There's really nothing coming out in January besides more Dungeon Tiles, and despite having a four-product lineup next month we only get previews for two--Legion of Gold and those fortune cards that everyone's bitching about--and Heroes of Shadow (which sucks because I was hoping to see what the new DM screen looked like on the inside).
Legion of Gold
Legion of Gold is another Gamma World expansion that adds the usual content mix--new origins, monsters with their respective tokens, some information on new regions, and an adventure--but like Famine at Far-go also adds some new rules by way of vocations.
Vocations are kind of like a poor man's theme from Dark Sun, telling you what your character does for a living. Unlike themes they grant you minor benefits starting at level 4, which are kind of like underpowered D&D feats. Bounty hunter is one example, giving you the ability to knock a target prone that you have combat advantage against at level 4, gain a +2 damage hunter's quarry feature at level 7, and roll initiative twice at level 10. If you want, at level 7 you can opt to pick up a new vocation's feat instead of gaining the second one from your current vocation, and at level 10 you can either gain the first feat from a third vocation, or gain the second from one you already have.
Also previewed are two of the origins: photonic and vampiric.
Photonics are Intelligence (Dark), gain a bonus to Science, AC, and Reflex, have resist 10 laser, and when they crit grant temp hp to allies. Their novice attack is a ranged attack that deals force damage, pushses the target, and grants a defense bonus to an ally. Their utility grants temp hp to themselves or an ally, and boosts hit points on a second wind if its used before your next turn ends. Finally, their expert attack conjures a wall that damages adjacent enemies, lets allies through, and protects your allies if they are attacked.
Vampirics are Charisma (Psi), gain a bonus to Interaction and all defenses. When they crit, they deal extra damage and gain combat advantage against the target. Their novice attack is an area burst that deals psychic damage, slows, and imposes a Will penalty. If you kill or bloody a target? You gain temp hps. The utility grants you temp hp, a bonus to Speed and Reflex, and causes you to daze targets you hit for a turn. Finally, the expert attack lets you dominate a target and deal ongoing psychic damage once they save.
Fortune Cards: Shadow Over Nentir Vale
Fortune Cards get further exposition, and might seem to reek of a bit more power creep that I'd previously thought because you are limited to using one per round as opposed to encounter. See, I'd been basing them off of Alpha mutation cards, which are harder to grind through. With these, you draw one when combat starts, swap it or keep it when the round starts if you haven't already used one, or draw a new one if you've played one already. The previewed common lets you omit a target from an AoE attack, while the uncommon lakes you take one for the team, and the rare grants you a free reroll.
In light of the fact that players can now throw down randomized situational benefits constantly, I'm going to have to give these more consideration...or draw one for myself. Though I wished Fortune Cards weren't just about giving players bonuses without any drawbacks (except monetary), this might be a good compromise: I get to draw a card and apply it to any one of my own monsters.
Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow
On an ironically brighter note, Heroes of Shadow looks to have a lot to offer: assassins, paladins, warlocks, new options for clerics, warlocks, and wizards, a vampire class, and the revenant, shade, and vryloka races. Its unfortunate that we're getting the assassin and not executioner, as I greatly prefer the latter. At any rate from the sounds of things this book will offer a mixed bag of content, as some of it will use the Essentials progression, but some won't. In a reasonable world, this would help put to rest whether Essentials is the "new" D&D (or compatible, or better supported, or whatever).
Not much is said about vryloka, except that they're an "ancient human race" that have been infected by vampirism. Hopefully they get better support than the dhampyr. I do find it interesting that WotC is making a vampire class. While I'm not a fan of how monsters-as-PCs was handled in 3rd Edition, I'm confident that it'll turn out a lot better.
Now, shades are featured. They're humans who trade part of their souls for slivers of Shadowfell-stuff, kind of like how the assassin class works, only they don't get to form shadows into nooses or conjure fog. Instead, in exchange for a healing surge and their natural origin they get a bonus to Charisma and either Dexterity or Intelligence, darkvision, a bonus to Arcana and Stealth (plus free Stealth training), can opt to swap out utilities from their class for more shadow-powers, and the one with shadow racial power (an at-will that grants concealment and lets them use Stealth even from behind allies). Not a bad deal, I'd say.
A trio of their exchangeable racial utilities are also previewed: fleeting shade is a level 2 encounter that turns you invisible, but only until the end of your turn. On the plus side, you get a +5 bonus to Stealth until the end of your next turn. Twilight torch is a level 6 at-will that lets you create dim light around you, but it only lasts for one turn. Finally, shadow monsters is a level 10 daily that lets you summon a quartet of, well, shadow monsters that impose attack penalties to adjacent enemies, and also deal necrotic damage if they end their turn next to one or move through them.