Previews Archive | 4/5/2013
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April: In the Works
Previews
Bart Carroll

O nce more we sing the praises of April Fool's Day!

In years past, we've been glad to share our practical jokes, from the announcement of the My Little Ponies RPGs, to the line of D&D Papercraft Minis, or last year with our "new" writer's guidelines. . .

We've also had our fun offering some of the more lighthearted content of the year, such as the Fool's Grove delve, featuring the Gnome and his pet badger Francis, Penny Arcade's Witchalok class, or even our old Pole Arm Quiz (part of a series, along with the Adventure Quiz and Monster Quiz).

This year, we opted for more of the lighthearted route. We hope you enjoyed our bits of levity—and in case you missed any of them:

As always, we appreciate your visiting the website on April 1st—and on every other day of the year. Now let’s move on to news regarding the products and events taking place in the days ahead!

1. Events


D&D Encounters: Storm over Neverwinter

The next D&D Encounters is right around the corner—starting April 10th, to be exact. Ah, poor Neverwinter. The frontier city has persevered in the face of calamity. Yet even as the city rebuilds, an insidious threat rises from within its walls. Neverwinter’s citizens are succumbing to an inexplicable madness, while from the shadows, an evil cult of Asmodeus spins sinister plans. Unless a group of heroes rises to stop these perils, Neverwinter might face an even greater danger on the horizon.

Like our previous season, Against the Cult of Chaos, Storm over Neverwinter includes an optional online component, which allows players and Dungeon Masters to convert the adventure to the D&D Next playtest.

Background: Against the Cult of Chaos

So after you decide on your play method, what can you expect in this D&D Encounters season? Here's a hint of this season's backstory:

Despite Lord Neverember’s success, much of the city remains untamed and wild, and danger lurks in cracks and crannies. A contingent of Thayans is the most obvious threat to Neverwinter, but rumors speak of werebeasts in the sewers, shades in the great forest to the east, and a powerful devil cult: the Ashmadai.

Meanwhile, a fearsome storm is rolling in—one that will test the rebuilt city of Neverwinter to its limits.

Session 1: Lady in Peril

April 10th starts this season with character creation (Session 0). The following week, April 17th, then sees your characters taking refuge from the rain in the Moonstone Mask, a popular inn built on an earthmote that floats just off the west cliff of the Protector’s Enclave.

The weather grows ominous in the city of Neverwinter, heralding a fearsome tempest that is brewing a few leagues off the coast. Sages in the city predict that the storm will arrive in full force within days, and already resources are stretched to their limit to prepare for the coming deluge. Like many people, you have sought shelter from the inclement weather in one of Neverwinter’s inns. . . .

And from there, the adventure begins!

Next D&D Encounters: Search for the Diamond Staff

For a peek ahead, the June/July D&D Encounters season concerns the Diamond Staff of Chomylla—an artifact with the power to unlock the mysteries of an ancient elven civilization.

The diamond staff has at long last been found—but when orcs steal this artifact, it’s up to a group of heroes to stop them. Why orcs should want the staff is anyone’s guess, and the quest to find the truth might well lead the adventurers across the Dalelands and into the depths of the lost library-vaults of Uvaeren. Written by industry veteran and author, Richard Baker!


D&D Lair Assault: Into the Pit of Madness

For those gamers looking for a more challenging mega-encounter, there's still time to take part in the final D&D Lair Assault.

Into the Pit of Madness sees mad cultists locating the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun—and sounding the dark god’s iron horn, the Wailer of Tharizdun. Now the ground trembles as the Chained God’s aspect struggles to escape. When it does, the Chained God will follow, plunging the world into Eternal Darkness.

Background: Into the Pit of Madness

For as long as mortals have walked the world, a dark shadow has loomed over the Yatil Mountains. Here the Witch Queen Iggwilv penned the Demonomicon and reigned over an empire so terrible and so wicked that the lands around were forever changed. Yet hers is not the worst legacy of those who have claimed these peaks as their home. A temple to the dark god—the Chained God, He of Eternal Darkness—has stood somewhere in these mountains since before humans founded their first kingdom. Its influence has long lured the insane, the cruel, and the vile to its shadowy corridors.

Many times in its history the temple has risen in power, and many times it has fallen. The last time, courageous heroes sacked it, bringing down its blasphemous altars and putting the twisted monsters lurking there to the sword and spell. As thorough as their work was, however, it was not enough, for a new cult has uncovered the ruins and is freeing the Chained God from his prison.

