September has long marked the start of the school year (I'm assuming Hogwarts and Brakebill's University both start in the fall), and it's no different for the denizens of Dragon and Dungeon. As you'll see from their table of contents pages, we'll be looking at character creation in Dragon (with material on backgrounds and feats), and introductory scenarios in Dungeon (with a 0-level adventure, plus a lead-in adventure to the Forge of the Dawn Titan Lair Assault).
This September, I'll be heading back to school myself—as a Husky, at the University of Washington. That follows from being an undergrad Badger at the University of Wisconsin. Although we've completed our Creature Competition for the year, it begs the question of which school mascot, properly modified, would make the most challenging monster in a D&D scenario. We've already seen the celestial dire badger, but what of the University of Maryland's dragon turtles? The South Carolina cockatrices? And Ohio State... well, we still don't exactly know what a buckeye is, but if you have a suggestion for a school mascot we should stat out for the game, we'd love to hear it.
With novels releasing on the first Tuesday of each month, that means our most recent set of novels is now available in e-book form. Sample chapters are offered for the following novels.
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons
Who would have thought that the answers to life's biggest questions can all be found in the greatest roleplaying game of all time? Shelly Mazzanoble, that's who!
The city of Luskan has always been a den of pirates, thieves, and murderers. But lately, it has gotten even worse. A ship crashes ashore with nothing but corpses. Everyday people go crazy and kill those around them. The only signs found of even the most hardened criminals who walk the streets at night are bones.
So sets the stage for Shadowbane, featuring the return of the book's namesake vigilante from Downshadow. Written by Erik Scott de Bie, fans of D&D Encounters will also recognize his name as designer of both the first season as well as the most recent, Lost Crown of Neverwinter. Shadowbane continues the events of the worlds-spanning Abyssal Plague, and as an ebook exclusive it will be bundled together with the following additional content:
- A new short story, "A New Purpose," by Erik Scott de Bie.
- Link to the Abyssal Plague hub, which will include the novel's prequel, "The Last Legend of Gedrin Shadowbane," as well as the e-novella, "Chosen of the Sword," both by Erik Scott de Bie. Along with "A New Purpose," these three pieces feature and tie into characters from Downshadow and Shadowbane.
- The Abyssal Plague overview, written by James Wyatt.
- Sample chapters from other novels in the Abyssal Plague canon: The Temple of Yellow Skulls (by Don Bassingthwaite), Sword of the Gods (by Bruce Cordell), and Oath of Vigilance (by James Wyatt), as well as a sample of The Gates of Madness novella (by James Wyatt);.
- Details on Luskan (Shadowbane's setting), from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide.
- Details on the Abyssal Plague demons, from Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale.
The Shard Axe
Sentinel Marshal Sabira d'Deneith has spent the last eight years trying to drown the memories of the mission that cost her partner his life and gave her the nickname, the Shard Axe. But all the old memories come flooding back when she's recalled from the city of Stormreach to carry out a mission on House Deneith's behalf—to protect and defend the heir of the dwarven city of Frostmantle during his murder trial. The same heir she and her partner guarded eight years ago in the same city—from the same style of murders.
Is the dreaded Nightshard still alive and taunting her? Or is there another serial killer loose in the Mror Holds?
Dragonlance Legends: A Dragonlance Omnibus
The Twins: Raistlin and Caramon, perhaps two of the most beloved characters in the annals of fantasy literature. One, an archmage who seeks to rule the gods themselves; the other, a noble warrior whose love for his brother is the reason he must stop him.
Together they travel back in time to rewrite a history the gods thought etched in stone. To ensure their own future of the world, they must travel to the Abyss and challenge the Dark Queen herself for the destiny of Krynn, and each other for peace within themselves.
Legends, the second trilogy in the beloved Dragonlance saga, contains Time of the Twins, War of the Twins, and Test of Twins all in one stunning volume!
So far, you've feasted your eyes on the wide array of selections the Magnificent Emporium has to offer. There have been flametongue weapons, the robe of the archmage, even the hammer of thunderbolts. Henchmen and hirelings have offered their services. And cursed items have made their, if not triumphant, infamous return to the game with such dangerous devices as the periapt of foul rotting and necklace of strangulation.
