Previews Archive | 11/5/2008
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November and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

By the time this article is posted, we'll have a new president-elect (at least I'm assuming we will by now, barring any Florida recount-style hold-ups). I will have cast my write-in ballot for Ioun -- the candidate that makes the most sense. Goddess of knowledge and skill? She'll be a powerful force in advancing education standards, developing new technologies, guiding financial decision makers . . . really, who better to lead the country? Not to mention her national security credentials: being watchful at all times against the followers of Vecna.


November: Martial Power

We've been previewing this sourcebook every Monday and Friday (Monday we showed off the Warlord's bravura presence, and Friday we'll unveil a new Warlord paragon path: the Flamebrow). By this point, we've shown off selections for all four of the current martial classes: fighter, ranger, rogue, and warlord.

Martial Power packs in a wide array of new feats, at all three tiers, and they are specific to martial classes in general as well as to the above four classes in particular. Let's take a look at the general martial class feats offered:

Heroic Tier Feats

Any Martial Class Prerequisites Benefit
Martial Alacrity Dex 15, any martial class +2 to initiative and shift quickly during your first turn
Martial Freedom Wis 13, any martial class, trained in Endurance +5 to saving throws against the slowed and immobilized conditions

Paragon Tier Feats

Any Martial Class Prerequisites Benefit
Bloody Tenacity Human, any martial class +2 to all defenses when first bloodied
Dragonbreath Warrior Dragonborn, any martial class Extra damage on melee attack after dragon breath

Epic Tier Feats

Any Martial Class Prerequisites Benefit
Darkfire Warrior Drow, any martial class Regain use of darkfire after reducing target to 0 hp
Dragon Warrior Con 17, dragonborn, any martial class Regain dragon breath when first bloodied
Elemental Warrior Genasi, any martial class Regain use of racial power after scoring critical hit
Epic Recovery Con 19, any martial class Use second wind twice per encounter
Feywild Warrior Dex 17, eladrin, any martial class Teleport yourself and your target after using daily power
Fortune's Warrior Dex 17, halfling, any martial class Gain combat advantage after using second chance
Hawkeye Warrior Wis 17, elf, any martial class +1 to attack rolls after using elven accuracy
Infernal Warrior Cha 17, tiefling, any martial class Retaliate against a critical hit with infernal wrath
Invigorating Exploit Any martial class Martial attack power becomes invigorating
Martial Mastery Any martial class Regain encounter power when spending action point
Martial Resolve Wis 15, any martial class, trained in Endurance Make saving throws against certain conditions at both start and end of turn
Rattling Exploit Any martial class Martial attack power becomes rattling
Stoneheart Warrior Con 17, dwarf, any martial class Use second wind as free action
Timely Revival Human, any martial class Make death saving throws at the start of your turn

November: Draconomicon

Likewise, we've been giving the Draconomicon its share of love and attention every Monday and Friday. First off, here's what else you can expect to see from the book in the next few days to come:

  • Friday 11/07: a new variety of dracolich called the bone mongrel (1 of 4 new dracoliches in the book . . . and for that matter 1 of 15 new undead dragons).
  • Monday 11/10: "Heart of Darkness," a sample dragon lair designed for 18th-level adventurers.
  • Friday 11/14: a new kobold called the dragonkin!

So what else can we show off? How about the dragon hall of fame! The following dragons appear statted out at the end of the book:

  • Ashardalon
  • Cyan Bloodbane
  • Dragotha
  • Gulgol
  • Nefermandias
  • Rime
  • Tiamat
  • Zebukiel

That's a mighty who's who of dragons. Let's take a look at one (my personal favorite) to see how it translates into 4th Edition:

Dragotha

In the shadow of fabled White Plume Mountain, lies a dismal land, a blighted place of gnarled trees, bone fields, and roaming, hungry undead. The foul taint staining this region originates in the lair of a loathsome creature whose name inspires terror in even the boldest of heroes: Dragotha, the Death Dragon.