The cultists located the dread Wailer of Tharizdun, the instrument designed to open the Way to Darkness. They have sounded this horn, made sacrifices, and stand ready to greet their master . . . unless the heroes can stop them first.

What's Next?

Again, this will be the final D&D Lair Assault, so take part while you still can! If you missed out on the announcement, you should know that although this is the final challenge in the D&D Lair Assault program, we're hard at work developing ideas for incorporating this type of super-challenging play as a component in our future Organized Play experiences. Currently, we're focused on constructing our programs, and we'll continue to give you great weekly adventures through D&D Encounters while we're busy building behind the scenes.

In fact, we're going to try out something new this year, using the D&D Lair Assault experience as well as some past convention events as inspiration for our first multiple table cooperative D&D Game Day, taking place on June 15th this year! It's called Vault of the Dracolich, and if you love D&D Lair Assault or taking part in larger-scale events where you can affect changes in real time, you're going to love this, too. We'll have a lot more details in April regarding this play experience.

2. Books


Audio Books

To reiterate our announcement, Audible.com has now established their D&D Audio Book page, with new titles being added every week! As a quick peek ahead, here are the R.A. Salvatore titles that you can expect to see added to Audible.com:

Legend of Drizzt: Dark Elf Trilogy
Homeland: March 26
Exile: April 9
Sojourn: April 23

Legend of Drizzt: Icewind Dale Trilogy
The Crystal Shard: May 7
Stream of Silver: May 21
The Halfling's Gem: June 4

Cleric Quintet
Canticle: June 18
In Sylvan Shadows: July 2
Night Masks: July 16
The Fallen Fortress: July 30
The Chaos Curse: August 13

And of course, there are many more titles to follows, from R.A. Salvatore and our other authors throughout the year!


Comic Books

As announced, this April, Dungeons & Dragons: Cutter, written by R.A. and Geno Salvatore with art by David Baldeon and covers by Steve Ellis, weaves the tale of a family fiercely divided and at odds with itself, with a legendary sword hanging in the balance.

When the battle-hardened Drow renegade Tos'un must choose an heir to his legacy, his half-Drow son Tierflin and daughter Doum'weille become locked in vicious competition. But what will the prize, the bloodthirsty sword Khazid'hea, have to say on the matter?

Find out more at IDW. Until the official release date of April 10, IDW has also provided the following preview of the series.


Novels and eBooks

May: Elminster Enraged: The Sage of Shadowdale

By Ed Greenwood

Commanded by the vestige of Mystra to work together, Manshoon and Elminster engage instead in a ferocious battle that sends the Sage plummeting into the Underdark as a cloud of ashes. Elminster soon inhabits the body of a fallen dark elf, so that he can begin carrying out Mystra's orders to rally Cormyr's Wizards of War, seek blueflame items to mend immense rifts throughout the realms that are releasing deadly monsters, and prevent the ancient Primordials from rising and unleashing their rage.

But his sworn archenemy, Manshoon, has plans as well: to conquer Cormyr and be the new Emperor, and hunt down the Sage's clones. The battles are fierce, the stakes have never been higher, and the fate of Cormyr is on the line. Meanwhile, War Wizards are being mysteriously assassinated . . .


July: Stone of Tymora

By R.A. Salvatore

Is a stone that makes you forever lucky a blessing? Or a curse?

Adventure aboard Captain Deudermont’s Sea Sprite and follow the trail of the demon who is intent on destroying the luckstone inherited by one unlucky orphan. Featuring the sage wisdom of R.A. Salvatore’s best-selling character Drizzt Do’Urden, the Stone of Tymora is packed with action, magic, intrigue, and a heart-stopping twist that Salvatore fans won’t want to miss.

Originally published as a trilogy for teens, this single volume, redesigned in a handsome adult package with a brand-new cover, is a must-have for adult Salvatore fans!


The Sundering

Announced in our Gen Con Keynote address (and later seminars, The Sundering is a major story event designed to revive the Forgotten Realms. In its specific expressions, it will include six major hardcover novels, written by the most popular and talented Forgotten Realms authors (R.A. Salvatore, Paul Kemp, Erin M. Evans, Richard Lee Byers, Troy Denning, and Ed Greenwood) and released every other month from August 2013 to June 2014. Each novel will tell a self-contained story featuring both new and well-loved characters, set against the background of the unfolding events that are reshaping the world.

