Previews Archive | 6/6/2011
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June and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Here we are, at the start of the month for Dragon #400. Furthermore, since issue #1 was published back in June 1976, this also marks Dragon's 35th anniversary.

Obviously, we want to celebrate and pay our respects to this epic milestone. Throughout the month, we'll be hosting interviews with past editors and editors-in-chief of the magazine, including R&D's Matt Sernett and Chris Youngs, as well as Erik Mona, Jesse Decker, and Wolfgang Baur.

In addition, we're also republishing several of our favorite articles from past issues, annotated by current members of R&D. I nominated Tucker's Kobolds, Roger E. Moore's famous editorial from issue #76 -- and, as mentioned in my write-up, although this was my favorite article, my favorite issue would be the first one I ever bought: #86. It might have been the cover with its fantasy chessboard that drew me in. (I was also a huge fan of the videogame Archon.) Or quite possibly it was Great Stoney, the paperwork castle included with the issue. Certainly, the cartoons in the back drew my eye -- and on that note, I'm also pleased to announce this feature coming to the website this month.

We’ve mentioned Aaron Williams’ Epic Campain in the most recent Design & Development. The first strip has now gone live, running through the month on Mondays and Wednesdays, with additional cartoons appearing on Fridays. Enjoy!


June: Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale

From the product catalog:

The monsters and villains contained within are appropriate challenges for heroic- and paragon-tier characters and fit easily into any home campaign, as well as other Dungeons & Dragons published campaign settings. In addition to a 128-page book of ready-to-play monsters and villains, this product includes 8 die-cut sheets of card stock monster and villain tokens and a double-sided battle map featuring four different encounter locations you can use when running encounters.

In this book, you'll find a codex of monsters and villains to throw at the heroes as they explore every nook and cranny of the Nentir Vale or, by extension, your home campaign setting. Most of the entries mention locales within the vale, but if your campaign uses a different setting, you can easily adapt the story material to suit your needs.

Last month, we presented the Abyssal Plague demons. This time, let's look at one of the book's dragons: You might have heard about Bitterstrike, White Wyrm of Winterbole; or Vestapalk, Green Wyrm of the Cairngorm Peaks (and not of the Vestal Parkway, despite similarities in the name).

Calastryx comes to us from the Dawnforge Mountains -- a legend to the people of Hammerfast. Of course, the only thing more lethal than a red dragon might be a three-headed red dragon. The history of this beast is shrouded in mystery and mistruths, yet one fact remains: If Calastryx is ever released from the wizard's curse that imprisons her, havoc would engulf the Nentir Vale.

Dragons of the Vale: Before the dwarves settled Hammerfast, a commune of dragons lived near that region in the Dawnforge Mountains. These dragons considered themselves rulers of the vale and constantly raided the groups of nomadic people that were attempting to settle the land. The people of the vale could not mount an effective defense. Eventually, help arrived from the dwarves of Hammerfast and the dragons' attacks lessened, allowing civilization in the vale to grow.

The dragons still pose a credible threat to the folk of the vale and the citizens of Hammerfast. Many people are concerned because the attacks have increased in frequency recently and no one is sure why.

The Founding of Hammerfast: After years of the dragons' raiding, the people trying to settle in the vale sought out any who could help quell such assaults. Their answer came in the form of the dwarves. Their thane sent a battalion of heavily armored dwarf warriors to establish a forward operating fortress near the Dawnforge Mountains. The dwarves named it Hammerfast, and it was there that the people of the vale first met Calastryx.

Origin Unknown: Calastryx is a vile and perverse creature, born of the mutations of entropy and evil magic. Some speculate that she was the creation of some long-forgotten god, while others believe she has always existed in one form or another. No matter the truth, the fact remains that she exists to destroy anything in her path, and she should be feared and respected. She currently slumbers from a curse placed upon her by the wizard Starris nearly three hundred years ago, but that slumber is nearly over.

Three Heads, One Plan: Each of Calastryx's three heads came to an agreement long ago about how they would work together during combat. Preferring to take out the most obvious threat, Calastryx will go out of her way to ensure that her enemies are effectively terminated.

Most often, Calastryx sends the lesser forces serving her to the front to take the brunt of attacks while she uses her reach to slash, bite, and immolate foes. Fearing little because of her size and might, Calastryx slays allies with her blazing breath if it is tactically advantageous to do so (such as when few or none of her allies are in the area it affects).

Calastryx attempts to herd her enemies into a tight group so that each of her heads has an opportunity to unleash its breath. If an opponent survives such an onslaught, Calastryx stays back from it, using her reach to shred the offender. If any enemy tries to flee or gain a tactical advantage over her, Calastryx moves that enemy into a more vulnerable location with a bite attack.

