Here we are in that special haunted time between Halloween, All Souls’ Day, and the Day of the Dead—and counting down to turkey (I suppose Thanksgiving is a haunted time for them) . . . unless of course you’re Canadian, in which case you’ve already jumped the gun.
So this month, we’ll be looking especially at monsters—and instead of turkey, how about some nice chicken? You’ll need to scrape off a little russet mold first, but it should taste just fine . . .
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night. What better time than now to explore deeper with the Monster Vault
? Rodney Thompson discussed monster selections and updates in our most recent podcast—so let’s show you one more.
Last month, we brought out the cover boy for the Monster Vault: the owlbear. This month—and since we’re releasing the Beholder Collectors Set as well—let’s present the beholder. In the past, we’ve seen the eye of flame, the eye of death, and even the death emperor, but have we ever had a pure “beholder”? Monster Vault presents the following (as well as an updated gauth and eye tyrant).
Creatures of abhorrent shape and alien mind, beholders seek dominance over all they survey. The floating horrors enforce their will by firing rays of magic from their eyestalks.
When the unwholesome plane known as the Far Realm comes into tenuous contact with reality, terrible things boil across the boundary. Nightmares form the thunderhead of psychic storms that presage the arrival of warped beings and forces undreamt of by the maddest demon or the vilest devil. Many aberrant creatures stumble upon the world by accident, pushed in like chill wind through a door suddenly opened. Others crash into reality because it is as loathsome to them as their surreal homeland is to all sane natives of the rational planes. Beholders, however, come as conquerors. Each one seeks to claim all in its sight, and beholders see much indeed.
Beholders do not belong in the world or in any of the planes inhabited by immortal or elemental, primordial or god. Their home, the Far Realm, is so antithetical to rational thought that most who glimpse the plane go mad. Like other unsettling inhabitants of that place, beholders have forms unlike those of natural creatures.
Diverse and Horrible Powers: Beholders come in a bewildering variety, and many that escape the Far Realm emerge into the world altered by the passage. Each beholder projects a number of supernatural powers through its eyes, but the specific details and arrangement of those powers vary by beholder variety. Worse, the powers can change and improve over time, so that as a beholder grows older, it becomes more fearsome.
Ruled by Few: The only certainty when dealing with beholders is that they possess malignant intent and a desire for dominance. Indeed, beholders rarely tolerate subservience to other beings, and they shun the company of their own kind. When beholders work together or do the bidding of a more powerful master, the world is in peril.
Beholders serve only those creatures that they fear and from which they cannot escape. Formidable titans, mighty dragons, and legendary spellcasters can sometimes command a beholder’s allegiance, but these would-be lords must be cautious of betrayal. As deceitful as it is malign, a beholder will submit to the authority of a strong leader if it believes it can one day claim that creature’s power.
Masters of Many: Beholders believe that they deserve to rule all they see. Lesser beings that show obedience to these hungry and unpredictable horrors can find a place—albeit not a safe one—in their service. Beholders accept all manner of creatures as their attendants, lackeys, and minions. Such slaves must frequently prove themselves valuable, lest their masters decide that they would make better meals than they do servants.
Level 9 Solo Artillery
Large aberrant magical beast
HP 392; Bloodied 196 Initiative +9
AC 23, Fortitude 21, Reflex 22, Will 22 Perception +11
Speed 0, fly 4 (hover) All-around vision, darkvision
Saving Throws +5; Action Points 2
Enemies can’t gain combat advantage by flanking the beholder.
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); 14 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 8 damage.
Effect: The beholder uses two of the following eye rays, using each against a different target. This attack does not provoke opportunity attacks.
1. Charm Ray (charm): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Will; the target is dominated until the end of its next turn.
2. Wounding Ray (necrotic): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Fortitude; 2d10 + 6 necrotic damage.
3. Sleep Ray (charm): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Will; the target is immobilized (save ends).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is knocked unconscious instead of immobilized (save ends).
4. Telekinesis Ray: Ranged 10; +14 vs. Fortitude; the beholder slides the target up to 4 squares.
5. Slowing Ray (necrotic): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Reflex; 3d6 + 5 necrotic damage, and the target is slowed (save ends).
6. Brilliant Ray (radiant): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Will; 1d6 + 5 radiant damage, and the target is blinded (save ends).
