Previews Archive | 6/1/2010
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June and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

We have a large set of previews to provide a glorious start to the summer. Let's begin with a further peek inside the pages of the Monster Manual 3, where a proverbial devil upon your shoulder (or demon, to be technically accurate) Let's begin with a further peek inside the pages of the Monster Manual 3, where a proverbial devil upon your shoulder . We also introduce one more demon -- this one from July's Demonomicon -- and here's a hint: This particular fellow sports lobster claw arms, a carrion crawler's head, and once went by the name of "daemon."

In fact, July is fairly loaded with new game content. In Vor Rokuth, our next location book, DMs can mine for adventure locales, hooks, inspiration, and ideas. Of course, as far as locations go, what could be more iconic to the game than July's Tomb of Horrors? For those of you familiar with the original, we return to site of a certain siren . . . and see what's become of her in the intervening years.

So, enjoy! That is, if you dare risk the wrath of demons, liches, and angry worms to find a wealth of treasures ahead (to crib from Vor Rokuth!). . . .


June: Monster Manual 3

We're going from the greatest of the creatures to the least at this point. Last month, we presented one of the catastrophic dragons, a being powerful enough to harness the very nature of volcanoes. (Curious as to what other catastrophes are evoked by these dragons? No less than earthquakes and blizzards.)

This month, we're proud to exhibit our favorite tiny demon of all time: the quasit. Although the Abyss focuses on annihilating creation, certain demons drift into the natural world to wreak havoc in subtler ways. Quasits target those who dabble in the occult, luring them to evil through the powers that lurk in forbidden texts, dark rituals, and cursed items. These tiny demons crave the destruction and chaos that spellcasters can unleash.

Quasit

Lore

Arcana DC 19: Abyssal lords create quasits to bring evil and chaos to the world. Consummate spies, they sneak about searching for spellcasters who display weak will and little self-control. A quasit bargains with a mortal spellcaster and works to persuade the mortal into accepting it as a familiar. The quasit then goads the mortal into committing increasingly destructive and heinous acts until the mortal eventually destroys himself or herself. If a mortal dies while in possession of a quasit familiar, the quasit attempts to ferry the mortal's soul to the Abyss, so it can offer the soul as a gift to its patron demon lord.

(730 Kbs PDF)

July: Dragon and Dungeon Magazines

Next month in Dragon magazine: new origin stories for your character, and more psionic traditions. We also start the Countdown to Essentials with Mike Mearls. Plus, look for a new Groups & Guilds article covering the Circle of Smoke and Whispers:

Few have sought out the Circle of Smoke and Whispers and succeeded; more commonly members approach possible members before these candidates learn of the Circle's existence since existing members remain alert for the rise of a potential ally. The most frequent means of vetting prospective recruits is to send them through a series of missions before anyone approaches them openly about the Circle. Sometimes, though, members notice a rising star within their usual cadre of informants and agents. In any event, a candidate has a vigorous examination of some sort before the Circle finally reveals itself to him or her.

Over at Dungeon magazine, we explore further areas in Chaos Scar: Down the Goblin Hole and the Pillar of Eyes. In Aerial Battles, we encounter sky pirates in the air over Eberron. And in the Forgotten Realms, we encounter the mysteries of the Spiral Gate.

An ancient ritual scroll holds the secret to restoring and reclaiming the power of the spiral gate, potentially tipping the balance of power in Faerûn by granting unprecedented mobility to Netherese spies, assassins, and armies. However, the scroll has been broken into four fragments that the Shadovar and their sworn enemies the sand kings desperately seek. The Netherese want to reactivate and control the portal; the separatists hope to use the ritual to disable the spiral gate permanently and put its power out of Netheril's reach. The heroes are caught in the middle and must decide which faction to support -- or how to play both sides to their own advantage.

July: Demonomicon

From the Demonomicon of Iggwilv

Many are they who would gladly have prostrated themselves before me, promising their fortunes, their families, their very souls to possess the tome you now hold in your hands. No matter how powerful you believe yourself to be, no matter how great your claim to knowledge -- on matters of demon lore, you are a rank novice in my sight.

