Previews Archive | 2/6/2012
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February: In the Works
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Last month, I was pleased to inform you about the start of Book Wyrms and Joining the Party, new columns that look at D&D novels and D&D community content and activities, respectively. If you haven't had a chance to check them out, I'd happily encourage you to do so—and, as always, to please give us your feedback (as comments on the bottom of each article, or at dndinsider@wizards.com).

In addition, February will debut one more column, from Jon Schindehette, Creative Director of Dungeons & Dragons. His column, currently titled Prismatic Spray, will be devoted to conversations about his favorite subjects: the art, artists, world, and visual creative development of D&D. He'll also be actively soliciting your feedback in developing the game's visual style. Look for it to begin early this month.

Also, let's tackle a quick bit of housekeeping when it comes to the existing columns. As you might have noticed, Rule-of-Three and Legends & Lore have swapped places. Legends & Lore will start the week on Mondays; Rule-of-Three will follow on Tuesdays.

And finally, last month I announced changes taking place to the overall D&D website. To repeat the main points of the announcement:

I believe the D&D website will better serve our users by not trying to force everything onto the same home page. What we're planning for instead (rolling out next month) is a greatly revised home page. Of course, few people reading this column are new users to the website; nevertheless, I want to walk everyone through the upcoming revisions.

When new users first arrive at the refreshed website, what they'll find is a home page with very clear links to their most fundamental questions: What is D&D? How do I play? What do I need to get started? And where can I find a game? The answers to these questions should then lead them more intuitively deeper into the website.

Returning users will find a home page that clearly presents the programs, events, and products that are most relevant at any given time. We want you to know what's taking place in the game in a more immediate and compelling way. Here's where you'll find the big, splashy announcements for the next D&D Encounters season. Or, you'll discover news on the latest book, board game, or video game release. Or, you can find information on what's taking place at PAX, Comic Con, or Gen Con.

That all makes for a more straightforward home page, but what about the content?

For returning users that want to get their daily dose of Dungeons & Dragons, visit the appropriately named Daily D&D page. This will be an interior page that better showcases our online content, whether Dragon, Dungeon, or free articles. Here you'll find a more visible headline for the day's lead article, as well as a longer, more visible list of our recent content.

We hope this revision to the website, and to the home page in particular, leads to a better user experience for visitors. As always, you can send your thoughts and comments to dndinsider@wizards.com.

And with that, let's get to our previews!


D&D Next

For those of you who attended D&D XP, we thoroughly hope you enjoyed your first look at the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons! As part of the convention, we provided ongoing chats from the seminars; plus, the latest Joining the Party rounds up quite a bit more convention coverage.

With the refresh to the website coming later this month, we'll also have a dedicated hub that helps collect website articles (such as Legends & Lore and Prismatic Spray) and community blog posts discussing the D&D Next playtest—and of course, will host access to the sign-up page as well. Just look for the appropriately named "Playtest" option in the top navigation.

If you're looking to get involved with the playtest, be sure to sign up right here. In addition, the D&D Next community group page provides the latest information, as well as offers R&D blogs, polls, and community discussions regarding the playtest.

February/March: Books and E-Books

Here they are! As always we start the month by taking a look at our most recent set of novels, which release in print and simultaneously in e-book format. (And again, if you're interested in learning the business side of our ebooks, I'd refer you to our Book Wyrms column on the subject.)

The Masked Witches
By Richard Lee Byers

Aoth Fezim and his mercenary company have restored their tarnished reputation and attracted new recruits for their depleted ranks. But they still have one big problem. Too many griffon mounts were killed in battle. If "the Brotherhood of the Griffon" is to be more than a name, they must find new mounts.


Venom in Her Veins
By Tim Pratt

Child of prophecy? Harbinger of doom?

Zaltys is a girl like any other to grow up ranging the jungles of the Southern Lluirwood. She's a crack shot with a bow and no stranger to the dangers that lurk beneath the deep forest canopy.

On expedition with her family to harvest the forbidden terazul flower, a powerful drug that has gathered many a dreamer into its narcotic embrace, Zaltys is about to unearth a truth long buried by the feculent loam of deception.

As the veil is lifted on the world Zaltys thought she knew, a pathway to the Underdark promises the answers her family never gave. As she ventures forth in search of truth, Zaltys finds betrayal to be a much easier quarry. But it will take more than a lode of lies to quell the venom in her veins.

