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New Frontiers: D&D and Board Games
Ampersand
By Bill Slavicsek

At long last, spring is in the air. Birds are singing, and it’s that time of year when a young gamer’s fancy turns to thoughts of lazy days, blockbuster movies, and all-out war—specifically, all-out war in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. The forces of good and evil clash in the Conquest of Nerath board game, available in June. Which side will you take?

New D&D Experiences

Last year, we introduced the first in a new line of D&D board games with the release of Castle Ravenloft. We followed that up a few months ago with Wrath of Ashardalon, creating a small family of products that use the Adventure System game mechanics. We have big plans in the works for D&D board games, with the goal of releasing all kinds of different play experiences using the iconic elements of Dungeons & Dragons and its worlds.

Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt (due in October) create a cooperative, roleplaying-like experience that lets players complete an adventure in about an hour. Next month, Conquest of Nerath provides an action-packed strategy game experience, set in the D&D core world, for 2 to 4 players. With this product, chock full of versatile components, the types of gameplay available to D&D fans expand to include competitive war games. And this one is fast-paced, furious, and a whole lot of fun.

When R&D set out to create a follow-up to the Adventure System games, we wanted to go in a completely different direction, to show the range and versatility of the D&D brand. Rich Baker built a great design for a strategy game a few years ago, and it seemed like just the thing we were looking for. It was competitive instead of cooperative. Different? Check! It was strategic in scope instead of tactical. Different? Check! It was a war game instead of an adventure game. Different? Check! And as an added bonus, it was lots of fun to play.

We dusted off the original design, rebuilt it to take place in the D&D core world, and fine-tuned it to get the game’s length to the place we wanted it to be. Rich, with some development help from Peter Lee, reworked the game to create a fantastic D&D war game experience that played in about three hours. Take a look at the beautifully rendered game board …

… and the highly detailed playing pieces!

In addition to the traditional trappings of a strategic war game, Conquest of Nerath includes a new element that makes it a uniquely D&D experience. As you can see from the above illustration, the board contains dungeon spaces scattered across the world. These add an exciting option that changes every time you play. As you build armies and send them out to crush your opponents, the dungeons make possible another kind of strategy. You can recruit heroes and send them into the dungeons to find treasure and magic items to help you win the game—provided you can defeat the monsters waiting there.

Check out Rich Baker’s ongoing series of web articles about the board game here, and look for Conquest of Nerath next month at a game store near you.

Beyond Nerath

As intimated above, in addition to our ongoing efforts to provide the best RPG products we can, D&D R&D is hard at work looking for new, fun experiences to engage fans everywhere. Conquest of Nerath and the Adventure System games are just the beginning. We’re experimenting with games for younger fans, Euro-style board games, and other fun ideas that take the D&D brand to places it’s never been before. We’ll talk more about these new D&D experiences in the months ahead, as plans become firmer. In the meantime, try one of the Adventure System games (if you haven’t already) and get ready to go to war with Conquest of Nerath!

Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale

If all-out war across the world weren’t bad enough, next month also sees the debut of the new Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale. We’ve shown off a couple of the new monsters available in this sleeved product, but I thought revealing one more cool monster entry would be a good way to wrap up this month’s column. Feel free to use one or both of these monsters in your next D&D game.

Boggle

“Boggle comes and boggle goes,
Steals your rings and stamps your toes.
Turn around the compass rose,
Where it went to, no one knows.”
—Fallcrest children’s rhyme

Boggles skirt the borders of civilization, creeping between shadows and squeezing through shortcuts in space to steal from and to trick mortals. They have a malicious sense of humor and enjoy tricks that torment others.

Children sometimes tell of “bogeymen” that follow them, lurking in the corners of their vision only to vanish when confronted. Parents dismiss such stories as phantoms of an overactive imagination—until the boggle snatches the child away.

Misshapen Interlopers: Boggles are native to the Feywild. They are common ancestors of goblins and of the Shadowfell’s dimension-hopping banderhobbs (Monster Manual 3), but are as similar to those creatures as humans are to apes. Although diminutive, boggles are able to extend their reach a considerable distance, and over the years, their ability to bend space and grasp across dimensions has stretched them somehow, making them adept at trickery. A boggle lopes with a hunched gait, dragging its knuckles along the ground as it moves.

Boggles migrate to the world wherever they discover a fey crossing, seeking the limitless entertainment provided by the world’s easily beguiled mortals. They are able to fold space over short distances and spy on mortals through the dimensional windows they create. They might pass through the resulting portal or reach across with their long arms, in search of items to filch or victims to terrify.

