I should have pitched this last month, but I'm imagining an encounter in which a group of adventurers must find the lair of a dire groundhog and slay it to end the grip of winter. Perhaps that's my own wish fulfillment, but personally I'm sincerely ready for spring. I'm all for Daylight Savings Time having been moved up to March 8th, and when spring begins on the 20th, several of us plan to celebrate with nothing less than a piñata (of course, we'll also be celebrating a birthday as well, but who wouldn't want to take a swing at a piñata whatever the reason?). Maybe we'll even fill it with D&D Minis. . . .
On that note, we're pleased to showcase several more of the minis presented in the D&D Experience, plus we'll finally take a look inside Arcane Power . . . and even Monster Manual 2 (here's a hint -- it does not include dire groundhogs)!
This book moved to March, which just means we have one more month to preview material from its pages. We've shown you the big boss monster (the red dragon Dal'Sarnquin), but what about a delve slightly lower down the level scale? In thanks and appreciation for Dave Christ's work with D&D Experience 2009, let's also take a look at one of the delves he designed, which features opponents who also have a vested interest in Daylight Savings.
10: Fear the Night
A hideous-looking undead thing draped in a cloak of human skin sits on a throne, its head lolling limply to one side as it hisses at you: "I hope you haven't spilled too much blood getting here—I'm rather parched!"
A nest of vampires has claimed a dark forest and the surrounding human towns as its domain. Some of the local residents revere the vampires and serve as daylight guardians and spies. However, most of the townsfolk live in a state of dread. Those townsfolk have finally scavenged enough valuables to hire a band of adventurers to destroy the nest. The villagers do not know that a powerful necromancer named Borrit Crowfinger -- aka the Bonemaster -- recently usurped control of the nest.
Tiles: This delve uses tiles from DT6: Dire Tombs.
Expanding the Delve
To turn this delve into a full-blown adventure, add any or all of these additional features:
- Just after sunset, as the PCs negotiate with the frightened townsfolk, a horde of fifteen vampire spawn bloodhunters led by a vampire lord (see encounter 10-2) attacks the building. The vampire lord flees if he is bloodied or if his minions are all defeated. (If defeated, you can either make the vampire lord in area 2 a different vampire or replace it with a different monster, such as a viscera devourer (MM 68) or a battle wight commander (MM 262).
- Build a skill challenge that the PCs must overcome to reach the vampire nest, using Endurance (for the harsh weather they encounter), Nature (to avoid obstacles), and Perception (to stay on course). Failure means the PCs each lose a healing surge during the travel and then are surprised by a squad of five battle wights led by a skull lord (MM 236) that guards the woods for the Bonemaster.
- While the characters are en route to the vampire nest, a pack of three owlbears (MM 212) led by a satyr piper (MM 228) attacks them in the forest. The satyr believes the PCs are pawns of the vampires, but it could be parleyed with if the characters manage to convince it of their innocence.
- While the characters rest after a battle in area 1 or area 2, the squad of battle wights and their skull lord commander, described above, return to report to the Bonemaster. They aren't being stealthy, so the PCs hear them coming and might be able to gain surprise. (Depending on how well the PCs are doing, you might choose to run this battle before or after they have finished a short rest.)
- The crevice in area 3 leads to a network of waterlogged underground caverns occupied by a bog hag (MM 150) and its pair of pet chuuls (MM 43), a pack of eight gricks led by a grick alpha (MM 145), and a guardian naga (MM 194) commanding a dozen troglodyte warriors (MM 252).
Shadow dragons haunt crumbling cities and sunken palaces within the Shadowfell, voraciously hoarding food, wealth, and power. They are driven to commit atrocities to satisfy their appetites, pitilessly enslaving other beings to work as soldiers and servants. Most shadow dragons live far from settlements and are content to prey on those who dare the deepest darkness beyond the dim light of civilization.
Some time ago, the shadow dragon Urishtar Nightwyrm discovered an ancient structure in the Shadowfell, one whose foundation predated the rise of the Raven Queen. Urishtar claimed the site for herself and renamed the dread place Nightwyrm Fortress. Within its chambers, Urishtar learned much -- too much -- about the passage of mortals from life to death. She turned her newfound knowledge to capturing the life energy of just-slain mortals as they raced through the Shadowfell toward their ultimate destiny. By diverting life energy from its proper fate, the dragon risks the wrath of the Raven Queen. Urishtar cares not -- she has her own goals in mind.