August: The Companions: Sundering #1

By R.A. Salvatore

This latest installment in New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore's beloved fantasy saga, The Companions moves Salvatore's signature hero Drizzt into a new era of the Forgotten Realms. As Drizzt's fate hangs in the balance, he reflects on the lives of the trusted allies who stood by his side throughout his early life—the friends now known as the Companions of the Hall. Meanwhile, the first stirrings of the Sundering begin.

October: The Godborn: Sundering #2

By Paul S. Kemp

We've recently added the second book of the multi-author Sundering series to the product catalog—with the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale living on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.

Living in a remote abbey nestled among the Thunder Peaks of Sembia, Vasen is haunted by dreams of his father, trapped in the frozen hell of Cania. He knows the day will come when he must assume his role in the divine drama unfolding across Faerûn. But Vasen knows not what that role should be . . . or whether he is ready to take it on. He only knows what his father tells him in dreams—that he must not fail.

Enter Drasek Riven, a former compatriot of Erevis Cale, now near divine and haunted by dreams of his own—he too knows the time to act is near. Shar, the great goddess of darkness, looks to cast her shadow on the world forever. Riven has glimpsed the cycle of night she hopes to complete, and he knows she must be stopped.

At the crossroads of divine intrigue and mortal destiny, unlikely heroes unite to thwart the powers of shadow and hell, and the sundering of worlds is set on its course.

December: The Adversary: Sundering #3

By Erin M. Evans

And then in the third book of the Sundering series, the award-winning Erin M. Evans throws her signature character Farideh into a maelstrom of devilish politics and magical intrigue. Captured by Netherese agents and locked away in a prison camp, Farideh quickly discovers her fellow prisoners are not simply enemies of Netheril, but people known as Chosen who possess hidden powers, powers that Netheril is eager to exploit—or destroy.

As Farideh’s friends and sister race across the landscape on a desperate rescue mission, Farideh is drawn deeper into the mystery of the Netherese plot alongside two undercover Harper agents. But will her closest ally turn out to be an adversary from her past?

3. RPGs


April: 3.5 Premium Spell Compendium

Pockets full of bat guano, incomprehensible speech, and twisted hands making bizarre gestures—it sounds crazy (as written in the book's introduction), but in the Dungeons & Dragons game, these are the earmarks of power, for they are the signs of spellcasting. Spells and spellcasters form a cornerstone of fantasy, and the Spell Compendium builds on that cornerstone by presenting over a thousand spells in one place.

The 3.5 Edition Premium Spell Compendium collects the most popular spells in the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome. This premium reprint, as with our past reprints, also features an attractive new cover and includes errata.

If you missed the original release of this valued tome, this book puts over a thousand spells at your fingertips. As the book itself suggests, the simplest way to introduce the spells in this book to your character or your campaign is to have a character choose them and cast them in play. You can assume that spellcasters always possessed the ability to cast the spells, but they simply hadn’t been cast in the presence of the characters before. Alternatively, spells might be discovered in lost books of lore or newly created by a player character or nonplayer character. Wands, scrolls, and other magic items also present great ways to introduce the spells you want your character to cast or you want to see cast by your players’ characters.

In today's sample spell, we look at beget bogun—including stats for these tiny constructs for druids.

(183 Kbs PDF)

May: 2nd Edition Premium Reprints

Following the 1st Edition premium reprints, it's almost time for 2nd Edition to receive the same treatment and attention! Originally released in 1989 (with the Monstrous Manual replacing the Compendium binders in 1993), 2nd Edition advanced and expanded the game—and with its re-release in premium format, we turn to Zeb Cook's foreword to the edition for a much better introduction:

It has been a long time getting here. I don’t mean the months, perhaps even years, you may have waited for a revised, expanded, and improved edition of the AD&D game. I mean the long time it has taken me to reach this point, the writing of the foreword. Forewords are written last, so that you can summarize your feelings and experiences about the book you have written.

It’s not accurate to say this is a book that I alone have written. First off, there are a lot of other names listed in the credits. They, especially the developers, contributed time and talents that I don’t have. Improving the organization and readability was one of the reasons we started this project in the first place. These are tasks that can’t be done without talented developers and editors who play and care about the game. If you discover that it’s easier to find rules during your gaming sessions and that everything seems to make more sense, thank them.