This time, let's peruse the magical gear available within the Emporium. Might you be interested in true gauntlets of ogre power? Or perhaps a helm of brilliance? And who doesn't appreciate the effects of an Ioun stone?
Certainly the following items will be of use to someone in your party:
Helm of Seven Deaths
Legends of the Shadowfell speak of gems and their ability to capture and hold the souls of recently slain creatures. A gem's facets can, with the proper infusion of divine or arcane magic, become a twisting, winding maze that captures a soul and forces it to travel in endless circles rather than depart to the afterlife. The helm of seven deaths incorporates several such gems. When the helm's wearer defeats a foe, the gems mounted upon it capture the departing soul and store it for use in fueling the helm's powers.
Ring of Humanoid Influence
The despotic warlock Orada was feared both for his might and his hideous countenance, which had been disfigured by long years of channeling the twisted essence of the Far R ealm. After his death, his exultant servitors discovered on his withered finger a band of pure crystal set with chips of amethyst and emerald. The powers of persuasion granted by the ring were believed to be an essential part of the warlock's rise to power, and the item was successfully replicated a handful of times by those servants.
No magecraft known to Bael Turath, Nerath, or the current age can reproduce the ancient magic of the crystal ball, making such items highly valuable to the sages, lords, and magic-wielders who covet their power. It is said that there is no secret safe against the possessor of a crystal ball, but the dark rumors of madness inflicted on those not capable of mastering this relic's use are so common that there must be some truth to them.
Chaos runs wild through the ruins of Gardmore Abbey, warping reality and threatening its utter dissolution. The legendary Deck of Many Things, an artifact scattered long ago in a titanic clash between good and evil, seeks to reassemble itself and spread chaos through the world. Madness at Gardmore Abbey is a super-adventure for five characters of 6th-8th level. The adventure features numerous quests that might lead the adventurers on many expeditions into the ruined abbey over the course of two or three experience levels of play.
The abbey grounds cover most of a hillside in the middle of the downs. The overgrown path that leads from the King's Road ends in a gate flanked by squat, square towers. To either side of the gate stretches a curtain wall showing signs of its age, supported by occasional towers and buttresses. Above the wall, a caved-in temple yet stands proudly on the hilltop.
South of the gate, the abbey's outer wall is draped with ivy, and the canopy of a thick forest is visible beyond. A tall watchtower stands at the south end of the hill, marking the end of the curtain wall. This wall extends halfway around the hill, and nature has taken care of the rest. The hillside is so steep on the west and south sides that a military assault would be impossible, though a smaller force might be able to scale it.
We've introduced the abbey itself in the past... but what of the reasons for exploring this dangerous locale? True, your players may well be satisfied simply questing after the Deck of Many Things; however, the following provides quests to better enhance their participation with the abbey. As this section mentions, these are additional quests beyond what even the patrons introduced in the adventure will offer.
To start things off, let's introduce one such patron, Lord Padraig:
The beleaguered lord of Winterhaven holds the safety of his village above all else, but he is smart enough to look beyond the village walls and see in the surrounding area threats that could soon affect his home.
Lord Ernest Padraig is the hereditary ruler of Winterhaven, descended from a long line of pioneers and heroes who established a keep at the edge of the known world and held it for centuries against all manner of threats. He is a competent soldier and a reasonable ruler, but not a hero. He's wise enough to see the dangers lurking in the wilderness around his village, but he lacks not only the authority to send a military force beyond the walls to face such threats but also the adventurous spirit to confront them alone. Instead, he relies on adventurers to vanquish the dangers of the wilds before they can threaten Winterhaven's walls.
Appearance: Padraig is a tall, slender male human whose dark hair is liberally sprinkled with gray, though his face is still young. He dresses in aging finery and carries a longsword at his belt.
Values: Padraig's primary concern is the safety of Winterhaven. He takes his position as hereditary lord of the village seriously, and he wants to honor the memory of his ancestors and predecessors who defended the tiny outpost of civilization from the encroaching wilderness for centuries. He respects Winterhaven's elders and leaders but grows increasingly frustrated with what he sees as their inability to look beyond their walls and the present moment to see threats that might affect the village.
