Ah, April Fool's Day. How we love that day of the year, every year. It would be nice to imagine how it's celebrated throughout the D&D universe—the gods might answer the prayers of one another's worshipers, scrambling expected clerical spell results. Magic mouths could be set off in abundance, Bigby's grasping hands spells might be set loose, and pranksters could run around trying to turn everyone's bags of holding inside out.
Here on the website, we hope you enjoy our own offerings, including our pole arm quiz and the new front page banners (courtesy of Mat Smith). You can also check out last year's articles: Periodic Table of Dragons and Movie Quote powers.
In the spirit of the movie quote powers, we'd like to offer one new power to honor this year's Best Picture.
The King's Speech
Warlord Attack 9
In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war….
Immediate Reaction Personal
Trigger: You miss with a power.
Effect: You (as in YOU, the player) read the triggering power aloud in its entirety; if you do so flawlessly, the power hits its intended target. Your character is also immune to any effects that silence him or her for the duration of the encounter. (And so should you be, but that really depends on those around you, now doesn't it?)
And, of course, looking further back there has been the Fool's Gold scenario, featuring Francis the Badger. Plus, you can try Penny Arcade's Witchalok class, see the Drizzt Magic: the Gathering card, and (since we're still never tired of showing it off) read up on the My Little Ponies RPG: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dd/20060401a.
And from there, we look at the coming releases...
The Shadowfell is a bleak realm that houses both the dead and those among the living who have embraced a dismal existence there. As a shadowy reflection of the world, the Shadowfell can manifest differently to visitors. The plane is an amalgam of differences and similarities to the world. Each person finds something both recognizable and disturbing in its grim landscape.
The Shadowfell is in a state of flux. These alterations can be dramatic or subtle: A giant sinkhole might swallow up a swath of land, or a path that leads through a forbidding mountain range might alter its course to descend into the Shadowdark. These transformations can be physical, but they can also be a by-product of the plane's ability to warp the memory and imagination of those who walk its shadowed paths.
Today, we'll take a quick tour through the Shadowfell—looking at how to get there and seeing the despair that awaits those who reach this twisted place.
Getting to the Shadowfell
The easiest and most reliable ways to enter the Shadowfell are by the use of a permanent teleportation circle, a portal, or a magical ritual. Anyone who accidentally stumbles into the Shadowfell typically does so as a result of a shadow crossing.
Shadow crossings manifest in places of deep shadow. They also attach themselves to the domains of powerful individuals who have ties to the Shadowfell. When an ancient lich is destroyed, for instance, its demise might open a shadow crossing to claim its slayers.
Powerful necromantic rituals, such as those dedicated to Vecna or Orcus, can produce short-lived shadow crossings. Even after such a ritual is complete, the shadow magic might persist, staining the area with darkness and allowing it to touch a section of the Shadowfell.
Shadows in the Crypt, in the Encounter Book (and previewed below), presents a scenario in which the characters arrive at a shadow crossing, interrupting the ritual of a priest of Orcus.
Shadows in the Crypt
Encounter Level 9 (2,250 XP)
Ilsra, priest of Orcus (P)
2 skeletal tomb guardians (S)
1 sovereign wraith (W)
1 blood feast ward
The adventurers arrive outside a graveyard crypt overgrown with foliage. The burial chamber is in the world, but it is a shadow crossing, which means it brushes the Shadowfell. Adventurers might arrive accidentally, as a result of a ritual, or intentionally, in search of a cultist.
A dank mist hovers above and around the burial chamber; it thickens and drops closer to the floor after fresh blood is shed. In the crypt's dust-caked interior, Ilsra beseeches Orcus as she stands amid the detritus of her blood rites.
Before combat begins, place Ilsra on the map. Don't place the skeletal tomb guardians until the adventurers attack or until they come within 2 squares of the blood feast ward. Don't place the wraith until a character moves adjacent to it or until Ilsra is attacked.
When the characters enter the crypt, read:
The priest sways as she chants beside a great statue of Orcus, which embraces a pit spewing flames. Half a dozen corpses are strewn about the massive effigy. A large symbol drawn in blood decorates the middle of the crypt's floor. Crimson energy crackles in response to the priest's supplication to her master, the demon prince Orcus.