Even with the editors, this is not our work alone. None of this would ever have come into being without interested and involved players. The people who really decided what needed to be done for the AD&D 2nd Edition game are the players who mailed in questions, everyone who wrote an article for Dragon Magazine, and everyone who button-holed me (or other designers) at conventions. These were the people who decided what needed to be done, what needed fixing, what was unclear, and what they just didn’t like. I didn’t sit in a vacuum and make these decisions. As the designer, I had to make the final choice, but those choices were based on your input. And your input is the most valuable asset we have going.

So how do I feel? Excited, exhausted, relieved, and nervous—all at once. It’s a great bag of emotions. I’m excited to see this book come out. I’ve spent more time on this than I have on any other single work I’ve done. That leads to exhaustion. The AD&D 2nd Edition game has demanded and received hours upon months of attention. Now that it is finally coming out, the feeling of relief is beginning to set in. There were times when the task looked impossible, when it seemed it would never end, or when everything was going wrong. Only now, when it’s in the final stages of polishing, am I beginning to realize that it is really done. And of course there is the nervousness. The AD&D game is the granddaddy of all role-playing games. You’ve made it perfectly clear that you liked the original edition of the AD&D game, even with all its warts. I liked (and still like) it. So, now with the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, of course I’m nervous.

None of this comes as any surprise. I volunteered to prepare this Edition because I wanted to do something for the game I liked. The ten years of experience I’ve had in game design has shown me what works and what doesn’t and sometimes even why. At the very start, we outlined the goals: to make it easier to find things, to make the rules easier to understand, to fix the things that did not work, to add the best new ideas from the expansions and other sources, and, most important of all, to make sure the game was still the one you knew and enjoyed. Of them all, the last was the hardest and most demanding, conflicting as it did with my basic desire to design things. Fortunately, things didn’t rest on me alone. Lots of eager eyes, from those of fellow designers to those of enthusiastic playtesters, minutely examined this book and restrained me from overzealousness. It hasn’t always been easy to walk the fine line between “not enough” and “too much.”

In the past two years, I’ve talked to interested players many times, hearing their concerns and sharing my ideas. It was at the end of one of these talks (at a convention in Missoula, Montana), just as I described some rules change, that one of the listeners smiled and said, “You know, we’ve been doing that for years.” And that is what AD&D 2nd Edition is all about—collecting and organizing all those things that we, as players, have been doing for years.

May: 2nd Edition Premium Reprint: Player's Handbook

May: 2nd Edition Premium Reprint: Dungeon Master's Guide

May: 2nd Edition Premium Reprint: Monstrous Manual


June: Against the Slave Lords

In March, Dungeons of Dread collected the "S" series of adventurers together into a complete, hardcover collection. Now in June, Against the Slave Lords collects the classic "A" series—originally used in the D&D Open Tournament at Gen Con XIII.

Against the Slave Lords is comprised of A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity, A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade, A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, and A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords—complete with original black-and-white interior art. In addition, it includes an all-new fifth adventure, A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, which was designed for levels 1–3 and sets the stage for events that unfold throughout the remainder of the "A" series.

If you're not familiar with the "A" series, the original background presents the opening threat of the Slave Lords!

Background: For several years, organized bands of pirates and slavers have made a living by raiding the coastal towns on the Sea of Gearnat. Ranging from Onnwal to the Wild Coast, they have descended quickly and ruthlessly on the small towns and villages, and carried off innocent citizens into the night. Although these marauders were not approved of by the lords and rulers of the lands they raided, they were allowed to continue their depredations. Feuding amongst the lords and lack of funds prevented all but an occasional naval battle with the villains and the slow fortification of towns. Bribery was often a more effective method of protecting one’s lands from the incursions of these avaricious sea-wolves.

Recently, however, the slavers’ attacks have become more frequent and vicious. Believing their prey to be weak and helpless, the raiders have burnt entire villages and pulled down the walls of towns. Women, children, and whole families have disappeared; and though bribes are accepted, the agreements are ignored. Vast tracts of coastline have been reduced to ashes, left barren except for packs of wild dogs.

The lords have finally become determined to take action, forgetting their petty squabbles to unite against the marauders of the yellow sails. Through information gained from escaped slaves, and those fortunate enough to have been found and bought by families or friends, the lords have traced the slavers to a port from which they launch their swift attacks on the coast—the despoiled city of Highport in wasted Pomarj. Some who have lost kin and fortune to the reavers have advised taking a fleet and crushing the outpost, but cooler heads have prevailed. They have pointed out that such a base is undoubtedly well-defended and that the slavers, if alarmed, might arrange that loved ones and kin are never seen again. Instead, they have chosen a plan of stealth.