Behavior: Padraig is proud, cultured, and willful. He is quick to anger when he feels he's been insulted, but equally quick to respond to an apology. As soon as the adventurers have completed their first quest for him, he treats them as close friends and confidants.
Useful Knowledge: Padraig is familiar with the broad outline of the abbey's history but knows nothing about its layout or its current inhabitants—except that he believes the orc raiders that have been troubling the King's Road are using it as a hideout. He is familiar with the rest of the Nentir Vale, and he knows Winterhaven like the back of his hand. He can secure favors from anyone in the village.
Quest Chain: Stop the Orc Raiders
Lord Padraig hires the adventurers to put a stop to the orc raids that have plagued traffic on the King's Road of late.
Trouble in the Gardbury Downs means trouble in Winterhaven, even if the village militia is too short-sighted to see it. He's willing to pay well to guarantee the safety and prosperity of his village.
Although the ultimate goal is to stop the raids on the King's Road, the orcs are too numerous for the adventurers to have any real hope of exterminating them. Even killing the orc chieftain wouldn't be enough, because a new leader would rise from the ranks to replace him. The task is more complex than it initially appears, leading to a long and involved series of quests.
Padraig starts the chain by giving the adventurers the "Scout the Abbey" quest.
Scout the Abbey: Major Quest, Level 6
"Travelers on the King's Road of late have been attacked by orc raiders as they travel through the Gardbury Downs. The attacks mostly occur in the vicinity of the old ruins of Gardmore Abbey, so I suspect the orcs are using the ruins as a lair. If I could, I'd raise a militia to go root the orcs out of their holes and put them to the sword, but these folk can't see past the village walls. If it's not a threat to Winterhaven, they don't think it's our problem.
"Never mind that it affects caravans coming here. So in lieu of the militia, I'm hiring you to deal with these orcs. To start, I want you to go to the abbey and find out whether the orcs are lairing there. Come back and tell me what you find—as complete a picture of their lair and defenses as you can."
Padraig is a former soldier and has a keen tactical mind. His age and his responsibilities in Winterhaven prevent him from leading the adventurers into battle against the orcs, but he intends to be the general in charge of this campaign nonetheless. And like any good general, he doesn't send his troops blindly into battle—he orders them first to gather information about the enemy.
Objective: Scout the ruins of Gardmore Abbey and assess the orcs' defenses. Return to Padraig with a map of the abbey and an indication of the orcs' numbers.
To complete this quest, the adventurers need to approach the village, possibly leading to encounters 1 and 2 there (see "Scouting and Entering the Village" on page 10 of Book 1). In addition, they should visit the Feygrove and have at least one encounter with the fey there (see "Scouting the Feygrove" on page 14 of Book 1). They might also visit Dragon's Roost, where the ruins of the old temple stand.
Reward: 250 XP per character, and Lord Padraig pays the party 600 gp as incentive to keep working with him.
Development: Padraig quickly identifies the fey dwelling in the Feygrove as potential allies against the orcs, and he sends the adventurers to negotiate with them (the "Peace with the Fey" quest on the next page).
If the adventurers' report to Padraig mentions the wizard's tower standing in the midst of the ruined village, the sage Valthrun the Prescient approaches them later and asks them to investigate the tower for him. He gives them the "Tower of the Archmage" quest (page 5).
The eight quests detailed in this section are mostly spice you can use to enliven the adventure beyond the more significant quest lines offered by the three patrons described later in this chapter. The first quest, "The Deck of Many Things," is an exception: If you plan to start the adventure with the adventurers in possession of a card, they should start with this quest. The other quests come from an assortment of lesser patrons—people who seek information or specific items that can be found in the abbey.
Continuing the D&D Adventure System of boardgames (following Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon), players can now take on the role of the legendary drow ranger or one of his famous adventuring companions, battle fearsome foes, and win treasure and glory.
