Previews Archive | 5/4/2009
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May and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Monster Manual 2 releases this month, which includes gobs and gobs of new monsters—look for the stats for two monsters below (the ankheg and hive queen ant, from our ongoing Creature Competition). I'm holding an early copy of the book in my hands right now, and it is a beauty . . . among its many offerings (including metallic dragons, demons, devils, and the behir -- which almost ate my character in our ongoing Thursday Night campaign) are new plant monsters as well.

Perhaps I'm speaking as a resident of Seattle, but the glory days of spring have caused me to think that most people are plant monsters at heart. In the winter months, I would have said zombies (in MM2, while there are no zombies, there are skeletal steeds, ghost legionaries, and bone golems, among other types of undead). Now that the sun has emerged . . . periodically . . . it's nice to see folks, myself included, start to unfold and venture outside once more.

Come to think of it, with all the rain and dampness, perhaps we're closest to myconids. And yes, they are returning as well.


May: DDM Monster Manual Dangerous Delves

Speaking of monsters, R&D's Peter Lee provided us several critters from this month's Dangerous Delves set to show off in all their glory!


Skalmad

Kobold Wyrmpriest

Bonechill Chimera

Minotaur Battle Shaman

Kruthik Young

May: Monster Manual 2

As mentioned, if you've been following our latest Creature Competition (today's bracket features the odious bullywug against the equally offensive neogi), our first vote pitted the ankheg against the hive queen ant. Who would you least like to see at your picnic? Well, the ankheg won that vote quite handily: 80.5% to 19.5%. Now, although we've been styling these as popularity votes more than an actual fighting competition, let's show you the stats for these two creatures:

Hive Queen Ant

Waves of single-minded giant ants can strip the landscape bare for miles, overcoming any foe with sheer numbers. They have been known to reduce towns to bare earth. In addition to birthing further generations, the hive queen directs the activities of her brood with a ruthless and single-minded purpose.

Hive Queen
Level 5 Elite Controller (Leader)
Large natural beast
XP 400
Initiative +6 Senses Perception +2; low-light vision, tremorsense 10
In the Presence of the Queen aura 10; each giant ant within the aura gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls.
HP 132; Bloodied 66
AC 19; Fortitude 19, Reflex 16, Will 17
Immune fear
Speed 6, climb 2
Saving Throws +2
Action Points 1
Melee Bite (standard; at-will)
+10 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage.
Melee Kick (minor; at-will)
Reach 2; +9 vs. Reflex; 3 damage, and the hive queen pushes the target 3 squares.
Melee Hive Queen Frenzy (free, when any giant ant within 10 squares of the hive queen drops to 0 hit points; at-will)
The queen shifts 2 squares and uses kick.
Close Burst Acidic Cloud (standard; encounter) Acid, Zone
Close burst 4; the burst creates a zone of caustic gas that lasts until the end of the encounter. Any enemy that starts its turn within the zone takes 2 acid damage for each giant ant within the zone. The zone is centered on the hive queen and moves with her.
Area Burst Acidic Blast (standard; recharge 456) Acid
Area burst 3 within 10; targets enemies; +7 vs. Will; 1d6 + 2 acid damage, and the target is dazed (save ends). Miss: Half damage.
Call to Arms (when first bloodied; encounter)
Four new giant ant hive workers appear and act to defend their queen. Each ant appears within 5 squares of the hive queen, and acts on the queen's initiative count.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages --
Str 13 (+3)
Dex 12 (+3)
Wis 11 (+2)
Con 18 (+6)
Int 2 (-2)
Cha 15 (+4)

Giant Ant Lore

Nature DC 7: Giant ants live in hives consisting of hundreds of members. The majority of these ants are workers, but they all fight to defend the hive.

Nature DC 12: Although they are not intelligent, giant ants use teamwork and simple yet effective tactics. Giant ants possess a social organization rivaling that of the most efficient humanoids.

Nature DC 17: Giant ants communicate with nearby members of the hive by using a complex combination of pheromones. These pheromones are highly acidic, and the ants use them to damage foes.

Ankheg

Loathsome insects with a taste for bipedal prey, ankhegs burst from hiding to seize the unwary. An ankheg moves with great stealth, but might be detected by the faint whiff of acid dripping from its twitching mandibles.

