Introduction

This book gives you everything you need to make dragons a focal point of your Forgotten Realms campaign. Dragons are the embodiment of all that is the Dungeons & Dragons game, and an epic confrontation with a powerful dragon is the highpoint of many campaigns. Dragons are an integral part of life in Faerûn, and their depredations and intrigues play a great role in shaping its history.

Using this Book

This book is of benefit to players and DMs who wish to play a dracocentric campaign or even just a dracocentric character in Faerûn.

Chapter 1: True Dragons of the World. This chapter details the history of dragonkind and integrates the Dragonfall War (introduced in Races of the Dragon) into Faerûn . It then details a sampling of powerful wyrms and their younger kin, focusing on their intrigues and entanglements in recent years (including the Year of Rogue Dragons). DMs can draw general inspiration or specific foes from this chapter, while players can find draconic patrons and learn what their knowledge of draconic lore has taught them.

Chapter 2: The Cult of the Dragon. This chapter details the Followers of the Scaly Way, legendary creators of Faerûn's powerful dracoliches, who instigated the Rage of Dragons that beset Faerûn in the Year of Rogue Dragons (1373 DR). Players of power-hungry evil characters can tie their history to the Dragon Cult, while DMs can use the group as sinister opponents of a good-aligned group. This chapter also includes an adventure for mid-level PCs.

Chapter 3: Tyranny of the Dragon Queen. This chapter details the Church of Tiamat, followers of the ascendant Dragon Queen, who overthrew the last god-king of Unther and now seeks to rule the South in his stead. This chapter also updates the state of affairs in Threskel and Unther. Players of dragon-loving evil characters can tie their history to the Dragon Queen's faith, while DMs can use the group as powerful opponents of a good-aligned group. This chapter also includes a high-level adventure.

Chapter 4: Orders of Dragonkind. This chapter details six dragon-focused organizations of varying alignments. Players can associate their character with groups such as the Blood of Morueme, the Church of Tchazzar, the Confluence, House Orogoth, the Sisters of Essembra, or the Talons of Justice, while DMs can use diametrically opposed groups as draconic-themed foes. This chapter also summarizes rules for playing some more unorthodox player character races of the half-dragon variety and gives details for those seeking to worship draconic deities.

Chapter 5: Dragon Lairs. This chapter details a variety of dragon-related challenges, including new dragon-related monsters and traps and hazards commonly encountered in dragon lairs.

Chapter 6: Dragon-Related Spells. This chapter details a variety of new spells. Some are useful to PCs battling dragons, while others are useful to DMs pitting dragons against their players' characters. This chapter includes several epic spells as well, including the epic spell responsible for the Rage of Dragons.

Chapter 7: Magic Items. This chapter details new magic to help characters battle dragons as well as fitting rewards for dragon slayers who manage to plunder a dragon's hoard. This chapter also includes a discussion on the consequences of releasing historical artifacts into the modern age.

Chapter 8: New Dragons. Here you'll find descriptions of three new dragon varieties -- mercury, steel, and mist -- presented in the classic Monster Manual format, with statistics and rules text updated to reflect the v.3.5 version of the D&D game.

So, there's your handy, right-out-of-the-book description of what's inside. Now, as far as pulling a piece of something to show, I can't really think of anything that would be more interesting than introducing you to one of the fifteen unique dragons (nineteen if you also count dracoliches) lairing within Chapter One: True Dragons of the World. No, wait, even cooler would be a unique dragon that's fighting a personal war against a multitude of beholders threatening to overtake the regions surrounding his lair. Not coincidentally, there's a dragon that fits the bill -- Nartheling, an ancient fang dragon.

Nartheling, "Master of the Mountain"

CN male ancient fang dragon

Nartheling is the master of Umbergoth, the enormous mountain that defines the border of Aglarond and Thay. He is on the verge of a war with the beholders that might spill out into the surrounding areas.

