Previews Archive | 10/5/2009
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October and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

It's October, and you're reading this on the new iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons website! We'd like to welcome you here on behalf of the barbarians, dragons, and slaads we plan to introduce later in this article. In the meantime -- and as we stated in the welcome letter -- please send your feedback either directly to dndinsider@wizards.com or to our community profiles (listed below).

Of course, some of you might be curious as to how we coded and constructed the website. In truth, it was built using a unique, very powerful machine. Those few who have seen this machine describe it as a black metal horseshoe-shaped nightmare contraption of immense size. The control surfaces of the machine are sloped and adorned with no fewer than sixty levers, forty dials, and a switchboard of sockets, plugs, and wires. I refer, of course, to the Machine of Lum the Mad. In the spirit of last month's look back at artifacts, we felt it entirely appropriate to employ this device of Baron Lum, whose controls still generate all sorts of powers and effects. A sample of these effects is as follows:

  • Lever 01: bold text
  • Lever 02: italicize text
  • Level 03: bones/exoskeleton/cartilage of opponent turned to jelly
  • Level 04: cut/paste
  • Level 05: summon djinn or efreet lord for 1 day of service

Granted, constructing a website with such a machine creates certain dangers. For starters, the machine is quite delicate and you can destroy it with repeated blows, each ruining 1d4 controls (trust me). And although the machine is not evil, it has the unfortunate side effect of driving its users insane. If one encounters the machine in the hands of another, the person with the machine is almost certainly beyond reason. An encounter with this person might be very dangerous indeed.

So beware, fellow users, while navigating this site! Those of us who continue to work with this website should be given a very wide berth indeed….


October: Primal Power

We're currently knee-deep in excerpts for Primal Power, including our offerings of new options for your barbarians, druids, shamans, and wardens. We've shown you the swarm druid build in a recent article; this time, let's take a look in brief at the second build offered: the summoner druid.

Summoner Druid

You are a champion of nature, a leader of spirits, and a summoner of feral beasts. You place your trust in the magic of the hunting tiger, the stalking wolf, and the shrieking hawk. The creatures you summon obey your every command, yet if you fail to guide them, they act according to their instincts.

Only the most powerful of your evocations can summon creatures to fight at your side, so you must be careful to pick the right moment to summon them. They fight with courage and tenacity regardless of the foe.

The creatures that heed your call are companions, not mere pawns. You are their caretaker and guide. If you allow them to run rampant, the blame for any foolish decisions they make rests on you alone. With the power to command the spirits and give them physical form comes the responsibility to use that power with wisdom and foresight.

Summon Giant Toad
Druid Attack 1
You summon a spirit ally, a great toad that flicks its tongue to pluck a meal from among your enemies.
Daily Implement, Primal, Summoning
Standard Action Ranged 5
Effect: You summon a Medium giant toad in an unoccupied square within range. The toad has speed 5 and swim 6, and it gains a +10 bonus to Athletics checks to jump. You can give the toad the following special command. On the turn you summon the toad, you give that command as part of using this power.
Standard Action: Melee 3; targets one creature; Wisdom vs. Reflex; 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage, and the target is pulled 2 squares.
Instinctive Effect: If you haven't given the toad any commands by the end of your turn, it attacks the same creature that it attacked during your previous turn. If it can't do that, it attacks an enemy within 3 squares of it if it can. Otherwise, it moves its speed to a square within 3 squares of the nearest enemy.

Summon Savage Tiger
Druid Attack 15
Speaking an ancient oath, you summon a great tiger to its feast.
Daily Implement, Primal, Summoning
Standard Action Ranged 5
Effect: You summon a Large tiger in an unoccupied space within range. The tiger has speed 7. You can give the tiger the following special command. On the turn you summon the tiger, you give that command as part of using this power.
Standard Action: Melee 1; targets one creature; Wisdom vs. Reflex; 2d8 + Wisdom modifier damage.
Instinctive Effect: If you haven't given the tiger any commands by the end of your turn, it charges the nearest bloodied creature it can charge, using its attack as a melee basic attack. If it can't do that, it attacks an adjacent enemy if it can. Otherwise, it moves its speed to a square adjacent to an enemy.