Scitheron slithered away from the feeding pit, hands bloodied with the remnants of the pre-dawn sacrifice. The segments of his lower body, a serpent's tail the thickness of a tree trunk, compressed and expanded, propelling him along the worn path through the ruined temples of the settlement, a forgotten outpost that was once the thriving heart of his sect. The stench of the anathema's pit still clung to Scitheron's forked tongue, no matter how fiercely he flickered it, and he thought, not for the first time, that the community would be best served by sending down a sacrifice liberally laced with poison some morning, to put everyone in the settlement out of the anathema's misery, and allow them to relocate to one of the serpentfolk settlements rumored to thrive in the deeper jungle.

But such thoughts were blasphemy. Scitheron's people worshiped the god Zehir, and though much diminished, his cult still cared for the last of Zehir's chosen ones, the anathema who writhed, multiform and mad, in the pit overseen by Scitheron and the other remaining priests.

The yuan-ti deeper in the jungle were devotees of the old god Sseth, the fools. Scitheron would rather die a true believer of Zehir than go over to their ancient, withered faith.

The malison guards at the entry to the main settlement nodded as he approached, their rusty scimitars hanging uselessly at their belts. Both had proud heads of serpents, but one had two legs like an ape, something that reminded Scitheron of the other task he had to carry out that night. There are so few of us now, he thought, it seems wrong to kill a potential warrior for Zehir while she's still a babe, but it is the low priest's will.

"How does the god fare this night?" the two-legged guard said.

Scitheron made the sign of the fangs. "The anathema is not a god. His kind were kings and emperors once, before the madness . . ." He shook his head. "The anathema is well. Quiet. I fed him three skinned apes, and he seemed sated. That should appease him until the sun rises over the horizon."



February: Fortune Cards: Spiral of Tharizdun

Corresponding to the forthcoming D&D Encounters season, which is called The Elder Elemental Eye, we give you a peek at the latest Fortune Cards, which add new ways to survive the challenges around the table. For those of you who haven't yet tried them, here's how they work:

At the start of each encounter, shuffle your deck and draw a card.

You can play one card per round. It requires no action to play. The rules on each card state when you can play it and what effect it has. A card takes effect just once unless it states otherwise, and you discard the card when its effect ends.

You can have only one Fortune Card in your hand at a time. At the start of each of your turns, you can do one of the following:

  • Discard the card in your hand and draw a new one.
  • Draw a new card if you don't have one in your hand.
  • Keep the card that's in your hand if you haven't played it.
(1.68 Mbs PDF)



February: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

From the product catalog: Masters of fire and earth. Lords of air and water. Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is the definitive sourcebook for creating and playing characters with ties to the Elemental Chaos and the primordial beings that dwell there. It shows how the elements can influence heroes of the natural world and presents elemental-themed character options for players.

Now, let's take a peek inside the book, which details how the ability to wield elemental magic in its purest state is reserved for elemental creatures. These creatures channel the raw energy of the Elemental Chaos through themselves when they call on that plane's power. A vast number of ways exist for adventurers to transform themselves into elemental creatures and to begin the process of mastering the power of the Plane Below.

Heroes of the Elemental Chaos's first chapter explores the ways your character might come across elemental power, examines how you can transform yourself into an elemental creature or attune yourself to elemental energy, and looks at elemental patrons that might provide your character with the power he or she seeks.

Chapter 2 presents a selection of themes related to elemental magic and the Elemental Chaos. A theme is a calling, vocation, or archetype you can use to add further detail and options to your character. Your theme joins your class and race in helping you to realize your adventurer's identity. You might be a human slayer, but you could also be a windlord, an earthforger, or a moteborn. Most themes are available to members of any class or race, so you can choose the theme that best fits your imagination.

Each theme contains story elements you might adopt to flesh out your character's background and his or her place in the world. You can work with your Dungeon Master to integrate the character theme you choose into the backdrop of the campaign, whether you select a theme as part of character creation or you want to apply a theme to an existing character at a higher level.

This chapter includes the following character themes:

  • Demon Spawn: One who has demonic ancestry
  • Earthforger: Devotee of elemental earth
  • Elemental Initiate: Monastic student of the elements
  • Firecrafter: Devotee of elemental fire
  • Ironwrought: Devotee of elemental metal
  • Janissary: Servant of powerful genies
  • Moteborn: Native of an elemental realm
  • Primordial Adept: Priest of a primordial
  • Watershaper: Devotee of elemental water
  • Windlord: Devotee of elemental air

Earthforger

"Elemental earth resonates in my soul."

