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The Triumphant Return of Gamma World
And Other News
by Bill Slavicsek

Hi. I’m Bill Slavicsek, R&D Director for the Dungeons & Dragons brand. That means that all of the creative work behind D&D game products and novels is ultimately my responsibility. All of the game designers, developers, and editors working on our roleplaying games, boardgames, novels, and digital magazines work for me. I’m also a writer, editor, and game designer. Some of my recent work includes The Mark of Nerath novel, the Castle Ravenloft boardgame, and the Heroes of the Fallen Lands player book for the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials line of products. All of this puts me in a unique position to provide all kinds of sneak peeks and inside secrets behind all Dungeons & Dragons products. And that’s just what I do every month in this column.

This Month’s Releases

If you’re a fan of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, there are quite a few new items to check out this month. Here’s a quick run-down of the highlights.

For new players, as well as for long-time players with a fondness for nostalgia, we have a brand-new Dungeons & DragonsFantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set—also known as “The Red Box.” The Red Box appears just like the original version from the early 1980s, complete with cover art by the great Larry Elmore. Inside the Red Box, you’ll find everything you need to start playing the D&D game right now, including a solo adventure that guides you through the steps of character creation, a full-length adventure for a group of heroes, monster tokens, a poster map, and game dice. Check out this link to a previous column about the Red Box.

The Red Box kicks off the new line of Essentials products for D&D—a series that will eventually include 10 fundamental titles for all D&D players. The next in the line is Heroes of the Fallen Lands, a player book presented in a new digest-sized paperback format that features new versions of the classic character classes: cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard. These new builds are great for new players while also providing new options for players who have created characters from other D&D sources. Check here for more information about Heroes of the Fallen Lands.

The Rules Compendium presents all of the rules of the game in a single volume, and it is also presented in the new digest-sized form. It’s a portable source for adjudicating the rules of the game. Check out this link for a preview of the Rules Compendium.

Two other Essentials products release this month. There’s the Dungeon Tiles Master Set: The Dungeon, a boxed set filled with 10 sheets of Dungeon Tiles that can be used to construct encounters in the most iconic of D&D settings. And for those of you who need game dice, check out the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Dice set.

The new set of D&D Miniatures, Lords of Madness, debuts this month. Each booster pack includes one Huge figure. This might be the best set of miniatures we’ve ever produced, with such stand-out sculpts as the Fettered Dracolich, the Cloaker Ambusher, the Iron Golem Juggernaut, the Crownwing, and the Elder Copper Dragon. Check out some preview images from this set here.

And for those of you who like a good story, watch for Bruce Cordell’s Key of Stars, a new novel set in the Forgotten Realms. For younger readers (or anyone who likes a cool book), check out the Young Wizard’s Handbook: How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hand-On Activities for Monster Hunters. This jam-packed volume includes such useful information as how to put together a monster-hunting pack, how to make a scroll case, and how to catch a werewolf. I wish I had access to this book when I first started hunting monsters!

D&D On the Road

We were at the PAX show here in Seattle last weekend, running games, talking to fans, and having a great time. The highlight for us was our special area outside the convention center, where we did a little outdoor fair complete with a decorated tour bus, a life-size beholder, and a stage where we hosted contests including an ongoing D&D Spelling Bee. Could you have spelled Lolth? Drizzt? Tamoachan? There was also the continuing saga of Acquisitions, Inc. This amazing session was recorded and we’ll post it soon in case you weren’t at the live event.

D&D Celebrity Game Event

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At Gen Con this year, R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Larry Elmore participated in a live game event run by DM-to-the-Stars Chris Perkins. Follow this link to see how the adventure turned out.

Game Day This Weekend

Get to your local game store to participate in D&D Game Day on September 11. This special event celebrates the release of the new D&D Essentials products, including the “Red Box” Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game. You need to be at this event. I kid you not.

D&D Encounters

The new season of the awesome D&D Encounters program kicks off at your local game store on September 22. This time out, we’re presenting a retro adventure that harkens back to the very beginnings of the D&D game. Keep on the Borderlands features dungeons and dangers on the edge of the civilized parts of the Nentir Vale and uses elements from the new D&D Essentials products. You’re going to want a copy of Heroes of the Fallen Lands for this season—you’re going to need every advantage you can get to survive the terrors assaulting the Keep!

Gamma World Returns!

Coming next month, the return of the D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game! The new boxed set features all of the exhilarating energy of a post-apocalyptic world and all the craziness of mutations gone wild. The playtests have been a hit inside the halls of Wizards and at conventions this summer, and now you can get a copy of the game and try it for yourself. The game utilizes a version of the rules from the Dungeons & Dragons game but adds a fun twist with mutations and tech cards. You literally mutate as the adventure progresses!