Malicious Tricksters: Boggles go out of their way to torment or vex people. A boggle might spoil milk, strip the sheets from beds, tie shoes together, or set stockings aflame. It might disassemble armor and hide the pieces, or switch new weapons with old, rusty ones.

It might pound at the inside of a closet door, hurl an object against a wall, or grab at sleepers from beneath their beds. It might even swaddle a wild animal cub like a baby and swap it for a sleeping infant—then lurk nearby to delight in the parents’ horror. Sometimes a boggle volunteers to act as a humble guide for travelers or explorers, then leads them into an ambush or a dragon’s lair.

Stealthy Sneaks: Boggles are cowards that prefer to stay out of contact with others. They can speak in halting Common or Goblin, but most communicate with shrieks, hisses, clicks, and taps understood only by their own kind. Boggles are not particularly intelligent, but they are cunning and exceptionally devious. Using their dimension-folding powers, they feed by snatching birds, rabbits, and other small prey by surprise. They can even ambush larger creatures, suffocating them with strong, grasping claws. Because of its innate ability to be sneaky, a boggle is sometimes coerced into serving as a guard, a spy, a thief, or a harrier by a stronger or cleverer creature.

Boggles panic when caught, and they sweat profusely in the presence of other creatures. Boggle sweat is a viscous, slick, fire-resistant substance, and a boggle will often leave traces of it wherever it goes, like the slime trail of a slug. For those who know what to look for when strange happenings are afoot, traces of boggle sweat will reveal that a boggle is present.

Boggle Sight Stealer
Level 3 Lurker
Small fey humanoid
XP 150
HP 37; Bloodied 18 Initiative +10
AC 17, Fortitude 15, Reflex 17, Will 13 Perception +8
Speed 6, climb 6 Darkvision
Resist 5 fire
Traits
Dimensional Window
The boggle can make Thievery checks against any creature within 10 squares of it that it is aware of.
Standard Actions
Melee ClawAt-Will
Attack: Melee 2 (one creature); +8 vs. AC
Hit: 2d6 + 4 damage.
Melee Neck BiteAt-Will
Attack: Melee 2 (one creature grabbed by the boggle); +6 vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d6 + 8 damage.
Miss: Half damage.
Ranged Peek-a-Boo Trick (teleportation)At-Will
Requirement: The boggle must have no creature grabbed.
Attack: Ranged 10 (one creature); +6 vs. Reflex
Hit: The boggle teleports the target to an unoccupied square within 2 squares of the boggle, and the target is grabbed (escape DC 13). The target is blinded until the grab ends. The boggle must remain within 2 squares of the target for the grab to persist.
Move Actions
Dimension Hop (teleportation)At-Will
Effect: The boggle teleports up to 3 squares.
Triggered Actions
Melee Face Rip (teleportation)Encounter
Trigger: A creature grabbed by the boggle escapes the grab.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): Melee 2 (triggering creature). The target takes 1d8 + 5 damage, and the boggle teleports up to 3 squares.
Skills Athletics +8, Stealth +11, Thievery +11
Str 15 (+3)
Dex 20 (+6)
Wis 14 (+3)
Con 13 (+2)
Int 5 (–2)
Cha 6 (–1)
Alignment evil
Languages Common, Goblin

Boggle Blink Trickster
Level 4 Artillery
Small fey humanoid
XP 175
HP 43; Bloodied 21 Initiative +7
AC 18, Fortitude 16, Reflex 18, Will 14 Perception +9
Speed 6, climb 6 Darkvision
Resist 5 fire
Traits
Dimensional Window
The boggle can make Thievery checks against any creature within 10 squares of it that it is aware of.
Standard Actions
Melee Dimension ClawAt-Will
Attack: Melee 10 (one creature); +11 vs. AC
Hit: 2d6 + 5 damage.
Melee Double Diversion TrickRecharge when first bloodied
Effect: The boggle uses dimension claw twice.
Move Actions
Dimension Hop (teleportation)At-Will
Effect: The boggle teleports up to 3 squares.
Triggered Actions
Teleport Trick (teleportation)Encounter
Trigger: The boggle takes damage from a melee attack.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): The boggle teleports up to 3 squares.
Skills Athletics +9, Stealth +12, Thievery +12
Str 15 (+4)
Dex 20 (+7)
Wis 14 (+4)
Con 13 (+3)
Int 5 (–1)
Cha 6 (+0)
Alignment evil
Languages Common, Goblin

Next Month

We’ll look at something else going on in D&D R&D, reveal a secret or two, and discuss the next big product release from the team. In the meantime, check out our new series of weekly columns, including Mike Mearls’ Legends & Lore and The Dungeon Master Experience by Chris Perkins.

Keep playing!
—Bill


In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon online.