Previews for October and Beyond
By Mat Smith
Better Late Than Never
I know, I know -- you folks just wanna see what's coming up. There's a lot of cool stuff, and I've been able to get hold of bits and pieces of it. So, without further yammering, and so I can start working on next month's article (to try to get it turned over on time), here's what I've got for you -- check it out:
October: Special Edition Monster Manual
The collection is now complete. Hitting shelves this month is the last of the special edition core rulebooks. Bound in embossed, black leather, complete with gilt-edged pages, a red marker ribbon, and errata, the Special Edition Monster Manual will make a great final addition to your collection, alongside its predecessors, the Special Edition Player's Handbook and Special Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.
October: Dungeons & Dragons Limited-Edition Chess Set
Also on sale this month is the Dungeons & Dragons Limited-Edition Chess Set, pitting Bahamut and his children against Tiamat and her spawn. In addition to being a nicely detailed dragon-themed chess set, this thing also comes with a set of optional rules specifically created to add a D&D -flavored spin to your game. If you want more details about the set, the pieces, board, and all that, just check out the run-down I offered up back in August.
October: Complete Mage
The latest addition to the Complete ________ line of supplements, this 224-page hardcover offers up a wealth of material, information, and ideas that will help you put the power of arcane magic into the hands of any character. All-new material includes new feats, prestige classes, spells, warlock invocations, magic items, and ways for non-(arcane) spellcasters to wield the potent mojo so familiar to wizards and sorcerers.
I gave you the back cover text back in August. And, this month, the book goes on sale. So, the good bit is that you can pick it up and flip through it to find all the coolness that awaits within it. But, just to give you an idea of what's in there, I grabbed the Introduction and its chapter-by-chapter run-down. Take a look here, then take a look at your FLGS or bookstore.
Welcome to Complete Mage, a rules supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons game. This book is a resource for players, expanding greatly on their options for arcane magic, detailing the methods and techniques by which that magic functions, and even opening up the use of arcane effects by traditionally nonspellcasting characters.
In addition, Dungeon Masters can use it to build more interesting NPCs and challenges, to design adventures around arcane themes, and to sprinkle the various viewpoints of arcane magic throughout an entire campaign setting.
What's in this Book
Complete Mage contains information for players and DMs, and most of its contents are applicable to both.
Fundamentals (Chapter 1): This chapter is a treatise on arcane magic. Where does it come from? Why does it work the way it does? What does it mean to be an arcane caster? This chapter strives to answer these questions, and to expand a DM's setting as it does so. Players will find material here that enables their characters to portray true students of the mystic arts, well studied in all the major secrets of arcana. It also includes tips and tactics for playing a wide range of arcane characters.
Character Options (Chapter 2): New insight into arcane magic is far more useful when the players have new options with which to exercise that advantage. A wide range of feats aimed at arcane spellcasters fills most of the chapter. Heritage feats give your arcanist character an interesting origin story, while reserve feats allow a spellcaster to extend her power over a series of encounters.
In addition to feats, this chapter includes several arcane-themed alternative class features (a concept introduced in Player's Handbook II). These options allow members of other classes to get a taste of what it's like to be an arcanist without sacrificing their core identity.
Prestige Classes (Chapter 3): Every mage yearns to bring her own spin to arcane magic, and the eleven new prestige classes in this chapter provide a wide range of options for arcane spellcasters. Every one of these classes showcases a certain aspect of arcane magic, from the traditional (the master specialist) to the outright unusual (the enlightened soul, a warlock whose powers derive from celestial sources rather than infernal ones).
Spells and Invocations (Chapter 4): This chapter offers a large number of new spells for arcane casters, as well as new invocations for the warlock. These spells and invocations add new elements of utility, new combat options, and new techniques. Many of the spells are designed to open up new tactical combinations, to combine elements of two other spells into one effect, or to provide lower-level versions of high-level spells that might not see frequent use in play.
Arcane Items (Chapter 5): Containing new options for players and DMs, this chapter focuses on items that expand on the precepts put forth elsewhere in Complete Mage. The rings, rods, staffs, and optional spell components provide new capabilities for spellcasting characters, while the alchemical items and many of the wondrous items herein make arcane effects available to noncasting characters.