Demons are not a class of creature easily codified, and no amount of vellum and ink can possibly hope to catalog their innumerable attributes and permutations. The research collected in this Demonomicon is accurate and impeccable, I assure you. But entering into battle against a demon requires more than mere knowledge. For demons are creatures of chaos -- mutable and forever adapting to their environment. A tactic employed successfully against an abyssal horde one time might result in your utter destruction the next.

Although you might have gained temporary possession of my precious tome, you still stand to gain only an inkling of the innermost workings of demonkind -- a subject I have lived and breathed over uncounted centuries of life. Was it unwise to set hard-won knowledge to parchment so sneak thieves such as yourself could steal away with it? Perhaps. But unless you are a special kind of fool, you know that I am already hunting you. So find what wisdom you can in these pages, for the time in which it might serve you is short. . . .

What dare we show you from this dangerous tome? Perhaps something of demonic physiology, society, or even summoning? Might we tour together somewhere in the Abyss? Or, should we introduce you to one of the Demonomicon's creatures -- an ixitxachitl, a wendigo, or a demon we've described in a recent D&D Alumni? Yes folks, daemons are back, now reconstituted as demons; we've just seen the ultrodemon in Monster Manual 3. Now prepare yourself for the return of the hydrodemon, yagnodemon, and the piscodemon.

(793 Kbs PDF)

July: Vor Rukoth

For centuries after its fall, Vor Rukoth remained lost to civilization, inhabited only by wrathful spirits, monstrous beasts, and devils trapped by ancient bonds with its undead queen. The human empire of Nerath came and went, never realizing the potential wealth within this remote ruin.

Then, a couple of decades ago, a company of halfling explorers discovered the remnants of an ancient road. They followed it to the ruined city and began exploring, discovering much wealth but also many dangers within it. Only one survived. This halfling, who later came to be known as the Coyote, established a small outpost just beyond the gates of Vor Rukoth. He spread the word of the ancient city and helped guide others there. The highway leading to it came to be known as the Ruby Road, both for its crimson cast and for the wealth it brought to those who pulled treasures from the ruins.

Just as with Hammerfast, this adventure site book provides dozens of locations and hooks that you can weave into an existing adventure or campaign setting. Let's take a look at one such location, including hooks, as well as a new poison and a rather gruesome monster.

Blood Grounds

In Vor Rukoth's final hours, its citizens stood against the infernal horde that swept through the city. Their valiant efforts did slow the onslaught, but not before thousands lay massacred upon the cobblestones, cowards and heroes alike. The streets and plazas where once merchants hawked their wares became testaments to the folly of unchecked ambition and power. The commercial district of Vor Rukoth is now known as the Blood Grounds, for the mingled ichor of infernal bodies and blood of citizens that soaked into the pavement. It is a nightmarish landscape, with great swaths of blood rock and necrotic energy gathering in its dark places. The Blood Grounds is a ghost town in every sense of the word. No one remained in Vor Rukoth to bury the dead, so many of the defenders' possessions still lie where their bodies fell.

Explorers willing to risk the wrath of devils, undead, and angry spirits can find a wealth of treasures in the Blood Grounds. The district's buildings were better built than those of the Outer Ward, so many are still in good repair. The infernal invasion was so abrupt that much remains as it did hundreds of years ago: Decaying clothes still hang on hooks in tailors' shops, half-finished furniture gathers dust in the workshops of woodcarvers, and partially copied texts rest on tables where scribes once labored. The district has remained so well preserved because most folk have the good sense to steer clear of the dangers that lurk there.

Blood Caves: Beneath the streets of the Blood Grounds is a network of caves leading into and out of the city. The entrance is hidden in a rocky outcropping just outside Vor Rukoth's ruined walls. The few humans and tieflings who escaped the slaughter at the Blood Grounds got away through these secret tunnels. Some returned later, hoping to claim the treasures of the fallen city, but found an unpleasant surprise. The gore from the slaughter aboveground had seeped down into the caves, attracting all kinds of Underdark denizens.

