I spoke about my own personal windfall in a recent D&D Alumni: the great and glorious Christmas of 1983 when a red-boxed Basic Rules found its way under my family's Christmas tree and I was finally able to learn the rules of the game. Of course I knew that particular gift would be there, having succeeded at the skill challenge of finding my wrapped presents early and taking a peek.
This is the first holiday season that 4th Edition has been on the shelves, so I'm imagining there might well be quite a few wrapped core rulebooks, gift book sets, or 4th Edition Starter Sets under trees this year (or given at the winter holiday of your choice). When talking about the "next generation" of D&D players, James Wyatt once showed off a picture of his brother in 1979 holding up his first copy of the game; for those of you with similar experiences this year, whether giving any of the new books or having received them, we'd love it if you'd send a picture of the "grand unwrapping" to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In any case, let's see what else is coming out in this month as well as for the months ahead.
The horizon was on fire.
Raidon Kane emerges from the Spellplague with a sapphire tattoo burned into his flesh, strange supernatural powers, and eleven missing years.
The world had ended. How could he forget that?
His daughter is dead. His home has been destroyed. His life is empty save for one thing.
Everything faded to blue, then to nothing.
Book 1 in the Abolethic Sovereignty, penned by R&D's Bruce Cordell, debuts this month. Considering that Peter Lee dropped hints of the aboleth appearing in a not too distant D&D Minis set, players might be in for some aquatic, mind-enslaving danger . . . and DMs should feel free to mine Plague of Spells for suitable abolethic story elements.
Last month, we introduced you to this adventure and provided a sample hook for starting things off. This month, let's delve a little more deeply into the Underdark -- after all, where else would you expect to find the Demon Queen, Matron Urlvrain, and her elite retainers?
The Demon Queen's Enclave
Phaervorul has long served the drow as a religious center and trading outpost in the Underdark. The drow tolerated other peoples within the enclave, provided such visitors didn't interfere with drow customs. Long years of wealth and peace bred complacency, so when an attack finally came, it caught the drow by surprise. The enclave is now an abattoir, overrun by demons, undead, and other fell creatures.
Demon Queen's Enclave is "a story of betrayal, alliances made in desperation, and the corrupting influence of power." To further explore what your PCs might come across on the path to Phaervorul, let's take a look at one of the new creatures (making use of your DDM Demonweb Web Golem), one of the new rewards, and several of the illustrated locations.
Golem, Web Animate
Like any race with a penchant for magic, drow create constructs to use as protection and to serve as superior troops in battle. Where they differ, however, is in the materials they use to build their constructs.
Web Golem Grappler
Level 13 Elite Controller
Large natural animate (construct)
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +6; darkvision
Cloud of Webs aura 2; enemies that enter or start their turn in the aura are slowed and take a -2 penalty to attacks.
HP 272; Bloodied 136; see also binding strands below
AC 27; Fortitude 25, Reflex 21, Will 18
Vulnerable 10 fire
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6, climb 4 (spider climb)
Action Points 1
Reach 2; +19 vs. AC; 2d8 + 5 damage, and target is grabbed (until escape). A web golem grappler can grab up to two enemies at a time.
Must currently have an opponent grabbed, the grappler uses the grabbed foe as a club against the target; reach 2; +19 vs. AC; 2d8 + 5 damage to the target and the grabbed opponent.
+18 vs. Reflex; target is immobilized (save ends).
The web golem grappler explodes in a burst of sticky strands; close burst 3; +19 vs. AC; target is slowed (save ends).
Drag and Move (move; at-will)
The web golem moves up to its speed, moving any grabbed creatures with it. At the end of its movement, it places the grabbed creatures in any squares adjacent to it.
Str 20 (+11)
Dex 17 (+9)
Wis 11 (+6)
Con 24 (+13)
Int 3 (+2)
Cha 3 (+2)
Web Golem Lore
A character knows the following with a successful Arcana or Nature check.
DC 20: Web animates are drow golems, creatures forged from mundane materials and given a semblance of life.
DC 25: The drow experiment with different materials when creating constructs, including spider webs and other materials native to the Underdark.
Mask of the Matriarch
An obsidian mask, it is carved to resemble the features of a beautiful drow woman.
Item Slot (Head) 85,000 gp
Properties: You gain a +2 item bonus to Intimidate checks.
A stone statue depicting a regal elf seated on a throne of books dominates this chamber. Three glass tanks line the wall, each containing a creature floating in bright, blue fluid.
A crumbling house of stone perches atop a wide rise. Arachnid and demonic imagery adorn its outer walls. Torchlight illuminates the front of the structure, revealing a pair of statues of armed bats flanking the door. To the north stand a pair of hulking demonic guards armed with tridents.
Six massive statues of Orcus flank the doors on both sides of this profane temple. A striking female drow stands near the far wall, her likeness reflected in a pool of dark blood at her feet. Dead drow lie alongside her, their throats ripped open. A circle on the floor behind her pulses with crimson light as she gazes upon you and smiles.
We've been showing off all manner of planes and their denizens in our Monday/Friday excerpts (including today's look at rituals). Of course, with all the difficulties of a journey through the various planes, perhaps your characters should think of investing in the following new magic items (including the namesake Manual of the Planes itself!).
