Previews Archive | 6/5/2008
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June and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Well, folks, we have arrived! Welcome to the start of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons -- we hope that you'll enjoy playing this edition as much as we've enjoyed creating it. It may be a clichéd phrase, but "labor of love" is probably the very best way to summarize 4th Edition to us here at Wizards of the Coast, and for those of you in the area, we look forward to gaming with you at the Seattle Worldwide D&D Game Day Headquarters.

Looking past June, we have quite a few products in the works that we're proud to showcase, starting with a return of the Huge: D&D Minis.

July: DDM Against the Giants

What! No DDM Minis in last month's In the Works? Well, with just a little time remaining until the set releases, let's dole out a double scoop of minis goodness.

Fire Giant Raider: It is Against the Giants, after all, so we'll start with one of the big boys. The Raider is bad news for the PCs. Seriously bad news. This guy is nothing less than a walking siege tower -- with the perfect pose of leaning over his assumed target. On the skirmish side, the Raider's a large sack of hit points with a number of attacks that cause severe damage -- including two ranged attacks with his iron javelin (which is a great image: the target is literally slowed as he drags around this heavy javelin sticking out of him).

On the RPG side, we've previewed giants in general, and earth giants in particular, in a recent article; here we see the fire giants in action:

"Self-proclaimed lords of flame, fire giants are militaristic tyrants who enjoy testing their mettle against formidable adversaries." Next time, we'll look at another of the big boys: the death giant.

Tomebound Arcanist: Here's a perfect representation of an elf or half-elf wizard, complete with spellbook -- in 4th Edition terms, "a book full of mystic lore in which you store your rituals and your daily and utility spells." Yes, the days of a Vancian spell system may have ended, but the spellbook remains a distinctive piece of gear for the wizard -- a 128-page treatise covering your magical expertise. On the skirmish side, it's not the Arcanist's dagger you'll be using so much as his crippling spells (especially against brutes with low Will defenses). His one-shot Rune of Terror can soften up an enemy, plus he can use Confusion to either (2-in-4 chance) keep them out of the fight, or even (1-in-4) fight for you.

Flamescorched Kobold: I believe we're compelled, if not outright officially required, to preview any kobold appearing in the DDM set, since this was a tradition started by Mat Smith. Before you overlook the Flamescorched Kobold as a useful addition to your squad, consider his stats. True, his short sword is nothing spectacular, but he's at least making two attempts with Twin Strike, and he may even bump his damage up to 15/hit if you can effectively mob an opponent (a bit of minion flavor that we've previewed and which seems to fit the pesky kobold). Perhaps even more compelling is his defensive side: relatively cost efficient at a 15-point price tag for 35 hit points, Evasive, and his Shifty power, which reflects the racial traits of kobolds from the back of the Monster Manual on page 278 (playing as a kobold provides you with Shifty as an extremely versatile at-will power).

Ochre Jelly: And finally, what's not to love about an "amorphous creature that lives only to eat"? (I've been described much the same, without the ability to pour under doors; I tend to walk into them, instead.) I'd love to hear the origins of the ochre jelly in the game -- why, of all colors, ochre? -- which debuted as a DDM figure back in Archfiends (it was engulfing a hapless adventurer, of course). This time around, the adventurer has yet to be dissolved, and the Ochre Jelly's pseudopods flail around for a new victim to grab. For a mere 8 points, the Ochre Jelly might not be the most durable or the fastest of foes, but its Envelop power can definitely harry opponents it oozes adjacent to; plus, Split keeps the Ochre Jelly in the game that much longer -- a power reflected in the RPG version as well. (Take heed: Back in 1st Edition, only lightning split the creature; now any damage taking it down to bloodied does so.)

July: D&D Insider

Last month, we ran through the list of preview articles we'd publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to the launch of 4th Edition. This time, we present the following announcement from Chris Youngs:

Dungeon Magazine Announces New Adventure Path

The Elsir Vale has known a decade of peace following the rise of the Red Hand. The valley, as well as the town of Brindol, has flourished after adventurers defeated the threat posed by the hobgoblin armies. But now, from out of the hills to the north, a new threat has emerged. Natives of Brindol have been abducted, and the town’s war museum—dedicated to those fallen in the war against the Red Hand—has been raided and desecrated.