Hook: Despite the many dangers, a group of poison makers has taken up residence in the Blood Caves. The group has been distributing an intoxicant called fiend's breath, concocted from the ground bones of devils and humans. The caves are both a resource from which they can gather the components and a means of secretly moving the finished product. The drug has recently found its way into the population of Coyote's Refuge and is being sold abroad through an agreement with the Crimson Marauder pirates (see "Redwater Cove"). When used in small quantities, fiend's breath produces a warm euphoria. An overdose sends the user into a murderous rampage, culminating with his or her spontaneous combustion. In settlements neighboring Vor Rukoth, fiend's breath has become a problem. The town authorities are hiring adventurers to investigate the source of the intoxicant and stop its distribution.

The dealers in the Blood Caves apply the poison in paste form to weapons and sometimes throw packets containing the powder.

Fiend's Breath
Level 10 Poison
Created from the powdered bones of devils and murdered humanoids, this poison is an intoxicant in limited quantities -- in larger doses, it means death.
Poison 1,250 gp
Attack: +13 vs. Will; the target is weakened (save ends).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is also dominated (save ends both). It uses its one action to attack the nearest creature during its turn (determined randomly for multiple creatures).
Second Failed Saving Throw: The target also takes ongoing 10 fire damage (save ends all).

Hook: Long before the Blood Caves formed, the eggs of purple worms lay gestating in the natural caverns beneath Vor Rukoth. For centuries, the pupae of the worms grew and fed on the infernal and necrotic energy of the blood-soaked rock they burrowed through. Over generations, they slowly underwent a hideous transformation until they became the monsters called blood worms. The beasts have also begun to plague the lands outside Vor Rukoth as they reproduce and spread their kind.

An elf hunter named Sarultha recently tracked the creatures to their source with her two hounds. She barely escaped with her life, losing an arm and both the hounds. She now recounts tales of a great, palpitating mother worm in the Blood Caves. The worm is spawning more of its kind, and these juvenile blood worms fill the caverns. Sarultha hopes to find heroes to help eliminate the creature.

Blood Worm
Level 12 Skirmisher
Large natural beast
XP 700
HP 122; Bloodied 61 Initiative +14
AC 23, Fortitude 26, Reflex 23, Will 21 Perception +9
Speed 7, burrow 7 Darkvision, tremorsense 10
Traits
Blood Rock Born
A blood worm can score a critical hit on a roll of 19–20.
Devourer of Earth
A blood worm can burrow through solid stone at full speed, and it can shift while burrowing.
Standard Action
MeleeBiteAt-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +17 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 11 damage, and the blood worm grabs the target (escape DC 20).
MeleeDrag UnderAt-Will
Requirement: The blood worm must have a creature grabbed.
Target: The grabbed creature.
Effect: The blood worm shifts its speed. It must end its shift burrowing. At the end of the shift, the grab ends, and the target is removed from play and takes ongoing 10 damage (save ends both). When the target saves against this effect, it appears in an unoccupied square of its choice within 5 squares of its last location.
Close BurstEruptionRecharge when first bloodied
Requirement: The blood worm must have started its turn underground, burrowing through solid rock or earth.
Effect: The blood worm shifts its speed, ending its shift above ground. When it emerges from underground, it makes the following attack.
Attack: Close burst 2 (creatures in burst); +15 vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d6 + 6 damage, and the target is blinded until the end of its next turn.
Str 16 (+9)
Dex 22 (+12)
Wis 17 (+9)
Con 18 (+10)
Int 2 (+2)
Cha 3 (+2)
Alignment unaligned
Languages --

Blood Worms in Combat

A blood worm burrows up underneath a group of creatures, using eruption to blind and disorient them. It then grabs one and uses drag under to feast on the helpless prey. An opportunistic predator, it retreats from food that fights back too hard, this time using eruption to discourage pursuit.


July: Tomb of Horrors

A History of Horror

Acererak was born of the union between a balor named Tarnhem and a human named Kecethri. Kecethri raised Acererak at the fringes of society, afraid of what might occur if the people of her town learned of her son's half-demon heritage. But they did find out, and in his tenth year, Acererak could only watch as a mob lynched his mother and burned their home to the ground. Only Acererak's inhuman nature allowed him to survive long enough to flee.

