Previews Archive | 12/7/2009
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December and Beyond
Bart Carroll

'Tis the season -- the season of giving. That said, I'm solidly in the "better to be receiving camp" -- and if you share these sentiments as well, then I'd like to direct your attention to our holiday gift guide.

The guide serves as a convenient checklist to hand out to friends and family who might be shopping for your roleplaying game needs. And let's face it, while Grandma Gladys might understand that you play a game called Dungeons & Dragons, she has no idea what to pick up for you that you don't currently own.

So, in a way, by using the gift guide, you are giving folk something thoughtful -- you're giving them a nicely formatted, appropriate-for-you shopping list!

In any case, here's a look at what else we're releasing in the coming months!


December: The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos

Our online previews are about to wrap up on this one -- and so, we wanted to save one of its biggest and baddest threats for last. Folk, you won't see something that much bigger or badder than a storm that walks -- and that's not a metaphor, that's the name of this creature. A storm that walks is the fury of the elements given destructive purpose. It takes the form of a mass of dark, boiling clouds with a vaguely humanoid shape, flickering with lightning and spawning ice storms with each immense step. No word yet if the storm that walks can be countered by a red-nosed reindeer.

Storm That Walks
Level 28 Solo Controller
Gargantuan elemental humanoid (air, cold, fire)
XP 65,000
Initiative +22 Senses Perception +21; low-light vision
Oncoming Storm aura 5; creatures (including flying creatures) treat the area within the aura as difficult terrain. Each enemy within the aura gains vulnerable 10 lightning.
HP 1,008; Bloodied 504
AC 42; Fortitude 41, Reflex 38, Will 40
Immune lightning; Resist 20 cold, 20 lightning, 20 thunder, insubstantial; Vulnerable cold (if a storm that walks takes cold damage, it loses the insubstantial quality until the end of its next turn)
Saving Throws +5
Speed fly 8 (hover)
Action Points 2
Melee Pummeling Gust (standard; at-will) Cold
Reach 4; +32 vs. Reflex; 3d6 + 11 cold damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Ranged Tongue of Lightning (standard; at-will) Lightning
Ranged 20; +32 vs. Fortitude; 3d6 + 11 lightning damage, and the target is dazed (save ends). Each Failed Saving Throw: Each ally adjacent to the target takes 10 lightning damage.
Melee /RangedForked Tongue (standard; at-will)
The storm that walks makes four basic attacks. It cannot attack the same target more than twice.
Ranged Fist of the Storm (minor; recharge 456) Cold, Lightning
Ranged 20; +32 vs. Reflex; 4d6 + 11 cold and lightning damage, and the target is restrained (save ends). Each Failed Saving Throw: The storm that walks slides the target 3 squares.
Close Burst Raging Storm (minor; recharge 456) Lightning, Thunder
Close burst 3; +32 vs. Fortitude; 4d6 + 11 lightning and thunder damage, and the storm that walks pushes the target 4 squares and knocks it prone.
Storm Unleashed (free, when first bloodied; encounter) Cold, Lightning, Thunder
Raging storm and hand of the storm recharge, and the storm that walks uses them both.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages Primordial
Str 30 (+24)
Dex 27 (+22)
Wis 24 (+21)
Con 20 (+19)
Int 16 (+17)
Cha 16 (+17)

Storm That Walks Tactics

A storm that walks prefers to remain at a distance and obliterate foes with ranged attacks. It is smart enough to cooperate with allies, but its desire to destroy often overcomes its better sense. It seizes any opportunity to use raging storm, even if it catches an ally in the area of effect.

Storm That Walks Lore

Arcana DC 28: A storm that walks is a literal thunderstorm given malevolent life. Any who get too close become more vulnerable to its devastating attacks. After creating the first storm that walks, the primordials began to experiment with crafting the elemental soldiers known as archons.

Arcana DC 33: Different legends attribute the origin of the first storm that walks to Mual-Tar, the Thunder Serpent, or to Iktha-Lau, the Ever Empty. Perhaps the two cooperated in its creation. Today, these abominations hold no allegiance to any primordial.


January: Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn

To be a dragonborn is to stand above the masses of mortals, to be something more -- kin to the majestic and mighty dragons, and bearers of the legacy of once-great Arkhosia. To play a dragonborn adventurer is to embrace this proud race as your alter ego in the game, to take on the persona of a scion of Arkhosia, armed with a breath weapon and draconic durability to strike down your foes and weather their attacks.

For those who've chosen dragonborn characters, this book provides a comprehensive introduction to the history, beliefs, behavior, and attitudes of dragonborn in the world. It explores these elements of the race by presenting a wealth of resources for developing your character: background elements, feats, powers, paragon paths . . . and even an epic destiny to help your character strive toward the draconic model of perfection.

