Previews Archive | 2/1/2011
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February and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Before diving into the previews, which we've packed extra dense this month, I wanted to reiterate some of the information regarding the website. As mentioned last month, we're bringing weekly columns to the site, and they are designed to help formulate conversation between R&D and the player community.

The current schedule looks as follows (starting the week of Feb. 14):

Monday: Rule-of-Three
Tuesday: Legends & Lore
Wednesday: Design & Development
Thursday: The Dungeon Master Experience

Friday we're keeping open so that we can slot existing columns, try out new material and columns, and reserve for our ongoing efforts to find and publish the best content we can possibly deliver to you. Now, on to the previews, which this month include a land squid, a vampire, and a buffalo riding shotgun on the back of a lizard. (Something Gamma World must be releasing this month.)


February: Wrath of Ashardalon

Judge for yourself from the beauty shot: There's no small amount of components in this game! Of course, you already knew that from Castle Ravenloft if you've played that board game. Wrath of Ashardalon brings you new creatures (including the grell, duergar, gibbering mouther, and otyugh), as well as new elements, such as Chamber cards, Boon cards -- even innocent Villager cards (no doubt, in need of rescue).

In fact, let's run down the meaty list of components you'll find with the game:

  • 1 "Start" Dungeon Tile
  • 40 interlocking Dungeon Tiles
  • 5 Hero Figures (Blue)
  • 7 Villain Figures
  • 30 Monster Figures
  • 5 Hero Cards
  • 4 Villain Cards
  • 1 die
  • 200 Cards
  • 5 Sequence of Play Cards
  • 33 Treasure Cards
  • 50 Power Cards
  • 5 Adventure Cards
  • 53 Encounter Cards
  • 14 Chamber Cards
  • 4 Adventure Encounter Cards
  • 6 Boon Cards
  • 30 Monster Cards
  • 10 Condition Tokens
  • 7 Monster Tokens
  • 33 Treasure Tokens
  • 1 Wizard Eye Token
  • 3 Mirror Image Tokens
  • 3 Flaming Sphere Tokens
  • 1 Cleric's Shield Token
  • 5 Blade Barrier Tokens
  • 3 Caltrop Tokens
  • 5 Villager Tokens
  • 1 Gear Token
  • 5 Healing Surge Tokens
  • 5 Time Tokens
  • 9 Encounter Markers
  • 8 Closed Door Tokens
  • 10 Shield Markers
  • 1 Adventure Marker
  • 1 Item Marker
  • 1 Vast Gate Marker
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Adventure Book

We've already revealed a couple of sample scenarios ("The Mysterious Chamber" and "Free the Captives"). But what would the fun of those challenges be without the reward of much-earned treasure? So let's showcase a few of the new treasure items you'll find in the game.

In addition, it's time to reveal the man (that is, dragon) of the hour: Ashardalon. Think your gaming group has what it takes to bring him down?

As a quick note, we have a forthcoming Design & Development column from Peter Lee covering aspects of the game's creation. Also, if you're interested in making use of both board games, watch for scenarios that bridge Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon.


February: Fortune Cards: Shadow Over Nentir Vale

Last month, we showed a set of three Fortune Cards from the forthcoming set: Shadow Over Nentir Vale. We've also posted the rules for using the cards and building decks on the catalog page. In the near future, look for a complete deck list as well. (You'll want to know what cards are out there, after all.)

Here are three more cards, as well as your friendly reminder that the new season of D&D Encounters kicks off February 9th: March of the Phantom Brigade.


February: Gamma World Legion of Gold

We've introduced the concept of vocations, including their complete list and descriptions. Let's introduce one more: the beast rider. It's a good choice for several reasons. I remember the armored knight atop his podog as being perhaps most emblematic of the earlier Gamma World covers. The beast rider also gives us a chance to showcase the game's mounted combat rules, and later on we'll bring you vehicle combat rules as an online bonus.

For those of you making characters through the Gamma World interactive character sheet, we hope to have material from Legion of Gold added in the weeks ahead. Our thanks again to developer Mark Jindra for creating the character sheet!

Beast Rider

You live in the saddle as much as possible. You can ride any beast that has been specially trained to serve as a mount, whether it's an eight-legged horse, a lunar ostrich, or a podog.

Beast RiderGrade 1 Beast Rider Feat
Prerequisite: None
Benefit: You can ride a beast that is a mount. While you are mounted, your mount gains a +1 bonus to speed and AC.

TrampleGrade 2 Beast Rider Feat
Prerequisite: Beast Rider feat
Benefit: When you or your mount deals damage to an enemy with a melee attack, you can push the target 1 square.

Mounted DevastationGrade 3 Beast Rider Feat
Prerequisite: Beast Rider feat, Trample feat
Benefit: When you score a critical hit against a bloodied target while mounted, the attack deals 1d10 extra damage.

