We have a lot to showcase this month, so let's get straight to it!
After a short hiatus, D&D Encounters returns on February 6th! As mentioned in our recent news, this season takes inspiration from classics such as The Village of Hommlet and Against the Cult of the Reptile God.
Not only does this new story feature characters and locations from beloved past adventures, but there's another compelling reason to participate. This upcoming season of D&D Encounters will support both D&D 4th Edition and D&D Next by using conversion rules! This means that during the first week (Session 0) when players typically make their characters, they’ll also need to decide which version of D&D they want to play. Dungeon Masters who choose to run this season under D&D Next rules can download conversion notes at a later date at www.dndnext.com.
D&D Next Rules
If you choose to play this season using D&D Next rules, things will be a little more involved. Your store/play group will need to do the following:
- Find one or more Dungeon Masters (DMs) interested in running this season with D&D Next rules. Note that these DMs are required to be part of the D&D Next Playtest in order to download the playtest packet and conversion notes. They must also agree to the terms and conditions of the playtest in order to run D&D Next sessions in store. If you have Dungeon Masters that are not currently in the playtest but want to take part, they can sign up at www.dndnext.com.
- Your store will let your Dungeon Master know that D&D Next conversion notes for Against the Cult of Chaos will be distributed through the playtest packet in the weeks leading up to the first session of play (Session 0). DMs will be responsible for downloading all of the materials to convert the game, as well as pregenerated character sheets if necessary. DMs will still need the adventure packet included in the D&D Encounters kit in order to run their sessions.
- Your store will also distribute the playtest agreements (included in the D&D Encounters kit) to all players prior to their first session of play. Players should read over their playtest agreement and retain it for future reference.
- Players who are signed up for the D&D Next Playtest may create their own characters. Players who are NOT signed up for the D&D Next Playtest, but wish to participate in this season of Encounters using D&D Next rules, must use pregenerated characters provided by the DM.
Background: Against the Cult of Chaos
So after you decide on your play method, what can you expect in this D&D Encounters season? Here's a hint of this season's backstory:
Miska the Wolf-Spider is a force of incomparable evil and chaos. During a long-forgotten war between law and chaos, the terrible creature was locked away in an extraplanar prison after slaying many powerful champions of law. For millennia, the creature threw himself at the walls of his prison, until the tiniest of cracks finally formed. Like chaos itself, Miska is not patient, and he is relentless . . .
Chapter 1: The Village of Hommel Lane
February 6th starts this season with character creation (Session 0). The following week, February 13th, then sees your characters heading off to the Village of Hommel Lane—a village plagued by strange happenings and beset by not one but three deadly threats.
As you arrive:
Sir Hadarai Moonbrook’s armor gleams in the morning sunlight. This fact is not surprising, since his three squires have spent most of their evenings the last two weeks repeatedly polishing it. The long journey with the paladin should end at midday, with your arrival at Hommel Lane.
Since the moment you agreed to join the paladin of the Lawbringer on this journey, Sir Moonbrook has continually and loudly described the importance of your mission. Although his warnings of “unspeakable evil” and “the terrible blight of chaos unchecked” seem ominous, he has provided no exact description of this imminent threat to Hommel Lane.
In addition to your fellow adventurers and Sir Moonbrook’s three human squires—Vivial, Robbek, and Jhaak—your traveling party is accompanied by a cart laden with farm implements and masonry tools. The cart’s driver, a halfling named Wyndell, is a teamster based out of Hommel Lane, and he has spent much of the two-week journey acting twitchy. Wyndell has seen his wagon runs plagued by bandit attacks over the past six weeks. In fact, the halfling has let it quietly be known that any adventurers who can send the bandits packing will earn his gratitude and a reward.
The final member of your entourage is a young male half-elf named Carjo Merridie, whose “gran-gran” Vilma has lived in Hommel Lane for over a century. Carjo flirts constantly with Sir Moonbrook’s squire Vivial, a young human female who tolerates his incessant chatter with the stoic perseverance that only a paladin in training can muster.
Temple of the Sky God
The current D&D Lair Assault, Temple of the Sky God, runs through February. There's still time to journey to the corrupted temple in the clouds and attempt to reclaim it from its new, dark masters. Before you start, find out which aerial mount is best suited for you.
Background: Temple of the Sky God
For centuries, the faithful of Shaundakul have sought prophecies from the “Voice of the Wind,” an ancient oracle that serves the Rider of the Winds in a floating temple high above the wild and treacherous Stonelands north of Cormyr. Even after Shaundakul disappeared during the Spellplague, pilgrims continued to visit the site. They scaled the sharp-sided peak known as the Windspire, where they mounted trained flying creatures to bear gifts and offerings to the oracle in hopes of receiving insights into the future.
