Previews Archive | 12/5/2011
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December: In the Works
Bart Carroll

Hi folks,

In October's D&D Alumni, I asked what horror movies, broadly defined, can be best referenced for your game. Here now are those results:

  • The 13th Warrior: 21.4%
  • Pan's Labyrinth: 18.5%
  • Brotherhood of the Wolf: 14.9%
  • The Mummy (1999 version): 13.8%
  • The Thing: 8.0%
  • Alien: 7.6%
  • 28 Days Later: 5.6%
  • Predator: 4.2%
  • I Am Legend: 3.4%
  • The Blair Witch Project: 2.5%

Oddly enough Chris Perkins ran a similar poll in his end of October DM Experience column, asking what "non-sequel horror films of the past 20 years" made for the best D&D inspiration. Pitch Black, The Mist, and Zombieland won the top three spots in his poll. (Full results here).

Now that the season of horror movies has ended, here we are in the colder, darker, and even more frightening holiday season! We're looking forward to hearing what holiday scenarios you might be bringing into your game. Look for a future roundup, from none other than Tracey Hurley. In years past, we've also provided the following encounters:

Factory of Misfit Omega Tech

S.A.N.T.A.S. Workshop (or the "Sub-Arctic Neo-Tech Arsenal Station") was formerly a government munitions disposal factory operating in the remote northern wastes of Canada. Omega Tech gear that did not work properly was sent to the factory to be destroyed. After the Big Mistake, two malfunctioning androids opted to take control of the factory -- in their mind, saving the lives of all misfit technology. Recently, they've started rounding up as much Omega Tech as they can . . . and, frankly, every other kind of tech as well.

Nicholas the Gift-Giver's Northern Palace

In the farthest northern reaches of icy darkness stands a fabulous palace -- the grand home of a mysterious tribe of gift-giving elves. At least, rumors speak of such a place. Great riches and rewards supposedly emanate from the Northern Palace, so surely any party of adventurers will find it a worthy location to seek out.

Chest of Misfit Items

Dungeon Masters can use the "Chest of Misfit Items" as a continuation of Nicolas the Gift-Giver's Northern Palace. Although none of the Northern Palace gnomes are quick to discuss the matter, adventurers exploring the workshop might overhear the rare outburst that an especially poorly constructed toy (which are created from time to time; even these gnomes occasionally fail their crafting checks) is destined for the "wicked brothers' workshop." If pressed, the gnomes will not speak much more of the matter, only vaguely and uncomfortably muttering of a cavern "somewhere beneath the palace."

Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for giving -- and getting -- and we've got you covered either way. Click and print this year's Holiday Gift Guide. Packed like candied fruits in a fruitcake, the guide has everything naughty heroes and nice DMs are craving this holiday season!

Lair Assault: Talon of Umberlee

Our second D&D Lair Assault has arrived, written by Logan Bonner and Chris Perkins. If you think you have what it takes to brave the fiercest foes, fight the toughest battles, and conquer the vilest enemies, we have the Dungeons & Dragons play experience for you. It's time to test their mettle against a gang of ruthless pirates and the evil servants of the sea goddess Umberlee!

The fun begins on December 1, and Talon of Umberlee can be played through February 29. Make sure to contact your store soon to ensure they're participating.

December: Books and E-books

With novels releasing on the first Tuesday of each month, that means our most recent set of novels is simultaneously available in e-book form. Sample chapters are offered for the following novels.

Cry of the Ghost Wolf
By Mark Sehestedt

Overwhelmed by inner turmoil, she struggled to master her fear in the forests of the Feywild. There, she embraced her destiny -- the Hand of Nendawen, the spirit of the Hunt. But there's something about her, something even Nendawen doesn't realize. . . .

Armed with her father's bow, her mother's wisdom, and her own burning desire for justice, Hweilan Inle Merah will avenge her family's brutal murder, or die trying.

But what will become of her when the battle is done?