Here’s a preview of some of what you’ll find in the boxed set. First, from the player’s section …

Roll Origin Roll Origin Roll Origin
1 Android 8 Gravity Controller 15 Radioactive
2 Cockroach 9 Hawkoid 16 Rat Swarm
3 Doppelganger 10 Hypercognitive 17 Seismic
4 Electrokinetic 11 Mind Breaker 18 Speedster
5 Empath 12 Mind Coercer 19 Telekinetic
6 Felinoid 13 Plant 20 Yeti
7 Giant 14 Pyrokinetic

Using Character Origins

Character origins provide traits, powers, and basic character appearance.

Traits: Mutant type identifies the primary ability score for the origin and the origin’s power source.

You gain a +2 bonus to overcharge rolls on Alpha powers that have the same power source as your primary origin. Each origin also shows the abilities you gain that are specific to your origin. You gain the traits from both of your origins. If two traits can’t be reconciled, you get only the trait of your primary origin.

Critical: Your origin also determines the special effect or bonus damage you gain when you score a critical hit. When you reach 2nd level, you get the critical benefit of one of your origins (your choice). At 6th level, you gain the critical benefit of your other origin, and both benefits apply when you score a critical hit.

Powers: You gain the powers of both origins as indicated on the Character Advancement table. At 1st level, you have the novice power for each of your origins.

Appearance: Your basic species and body form is determined or influenced by your origins. Your character “race” falls into one of five broad categories.

Rat Swarm

You’re a consciousness distributed across a swarm of squeaking vermin.

The actual nature of your swarm is based on your other origin. For instance, if your other origin is cockroach, hawkoid, or android, you might be a swarm of roaches, a swarm of bats, or a swarm of tiny, whirring robotic toys.

Appearance: Your body is composed of hundreds of small beings that swarm in a single square, though you usually cluster into a shape suitable for wearing clothing and wielding equipment and weapons using your many tiny hands.

Rat Swarm Traits
Mutant Type: Dexterity; Bio; +2 to bio overcharge.
Skill Bonus (Level 1): Gain a +4 bonus to Stealth checks.
Swarm Defense (Level 1): Gain resist 5 to all damage against melee and ranged attacks, and vulnerable 5 to damage from area and close attacks.
Crawling Mass (Level 1): You can’t be knocked prone.
Rat Swarm Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, the attack deals 1d10 extra damage, and the target takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls until the end of your next turn.

Rat Swarm Powers

Rat Swarm Novice
You swarm across your foe, biting it dozens of times as you tangle its limbs.
Encounter Bio, Physical
Standard Action Melee 1
Target: One creature
Attack: Dexterity + your level vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d8 + Dexterity modifier + twice your level physical damage, and the target is immobilized until the end of your next turn.

Cover More Ground
Rat Swarm Utility
You disperse across the ground and quickly reform in a tactically advantageous spot.
Encounter Bio
Move Action Personal
Effect: You shift a number of squares equal to your Dexterity modifier.

Death by a Thousand Bites
Rat Swarm Expert
You swarm around your foe, delivering a multitude of tiny bites that all result in bleeding wounds.
Encounter Bio, Physical
Standard Action Melee 1
Target: One creature
Attack: Dexterity + your level vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d10 + your Dexterity modifier physical damage.
Effect: At the start of your next turn, the target takes physical damage equal to three times your level.

And then, here’s a sample opponent from the Game Master’s section and examples of the cards …

Blaash (Gamma Moth)

Bright lights attract gamma moths, so put out those fires when camping near old missile craters and ruined nuclear reactors.

Fearless and carnivorous, these enormous mutated gypsy moths bring down prey with radiation, then hover over the corpses to feed. Black blaashes target victims with precise beams of radiation.

Black Blaash
Level 3 Artillery
Small terrestrial beast (insect)
XP 150
HP 40; Bloodied 20 Initiative +5
AC 17, Fortitude 16, Reflex 17, Will 14 Perception +1
Speed fly 6 (hover) Tremorsense 5
Immune radiation; Vulnerable 5 poison
O Radioactive Flux (radiation) Aura 1
Any creature within the aura experiences an Alpha flux on a d20 roll of 4 or lower.
Melee Wing Sweep (radiation) At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +6 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d6 + 6 radiation damage.
Ranged Radiation Beam (radiation) At-Will
Attack: Ranged 10 (one creature); +8 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d6 + 5 radiation damage, and the target is weakened (save ends). Each creature adjacent to the target takes 5 radiation damage.
Close Burst Radioactive Pulse (radiation) Encounter
Trigger: The blaash drops to 0 hit points.
Attack (No Action): Close burst 3 (enemies in burst); +6 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d6 + 3 radiation damage.
Str 12 (+2) Dex 18 (+5) Wis 11 (+1)
Con 16 (+4) Int 5 (–2) Cha 8 (+0)

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Until next month …

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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