Previews Archive | 4/6/2009
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April and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

Normally, we would have run this column on the 1st of the month, but with the 1st being April Fool's Day, we didn't want to keep you guessing as to which items were real and which might not be. We hope you did enjoy the pranks provided, including this year's extra special adventure courtesy of Logan Bonner and Chris Sims -- an adventure that won me a $5 bet from Chris Youngs.

Chris, as you might have picked up on by now, absolutely hates the silly, stupid, and outright ridiculous monsters that have crept into the game's various editions (yes, we too love that headinjurytheater.com article (warning: inappropriate language)). With April Fool's Day looming, I suggested a 4th Edition conversion of the flumph -- poster child of the silly, stupid, and ridiculous. Chris bet me $5 that no one in the department would fall on that particular sword.

The truth is, Chris failed to appreciate that psychographic out there which, for better or worse, simply relishes the silly. We've run articles in the past on the subject; heck, back in 1st Edition, silly was a large part of the game in many cases. And I'm part of that psychographic. I love the flumph, the owlbear, the trapper. . . . I think that the most compelling villain need not be the biggest or the baddest, but the most infuriating. After all, would you be more enthused to fight yet another minotaur . . . or an ethereal filcher that keeps popping in and stealing everyone's pants?

I know, I know, not exactly plausible or dramatic…but silly will always have a place in the game, and to gamers like me, a much celebrated and important place. In fact just requesting this graphic caused the designer, Jen Page, to remember another depantser beast from an old campaign she was in! So here's to April, and April Fool's Day—may your games be filled with laughter, and your characters' pockets filled with gold. And may you have all the 4E sourcebooks your gamer bookcases may hold!


April: Arcane Power

We've started the excerpts in full for this latest sourcebook, providing a wealth of options for your bard, sorcerer, swordmage, warlock and/or wizard! Last month we showed off familiars; this time, here's a look at one of the new implements for the game: the tome.

Tomes

A tome is a thick book packed with knowledge about casting a spell. The materials that make up the cover of a tome range from leather and thin wood to heavy pieces of metal. The pages of a book can be paper, leather, thin pieces of metal, or other flexible materials. You can't make melee attacks with a tome.

If you can wield a tome as an implement, you can add its enhancement bonus to the attack rolls and the damage rolls of implement powers you use through the tome, and you can use its properties and powers. Otherwise, you gain no benefit from wielding a tome.

Tome of Forty Steps
Level 3+
Included within this curious tome are a number of arcane formulas for manipulating speed and time.
Lvl 3 +1 680 gp
Lvl 8 +2 3,400 gp
Lvl 13 +3 17,000 gp
Lvl 18 +4 85,000 gp
Lvl 23 +5 425,000 gp
Lvl 28 +6 2,125,000 gp
Implement (Tome)
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 damage per plus
Property: Your summoned creatures gain a +1 item bonus to speed.
Power (Daily): Free Action. Trigger: You use a wizard summoning power. Effect: Each round while the summoned creature exists, you gain an additional move action that you can use only to command the creature.

Book of Undeniable Fire
Level 5+
The pages of this tome have scorch marks along the edges.
Lvl 5 +1 1,000 gp
Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp
Lvl 15 +3 25,000 gp
Lvl 20 +4 125,000 gp
Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp
Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Implement (Tome)
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d8 fire damage per plus
Property: When you use a wizard fire power through this tome, the target's resistance to fire (if any) against that attack is reduced by 10.
Level 15 or 20: The resistance is reduced by 20.
Level 25 or 30: The resistance is reduced by 30.
Property: This tome contains two wizard daily fire powers. Both powers must be of a level equal to or lower than that of the tome. Choose these powers when you acquire the tome; they cannot be changed later. You can add these powers to your spellbook.
Power (Daily Arcane, Fire, Implement): Free Action.
Choose a power contained in this tome and expend an unused wizard daily attack power of an equal or higher level. You gain the use of the chosen power during this encounter. The power is lost if you do not use it before the end of the encounter.

Tome Options

Wizards who choose the tome implement can select from two forms of Arcane Implement Mastery, one useful to summoner wizards and the other of more general benefit.

Tome of Binding: Once per encounter, as a free action, if you use your tome when using an arcane summoning power, all creatures summoned by that power gain a bonus to damage rolls equal to your Constitution modifier. You must wield a tome to benefit from this feature. Summoner wizards prefer this form of tome mastery because of its obvious benefits to their summoning spells. This form of mastery also provides benefits to certain conjuration powers.

Tome of Readiness: When you select this form of implement mastery, choose a wizard encounter attack power of your level or lower that you don't already know. That power is now stored and available for your use at a later time.

Once per encounter as a free action, you can use the stored power by expending another unused wizard encounter attack power of its level or higher. You must still take the normal action required to use the stored power.

Each time you reach a level that lets you choose an encounter power, you can replace the stored power with a new wizard encounter attack power of your level or lower that you do not already know. You must wield a tome to benefit from this feature. Wizards of all builds appreciate this form of mastery because of the flexibility it allows them during combat.


