GenCon has been Dungeons & Dragons' show since the very beginning. As such, they use it as a platform to get their audience hyped-up for the next year's products and this year was no different. This year, Mike Mearls (freshly christened as head of D&D R&D), James Wyatt, and Rodney Thompson got up in front of a crowd to do just that.
The Madness of Gardmore Abbey is an experiment in a new format for adventures due out late this September. It will contain four books of text, as well as folio-style adventures that conatin only story hooks, locations and NPCs in an open-ended style. Many of the encounters for this have been designed with non-violent resolutions in mind. The boxed set will also include, maps, dungeon tiles, monster tokens and a full deck of many things.
Next up is Mordenkainen's Magical Emporium, once taken off the schedule for quality assurance reasons is now back on track for a hobby shop exclusive release (that's not to say it won't be online, just not through the usual online retailers). The book will have all kinds of new magic items sorted by the rarity system, plus a few character options and expanded rules for followers and henchmen. It will release the same day as Gardmore Abbey.
Heroes of the Feywild has been set for November, and will bring in new options for fey characters, as well as a bard in the vein of a skald, a new druid, and dual-role barbarian that is normally a defender, but under the effects of rage switches to striker. New races for the book are the hamadryad, satyrs and pixies (which will be able to fly from level 1). The November Encounters season based on the classic module Beyond the Crystal Cave will tie in to this release.
The Book of Vile Darkness promises much vileness and darkness for the Christmas season. There's good stuff for villains and advice for anti-heroic and other nasty sorts to work together as an adventuring party. This one gets a SyFy movie to go with it rather than an Encounters season.
Player's Option: Power of the Plane Below, formerly known as Heroes of Elemental Chaos, opens sometime 2012. The manual will include an elemantalist monk, an Essential-style sorceror, a Sha'ir wizard, and plenty of new powers and feats for characters that want to juice up with elemental powers. Going with this book is The Elder Elemental Eye Encounters season which promises to have a more investigative bent than previous seasons, along with a Lovecraftian influence.
Undermountain was teased for early 2012 will have poster-sized maps, encounter areas, adventures, a random dungeon generator and setting details for the mad wizard's lair beneath Waterdeep. No exact word on what sort of product it is, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was similar to the Gardmore Abbey boxed-set.
While that was the last product previewed by the team, during Q&A a new campaign-style product was mentioned with no detail given other than it was "not Dragonlance." In other setting related news, smaller more niche setting like Forgotten Realms spin-offs Kara-Tur (home of the original Oriental Adventures) and Al-Quadim will be covered through D&D Insider features rather than full setting books.
New dungeon tiles are also coming at the end of 2011 and will give gamers Shadowghast Manor for your haunted house needs. 2012 will also have Cathedrals of Chaos and will feature diagonal corridors and oddly shaped rooms for those who prefer less boxy architecture.
D&D Lair Assault organized play program launches in September with Forge of the Dawn Titan, which will be heavily combat and puzzle oriented. The DM will be presented with a menu of encounter options rather than fixed fights to keep each session different from each-other. Because of the combat focus of Lair Assault, upcoming Encounters seasons will go in new directions with more focus on story.
Last year we saw a collection of pre-painted Beholder minis, and next year will feature a similar set for the five chromatic dragons. This collection will be part of a relaunch of D&D minis. The new minis will not be randomized so DMs looking for a box of orcs for thier players to beat on will be happy. But there will still be a game associated with the minis and this game will include everything you need to play including the rules and interlocking terrain pieces. The game will not use dice, but will be powered by an action card system making it much more strategic. Lastly, this new game will have an open mass playtest starting this September on the D&D website.
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