Previews Archive | 9/8/2009
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September and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

It's now September, and the days here in Seattle have already grown cooler… and grayer. As activities move increasingly indoors, we've been discussing some of our favorite movies around the office—especially those we watched growing up. For a few of us, there could not have been a better flick than The Goonies. It had just about everything going for it: a group of friends around our viewing age, a hidden treasure, booby traps, and all topped off with a completely gratuitous waterslide ride down to a pirate ship. Of course, there was also something about watching kids my age swearing on screen that invested me in their characters—I swore up a storm myself, but I rarely saw kids portrayed the way my friends and I actually acted (or acted out) in real life.

It just so happened that one recent lazy weekend, I got around to re-watching The Goonies. And as it turns out, it makes a fantastic D&D-style movie. The story plays out like a perfect adventure: there's a quest set at the beginning, a variety of skills challenges along the way, and a party of adventurers with each member contributing a different skill to the overall success. In a couple of weeks from now, I have the pleasure of driving down to Astoria, OR, the setting for The Goonies, to experience it all firsthand.

This is stating the obvious, but other movies certainly exist that also make for great D&D-style movie watching—in fact, if you have any suggestions to send our way, please do at: dndinsider@wizards.com.

Naturally, movie watching is best done between gaming sessions—and often to inspire your next session. So what might actually be coming to the table in the near future? Let's take a look!


September: Revenge of the Giants

Giants have banded together under an alliance of three titan lords to finally get their revenge for the defeats and insults of the past. Moreover, they seek to reclaim the world that they helped create, and to achieve this lofty goal they have set a plan in motion to free one of the most powerful primordials—the master of fire, earth, and frost, Piranoth the World Mover.

Last time, we showed off three of the giants. This time, let's examine what your players are partially questing after—in this case, a magic item set such as introduced in Adventurer's Vault 2.

Implements of Argent

This set of magic items, crafted specifically for the champions of Argent, provide additional benefits when multiple members in the party equip them for use and they are within 20 squares of each other.

During this adventure, Obanar gives the player characters a quest to bring back the materials he needs to craft these magic items. With each implement created, the powers provided by these magic items grow stronger. If the adventurers attain all of the Implements, they gain a significant advantage in their final battles against the giants and the primordial Piranoth.

Note that Obanar will make as many as two of the same item, provided the group has more than five characters. Multiple copies of the same item count as one item for the purposes of attaining set benefits.

Lore

History DC 25: The Implements of Argent were crafted specifically for champions who proved themselves to be worthy of the Silver Cloaks. Alone, each item provides its wielder with added power and defenses, but when linked with similar items wielded by teammates, the powers of these items truly shine.

Implements of Argent Items

Lvl Name Price (gp) Item Slot
13+ Controller’s Implement 17,000 Implement
14+ Striker’s Weapon 21,000 Weapon
15+ Defender’s Armor 25,000 Armor
16 Leader’s Helm 45,000 Head
17 Champion’s Ring 65,000 Ring

Implements of Argent Benefits

Wielders* Benefit
2 A creature who wields an item from this set gains a bonus to initiative equal to the number of unique items equipped.
3 When a creature who wields an item from this set spends a healing surge, he or she regains additional hit points equal to the number of unique items equipped.
4 Each creature who wields an item from this set gains the champion’s step power, described below.

* The number of allies who wield a unique item from the set.

Champion’s Step
Item Set Power
You step out of the world for a brief moment and reappear in a new location.
Daily Teleportation
Move Action Personal
Effect: You teleport 3 squares.

Champion’s Ring
Level 17
A ring of purest silver that glows with arcane light.
Item Slot: Ring 65,000 gp
Property: You gain an item bonus to AC and Reflex while you are bloodied equal to the number of unique items equipped.
Power (Daily): Minor Action. Each enemy within 2 squares of you gains vulnerable 5 acid, cold, fire, lightning, radiant, or thunder (your choice) until the end of your next turn. If you’ve reached at least one milestone today, this vulnerability lasts until the end of the encounter instead.

