It's Gencon week, which means that for the next six days, the R&D Department is going to be only about half full. I'm one of the sad few staying behind, exercising my stiff upper lip and pretending that I have so much work to do that even if I'd been put on the travel list, I couldn't possibly afford the time away from my desk (which is true, by the way, but I'm hardly unique in that regard). Really, I'm looking forward to using this quiet, meeting-free time to gain ground on some of the tasks that have piled up on my desk since I stepped into this job, like answering email and reviewing article pitches.
Even without a trip to Indianapolis, August promises plenty of other excitement to keep my spirits up!
It starts off with today's fiction, "Lord of the Darkways," by Ed Greenwood.
We have our customary assortment of "Class Acts" and "Winning Races" entries, this month covering drow, gnomes, eladrin, bards, and sorcerers.
Bill Slavicsek and Mike Mearls reveal more of what you can expect from D&D Essentials. They'll be talking about this in Indianapolis, too, of course, but D&D Insiders will get information that won't be covered there. With four installments of "Ampersand" and three of "Design & Development," we can traverse a lot of ground: the fighter (slayer), Rules Compendium, DM's Kit, and Monster Vault all get detailed treatment.
But the really big news is Dark Sun, which hits the street (and the dealers' shelves at Gencon) running with the Campaign Setting, Creature Catalog, and Marauders of the Dune Sea, a terrific adventure by Bruce Cordell. We're backing that up with articles on playing Athasian templars and slaves, plus another Dark Sun adventure for everyone who just can't get enough of heat and trouble. One unofficial, seat-of-the-pants method for predicting the success of an upcoming product is counting how many friends ask for free copies. If that metric is at all reliable, then Dark Sun is going to be hot. I hope I can come up with enough books to satisfy everyone.
Finally, here's a loosely Dark Sun-related movie plug. I'm a sucker for adventure movies from the 1930s, with their lost worlds, nefarious villains and cults, stoic heroes, and monumental sets. Just recently on Netflix, I ran across the 1935 version of She, based on the classic story by H. Rider Haggard and produced by Meriam C. Cooper, who made the original King Kong just two years earlier. In She, a small team of explorers heads for the Arctic in search of a fabled 'flame of everlasting life.' The lost culture that they discover in a secret valley ringed by unscalable cliffs of ice isn't much like Athas in most ways. On the other hand, its art deco style is wonderfully alien and weird. The palace guards are daunting in their animal headdresses and leather harnesses. The high priest is both imposing and tragic. And of course, Queen Hash-A-Mo-Tep, "She Who Must Be Obeyed," is an early prototype of the all-powerful sorcerer-queen who achieves everlasting life at the cost of a portion of her humanity and sanity.
The acting is stiff, the choreography is flimsy, and the story is entirely familiar. Yet you should watch this movie for the amazing sets and costumes, the way it portrays a savage, alien culture, and the sheer adventure of it all.