Summon Storm Behemoth
Druid Attack 29
Lightning and thunder herald the ground-shaking tread of a primeval spirit returned in the flesh.
Daily Implement, Lightning, Primal, Summoning
Standard Action Ranged 10
Effect: You summon a Large storm behemoth in an unoccupied space within range. The behemoth has speed 8. You can give the behemoth the following special commands. On the turn you summon the behemoth, you give the first command as part of using this power.
Standard Action: Melee 2; targets one creature; Wisdom vs. Reflex; 3d10 + Wisdom modifier damage.
Standard Action: Area burst 2 within 20 squares; targets each creature in the burst; Wisdom vs. Reflex; 2d8 + Wisdom modifier lightning damage.
Instinctive Effect: If you haven't given the behemoth any commands by the end of your turn, it makes its melee attack against an adjacent enemy if it can. Otherwise, it makes its area attack, targeting as many creatures as possible (including you and your allies).

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 god of death, fate, and winter. If he accomplishes his aims, no soul shall rest easy again. To avert this theft of divine portfolio and purpose, epic adventurers must dive down to the bottommost pit of existence, where the Heart of the Abyss festers. Prince of Undeath is an adventure for characters of 27th to 30th level.

Last time we presented the background; this time, we're showing off some of the nightmare images from the adventure your players might soon be facing, as well as a few of its rather daunting maps.

Chaos Ships

Chaos Ship Lore

Arcana DC 30: In the Astral Sea, craft known as astral ships ply the silvery sky. Other craft, including planar dromonds and spelljammers, can sail between the planes. If all these are possible, then so are craft suited to the Elemental Chaos, despite the environment’s more challenging terrain.

Arcana DC 35: Chaos ships are rare vessels designed to travel through the Elemental Chaos, and like their tumultuous environment, no two are exactly alike in shape and size. Stories recount of a few as large as caravels. However, all require bottled chaos to drive their great bulks through the boil of the ever-changing environment. Containing the essence of the Elemental Chaos itself into crystal globes (called anarch spheres) is a monumentally difficult task, and very few creatures know the secret of their making.

Chaos Ship Details

The upper deck of Shevaithan is 130 feet from stem to stern. It is constructed of shiny black wood and iron spars.

A 5-foot-high railing surrounds the upper deck. The railing holds stanchions every 5 feet, through which hawsers can be tied to secure crew or cargo during elemental storms.

The cargo hold is accessible through two hatches on the main deck in front of the sterncastle. A smaller aft hold is accessible through a single hatch at the craft’s stern.

Three crystal anarch spheres are inset in the deck.

Four permanent magic circles adorn the deck.

Illumination: Bright light. The swirling anarch spheres inset in the deck bath the ship in alternating fiery red, electric blue, and other energetic colors as they radiate through the spectrum in their cradles.

Sterncastle: This two-story structure occupies much of the ship’s stern. One set of stairs provides access to the first level, and a second set of stairs to the second level. The top level of the sterncastle contains the wheel that steers the craft.

Sterncastle Cabins: Four doors on the sterncastle each lead to interior chambers.

The lower port cabin contains a variety of supplies, including hundreds of feet of silk rope, barrels of water, crates filled with jerky, and other similar essentials.

The lower starboard cabin contains stores amenable for repairs, including nails, hammers, saws, tackle, and even a work table for crafting and making repairs.

The upper two sterncastle doors open into two chambers of equal size. Both contain rotting carrion for demons to nest in.

Holds: The forward two thirds of the ship’s underdeck area can hold a significant amount of cargo, but is currently nearly empty. A few lone crates contain inanimate black stone—part of Timesus the primordial. The stern hold serves as a vast bunk area for demons and undead.