Once the party has embarked against the giants, they'll first crusade against the hill giant compound south of Argent. Fans of the original 1st Edition series, G1-3 Against the Giants, may well remember approaching the steading of the hill giant chief, trying to work out how to sneak inside (of course, a dozing guard posed relatively little problem). For Revenge of the Giants, we offer this initial encounter, devised as a combination skill challenge and combat:

The hill giants have a massive camp in the rocky hills about 10 miles south of Argent. This steading consists of tents, hastily erected mud and stone huts, and a wooden compound built into the side of a large hill. The compound consists of the wooden outer building and chambers hollowed out of the inside of the hill.


September: Dungeon Master's Guide 2

Player’s Handbook 2 introduced eight new classes and five new races to the D&D game. It presented racial paragon paths, character backgrounds, and new feats and rituals for every character. Monster Manual 2 presented over 300 new monsters to the game, covering every level and role. From the humble ankheg broodling to the mighty Prince of Demons, Demogorgon, it’s full of monsters to challenge your players and add new life to your dungeons.

So what’s in Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 that will make your game better?

Chapter 5 of the DMG2 discusses adventures—and rewards. So what better place to introduce new artifacts? At a fundamental level, artifacts are magic items whose role in the game has far more to do with the story of your adventure or campaign than it does with the actual game effects of the item. Characters might buy, sell, enchant, and disenchant any of the hundreds of magic items found in the Player’s Handbook and Adventurer’s Vault volumes. They might even quest after those items. But when an artifact enters the characters’ lives, the story of the campaign revolves around the artifact for a time.

Artifacts are completely under your control. It’s up to you when you introduce an artifact to your game, and it’s up to you when the artifact leaves the characters’ hands. Ownership of an artifact is the one element of a character’s capabilities that the character’s player has no control over—it rests entirely in your hands. Use that power for good—the good of your campaign story.

This section of the DMG2 introduces seven new artifacts to supplement the ones that appear in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and it leads off with some tips to help you incorporate these special items into your game:

Use Artifacts at Any Level: An artifact’s overall power level isn’t what makes it special. Magic items appear at every level, and there’s nothing inherently more special about a level 30 item than there is about a level 1 item. Artifacts are different. There are artifacts appropriate for heroic-level characters as well as epic-level characters, and even the lowliest artifacts are significantly different from ordinary magic items of roughly the same level—not necessarily more powerful, but definitely more significant. So, go ahead and use artifacts even in your heroic tier game. Introducing an artifact at low levels helps the players see the grand scope of the story they’re involved in.

Tie Artifacts to Campaign Themes: Use artifacts to reinforce the story you want to tell in your campaign. If you want to explore themes of how power corrupts those who wield it, introducing the Eye of Vecna into your campaign can help reinforce that story. If your campaign involves fighting an oppressive ruler or exploring the cost of freedom, then the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd can help expound on those themes.

Recast Stories and Goals: Add details from your campaign to the origin story for an artifact, or alter its goals to strengthen its ties to the themes of your campaign. Does a powerful eladrin villain play an important role in your campaign? Perhaps he is a descendant of Ossandrya, and knowledge of the Emblem of Ossandrya is part of his family’s lore.

Wait Until Players Have Bought In: Hold off on introducing an artifact into your campaign until after the characters have completed an adventure or two and the players are fully invested in the story of the campaign. They should already know what’s at stake and have at least a hint of the nature of the major villain in the story. With that groundwork laid, an artifact’s arrival carries the appropriate weight. The players will appreciate the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd all the more after they understand the nature of the tyrant they have to overthrow.

Sometimes introducing an artifact can also serve to introduce the villain or theme of a campaign. If you plan to take your campaign in a dramatic new direction in the paragon tier as a major war breaks out in your campaign world, for example, you could introduce the conflict by having the Standard of Eternal Battle fall into the characters’ hands.

Allow for Conflict: Make sure there’s potential for characters to come into conflict with the goals of an artifact. The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords seeks to be an inspiration to honorable people. What if the characters discover that there’s an easier way to achieve their goals (and the Axe’s goals) using deceit and dishonor? Do they take the easy route and displease the artifact, or stick to the Axe’s lofty principles and follow a harder road? A decision like this enriches your story and reinforces the idea that player choices matter in the game.