Let's take a closer look inside the fortress, detailing areas we merely introduced last month. First off, we venture into the Gloomdeeps and offer the following encounter (chosen in part because of the sheer awesomeness of the creature's name: The Crawling God).
Next, we navigate Magrathar's Teeth, where "an assortment of horrible-looking creatures face you, all of them terrifying and slightly froglike in appearance. One is jet black and especially menacing." Meet Zry:
Black Slaad (B)
Level 20 Skirmisher
Large elemental humanoid
Initiative +16 Senses Perception +16; low-light vision
HP 191; Bloodied 95; see also zone of oblivion
AC 32; Fortitude 33, Reflex 30, Will 29
Immune disease; Resist insubstantial
Speed 6, teleport 3
Reach 2; +25 vs. AC; 2d10 + 7 damage, and the target takes ongoing 10 damage (save ends). Failed Saving Throw: The target loses a healing surge.
Ranged 20; +23 vs. Reflex; 2d10 + 3 damage, and the target is surrounded by a shroud of crackling energy (save ends). Any time the target takes damage, the shroud deals 1d10 damage to the target.
Close burst 2; +18 vs. Reflex; 2d10 + 6 damage. A black void fills the zone, blocking line of sight and dealing 2d10 + 6 damage to any creature that enters or starts its turn in the area. The zone lasts until the end of the encounter.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Str 24 (+17)
Dex 18 (+14)
Wis 13 (+11)
Con 23 (+16)
Int 11 (+10)
Cha 17 (+13)
Zry, the black slaad, prefers to stay out of melee and uses ray of entropy. He is not averse to bloodying his claws, however, especially when a juicy target presents itself. When Zry is close to being destroyed, he croaks out in Primordial:
"Hah ha ha hah! You think you have defeated me. But no! You only release me from bondage. Take this damned ring! If you find three others just like it, perhaps you can reach Magrathar. Tell him Zry says farewell, and to watch his back!"
Then Zry teleports into the best position to affect as many PCs as possible with his zone of oblivion.
And finally, let's examine a soul ring that Zry leaves behind:
This specially crafted ring is one of several that can grant entry to Urishtar's Keep. Keyed to its wearer, it contains a bound soul that manifests as a point of light.
This platinum band, inset with a sparkling point of light, has a single word etched into its inside surface over and over in a variety of languages -- "soul."
Item Slot: Ring 25,000 gp
Property: Requires the wearer to be attuned to the ring (see Magrathar's Ring). You can pass through one of the five entrances to Urishtar's Keep. Up to ten allies within 10 squares of you can enter Urishtar's Keep with you.
Well, we've shown off quite a bit from this book already, including today's look at the zealous assassin. What else do we have in store?
03/06: A look at the heroic tier feats.
03/09: One more paragon path, the Sky Hunter. "The eagle is the perfect predator. Not bound to earth, it hunts like a primal spirit in the world."
03/13: (Wow, two Friday the 13ths this year?) Our excerpts conclude with a new epic destiny, the Primal Avatar. "You are the living embodiment of nature's power, a mighty primal spirit veiled in living flesh."
But what will we show off in this final column before the book releases? Let's go ahead and give you the table of contents!
Author Rich Baker returns to the Forgotten Realms in the second book of his Blades of the Moonsea series. From the product catalog:
Kamoth Kastelmar, Lord of the Black Moon
He was a sadistic young lord who charmed his way into the marrying the Harmach of Hulburg's sister before he was exiled for conspiring against his new brother-in-law. Now he is Captain of the Kraken Queen, High Captain of the Black Moon Corsairs -- a ruthless pirate fleet that scours the Moonsea, raping, pillaging, and burning wherever they go.
He was willing to let bygones be bygones, but when the Harmach of Hulburg arms a warship to thwart his piracy, he starts taking their actions against him personally. It's time to teach the harmach a lesson in respect.
It's time to raze Hulburg.
Of course, Geran Hulmaster has returned as well! For those of you starting off this series, be sure to listen to author Rich Baker read a sample chapter of Swordmage. For those of you continuing in the series, here's the first chapter to start you off:
The Shadowfell is a dark echo of the world, but it contains terrible locations unique to it, such as its fabled core, a place called Death's Reach. Death's Reach, once a place of purity, is now the spiritual nadir of the cosmos. Before the rise of the Raven Queen, and before even the founding of Pluton where Nerull once trapped the dead, souls passed simply departed the cosmos, gone to a place beyond all reckoning. One of the doorways they used to "move on" was Death's Reach.