From weapons and armor to wondrous items, planar equipment is important for adventurers preparing to face the challenges of the planes. Some items can help adventurers contend with the hazards of strange and perilous terrain, while others offer staggering power that can rival the most powerful immortals and elementals. Whether an item comes from a marketplace in Sigil or from the depths of the Abyss, any piece can potentially give an adventurer the edge he or she needs to survive the travails of the planes.
Githyanki Silver Weapon
The rune-engraved weapon assaults a creature's mind and has the power to banish it to another plane.
Lvl 9 +2 4,200 gp
Lvl 14 +3 21,000 gp
Lvl 19 +4 105,000 gp
Lvl 24 +5 525,000 gp
Lvl 29 +6 2,625,000 gp
Weapon: Heavy Blade
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d8 psychic damage per plus
Manual of the Planes
The pages of this tome display complex diagrams of planar destinations and provide insight into the portals connecting various locations within the planes.
Wondrous Item 225,000 gp
Property: You can use the Analyze Portal ritual as if you have the Ritual Caster feat and are of the appropriate level. The ritual's component cost is halved, and it takes half the time to complete the ritual. You gain a +4 item bonus to Arcana checks to perform the ritual.
Power (Daily): Standard Action. Change the destination of an open portal to any other destination, as long as you know the sigil sequence of the new destination. The portal resets to its normal destination after 1 minute.
HP 500 Space 4 squares by 8 squares Cost 3,125,000 gp
AC 3; Fortitude 20, Reflex 2
Speed fly 12 (hover), overland flight 15
The pilot must sit at the spelljammer helm, typically at the rear of the spelljammer.
In addition to the pilot, a spelljammer requires a crew of five, all of whom use a standard action each round to help control the vessel. Reduce the spelljammer's fly speed by 4 squares for each missing crew member. At fly speed 0, the spelljammer is unable to travel and flies out of control.
Thirty Medium creatures; forty tons of cargo.
Out of Control
An out-of-control spelljammer moves forward at half speed (not including any modifiers for its sails). Each round, it has 75% chance of descending. It descends 5 squares for the first 10 rounds it's out of control. After 10 rounds, it descends 10 squares per round. An out-of-control spelljammer that hits the ground after descending more than 20 squares is destroyed.
The spelljammer takes a penalty or bonus to its fly speed from -4 to +4 depending on the strength and direction of the wind.
Spelljammer Helm (Navigation Focus)
This vehicle is equipped with a spelljamming helm, which is the navigation focus for the Plane Shift ritual.
The lot of man -- to suffer and to die.
-- Alexander Pope
Ongoing previews are set to begin for this morbid tome starting on 12/15. For a preliminary look inside, however, let's start with a short rundown of what the book contains:
New artifacts, including the Sword of Kas? Check.
Undead beholders? Check?
Ctenmiir the Cursed? Check . . . wait, who exactly is Ctenmiir, and why is he cursed? Let's take a look!
Ctenmiir is a human vampire cursed to guard the treasures of the wizard Keraptis. He is bound to the spellcaster's will and is kept magically entranced until intruders awaken him with their presence.
Ctenmiir, Human Vampire
Level 13 Elite Soldier
Medium natural humanoid (undead)
Initiative +11 Senses Perception +8; darkvision
HP 254; Bloodied 127; see also second wind
Regeneration 10 (regeneration doesn't function while Ctenmiir is exposed to direct sunlight)
AC 31; Fortitude 25, Reflex 27, Will 25
Immune disease, poison; Resist 10 necrotic; see also mist form; Vulnerable 10 radiant
Saving Throws +2
Speed 7, climb 3 (spider climb); see also mist form
Action Points 1
Requires Whelm; +17 vs. AC; 2d10 + 8 damage (crit 28 + 4d6, or crit 28 + 4d10 against Large or larger creatures)
Requires Whelm; ranged 5/10; +17 vs. Reflex; 2d10 + 7 damage (crit 28 + 4d6, or crit 28 + 4d10 against Large or larger creatures)
Requires Whelm; Ctenmiir makes a hammer strike attack against one target and a hammer strike or a thrown hammer attack against another target.
Requires combat advantage against the target; +15 vs. Fortitude; 4d12 damage, and the target is weakened (save ends), and Ctenmiir regains 63 hit points and 1 action point.
Requires Whelm; +17 vs. AC; 3d10 + 8 thunder damage (crit 38 + 4d6, or crit 38 + 4d10 against Large or larger creatures), and the target is knocked prone.
Ranged 5; +15 vs. Will; the target is dominated and takes a -2 penalty to saving throws against being dominated (save ends both). Aftereffect: The target is dazed (save ends). Ctenmiir can have only one creature dominated at a time.
Ctenmiir becomes insubstantial and gains fly (hover) 12 until the end of his next turn. Ctenmiir cannot attack while in this form and can remain in this state for 1 hour.
Ctenmiir spends a healing surge to regain 63 hit points. In addition, he gains a +2 bonus to all defenses until the start of his next turn.
