Previews Archive | 11/2/2009
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November and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Perhaps it's no surprise (then again, perhaps it is) that this time of year, several of us in the D&D Insider bullpen follow football -- American football. And when I say follow, I mean we carefully manage our fantasy teams with all the foresight, dedication, and periodic heartbreak of any real-life team owner . . . or at least, so we like to believe. Of course just as I create my D&D characters based on personal interest over mechanical optimization, so too do I manage my fantasy team (the Chicago Owlbears) by following my heart. You know, as opposed to my brain. The team is composed almost entirely of players from the Chicago Bears and is currently 1-5-0 in the league . . . yes, I've actually won one game, so I'm still one game better than Phil Athans and his Gutbusters.

Fantasy football leagues are very occasionally compared to playing Dungeons & Dragons (Senior Art Director Matt Adelsperger heard this reference during the most recent NPR pledge drive). Is it the "fantasy" part of fantasy football? The obsessive tracking of stats? The careful assemblage of a team (or party)?

While American football is not played within any of the campaign settings (to the best of my knowledge, at least), I can certainly see a case made for fantasy leagues existing . . . of a sort. It's quite possible to imagine wealthy merchants, aristocrats, and politicians studying the various heroes headquartered in town, and then establishing a point system for how well each of these heroes perform over the course of their adventures. Gold, monsters slain, milestones reached -- these might all add to a hero's point total. Perhaps, at times, these fantasy owners are tempted to cheat, providing help to the heroes on their roster, or hindrance to those of other owners.

Who knows . . . every week, the league of fantasy owners might all get together, share a feast, and scry upon their heroes exploring the latest dungeons, cheering them on. At least, that's what I'd do.

November: Monster Manual: Savage Encounters

Let's start off with a look at some monsters the above fantasy heroes might soon be facing. (Now that I think about it, I might have it all wrong about my proposed D&D fantasy owners -- they might collect and follow teams of their favorite monsters, as opposed to heroes.)

  • Drider Fanglord
  • Adult Purple Dragon
  • Angel of Valor Legionnaire
  • Legion Devil Legionnaire

Plus, take a look at the following riddle. From his earlier description:

One of the most powerful demon rulers of the Abyss is (our mystery guest), lord of an entire layer and dedicated foe of both Demogorgon and Orcus. He was, in fact, waging a winning battle against the troglodyte, harpy, and bar-lgura. At a crucial moment, however, he was magically taken to the Prime Material Plane and forced into bondage by a mighty magic-user. He battled free at the cost of being confined to his own plane for a century.

Can you name our mystery guest? How about the name of the mighty magic-user?

November: Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons

We normally reserve fond recollections back for our D&D Alumni column, but in this case we'll plumb the depths of the 1E Monster Manual for some information (or misinformation, as the case may be) regarding dragons. To start with:

"Dragons come in many colors, sizes, shapes, and alignments."

Okay, so far so good.

"Dragons' egoistic nature makes them subject to flattery, and it also makes the more stupid of them prone to attack other powerful creatures whom they view as disputing their dominating position. Greed and avarice are major motivating factors in all but the loftiest of dragons, so they are subject to manipulation by very clever persons or the prospect of actual treasure and the promise of more forthcoming."

Hold on. These are dragons we're talking about -- some of the craftiest, cleverest, most intimidating creatures to ever rule the game. Clearly, they represent villains above and beyond the schoolyard bully, right? Encountering one requires all the courage and bravery a hero can muster! Let's move on:

"The innate cowardice of dragonkind is shown by the fact most can be subdued."

Now wait -- that can’t be right . . . can it? Apparently the 1st Edition Monster Manual held dragons in such low esteem that they could be subdued left and right, dragged dazed and unconscious from their caves and their treasure hoards plundered. At least they added the following:

"The older and more powerful the dragon, the less the likelihood of it remaining subdued. Likewise, an intelligent, spell-using dragon is not likely to remain subdued. In fact, the latter sort of dragon is likely to attempt to take over its captor and rule his holdings. Evil dragons will never serve a good master for long . . ."

In our recent previews, we included the new guidelines for subdual encounters with dragons. It can still be achieved, but not easily. Dragons are fiercer than ever, and (unlike in 1st Edition) metallics are now just as possible to hunt after heroes as chromatics. Of course, if you do plan to subdue a dragon, you'll first need to navigate its lair; Draconomicon: Metallic Dragon presents several new traps to keep intruders on their toes . . . with or without the dragon even being home!