Strong, durable, and implacable, earthforgers embody elemental earth. They can manifest its power in defense or as a weapon, drawing energy from the stones or releasing it outward to hold enemies back.

Earthforgers wield great power, but such ability comes at an even greater price. When they grasp this elemental magic and take it in, earthforgers are reborn as elemental creatures.

Dwarves pioneered the techniques of earthforging long ago; many sages believe that the race's first steps toward mastering elemental power occurred when the dwarves were enslaved by the giants, and those efforts led to the birth of the galeb duhr race. While extracting precious metals and gemstones from deep under the mountains, dwarf miners in that long-ago time came across primordial shards, crystallized magic left from creation. Using these shards, the dwarves found they could shape stone more easily, while also being able to endure even greater punishment.

An unknown number of dwarves succumbed to elemental power's temptations, losing themselves to its magic, but enough resisted and proved mighty allies in the uprising that led to the dwarves' exodus from cruel enslavement.

Other races have stumbled across earthforging under similar circumstances. Goliaths learned to use elemental earth from the stone spirits who watch over their mountain camps. Svirfneblin, gnomes who have long dwelt in the Underdark, use earthforging to evade drow slavers and destroy other hostile humanoids. Travelers report encounters with strange hermits, formerly mortal creatures that have been transformed into beings of living stone. Such individuals are rare, yet anyone who explores the wild places, those untamed lands where the primordials' fingerprints can still be seen, might very well come across an earthforger.

(4.4 Mbs PDF)

March: Lords of Waterdeep

The latest board game is set to release later this spring: Lords of Waterdeep, a strategy board game for 2–5 players. Here is text from the game's introduction.

Welcome to Waterdeep, the City of Splendors! You are a Lord of Waterdeep, one of the secret rulers of this great city. Through your Agents, you recruit Adventurers to complete Quests and advance your agendas. The Lords of Waterdeep all have the safety of their city at heart, but each one is also laying his or her own plans! Through backdoor dealings, mercenaries, and plain old bribery, can you guide the city to become the greatest Lord of Waterdeep?

Of course, you already know this introduction from last month! On February 20th, we plan on releasing the rulebook (as a downloadable PDF on the product page). Until then, we offer the following Rules Reference, which summarizes the game setup and sequence of play, as a quick starter.

(5.6 Mbs PDF)

Let's take one more look at the game's components in action, which includes all of the following:

  • Game board
  • Rulebook
  • Storage tray
  • 5 player mats
  • 100 Adventurer cubes:
    • 25 Clerics (white)
    • 25 Fighters (orange)
    • 25 Rogues (black)
    • 25 Wizards (purple)
  • 33 wooden pieces:
    • 5 score markers
    • 25 Agents (5 of each color)
    • 1 Ambassador
    • 1 Lieutenant
    • 1 First Player marker
  • 121 cards:
    • 11 Lord of Waterdeep cards
    • 50 Intrigue cards
    • 60 Quest cards
  • 170 die-cut pieces:
    • 24 Building tiles
    • 45 Building control markers (9 of each color)
    • 60 Gold tokens
    • 50 1-Gold tokens
    • 10 5-Gold tokens
    • 36 Victory Point tokens


April: 1st Edition Premium Books

If you missed our announcement, we created limited-edition reprints of the original 1st Edition core rulebooks: the Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, and Dungeon Master's Guide. These premium versions of the original AD&D rulebooks have been lovingly reprinted with the original art and content, but feature an attractive new cover design commemorating this re-release. Available in limited quantities as a hobby channel exclusive in North America.

Your purchase of this monumental book helps support the Gygax Memorial Fund—established to immortalize the "Father of Roleplaying Games" with a memorial statue in Lake Geneva, WI.

We'll be showcasing some of what these books contain in the coming weeks (although many of you are already quite familiar with their beloved contents!). Until then, here's how the books were described in their back cover copy and in the original forwards written by games editor and designer Mike Carr.

Dungeon Masters Guide

Whether you're running a single adventure or masterminding a complete campaign, the Dungeon Masers Guide is the absolute best source for information. There's no need to guess the rules. You'll learn spells, monsters, travel, magic lists, and combat rules.