The Last Garrison
By Matthew Beard

In the shadows between the living world and the land of the dead, the night's terrors lurk . . .

For as long as anyone can remember, the mountain village of Haven has been under the protection of an ancient warlock known as the Old Stargazer. But after countless years spent deciphering the mysteries of the night sky, the old man is starting to slip. Now, a dark figure controls the forest with minions of kenku marauders -- crowlike men who menace the villagers with violence and mayhem.

Death Mark
By Robert J. Schwalb

"Whoever controls the mines controls the world," said Thaxos Vordon. "It is as simple as that."

In the aftermath of revolution, King Kalak of Tyr is dead and all eyes fall on the lucrative iron mines of his once mighty city-state. Merchant houses scramble to seize what scraps they can while King Hamanu of Urik, the Lion of the Desert, rallies his armies to crush the Tyr rebellion. He cannot allow insurrection to succeed and intends to seize the city's precious resources for himself. As the tyrannical specter of Hamanu's war machine looms on the horizon, the hope of the Tyr revolution seems lost.

But fate chooses unlikely heroes. The gladiator Loren, pressed into service by a corrupt prince; Alaeda Stel whose ambition isn't above exploiting chaos of Tyr's revolt; a common thief named Melech; and Korvack, a disgraced templar. These are freedom's best and only hope to overcome the greed and lust that blossom in the rebellion's power vacuum.

Plus, coming later this month, the third part of our exclusive e-book offering, available as a $1.99 download.

Cold Steel and Secrets
By Rosemary Jones

A mysterious key, the walking dead, and a grisly murder. . . . The four-part Neverwinter novella continues as the rebels find the lost Crown of Neverwinter in their grasp. But the rebels are betrayed and Rucas Sarfael is caught between his duty and his heart.

December: Book of Vile Darkness

The Book of Vile Darkness is not a traditional tome; it is never fixed or complete. The book is always changing. New pages replace the old. Each time the book falls into wicked hands, its contents evolve. Those with the power to master the book are free to replace, revise, and add to its contents, and the tome changes form and composition to reflect the interests of its user. Anyone else -- anyone too weak, too good, or too easily frightened -- finds annihilation as his or her only reward.

In our 11/21/2011 Book of Vile Darkness excerpt, we took a look at new vile monster themes. As the book states, evil influences creatures in many ways. In some cases, darkness has swayed entire races, keeping them forever in its thrall. In others, evil infects, warps, and twists, compelling creatures to its service. Evil's influence can create lasting changes in ordinary people, awakening new power in them or blighting them with unspeakable transformations.

To weave specific evil narrative lines into your campaign, you can use monster themes to flesh out existing creatures. For example, a theme could represent a particular master's claim on a monster; a transformation that is a consequence of working for a wicked force; or an advantage of special training, devotion, or environmental influence.

Chapter 4 of the Book of Vile Darkness presents new monster themes that evoke vile darkness's power. You can find additional themes in Dungeon Master's Guide 2, Demonomicon, and other DM books.

This month, we look at a new monster theme, slave to the Nine Hells, and just a few of the possible brands these monsters might receive.

"Every devil wants to be your friend, and like a friend, he'll help you out of a jam, see. Need a few coins to get by? The devil's got a few to spare. Need a warm body to fill your bed? The devil knows the best ladies. Want status? Riches? Property? Power? The devil has the answers. He'll give you all you want and more. And what does he want in exchange? Just a little thing -- a trifle, really. And it won't affect you in the slightest. All he wants is your soul."
-- Conner Smithson, Seeker of Virtue

Souls are the currency of the Nine Hells. The archdevils crave them, covet them, and will do anything to get them. The reason is simple: souls have power. Souls gave the Raven Queen the means to end Nerull's dark reign and claim his mantle. And before that, souls gave Nerull the power over life and death and the ability to seize the world in his skeletal grip. The archdevils would follow Asmodeus and his own rise to power by hoarding the souls necessary to complete their own apotheosis.