Meanwhile, beyond the Vale, the rumbling rumors of more trouble have begun to surface. Warbands forming in the mountains… Monsters crawling forth from the dark bowels of the world… And people everywhere have begun waking up at night in a cold sweat, uncertain where their feelings of dismay and panic come from…

The Scales of War Adventure Path will premiere in Dungeon #156, July 2008, with the 1st-level adventure “Rescue at Rivenroar,” by Wizards of the Coast designer David Noonan. Scales of War will continue each month in Dungeon, taking characters from 1st level all the way to 30th over the course of 18 adventures, spanning 18 months. This is the most ambitious Adventure Path in Dungeon’s history, and will take full advantage of the versatility of the new 4th Edition D&D rules. Support articles will appear regularly in Dragon, beginning with issue #366, August 2008.

Watch D&D Insider for more details in the coming weeks!

July: Character Record Sheets

As essential a component of the game as the dice and core rulebooks, the official record sheets can record your hero's progress from 1st to 30th level. Character sheets come in both portrait and landscape layouts, and also included are blank power cards, which function as handy resources to keep track of all your daily, encounter, at-will, and utility powers (not to mention those powers available through holy symbols and magic items).

July: H2 Thunderspire Mountain

Now that many groups have had a chance to play through H1 Keep on the Shadowfell, what does H2 hold in store? Last month we presented a peek at the backstory. This month let's reveal a little more on how Thunderspire Mountain unfolds:

Eight days ago, a notorious gang of slavers known as the Bloodreavers raided the small town of Harkenwold. Baron Stockmer, lord of the town, commissioned you to track down the slavers and rescue the captives they took from Harkenwold. He'll pay you 50 gold pieces for each captive you rescue and a 200-gold-piece bonus if you rescue all the captives.

You set off after the Bloodreavers several days ago, and you've tracked them to a stronghold below Thunderspire Mountain. Here, Underdark merchants and surface traders meet in the great Seven-Pillared Hall to do business.

Which leads, of course, to Thunderspire Mountain. As described in the adventure: Thunderspire Mountain lies amid a wilderness of pine forests and rocky hills. The mountain's pinnacle is often wreathed in gray clouds, but on rare clear days, it can be seen from a great distance.

The Trade Road, an old dwarf-made highway, passes near the mountain. It links the human town of Kelderford (about a 3-day journey west of the mountain) with the dwarf stronghold of Hammerfast (4 days east of the mountain). Once travelers and caravans hurried past Thunderspire to avoid attack from monsters lurking in the ruined minotaur city, but this part of the Trade Road is now reasonably safe thanks to the Mages of Saruun.

From the Trade Road, a steep cobbled path called the Vale Road turns north and then cuts east and south into the mountains. The road rises through a valley with sparse vegetation and ends at Thunderspire's base. Small waterfalls and brooks wash down from the rocks above. A few shepherds, woodcutters, and trappers live in the vale. Their humble houses are made of turf and fieldstone and are fitted with stout doors to repel predators, including bears, wyverns, and griffons.

From there, the PCs' search for the Bloodreavers could take them within the labyrinth of the mountain, which is where the fun begins:

After asking around, you learn that five Bloodreavers lair in an abandoned vintner's shop a short distance from the Seven-Pillared Hall. You're now standing in a dimly lit passageway with the door to the Bloodreaver's lair before you. What do you do?

With that, we'll leave our preview on the threshold and not spoil too much more of the adventure. Just keep your eyes out for a little kobold named Charrak; he might have a message for you. . . .

August: DM Screen

As you'll note in the forthcoming D&D video podcast, you'll get to see this four-paneled beauty -- in action! Players will be staring at the exterior side of this screen for quite a few game sessions, so it was important to create a truly gorgeous montage of dungeon critters. On the interior side, DMs can consult an array of tables easily; these tables include target DCs for skill checks, and a Damage by Level table for PCs failing checks against traps and other potential obstacles.

August: Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide

"Learn ye well the lesson of the pebble that begets a landslide. Likewise a single betrayal unleashed the Spellplague, whose consequences yet dance and stagger across Toril, and beyond."
-- Elminster of Shadowdale
Year of the Ageless One (1479 DR)

The grime of centuries shrouds the hoary old book. Undeterred, you brush away the offending detritus. The smell of dust sharpens the air and hazes the light. A flip through the crackling pages reveals colorful sigils and ancient maps. Your breath catches with realization: You clutch a tome of unique oracular insight that details the length, breadth, and depths of Toril.

The first 4th Edition campaign setting releases later this summer, with a new look at the Forgotten Realms. If you've read the previews, you'll know by now that major changes have affected the Realms: starting with the Spellplague and the 100-year advancement of the timeline. Two books chart the Forgotten Realms: the Campaign Guide (August), and Player's Guide (September). The Campaign Guide contains the following, which are designed to provide DMs with information they can use to run adventures set in the Forgotten Realms:

  • Chapter 1: The Gray Vale. This chapter contains everything you need to start adventuring in the Realms right away. It provides a campaign starting point, complete with an opening encounter to draw together player characters. Here you'll find the town of Loudwater, detailing important personalities, plots, and rumors, and several dungeon and urban encounters.