Arcane Adventures (Chapter 6): The only DM-specific part of the book, this chapter discusses how to design adventures around an arcane theme. It provides sample adventure ideas and magical locations -- including maps -- for use in almost any adventure or campaign.
October: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft
This 224-page hardcover revisits the classic 1st-edition module, Ravenloft, updating and expanding it into a horror adventure that will keep players on edge -- again and again. (There are options for playing the adventure multiple times, with varying lengths and objectives.) Since this is an adventure, I'm not going to divulge any more details than the back cover text I gave you back in August.
The latest installation to the Environment series (Sandstorm,Frostburn, and so on), this 160-page supplement explores the treacherous territory found within the walls of the cities your characters visit. With rules for building cities, creating city-based characters and encounters, and navigating city terrain, Cityscape provides a complete guide to creating, running, and surviving urban encounters, adventures, and campaigns. Last month, I gave you the back cover text. This month, I can pass along the Introduction, which provides a handy-dandy chapter-by-chapter description of what's inside each of the book's five chapters.
Welcome to the Cityscape supplement, the latest and perhaps most unusual offering in the environment series for the latest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons ® game. Unlike the previous entries in the line, each of which focuses on more traditional environments -- arctic wastelands, sand-swept deserts, storm-tossed seas, and the like -- the book you now hold endeavors to give the same treatment to the city, or the urban "environment." Indeed, running extended campaigns in and around a single city can often be even more challenging than doing the same in one of the wilderness environments. In order for your city to be an effective host for the player characters, it must be as three-dimensional as they are, and more. People, locations, policies, factions, laws, districts - they all have to be considered, if the DM wants to keep things smooth and engaging for the life of his game. In short, his city must truly live, and that's quite a daunting task for any DM. It is the purpose of Cityscape to make such a task far less daunting. Whether you've run numerous urban campaigns or this is your first foray into a city-based story, this book contains all you need to spin a dazzling world of vibrant, colorful adventure for yourself and for the players.
The City Revealed
Like other sourcebooks in the environment series, Cityscape is intended as a comprehensive reference for campaigns highlighting a particular set of themes, stories, and ideas. When running an urban campaign, DMs should benefit from having this book by their side as much as they do from having the Dungeon Master's Guide. As such, this book is organized in as modular a way as possible, to better aid the busy Dungeon Master in finding precisely the material he needs, precisely when he needs it. What follows is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book's contents.
Chapter One: The Scope of the City examines the fundamentals of city design and structure. After a brief overview of city living, this section launches into a discussion of cities by type, and includes such archetypes as the capital city, the military city, the slaver city, and the trading hub. Following a similar analysis of cities by nontraditional culture and location, the chapter focuses on the characteristics of the city itself, from design features like sewers and wall fortifications to environmental hazards, such as sinkholes, plagues, and even arcane pollution. The bulk of the remainder of the chapter examines the various sorts of districts found in many urban settings. This is primarily a chapter oriented toward the Dungeon Master, but players should find it useful as well.
Chapter Two: The Urban Adventurer takes us inside the design of those who would be our story's protagonists -- the player characters. The chapter provides tools for playing characters who are more heavily urban in feel, and includes urban-oriented skills, feats, and spells. A thorough discussion of the acquisition and maintenance of contacts rounds out the material presented in this chapter. Obviously, most of the material in this chapter is highly player-oriented.
Chapter Three: Politics and Power discusses, as one might expect, city-based governance, politics, and organizations of various kinds. It examines the various types of government, and how those governments affect life in the city, as well as what sorts of offices and duties come with each system of government. Noble houses, guilds, and organizations of various stripes are also detailed, each accompanied by a new prestige class designed to embody its group's nature. The material in this chapter is useful and relevant to both players and Dungeon Masters.
Chapter Four: Events and Encounters goes deep inside the numbers, offering examples of a variety of antagonists and NPCs with whom the characters might one day negotiate and/or tussle with on the streets of your city-based campaign. Classic archetypes are presented in multiple versions, to provide good contacts or challenges for PCs of any power level, and include such figures as the city watchman, the thug, the noble, the craftsman, and the angry mob. The section rounds itself out with a smattering of new monsters, ready-made for city campaigns. This is entirely a Dungeon Master-oriented chapter.