Little remains of Dragotha's flesh to indicate that this undead horror was once a red dragon. Twin horns snake from the back of its skull; smaller ones are blackened by flame, cracked, splintered, or missing altogether, leaving dark holes that now hold only burrowing parasites. Tattered membranes clothe its wings while mummified tissue clings to its tail and massive rib cage. Webs hang from its frame while bright green maggots squirm in its joints. If the presence of this massive skeletal dragon were not enough, Dragotha's baleful blue stare radiates all the malice and evil that fuels this undead monstrosity. To behold it is to see death.

Dragotha
Level 31 Solo Controller
Ancient dracolich
Gargantuan natural magical beast (dragon, undead)
XP 115,000
Initiative +23 Senses Perception +24; darkvision
Necromantic Link (Healing, Necrotic) aura 5; any living creature that enters the aura or starts its turn in the aura takes 20 necrotic damage. For each creature that takes damage from his aura, Dragotha regains 5 hit points.
HP 1,430; Bloodied 715; see also bloodied death
AC 48; Fortitude 46, Reflex 46, Will 46
Immune disease, fear, poison; Resist 30 necrotic; Vulnerable 10 radiant
Saving Throws +5
Speed 8, fly 10, overland flight 16
Action Points 2
Melee Bite (standard; at-will)
Reach 4; +38 vs. AC; 2d10 + 11 damage.
Melee Claw (standard; at-will) Necrotic
Reach 4; +38 vs. AC; 1d10 + 11 damage, and Dragotha makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +36 vs. Fortitude; 2d12 + 5 necrotic damage, and the target is weakened (save ends).
Melee Fury of Tooth and Claw (standard; encounter)
Dragotha makes two claw attacks and one bite attack.
Ranged Dragotha's Contempt (standard; recharge 56) Necrotic
Ranged 10; +36 vs. Will; the target is pushed 1 square and is stunned (save ends). Aftereffect: The target takes 20 necrotic damage and is weakened (save ends both).
Ranged Dragotha's Curse (minor; at-will)
Ranged 10; automatic hit; the target provokes opportunity attacks when it shifts (save ends).
Close Burst Breath Weapon (standard; encounter) Cold, Fire, Poison
Close blast 10; +36 vs. Reflex; 3d12 + 11 cold, fire, and poison damage, and the target loses one healing surge. Miss: Half damage, and the target does not lose a healing surge.
Recover Breath (standard; encounter)
Dragotha recharges its breath weapon.
Close Burst Death Wind (standard; encounter) Necrotic
Close blast 10; +34 vs. Fortitude; 3d12 + 11 necrotic damage, and ongoing 10 necrotic damage (save ends), and the target's necrotic resistance is negated until the end of the encounter.
Close Burst Bloodied Death (free, when first bloodied; encounter) Necrotic
Dragotha's death wind recharges, and the dragon uses it immediately.
Close Burst Frightful Presence (standard; encounter) Fear
Close burst 20; targets enemies; +36 vs. Will; the target is stunned until the end of Dragotha's next turn. Aftereffect: The target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).
Close Burst Mesmerizing Glare (immediate interrupt, when an enemy makes a melee attack against Dragotha; at-will) Fear
Close blast 3; +36 vs. Will; the target is immobilized and takes a -4 penalty to attack rolls until end of Dragotha's next turn. Miss: The target takes a -4 penalty to attack rolls until end of Dragotha's next turn.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Arcana +31, Endurance +30, History +31, Insight +29, Intimidate +31, Religion +31
Str 33 (+26)
Dex 26 (+23)
Wis 28 (+24)
Con 30 (+25)
Int 32 (+26)
Cha 32 (+26)


December: Demon Queen's Enclave

"Honored heroes,

"Your deeds speak well of your good intentions and your concern for the civilized lands. I write to you to ask for your help in a most troubling matter. For the past several days, I have observed a glittering, red streak in the sky. Last night, the red streak flared like a star before disappearing from the sky. If my readings of the Analects of Tzunk are correct, this heralds the appearance of a great evil in our land. I dare not reveal what I know in this letter for fear it may fall into the wrong hands, but I beg you to make due haste to my tower in Winterhaven."

So begins a strange letter to the players (at least, if one of the suggested adventure hooks is used), starting them off on the second paragon tier adventure, Demon Queen's Enclave:

Introduction

Treachery, deceit, and vengeance are three pillars of drow society. Dwarves believe that the drow wage war on the people of the surface world only as practice, saving their deepest cruelties for one another. Tieflings have a similar saying: "The only thing worse than being a drow's foe is being a drow's ally." Deep within the earth, in the dark halls of a drow outpost called Phaervorul, the adventurers learn the truth behind these statements.