Ankheg
Level 3 Elite Lurker
Large natural beast
XP 300
Initiative +10 Senses Perception +9; tremorsense 5
HP 100; Bloodied 50
AC 17; Fortitude 14, Reflex 16, Will 14
Resist 5 acid
Saving Throws +2
Speed 8, burrow 4 (tunneling)
Action Points 1
Melee Claw (standard; at-will)
+8 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage.
Melee Mandible Grab (standard; usable only while the ankheg does not have a creature grabbed; at-will)
+8 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage, and the target is grabbed; see also mandible carry.
Melee Gnaw and Scuttle (minor; at-will) Acid
Targets a creature grabbed by the ankheg; +8 vs. AC; 1d8 + 2 damage, and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends). The ankheg then shifts 2 squares and pulls the target to space adjacent to its new location.
Close Burst Acid Spray (standard; recharges when first bloodied) Acid
Close blast 3; +8 vs. Reflex; 1d8 + 5 acid damage, and the target is slowed and takes ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends both).
Mandible Carry
An ankheg can move at normal speed while carrying a creature that is Medium or smaller.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages --
Skills Stealth +11
Str 15 (+3)
Dex 20 (+6)
Wis 16 (+4)
Con 18 (+5)
Int 2 (-3)
Cha 4 (–2)

Ankheg Lore

Nature DC 10: Ankhegs dig mazelike networks of tunnels, which might contain other monsters that have claimed part of the tunnel network as their own.

Nature DC 15: Ankhegs are found in nesting pairs, their broodlings rarely emerging from the safety of their tunnels.


May: The Restless Shore

Last month, we mentioned that we would be planning a few support articles to help coincide with James P. Davis's novel releasing this month: The Restless Shore. What's in store? For starters, we're pleased to offer a new short story by James called "Seven They Were".

The Seventh Child

Nameless, the identity and purpose of the youngest of Serevan's child prisoners was held only in quiet rumor and speculation by those few who knew she even existed. Some suggested the girl might have been an illegitimate sister of Serevan, others wondered if the girl might have been the daughter of King Arkaius himself, though the possibility painted Arkaius as far crueler than they'd been told of Shandaular's king. It was clear she was separate from the others, some strange component demanded by the workings of the mad wizard Goorgian.


June: Eberron Player's Guide

In the wake of a long and terrible war, a world struggles to find its destiny. Will it descend once more into brutal conflict and end in spectacular annihilation, or will the world emerge at last into a new era of peace and prosperity?

At this moment, a handful of heroes -- you and your allies -- might hold the fate of the world in their hands.

This is a world whose destiny is hidden in the mysterious prophecies of dragons, tempered by powerful magic, and forged in bloody warfare.

Continuing our exploration of Eberron, we'll next present our Player's Guide filled with race and class information for running a character in this fantasy noir setting.

Interested in becoming a self-forged and using warforged components . . . even if you're not a warforged? Purchasing a clockwork bomb? Perhaps learn feats tied to your dragonmark? It's all in the Player's Guide, so look for detailed previews and excerpts in the coming months!


June: E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls

Something terrible was stolen from Death's Reach, which is a graveyard of dead monstrosities and banned weapons hailing from the dawn war between god and primordial. To prevent it from falling into the hands of the Demon Prince of Undeath, heroes must follow its trail, even into the fanged mouth of hunger itself. E2: Kingdom of the Ghouls is an adventure for characters of 24th to 26th level.

Opening Encounter

At the start of E2, the adventurers seek Sigil, the City of Doors, following leads introduced in E1: Death's Reach or with hooks included in the adventure:

A fantastic city stretches away in all directions. Layers of smoke and haze distort the middle distance, but not enough to conceal how the buildings and roads slowly curve up and around, farther and farther, until they finally meet high overhead. This city is built on the interior of a great ring!

City buildings vary greatly -- no two structures are exactly alike, though many are barnacled with ostentatious metallic blades and stone spikes. Sculpted faces and gargoyle-like figures perch over some lintels, fanciful iron grillwork covers many windows, and evil-looking vines sporting serrated leaves grow wild in a few of the shadowed sidestreets. People teem the main thoroughfare, even one as dingy and dilapidated as this one seems to be. Humans, dwarves, eladrin, elves, and other humanoids are plentiful . . . but here and there more monstrous creatures saunter -- a fiery angel, a smoke-shrouded devil, and a metallic concordant.

