Previews Archive | 1/5/2009
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January and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Here we are at the start of 2009! For those of us in Seattle, we managed to survive a rather fierce (for us, at least) December that had most of Wizards of the Coast effectively snowed out of the office from Thursday, December 18th onward. (You may have seen some of the effects of the Seattle winter storm, including travel delays and rather frightening accidents.)

That said, neither snow nor rain nor glom of night will stay this courier from the swift completion of their appointed previews (to paraphrase what I’d always assumed to be the official motto of the US Postal Service… though apparently it’s actually not—you see, I’ve been watching quite a bit of daytime television during this unexpected break, and oh the things I’ve learned).

In any event, happy new year, and let’s get on with some previews!

January: Open Grave

The lot of man -- to suffer and to die.
-- Alexander Pope

In today’s excerpt, we took a look inside a sample undead lair, the Bloodtower on the Moorland: "The lost Bloodtower has returned, arising from its earthen grave to stand as a mute sentinel over the fog-shrouded moorland. In the weeks since its return, locals and travelers have spoken of new undead roaming the countryside."

But let’s take a closer look inside the Bloodtower (if we dare), heading all the way to the sepulcher where awaits… the Black Petal:

The Black Petal

The true name of the woman known as the Black Petal is Anefsina Bleth. She is a noble with a strong interest in necromantic matters. She entered the moorland in search of the lost Bloodtower.

After weeks of scouring the rocky headlands along the eastern moor, she at last divined the tower’s concealed resting place. Anefsina then recited a complex ritual from a scroll of tattered vellum. At the conclusion of the ritual, the Bloodtower rose up out of the moorland, freed from its ages-old burial site.

When the adventurers teleport into the Vaulted Sepulcher, read:

You feel a slight sensation of nausea as you and your companions are instantly whisked away to a secret chamber. Before you can fully acclimate to your new surroundings, spectral tendrils lash out at you from the darkness. A woman’s laugher can be heard above the startled cries of your companions.

What else will we show in later days?

  • 01/09: A look at Kas the Betrayer!
  • 01/12: A new sample undead template and power, to customize your critters.
  • 01/16: Our final preview ends with one of the game’s most terrifying monsters: the demilich.

January: Practical Guide to Faeries

From the product catalog:

If you can read this note, you are one of the lucky ones chosen to learn about our world. Guard our secrets well!

Step inside the secret world of faeries.

You can't get there on purpose. You won't find it on any map. And you can't take the same road there twice. But the world of faeries is very real -- from the underground workshop where brownies craft toys to the enchanted forests where pixies play stickyball. You may never want to go home again!

What else do we have in store for the Practical Guide? Look for a sample chapter, art gallery... and tie-in within Dragon Magazine in the weeks to come!

February: Dungeon Delve

Last month, we introduced Dungeon Delve—30 delves, 30 levels, and a scoring system to determine how well your players completed each one. We also provided the introduction to three delves (for levels 9, 14, and 24). This time, let’s start off by showing one of these delves in even greater detail:

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.

Tiles: This delve uses tiles from DT6: Dire Tombs.

Encounter 14-1 Umber Hulk Guardians

Encounter Level 14 (3,800 XP)

  • 2 umber hulks (U)
  • 1 mind flayer infiltrator (M)


Two umber hulk thralls guard the only entrance to the fortress. The double doors that allow entry to this room are closed and barred from the inside. One umber hulk begins the encounter underground. Don’t place the mind flayer on the map yet; it’s beyond the characters’ line of sight.

When the PCs open the double doors, read:

The chamber before you is worked stone, but the glowing fungus growing in various places around the room suggest that it hasn’t been kept up for some time.

A crumbling well is in the southern side of the chamber, and a passage leads out of the room to the east.

Perception Check

DC 23: You feel a vibration in the ground—like something tunneling underneath your feet.


The umber hulk in the room tries to lure the PCs in so that the other umber hulk can emerge from the well behind or in the middle of the party. If the PCs don’t take the bait, the umber hulk uses confusing gaze to slide them farther into the room.

As soon as the second umber hulk feels at least two PC move beyond the well to the north or the east, it climbs out of the well and uses its own confusing gaze.

The mind flayer infiltrator remains at or close to the eastern doors, staying outside the radius of the PCs’ vision as long as it can. If the characters approach its location while carrying a source of bright light, it moves forward and unleashes a mind blast (which does not affect the thralls) that catches at least two characters if possible.

Remember that the mind flayer infiltrator is invisible to dazed victims of the umber hulk’s confusing gaze.

All the monsters fight until slain.

Plus, let's look at a few more delves in the book:

10. Fear the Night

A nest of vampires has claimed a dark forest and the surrounding human towns as its domain. Some of the local residents revere the vampires and serve as daylight guardians and spies. However, most of the townsfolk live in a state of dread. Those townsfolk have finally scavenged enough valuables to hire a band of adventurers to destroy the nest. The villagers do not know that a powerful necromancer named Borrit Crowfinger—aka the Bonemaster—recently usurped control of the nest.