Fire Egg Fabrication
Level 9 Warder
XP 400
The nest contains what looks like barrel-sized dragon eggs. But once an individual moves close, the eggs explode in a fiery burst.
Trap: One square is filled with a nest containing three to six artificial dragon eggs, primed to explode if disturbed.
DC 19: The character notices that the dragon eggs are not real.
When a creature moves adjacent to the square containing the fire egg fabrication or when the eggs in the nest are moved, the trap attacks.
Opportunity Action Close blast 3
Targets: Each creature in the blast
Attack: +12 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8 + 5 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends).
A character can attack the fire egg fabrication (AC 18, other defenses 13; hp 1). If it is damaged, the trap attacks. A character who hits the trap from a sufficient distance, using a ranged, area, or close attack, can set off the trap without causing damage to himself or herself.
A character can leap over the nest (and surrounding squares) by making a DC 30 Athletics check (or DC 15 with a running start).

Many dragons use fire egg fabrications to safeguard their eggs. Often, they will leave them in fake hatcheries or among their treasure.

Curse of the Dragon’s Death
Level 10 Lurker
XP 500
The spirit of a dragon lives on long after its death, twisted by hate and anger.
Hazard: When a nondragon enters the room, a Medium invisible curse moves its speed toward the closest living creature and attacks to possess that creature.
DC 16: The character notices a shimmering presence in the curse’s square.
Additional Skill: Religion
DC 15: The character identifies the shimmering presence as a curse of the dragon’s death.
Initiative +7 Speed 5
When characters enter the area, the hazard rolls initiative, moves, and attacks on its turn.
Attack Charm, Psychic
Standard Action Melee 1
Target: One living creature
Attack: +13 vs. Will
Hit: 1d8 + 5 psychic damage, and the curse enters the target’s space without provoking an opportunity attack. If the target starts its turn with the curse in its space, it is dominated until the end of its turn. The curse usually compels the target to attack one of its adjacent allies or make a charge attack against the closest ally.
A character can attack the curse (AC 24, other defenses 22; hp 20; vulnerable 5 radiant; the curse is invisible).Destroying the curse ends the hazard.
If the curse is hit by an attack against Will, it can’t dominate a creature until the end of the attacker’s next turn.
If the curse is hit by a radiant attack, it moves up to its speed away from its attacker. If the radiant attack scores a critical hit, the curse is destroyed.
A creature can attempt an Arcana, Intimidate, or Religion check (DC 16) as a standard action to force the curse to shift 1 square to leave a creature’s space.
Upgrade to Elite (1,000 XP)
Increase the initiative modifier and speed by 2.
Increase the attack bonus by 2.
When the curse is in a creature’s space and the creature charges, the curse moves with the target.

Pairing a curse of the dragon’s death with creatures or traps that immobilize targets makes it easier for the curse to keep a creature dominated or to keep targets in range of the dominated creature’s attacks.

December: The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos

We've just presented hazards from a dragon's lair, and now we’ll take a look at threats from the planes themselves. Last time, we previewed the slaads; let's show off the white slaad in greater detail (who, not coincidentally, is all about time). And while steel rain might sound like some terrible deathmetal band, trust us -- it's not a storm you'd ever want to experience.

Elemental Hazards

The wilds of the Elemental Chaos are as dangerous as any of the plane’s inhabitants. A variety of hazards threaten the unwary, and even natives give certain areas a wide berth. The hazards presented here expand on those in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Manual of the Planes.

Steel Rain
Level 15 Blaster
XP 1,200
Ahead, rain sheets down with a metallic tinkling. The ground beneath it is not damp.
Hazard: Tiny shards of sharp metal drop from the sky and burrow into the ground or into any creatures they hit. The hazard occupies three areas, each 3 squares on a side. Steel rain squares are lightly obscured. At the start of each round, the hazard moves 1d8 squares in a random direction or in a direction you choose.
No check is necessary to notice the rain.
DC 23: The creature sees that the “raindrops” are metallic.
Additional Skill: Arcana
DC 23: The character recognizes the hazard’s nature.
When a creature enters a square of steel rain or starts its turn there, the hazard attacks.
Opportunity Action Melee
Target: The triggering creature
Attack: +20 vs. AC
Hit: 1d10 + 5 damage, and ongoing 10 damage (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
A character using a shield can hold it overhead as a minor action, gaining a +1 bonus to AC against the steel rain but losing any shield bonus to AC and Reflex against other attacks. These adjustments to AC last until the start of the creature’s next turn.
If a character makes a DC 23 Acrobatics check as part of a move action and ends his or her move outside the area of steel rain, he or she does not trigger an attack when moving through the hazard.
With a successful DC 18 Arcana check as a minor action, a character can force one area of steel rain not to move at the start of the next round. With a successful DC 27 check, the character can move that area 1d4 squares in a direction of his or her choice.
Upgrade to Elite (2,400 XP)
Increase the DCs for Perception, Acrobatics, and Arcana checks by 2.
The steel rain occupies four areas, each 4 squares on a side.
Harmless precipitation lightly obscures the entire encounter area. When a creature is about to enter an adjacent square of steel rain, it makes a DC 23 Perception check as a free action; on a success, the creature spots the metal needles before moving into that square.