Anarch Spheres: These crystal spheres sit in cradles. Each contains the bottled essence of chaos, and provides the ship’s motive power.

Magic Circles: Each of these inscribed circles provides teleportation access to a different, distant location, depending on Shevaithan’s current position and the rituals used to create the circles.

This large common area is empty, but the ever-present stench of the Red Hold suddenly clears as a shimmering veil of silver light fills the air. A massive 20-foot-high door appears within the veil, set in a stone frame. The ghostly door is translucent, but on its face is set a bas-relief silhouette of a raven’s head wreathed in white flame.

The haze of silver light suddenly flares as a huge form takes shape within it—a great golem emerging from the door itself. Another golem begins to take shape within the light even as the first lurches forward to attack.

This wide chamber resembles the mid-level deck of a large sailing vessel, complete with portholes. However, one of the portholes is smashed, and convulsing tongues of raw corruption sweeps into the chamber. Where the corruption touches, the wood briefly fluctuates, shivers, and seems to take on a random hue before slowly returning to its former consistency. Great iron double doors stand closed opposite the magic circle.

A multilayered cavern wraps around the core of the Forge of Four Worlds. Vast pools of raw arcane and elemental power seethe in volcanic fury. Storms of ice and fire erupt to consume each other, while a constant haze of lightning flashes in their depths. A platform of stone floats 10 feet above the large central pool. Atop the platform, a pulsing magic circle is surrounded by piles of black slag and the charred bodies of dozens of demons. Additional chunks of black rock are spread across the chamber.

On the lower tiers stand empty racks that once must have held countless weapons and other items. A red crystal dais on the farthest tier seems unaffected by whatever transpired here.


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. And while we showed off the grandpa of all dragons last time, now let's take a quick look at using some of them in your game:

Dragon Adventures

Metallic dragons are versatile enough creatures that you can drop them into an adventure without deeply connecting them to the framework of your ongoing campaign.

Many adventures that use metallic dragons play on the ambiguous nature of the creatures. Because a metallic dragon doesn't have the same reputation as a chromatic dragon, characters are likely to hesitate when they encounter one (rather than immediately charge into battle). As an adventure designer, you can play with that moment of discovery. Your adventure can reward characters who take the time to figure out what the metallic dragon is up to and whether the dragon's purpose is benign or sinister.

Adventure Hooks and Quests

You can use the following quests and hooks as written or as a guide. The number before each title refers to the level of the most potent dragon in the hook. Use this level as a rough guide for setting encounter levels.

12: The Inside-Out Lair

Obsessed with defending his lair, the adult adamantine dragon Bothurion is something of a hobbyist among metallic dragons. For years, he has advertised the wealth of his hoard in an effort to entice thieves to test his defenses.

At first, this tactic brought Bothurion the challenge he wanted. But after many upgrades, Bothurion's lair became practically impregnable. The lair's reputation is well known, so few thieves dare try to steal something now. The few who made such attempts died in the outer ring of defenses, leaving some of Bothurion's more fiendish traps untested.

With no one to test his obsession, Bothurion resorted to drastic measures. He kidnapped several capable adventurers, threw them atop his treasure hoard, and dared them to reach safety.

Bothurion observes their efforts from a scrying chamber within the lair. He has taken measures to prevent them from short-circuiting his test. For example, the adventurers have no residuum or other reagents to manage a portal ritual or other magical escape. But they do have their weapons, armor, and other key items, because Bothurion wants to see how his guardians fare against determined thieves. Bothurion won't reveal himself until the adventurers reach the periphery of his lair -- if they last that long.

Quest Hook: The characters are among the captives who awaken to find themselves atop an immense pile of coins and jewels. They have no idea where they are, and must find their way out of Bothurion's lair. Along the way, they must navigate elaborate traps, various servants and guardians of Bothurion, and eventually Bothurion himself. If you want to add a strong social element to the adventure, you can include a number of nonplayer character captives, some with sinister motives of their own.

