Last month, we queried you on what school mascots would make a challenging monster in a given D&D scenario. A few of your replies included the Stony Brooks "Seawolves" (which already have a suitable D&D monster to represent them) and the University of California at Santa Cruz "Banana Slugs" (represented by the giant slug, of course). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill "Tar Heels" was suggested by Steve as being a large, ramlike humanoid that cannot be moved against its will (tar on its heels). Plus, Arthur wrote in to explain that the Ohio State "Buckeye" would be a nature-perverted beholder: the head of a large stag, with just one eye in the center, and horns on the head. Possibly it'd have an eye on each horn.
Our personal winner, however, has to go to Kent. Writing in for the Arizona State University "Sun Devil," he says: "I see the Sun Devil in the particular context of Dark Sun (but applicable anywhere): an immortal trapped on Athas, wandering the desert trying but failing to escape an environment alien to it. It would carry a trident (another ASU symbol), have control over heat and lightning (the mascot's name is Sparky), and try to engage in Faustian bargains with other travelers, with the ultimate goal of returning (somehow) to the Elemental Chaos."
Well done, Kent, and thanks to everyone who wrote in!
Over on the Magic: The Gathering side of things, they've been celebrating the release of their latest set, Innistrad (which, I hasten to point out, rhymes a bit with Strahd!). With werewolves, zombies, and vampires, it's a timely set for the month of October and the coming Halloween. And here on the D&D side, we're seeing a Drizzt-themed month. This month, we release both the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Neverwinter trilogy (titled, appropriately enough, Neverwinter), as well as his Transitions trilogy gift set. Later in the month, the Legend of Drizzt Board Game also hits shelves, allowing you to play as Drizzt (or other companions -- or even adversaries -- of the hall).
So before we dive into the previews, we wanted to showcase the elaborate Drizzt statue that you might have seen at either this year's Gen Con or PAX Prime conventions. (That's the artist putting some finishing touches on his piece!)
October: Books and E-Books
With novels releasing on the first Tuesday of each month, that means our most recent set of novels is simultaneously available in e-book form. Sample chapters are offered for the following novels.
With the last of his trusted companions having fallen, Drizzt is alone -- and free -- for the first time in almost a hundred years. Guilt mingles with relief, leaving Drizzt uniquely vulnerable to the persuasions of his newest companion -- Dahlia, a darkly alluring elf and the only other member of their party to survive the cataclysm at Mount Hotenow. But traveling with Dahlia is challenging in more ways than one.
Transitions: Gift Set
What's better than one novel set in the Forgotten Realms featuring Drizzt? How about three? The Transitions Gift Set includes the following novels:
The Orc King
In the Forgotten Realms world, trust doesn't come easy, and old prejudices trump new alliances. When war comes to the North once again, Drizzt and Bruenor won't just have to outfight their enemies, they'll have to outlive lifetimes of hatred between orcs and dwarves. But wasn't it Drizzt who proved that even if someone is born to a society of evil, he can carry some seed of goodness? If a drow could do it, why not an orc?
The Pirate King
Why do all roads seem to lead to Luskan? Drizzt has asked himself that question before, and will ask it again when he once more finds himself fighting side-by-side with Captain Deudermont of the pirate hunter Sea Sprite. Drizzt has come to Luskan in search of an old friend, but Deudermont has come to Luskan to fight.
The Ghost King
Disaster has come to the world of the Forgotten Realms. Walls of blue fire streak across the land, leaving unimaginable change in their wake. Many die, some are forever altered, and others are awakened. With old enemies made whole, and old friends lying broken, Drizzt will have to find every last friend he has left, even an unlikely old enemy, if he is to survive in a world turned upside down.
Continuing the D&D Adventure System of boardgames (following Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon), players can take on the role of the legendary drow ranger or one of his famous adventuring companions, then battle fearsome foes and win treasure and glory.
As far as these famed companions go, you can play as Catti-Brie (human archer), Regis (halfling rogue), Bruenor Battlehammer (dwarf fighter), Wulfgar (human barbarian), and Athrogate (dwarf battleranger) -- as well as Artemis Entreri (assassin) or Jarlaxle Baenre (drow mercenary). And of course, you have the option to play as scimitar-wielding Drizzt Do'Urden.
Last time, we showed you a look at Drizzt as well as the balor Errtu. This time, we offer the entire rulebook for your perusal, as well as another of the game's villains: Artemis Entreri. Entreri can serve as a potential member of your adventuring party or as a party foe.
The Feywild, also sometimes called the land of Faerie, is a place bright with magic. Those who wander its enchanted roads discover miracles and wonders undreamed of in the mortal world. In the Feywild, the laws of science, logic, and reason defer to the arts of magic, story, and rhyme. Ordinary animals and objects converse as eloquently as any worldly mortal. Enchanted forests wander across the landscape like herds of roving sheep. Glorious castles perch on mountain spires that touch the starry heavens, and a bold traveler can board a vessel to a fey palace on the moon.