Several bands of adventurers have been gathered together and will be sent to infiltrate the base and destroy the leaders of this evil band. Caution is recommended, for the true strength and extent of this slave ring is not known, but they seem to be stronger and better organized than encounters with their small raiding parties would indicate.


July: 3.5 Premium Magic Item Compendium

Magic items—as originally written in the book's introduction—are an integral part of the Dungeons & Dragons game experience. As long as D&D has been around, there have been +1 swords and potions of healing—they’re as inextricably linked with the game’s identity as 18th-level fighters and magic missile spells. Every fighter saves up for his first magic weapon, and no one who’s played a paladin hasn’t dreamed about what it would be like to wield a holy avenger.

Magic items also make up a crucial part of every D&D character’s array of abilities. A magic weapon can slice through a creature’s damage reduction, a ring of protection diverts otherwise deadly attacks, and a handy potion or scroll can tip the balance in a critical encounter. A character without magic items is like a wizard with only half her spells prepared or a fighter who hasn’t bothered to select all his feats—he’s simply incomplete.

But compared to spells and feats, magic items haven’t received very much “quality time” in the current edition of the game [Ed: remember, this was written for the original 3.5 Edition of the book]. Not only are they scattered across dozens of books with little sense of organization or theme, but their effects are often poorly defined and they’re frequently—some might even say usually—overpriced or underwhelming. As a result, only a handful of magic items are actually widely used, ranging from the humble +1 longsword to the renowned ring of invisibility.

That’s no longer the case….

The 3.5 Edition Premium Magic Item Compendium, as with our previous reprints, features an attractive new cover and includes errata. As further stated in the intro, the book looked to usher in a brave new world of magic items to 3.5 Edition—a world with clearly defined effects and activation times, with interesting items at every price point, and with exciting, aggressively priced options for every class and character level. Combining hundreds of revised and re-priced items from previous sources with a wagonload of brand-new, never-before-seen-or-even-imagined magic items, this book was positioned as your D&D character’s key to the candy store.

For instance, just check out the revamped armor and weapon properties in Chapters 1 and 2. Marvel at all the swift-action-activation gloves, boots, and belts in Chapter 3. Drool over the handy adventuring tools in Chapter 4, and imagine how cool your character will look when he or she is decked out in one of the item sets in Chapter 5. And that doesn’t even cover the book’s exciting new take on relics, the immensely handy augment crystals, the array of “sorcerer’s-best-friend” runestaffs, and so on.


August: Murder in Baldur's Gate

Raised as I was on detective stories (my dad exposing me to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, as well as Detective Comics, Batman, and—not to mention my favorite detective of the bunch—Inspector Clouseau), any adventure with "murder" in the title naturally piques my interest.

Murder in Baldur's Gate presents the namesake city in the time of the Sundering, a period that will define the future of the Forgotten Realms. In addition to providing 64 pages of in-depth information on the city and its inhabitants, this product includes a harrowing 32-page adventure in which the player characters defend Baldur's Gate against an ancient evil long thought slain.

Components:

  • 64-page setting book describing Baldur's Gate and its inhabitants
  • 32-page adventure book
  • Four-panel, foldout DM screen keyed to the adventure

October: Legacy of the Crystal Shard

We'll make a brief reference to this second adventure of the Sundering—only to state that it allows characters to continue to participate in the Sundering and the future of the Forgotten Realms!

4. Board Games/Minis


August: Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport

I've played many a game of Lords of Waterdeep, both here at work (once beaten, if memory serves, by none other than Erik Scott de Bie), at home, and on the road—bringing it with me on trips to teach my old gamer friends from high school and college.

I thoroughly enjoy this game.

At the end of summer, look for two new expansions to the Lords of Waterdeep board game—Undermountain and Skullport—inspired by the vast dungeon and criminal haven under Waterdeep. Both are packaged together as Scoundrels of Skullport.

You can add one or both to your game, if you choose. The Skullport expansion adds a new resource: Corruption. The Undermountain expansion features bigger quests and more ways to get adventures. Scoundrels of Skullport also includes new Lords (not including those introduced April 1st), new Buildings, and set-up materials that allow the addition of a sixth player.

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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