Allow Time for Goodbye: When it’s time for an artifact to move on, if the characters are in good standing with it, make the occasion appropriately solemn. Let the characters participate in the artifact’s departure, perhaps seeking out appropriate successors or returning it to a special location where it can be found when it’s needed again. Give the players a chance to say goodbye to this member of your supporting cast.


October: Primal Power

Primal Power has its roots in the decision to include the druid as a monster in the 1976 supplement Greyhawk. D&D co-creator Gary Gygax likely had little idea at the time that his description would affect the game for the next three decades: “These men are priests of a neutral-type religion . . . Druids may change shape three times per day . . . from size as small as a raven to as large as a small bear. They will generally (70%) be accompanied by numbers of barbaric followers (fighters).” That, in a nutshell, is the origin of the primal power source. In the first mention of the iconic primal character class, there are ties to shapeshifting and barbaric warriors.

The druid’s identity in D&D has changed little since 1976, and in many ways the story of the primal power source’s creation and development is the story of strengthening the druid class’s roots and making them the centerpiece of both the class and the power source that arose around it.

For many years, druids were presented as a type of cleric, a divine spellcaster who worshiped gods of nature, the elements, and natural forces. Under that scheme in 4th Edition, druids might have been priests of Melora and similar deities. But that approach would have left druids as a second banana to the other divine classes and created a divide in the divine power source. Clerics and paladins share thematic and aesthetic similarities, whereas druids have more bonds thematically with barbarians.

As we looked at the barbarian and the druid together, the primal power source took form. Both classes have strong ties to nature, and both have a feral quality. They made a good match, and thus began a long process of design and development that culminated in Player’s Handbook 2 and this book.

Primal power is all about the natural world, which is more than plants, animals, mountains, and forests. Primal magic is a fundamental force of the natural world that holds the often malevolent forces of the planes at bay. Why do the gods dwell in the Astral Sea if so many of their followers live in the world? What keeps 25th-level monsters from stomping cities into dust? The primal spirits are keepers of the natural order. They ensure that the cycle of life and death, the turn of the seasons, and the web of life that connects all living things remain intact despite the intentions of gods, primordials, demons, and devils. Primal spirits are the world’s defenders, not its masters. As a wielder of primal magic, your character is an inheritor of their tradition.

As an initial look, we present the following epic destiny, wherein "you have focused the savagery of the Primal Beast through your nobility of spirit to become a monarch among the beasts of the wild."


October: The Ghost King

The dragon issued a low growl and flexed his claws in close, curling himself into a defensive crouch. His eyes were gone, having been lost to the brilliant light bursting from a destroyed artifact, but his draconian senses more than compensated.

Someone was in his chamber—Hephaestus knew that beyond a doubt—but the beast could neither smell nor hear him.

"Well?" the dragon asked in his rumbling voice, barely a whisper for the beast, but it reverberated and echoed off the stone walls of the mountain cavern. "Have you come to face me or to hide from me?"

I am right here before you, dragon, came the reply—not audibly, but in the wyrm’s mind.

Hephaestus tilted his great horned head at the telepathic intrusion and growled.

You do not remember me? You destroyed me, dragon, when you destroyed the Crystal Shard.

"Your cryptic games do not impress me, drow!"

Not drow.

That gave Hephaestus pause, and the sockets that once—not so long ago—housed his burned-out eyes widened.

"Illithid!" the dragon roared…

And so begins Book III in R.A. Salvatore's Transition series!


October: E3 Prince of Undeath

Orcus intends to usurp the powers and privileges of the Raven Queen, the goddess of death. Should he accomplish his aims, no soul will rest easy again. To avert this afterlife theft, the player characters must dive down to the universe’s bottommost lip, where the Heart of the Abyss festers.