Skills Athletics +15, Bluff +11, Intimidate +11, Stealth +14
Str 19 (+10)
Dex 16 (+9)
Wis 14 (+8)
Con 15 (+8)
Int 12 (+7)
Cha 11 (+6)
Equipment scale armor, Whelm
Requires Whelm? That's right! Ctenmiir wields the ancient warhammer known as Whelm, one of several artifacts in the possession of Keraptis. And while we could show you Whelm, instead why not take a quick look at another artifact?
Von Zarovich Family Sword
Commissioned by Count Strahd, this weapon is the family sword of the von Zarovich clan, symbol of its sovereign rule over Barovia.
The von Zarovich Family Sword
is a +3 longsword
with the following properties and powers.Enhancement:
Attack and damage rollsCritical:
Once per day, if the Sword
has been used to help defeat a living enemy, it must feed. The owner is stunned until the start of his or her next turn.Property:
You gain vulnerable 10 radiant.Property:
You do not cast a reflection.Power (Encounter Arcane, Weapon):
Move Action. You can use spider climb
(warlock 6).Power (Daily Weapon):
Immediate Reaction, when you hit with the Sword
. The target is weakened (save ends), and you gain 20 temporary hit points.Special:
At the end of each round in which an attack is knowingly made with it against a member of the von Zarovich family, the weapon burns with sudden intensity, dealing 30 fire damage to its owner.
Which reminds me -- Strahd von Zarovich? Check.
Dave Noonan briefly mentioned this forthcoming product in our most recent podcast. Essentially you'll find a delve for each level of play, so you'll see levels 1 through 30 included within it. Each of the delves features a set number of encounters that you can construct by using the Dungeon Tiles.
D&DI subscribers already had a peek at the 18th-level delve, Summer's End on 11/19. The article also described the premise of a delve as follows: ". . . basically a short series of encounters. A delve can be dropped into an existing adventure as a short Side Trek, fill in for a session of your regular game if you didn't have time to prepare, or just be a great change of pace. Each delve takes roughly 3-4 hours to complete."
Within Dungeon Delve, you'll find 29 other delves to explore, and they feature all manner of challenges, demons, devils, giants, and dragons; plus, you can allow your PCs to earn new treasure items. Instructions are included for expanding the delves, if desired, and you can take advantage of a scoring system to determine how well your players did on each delve! As a further sample, here are some of the delve intros the book contains -- and we make sure to give you one from each of the three tiers.
9: Deceitful Descent
Before the characters get close enough to see any details, read:
In the distance you see a small, open-walled construction that is the site of some activity. Even though a roof partially blocks your view, you can see that figures are clustered in and around it. A low railing runs along three of the four sides, and an entrance to the south is flanked by a pair of statues.
A newly constructed temple of Bahamut lies along a road outside a rural township. As the PCs approach the place, a scream for help erupts within it. The temple is a front for a succubus and her cabal of cultists, devotees of the archdevil Levistus of Stygia. The cult has two goals: first, recruit and subvert the local populace, slowly indoctrinating them; second, capture pilgrims and travelers to ritually torture and sacrifice in the hidden lower levels. The local magistrate had gathered evidence of cult activity and, accompanied by two members of the militia, confronted the temple occupants. As the head of a guard tumbled past him, the magistrate found out the hard way that he was out of his league. He is overcome by the temple denizens just before the PCs get involved in the fight.
When the PCs first see into the temple, read:
The temple floor is saturated in wet blood, draining from two headless corpses. A third victim lies in front of a pair of cloaked attackers while several onlookers watch intently.
Expanding the Delve
- Add a trap door under the rug in area 3, leading to natural caverns below the room. This access point leads to as many additional areas as desired.
- Several explorers in service to the succubus -- such as tieflings, cambions, devils, and hobgoblins -- currently wander the caverns, searching for an item of power.
- Below the temple, the PCs might encounter denizens of the Underdark, such as rot scarab swarms (MM 30), destrachans (MM 59), gargoyles (MM 115), and various undead.
- At some point, a team loyal to Asmodeus -- a lamia (MM 174) and two dragonborn gladiators (MM 86) -- arrives to thwart the cabal's plans. If the timing is right, this could result in a three-sided battle that might see the PCs ally themselves with the lesser of two evils.
14. Hall of Echoing Screams
Recent earthquakes have unearthed a small section of a lost dwarven fortress. The dwarves are long gone, but rumors suggest they might have left treasure or weapons behind. After a journey into the Underdark, the characters find a barred iron door bearing the names of several ancient dwarven clans. However, a small cabal of mind flayers has already moved in. A recent battle with a drow caravan has weakened the illithids, and now they hunker down to prepare for their next move.
24: Ghoulish Designs
A deathpriest hierophant of Orcus has turned the lower catacombs of a cemetery into a base for the undead and demonic horde it is gathering. The deathpriest loses control, however, with the arrival of a balor, and its carefully orchestrated forays to snatch victims have turned into wholesale slaughters. The PCs arrive in a nearby town to meet with a merchant who promised to sell them a long-coveted magic item. They are not altogether pleased to arrive to find the aftermath of a brutal attack -- and no sign of their item.
Until next month!