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The Next Wave in Digital Offerings
Ampersand
by Bill Slavicsek

This month, I want to take some time to tell you about what’s coming up for our Dungeons & Dragons digital tools as well as the usual previews and product reminders. I’m also adding a new section to try to remind myself to inject some glimpses of the inner workings of R&D into the column. So, this column is going to fill up pretty quickly. Let’s get to it!

A Day in the Director’s Seat

I met this morning with James Wyatt, the D&D Creative Manager, to go over the various projects under his purview. That means that we talked about upcoming novels, the progress on the D&D Ravenloft roleplaying game (which I’ll begin showing off after the start of the new year), and a couple of other projects that we haven’t announced yet.

After that, Mike Mearls (D&D R&D Group Manager) and I met with Chris Tulach from Organized Play to discuss the next couple of seasons for D&D Encounters. We’re in the midst of an adventure centered around the Keep on the Borderlands, so make sure you head over to your local game store on Wednesday evenings to check it out. We brainstormed upcoming seasons, and we’re excited about where we’re taking the program. I’ll start previewing upcoming seasons over the next couple of columns.

Then the heads of a bunch of different departments crammed into one of our meeting rooms to formalize the go/no-go decision for the new version of the D&D Character Builder. The word went out earlier this week that the new digital tool will launch on November 16. I’ll talk more about this later in the column.

After a morning full of meetings, I finally had some time at my desk to work on this column, as well as on a number of other projects flowing across my desk. For example, I got to approve final art for the cover of an as-yet-unannounced product. I can’t tell you what this is for yet, but I can show off a small section of the art. This is the kind of stuff that makes the job so much fun to dive into every day.

Checking on email, I see that Laura Tommervick from the Brand Team, wants me to make sure that I remind all of you to follow us on Facebook. Become a fan today!

Finally, I had to make a proofing pass through a bunch of projects currently in Typesetting, including the upcoming Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell. My preview this month is straight out of this February release, and you can check it out below.

New Releases

In stores this month, look for the Beholder Collector’s Set. This limited edition product features four new beholder miniatures, including the ghost beholder and the eye of frost.

The second player’s book in the D&D Essentials line of products, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, debuts this month. It contains new builds for druid, paladin, ranger, and warlock character classes, as well as races such as dragonborn, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings.

Other D&D Essential products out this month include the Monster Vault and Dungeon Tiles Master Set: The City boxed sets. A cool feature of The City is that the box is gridded as rooftops, with the box top being shorter than the bottom so that you can lay out a few blocks of a 3-D city—just the thing for running a chase across the rooftops (which I did in last Thursday night’s D&D game).

Our partners at IDW are releasing the first issue of the Dungeons & Dragons comic next week. Written by John Rogers (screenwriter of Transformers and co-creator of the Leverage television series) and illustrated by Andrea Di Vito (artist for Marvel’s Thor and Nova), the story is set in and around Fallcrest—the town detailed in the Dungeon Master’s Kit. The story is a great D&D story while also having all the hallmarks of a John Rogers production—witty dialog, fast-moving action, the right amount of humor, and great characters. I heartily recommend this book!

Digital Horizons

It was a while ago that I told you that we wouldn’t over promise and under deliver anymore for D&D Insider and our digital endeavors. I know that it’s been frustrating for you to get only snippets of news here and there, and it’s certainly not fun for us to hold back information and not share with you the cool things that we’re working on. At the same time, I never want to get up in front of you again (live or via this column) and tell you that something is coming and then discover later that we just couldn’t deliver on the promise.

Well, here we are, finally with some news to share. Let’s start with the Character Builder.

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Perhaps the greatest thing that Wizards has accomplished in the digital arena, certainly since the launch of the new edition of D&D, is the Character Builder. Since the launch of this program, we’ve been working on a number of ways to improve both the tools and the experience. The first place we decided to make changes was to move from a client-based to a web-based tool set. We are moving to a web-based solution to make the tools accessible to multiple platforms. The web-based solution makes it easier for us to react to new technology opportunities, such as tablets and mobile devices. We also wanted to move to a solution that promotes individual account ownership and hinders piracy. Finally, we wanted a solution that would more easily interact with our community site and Facebook, for example.

We’ll launch the new Character Builder with a known issues list and FAQ, as well as with other roadmaps to highlight launch functionality and to lay out what we plan to do with future builds of the tool. Tool by tool, we’ll use the known issues lists and FAQs to make sure that there’s as little confusion as possible about what works, what we’d like to do in the future, and what we won’t be tackling in the near term.