Divine safeguards put in place by ancient victor gods long served to prevent entry into Death's Reach. But the hidden doors the gods themselves left are exploitable. Orcus's minions have found a way into Death's Reach, leaving the passage slightly open to use the place's power for themselves. Now a handful of souls that should go to the Raven Queen instead find their way to Death's Reach.
Although the Raven Queen knows Orcus is behind this evil, she does not know who his followers are, their number, or plan. No god, primordial, demon lord, or exarch can enter Death's Reach in its full power, according to a godly ban that possesses the weight of cosmic law. However, one thing is clear, even at a remove: the intruders are disinterring relics, ancient weapons perhaps, but also the remains of primeval warriors of unknown strength and power. The Raven Queen believes an army is being gathered, an army composed of roused Dawn War soldiers, to be used, no doubt, against her.
As the first adventure set in the epic tier, Death's Reach looks to connect adventurers with their potential epic destiny. Last month, we looked at hooks for burgeoning Archmages, while those interested in becoming Deadly Tricksters might instead learn the following:
"As sly-fingered and silver-tongued as you are, I'm surprised you didn't already know this. Something big is going down. Mauglurien, the Black Dragon, the dwarf leader of the mercenary outfit called the Ebon Riders has disappeared for months. Here's the crazy part: He's leading a force by winding ways beyond the world, perhaps even as we speak, on a raid against Zvomarana, the Raven Queen's holiest temple, the gateway to Letherna! I'd say the Raven Queen herself would give a lot to learn about this! You can work this to your advantage -- maybe for a favor from Fate herself."
Last month we kept mum; this month, let's start spoiling some information! While Martial Power presented animal companions, Arcane Power brings back the concept of familiars. What are they and how do they work? Take a look.
What is a familiar?
A familiar is a spirit that accompanies you as your friend and ally. It's not a real creature, and it doesn't need to eat or breathe. The most common type is a creature familiar -- a spirit that takes the form of a little animal or monster.
Many consider a familiar and its master to be one and the same, and some familiars do act as mere extensions of their masters' wills. However, most familiars grow personalities all their own, and undertake the commands of their masters with individuality and, sometimes, attitude. All familiars have some amount of arcane knowledge.
How do familiars work?
The Arcane Familiar feat (see below) lets you choose a familiar. You can determine how your familiar looks, and suggest to your DM what sort of personality it has. Familiars have two modes: active and passive. Both modes give you constant benefits, but you lose them if your familiar is destroyed. You can keep your familiar in passive mode to protect it. In active mode, your familiar can scout ahead or grant you special abilities described in its statistics block. You can control a familiar when it's in active mode by using your actions, but a familiar isn't a combatant. It can't attack on its own, and it vanishes for a while when it is destroyed.
Arcane Familiar (Familiar)
Prerequisite: Any arcane class
Benefit: You gain a familiar. For each familiar feat you have beyond this one, your familiar gains a +1 bonus to its defenses.
Of course, you should also see some examples of actual familiars; in this case, we offer both an animal and a monster.
Cats are willful, independent familiars, and their willingness to act alone makes them excellent spies.
Senses low-light vision Speed 6
You gain a +2 bonus to Acrobatics checks, and you can make an Acrobatics check to reduce the damage you take from falling even if you are not trained in that skill.
Independent Spirit: A cat familiar has no range limit on the distance it can exist away from you.
Silent Predator: A cat familiar gains a +5 bonus to its Stealth checks.
This ugly blob of flesh is a creature bound to your service, but it would prefer to be back in the Abyss.
Speed 5, fly 3 (hover)
You gain a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks.
You can read and speak Abyssal.
Alchemical Synergy: Once per encounter, when you hit a bloodied creature adjacent to your bound demon, you gain 1d8 temporary hit points.
Level 11: 2d8 temporary hit points.
Level 21: 3d8 temporary hit points.
Well, we showed off a few of the minis from this set back at D&D Experience, so we might as well show off official photos of them now! Here, in their sculpted glory, are several of the monsters you'll find in May's 40-figure expansion.
So, we all know at least one monster that's appearing in the book: the cover boy, Demogorgon. Can you name their two heads, which are constantly vying for control? While we won't show off any mechanics just yet, here are a few more illustrations from this forthcoming book -- enjoy!
Until next month!