The events of his life between his childhood escape and his reemergence as a potent wielder of arcane powers are vague. Some claim that he began searching at a young age for a means of becoming undead, to escape the life he found so wretched.

Other tales maintain that Acererak apprenticed with none other than Vecna himself, while the latter was still a lich and had not ascended to divinity. Whatever the truth, Acererak resurfaced as a worshiper of Orcus, using the cult's resources to construct a number of lairs and tombs -- the most infamous of which would become known as the Tomb of Horrors. Some sources claim that Acererak was using Orcus's worshipers to complete his own schemes, and that he felt no true loyalty to the demon prince.

During this time, Acererak relocated to Bael Turath, finding some acceptance from the tieflings, who, though connected to devils rather than demons, were more accepting of those who had mixed and otherworldly parentage. He, in turn, related to them better than he did to any other race, due to their ability to appreciate his heritage. He dwelt among them, feeling at least partly at home, but he knew that this relative peace could not last. It was during that time that he first began studying the methods and means of becoming a lich. (If they played through the Revenge of the Giants adventure, your players -- albeit probably not their current characters -- might have helped Acererak take a vital step along that path.)

Once he attained lichdom, Acererak ceased paying homage to Orcus, lending credence to the notion that his worship had never been more than a means to an end. He confined himself to his tomb, spending years in study and honing his powers to prepare for his ultimate triumph. Eventually, his undead body wasted away, leaving him as a demilich -- an animated skull -- and still he prepared.

Slowly, Acererak allowed rumors of his tomb, and the great treasure supposedly buried there, to spread. Utilizing his tomb, the dying city of Moil in the Shadowfell, and his Fortress of Conclusion in its own pocket dimension, Acererak planned to use the souls of the world's greatest heroes to empower a ritual that would allow him to take possession of all undead throughout the planes, granting him true immortality and sufficient power to ensure that all the living would suffer as he himself had suffered.

As it happened, Acererak underestimated the skill of the final group of adventurers to brave his tomb, and they were able to thwart his efforts. The demilich's ritual was disrupted, the device he used to store the soul energy was destroyed, and Acererak was all but obliterated -- his essence left to float in the void between planes, powerless and helpless for all time.

Or so everyone believed. Though it took him decades, Acererak has resumed his physical form through sheer force of will, plotting a new scheme during that period that could potentially gain him even more power than he had before.

And so begins a short history of horror. We've stated before that the 4th Edition Tomb of Horrors is not a simple conversion of the original adventure. In addition to the fact that many players are familiar with the original adventure in one way or another, the game play and design aesthetics of the game have evolved over the various editions; it would be doing both the 4th Edition game and the original adventure a disservice for us to simply convert the latter to the former and call it a day.

Instead, this adventure involves the characters in Acererak's ongoing schemes, exploring not one but three other "tombs of horror," created by the demilich for his own inscrutable purposes. Like the 2nd Edition game's boxed set Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce R. Cordell, this adventure builds on Acererak's legacy and finds inspiration in the original.

The above said, the adventure does look to revisit something of the original tomb; although it has been thoroughly (if not successfully) explored, things have changed in the intervening years. Consider the cavern of golden and silver mists, for those of you familiar with the original. Once home to a trapped, enchanted siren, the situation has since changed (Acererak, it seems, is not above metagaming).

Encounter T3: Lady of the Mists

Many years ago, Acererak trapped a harmless fey inside a cavern within his tomb. Inspired by the fun he had watching adventurers futilely attempt to free her, he has created a similar situation here, where the Feywild overlaps with the Abandoned Tomb.

(1.5 Mbs PDF)

And that's this month's sneak peek! As always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand for the earliest insights and announcements about the game!

About the Author

Bart Carroll was thought to be extinct until recently when this horror reappeared. He is the result of a mad wizard's experimental cross-breeding of a snapping turtle and armadillo with infusions of demons' ichor. Bart wanders temperate climates feeding on horses, men, and most other flesh—although he dislikes dwarf and shuns elf of any sort. He loves halfling and will hungrily dig them from their burrows. Bart is irascible and always hungry, and fears nothing, so he will attack a large, powerful party just to eat a horse or two.

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