30. Deific Heart of Magma

Numerous towns sit in the shadow of Rak’Sarn, a mountain of flames and death. Each day near sunset, the volcano lets loose a blast of molten rock and ash, and the ancient red dragon Dal’Sarnquin swoops down the mountainside. By the time dawn breaks, another settlement has been burned to the ground. The PCs must track the dragon to his lair and defeat him before more towns are destroyed.

February: Dungeon Tiles Caves of Carnage

What else could we say about these tiles, except that they certainly live up to their name: these are caves of absolute carnage—here's one example to show you just exactly what we mean:

March: P3 Assault in Nightwyrm Fortress

Infesting old crumbling cities and sunken palaces, shadow dragons are greedy and voracious, hungry for power, wealth, and of course, food. Pitiless and driven to commit atrocities to slake their appetite for all these things, shadow dragons regularly enslave other races, dominating them to work as soldiers and servants. Thankfully, most shadow dragons lair far from large cities and nations, and are content to prey mostly on those who dare the shadows that congregate beyond the lamps of civilization.

But some time ago, a shadow dragon named Urishtar discovered a relic structure in the Shadowfell, a structure whose foundation may well predate the rise of the Raven Queen on Shadow’s dark plain. Claiming the site for herself, Urishtar rechristened the dread edifice Nightwyrm Fortress. Within the ancient halls and dungeons, Urishtar learned much about the passage of mortal souls from life into death. Perhaps too much. With her new-found knowledge, Urishtar discovered the trick of capturing fleeting spirits of just-slain mortals as they raced through the Shadowfell. When she catches a soul, she diverts it away from whatever its fate should be, possibly risking the wrath of the Raven Queen herself. Urishtar cares not. She has other uses in mind.

March: Player’s Handbook 2

Get ready for the next level!

Player’s Handbook 2 is the most significant expansion yet to the 4th Edition, and we’ve already begun previewing classes in Dragon Magazine. Four of the book’s new classes use the primal power source, so we end today with an introduction to all things primal:

The Primal Power Source

According to legend, when the gods made war against the primordials at the dawn of time, the battles raged across the cosmos for uncounted centuries. The gods slowly gained the upper hand, successfully imprisoning or banishing many of the primordials. However, this war threatened the very existence of the world, as the primordials who brought it forth from the Elemental Chaos clashed with the gods who sought to fix the form of the world in permanence. In the last days of the war, a new force made itself known in the cosmos: the spiritual expression of the world itself. These primal spirits declared an end to the conflict, asserting that the world would no longer be a battleground for the two opposing forces. The gods and the primordials were banished to their home planes, and the primal spirits of the world decreed a balance: world would remain a place where matter and spirit mingled freely, where life and death proceeded in an orderly cycle, where the seasons changed in their unending wheel without interference. The gods and the primordials could still influence the world, but they could not rule it.

These primal spirits are beyond number, ranging from spirits too weak to have proper names to the mightiest incarnations of nature’s power: the Primal Beast, the Fate Weaver, the Great Bear, the World Serpent, and others. They are spirits of winds and weather, of predators and prey, of plains and forests, of mountains and swamps. As the people of the world have come to know these primal spirits and live in harmony with them, some mortal spirits have joined their number after death, just as some mortal souls pass to the dominions of their gods. These great ancestors are among the most potent of the primal spirits.

Characters who use the primal power source stand firmly rooted in the world, between the divine power of the Astral Sea and the primordial churning of the Elemental Chaos. They have some affinity with the native inhabitants of the Feywild, who share their love and respect for the natural world. They are staunch enemies of aberrant creatures whose very existence is a blight on the natural world, as well as of demons that seek to destroy it, undead that violate life’s natural cycle, and (to a lesser extent) those who seek to despoil the wilderness in the name of progress and civilization.

That doesn’t mean that a primal character must be a sworn enemy of the gods, or of a character such as a paladin of Erathis who seeks to settle and civilize the world. There might be some conflict and disagreement between such characters, but they also have many common foes. A primal character’s greatest concern is with creatures and forces that threaten the stability of the world and the balanced cycles of nature. In a broad view, the cities and civilizations of humans and other races are just as much a part of nature as are primeval forests and mountains, and just as worthy of protection.

Until next month!

About the Author

Bart Carroll is loathsome beyond description and has no redeeming features. His body resembles that of a huge, bloated buffalo and gives off an offensive odor. The author's neck is long and thin, and perched atop it is a big head uglier than that of a warthog. His legs are thick and stumpy, much like a hippopotamus. The author's tail is strong and snakey, however, and moves with amazing swiftness to strike enemies.

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