  • Chapter 2: Adventure in the Realms. A toolkit containing useful information for DMs. This chapter offers advice on adjusting a campaign to the current timeline, more about the history of the world, and ways to add a bit of Realms flavor to your game.

  • Chapter 3: Magic and Fantastic Features. The changed landscape of Toril is described in this chapter. It also contains information about storied magic items and mighty rituals around which to build thrilling adventures.

  • Chapter 4: Cosmology. More information about the new planar arrangement and its effects on the world.

  • Chapter 5: Pantheon. This chapter details the new order among the gods and other powerful entities.

  • Chapter 6: Lands of the Realms. This chapter is more than just a travelogue of Toril. Each entry contains interesting locales and story elements to help you create your own distinct campaign.

  • Chapter 7: Threats. A new world faces new dangers -- and some old ones that yet threaten. Here are descriptions of dangerous organizations and bizarre new monsters.

That's a breakdown of the book's contents. For a look at the information presented within the Guide, here's a preview of the Realms Glossary:

Language is a living, changing thing. Using some of the following words during play is a great way to add color to roleplaying. This section is a crash course on how to use “Realmspeak.” These words can help set the mood during encounters, but there’s no need to try all of them, or use any that seem to break the mood. Overuse of dialect or invented words is clumsy, but you can bring the Realms to life by sprinkling in isolated words and phrases from those below, or by inventing words whose context makes their meanings clear. Most of these terms are in Common. Those from other languages are so identified.

  • changelands: A generic term for a piece of terrain that clearly doesn't fit in with the surrounding terrain, likely due to the Spellplague.
  • earthmote: A floating chunk of landscape hanging in the sky.
  • earth node: A place where magical power is concentrated.
  • Faerie: another name for the Feywild.
  • forestmote: An earthmote covered with forest.
  • gulletfire: bad beer or wine.
  • hawksnarl: A man who’s always yelling or blustering, or is nastier or more aggressive than prudent or necessary (more strongly: “a real hawksnarl”).
  • mythal: A permanent, site-based enchantment of powerful fey magic.
  • plagueland: A generic term describing anyplace where active Spellplague yet burns.
  • plaguechanged: The term for creatures touched by the first wave of Spellplague in the Year of Blue Fire; usually horrible monsters.
  • Plaguewrought Land, the: A specific location, the largest plagueland in Faerûn. prairiemote: An earthmote covered in tall grass.
  • Returned Abeir: The continent that was fused to Toril west of the Trackless Sea.
  • scorchkettle: A woman who delivers impressively blistering words to someone in public; see also “hawksnarl.”
  • sellsword: A well-established or veteran mercenary, or one of impressive reputation.
  • Spellplague, the: The event in 1385 DR resulting from Mystra’s death that altered magic and the world forever.
  • spellscar: A brand of blue fire that grants an ability, usually beneficial, but with some negative aspect.
  • spellscarred: The term for a creature (usually humanoid) touched by later, less virulent strains of the Spellplague and possessing a spellscar.
  • throatslake: Anything drinkable that takes care of thirst and doesn’t cause illness in doing so, but isn’t particularly pleasant.
  • watermote: An earthmote that contains a large water feature.
  • Weave, the: A term for magic; once used to mean magic mediated by Mystra.

August: H3 Pyramid of Shadows

Here it is, the concluding adventure of 4th Edition's H-series, and it is designed to take characters from 7th to 10th level (to the edge of the paragon tier). We won't spoil too much about the adventure this month except to note that you may soon be hearing the following:

Your search has brought you through the forest to a clearing where the ruins of some ancient structure help hold back the choking undergrowth. Something isn't right in this clearing. The air feels strange, vibrating just outside the reach of your hearing, making your chest feel clenched. As you look around, a figure appears near the center of the clearing - a ghost, perhaps, an insubstantial vision of a tiefling man draped in robes.

"Greetings, travelers," the image says. "What do you seek in the Pyramid of Shadows?"

About the Author

Bart Carroll is loathsome beyond description and has no redeeming features. His body resembles that of a huge, bloated buffalo and gives off an offensive odor. The author's neck is long and thin, and perched atop it is a big head uglier than that of a warthog. His legs are thick and stumpy, much like a hippopotamus. The author's tail is strong and snakey, however, and moves with amazing swiftness to strike enemies.

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