In recent months, travelers seeking the oracle have not returned, and foresters and prospectors in the Stonelands have reported a crimson light in the night sky where the blue radiance of the temple once shone. Cadellos Erethond, a priest of Shaundakul, has grown concerned. He has sought out brave adventurers to discover what has befallen the temple.
Unknown to Erethond, a blue dragon named Valraun has imprisoned the oracle with magic and corrupted the guardians of the temple. Styling himself the new Lord of the Windspire, Valraun leaches power from the temple with a dark ritual, hoping to steal the oracle’s power of foresight and use it to gain dominion over the skies.
Assisted by the legendary Mounts of the Winds, the heroes must fly to the temple above the Windspire, face the corrupted temple guardians, and ultimately battle Valraun.
Will they defeat the dragon and free the oracle, or will Valraun blast them from the sky?
Into the Pit of Madness
Then in March, we come to D&D Lair Assault: Into the Pit of Madness. In this 10th-level challenge, mad cultists have located the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and sounded the dark god’s iron horn, the Wailer of Tharizdun. Now the ground trembles as the Chained God’s aspect struggles to escape.
When it does, the Chained God will follow, plunging the world into Eternal Darkness.
Background: Into the Pit of Madness
For as long as mortals have walked the world, a dark shadow has loomed over the Yatil Mountains. Here the Witch Queen Iggwilv penned the Demonomicon and reigned over an empire so terrible and so wicked that the lands around were forever changed. Yet hers is not the worst legacy of those who have claimed these peaks as their home. A temple to the dark god—the Chained God, He of Eternal Darkness—has stood somewhere in these mountains since before humans founded their first kingdom. Its influence has long lured the insane, the cruel, and the vile to its shadowy corridors.
Many times in its history the temple has risen in power, and many times it has fallen. The last time, courageous heroes sacked it, bringing down its blasphemous altars and putting the twisted monsters lurking there to the sword and spell. As thorough as their work was, however, it was not enough, for a new cult has uncovered the ruins and is freeing the Chained God from his prison.
The cultists located the dread Wailer of Tharizdun, the instrument designed to open the Way to Darkness. They have sounded this horn, made sacrifices, and stand ready to greet their master… unless the heroes can stop them first.
As recently announced, we've released the first wave of audio titles through our partners at Audible.com, with many more to come over the following months!
Audible.com's D&D page showcases all Dungeons & Dragons titles currently available. In addition, back in October, we asked you to vote on your preferred narrator for our forthcoming Drizzt novels—and your choice was clear. Victor Bevine was selected as narrator, and he has since been in the recording studio:
We look forward to hearing these novels brought to life!
February: Prophet of the Dead
By Richard Lee Byers
The fifth book in the Brotherhood of the Griffon series has arrived! Lord of the Eminence of Araunt, Lod masterminds the undead of Rashemen to begin a series of rituals that will corrupt the Urlingwood, the spiritual heart of the land and the closest in all of Faerûn to the Feywild. Their intent is to shift the fundamental balance of forces in this special land so that the undead can conquer and rule, establishing a beachhead from the Deathways for the Eminence of Araunt to spread its influence across the continent.
With this backdrop of terror unreeling, the unscrupulous mercenary Mario Bez and his company return to the capital, falsely claiming to have won the battle in the north, and try to take a pride of wild griffons as their reward. The griffons don't cooperate, though, and Yhelbruna—the witch, who brought them out of the mountains with the help of the berserker Vandar—says that the griffons' refusal shows the spirits haven't favored the Halruaans to take possession. Without another course of action, Bez had no choice but to wait for the judgment of the Masked Witches with the threat that his murderous perfidy in the north will become known.
In the north, Vandar learns that Jet, the hero Aoth's black griffon steed, and the shadow sorcerer Dai Shan did survive the duplicitous attack led by Bez. Jet, Dai Shan, and Vandar realize that, despite their differences, they must join forces to survive in the wintery north, as they find themselves the object of the malevolent attentions of a motley band of monsters that covet Vandar's magic weapons.
Of the remaining cast of characters, Aoth strives to get out of Thay and back to Rashemen before he's recognized and brought before his old enemy Szass Tam. In the Deathways, Jhesrhi and Cera meet a demonic entity named Sarshethrian who revealed to Lod, architect of the Eminence of Araunt, a well of knowledge surrounding the necromantic arts, for which Lod thanked him with betrayal. Now, Sarshethrian wants revenge, but needs Jhesrhi and Cera to help him attack the undead reinforcements the Eminence is moving through the Deathways to Rashemen. And they need him to get back to Rashemen. Thus a deal is struck.
Eventually, all our heroes overcome their obstacles to return to Rashemen. But will it be too late to stop the horrible plots of the Eminence of Aurant? If the heroes are to win, they must seek unlikely allies…
By R.A. Salvatore
This action-packed third book of the New York Times best-selling Neverwinter Saga comes to paperback. Follow the world’s most famous drow, Drizzt Do’Urden, as he draws his scimitars once more to aid a new friend and an old foe!