Demon Queen's Enclave is a Dungeons & Dragons game adventure for characters of 14th to 17th level. To play, you need the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master's Guide. D&D Dungeon Tiles and D&D Miniatures can also be used to enhance your play experience. You can use Demon Queen's Enclave as a stand-alone adventure, or you can run it as a sequel to P1: King of the Trollhaunt Warrens. Information throughout provides ties back to the previous adventure, as well as pointers to the next adventure in the series, P3: Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress. Feel free to use or ignore these hooks as you see fit to make the most sense for your campaign.

Hook: A New Threat

The adventurers receive a letter from Valthrun the Prescient, a sage and scholar who dwells in the small fortress of Winterhaven. If you played H1: Keep on the Shadowfell, the characters might have already met him. Otherwise, he knows of the adventurers by their reputation in the area. (You can replace Valthrun with any sagacious NPC in your campaign.) His letter can be read above.

You can insert the comet's appearance in the night sky, making it an event for the adventurers to puzzle over before they receive Valthrun's letter.

If the adventurers travel to Winterhaven, Valthrun treats them as honored guests. He throws a feast in their honor, after which he tells them what he knows. At the feast, emphasize the hero worship that Valthrun and the other people of Winterhaven lavish upon the adventurers, particularly if they defeated Kalarel in adventure H1: The Keep on the Shadowfell.

After eating, Valthrun tells the adventurers what he knows:

  • Because of Valthrun's research and after consulting with an archmage from the Therund Barony via magical means, the sage is convinced that the events in the night sky foretell the rise of a new exarch of Orcus.
  • Undead have been drawn to the ruins of Shadowfell Keep, an ominous sign of Orcus's growing power.
  • Valthrun completed a series of divinations that revealed the location of the exarch's arrival, a point somewhere beneath the Cairngorm Peaks. The Miser's Pit, a shaft that extends deep into the Underdark, is perhaps the best place to begin searching for this new, evil being. Valthrun can provide little monetary or magical reward for the adventurers, but he can give them a diplomatic pass, an iron pendant shaped like a spider. The drow who dwell in the Underdark beneath the Nentir Vale give these passes to potential trade partners and allies, so they don't immediately attack surface dwellers who carry such items into their realms.

The quest offered by Valthrun is twofold. The adventurers must determine the nature of this new threat and defeat it. Any evidence of Zirithian's death is enough to placate Valthrun and complete this quest. Of course, he insists that he and the people of Winterhaven host another grand celebration to commemorate the adventurers' victory.

Quest XP: 8,000 XP (major quest), and the Therund archmage arrives in Winterhaven shortly before the adventurers return. He grants them a reward (select a Level 17 Treasure Parcel from the Dungeon Master's Guide). The archmage might also have need of such adventurers for some task in the Elemental Chaos.

December: Manual of the Planes

We haven't started showing off this book in excerpt form, but look for these to start next week (you guessed it -- on Mondays and Fridays). Until then, let's start off with a basic concept of the planes:

The world (sometimes called the mortal world or the natural world) of the Dungeons & Dragons game is only one piece of a much larger cosmos. The world is surrounded by the Feywild and the Shadowfell, parallel dimensions that lie tantalizingly close at hand. It stands on foundations of matter drawn from the seething Elemental Chaos that preceded creation. And yet, at the same time, the mortal world drifts as a lonely speck of light and life in the eternal expanse of the astral mists. All these realities that exist beyond the world of mortals are known as the planes of existence -- or just "the planes" for those who come to know them well.

A plane is an alternate reality, an otherworld that exists alongside the world of mortals. Some planes are small, no larger than a city of the mortal realm. Other planes are nearly infinite in expanse. The planes are a place where you can create literally any adventure or story you can imagine. Given the incredible possibilities the planes open up for your D&D campaign, it's a good idea for a Dungeon Master to decide exactly how he or she wants to use the material presented in Manual of the Planes. Here are a few suggestions.