Prince of Undeath is an adventure for characters of 27th to 30th level. You can use Prince of Undeath as a stand-alone adventure, or you can run it as a sequel to E2: Kingdom of the Ghouls. Players familiar with E2 and earlier modules will enjoy finally seeing the thread uniting previous adventures find its conclusion. However, E3 can be played as a capstone adventure for any campaign where Orcus tries to seize control of Death’s domain.

Background

Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead, wishes to usurp the control over departed souls from the Raven Queen, she who is also called Death and sometimes Fate. The Prince of Undeath has slowly but surely drawn his plans against her from the heart of his Abyssal realm, the citadel called Everlost. Everlost straddles a yawning chasm whose sheer slopes hold hundreds of tombs and burial sites, creating a tiered necropolis below.

Like his citadel, Orcus’s plans against the Raven Queen are tiered, one plot hiding beneath the another. Each past undertaking has moved Orcus a step closer to achieving his goal, even while concealing an even more devious plan beneath it. Orcus has salted the world and its echo planes with death cults to gainsay her, has fostered powerful servitors to sap worship of her, has diverted souls from her judgment to weaken her, has looted the banned armory of the dawn wars to fight her, and even launched a raid against Fate’s Temple of Temples itself to directly threaten her.

But all these efforts pale before Orcus’s ultimate aspiration. In order to achieve it, he acquired the remains of an ancient primordial of dissolution, a creature named Tmesus the Black Star. Few primordials were feared as much by the elder gods as Tmesus.

Orcus assembled enough of Tmesus’s remains for his purposes through the efforts of various servitors, beginning with the cultist Kalarel, including the dragon Urishtar and the cultist Elder Aranthem, and finally even the Ghoul King Doresain. Now the Demon Prince has kindled the dark flame of undeath in the reconstituted Black Star, a primordial whose power was once so incontestable an entire divine armada went down to defeat before it.

A great fraction of that primeval power is now Orcus’s to command. What does the Demon Prince demand of this newly animated, ultimately powerful servitor?

Why, nothing less than a trip into the depths of the universe where the crystalline Heart of the Abyss beats its unceasing cadence of evil. There, Tmesus batters at that seed of evil the Chained God planted so long ago.

Tmesus seeks to break off a shard and present to its lord, the Prince of Undeath.


October: DU5 Dungeon Tiles Sinister Woods

Not surprisingly, this tile set features a number of wooded locations and obstacles for the outdoor encounters in your game; in addition, there are some excellent tiles connecting these woods to the start of interior dungeons. A fuller preview to follow in October, but for now, here are a few of these latest tiles!


November: Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons

Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons, as our catalog has already revealed, describes several varieties of dragons, including gold, silver, copper, iron, and adamantine dragons. It also introduces several other kinds of metallic dragons suitable for any D&D campaign.

We end this month with the grandfather of all metallic dragons: Bahamut himself… or, at least, one of his famed guises!

The Old Man with the Canaries

When he’s not holding court in his shining castle, Bahamut walks the natural world in the most unassuming of disguises: an elderly man accompanied by seven trained canaries. This old man, variously called a sage or a hermit in folklore, travels from place to place with no apparent purpose. He’s quick to offer advice, information, or assistance to other travelers.

One folk tale in particular is told with a hundred variations: The sage with the canaries shares a campfire with roadside travelers, offering mysterious advice that borders on prophecy. Still, the travelers would have regarded the old man as nothing more than a curiosity if it weren’t for the monsters that attacked the camp. Were they ever surprised when the old man started throwing around unfathomably powerful magic and turning his canaries into gold dragons.