Fairies anoint the dewdrops on morning flowers, and in the evening, satyrs play their gentle pipes to lull the world to sleep. Yet for all its dreamlike splendor, the plane can be as perilous as the Elemental Chaos with its random explosions of stone and fire, and as deadly as the life-sapping Shadowfell. Here wicked hags place everlasting curses on their enemies, change mortals into toads, and blacken the moon in their flight across the midnight sky. Capricious fey play careless games with mortal lives. Underground caverns sprawl the length of the world above, and in these dark places, fomorian tyrants, brutal cyclopses, and hateful drow await the day when they will overthrow the surface dwellers.
And what race could exemplify the Feywild more than the pixie? Last month, we mentioned that Heroes of the Feywild introduces three new races: pixie, hamadryad, and satyr. This month, let's examine the miniscule pixie in a bit more depth before concluding with a brief look at an appropriate new subclass for the month: the witch!
Magical fairy folk, childlike mischief-makers, enchanted caretakers of nature
Average Height: 0'6˝-1'
Average Weight: 1-4 lb.
Ability Scores: +2 Charisma; +2 Dexterity or +2 Intelligence
Speed: 4 squares, fly 6 squares (altitude limit 1). You cannot use this fly speed if you are carrying more than a normal load.
Vision: Low-light vision
Languages: Common, Elven
Skill Bonuses: +2 Nature, +2 Stealth
Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.
Speak with Beasts: You can communicate with natural beasts and fey beasts.
Wee Warrior: You have a reach of 1, rather than the reach of 0 that is typical for a Tiny creature. You also take a –5 penalty to Strength checks to break or force open objects. When wielding a weapon of your size, you follow the same rules that Small creatures do.
Pixie Magic: You have the pixie dust and shrink powers.
An enchanted race born of raw fey magic, pixies are the diminutive fairy folk of the Feywild. Under the direction of the Court of Stars, they etch the patterns of frost on the winter ponds and rouse the buds in springtime. They cause flowers to grow and sparkle with summer dew, and they color the leaves with the blazing hues of autumn. Some believe that the pixies stole the secret of honey from the mead goblet of the Summer Queen, then sold it to the bees. It is said that they taught the birds to fly and to sing. These childlike sprites have a penchant for mischievous fun, and there is no game a pixie will not play, no sport it will not attempt, and no revelry it will avoid or decline.
Once upon a time in the green-gold of the dawning world, the Summer Queen gave birth to a beautiful child. No one knew which of the archfey was the child's father, and the Summer Queen refused to say. Powerful archfey of the Court of Stars gathered around her so that each in turn might bestow his gift on the new fey royalty, for each believed the child was his own.
The first gift came from the child's mother -- the gift of whimsy, so that like the warm winds of summer, she might roam wherever she pleased.
"But whimsy needs a course and a direction, lest it give way to the destruction of storms," said the Sea Lord, who believed the child was his own. "As young rivers play upon the land before maturing into the great wide sea, so shall the child play." And he bestowed the gift of play on the fey child.
Then Oran the Green Lord, who also believed the child was his own, said, "Like the frivolous waters, play can overreach its bounds and wreck the labor of others. So I give this child the gift of care. As young seeds are nurtured in the earth that bounds the rivers and the seas, so shall the child care for all things green and alive."
The Prince of Frost, who knew the child to be his sister, only laughed at the other archfey. "By her silence does the Summer Queen have us doing her bidding for the sake of a child whose provenance we will never know," he said. "And so laughter is my gift to the child. Laughter is the north wind's breath that elevates the spirit in the face of those that would channel, bind, or control it."
So the child was blessed with the four gifts the Court of Stars had bestowed upon her -- whimsy, play, care, and laughter. But after the others had departed, the child's true father secretly appeared beside her gossamer cradle. And then, Corellon, lord of arcane magic, blessed his daughter with the gift of wonder that is the purest form of magic, so that she and all her descendants should ever retain their childlike spirits.
Legends of the mortal realm say that because the Feywild is the bright reflection of the world, pixies are a reflection of humanity. As the bards tell it, whenever a human child is born, a pixie also comes into existence. The personalities of the two races are indistinguishable during the first few years of life. However, human adolescents cast off their childhood ways, while pixies retain them forever. Sometimes pixies feel compassion for mortals who retain a degree of childhood innocence. They often watch over such humans, secretly aiding their "flawed" reflections with magic when they fall on ill circumstances.
In the world, pixies were once as prevalent as they were in the Feywild. However, during the years that mortals have ruled, they have diminished and gone into decline. As humanoid civilizations began to flourish, they encroached on the pixies' homelands, pushing the fairy folk back into the Feywild and into the dark unknown beyond civilization.
Arcane Controller: You practice the first, most ancient form of arcane magic, which allows you to charm, transform, and curse your enemies.