Dungeon Mastering is, above all, a labor of love. It is demanding, time-consuming, and certainly not a task to be undertaken lightly (the sheer bulk of the book you hold in your hand will tell you that!). But, as all DM's know, the rewards are great—an endless challenge to the imagination and intellect, an enjoyable pastime to fill many hours with fantastic and often unpredictable happenings, and an opportunity to watch a story unfold and a grand idea to grow and flourish. The imagination knows no bounds, and the possibilities of the game of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons are just as limitless. Who can say what awaits each player, except a cornucopia of fantasy and heroic adventure? So much is waiting, indeed!

This book holds much in store for you as a DM—it is your primary tool in constructing your own "world", or milieu. It contains a wealth of material, and combined with the other works of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (the Monster Manual and Players Handbook) gives you all the information you need to play AD&D. But, as always, one more thing is needed—your imagination. Use the written material as your foundation and inspiration, then explore the creative possibilities you have in your own mind to make your game something special.

Dungeon Mastering itself is no easy undertaking, to be sure. But Dungeon Mastering well is doubly difficult. There are few gamemasters around who are so superb in their conduct of play that they could disdain the opportunity to improve themselves in some way. Fortunately, this work addresses the matter at length, and gives you plenty of suggestions on all aspects of Dungeon Mastering (as well as some of the finer points) in order to help you improve your own efforts. Take heed, and always endeavor to make the game the best it can be—and all that it can be!

Players Handbook

This is it! It's the perfect player's game-playing aid and the best companion to the referee's Dungeon Masters Guide. As a player, this handbook will help you determine your character's abilities such as strength, wisdom and charisma. Character races including elves, halflings, dwarves, gnomes and others are explained in detail to make the adventure fast, fun and exciting. You'll learn the rules for progressing in character levels and the most advantageous mapping and combat procedures. And they're all in this easy to use book.

The Dungeon Master is pivotal, of course, but the players are just as important, for they are the primary actors and actresses in the fascinating drama which unfolds before them. For that reason, their outlook and their conduct will greatly affect the flavor and tempo of the campaign. Accordingly, they should do their best to further the success of the entire undertaking. This is often no more than a matter of simple etiquette, and following a few simple guidelines will suffice to make the game experience more fun for everyone concerned, to wit:

  • Be an organized player; have the necessary information on your character readily at hand and available to the Dungeon Master.
  • Cooperate with the Dungeon Master and respect his decisions; if you disagree, present your viewpoint with deference to his position as game moderator. Be prepared to accept his decision as final and remember that not everything in the game will always go your way!
  • Cooperate with the other players and respect their right to participate. Encourage new and novice players by making suggestions and allowing them to make decisions on courses of action rather than dictating their responses.
  • If you are unable to participate in an adventure, give the other players and the DM some concrete guidelines if your character is going to be included in the adventuring group; be prepared to accept the consequences, good or bad, in any case.
  • Get in the spirit of the game, and use your persona to play with a special personality all its own. Interact with the other player characters and non-player characters to give the game campaign a unique flavor and "life". Above all, let yourself go, and enjoy!

Monster Manual

Within the covers of this book lurk the monsters that made the AD&D game famous. Elves, dwarves, dragons, orcs, ghosts, and werewolves come to life as you read their detailed descriptions. In fact, each individual listing has all the necessary information to perform special attacks, defenses and magical resistance. No adventurer can be without it!

This present work, as will be apparent from its sheer bulk alone, is the result of a considerable amount of work and preparation by many persons. All this has been undertaken with an eye toward providing a final result which can be regarded as the definitive collection of monsters for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons—an encyclopedic collection of information certain to be of invaluable use to players and Dungeon Masters alike, complete with game specifications, background details and, in many cases, with an illustration in addition! Of course, no work can be truly definitive, for as long as players possess an active imagination, many new and fascinating monsters will continue to arise—and this is only as it should be.

One final note: as valuable as this volume is with its wealth of information, some DMs may wisely wish to forbid their players from referring to the manual in the midst of an encounter, since it will be considerably more challenging to confront a monster without an instant rundown of its strengths and weaknesses—and besides, a D&D player's true mettle (and knowledge) will be put to the test. And as even the most casual D&D player knows, that's what this fascinating game is all about. . .

Read on, and enjoy!


And that's this month's look at what's coming out in the months ahead!

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.
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