Arcane dragonborn, for instance, might walk the Ninefold Path -- and counter area attacks using their own breath weapon. Primal dragonborn might choose the path of the Storm Dragon -- and grant their allies the option to fly. And these winter days, while the weather outside is frightful (we had to work in another holiday reference somehow), it's not as frightful as the following weapons your dragonborn might decide to collect.

The particular construction of dragonborn weapons suits them well for particular magical enchantments. Dragonborn-made axes and blades (heavy and light) are often vicious or jagged weapons, and the most powerful of them are vorpal weapons. Dragonborn maces and hammers are frequently jarring weapons.

The following new magic weapons are almost exclusively crafted by dragonborn hands.

Frightful Weapon
Level 2+
The blade of this axe is a terror to behold, as are the jagged wounds it causes.
Lvl 2 +1 520 gp
Lvl 7 +2 2,600 gp
Lvl 12 +3 13,000 gp
Lvl 17 +4 65,000 gp
Lvl 22 +5 325,000 gp
Lvl 27 +6 1,625,000 gp
Weapon: Axe
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d10 damage per plus
Property: You gain an item bonus to Intimidate checks equal to the enhancement bonus of this weapon.


January: Underdark

Should we descend into the depths of the Underdark? Venture forth and you'll find that:

". . . there are faults, spurs, splits, rubble, small cave areas, sink holes, crevasses, columns, stalactites, and stalagmites. Most areas are damp and dripping. There are occasional pools, rivulets, even streams. The rock is of all colors, although grays, browns, and yellowish tan are most common. Parts of the route are worked, but much of the tunnel will be natural passages, caves, galleries, etc. The route always descends. Fortunately, the darkness is not total, for there are sometimes patches of phosphorescent lichens to light the way with a faint glow - almost like faerie fire. There are also swarms of fire beetles now and again, and their glowing abdomens shed sufficient light to see clearly. Cave bats will flutter overhead periodically, huge ugly things which have forsaken the clean air of the upper world for the foul atmosphere of the subterranean. (Should the party ever remain still and listen, they will note many strange sounds - twitterings, squeakings, scrabblings. Various and sundry tiny noises will be heard, noises which are disturbing despite their muted sound.) Now and again a current of dank, cold air can be felt, moving downwards and bearing a musty scent throughout the corridors of this dismal underworld."

Actually, that's the description from many adventurers' first forays into the subterranean world, D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth. A more recent description reads as follows:

"The gods of the surface world live far away in the astral realm, kept from interfering in mortal affairs by their agreement with the primal spirits. But at the bottom of the Underdark, the evil god Torog tortures his victims in the flesh. Elsewhere in the Deeps, the mysterious drow, followers of the insane goddess Lolth, have carved kingdoms of night. And below both Torog and the drow are worse creatures, monsters that slip through cracks in the reality of the flawed creation of the Underdark to threaten the entire world."

Origin of the Underdark

Most creatures of the surface world spend little time concerning themselves with the Dawn War and the fallen empires of the past, but the Underdark bears the scars of those mythic events as if they had happened yesterday. From the birth of the world to the mythic fall of Torog, from the infamous descent of the drow to the insidious colonizations of aberrant empires from the Far Realm, some of the most legendary tales of the world's history are inextricably linked to the Underdark.

The story of Torog's fall is the story of the Underdark. If you prefer to downplay the importance of Torog's tortured crawl through the darkness or pass it off as nothing more than an old dwarves' tale, feel free to come up with another explanation for the many tunnels that twist through the Underdark. Or you can leave it to the players to wonder how this amazing realm came to exist. Part of the wonder of D&D is never knowing the entire truth behind the story of the world, and you are responsible for determining how many of the stories in your world are true, and how many are flights of fancy.

The Violent Creation of the Underdark

Like the rest of the world, the Underdark owes its existence to the efforts of the primordials. In fact, the world and the deeps underneath were crafted as part of the same effort, though the original purpose of the Underdark remains lost to the ages.

But unlike the world, the Underdark remains largely untouched by the gods' refining efforts. It is a rawer creation that owes its impermanent substance and warped supernatural nature to the haphazard efforts of the early primordials. Compared to the relative stability and order of the world, the Underdark is a mutating and deeply flawed jumble of environments and ecosystems, and these surreal flaws in its reality affect all creatures that spend any great deal of time in its depths.

One god did lend his efforts, however unwillingly, to the final form of the Underdark. Before the Dawn War, the god Torog became imprisoned in the primeval Underdark. Unable to escape to the surface world, the King that Crawls instead smashed sideways, creating tunnels that wound throughout the dark realm.

In his fury and desperation, Torog crashed through the barriers between the world and its echo planes, the Feywild and the Shadowfell. To this day, the god's violent but futile efforts lend a name to the endless tunnels of the Underdark: the King's Highway, a dark jest in a bitter place.

Unlike most other gods, Torog never rose to an astral throne or descended to an elemental realm. He reigns in the lowest reaches of the Underdark at the center of his network of torture dens, served by exarchs who have given themselves over to eternal torment.