April: E1 Death's Reach

"You've proved yourselves worthy of witnessing Fate's decree. Heed my words, and learn something of the foundations of reality.

"There is a place where all things could find their ultimate dissolution, a place that wears the Shadowfell like a cloak. Before my rise, and prior to Nerull's reign in Pluton before me, evil and hungry primordials trapped souls on their way beyond the cosmos. There, these wicked beings consumed souls for power, rather than letting them go to their destiny beyond the cosmos. The elder gods wrested control of this corrupted doorway, called Death's Reach, from the ancient ones. They sealed it, leaving only small, harrowing holes into it.

"But all that has gone before is now imperiled. Would you hear more, and in so doing, pledge yourself to mending tears in the warp and weft of the cosmos?"

Citadel of the Raven Queen

In this adventure, first of the series set in the epic tier, wicked forces conspire to usurp the power of the Raven Queen, god of death, by unraveling the foundations of reality. To prevent this cosmic coup, mighty heroes must survive an epic journey into the Shadowfell's timeless core, where all things find their end.

All souls come to the Shadowfell, and sooner or later they pass through the Raven Queen's Citadel in Letherna . . . save for the troubling fraction that is evading the fate she decreed.

The Raven Queen's citadel nestles among the peaks of jagged mountains that sprout from the center of a wintry forest; this is the realm of Letherna. Her mighty stronghold is a maze of reaching towers and graceful bridges cut from stone and ice. Over all, a maelstrom of stars spin, each bright pinpoint a bodiless soul. From this spirit storm, a grim procession descends through her gates, summoned to learn their final fates.

Visiting the Citadel

Most creatures visit the Raven Queen only once, as a formless soul, when their time of existence is concluded. Epic characters have a way of charting their own destinies. In the course of their adventures, such characters might strike upon the notion of paying the Goddess of Death a call. Determined visitors who avoid the Temple of Temples on the outskirts of Letherna could find their way through the winter-shrouded woods and up the steep-sided slopes of the mountain chain on which the citadel rests. There, they might attempt entry through the same gates used by the dead. Of course, the potent guardians who protect the citadel from casual callers would have to be dealt with. PCs pursuing an invitation from the Raven Queen might simply be shown through to her court.

However, those who arrive by way of the Temple of Temples bypass the long approach through the forested plain and avoid the potentially lethal showdown outside the citadel against defending forces. If the priests and mighty guardians of the temple allow it, travelers need merely step through the activated portal in the Temple of Temples. The destination of this portal deposits travelers directly to the center of the chamber where the Raven Queen hold's court.

When the PCs step through, read:

You arrive in a wide court. Behind you is a monolith, probably 20 feet high. Others like it stand in recesses in each of the room's four corners. You stand inside a runic boundary a few paces from the center monolith. Observation platforms, supported by pillars, line the walls to your left and right. Above you, the ceiling is absent, giving you a view of a swirling storm of light -- the souls of the dead waiting for a turn before the Raven Queen.

Ahead, stairs climb to a dais, large braziers burning with blue-white fire flanking them. There, on a dark throne, is a tall, regal woman with raven hair and a similarly hued robe. Her eyes and lips are black and glossy, her skin pale. The beauty of her impassive face imparts heartache and the memory of lost love.

Gaunt black-clad creatures stand near her, their faces embodiments of bereavement. The Raven Queen stands, and behind her, ravenlike wings extend. She moves forward.

"Welcome, heroes of Zvomarana," she says. "Your victory speaks well of you. Now, I must ask you to face one final test wherein I learn more of you, and you might learn more about yourselves. All you require is the bloodcrystal raven skull."



April: DDM Heroes

Well, fair's fair. We have shown off a few of the monsters. But what do more of the heroes look like? With Arcane Power releasing this month as well, here are a few of the arcane figures from the Arcane 2 set:


May: Monster Manual 2

The second compendium of monsters for 4E D&D, Monster Manual 2 is filled with a new assortment of creatures designed to challenge and terrify adventurers of all levels. The monsters offer threats of every level and include brand new monsters as well as new versions of familiar monsters -- like giants and demons. MM2 also introduces the metallic dragons, which join their chromatic kin in the game.

Let’s start with a look at two returning monsters, both of which had been known in the past for their appetites – one for rocks, and one for just about every substance!

Green Slime

The green slime slithers up cavern walls and waits to drop on sources of heat. It devours flesh, bone, and metal with equal aplomb.