Quest XP: Escaping Bothurion's lair earns the characters a major quest reward of 3,500 XP -- and all the treasures they manage to carry out with them.

Quest Hook: If you have enough players in your campaign (or additional friends who are willing to take part in a one-shot adventure), you can split the characters into two groups. The first group plays the adventure as described above. The second group is the rescuers, who quickly figure out what happened to their friends and then delve into Bothurion's lair from the outside.

Alternate playing sessions (or use two DMs simultaneously) between the groups until they're about to reunite, and then run a combined session in which both groups simultaneously fight Bothurion.

Quest XP: Characters who take part in only the escape or the rescue receive minor quest rewards of 700 XP per player in the group, since they have to get only halfway in or halfway out of Bothurion's lair.


December: The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos

And finally, we offer a few select treats from the Plane Below:

A riotous realm, the Elemental Chaos is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it firsthand. Here, flame speaks and lightning dreams, iron hates and seas hunger.

Islands of earth, ash, mud, salt, or semisolid smoke and flame, some as vast as continents, float amid an endless sky. Rivers of water, lava, or liquid air flow from oceans bounded by nothing solid, cross landscapes of broken crystal, and spill over cliff faces made of tangible lightning. Winds of heavy vapor are guided by currents of chaos, whipping into enormous storms of burning hail and sharp-edged thunder.

As disconcerting as the substance of the Elemental Chaos is, worse still awaits visitors. Direction has no meaning. Locations shift constantly. Even gravity is capricious, exerting its pull differently on living things than on objects.

Elemental Buoyancy

The Elemental Chaos has no north or south, no sunrise or sunset. Gravity does pull in a consistent direction to give the otherwise unpredictable plane a definite up and down. Even so, gravity isn’t always reliable.

Inanimate objects and materials native to the Elemental Chaos are not subject to gravity. Islands of earth or ice (also called earthmotes), rivers flowing without beds, and broad oceans unbounded by shores remain suspended in the skies of the Elemental Chaos. Pitch a rock off the edge of a cliff, and it comes to rest where its forward momentum stops. Lift water in your cupped palms, and it hovers when you drop your hands away.

Nonnative objects, however, and living creatures (regardless of origin) do not benefit from this buoyancy. For them, gravity functions as it does in the natural realm. Drop your sword, and it hits the ground at your feet. Step off the edge of an earthmote, and you could have a long drop during which to contemplate that error in judgment.

Whether native to the realm or not, though, any object does not remain in one place for long—all are propelled by the plane’s ceaseless currents of chaos.

Slaads

Constrained by order at every turn, slaads seek to spread chaos and disrupt all that is logical, sensible, and chained to universal rules of cause and effect. They hope to scar reality itself enough to create a hole into the wider multiverse their maddened leaders believe exists.

Black Slaad Entropic
Black slaads embody entropic energies similar to those that Ygorl wields. Those the Lord of Entropy selects as personal troops are changed by his touch, becoming black slaad entropics.

White Slaad (Chronos Slaad)
These rare slaads have an uncanny and disturbing insight into time, with which they pull replicas of themselves from the past and future.

Ygorl, Lord of Entropy
Slaads recognize no god and kneel to no primordial, but they all revere the slaad lords: mysterious beings as old as the universe. Although these powerful creatures do not demand service, the slaads fear and respect them. Each slaad lord personifies a form of destruction that can bring about the end of reality that all slaads crave.

The best known and most dreaded is Ygorl, Lord of Entropy, also known as the Bringer of Endings. He is the shadow cast by the Elemental Chaos; wherever he travels, death follows. Plants wither, animals sicken, and color leaches from the surroundings. All who behold him see their demise reflected in his cold, uncaring eyes.

Artifacts

Wave Lore
Arcana DC 18: This trident was crafted by giants who were imprisoned by aquatic enemies and turned away from their primordial masters, becoming devout followers of Sekolah, exarch of Melora.

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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