Key Abilities: Intelligence, Wisdom
Part religion, part ritual, and all mystery, witchcraft is an ancient practice that came about in an age before arcane magic was studied, institutionalized, and etched in writing, when monstrous titans ruled over creation and the secret of making fire was yet undiscovered. In this chaotic dark age, the gods had little influence on the titans' world. Instead of seeking their aid, the primitive peoples called out to the night for protection and power, and a voice from the darkness answered. Those who accepted its arcane gifts became the first witches, and they wielded such power as only immortals had known -- seen by some jealous gods as an affront that they have never forgiven.
Witches gain their power from a patron who instructs them by way of a mystical familiar that comes and goes as it pleases, unbound by the strictures of the material world. The most prevalent patron among witches -- the original voice from the darkness -- is the moon goddess Sehanine, referred to by witches as simply the Goddess. Other entities have since seen the advantage of imbuing mortals with power, and so your patron might be an archfey, a god, an angel, a primordial, a demon lord, a devil, or another legendary being that believes it can benefit by imbuing you with a gift of arcane prowess. It might prefer to remain anonymous.
The circumstances by which you obtained your gift can vary widely. Some witches seek out the gift in order to fulfill a personal desire or vendetta, while others were brought up in a coven. Some receive their power after making a pact with a devil, as a warlock might do, and others have it bestowed upon them by a fairy godparent or a witch queen.
Though witches are common among the fey races in the Feywild, as a witch in the natural world you must be mindful of whom you trust. In the world, common folk fear your kind. Envious wizards refuse to acknowledge you as a peer and would see your wondrous powers vanish from the world, while clerics of jealous gods decree you an unholy menace, sending witch hunters to track you down and destroy you.
Unlike other wizards, a witch receives the gift of arcane power from a patron such as an archfey, a god, a devil, an angel, a demon, or another powerful being. The witch might or might not be aware of the patron's true identity or its reasons for bestowing power, but such entities always have their reasons, which become clear in time, for good or ill.
A witch's familiar takes the shape of a Tiny creature, usually a natural or a fey beast such as a cat, a serpent, or a raven, and acts as an intermediary between the witch and the patron of the witch's power. Bound to the witch's soul, this familiar instructs the witch in the use of supernatural powers.
Your familiar can have as active a role as you like. Familiars have a distinct personality and a unique relationship with the witches they instruct. Your familiar might provide hints and lore, or it might be a subtle presence in the background that appears and disappears without a sound, if you prefer to downplay its role in your story.
Benefit: You gain the Arcane Familiar feat as a bonus feat.
At the end of each extended rest, when you confer with your familiar you can replace one of your wizard daily attack powers or wizard utility powers with another wizard power of the same type. The new power must have a level, and its level must be the same as the old power's level.
When you reach level 24, your familiar enables you to spend an action point on your turn to regain the use of one of your expended wizard encounter attack powers, instead of taking an extra action. If you do so, you gain combat advantage against every target of that power the next time you use it during the current encounter.
"I have examined this book, perused its pages, and inspected the reflections of those despicable authors who have added their peculiar insights into this most foul work, and yet I refuse to see this tome as evil. This book is just a book. Where evil exists in regard to this tome is in the intent behind its use. I can imagine how a wretched man with darkness in his heart might find the contents here instructive to feeding his vile ambition. Yet can we not also see how a virtuous man might scan these same pages for insights into how he might triumph over that same darkness?
This book is a tool and nothing more. Do not be put off by the sharpened edges and the curious odors wafting from its pages."
-- Shemeshka the Marauder
Something about evil fascinates us, but who can say what turns a person into a monster or what compels an individual to commit unspeakable acts? This tome pulls aside the veil to reveal evil in all its forms as it manifests in the worlds of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
In the D&D game world, the Book of Vile Darkness is considered by many to be the most evil and blasphemous of all tomes. It is a catalog of wickedness, a repository of wisdom for those in service to evil, and a compendium of all things foul. The tome is an infection, a dark presence that uses temptation and corruption to bleed into societies. Handling the manuscript corrupts the innocent, and its lore destroys as it spreads like cancer through the minds of its readers. Thus, this sourcebook shares the damnable book's title. And in its pages, you will find everything you need to make evil worthy of its name.
The Book of Vile Darkness includes two books and a foldout battle map. The first book is intended for the Dungeon Master (DM), and it contains everything you need to place evil on center stage in your games. It offers extensive advice about building story villains and running campaigns for evil adventurers. It also includes an assortment of tools to test and shock your players. It concludes with an adventure that explores what might happen when heroes come across the Book of Vile Darkness and includes combat encounters that use the battle map.
The second and smaller book is a guide for players interested in creating and playing evil adventurers. Since not every DM is keen to run a game featuring evil adventurers, it's ultimately your decision whether the options presented in the player's book are available to your players. That said, you might find evil adventurers provide a refreshing change of pace to your group's normal roleplaying experience.
Before you explore the wickedness piled inside, please know this product in no way aims to glorify evil or encourage deviant behaviors. Instead, these books are designed to give you a little nastiness with which to darken your games and present unforgettable challenges to your players.
A final warning: If you use this material, be prepared. Your players might never forgive you.
And that's this month's look at what's coming out in the months ahead!
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).