Last month's scenario involved golems—specifically, the hearth golem. This time, let's expand our look at all of the new golems in this book, to include the wall and street golems as well! Like the hearth golem, these golems interact with the surrounding City of Midnight, and your players might not be prepared for them.
The Despair Deck
Those of you at D&D Experience had a first look at the Despair Deck: the deck of cards in the Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond boxed set used to translate the Shadowfell's influence into game effects (namely, the unnatural behaviors and neuroses that can come over those who visit the Shadowfell).
The Despair Deck consists of 30 cards, most of which represent an aspect of gloom: apathy, fear, or madness. Over the course of adventures, players draw cards from the Despair Deck to find out what aspect of despair afflicts their characters.
People from beyond the plane who travel through its dusky landscape find that cheer turns to gloom, friendship becomes enmity, and reason transforms into madness. Usually, these changes occur over months or years. Adventurers suffer the effects more rapidly, for they are constantly engaged in life-or-death struggles that test their physical and mental limits.
A character usually becomes beset with despair when he or she takes an extended rest after having encounters in the Shadowfell. Usually, this extended rest occurs in the Shadowfell, but a character might also experience despair after returning to the world. At the end of an extended rest, each player whose character completed the extended rest draws one card.
Sometimes, you might have the players draw despair cards when their adventurers are subject to particularly horrifying or gloomy conditions. For example, the players might draw despair cards after the adventurers discover a lair where ghouls have been feeding off townspeople. Having players draw cards in this way can challenge the players, but it can also be a distraction, since it's more difficult to keep track of multiple cards. If you have players draw additional despair cards, it's a good idea to make sure that a few characters have already overcome their initial despair cards.
The effects of despair cards can be debilitating, but adventurers have opportunities to overcome them.
Whenever a character reaches a milestone, the player rolls a d20 to see if his or her character overcomes a despair effect. On a result of 10 or higher, a character overcomes the effect.
When an adventurer overcomes a despair effect, he or she is bolstered by the success. When the despair effect ends, the adventurer gains the benefit in the "Boon" entry on the respective card. In addition, that card no longer counts as an active despair card.
End of the Day
Unless noted otherwise, at the end of an extended rest, all despair cards are discarded, including those that have been overcome. The discarded cards are shuffled into the Despair Deck. Players then draw any new despair cards for the next day.
Tharizdun, the Chained God, has released the Voidharrow—a liquid crystal imbued with his will and all the chaos of the Abyss—into the universe, and with it comes an engine of destruction and pestilence that twists and deforms beings into chaotic demonlike creatures.
Behold the Abyssal Plague!
Grafters Rol Mandred and Gan Storvis have conned their way into guarding a trading caravan when they come across a long-dead corpse in the desert. In disturbing the body, Rol unwittingly opens the door to a ruined abyssal realm. The Voidharrow takes hold of him, and he begins to morph into a beast like none any have ever seen.
Taken by slavers and brought to fight in the gladiatorial ring, Rol, or the thing he is becoming, is a juggernaut and a huge draw for the arena. The stakes are raised when his allies attempt to defraud some of the more unsavory rulers of this cruel world in an attempt to free Rol and Gan.
But power is never so transitory as it is under the blood red sun of Athas. Bear witness as the Abyssal Plague lands in the world of the Dark Sun campaign setting.
Fifteen critically acclaimed and best-selling authors gather to spin stories set in the worlds of the Dungeons & Dragons game—tales filled with desperate dragons and cruel elves, honorable demons and fickle gods, wild magic and the sharpest of steel.
Step inside the imaginations of master storytellers Jay Lake (John W. Campbell award-winning author of Green), Alan Dean Foster (New York Times best-selling author of the Spellsinger series), Kevin J. Anderson (international best-selling author of Star Wars and Dune novels), Mike Resnick (Hugo and Nebula award-winner for "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge"), John Shirley (Bram Stoker award recipient for Black Butterflies), Sarah Zettel (Philip K. Dick award winner for Bitter Angels), R.A. Salvatore (New York Times best-selling author of the Legend of Drizzt series), and many more.
Experience the Dungeons & Dragons game alongside the most brilliant and beloved fantasy writers of our time, and discover a whole new dimension of fantasy adventure.
In this book, you'll find a codex of monsters and villains to throw at the heroes as they explore every nook and cranny of the Nentir Vale or, by extension, your home campaign setting.