7. Terror Ray (fear, psychic): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Will; 2d8 + 5 psychic damage, and the beholder pushes the target its speed.
8. Petrifying Ray: Ranged 10; +14 vs. Fortitude; the target is petrified (save ends).
Aftereffect: The target is immobilized (save ends).
9. Death Ray (necrotic): Ranged 10; +14 vs. Fortitude; 2d8 + 10 necrotic damage. If the target is bloodied before or after the attack, it is also dazed (save ends).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target is dazed and weakened (save ends both).
Second Failed Saving Throw: The target dies.
10. Disintegrate Ray: Ranged 10; +14 vs. Fortitude; 1d8 + 5 damage, and ongoing 10 damage (save ends).
Requirement: The beholder must be bloodied.
Effect: As eye rays above, except the beholder makes three eye ray attacks.
Attack: Close blast 5 (enemies in the blast); +12 vs. Will
Hit: The target cannot use encounter or daily attack powers until the end of its next turn.
Trigger: The beholder is conscious and an enemy starts its turn within 5 squares of it.
Effect (No Action): The beholder uses one random eye ray against the triggering enemy.
Str 18 (+8)
Dex 20 (+9)
Wis 15 (+6)
Con 18 (+8)
Int 19 (+8)
Cha 20 (+9)
Languages Deep Speech
Cairn of the Winter King
Monster Vault also contains this 32-page adventure, which we’re pleased to report does include an owlbear tucked away in one of its encounters (an owlbear named Hootie, no less).
The characters arrive in Fallcrest just as another snowstorm begins to fall from the black clouds. Unprepared for the sudden freeze, the people of Fallcrest have gathered together to discuss what to do, and the characters capture their interest as travelers who might have news of a place not consumed by winter. While the characters are talking about the strange weather, a rhythmic and deep chanting resonates between peals of thunder, and it appears to come from the sky. When the characters investigate, they witness a ship filled with undead warriors descending from the clouds. The ship bears a message from the Winter King: Return the ice scepter!
The characters must use the ship to fly to the Cairn of the Winter King and either return his scepter or kill the Winter King. Only then will winter loosen its grip. They can choose to bring the fugitive and the ice scepter with them, or make the journey without one or both.
The characters must succeed on a skill challenge as they row the sky ship back through the storm or face the first battle at the Cairn in an injured state. They must navigate the dangers of the Winter King’s realm and find their way to his throne room to confront or appease him. If they succeed, they win much treasure and save thousands from a cold and hungry death. If they fail, winter might claim the Nentir Vale forever.
The following sample encounter takes place in the Winter King’s Realm—a dungeon that once served as a holding for a clan of dwarves. As one encounter kicks off:
Encounter 5: Trapped Ambush
You hear multiple booted feet and the heavy tread of something huge from the hall and see torchlight shining from around the corner. Then you hear a deep human voice say, “Thad, no kill! That goes for you too, Thunk. No kill, understand? Not until one of us says so. Got it?”
Almost simultaneously, two much deeper voices begin intoning, “Kill . . .”
“No, you idiots! No kill! Don’t kill! We’re supposed to talk to them!”
“Kill . . .” say the deeper voices again.
“Fine. We’ll do it your way.”
It burned a hole through the atmosphere as it fell. When it struck, there was a great billowing cloud, white hot and filled with fire, and the impact threw up smoke and dust, raining debris for days on end. Yet we were afraid to look, to see what had come to ground a few miles away. Some worried. Others fretted. A few went on as before, secure in their ignorance. In time we forgot about the crash, though dark smoke still smeared the sky. One season grumbled as it stomped off, and another came to take its place. Our crops grew tall and our people hale, and all seemed well. Imagine our surprise, then, when those same crops twitched and scuttled, tearing themselves free of the ground to go on a killing spree. Oops.
We hope you enjoyed our Gamma World Game Day adventure, all of its online bonus material, and the chance to earn a Dehydrated Scientist Omega Tech card. Our thanks go to Chris Youngs for helping brainstorm the online features, and our web team for pulling it off.