Chapter Five: Running the City focuses on providing advice to DMs about how to run urban campaigns. It discusses the importance of history in a city, and how history drives ongoing stories, which dovetails into an analysis of the city as an adventuring environment, including how-to tips on dungeon crawling and ways to keep the setting "alive," by means of NPC and location management. The chapter concludes with an overview of city crime and punishment. Most of the material in this section is, of course, intended for Dungeon Masters.
November: Scourge of the Howling Horde
A 32-page adventure for a party of 1st-level characters, Scourge of the Howling Horde introduces an all-new encounter format designed to make it easier for Dungeon Masters to run memorable adventures. Sidebars also provide advice and guidelines that will help DMs run the game -- particularly useful for someone taking their first turn behind the screen. Last month, I gave you the back cover text, and that's about all I can send your way. If you've ever wanted to try DMing, and were daunted by the challenge, or you want to give it a shot (and your current DM a chance to play) check this thing out.
Right. So, last month, I gave you the back cover text. This month, I have to show off the interior spread artwork by Wayne Reynolds -- it's a moral imperative.
Normally, this would be where I'd pull some introductory text to give you, as a way of showing you what the book's all about. But, I figure that if you're using the Eberron Campaign Setting, you've probably got a bit of familiarity with the thirteen dragonmarked houses and the power imbued to many of their members. But you've not had a chance to discover the level of detail and information you'll find inside this 160-page supplement. So, I figure that I'll jump into something a little further into the book -- how 'bout a chunk from the opening of the chapter that explores the dragonmarked houses, and the beginning of the section detailing House Cannith.
Those born and raised in the great dragonmarked houses of Eberron feel a sense of belonging. Their place in the world is secure, as is the influence wielded by their house and family. For more than a thousand years, the dragonmarked houses have stood at the forefront of commerce, magical innovation, and culture across Khorvaire.
Inspired by the power of the dragonmark that manifests in its bloodline, each house wields great influence in Khorvairian life. Now, with the Last War a memory and the future beckoning, the dragonmarked houses stand ready for even greater accomplishments.
"It is as though the world dare not draw breath for fear that delicate balance should shift and fall, and a new Day of Mourning be upon us."
-- Jarlen d'Cannith, House Cannith Chronicler and Lord Seneschal
From a few bands of roving artisans and tinkers, House Cannith has risen to dominate commerce and industry in Khorvaire. For every advance made in magic, odds are good that Cannith had a hand in it -- from everbright lanterns to the lightning rail, from the warforged to the secret experiments now lost deep within the wastes of the Mournland.
With its power and creative genius, the house commands both respect and fear. Despite its accomplishments, however, Cannith stands in turmoil. Unable to agree on a new ruler in the aftermath of the Day of Mourning, the house splintered into three factions, each with its own agenda. This rift has caused unease among the houses and beyond, giving monarchs and entrepreneurs pause even as they cautiously back one of three would-be leaders.
Makers of History
Since its incorporation prior to the War of the Mark, House Cannith has been a leader among the dragonmarked houses. It pioneered the marriage of magic to the needs of daily life, and members of the house are the foremost experts on the use of dragonshards. Along with the gnomes of Zilargo, the house created the elemental ships that cross the seas. In partnership with House Orien, it forged the lightning rail that once spanned Khorvaire.
|A House Cannith workshop in Metrol,
before the Day of Mourning
Cannith's most indelible mark on history was made in 965 YK with the creation of the warforged. The mastermind behind the warforged was Merrix d'Cannith, who set out to create a sentient construct that could fight in place of living creatures. First commissioned by King Jarot, the last king of Galifar, the warforged instead went to battle on behalf of his children during the Last War.
Merrix's son Aarren gave sentience to these living constructs. For thirty years, the sale of warforged kept Cannith prosperous, with each of the Five Nations commissioning troops from Whitehearth, Cannith's ancestral forgehold. The house seemed destined to prosper as the Last War dragged on. Then came the Day of Mourning.
On the Day of Mourning, a blast of arcane power obliterated Cyre, leaving empty wasteland. Most Cyrans perished that day, including the patriarch of House Cannith: Baron Starrin d'Cannith, known as "the Gorgon" for both his intimidating manner and the symbol of his house.