There are five things I really, really like about the new Character Builder.

  1. It’s ultimately portable. I can use it on any computer or computer-like device, wherever I am.
  2. It’s both PC and Mac friendly. I can access it from either kind of machine.
  3. There are multiple character sheet options. I can pick an Essentials character sheet or a sheet that takes advantage of the digital medium, and we can add other versions of sheets as demand warrants.
  4. The user interface is better. We’ve learned a lot, tested a lot, and made a tool that is easier to navigate and use.
  5. Content filters are better. The D&D game is loaded with content, and the new Character Builder offers lots of ways to filter that content for you. You can make choices up front to limit the amount of information you’re bombarded with, and you can add more elements later as your play style and game mastery demands.

OK, there are six things.

  1. More agile. The new tools allow us to respond faster to customer needs. We can make updates and changes to the system more quickly, and the new content is pushed live almost instantaneously—content updates just happen, with no downloads required.

No, wait. Seven.

  1. Dark Sun and Essentials. The new tool includes options so that you can create characters using the Dark Sun Campaign Setting and Heroes of the Fallen Lands as well as with material from all products already loaded into the previous tool. And more content is on the way.

So, if you’re a D&D Insider, check out the new Character Builder starting on Nov. 16. If you’re not a D&D Insider yet, there will be demonstration videos available to show you what the new Character Builder can do.

Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell Preview

Here’s some of the introductory material and a glimpse of the fighter class, as presented in the upcoming Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell. Look for the complete entry when the product releases in February.


Introduction

Heroes in the Dungeons & Dragons game come in many different forms. Some are bold warriors, some are stealthy scouts, and some are masters of arcane or divine powers. Even in the same class, heroes might embrace any number of different paths or methods as they master their abilities and gain new powers. A fighter might be a noble knight, a brutal slayer, or a canny weaponmaster. A rogue might be a daring thief, or a dangerous scoundrel armed with a grab bag of deadly tricks and techniques. Your character could follow any of these paths, or you can define a unique blend of powers and abilities all your own.

The Dungeons & DragonsEssentials rulebooks Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms presented new versions of classic heroes such as the fighter, cleric, rogue, and wizard. Class Compendium provides revisions and updates for the versions of these classes that were originally presented in the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook, and integrates them with the class material found in the Dungeons & DragonsEssentials rulebooks. Class Compendium also includes an updated version of the warlord, which has not yet appeared in the Essentials rulebooks, and provides the most current updates to many powers, features, and feats for these classes.

About This Book

Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell is a Dungeons & Dragons supplement designed for players. It presents the rules you need to build characters of five popular classes: cleric, fighter, rogue, warlord, and wizard. It doesn’t include descriptions of character races, skills, or equipment—you’ll need Heroes of the Fallen Lands or Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, to complete your character. Rules Compendium provides the complete, most up-to-date rules for the game. If you’re new to the Dungeons & Dragons game, you should begin with the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set. It contains the basic rules of the game, dice, counters, and a starting adventure to kick off your game experience. When you’re done with the starter set, you’ll be ready to create new characters using Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, or Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell.

The Classes

This book provides all the information you need to create and play characters of five distinct Dungeons & Dragons classes: cleric, fighter, rogue, warlord, and wizard. A brief description of each class follows; you’ll find the full presentations later in this book. Each class description begins with an explanation of the class’s background and abilities, and includes step-by-step advice for creating a character of that class.

Using This Book with Other Rulebooks

The game options presented in this book are designed to work with the options in other Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks.

Powers: When you are instructed to choose a power of a particular type and level for your character, you can select the power either from this book or from another source that includes powers of that type and level. For example, if you are playing a weaponmaster fighter and are instructed to choose a 2nd-level fighter utility power, you can choose that power from this book or from a book such as Heroes of the Fallen Lands, which includes 2nd-level fighter utility powers in the sections for the knight fighter and the slayer fighter.

Feats, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies: When you choose a feat, a paragon path, or an epic destiny, you can make your choice from any source, as long as your character meets the prerequisites.

Fighter

Why This Is the Class for You: You like playing a character who can stand up to attacks and give back what you get.