A man in scintillating yellow robes and an armada of glinting jewels orbiting around his head introduces himself as Nerbethar the Messenger:

"I bear a message from those who speak for the Lady of Pain, she whose mere presence prevents god and demon alike from setting foot in Sigil. Despite her power, the Lady allows much within the confines of the city under her protection, and those more concerned with day to day law and order have become concerned. Something is hunting the streets of Sigil. People are disappearing, and not just from the Hive. Folks of good name have been taken. But no one knows by what. Even a well-performed ritual of Consult Oracle fails to reveal the hunter, which itself gives us reason to pause. Any presence capable of blocking this ritual must possess powers formidable indeed. Will you help?"

Nerbethar is a member of Sigil's so called "Advisory Council" that works as often toward its own ends as the well-being of Sigil. But in this case they are honestly looking for help for the good of Sigil (one of their own members went missing, after all -- one Thordwal Dawnkey, a dwarf engineer of uncommon talent). Nerbethar offers the "gratitude of the Lady of Pain. Having a favor owed you by a legendary being of her status is nothing to scoff at." Should the PCs agree to look into Nerbethar's request, he shows them a handy door to Sigil and gives them a key that turns the seemingly ordinary passage into a portal that leads into the Hive Ward of the City of Doors. Unfortunately for PCs, Doresain's agents are aware of Nerbethar's message and have this portal under guard. . . .


July: Divine Power

Following Martial Power and Arcane Power, it's now time to give some love to the avengers, invokers, paladins . . . and of course clerics! Beyond the new options of builds, feats, rituals and epic destinies, you'll also find information on divine domains, backgrounds, and tailoring your divine character so that they are more in concert with the god it follows.

You might become a miracle worker, a favored soul, or even a saint.

Since we've been discussing the Raven Queen in the latest series of adventures, today we'll showcase a bit of flavor from Divine Power, describing the goddess of death:

Rise of the Raven Queen

In the early ages of the world, the souls of mortals unclaimed by the gods were not free to pass to the great beyond after death. Instead Nerull, the god of the dead, held them in his gray, cheerless dominion. The dead were fated to spend eternity as powerless shades, haunted by the memory of life's rich sensation and vigor. Nerull's dominion grew ever greater, as each day myriads of mortal souls came to Pluton and never departed. The god of the dead set his sights on making himself king over all the gods, and began to send blights and plagues into the world to speed the passage of mortals into his realm.

Then an especially powerful mortal died and came to Nerull's domain. She was a beautiful and proud sorcerer-queen. Among the gray shades of mortals held in Pluton, her ghostly form glowed with the fierce power of her will and ambition. Her name in life is forgotten now, but some knew her as Nera, the name that Nerull bestowed on her. Nerull deemed her a worthy consort, and gave her form and substance so that she could rule at his side. This proved to be Nerull's doom, for the sorcerer-queen refused to be second to any being, god or mortal.

Nera discovered the means by which Nerull held mortal shades in thrall, and seized that power for herself. Strengthened by countless souls, she challenged Nerull and strove with him for mastery of Pluton. Although she was mighty indeed, Nerull was an old and strong god, and even shorn of his dead legions he was too strong for her. In order to defeat him she had to expend the souls she held. Each one she released gave up a tiny surge of strength as it passed from bondage, and by freeing almost all the souls held in Pluton she grew strong enough to destroy Nerull and seize his dominion over death.

In her victory, the sorcerer-queen thought to take Nerull's place—but the other gods intervened. Rather than rising as new goddess of the dead, she became goddess of death instead. Mortals who did not put themselves in the power of gods or devils in life were no longer bound to eternal existence as shades under her dominion, but instead were free to pass into the infinite, beyond the power or knowledge of the gods. The death goddess has sought to escape the strictures limiting her power ever since. Soon after her ascension she expunged her own true name from the knowledge of all creatures, hoping to void the restrictions in that fashion, and took to calling herself the Raven Queen. She abandoned Pluton, since she could no longer hold souls in thrall, and founded a realm of her own in the mountains of Letherna in the Shadowfell.

In the long centuries since the Raven Queen overthrew Nerull, she has slowly increased her power, adding dominion over fate and winter to her rule over death. While she is not malicious or destructive, she sorely resents the gods who denied her the full power Nerull once wielded and jealously guards her domain. The Raven Queen claims all mortal souls who do place themselves in her power, and those that do are enslaved within her cold realm forever.


July: Seekers of the Ashen Crown

In Darguun, the Kech Volaar (Wordbearer) goblins have recovered the first piece of the fabled Ashen Crown, and they seek its remaining four pieces. With the completed crown, they'll have one more item that proves their worthiness as heritors of the Dhakaani Empire. They'll have one more key to the rise of their people and, perhaps, their future power in Darguun.