White Slaad (Chronos Slaad)

These rare slaads have an uncanny and disturbing insight into time, with which they pull replicas of themselves from the past and future.

White Slaad
Level 16 Elite Lurker
Medium elemental humanoid
XP 2,800
Initiative +16 Senses Perception +14; low-light vision
HP 248; Bloodied 124
AC 29; Fortitude 29, Reflex 27, Will 26
Immune chaos phage
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6, teleport 4
Action Points 1
MeleeProbability Claw (standard; at-will) Disease
+21 vs. AC; 1d6 + 5 damage, and the target is dazed until the end of the white slaad’s next turn and is exposed to chaos phage).
Temporal Split (standard; recharges when first bloodied or when the white slaad spends an action point)
The white slaad splinters into six white slaad temporal replicas, each appearing in an unoccupied space within 5 squares of the white slaad’s previous space. The white slaad disappears, and it cannot attack or be attacked until it reappears. The temporal replicas thereafter act on the white slaad’s initiative count. When the last temporal replica has been reduced to 0 hit points, the white slaad reappears within 5 squares of the space occupied by that replica and can act normally on its next initiative count. See also advantage of time.
Advantage of Time
Whenever a white slaad reappears after its temporal replicas have been reduced to 0 hit points, all enemies it can see grant it combat advantage until the end of its next turn.
Combat Advantage
A white slaad deals 1d6 extra damage against any creature granting combat advantage to it. In addition, that creature is dazed (save ends) instead of dazed until the end of the slaad’s next turn.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages Common, Primordial
Skills Athletics +18, Stealth +17
Str 20 (+13)
Dex 19 (+12)
Wis 13 (+9)
Con 22 (+14)
Int 7 (+6)
Cha 14 (+10)

White Slaad Temporal Replica
Level 16 Minion Lurker
Medium elemental humanoid
XP 0
Initiative +16 Senses Perception +14; low-light vision
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 29; Fortitude 29, Reflex 27, Will 26
Speed 6, teleport 4
MeleeProbability Claw (standard; at-will)
+21 vs. AC; 8 damage, and the target is dazed until the beginning of the white slaad temporal replica’s next turn.
Combat Advantage
A white slaad temporal replica deals 2 extra damage against any creature granting combat advantage to it.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages Common, Primordial
Str 20 (+13)
Dex 19 (+12)
Wis 13 (+9)
Con 22 (+14)
Int 7 (+6)
Cha 14 (+10)

White Slaad Tactics
A white slaad charges into combat and attempts to daze an enemy, exploiting combat advantage to focus on that target. If it is hard-pressed, the white slaad spends an action point to use temporal split, populating the battlefield with replicas of itself as well as recharging that power.

And that brings us to the end of the year! Next month, we'll bring you hints about what the 2010 releases hold in store. In the meantime, be sure to browse our online catalog).

Well, with Halloween still in the air, perhaps a few hints of monsters soon to come:

1. Although the Abyss focuses on annihilating creation, certain demons drift into the natural world to wreak havoc in subtler ways. "X"'s target dabblers into the occult, luring them to evil through the powers that lurk in forbidden texts, dark rituals, and cursed items. The tiny demons crave the destruction and chaos that spellcasters can unleash.

2. With their heads low to the ground, "X"'s roam the lands, leaving death in their wake. "X"'s are rare creatures made of shadows and death; their gazes wither the living. They plod between worlds, surfacing unexpectedly. So strong is the creature’s association with death that the Raven Queen is sometimes spotted astride one of the huge beasts.

3. The legend seems little more than a joke when told across a tavern table. A chest of treasure in the deepest recesses of a dungeon suddenly transforms into a horrid monstrosity, attacking those who had been set to loot it a moment before. However, adventurers who know the true origins of the "X" do not laugh at its deadly threat.

About the Author

Bart Carroll is most frequently found underground, although he infrequently will lair in desolate wildernesses. The globular body of the author is supported by levitation, and he floats slowly about as he wills. Atop the sphere are 10 eyestalks, while in his central area are a great eleventh eye and a large mouth filled with pointed teeth. His body is protected by a hard chitinous covering. The author's eyestalks and eyes are also protected, although less well. Because of his particular nature, Bart is able to withstand the loss of his eyestalks which will eventually grow back (1 week per lost member).

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