The World Axis Cosmology

Although various campaign settings might have their own arrangement of planes, the default planar structure of the D&D game is the World Axis cosmology. The World Axis cosmology is so named because the mortal world and its parallel planes form an axis or pivot point linking the two great infinite planes -- the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. The world is therefore the fulcrum where elemental forces and divine forces meet. This model provides a mix of benign, strange, wondrous, and sinister planes you can use in your game without the necessity of designing your own unique cosmology. The World Axis cosmos consists of a core of five planes that have their own discrete existence, plus scores of dominions or realms that are features or locales of another plane. The planes are: The World: The mortal plane of existence is the natural world. This world may be Abeir-Toril, Athas, Eberron, Krynn, Oerth, or a world of your own devising. This plane also encompasses the space between worlds.

Parallel Planes: Inextricably linked to the natural world are two parallel planes: the Feywild (or Plane of Faerie) and the Shadowfell (or Plane of Shadow). They are the closest of the planes to the mortal world.

Fundamental Planes: The mortal world and its parallel planes exist between two great infinite expanses -- the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. The Astral Sea is dotted with smaller planes called astral dominions, the Elemental Chaos with elemental realms.

Astral Dominions: All astral dominions are clearly delineated from the surrounding fundamental plane. These are planes in every sense of the term. Some are the domains of deities. Others were abandoned or had their inhabitants and structures destroyed long ago. Major astral dominions include:

  • Arvandor, the Verdant Isles
  • Carceri, the Red Prison
  • Celestia, the Radiant Throne
  • Chernoggar, the Iron Fortress
  • Hestavar, the Bright City
  • Kalandurren, the Darkened Pillars
  • The Nine Hells of Baator
  • Pandemonium, the Howling Depths
  • Pluton, the Gray Waste
  • The White Desert of Shom
  • Tu'narath, City of the Githyanki
  • Tytherion, the Endless Night

Elemental Realms: In the vastness of the Elemental Chaos lie scores of elemental realms. Some of these, such as the Abyss, are differentiated enough from the surrounding elemental maelstrom to be planes within a plane. Others are specific locales within the chaos. Major elemental realms include:

  • The Abyss
  • The City of Brass
  • The Ninth Bastion
  • Zerthadlun

Demiplanes: Demiplanes are places that exist outside the fundamental planes. Each was created by artifice at some point in the past, since they do not naturally occur. Many demiplanes exist, but only a few are known by more than a handful of individuals. The most famous demiplane is Sigil, City of Doors.

Anomalous Planes: Finally, the cosmology includes some planes whose exact nature is not clear. Major anomalous planes include:

  • The Far Realm
  • The Plane of Dreams

In Bill's recent Ampersand column, he introduced Graz'zt -- the former devil now gone over to the demonic side of things. As Bill also mentioned, that was just a small part of the entire Graz'zt entry, which also includes related paragon-tier (such as cultists of Graz'zt) and epic-tier villains (a level 22 chosen and level 24 aspect versions) for use with the demon lord. To flesh out Graz'zt just a bit more, let's take a look at these cultists.

Cults of Graz'zt

Cults of Graz'zt gather in hidden places near locations of power -- the catacombs under a palace, the supply tunnels beneath a stronghold, or an unused library or laboratory at a wizards' college.

When they meet, the cultists hatch nefarious schemes to enhance their members' influence and power. At any time, a cult of Graz'zt has several plots in motion. Graz'zt monitors the activity of his cults, though most have plans of such a petty scale that he cares little about their fate. Only the best schemes attract his attention.

A cult's sacrifice to Graz'zt might include a powerful person or an object symbolic of an individual's power, such as a scepter or a crown. Victims are often tortured as a way of demonstrating the cult's power over that person.

A typical paragon-tier cult of Graz'zt includes a small group of six-fingered slayers (human assassins that have six fingers on each hand) and droves of dark acolytes.