Nartheling is enormous and powerfully muscled, with massive, overdeveloped limbs. His body is covered in thick, mottled plates of muddled brownish-white, interspersed with scythelike blades.

Lair: Umbergoth attracts a host of lesser creatures and powerful monsters, all of which serve Nartheling out of fear of his incredible physical prowess and powerful magic. He resides in a network of mazelike caves at the top of the peak, surrounded by the aeries of griffins, asperi, and other winged beasts. Other more powerful monsters such as beholders and wyverns live on the massive mountain and follow the orders of the wyrm.

Every day Nartheling casts a Mordenkainen's private sanctum spell on the main part of his lair -- which happens to contain his treasure. This protective measure has made it almost impossible for spellcasters to learn anything about the inner workings of his operations. He uses spells such as sending and message to communicate with those outside the edges of his sanctum.

August:D&D Icons Gargantuan Black Dragon

Last month, I gave you some of the mini's measurements (4-inch by 4-inch base, 8 inches tall, 11-inch wingspan), and a bit of a description. This month, I've still not managed to get my hands back on one of these guys, so I'll just have to make do with reiterating that the Gargantuan Black Dragon is the first in the new limited-edition line of minis: D&D Icons. In addition to being the biggest specimen of black dragon you can find in the Monster Manual, the Gargantuan Black Dragon is also the biggest miniature you can get for your D&D Miniatures skirmish game. (Until September, that is.) Points-wise, this guy costs 500. I imagine a lot of folks will build 500-point warbands and take turns trying to topple this acid-breathing baddie.)

September:Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game

The name hasn't changed, but virtually everything else has. Completely redesigned in order to make learning D&D ever easier and more fun for new players (particularly those who know only six-siders -- and just call them dice). The D&D Basic Game provides everything 2-5 people need to sit down and start playing D&D. I'll get some more details next month, but for now, here'sthe back cover copy:

Enter a World of Adventure and Imagination!

Become a Hero

Take on the role of a fierce warrior, a mighty sorcerer, a powerful cleric, or a stealthy rogue and embark on a heroic quest.

Brave the Unknown

Explore dangerous dungeons, fight terrifying monsters, and discover wondrous treasures.

Bring Your Friends

Together with your bold companions, prove that you've got what it takes to face the risks and collect the rewards in the greatest fantasy roleplaying game of all time.

Everything you need to start playing now!

  • 12 painted miniatures (heroes and monsters)
  • 4 double-sided dungeon tiles
  • 4 hero booklets
  • 1 Dungeon Master booklet
  • 6 dice
  • 1 counter sheet
  • 1 advanced rulebook

September:Dragon Magic

If you take two of the most popular words in the D&D game and put them together, you've got a 50% chance to come up with the title of this 160-page hardcover supplement. Not much about Dragon Magic is at my fingertips just yet, but I know that the book introduces options, guidelines, suggestions, and material that will help you create a world where dragons openly share their magical secrets with humans and the other races. Whether a DM wishes to enhance an existing campaign, or to create an entirely new, challenging setting, Dragon Magic will help you add a distinctively draconic aura to your world. It also provides material that encourages characters to develop associations with dragons, allows them opportunities to learn ancient dragon secrets, and provides access to a number of new (draconic-ish) feats, spells, magic items. Take a look at the back cover copy:

Wield the Legendary Power of Dragons

Throughout history, dragons have displayed many grand and mysterious powers. Now, the secrets of these ancient talents are revealed at last! Learn to harness the magic, the vigor, the grandeur, and the pure destructive fire of dragonkind, and achieve a level of power undreamt of . . . until now.

This D&D® supplement presents an unprecedented variety of new options for your character, including new prestige classes, feats, spells, psionic powers, invocations, soulmelds, magic items, companion spirits, and alternative class features, each one drawing on some element of draconic might. It presents a new standard class, the dragonfire adept, who combines a potent breath weapon with various magical invocations. It reveals many new ways to wield the magic of dragons, including draconic auras, dragonpacts, and draconic racial variants. For the DM, this book also provides dragon-themed adventure seeds and campaign ideas, magical locations to explore, and new options for making dragons more powerful and exciting.

