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Spotlight Interview: Temple of the Sky God
Designer Interview
Greg Bilsland

T he latest D&D Lair Assault: Temple of the Sky God, is set to launch December 1st. Astride the legendary Mounts of Wind, your brave heroes venture into a corrupted temple in the clouds. Will the party survive the battle with the dark force that dwells there, or will they fall before the temple's new master?

As you start your assault, here are the first words you’ll hear:

You have journeyed to a temple of Shaundakul in the foothills outside the Cormyrean city of Arabel to meet with Cadellos Erethond. The aged high priest of Shaundakul seeks heroes to undertake a journey on behalf of his god, the Rider of the Winds. Cadellos and the acolytes have watched you compete against other adventurers in bouts of strength and skill, for they want only the most capable adventurers. You have defeated all your rivals, and now stand before the senior priest to receive your reward...

"Before you stand the legendary Mounts of the Winds. If you would venture into the sky and face its perils, you will need their assistance. Choose your mounts, champions of Shaundakul, and best of luck in your quest."

We also asked designer Greg Bilsland to share some insight and tips regarding this latest Lair Assault!


Wizards: Let's start with an introduction to this D&D Lair Assault—what challenges can players expect to face at the Temple of the Sky God? What sets it apart from previous Lair Assaults?

Greg: Temple of the Sky God has all the usual trappings of a Lair Assault—it’s super hard and the characters don’t get any rests—only this time, we also decided to increase the drama by raising the fight 5000 feet in the air. We also borrowed the card-component idea from Kill the Wizard, and included a series of mounts which bestow characters with special abilities.

Wizards: Have you tackled memorable aerial encounters in your own campaigns? Or were simply interested in taking a Lair Assault further off the 2D tabletop?

Greg: I came up with the initial scenario with Chris Perkins’s help. Basically, we sat down in a room and thought about the most exciting, dramatic fight we could imagine. That meant at least one dragon, aerial combat, lightning, and the potential to fall to your death at any moment. We’re also both big fans of amazing maps, so we wanted something unlike any other poster map we’ve done before—and Mike Schley definitely delivered on that request.

My most memorable aerial combat involved an airship tethered to a crumbling earthmote that had lost its buoyancy. The characters ended up battling on the airship's deck as it hurtled tens of thousands of feet toward the ocean below. That combat, as well as several others dramatic aerial combats, served as inspiration. Although aerial combat can be challenging to run as a player or a Dungeon Master, it adds great tension to the game.

Wizards: What advice would you have for DMs running Temple of the Sky God's less standard, aerial combat in terms of tracking movement, attitude and the like? Are there tricks or tips you'd recommend for keeping track of a flying melee?

Greg: Familiarize yourself intimately with the mounted combat rules, the falling rules, and the flying rules from Rules Compendium. We've also included an excerpt of the relevant rules in the Lair Assault booklet, so rely heavily on that resource.

I use ten-sided dice to track elevation, with each pip representing 1 square of elevation. Because it’s possible for characters to go above or below the clouds, consider using two different colors of dice to track positive and negative elevation. I also like using Alea Tools tokens for representing squares of elevation; they help make a quick comparison of creatures at different heights to see if they’re within reach of one another.

Wizards: Conversely, how would you suggest players prepare their characters for this Lair Assault—knowing that they'll take to the air, are there particular items of equipment (or even powers) that you'd suggest they consider?

Greg: Any power that allows flight is certainly going to help, but that’s no guarantee of safety. As with most Lair Assaults, a group of players must do some puzzling out of the various elements of the challenge to figure out how best to beat it and acquire its rewards. I purposefully set the challenge at a level where cheaty-face items like the ebony fly wouldn’t be of use. Other flight-items are available, but it’s always a trade-off since an item that brings you more safety might also mean you’re doing less damage. Your chosen mount can also help augment the strengths of various classes and roles.

Lair Assault veterans will expect a map flip—and this map flip will be one of the most dramatic. And of course the cover art for the challenge offers some hints at what kind of perils you might face.

The only other piece of advice I will offer is this: PROTECT YOUR MOUNT.

Wizards: Temple of the Sky God offers players a choice of flying. Which of these mounts would you choose?

Greg: As I said, the mounts cater to certain characters and play styles. I like high defenses, so I’d probably go with Tulanni the Indomitable. That being said, hippogriffs aren’t nearly as cool as griffons, so I’d have to go with Shiriki Sharpbeak for my real-life steed.

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