If you’re looking for still more Gamma World, Famine in Far-Go offers quite a feast of new material for the game. Last time, we revealed the new origins chart, including the one for AI characters. And over at D&D Alumni, we also previewed the froghemoth. Famine in Far-Go also includes new cards for the game: Cryptic Alliance cards. These are a new, optional game mechanic presented with this expansion. You can use them as a random element in character generation to give your players an allegiance, temporary or otherwise, to one of Gamma Terra’s major cryptic alliances.
One way you can use the Cryptic Alliance cards is to set an affiliation for the entire party. Use a random draw to establish to which alliance the group belongs. You can fine-tune your adventures with that affiliation in mind.
Another way to use the Cryptic Alliance cards is for each player to choose a card and then keep his or her affiliation secret. By using the game mechanics on the cards, each player will have a way to gain an advantage during play, but must put the other players at a small risk to do so. Most cards depend on the player waiting for the right set of circumstances to get the most out of that card, so after one or two encounters, every player should be wondering about anyone who hasn’t already revealed a Cryptic Alliance card.
Here’s a look a few of these cards:
As for that mysterious crash mentioned above? Well . . .
The mountain that fell from the sky was a damaged alien spacecraft that became caught in Gamma Terra’s orbit one year ago and couldn’t escape. Contaminated by russet mold spores, an insidious fungus that floats through the deep reaches of space, the ship eventually crashed near Far-Go. The survivors, little green aliens known as the visitors, spent the better part of the last year trying to repair their ship, without success. While they worked, the russet mold spread from the ship to contaminate the lands around.
The mold speeds the development of natural plants, causing them to grow to incredible size. As a result, the brown, powdery mold has become popular with local farmers as fertilizer for their crops. What the farmers don’t realize is that plants fertilized by the mold gain an uncanny sentience.
Resenting the murder of their offspring by hungry humanoids, the mutated plants pull themselves out of the ground, intent on delivering leafy justice to the fleshy ones. These vegepygmies want to stamp out Far-Go’s people in revenge for what they call the Great Green Apocalypse.
Additionally, mutant chicken humanoids from the Automated Chicken Factory have begun stealing Far-Go’s crops for food. Worse, they’ve gathered russet mold to spread on the crops around the factory, hoping to spur plant growth, and this has created more vegepygmies. Finally, an infestation of klickies is pilfering technology from the crashed spaceship, delaying the repairs and inadvertently causing the russet mold spores to spread further. Dark days lie ahead for the citizens of Far-Go if these threats go unchecked.
That’s right—russet mold, vegepygmies, and even visitors from other worlds! Since we’re talking monster this month, let’s take a look at these visitors—including their flying death saucers!
December: Dragon and Dungeon Magazines
Continuing our monster theme, a look ahead at Dungeon Magazine sees “Bark at the Moon”—a new adventure from Robert Schwalb featuring (you guessed it!) lycanthropes threatening the area of Silver Lake. Issue #185 also sees Unearthed Arcana material from Peter Schaefer: "Taking Names Without Taking Lives"—offering novel ways to defeat enemies without killing them (several of which might work in games for younger players, such as our Heroes of Hesiod). Our favorite: transmogrification.
You transform the enemy into a harmless creature, such as a rabbit, toad, bat, or firefly. Whether you capture the villain afterward for your own purposes—for a trophy, for reeducation, or just to keep an eye on him—is up to you. Careful choice of an insignificant animal appropriately embarrassing for the villain can be quite satisfying.
Plus, one word: modrons.
Remy lay dying, the poison of stormclaw scorpions burning its way through his veins, and while he died he tried to pray. Pelor, he called out, save me. The god did not answer. Remy tried to look around him, but dark was falling and his eyes were sticky and dry, whether from the venom or something else he didn’t know. He fell into a fever dream as beside him, the horse he had ridden past the Crow Fork breathed its last.
Following the Mark of Nerath—first novel set in the core world of Dungeons & Dragons, comes Alex Irvine’s The Seal of Karga Kul. Set in the same world, the novel follows young Remy—a courier carrying dangerous freight. For an early look at the story, we’re pleased to offer the first chapter.
We wrap up this month with a closer look at the tile sets coming out this December and January. First off, take a look at more tiles from the wilderness.
Our last look features Icewind Dale—popularized in R.A. Salvatore’s novels and computer games—a realm that’s perfectly timed for the depths of winter!
Well, folks -- that's this month's sneak peeks. As always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand column for the earliest insights and announcements about the game.
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.