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A Vault Full of Monsters
Ampersand Special: Essentials Previews
by Bill Slavicsek

This is our final installment of Dungeons & Dragons Essentials previews in Ampersand. Before long, you'll be able to pick up your own copy of these terrific books and see first-hand what all the excitement is about.

The last piece of the collection that we need to show off is the Monster Vault. This is a hefty 320 pages (in digest size, like the other books) of the game's most iconic and useful monsters, from Angel and Archon to Yuan-ti and Zombie with loads more in between. Many of these have been seen before in previous Monster Manuals, but everything in the Vault has been reexamined, its statistics rebalanced, and its powers polished up to make these creatures state of the art and in line with the most current Dungeons & Dragons design philosophy. We're not talking about anything earth-shattering; rather, numbers have been tweaked here and there to make creatures more challenging, or powers have been given more interesting and dynamic effects.

But that's not all you get in this box. There are also ten sheets of monster tokens. They're numbered to make it easy to keep track of which hit points go with which token and double-sided to show when they become bloodied. Ten sheets give you hundreds of tokens so that you'll always have what you need or something very close to it.

There's one very cool piece of cardboard tech here that, even though it's a small thing, we're particularly fond of. It's what some are calling "the enorminator"—a cardboard ring that drops around a Large-size token to turn a Large creature into its Enormous cousin. A few of those simple rings allowed us to squeeze a lot more tokens showing a lot more variety of monsters into the ten sheets, and gives you complete freedom when it comes to deciding which monsters to pump up into Huge brutes and solos.

Finally, there's also Cairn of the Winter King—a 32-page adventure for 4th-level characters—and a double-sided poster map for use with the adventure (and the tokens) and any other encounters and adventures you create on your own.

No amount of talking will substitute for a good example–and what better example could there be than that perennial favorite, the beholder gauth? Below is the introduction to the beholders section of the book, the statistics block for the beholder gauth, and as an added bonus, the stats for the enormous carrion crawler—just because we like carrion crawlers (and we had to show off "the enorminator")!


Beholder

Creatures of abhorrent shape and alien mind, beholders seek dominance over all they survey. The floating horrors enforce their will by firing rays of magic from their eyestalks.

When the unwholesome plane known as the Far Realm comes into tenuous contact with reality, terrible things boil across the boundary. Nightmares form the thunderhead of psychic storms that presage the arrival of warped beings and forces undreamt of by the maddest demon or the vilest devil. Many aberrant creatures stumble upon the world by accident, pushed in like chill wind through a door suddenly opened. Others crash into reality because it is as loathsome to them as their surreal homeland is to all sane natives of the rational planes. Beholders, however, come as conquerors. Each one seeks to claim all in its sight, and beholders see much indeed.

Beholders do not belong in the world or in any of the planes inhabited by immortal or elemental, primordial or god. Their home, the Far Realm, is so antithetical to rational thought that most who glimpse the plane go mad. Like other unsettling inhabitants of that place, beholders have forms unlike those of natural creatures.

Diverse and Horrible Powers: Beholders come in a bewildering variety, and many that escape the Far Realm emerge into the world altered by the passage. Each beholder projects a number of supernatural powers through its eyes, but the specific details and arrangement of those powers vary by beholder variety. Worse, the powers can change and improve over time, so that as a beholder grows older, it becomes more fearsome.

Ruled by Few: The only certainty when dealing with beholders is that they possess malignant intent and a desire for dominance. Indeed, beholders rarely tolerate subservience to other beings, and they shun the company of their own kind. When beholders work together or do the bidding of a more powerful master, the world is in peril.

Beholders serve only those creatures that they fear and from which they cannot escape. Formidable titans, mighty dragons, and legendary spellcasters can sometimes command a beholder’s allegiance, but these would-be lords must be cautious of betrayal. As deceitful as it is malign, a beholder will submit to the authority of a strong leader if it believes it can one day claim that creature’s power.

Masters of Many: Beholders believe that they deserve to rule all they see. Lesser beings that show obedience to these hungry and unpredictable horrors can find a place—albeit not a safe one—in their service. Beholders accept all manner of creatures as their attendants, lackeys, and minions. Such slaves must frequently prove themselves valuable, lest their masters decide that they would make better meals than they do servants.

Beholder Gauth
Level 5 Elite Artillery
Medium aberrant magical beast
XP 400
HP 102; Bloodied 51 Initiative +4
AC 17, Fortitude 16, Reflex 18, Will 19 Perception +10
Speed 0, fly 6 (hover) All-around vision, darkvision
Saving Throws +2; Action Points 1
TRAITS
All-Around Vision
Enemies can’t gain combat advantage by flanking the gauth.
STANDARD ACTIONS
Melee Bite At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +10 vs. AC
Hit: 2d4 + 5 damage.
Ranged Eye Rays At-Will
Effect: The gauth uses two eye ray powers chosen from the list below. Each eye ray must target a different creature. Using eye rays does not provoke opportunity attacks.
1. Fire Ray (fire): Ranged 8; +10 vs. Reflex; 2d6 + 6 fire damage.
2. Exhaustion Ray (necrotic): Ranged 8; +10 vs. Fortitude; 1d8 + 4 necrotic damage, and the target is weakened (save ends).
3. Sleep Ray (charm): Ranged 8; +10 vs. Fortitude; the target is slowed (save ends).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is knocked unconscious instead of slowed (save ends).
4. Telekinesis Ray: Ranged 8; +10 vs. Fortitude; the gauth slides the target up to 4 squares.
MINOR ACTIONS
Ranged Central Eye At-Will
Attack: Ranged 5 (one creature); +10 vs. Will
Hit: The target is immobilized until the end of the gauth’s next turn.
Str 12 (+3) Dex 15 (+4) Wis 16 (+5)
Con 15 (+4) Int 18 (+6) Cha 20 (+7)
Alignment evil Languages Deep Speech


Enormous Carrion Crawler
Level 17 Elite Soldier
Huge aberrant beast
XP 3,200
HP 332; Bloodied 166 Initiative +14
AC 33, Fortitude 31, Reflex 30, Will 29 Perception +11
Speed 6, climb 6 (spider climb) Darkvision
Saving Throws +2; Action Points 1
TRAITS
Threatening Reach
The carrion crawler can make opportunity attacks against enemies within 3 squares of it.
STANDARD ACTIONS
Melee Tentacles (poison) At-Will
Attack: Melee 3 (one creature); +20 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d6 + 8 damage, the carrion crawler can pull the target 1 square, and the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage and is slowed (save ends both).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is immobilized instead of slowed (save ends).
Second Failed Saving Throw: The target is stunned instead of immobilized (save ends).
Melee Bite At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +22 vs. AC
Hit: 2d12 + 12 damage.
Melee Hungry Assault At-Will
Effect: The carrion crawler uses tentacles twice or uses tentacles once and bite once.
Close Burst Tentacle Flurry (poison) Recharge when first bloodied
Attack: Close blast 3 (creatures in the blast); 20 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d10 + 5 damage, and the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage and is slowed (save ends both).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is immobilized instead of slowed (save ends).
Second Failed Saving Throw: The target is stunned instead of immobilized (save ends).
Str 25 (+15) Dex 18 (+12) Wis 16 (+11)
Con 22 (+14) Int 4 (+5) Cha 18 (+12)
Alignment unaligned Languages


And there you have the full run of our Dungeons & Dragons Essentials previews. Next month, we return to our normal schedule, meaning just one Ampersand column for you and more time to play D&D for me!

Keep playing!


In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon Magazine.

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