Each entry includes information about how to use the monsters in the story of your campaign. Most of the entries mention locales within the vale, but if your campaign uses a different setting, you can easily adapt the story material to suit your needs. Accompanying the story material are statistics blocks representing various threats, including unique villains and monster variants. The villains and monsters span a variety of roles and levels, allowing you to use this material throughout much of the heroes' adventuring careers.
This product includes tokens you can use to represent the monsters in encounters, plus a poster map that depicts four different locations: a boulder-strewn wilderness, an underground throne room, a shoreline camp, and a town hall. Each of the monster entries in this book can be paired with one or more of the maps; occasional sidebars provide examples of how to use a particular map for an encounter with the creatures in that section.
Last month, we presented art from five of the book's monsters. Below are their introductions, as well as one monster chosen for a preview from our recent Rule-of-Three poll.
The White Wyrm of Winterbole is queen of her forest. Half blind from an old wound, Bitterstrike has acquired a multitude of subjects to be her eyes. Her icy vengeance is legendary; although her servants wander, they never stray.
Without warning, a lithe, powerful form bursts upward through the ice of a frozen lake or streaks down from a storm-shrouded sky, announcing the presence of the white dragon Bitterstrike. Bitterstrike's temper is well known, and any slight against her incites her cascading wrath. Her vassals and spies often use her violent tendencies to their advantage, cleverly delivering information to her that directs the dragon's anger against those they want to see destroyed.
Mages of Saruun
Obsessed with the secrets of the Underdark's hidden depths, the Mages of Saruun have established a tentative grasp on an ancient subterranean stronghold. In the ordered society they have built, the mages' rule is law; to break it means death.
The Mages of Saruun oversee their subterranean outpost from an impregnable tower. Served by animated brass minotaurs and wielding powerful magic plumbed from the depths of the Underdark, these ambitious arcanists maintain strict order in their stronghold as they seek influence over and alliance with the races of the deep frontier.
By light of day, penanggalans are virtuous maidens whose clever charm is exceeded only by their incomparable beauty.
But upon the witching hour, their maidenly heads tear free from their shoulders to hunt the dark for the sweet blood of innocents. Dripping entrails drag beneath the fanged flying heads, pulsing, writhing, and reaching of their own volition.
She might be a common nursemaid or a lady of the royal court. Either way, the maiden's gentle smile, blushing cheeks, lustrous hair, and voluptuous figure allow her to infiltrate society. By night, she reveals her true form as the monstrous head of the penanggalan hunts, streaming its entrails behind.
The peryton blends the body and wings of a bird of prey with the head of a stag. This tenacious, sharp-eyed creature swoops down from mountain peaks, determined to pluck out the heart of its prey.
The peryton's tough wing feathers are typically dark green, while its blue-black stag's head is crowned by strong black antlers. A male peryton's light blue chest feathers stand in sharp contrast to the female's drab brown. Both varieties have dully glowing red-orange eyes and a bizarre shadow—rather than reflecting the creature's actual form, its shadow appears humanoid. Sages postulate that the first perytons were elves transformed by some hideous curse, and the bards whisper that a peryton dines on the hearts of its victims to remind itself of what it once was.
Stories tell of a place that is not a place. It travels across the Nentir Vale, changing its appearance to suit its environment and preying upon the avaricious, the trusting, and the desperate, because they make the most reliable meals.
Mimics come from the Far Realm, a place beyond the planes. For eons, they have preyed upon living beings through infiltration, assuming the forms of objects, beasts, or common people to devour the unwary. Age does not wither mimics. The ancient of their kind evolve into gigantic predators that prey upon all that live. The wandering tower is such an entity. Aided by mirror mimics that invade the bodies of other creatures to copy their forms, the tower entices victims to enter it and patiently waits until they are at rest. Only then does the ravenous creature's massive central core rise from the floor, pulsing with pseudopods, eyes, and mouths. Walls reach out with grasping claws and bite with sharp-fanged mouths, while all exits slam shut around the doomed victims trapped inside. Followed by scavenging blood ravens, the tower adapts its form from place to place, presenting itself in as many guises as there are mortal hopes and dreams.
To close things out, we wanted to show off a tile or two from the forthcoming set. For adventurers daring to explore the fetid swamps of your campaign world, the Witchlight Fens offers all the boggy goodness your creatures require!
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.