Calastryx
Level 14 Solo Brute
Huge natural magical beast (dragon)
XP 5,000
HP 684; Bloodied 342 Initiative see multiple heads
AC 26, Fortitude 27, Reflex 25, Will 27 Perception +19
Speed 6, fly 8 Darkvision
Resist 10 fire
Saving Throws +5; Action Points 2
Traits
Action Recovery
Whenever Calastryx ends any of her turns, any marking, dazing, stunning, or dominating effect on her ends.
Multiple Heads
Calastryx gets a full turn at initiative counts 30, 20, and 10. She cannot delay or ready actions. If she is granted immediate actions, she can take no more than one after each of her turns.
Power of Three
Each of Calastryx's heads has its own breath weapon and rip and tear, and it tracks its usage of those powers separately.
Standard Actions
Melee Bite At-Will
Attack: Melee 3 (one creature); +19 vs. AC
Hit: 3d12 + 8 damage, and Calastryx slides the target up to 3 squares.
Ranged Inferno Shot (fire)At-Will
Attack: Ranged 10 (one creature); +17 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d10 + 6 fire damage.
Close Burst Breath Weapon (fire, zone)Recharge6
Attack: Close blast 5 (creatures in the blast); +17 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d12 + 7 fire damage.
Miss: Half damage.
Effect: The blast creates a zone that lasts until the end of Calastryx's next turn. Any creature that ends its turn in one or more zones created by this power takes 10 fire damage.
Melee Rip and Tear Encounter
Attack: Melee 3 (one, two, or three creatures); +19 vs. AC
Hit: 2d12 + 11 damage.
Triggered Actions
Bloodied BirthEncounter
Trigger: Calastryx is first bloodied.
Effect (No Action): Calastryx sprouts a fourth head, which acts on initiative count 40.
Skills Arcana +17, Diplomacy +17, History +17, Insight +19, Intimidate +17
Str 24 (+14)
Dex 15 (+9)
Wis 24 (+14)
Con 21 (+12)
Int 20 (+12)
Cha 21 (+12)
Alignment evil
Languages Common, Draconic, Giant, Goblin
(752 Kbs PDF)

June: Dungeon Tiles: Witchlight Fens

As described in Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale (see the synergy, there?): A number of ruins related to the ancient empire of Bael Turath can be stumbled upon by those who explore the depths of the Witchlight Fens. Newer groups, including lizardfolk and goblin tribes, occupy some of these, but others are so mysterious and have such an air of malignance as to drive all but the most desperate or depraved from their presence.

Yet this marsh that spreads out from both banks of the Nentir River is territory coveted by few intelligent creatures, for one principal reason: Shadowmire.

As elusive as he is deadly, this black dragon considers the Witchlight Fens his realm, and most of those who enter the swamp are not interested in contesting that claim. (They might, however, be looking for the secret location of his lair.) The lizardfolk of the fens live in harmony with the dragon, and some of the witchlight lizardfolk tribes have come to worship him.

Outsiders describe the glowing balls of dancing light within the swamp as "witchlight." Many different types of witchlights exist, including the bizarre fastlights, which are tiny spheres of magical energy that have a natural aversion to living creatures. Unlike others of their race, the witchlight lizardfolk have learned how to catch the evasive fastlights and siphon their magic for other uses.

Although Shadowmire and the witchlight lizardfolk appear in Monster Vault, here are a few more tiles to show off their stomping grounds:


June: Conquest of Nerath

Last month's Ampersand showcased Conquest of Nerath, stating: "Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt (due in October) create a cooperative, roleplaying-like experience that lets players complete an adventure in about an hour. Next month, Conquest of Nerath provides an action-packed strategy game experience, set in the D&D core world, for 2 to 4 players. With this product, chock full of versatile components, the types of gameplay available to D&D fans expand to include competitive war games. And this one is fast-paced, furious, and a whole lot of fun."

Bill also showed off a good look at the game board, which posits the Nerath in a world that also (if you look closely) includes the Tomb of Horrors, Vault of the Drow, and the Temple of Elemental Evil!

By now you've also seen G4's Unboxing Video for the game, which examined its components at length. Just to round things out, we've included another close look at the game's board and pieces in action:




August: Bury Elminster Deep

Coming later this summer, the Sage of Shadowdale continues:

Elminster's archenemy, the vampiric Lord Manshoon, thinks he has destroyed Elminster at last. But Elminster survives in the form of magical ash, and with the help of his scion and the vestige of the long-dead goddess of magic, he still has a chance to counter Manshoon's insidious plots.

(461 Kbs PDF)

August: Oath of Vigilance

Also in novels, the Abyssal Plague has spread its affliction throughout the worlds:

The Order of Vigilance, erstwhile custodians of the Voidharrow -- a malefic crystalline liquid from the heart of a dead abyss -- are at the precipice of cataclysm. With clerics and madmen professing the coming of a new age, and demonic monsters wrecking havoc wherever they appear, the Order's sworn duty to protect the world from the destructive power of the Voidharrow is in jeopardy.

In their search for the true nature of the abyssal plague sweeping the Nentir Vale, Albanon and the Kri Redshal delve deeply into the mysteries, but the answers they find are truly in need of new questions. And as they learn more about the pestilential Voidharrow, they see the forces behind it are more powerful than they had ever dreamed . . . and perhaps more seductive.

The green dragon Vestapalk, or the creature he has become, still roams the land, an army of plague demons at his command. He was to be an instrument of the Chained God, Tharizdun. Destroyer, death bringer, the end he seeks is that of everything.


August: Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Although the campaign setting is right around the corner, we're holding off on previews until next month. We look forward to revealing more to you then -- and as always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand column for the earliest insights and announcements about the game.

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.
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