What caused the Day of Mourning, none can say. It seems that of the cities of Cyre, Eston suffered the greatest damage. Whitehearth's destruction claimed the life of not only the baron, but also many of the house's prominent leaders and dragonmarked heirs.
Almost as great as the loss in blood was the loss of the forgehold itself. Whitehearth had been the center of Cannith ingenuity and invention for centuries. Only projects concurrently researched in Sharn by Merrix d'Cannith, grandson of the first Merrix, survived. Whitehearth is never far from the minds of House Cannith's leaders, with Merrix in particular striving for its recovery. Increasingly, though, the cost associated with that recovery effort has exacerbated the rift within the house. Some seek to resurrect Whitehearth one day; others wish to turn their backs on the tomb of the past and focus instead on the future.
THE TREATY OF THRONEHOLD
Two years after the loss of Cyre, the Treaty of Thronehold was signed, putting an end to both the war and the nation of Galifar. No one profits during war like a weaponsmith, and no one suffers as much from war's end. For House Cannith, the treaty brought more than the end of a profitable market: The signatory nations recognized the warforged as a free people, due the same rights as other sentient races. The treaty also forbade Cannith from creating more warforged, ensuring that the house's crowning achievement would be remembered as little more than a bloody postscript to past glory.
Having no choice but to agree to the treaty's terms, the heads of the fractured house returned to their respective homes, plotting in silence while they went through the motions of retooling House Cannith for peace. Merrix, however, never intended to let his grandfather's legacy pass away. His stronghold in Sharn holds a secret creation forge, known only to the sworn heirs of his line. Today, those who gain entry to the Sharn forgehold see significantly newer warforged. Unaware of their rights as sentient beings, these warforged serve the artificers, who seek the next evolution of design. This secret rebellion leads Cannith along a dangerous path. Should Merrix's deception be discovered, Breland and the other nations will have to enforce the treaty -- if it means striking the blow that shatters House Cannith for all time.
November: Blood War Booster Packs
The eternal war between demons and devils spans across the multiverse, touching countless planes of existences, and now it invades booster packs for the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game. In addition to a number of fiendish outsiders, and other extraplanar creatures, you'll also find a healthy number of home-grown heroes and monsters that call the Material Plane home. Back in August, I showed you the Ice Devil, Marilith, and Kobold Monk. Last month, you saw the Fire Giant Forgepriest and the Blood of Vol Cultist. This month, I have two more minis (out of the set's 60) to show off -- one from the expansive world of Eberron (though the mini could be made to feel at home elsewhere easily) and another from the rooftops and decorative niches of every campaign world.
Valenar Nomad Charger -- Getting from place to place in Eberron can be an adventure in and of itself. And, few minis capture that action-packed element of play quite like this Large, Rare mounted mini. The Valenar Nomad Charger thunders across open plains and treacherous battlefields astride a stout, white and chocolate brown paint horse. The steed is equipped with a decoratively functional bridle, blanket, and saddle, and its tail and mane are bound up, out of the way. The noble simplicity of the mount is complemented by the rider's bright armor and clothing -- billowing red shirt, pants, and headcloth, overlaid with an assortment of golden mail, breastplate, and helmet. Leaning slightly forward in the saddle, for speed and in anticipation of an imminent clash, the rider seems to be clutching the reins of his horse tightly, as if restraining the mount from breaking into an all-out gallop, yet. Held comfortably in his right hand is one of the most iconic Valenar weapons -- an elegant, but deadly, double scimitar. He's holding his weapon with arm extended far behind him, prepared to make a powerful slashing attack.
Earth Element Gargoyle -- Destined to cause nervousness and paranoia amongst players until revealed to be merely decorative in use, the Earth Element Gargoyle rests comfortably atop a greenish pedestal -- in wait. This Uncommon mini seems to be a depiction of the gargoyle illustrated on page 113 of your Monster Manual, just before it springs into action. Dark red pinpoints of lights in its deep eyesockets are all that warn of a forthcoming ambush, as the rest of the mottled gray stone creature seems to be nothing more than a grotesque piece of statuary. (That's what I like best about the mini -- its ability to serve as a monster as well as dungeon dressing.) Squatting upon its perch, its clawed toes and right hand grip the ledge while its pointed tail curls tightly around the base. Extended, but not fully unfurled, the Earth Element Gargoyle's heavy-looking wings create a menacing backdrop for the "sculpture" while enabling the creature to drop quickly into a swooping attack with minimal effort.