Fighters are among the world’s greatest warriors, having earned their status through hours upon hours of training and perfecting their fighting techniques. In battle, fighters hold the front line by slashing and striking in all directions, deflecting blows with shield or armor, and bashing anyone who dares take their focus from them. Fighters might be mercenaries, chasing after gold, thrill-seekers craving glory, nobles fighting for duty or honor, or brawlers throwing themselves into battle to experience the joy of combat.

Determination forms the core of nearly all fighters. It is what pushes them to hone their combat styles, what lets them endure the scrapes and bruises from sparring and actual fighting. Many fighters develop a distinctive style to set them apart from their peers. Sometimes these styles have roots in established traditions, while others grow organically from a variety of methods picked up during their travels.

Fighters are indispensible members of any community in which they are found. They rally the people and make a stand against the terrors stumbling out from the darkness on all sides. Some heroes rise from the ranks of common warriors, having the right mix of grit and courage to rise above the ordinary. Others have studied under masters, learning complex techniques they can bring to bear with great success. Once a fighter gets a taste of combat, adventure’s call is too seductive to resist, and many set out to bring the battle to foes in the field. The knight, the slayer, and the weaponmaster are three types of fighters. The knight and the slayer appeared in Heroes of the Fallen Lands. The weaponmaster first appeared in the Player’s Handbook as the fighter.

Weaponmaster

Martial Defender: Tough and resilient, you use tactical cunning and battle prowess to contain the enemy and protect your allies.

Key Abilities: Strength; Dexterity, Wisdom, or Constitution Into the blackest pits beneath the mountains, bent on vengeance and glory, goes the weaponmaster. These warriors form the iron core of any legion. They crash into the teeth of enemy forces, armed with cold steel and grim purpose. They are the mercenaries loitering in taverns between expeditions, the guards who cast a watchful eye over their charges, the weapon masters who elevate fighting styles to lethal arts. The weaponmaster is a fearless warrior, ready to meet any challenge.

Weaponmasters can be found just about anywhere and among any sort of people. A few are gallant warriors fighting for noble causes, while others are calculating mercenaries who draw their weapons only when the pay is right. All weaponmasters, however, are adventurers, ready to face any challenge, to go where glory, plunder, or honor leads them.

Specialized combat maneuvers, or exploits, combined with a dedicated focus on a fighting style set weaponmasters apart from other fighters. A weaponmaster can slam his or her weapon through one enemy to crunch into another or carve a bloody path through enemies in a whirlwind of destruction. Weapons are crucial too, since weaponmasters know how to coax every advantage they can from their tools, and those who use axes fight differently from those who favor heavy blades. Compared to a knight or a slayer, a weaponmaster focuses on a broader variety of tactics and combat styles. While a knight or a slayer has fairly predictable, though still formidable, abilities, each weaponmaster cultivates a unique blend of specific maneuvers and abilities.

Weaponmasters develop their combat prowess in many different ways. Most have some elementary training to expose them to different weapons and armor. These trainees are often squires, militia, students, and soldiers. Once they’re cut free, they grow their ability through practice and observation. Each battle proves instructive, giving the weaponmaster new insights that might develop into fullblown techniques.

Weaponmaster Class Traits

Hit Points: You start with hit points equal to 15 + your Constitution score. You gain 6 hit points each time you gain a level.
Bonus to Defenses: +2 to Fortitude
Healing Surges per Day: 9 + your Constitution modifier
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale; light shield, heavy shield
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged, military ranged
Class Skills: Athletics (Str), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Streetwise (Cha)
Trained Skills: Three from the list of class skills

Heroic Weaponmaster

At the heroic tier’s beginning, you have mastered a few forms and maneuvers. As you progress, you discover new methods to help shape your unique fighting style.

HEROIC WEAPONMASTER
Total XP Level Feats Known Class Features and Powers
0 1 1 Combat Challenge
Combat Superiority
Fighter Weapon Talent
At-will Powers
Daily Power
1,000 2 +1 Utility power
2,250 3 Encounter Power
3,750 4 +1 Ability score increase
5,500 5 Daily Power
7,500 6 +1 Utility power
10,000 7 Encounter Power
13,000 8 +1 Ability score increase
16,500 9 Daily Power
20,500 10 +1 Utility power

Level 1: Combat Challenge

You are a weaponmaster, a warrior who commands the battlefield through prowess and unwavering resolve. Each attack demonstrates your talent and the danger you pose if an enemy ignores you. Whenever an enemy tries to disengage or attack someone else, your swift strike demonstrates why doing that was a terrible mistake.