September: The Twilight Tomb

This is a 160-page adventure designed to challenge a quartet of 3rd-level characters who call the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting"home." Like all of the adventure-type products, I won't go into much, if any, detail about what's inside, but I'm told that it delves into the culture of star elves more so than anything else we've done. Aside from that, all I can do is offer you the intrigue of the back cover copy.




Stand Against the Coming Night!

Shadows in the forest deepen as an oracle among the Yuirwood's half-elf inhabitants foretells the reemergence of the Duskwalker, an ancient and corrupt star elf wizard. Missing travelers and lost goods all point to a circle of standing stones within the forest. Perhaps, like its counterparts elsewhere in the Yuirwood, this stone henge allows for travel to another place -- but where? And what growing darkness awaits those bold enough to find out?

The Twilight Tomb is a stand-alone Dungeons & Dragons® adventure designed to take four 3rd-level characters from the sun-dappled paths of the Yuirwood into a realm created by a bygone betrayal. Although the adventure is set in the Aglarond region of Faerûn, it can easily be placed in any D&D campaign.

September:Faiths of Eberron

I don't have much to pass along about this supplement for theEberron Campaign Setting, but I can tell you that it's a 160-page hardcover that details the established pantheons, secret cults, and other religious organizations in the world of Eberron. The book introduces a new page layout/treatment that will make it easier to reference information and details. DMs will find it to be an invaluable tool for expanding and fleshing out NPCs, encounters, adventures, and campaigns, and players will make use of the array of new prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items. And now, the back cover copy:

Many Faiths, Many Truths

In the world of Eberron, the reality of the gods depends on the belief of the followers. Contradictory truths might both be correct. Vague legend might be fact, and accepted fact only dogma. But to every worshiper, the divine presence manifests in miraculous magic, boons for the faithful, and undeniable holy power. In short, faith shapes reality.

This supplement presents detailed descriptions of the major religions of Eberron, including the rival pantheons of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six, the young faith of the Silver Flame, and the shadowed Blood of Vol. You'll also find intriguing details of lesser religions, such as the beliefs of the laconic warforged, the mad cults of the Dragon Below, and the various druid sects of the Eldeen Reaches. The Faiths of Eberron supplement also includes new feats, spells, prestige classes, and equipment to give more options to devout worshipers and sometime followers alike.

September:Colossal Red Dragon

I don't have the Colossal Red Dragon in front of me right now either, but I can tell you that it sits on an 8-inch by 8-inch base and absolutely dominates all 64 of those squares. The Colossal Red Dragon is the second in the D&D Icons line, and it takes over the overwhelmingly impressive position as biggest mini ever. It stands about 14 inches tall, and pushes just past a foot wide with its wingspan. If you want to really get a sense of just how big this fire-breathing monstrosity really is, do this: Go to the frozen food cases at your grocery. Find a 25-pound turkey, prop it up on the aisle floor, and compare it to other minis. That's what I did. You'll get interesting looks from passers by, but it really drives home an understanding of just how much presence the Colossal Red Dragon will have on your gaming table.

September: d20 Dark*Matter

I don't know much more about this book than to say that a number of people out there will be excited to see it on shelves this fall. Grab your copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Gameand start coming up with conspiracy theories about what you'll be up against when you start investigating the world of d20 Dark*Matter. For anyone not already familiar with Dark*Matter, you'll find shadowy illumination in the back cover copy:



All you see is not all there is.

Devious organizations scheme for world domination, otherworldly forces infiltrate our power structures, and creatures from our nightmares lurk in the shadows. Working for a clandestine organization called the Hoffmann Institute, heroes explore hidden mysteries while eluding forces both human and alien that conspire to control the truth.

This book updates the classic Dark*Matter Campaign Setting originally designed for the Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game. To use this product, you also need the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook. This product is compatible with other d20 System roleplaying games.

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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