However, the Ashen Crown is a powerful object with connection to elven history. Word of it has leaked into the world at large. Now, the Wordbearers have competition in the Kech Shaarat (Bladebearer) goblins, as well as the Emerald Claw. The PCs are caught in the middle when they discover a piece of the Ashen Crown in a goblin tomb in Sharn's oldest foundations.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown takes place in the Eberron campaign setting, and it's designed to accentuate the unique features of that world. It is meant to follow up the adventure in the Eberron Campaign Guide. However, only a few locations are loosely connected to Sharn, so the adventure needn't be rooted in that city. In fact, a small amount of work could allow you to adapt this adventure to any campaign setting -- so you can instead play Seekers of the Ashen Crown as a stand-alone adventure, aimed at 2nd-level characters.


July: Eberron Campaign Guide

Here we go, folks -- 4th Edition finally comes to Eberron! If you haven't played in this setting before, Eberron takes all the cinematic action and swashbuckling adventure of traditional D&D games and adds in a strong dose of mystery and scheming. In this campaign, stories don't always end well, and there isn't always a right answer to every problem. The Last War turned old allies into bitter enemies and destroyed an entire nation, leaving terrible scars behind. Crime and corruption lurk in the largest cities. Characters' allies might become their enemies in the blink of an eye, and well-known agents of evil might provide assistance when it's least expected. Hidden dragons shape the course of history. Sinister fiends influence the dreams of the unwary. An army of horrors lingers just beyond the edge of reality, struggling to break through. Nothing is exactly what it seems.

To give just one example of the dangers of Eberron, let's take a look within the feared organization known as the Dreaming Dark.

Organization

The Dreaming Dark is as elusive as a dream. All it takes is one person to submit to possession or be affected by a mind seed to give the Dreaming Dark a foothold in a new region.

Leaders: The leader of the Dreaming Dark is a powerful kalaraq quori known as the Devourer of Dreams; he is the only being ever to have entered the heart of il-Lashtavar and return. Devourer guides the Dark from Dal Quor. His right hand on Eberron is the dominator Tirashana. She is the foremost spreader of mind seeds among the Dark, and her works are spread across the world.

The Dreaming Dark is engaged in dozens of schemes at any time. Its overall goal is to sow discord in the world, turning allies into enemies and bringing down those that could threaten their eventual goal of conquering Khorvaire. Agents of the Dark are patient, and they are prepared for this conquest to take centuries. But if a shortcut appears, they'll pursue it. For example, the Dreaming Dark could be searching for an artifact that will reopen the gates between Eberron and Dal Quor, allowing a direct physical invasion from the nightmare realm. But it's more likely that they will act on a smaller scale. They cause guild wars, instigate the persecution of heretics or foreigners, and inflame nationalist movements to the point of rioting and terrorism. An outsider might never realize that the quori are involved until he or she tries to stop the troublemakers and discovers that the leader of the disturbance is a quori.


Dreaming Dark Assassin
Level 14 Elite Skirmisher
Medium natural humanoid, Inspired
XP 2,000
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +12
Repulsion aura 3; while a Dreaming Dark assassin is bloodied, each enemy (including a flying enemy) treats the area within the aura as difficult terrain.
HP 276; Bloodied 138
AC 30; Fortitude 25, Reflex 30, Will 29; see also dual mind
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6
Action Points 1
Melee Nightmare Touch (standard; at-will) Psychic
+17 vs. Reflex; 2d8 + 5 damage, and ongoing 10 psychic damage (save ends).
Melee Flurry (standard; at-will)
The assassin makes two nightmare touch attacks.
Melee Slayer's Puppets (minor 1/round; at-will) Charm
+17 vs. Will; the target is dominated (save ends).
Close Burst Primal Fear (standard; at-will) Fear, Psychic
Close burst 3; targets enemies taking ongoing psychic damage; +17 vs. 1d8 + 5 psychic damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).
Close Burst Psychic Escape (standard; recharge 456) Psychic, Teleportation
Close burst 1; +17 vs. 3d8 + 5 psychic damage. The assassin teleports 10 squares after the attack.
Dual Mind
Any creature that attacks an assassin must make two attack rolls and use the lower result.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Quori, telepathy 10
Skills Bluff +18, Diplomacy +18, Intimidate +18, Insight +17, Stealth +14
Str 14 (+9)
Dex 20 (+12)
Wis 20 (+12)
Con 18 (+11)
Int 24 (+14)
Cha 22 (+13)

Until next month!

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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