Green Slime
Level 4 Lurker
Medium natural beast (blind, ooze)
XP 175
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +2; blindsight 10, tremorsense 10
HP 47; Bloodied 23
AC 20; Fortitude 23, Reflex 17, Will 20
Immune gaze; Resist 5 acid; Vulnerability 5 fire, 5 radiant
Speed 4, climb 4
Melee Engulf (standard; at-will) Acid
+7 vs. Reflex; 1d6 + 3 acid damage, and the target is engulfed (save ends). While engulfed, the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and is restrained. While a target is engulfed, attacks that target the green slime deal half damage to the slime and half damage to the engulfed creature. While it has a creature engulfed, the slime can make attacks only against the engulfed creature.
Rapid Dissolution
A green slime's attacks deal 1d6 extra acid damage to a creature that is taking ongoing acid damage.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages --
Skills Stealth +11
Str 11 (+2)
Dex 16 (+5)
Wis 11 (+2)
Con 17 (+5)
Int 3 (-2)
Cha 1 (-3)

Green Slime Tactics
In battle, a green slime attacks the nearest creature and uses rapid dissolution to dissolve the creature into slime.

Diamondhide Xorn

In the deep recesses of the Elemental Chaos and in stony realms across the planes, diamondhide xorns glide through the earth in search of the rarest minerals. The armored skin of a diamondhide xorn glitters with the remnants of minerals it has ingested.

Diamondhide Xorn
Level 16 Skirmisher
Large elemental magical beast (earth)
XP 1,400
Initiative +13 Senses Perception +12; all-around vision, darkvision
HP 160; Bloodied 80
AC 29; Fortitude 29, Reflex 25, Will 26
Speed 5, burrow 5; see also earth glide
Melee Claw (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +21 vs. AC; 1d8 + 7 damage.
Melee Triple Strike (standard; at-will)
The diamondhide xorn makes three claw attacks, each against a different target.
Melee Earthy Maw (standard; at-will)
+21 vs. AC; 2d8 + 7 damage.
Melee Undermine (standard; recharge 56)
The diamondhide xorn burrows its speed and attacks one nonflying enemy whose space it passes under: +19 vs. Reflex; 4d8 + 7 damage, and the target is restrained (save ends).
Earth Glide
A diamondhide xorn can burrow through solid stone as if it were loose earth.
Retreat (immediate reaction, when missed by a melee attack; at-will)
The diamondhide xorn burrows its speed.
Submerge (minor; at-will)
The diamondhide xorn sinks partially under the ground and gains a +2 bonus to AC until it moves.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages Common, Primordial
Str 22 (+14)
Dex 17 (+11)
Wis 19 (+12)
Con 24 (+15)
Int 13 (+9)
Cha 13 (+9)

Xorn Lore
Dungeoneering DC 23: Xorns are creatures from the Elemental Chaos that feed on metal and minerals. Their appetite for rare gemstones makes them open to bargaining. However, they have been known to engage in diplomacy while using the time to set up ambushes.


May: The Restless Shore

This month, we look forward to more harrowing tales of dark fantasy from James P. Davis. Since it's also Monster Manual 2 month, we're planning to stat out several of the monsters from The Restless Shore -- look for these in a future article.

The Mere-That-Was nurses the nightmare children of the Spellplague. Along the dry lake bed, monsters unlike anything in Toril haunt the landscape. From the depths of the wilds, an eerie hymm draws strange disciples to the lair of one plaguechanged child.

Its hypnotic song urges them to seek the key to completing the lullaby: a new voice.

A trio of strangers must trust each other as they chase the cult of the Choir—and the girl they’ve taken—through the wilds of Akanûl.

But all their fears are coming true.

The nightmare's just begun!


June: E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls

E2: Kingdom of the Ghouls continues the series of adventures set in the epic tier, or works as its own stand-alone adventure. Following E1, something terrible has been stolen from Death's Reach, a graveyard of dead monstrosities and banned weapons hailing from the dawn war between god and primordial. To prevent it from falling into the hands of the Demon Prince of Undeath, heroes must follow its trail, even into the fanged mouth of hunger itself.

Background

Doresain the Ghoul King rules a kingdom in Thanataos, itself a realm festering in the Abyss. Within that dim, murky gravescape stands the White Kingdom, bright in the moonlight that shines forever above it. The White Kingdom is inhabited mostly by ghouls and other flesh-eating undead. It is called the White Kingdom because the gravescape's every structure is made of the bones of victims stripped of their flesh. Walking through its bone-dust streets kicks up clouds of white that fog the city, coating everything in a shroud of chalky white.

Doresain's palace is poised on the edge of the White Kingdom, where the locale's Lake of Black Blood boils over a precipice to fall into the Abyss's lethal central vortex. Here, Doresain and the one thousand swarming ghouls that comprise Doresain's Court of Teeth daily consume feasts of screaming flesh of both the innocent and the guilty.

Doresain labors toward the culmination of a secret project, an undertaking designed to catapult the Ghoul King's lord and master into a position of unfettered power over the souls of every creature in the cosmos . . .

Until next month!

About the Author

It is contended by some that Bart Carroll is supreme, and in any event he is awesome in his power. Bart has two heads which bear the visages of evil baboons or perhaps mandrills with the hideous coloration of the latter named beasts. His blue-green skin is plated with snake-like scales, his body and legs are those of a giant lizard, his twin necks resemble snakes, and his thick tail is forked. Rather than having arms, he has great tentacles. Bart's appearance testifies to his command of cold-blooded things such as serpents, reptiles, and octopi.