Six-Fingered Slayer
Level 15 Lurker
Medium natural humanoid, human
XP 300
Initiative +13 Senses Perception +10
HP 108; Bloodied 54
AC 29; Fortitude 27, Reflex 29, Will 27
Immune charm; Resist 10 psychic
Speed 6
Melee Dagger (standard; at-will) Poison, Psychic, Weapon
+20 vs. AC; 1d4 + 2 damage plus 2d6 psychic damage, and the six-fingered slayer makes a secondary attack against the same target: +20 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage (save ends).
Close Burst Six-Fingered Strike (standard; recharges when bloodied) Poison, Psychic, Weapon
Requires dagger; close burst 1; +20 vs. AC; 1d4 + 2 damage plus 2d6 psychic damage, and the six-fingered slayer makes a secondary attack against the same target.
Secondary Attack: +20 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage (save ends).
Dark Veil (minor; recharge 56)
The six-fingered slayer gains concealment and phasing until the end of its next turn.
Alignment Evil
Languages Abyssal, Common
Skills Bluff +14, Insight +14, Stealth +16
Str 14 (+9)
Dex 18 (+11)
Wis 15 (+9)
Con 12 (+8)
Int 13 (+8)
Cha 14 (+9)
Equipment leather armor, dagger, robes

Six-Fingered Slayer Tactics

Six-fingered slayers are assassins who follow Graz'zt's teachings. They use dark veil to step through solid walls into the midst of their enemies before striking with their poisonous daggers. Once dark veil recharges, they use the power to slip away.

Dark Acolyte of Graz'zt
Level 15 Minion
Medium natural humanoid, human
XP 300
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +10
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 29; Fortitude 27, Reflex 26, Will 27
Immune charm
Speed 6
Melee Greatsword (standard; at-will) Weapon
+20 vs. AC; 7 damage, or 9 damage if the dark acolyte has combat advantage against the target.
Ranged Longbow (standard; at-will) Weapon
+19 vs. AC; 7 damage.
Dying Whispers (when reduced to 0 hit points by an attack)
Allies within 5 squares of the dark acolyte gain combat advantage against the attacker.
Alignment Evil
Languages Abyssal, Common
Skills Bluff +13, Insight +15
Str 17 (+10)
Dex 14 (+9)
Wis 16 (+10)
Con 14 (+9)
Int 13 (+8)
Cha 12 (+8)
Equipment leather armor, greatsword, longbow, quiver of 30 arrows

Dark Acolyte of Graz'zt Tactics

Dark acolytes work together to flank enemies, thereby increasing the damage they deal with their melee attacks, while a few keep to the fringes and pepper enemies with arrows.

January: Open Grave

And here we come to the first book of 2009, subtitled Secrets of the Undead. You'll have to wait until next month for a truly meaty preview, but let's start off with one of the theories of undead:

Undead Origins

Theories abound regarding the origin and creation of undead, from the hushed tales told by simple peasants to the exotic research performed by sages and wizards. None agree, and only one thing is certain: Undead exist in the world and have since time immemorial. Their numbers are vast and their motivations are often an enigma.

Death's Reach

Eons ago, the primordials thrived before the first foundations of the world were even a rumor. Immortal in the sense that they knew no age and withstood any hurt, these were beings of manifest entropy. They coveted mastery over all the cosmos.

The cosmos was still young in this age, and the detritus remaining from its formation still swirled in the void. From this cast-off stuff of the universe's emergence into being, the world coalesced (with the primordials' aid), and with it, echoes. One of the world's echoes was bright and fey; the other was darker and ominous, though both thrummed with strange and unexpected power. The primordials witnessed and helped birth the Feywild and the Shadowfell.

Then the gods made their presence known, in their indirect influence and through their purposeful designs. The gods, too, wished to make their claim on creation. The gods' interference enraged the primordials, and soon the two sides of creation were at war. In these earliest days, souls shorn of their bodies simply departed the cosmos, gone to a place beyond all reckoning. When the primordials first crafted the world, they had little regard for the fate of souls. But some among them recognized soul power as a potent force, and hungered for it. These stopped up the passage of souls. With nowhere to go, many were either consumed by primordials with a taste for such spiritual fare, or, finding no further road or final purpose, sputtered out and dissipated, gone forever. Others persisted, becoming undead.

The gods also recognized the potential of souls, and one of their own established himself as the guardian of a new realm of death. There souls would gather after death, either being chosen to join the gods in their dominions or passing on, as before, to an ultimate unknown fate. In this way Nerull -- and later his successor, the Raven Queen -- became the guardian of the dead.


Until next month!

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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