If you check out Steve Schubert's Minis Previews articles over on theD&D Minis page and pick up Dragon magazine every month, you'll get all sorts of other D&D minis previews and exclusive coverage.
December: Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells
Just in time for you to really make the most of those Blood War minis comes the supplement that serves as the companion to Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. (And it gives you even more of an opportunity to really make use of the minis you'll find in the Blood War expansion.)
This 160 pages of hardcover nastiness delves deeply into details about the devilish denizens of the Nine Hells. If you picked up or flipped through Hordes of the Abyss, you've probably got a good, general idea of the kind of information you'll find inside this book. I've not gotten my hands on it yet, but I do have the back cover text:
Fell Legions and Insidious Plots
Through subtle plotting and brutal aggression, the forces of the Nine Hells seek to corrupt or dominate all who stand against them. These fiends, as ancient and terrible as any in the multiverse, forge armies out of the souls of the wicked and use them to enforce their iron rule. Can your adventurers stand against the might and tyranny of the Nine Hells?
This supplement for the D&D game presents the definitive treatise on devils and their malefic home. Along with information about the physiology, psychology, society, and schemes of the devils themselves, you'll find feats, spells, items, and tactics commonly employed by these infernal creatures and those who oppose them. This book also provides detailed information on various devils, archdevils, and the layers of the Nine Hells.
December: Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift
This is the latest (fifth) installation to the Fantastic Locations line of accessories continues to offer roleplayers and skirmish gamers new and exciting places in which to find adventure and a good fight. Like its predecessors (such as Fantastic Locations: Fields of Ruin), Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift offers a 16-page adventure book with encounters designed to use the two new double-sided battle maps. Prepare your party and/or warband for extraplanar encounters, including (not surprisingly), the icy realm known as the Frostfell Rift. There's more to this one than mere dungeon-type adventure, though -- these maps are designed for the kind of epic battles that turn into the war stories you retell around the gaming table. Take a look at the back cover copy:
Terrible Evil Stirs in the Cold Reaches of the World
The Frostfell Rift accessory is the fifth in the Fantastic Locations series of products. It contains two beautifully illustrated, double-sided battle maps scaled for Dungeons & Dragons play, as well as a 16-page booklet that presents sample encounters designed for use with the maps.
The battle maps feature fantastic terrain designed to create large, fluid encounters, key scenes, and exciting game sessions. Rather than simple dungeon encounters, these maps evoke the epic struggles that campaign memories are made of. Three of the maps also make ideal battlegrounds for D&D Miniatures Game play. Build your own warband and fight for control of Hailstorm Tower, the Caves of Chaos, or the dreaded Frostfell Rift.
December: The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde
Perfect for use as a follow-up to Scourge of the Howling Horde, The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde can also be played as a standalone adventure. Using the same new format for combat encounters, the adventure is designed to make running the game easier for Dungeon Masters (making it another great adventure for DMs that're just taking their first turns behind the screen.)
It's a 142-page bundle of adventure, with an adventure book, campaign book, double-sided map (for your D&D Minis), a booklet of illustrations for Dungeon Masters, and a players' book for the rest of the folk sitting around the gaming table.
Now is the time when I cleverly segue into showing you the back cover copy:
Explore a Shattered Dungeon with a Dark Secret
Centuries ago, forces of good and evil collided in a titanic battle at the mountain fortress of Slaughtergarde. Armies of men, angels, elves, and dwarves fought and defeated a rampaging demon horde, banished its demon prince, and tore Slaughtergarde apart, hurling it back into the Abyss. However, the destruction of Slaughtergarde was incomplete. Parts of the fortress were embedded underneath the Valley of Obelisks, buried for all time. Now, malign forces have found Slaughtergarde's dark chambers, and they toil ceaselessly to restore the magic gates that will reconnect Slaughtergarde to the Abyss. If they aren't stopped, a new demon horde may emerge from the shattered fortress to rampage across the world.
This adventure is designed for characters of levels 2-7 and includes a 64-page adventure book, a 64-page campaign book, a 16-page players' book, an 8-page illustration booklet, and a double-sided battle map designed for use with official D&D miniatures.
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.