Although a land squid doesn't exactly qualify as a mount (though we think it should!), we nevertheless wanted to showcase the horrors inherent Legion of Gold!

Lornak

Yes, it's a giant land squid.

It's amazing what altered realities and radiation can do to an organism. Take something that should have never come out of the ocean depths, let alone walked on dry earth, add some radiation, mutations, and improbable probabilities becoming probable, and you get an unimaginable horror.

(1.0 Mbs PDF)

February: Sooner Dead

Visit the Great Plains of a shattered future, which went from a place where nothing ever happens to a place where anything can. The locals liked it better the old way, but this isn't your father's Oklahoma. This isn't even your father's Gamma World.

If you haven't picked up on the title's pun yet, Oklahoma is known as the Sooner State. What the heck is a sooner? Back in the day it referred to a settler who claimed land too early during the state's newly opened land rush. Perhaps that's what is taking place on the cover to this Gamma World novel (but we're guessing probably not).

Thunder rolled across the night sky and shivered through Hella as she leaned against the trees on the hillside. Rainwater gurgled as it raced along the ground beside her and joined the swift-moving creek fifty meters down. A hundred meters farther up the hill, in the cold camp in the Buckled Mountains where Hella and Stampede had bedded down the expedition, Daisy snuffled mournfully. The mountain boomer didn't like storms. She would be tired and miserable in the morning.

Hella smiled as she turned her face up to the sky, though. The thunder and lightning, the pouring rain, all of it combined to make her feel truly alive. She wondered if the storm made the creature stalking them feel the same way. She ran her fingers through her long, red hair and pulled it back.

The thing certainly wasn't afraid. It hadn't holed up during the rainstorm as a lot of predators would have.

(177 Kbs PDF)

March: Dungeon and Dragon Magazines

What's taking place in the magazines next month? Let's focus on Dungeon, for a change, where content includes a new adventure, a side trek across the Astral Sea, and a Demonomicon article:

Captive in a Crucible: We return to Elkridge, where yuan-ti cabalists summon a preternaturally colossal creature through a convergence of three ley lines. The heroes must determine how to stop the archfey, negotiate the Feywild breach through which the creature emerged, and figure out why it marches unerringly toward the Stormbolt Highlands.

The Devils' Due: Having dealt with numerous entities from across the planes of existence, Captain Aubren was flattered to be approached by a representative of the Nine Hells. J'drezz, a smooth-voiced devil representing "a client who would prefer to remain nameless," sought out the captain in the hopes that he would agree to transport goods of great rarity and greater value from Gleaming Undertaking's current port of call to a point across the Astral Sea where they were to be used to appoint a palace of great finery. There's just one catch: The cargo would have to be insured with Aubren's soul as collateral in the event any damage befalls the treasures.

Demonomicon of Iggwilv: The horrors disgorged by the Abyss are without end, and there seems to be no limit on the disturbing forms taken by the demons it spawns. Easily the most disgusting master to claim dominion over the unholy host is the being known as Juiblex. He is also called the Faceless Lord, He Who Slithers, the Unnamable One, Glistener, the Indescribable Darkness, and the Slick of Foulest Humors.


March: Sandstorm

Cephas has no memories of how he came to fight in the gladiatorial arena of the floating earthmote called the Island of the Free. All he knows of the world beyond, he has gleaned from stories the master of the games reads to his followers while Cephas waits in his cell for the next opponent -- opponents that include (judging from the gorgeous cover illo) a very ornery displacer beast.

As the novel begins, Corvus Nightfeather and his Circus of Wonders have watched the Island of the Free from a distance, piecing together its weaknesses and its defenses -- and watching with interest the young genasi gladiator whose feet have never once touched the earth.

Even in late spring, the only colors visible on the upland wall of the remote canyon of the Omlarandin Mountains were shades of red and brown. The vines that grew from cracks in the rock would flower soon, but then the petals would be a red so dark as to be nearly black, the color of blood drying on sand.

The enormous rocky fastness floating in midair out in the canyon was hewn from the same rock as the steep walls and was just as red. The goblins, bandits, and slaves swarming over it were dressed in leathers or rough hemp robes, so there was no color amid the rabble to distract the eye, either.

Nevertheless, from the deep cleft where he lay, spying on the earthmote, the old man took in everything with his blue eyes.

Seeing that nothing had changed out in the canyon since the last time he risked an observation, he closed his eyes to narrow slits again. This slight movement was the only motion he allowed himself.

The old man was confident that no one in the hidden floating village had the slightest inkling they were under his watch. He flattered himself that his stealth and quiet were such that he might as well have been invisible. He doubted, even, that he could have tracked himself, and Mattias Farseer was one of the finest trackers on the continent.