The Old Man with the Canaries
Level 36 Solo Soldier (Leader)
Medium immortal humanoid
XP —
Initiative +24 Senses Perception +32
HP 1,645; Bloodied 822; see also discorporation
AC 52; Fortitude 47, Reflex 45, Will 47
Resist 20 cold, 20 fire
Saving Throws +5; whenever an attack causes an effect on Bahamut that a save can end, he immediately makes a saving throw. Bahamut also makes saving throws at the end of his turn as normal.
Speed 8, teleport 5
Action Points 2
Melee Unarmed Attack (standard; at-will) Weapon
+41 vs. AC; 1d12 + 20 damage, and the target is dazed until the end of its next turn.
Area Burst Gold Dragon Rescue (standard; uses one canary)
Area burst 1 within 30, centered on ally; +41 vs. AC; the target is stunned (save ends). Effect: The ally in the origin square gains fly 10 until the end of its next turn.
Ranged Summon Gold Dragon (standard; uses one canary) Summoning
Ranged 20; Bahamut summons a Large gold dragon in an unoccupied space within range. The dragon has speed 8, fly 10 (hover) and, unlike a typical summoned creature, has its own defenses and hit points (all defenses 34; hp 120).
Minor Action: +27 vs. AC; 1d12 + 10 damage.
Opportunity Attack: +27 vs. AC; 1d12 + 10 damage.
Bahamut’s Blessing (standard; at-will)
Ranged 30; two targets; each target gains a +10 bonus to attack rolls, a +10 bonus to skill checks, and a +10 bonus to damage rolls.
Bahamut’s Cleansing (minor; at-will)
Ranged 30; two targets; each target can end one effect a save can end.
Bahamut’s Mercy (minor; at-will) Healing
Ranged 30; two targets; each target can spend a healing surge and regain an additional 25 hit points.
Bahamut Runs Rampant (standard; encounter) Polymorph
Bahamut assumes his draconic form (described below).
Seven Canaries
Bahamut has seven trained canaries, which he can transform into gold dragons. Some of his powers use up these canaries. All the canaries return during a short rest.
Discorporation (when bloodied)
When Bahamut becomes bloodied, he discorporates and is unable to take physical form for a time.
Alignment Lawful good
Languages Supernal
Skills Arcana +31, Athletics +33, Diplomacy +32, Endurance +34, Heal +32, History +31, Insight +32, Intimidate +32, Religion +31
Str 31 (+28)
Dex 23 (+24)
Wis 28 (+27)
Con 33 (+29)
Int 27 (+26)
Cha 29 (+27)
Equipment robe

The Seven Gold Wyrms

Bahamut’s closest servants are seven gold dragons that guard his palace and sometimes travel with him disguised as canaries. For important tasks that aren’t quite important enough to demand his personal attention, Bahamut dispatches one of these dragons. Each works on specific tasks, and no one knows if there’s any sort of hierarchy among these servants. These are the current wyrms in Bahamut’s inner circle; many have died and been replaced over time.

Borkadd the Claw: Compulsive and obstinate, Borkadd represents Bahamut as the hand of justice. He chronicles the laws of many lands, as well as Bahamut’s personal code. He’s more than a glorified secretary, though: Borkadd enforces Bahamut’s law against those who can’t be stopped by other means.

Kuria the Eye: This sleek, serpentine dragon remains aloof—sometimes threatening—even to those she knows well. Her tasks require secrecy, taking advantage of her suspicious nature.

Sonngrad the Wing: Bahamut’s messenger, Sonngrad, has powerful wings that let her fly at great speed. She is the most commonly encountered of the seven dragons. Though focused and businesslike while on a mission, she’s also a curious thrill-seeker. Bahamut usually gives her a bit of time after each task she completes to explore the places she’s visiting.

Gruemar the Voice: The slender Gruemar is a master negotiator, sent out to settle disputes and prevent bloodshed. Though his speech sounds tranquil and warm, it never reveals a hint of weakness.

Marroshok the Tail: Massive and genial, Marroshok is the closest thing Bahamut has to a bodyguard. Though he’s usually friendly, he’s merciless in combat.

Troannaxia the Presence: A magnificent, shining creature, Troannaxia is sent to cow the proud into submission using the majesty of her presence. Unlike Gruemar, she intimidates instead of conversing. Bahamut sends her out when he encounters obstinate resistance that requires a blunt approach.

Urgala the Fang: When Bahamut musters a great army, Urgala leads them. Her knowledge of tactics is unsurpassed, and she flies over the battlefield to scout and command. Normally proud and uncompromising, Urgala sometimes becomes stubborn or rude when she is in a bad mood.


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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