Looking down across the miles to mist-covered Neverwinter, Drizzt Do'Urden has never felt more lost. His lover, Dahlia Sin'felle, can speak of nothing but the moment she will face the Netherese lord Herzgo Alegni once again. Drizzt has already followed a trail of vengeance beside Dahlia. Can he justify one more battle to settle a grudge he does not understand?
Artemis Entreri too seeks vengeance. He offers to aid Dahlia in her mission to destroy Alegni. But Charon's Claw, Alegni's sentient sword, dominates Entreri's movements—if not his mind. And then there's the way Entreri looks at Dahlia. Can Drizzt trust his old foe?
Dark elves emerge from Menzoberranzan on a quest for their own form of freedom. Will Drizzt be drawn back into a world he once struggled to escape?
Drizzt doesn't know where he stands. And so he does what he knows: He fights. On the side of Dahlia, whose secrets intrigue him. On the side of Artemis Entreri, whose secrets plague him. With twin scimitars in hand, Drizzt fights, hoping that in the heat of battle, truth will be found.
March: The Last Threshold
By R.A. Salvatore
And then in March, we receive the fourth book in the Neverwinter Saga!
Determined to stand on the side of what's right in the Realms once again, Drizzt leads his colleagues on a mission to fight back the sea monsters plaguing the remaining residents of Port Llast—only to discover a traitor in his midst. As he seeks out the mastermind behind the subterfuge, he finds himself caught in the Shadowfell—facing an old foe he never expected to see again.
From the prologue:
You cannot presume that this creature is natural, in any sense of the word,” the dark-skinned Shadovar woman known as the Shifter told the old graybeard. “She is perversion incarnate.”
The old druid Erlindir shuffled his sandal-clad feet and gave a great “harrumph!”
“Incarnate, I tell you.” The Shifter tapped her finger against the old druid’s temple and ran it delicately down under his eye and across his cheek to touch his crooked nose.
“So, you’re really in front of me this time,” Erlindir cackled, referring to the fact that when one addressed the Shifter, typically one was actually addressing a projected image, a phantasm, of the most elusive enchantress.
“I told you that you could trust me, Birdcaller,” she replied, using a nickname she’d given him when she had met him at his grove many months before.
“If I didn’t believe you, would I have come to this place?” He looked around at the dark images of the Shadowfell, his gaze settling on the twisted keep and tower before him, with its many spires and multiple—likely animated—gargoyles, all leering at him and smiling hungrily. They had just journeyed through a most unpleasant swamp, reeking of death and decay and populated by undead monstrosities. This castle was not much of an improvement.
“Why, Erlindir, you flatter me so,” the Shifter teased, and she grabbed him by the chin and directed his gaze back to her face. Her spell wouldn’t last forever, she knew, and she didn’t want any of the unnatural images to shake the druid from his stupor. Erlindir was of the old school, after all, a disciple of the nature goddess Mielikki. “But remember why you are here.”
“Yes, yes,” he replied, “this unnatural cat. You would have me destroy it, then?”
“Oh, no, not that!” the Shifter exclaimed.
Erlindir looked at her curiously.
“My friend Lord Draygo has the panther,” the Shifter explained. “He is a warl—mage of great renown and tremendous power.” She paused to watch the druid’s reaction, fearing that her near slip-up might clue the old one into her ruse. There was a reason that swamp teemed with undead creatures. No druid, charmed or not, would be so eager to help a warlock.
“Lord Draygo fears that the cat’s master is crafting other . . . abominations,” she lied. “I would like you to grant him affinity to the cat, that he might see through her eyes when she is summoned home, and cut her bindings to the Astral Plane and anchor her here instead.”
Erlindir looked at her suspiciously.
“Only for a short time,” she assured him. “We will destroy the cat when we’re sure that her master is not perverting nature for his ill intent. And destroy him, too, if needed.”
“I would rather that you bring him to me, that I might learn the damage he has already caused,” Erlindir said.
“So be it,” the enchantress readily agreed, since lies came so easily to her lips.
In a recent Legends & Lore, Mike Mearls stated that:
Back at Gen Con last year, we announced that we were once again going to make certain titles of classic D&D material available for purchase as PDF files. I'm happy to announce that our friends over at DrivethruRPG.com are offering the first of many waves of classic content through our new PDF store DnDClassics.com!
Initially, you'll see classics such as the B-series of modules, the entirety of the first mega-campaign, spanning the G, D, and Q series of adventures, Greyhawk sourcebooks, and more showing up on DrivethruRPG's virtual shelves. Personally, I'm running a D&D Next playtest of Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain every Friday afternoon at the office from a PDF loaded on to my iPad.