Benefit: Every time you attack an enemy, you can choose to mark that enemy, whether the attack hits or misses. The mark lasts until the end of your next turn. In addition, whenever an enemy marked by you is adjacent to you and shifts or makes an attack that does not include you as a target, you can make a melee basic attack against that enemy as an immediate interrupt.

Level 1: Combat Superiority

You have highly developed combat instincts, born from experience in battle and excellence at arms. You can take any opening your opponent gives you, striking with speed and precision. Those struck realize their error and turn to face you, almost without fail.

Benefit: You gain a bonus to the attack rolls of opportunity attacks. The bonus equals your Wisdom modifier. An enemy hit by your opportunity attack stops moving, if a move provoked the attack. If the enemy still has actions remaining, it can use them to resume moving.

Level 1: Fighter Weapon Talent

All fighters are adept with weapons, from blades to hammers, axes to spears, and everything in between. You focus your training on your preferred combat technique. You might favor the defensive benefits from weapons and shield, or you might opt for the raw power of a two-handed weapon.

Benefit: Choose either one-handed or two-handed weapons. When using a weapon of your chosen style, you gain a +1 bonus to weapon attack rolls.

Level 1: At-Will Powers

Weaponmasters demonstrate their preferred fighting styles through the modifications they make to standard strikes, jabs, and feints. At 1st level, you develop two exploits you can rely on in any fight you find yourself.

Benefit: You gain two 1st-level fighter at-will attack powers of your choice.

Cleave
When faced with great numbers, such as when you’re fighting goblins, kobolds, and other lesser creatures, it’s often best to sweep them aside with your mighty strikes. Cleave lets you bash through one enemy and sink your weapon into another.

Cleave
Fighter Attack 1
You hit one enemy, then cleave into another.
At-Will Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and an enemy adjacent to you other than the target takes damage equal to your Strength modifier.
Level 21: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage.

Reaping Strike
You demonstrate your battle prowess through the feints and jabs you make to keep an enemy guessing. When you can ill afford to waste an attack, reaping strike is the answer. Even as the enemy evades your most powerful attack, it does not emerge unscathed.

Reaping Strike
Fighter Attack 1
You punctuate your scything attacks with wicked jabs and small cutting blows that slip through your enemy’s defenses.
At-Will Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Level 21: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Miss: Half Strength modifier damage. If you’re wielding a two-handed weapon, you deal damage equal to your Strength modifier.

Level 1: Encounter Power

The more complicated the exploit, the fewer the opportunities you have to use it. As part of your initial training, you master a challenging attack that you can bring to bear only once in any battle.

Benefit: You gain a 1st-level fighter encounter attack power of your choice.

Covering Attack
Although you work to prevent it, enemies manage to get around you from time to time. Covering attack is useful for creating an opportunity for an ally to escape an enemy’s clutches. If such a need reveals itself, you can launch into a terrifying assault to wrench your foe’s attention away from your companion and place it on you where it belongs.

Covering Attack
Fighter Attack 1
You launch a ferocious attack at your enemy, allowing one of your allies to safely retreat from it.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage, and an ally of yours adjacent to the target can shift up to 2 squares as a free action.

Passing Attack
Weaponmasters who prefer two-handed weapons learn to take advantage of their weight. A swing with such a heavy weapon can carry you forward to bring your weapon against a different enemy. Since the second attack depends on striking with the first, passing attack is best started against a brute or a lightly armored enemy, especially when you are trying to reach a different enemy your foe is protecting.

Passing Attack
Fighter Attack 1
You strike at one foe, allowing your momentum to carry you forward into a second strike against another enemy.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Primary Target: One creature
Primary Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you can shift 1 square. Make the secondary attack.
Secondary Attack
Secondary Target:
One creature other than the primary target
Attack: Strength + 2 vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage.

Level 1: Daily Power

The deadliest techniques you master require timing, opportunity, and willpower. The moments when all three conditions are right don’t appear more than once in a day.

Benefit: You gain a 1st-level fighter daily attack power of your choice.

Brute Strike
You draw on all your fury and all your training to deliver a punishing attack to an enemy. This fury does not abate until your weapon smashes through your enemy.

Brute Strike
Fighter Attack 1
You deliver a powerful blow that rends flesh and shatters bone.
Daily Martial, Reliable, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage.

That’s it for this month. Until next time, keep playing!


In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon Magazine.

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