As far as these famed companions go, you'll be able to play as Catti-Brie (human archer), Regis (halfling rogue), Bruenor Battlehammer (dwarf fighter), Wulfar (human barbarian), and Athrogate (dwarf battleranger)—as well as Artemis Entreri (assassin) or Jarlaxle Baenre (drow mercenary). And of course, there's the option to play as dual-scimitar wielding Drizzt Do'urden:
For those of you familiar with past D&D Adventure System games, Legend of Drizzt plays just as similarly—except that the dungeon tiles represent the caverns filled with the monsters, traps, and tricks you'd expect in the dark corners of the Underdark. Various scenarios pit you against yochlols, mind flayers, Yvonnel Baenre the drow matron mother, Shimmergloom the shadow dragon, and Errtu the Balor—as well as Artemis and Jarlaxle (that's right, available as both members of your adventuring party or as your party's foes):
The Feywild, also sometimes called the land of Faerie, is a place bright with magic. Those who wander its enchanted roads discover miracles and wonders undreamed of in the mortal world. In the Feywild, the laws of science, logic, and reason defer to the arts of magic, story, and rhyme. Ordinary animals and objects converse as eloquently as any worldly mortal. Enchanted forests wander across the landscape like herds of roving sheep. Glorious castles perch on mountain spires that touch the starry heavens, and a bold traveler can board a vessel to a fey palace on the moon.
Fairies anoint the dewdrops on morning flowers, and in the evening, satyrs play their gentle pipes to lull the world to sleep. Yet for all its dreamlike splendor, the plane can be as perilous as the Elemental Chaos with its random explosions of stone and fire, and as deadly as the life-sapping Shadowfell. Here wicked hags place everlasting curses on their enemies, change mortals into toads, and blacken the moon in their flight across the midnight sky. Capricious fey play careless games with mortal lives. Underground caverns sprawl the length of the world above, and in these dark places, fomorian tyrants, brutal cyclopses, and hateful drow await the day when they will overthrow the surface dwellers.
Those who are drawn to this realm of enchantment and danger must take care, for wonders and horrors beyond imagining lie around every bend in the woodland road.
The Feywild—some know it as a land of enchantment, others as a land fraught with peril. In this book, you'll learn about crossing into the Feywild, as well as the places within: the Feydark, the eladrin cities, and the demesnes of the archfey—the personal realms of the mightiest fey creatures.
Myriad races dwell within the Feywild, many of which have long since journeyed to the mortal realm. The eladrin and the drow are perhaps the best known of these, but they are not the only heroic fey peoples who travel in both worlds. This book presents three new Feywild races suitable for any campaign (briefly mentioned at this year's Gen Con product seminar):
Hamadryad: Hamadryads are the enchanting spirits of oak trees. At one with nature, they can be as calm as the autumn sunset one moment and as violent as a thunderstorm the next.
Pixie: Childlike fairies full of wonder and magic, the tiny pixies fly on vibrant wings and vanish into thin air on a whim.
Satyr: Half humanoid and half goat, satyrs love music and celebration, and they constantly seek the chance to prove themselves good friends and deadly enemies.
In the coming weeks, we'll look to these element in Heroes of the Feywild: the places, the races, the new class powers (foe to frog, savage transformation), themes, and subclasses (including the witch!) Until then, we leave you with one of the many bard's tales from the book, concerning our friend, the satyr:
Bard's Tale: The Ugly Satyr
Once there was a young man who loved a lord's daughter. Night after night he came to her window to woo her, but each time the lady refused him, saying, "My love's face is secret, my love is most rare, my love plays the music upon the night air."
One night, as the young man went out to woo his lady, he heard a beautiful melody in the wood. He followed the sound to a glade where an ugly satyr played the pipes with skill beyond mortal reckoning.
"If you would teach me that tune, I would give you anything you ask," said the young man. The satyr agreed in return for a small vow, and he taught the man the tune upon the pipes. When the man played it at the lady's window, she consented to marry him. A wedding day was set, guests were invited, and all was made ready.
On the eve of the wedding, the ugly satyr arrived to claim his due: a kiss from the lady who adored his music. The young man scoffed at the request and turned the satyr away. The man then set a circle of cold iron around his beloved's chamber, for the creatures of Faerie cannot cross such boundaries.
That night, as the man slept, a beautiful new melody drifted from the forest and into the bridal bower. On the morning of the wedding, the lady was gone from the tower. The only trace of her was a single delicate footprint outside the circle of cold iron. Try as he might, the man who broke his vow to the satyr never discovered where she had gone.
And that's this month's look at what's coming out in the months ahead! Keep an eye out of the next round of excerpts, as well as the video footage from the Live D&D Game that took place last month at PAX!
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.