"Lovely perch you've found for yourself, old friend," said a voice from behind him.

(714 Kbs PDF)

March: Temple of Yellow Skulls

A mysterious cleric who claims allegiance to the Order of Vigilance, custodians of the Voidharrow, has come to the Nentir Vale in search of the last vigilant to have guardianship over the Voidharrow, which is a malefic crystalline liquid with the potential to alter the face of evil….

Following James Wyatt's five-part prelude (The Gates of Madness), we now come to the first novel in the Abyssal Plague trilogy. How does the plague manifest (a new affliction, born of the liquid Abyss)? You might consider the cover's monstrous transformation for a hint of the horrors that await.

Vestapalk burned.

He burned with rage. He burned with fever, and fever led him into dreams. Deep within his burning mind, he knew he dreamed, but the tighter he tried to grasp that knowledge, the deeper he slid into delirium. His thoughts condensed and faded like wisps of his venomous breath.

Except for two memories that rose in him again and again.

One was of the faces of the lesser creatures that had dared – dared -- to stand against mighty Vestapalk.

An eladrin wizard and a tiefling warlock. A member of the debased race that claimed to be "dragonborn." An undead thing that to dragon senses stank of ash and decay. A rat of a halfling.

The face that stood out most clearly in his fevered dreams, though, was the human female who had somehow slipped between his claws time and again. The human female whose sword had torn into Vestapalk's belly, unleashing a pain like nothing he had ever known.

Vestapalk will kill you all, he promised the visions. Vestapalk will drown you in his poison. Vestapalk will feast on your flesh. Vestapalk will savor the stinging flavor of your tainted meat!

The other memory burned deeper, burned with the savage heat of betrayal. He had been promised power. He had been promised transformation. The signs and omens had been clear. The Herald walked the land with the promise of a new age and the ascendancy of Vestapalk.

The future written in the blood and guts of beasts had guided him to the place of ancient tombs to make the meeting that would raise him above this world. But the Herald had not come. Vestapalk had found only his own end. Death circled like a cowardly scavenger of carrion, waiting for him to falter.

Vestapalk would not suffer its approach easily. In his dream, he raised his head to the shadows of the crevasse that might yet become his grave and roared, "Vestapalk will not be forsaken!"

And in the darkness, the Elemental Eye opened.

(464 Kbs PDF)

April: Heroes of Shadow

As a reminder, and for those of you who haven't heard the announcement, Heroes of Shadow has shifted release dates from March to April; in addition, it is now a 160-page hardcover. Also… there will be vampires.

Yes, vampires appear in the book as a new class: Fear of death, obsession with power, or poor luck can lead a character down the path of the bloodthirsty undead. One vampire is usually the spawn of another, but more than one vampire has awakened with no clue as to his or her origin.

As undead creatures, vampires naturally tap into the Shadowfell and its power. A vampire who wishes to be more than a monster fights against the heartless grip of his or her shadowy nature to retain a semblance of mortal values. Such an adventurer uses the sinister traits of his or her new form to fight against the hungry darkness that threatens the world.

Before we showcase the vampire's mechanics in the weeks ahead, we first wanted to show off a little of their concept art (from artist Alberto Dal Lago):


May: The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond

Still further out (but in the theme of shadow), there's the Shadowfell boxed set. It contains a 128-page book that presents the fully detailed city of Gloomwrought, a 32-page book of encounters set in Gloomwrought and beyond, two card stock sheets of die-cut monster and villain tokens, a foldout battle map, and a deck of 30 cards that DMs can use to add suspense to any Shadowfell-based adventure. We'll be previewing much of this in the days to come, including a look at some of the cards of Shadowfell's "despair deck," as well as new threats that include the best set of golems I've seen in a good, long while (I'm a sucker for golems) -- and a new exarch of the Raven Queen, known as the first of the sorrowsworn!

In the meantime, here is a look at the making of the cover image (from artist Tyler Jacobson):

Art Order: The illustration on the box depicts GLOOMWROUGHT, a city in the Shadowfell. It's important that we get a good look at the city. In the foreground, to one side, stands a young, darkly attractive MALE SHADAR-KAI ASSASSIN clutching a BLOODY GREATSWORD. At his feet lies the corpse of a slain SHADOWBORN DWARF, but we needn't see much of the dead dwarf except its dark form lying on the street. The shadar-kai is giving us a "What are you looking at?" stare -- deadly and dangerous. Magical FLOATING STREET LANTERNS provide dim illumination. On various building walls, we see glimpses of MONSTROUS SHADOWS, as if the city is crawling with unseen monsters.


Well, folks -- that's this month's sneak peeks. As always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand column for the earliest insights and announcements about the game.

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.