When we began the D&D Next process, we were committed to looking at D&D beyond the rules for the tabletop game. We realize that some people like running classic adventures or playing earlier editions. We hope D&D Next meets your needs, but if you want to stick with the D&D you already know and love, then DrivethruRPG.com's ever-expanding library will have everything that you'll need.
February: Unearthed Arcana
As with the 1st Edition core rulebooks, the original Unearthed Arcana has been faithfully reproduced in a new premium edition with gilded pages. The cover design mirrors that of the premium reprints of the 1st Edition Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual. This book includes errata published in Dragon magazine.
We've also been taking a look inside Unearthed Arcana (with quick overviews of the barbarian, cavalier, and thief-acrobat). This month, let's present the Tables of Contents for both the Player's and Dungeon Master's sections—so you can get a broader look at all that the book contains!
Dungeon Master's Section
As a side note, we've also based a past D&D Alumni column, as well as our pole arm quiz on the appendixes from Unearthed Arcana. Specifically, Appendix N: The Nomenclature of Pole Arms, wherein:
An astonishing number of different weapons were employed during the medieval period. What is nearly as surprising is the lack of uniformity of names by which these weapons are called. Seemingly, authors who should be authorities in this regard carelessly brand one sort of weapon under an entirely mistaken classification, thus confusing the uninformed reader and generally making identification difficult and uncertain. An outstanding example of this misnaming of weapons appears in Warriors and Weapons of Early Times by Niels M. Saxtorph, where an obvious morning star is identified as a mace. While the general use of both weapon types is the same, they differed sufficiently to make it rather important to distinguish between the two, viz.: a mace is usually a short-shafted weapon with a flanged head, the whole cast in one piece; a morning star is a longer weapon, typically employed by infantry, with a wooden shaft and head, the latter set with radiating spikes.
Clearly, we see a great degree of both specialized knowledge and passion on the topic!
March: Dungeons of Dread
The original "S" series of adventure modules included four of the D&D game's deadliest dungeons, each one stocked with memorable monsters, terrifying traps, and legendary treasures. Collectively, these modules have slain more unlucky adventurers than any other series in the game's illustrious history, yet players keep coming back for more!
The time has come to relive these glorious adventures. Plunder the trap-infested tomb of Acererak the Demi-Lich, steal three fabled weapons from White Plume Mountain, explore a crashed spaceship in the Barrier Peaks, and delve once more into the caverns of the Arch-mage Iggwilv in search of her lost trove.
Dungeons of Dread collects all four classic adventures into one limited-edition, premium hardcover book, preserving their interior layout, content, and timeless black-and-white artwork.
As related notes, we (here on the website) have long held the "S" series in the highest regard, and have turned to examine its intricacies many times over. For example:
April: 3.5 Premium Spell Compendium
Pockets full of bat guano, incomprehensible speech, and twisted hands making bizarre gestures—it sounds crazy, but in the Dungeons & Dragons game, these are the earmarks of power, for they are the signs of spellcasting. Spells and spellcasters form a cornerstone of fantasy, and Spell Compendium builds on that cornerstone by presenting over a thousand spells in one place.
The 3.5 Edition Premium Spell Compendium collects the most popular spells in the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome. This premium reprint also features an attractive new cover and includes errata.
If you missed the original release of this valued tome, this book puts over a thousand spells at your fingertips. As the book itself suggests, the simplest way to introduce the spells in this book to your character or your campaign is to have a character choose them and cast them in play. You can assume that spellcasters always possessed the ability to cast the spells, but they simply hadn’t been cast in the presence of the characters before. Alternatively, spells might be discovered in lost books of lore or newly created by a player character or nonplayer character. Wands, scrolls, and other magic items also present great ways to introduce the spells you want your character to cast or you want to see cast by your players’ characters.
Whichever way you choose to introduce Spell Compendium spells, don’t wait for the perfect moment: The best way to get the most from this or any rules supplement is to put it into play right away.
4. Board Games/Minis
We end this month's announcements and previews with a look at two more of the creatures coming in the latest Dungeon Command faction pack.
First up, we have the Orc Druid, who summons beasts and elementals by his side, in a fashion, by deploying them in unoccupied adjacent squares. His Adventure System card also boasts the powerful effect of activating all Animal Monsters in play after the Druid activates.
Next, we have the brutish Ogre. Need we say more than his gigantic axe inflicts 50 damage?
And finally, let's show off one of the new commanders for this set: Lokar of the Stonelands! For those looking to make his acquaintance, Lokar is unusually charismatic, drawing other orcs to his side with promises of glorious bloodshed. As a veteran of dozens of raids in Cormyr, he has a keen mind for warfare. Countless orcs have challenged Lokar's reign, but none have lived to tell the tale.
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.