And so the Underdark is described today, ruled by Torog (clearly on the naughty list, in perpetuity) Before the official previews begin in earnest, we leave you with the following passage, this time from D3: Vault of the Drow.

"Overcoming wererats and mind flayers, Drow patrols and their minions, your group managed to cross a vast subterranean river in the face of a mad fish-man, a Kuo-Toan of exceptional abilities and strength; and after days of journeying through corridors hewn from living rock, discovered an underground temple of the Kuo-Toan fish-men where an idol of their repulsive goddess, Blibdoolpoolp, had to be venerated by all who would pass through (Module D1-2, Descent Into The Depths Of The Earth). All along the route, signs of the insidious Drow have been noted. It is now evident that the Dark Elves pass freely throughout this underworld, but it is just as evident that these evil elves are hated and feared by the other intelligent races inhabiting the subterranean lands. This does not give cause to hope that your party will receive any substantial aid, for most of the creatures dwelling in the sunless places beneath the earth are as evil as the Drow. There are Deep Gnomes, the Svirfnebli, who might help, but the vast majority of the denizens of the underworld are as inimical to you as are the Dark Elves, and that enemy will certainly be alert, not complacent, as they too must deal with powerful enemies continually in order to survive in this grim and ghastly underworld."

As you'll soon see in our Underdark previews, much still holds true. There will be drow. Kuo-toa. Mind flayers. Gnomes. As well as other intelligent races, powerful enemies . . . and worse creatures that dwell even deeper than them all.


January: Dragon Magazine

We've taken to publishing our editorial calendar for the coming month in the last days of the month before the month ends. However, readers might be keen to know what's coming to the website even further in advance; and to help satiate that curiosity, let's reveal a bit of coming Dragon and Dungeon Magazine articles.

Dragon starts the year off with a deeper look at backgrounds, Kord, vestige warlocks, and druids (as well as covering several other classes and winning races). In addition, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes designed a set of dragon lair items (the kind of thing you'll never find on HGTV).

Adventurer's Vault 2 introduces a new subset of wondrous items: lair items. Adventurers can add these magic items to their base of operations (or "lair"). They provide comforts when the party returns home after a difficult adventure, and a home-field advantage against enemies who would dare assault them in their sanctum. Unlike most magic items, lair items aren't portable; they must be left behind when a hero goes exploring.

Dragons, being lair-focused creatures, also make use of such items to improve the security of their hoards, to make their lairs more comfortable, and to enhance the pleasure of collecting specific sorts of treasure. Indeed, some dragons go a step further and transform portions of their hoards into lair enhancements.


January: Dungeon Magazine

That's Dragon, but what of Dungeon? Plenty of new adventure content is coming, to be sure -- including the next chapter in the Scales of War, a new Domains of Dread ("The Endless Road" by Ari Marmell), and -- with warlocks also appearing in Dragon -- advice on using pacts to flavor warlocks' patrons, quests, and individual plot arcs.

"You've made a wise decision, my eager friend. Now sign here, and we'll discuss the trivial payment I ask in return for your newfound power . . ."
-- Belphegor of the Broken Horn, to Brekk Vellus upon his signing of the fiend's infernal pact

You'll also see not one, but two visits to the Chaos Scar, including an encounter written by Stephen Radney-Macfarland in the "Silver's Calling" adventure:

In a library a wizard found a voice calling out to him from the past. It promised that he was the chosen one -- the person meant to inherit secret power that only the voice could grant. Since that day, the wizard has been obsessed with finding the source of the voice. Now, years later he's on the verge of finding it. All he needs is a group of adventurers to help him heed the sliver's calling.


February: Martial Power 2

Steel and courage are your tools. You do not wield earth-shattering magic. No gods or spirits channel power through you. You rely on strength, agility, skill, and cunning when facing foes. From these simple ingredients, you have the power to forge legends. And from the pages of Martial Power 2, you'll have access to these ingredients in the form of new builds, powers, feats, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more.

In this book, you'll find hundreds of new powers for martial characters. You can build a fighter who slashes and pummels at close quarters, or a rogue who employs stealth as a lethal weapon. Alternatively, you could create a ranger who darts through the battlefield, or a warlord who unleashes a barrage of arrows. Yet for all the choices and combinations, this book doesn't change the essence of what it means to be a martial warrior -- that you are a hero of weapon and body.

Using this Book

Martial Power 2 is organized by class -- the first four chapters contain new builds, class features, powers, and paragon paths for each of the four martial classes: fighter, ranger, rogue, and warlord. Then in Chapter 5 we present new martial options, including feats and epic destinies for martial characters. This chapter also introduces two new systems: a set of combat styles, that allows you to pick a custom fighting technique to fit your character's background and weapon choice; and martial practices, which are routines and exercises your martial character knows how to do, or special talents your character possesses. Look for examples of these at the start of next year!


And that's this month's sneak peek! As always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand for the earliest insights and announcements about the game!

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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