A great many souls are lost to the Nine Hells through fiendish corruption, while others are stolen en route to Letherna (the Raven Queen's demesne) by diabolical harvesters. Others find themselves damned by entering ill-advised agreements with tempters in life, only to find an eternity of torment for fleeting mortal wealth, pleasure, or some other distraction that won a devil its power. Those mortals who fall prey to these temptations are little more than slaves, for there is nothing they can do to escape the fate they earned. Archdevils are not above such deals, forging infernal pacts with warlocks and other mortals.

Unlike most monster themes, the following powers are available only to creatures that have sold their souls to a particular devil or who profess allegiance to a particular archdevil. To cement the compact, the mortal creature accepts a special brand that denotes the fiend's ownership of their souls. When applying this theme to a creature, choose a brand from those described below. The creature gains the attack power and the utility power associated with that brand.

Brand of Dis
Dispater passes on his constant paranoia to those in his service, alerting them to the myriad enemies and dangers lying in wait. Many creatures that bargain with this archdevil cloister themselves away, hiding in vast fortresses protected by insidious traps and obedient monsters. Dispater favors controllers and skirmishers.

Initiative: +2 bonus to initiative checks.
Skill Modification: +2 bonus to Insight checks.

Imprisoning Advance
Slaves of Dispater know the value of a good escape route and thus use the power given to them to create a path to safety that leaves their enemies unable to give chase.

All-Around Vision
A slave of Dispater grows extra eyes all over its body to watch for treachery. These eyes, while unsightly, let the creature counter flanks.

Brand of Phlegethos
Seductive Fierna inherited her throne from her father Belial, and she uses her power to feed her hedonistic impulses and to torment those under her power. Her father, however, is never far from her throne and manipulates her to further his interests. Soldiers, skirmishers, and lurkers often find service with this unholy pair.

Skill Modification: +2 bonus to Diplomacy checks.

Wicked Fantasy
With a touch, a slave of Fierna can fill an enemy with unspeakable desire, flooding its senses with hideous fantasies that leave it gasping in pleasure and horror.

Pleasure from Pain
Service to Fierna and Belial warps a creature's pleasure senses. These creatures can only know ecstasy by experiencing or delivering pain.

Brand of Nessus
Asmodeus rules the Nine Hells from Nessus, the Ninth Hell. Invested with stolen divine power from the god remembered as He Who Was and armed with a fragment of evil chipped from the shard in the Abyss's bowels, Asmodeus is one of the most powerful gods in the planes. He does not often seduce mortals, knowing they will come to him voluntarily. Leaders, soldiers, and controllers are common slaves to Asmodeus.

Skill Modification: +2 bonus to Bluff checks.

Dire Command
Those invested with Asmodeus's power gain a measure of the dark god's authority and can command other creatures to do as they wish.

Clever Switch
Enjoying favored status among other slaves to the Nine Hells, those enslaved to Asmodeus employ devious cunning to ensure that they survive battles with their enemies.

January: Dungeons & Dragons Experience

D&D Experience is taking place January 26-29 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From the official website: A foot plus of snow couldn't slow us down before and this year looks to be even bigger and better than last year. Come join hundreds of your fellow RPGA and D&D enthusiasts for a four-day extended weekend of gaming goodness.

This show is about gaming from start to finish.

February: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

In the beginning was possibility. Untamed energy roiled and vied in a clashing storm of raw and utter chaos. Formless substance swelled and shrank in the emptiness as fountains of energy burst from its surface. New worlds were born with each passing moment, then were just as quickly lost in the cosmic maelstrom. This was the world as it was, and this is the future yet to come—an unstable reality, ever cycling through creation and destruction.

Theology records countless myths regarding the world's formation. Many temples recount the divine victory over the elemental hosts, capturing the desperate struggle of gods and primordials in the frescoes and paintings adorning their walls and domes. In the eyes of the faithful, the primordials are perilous monstrosities best forgotten. The gods ended their threat and secured the future.

History is written by the victors, however. Attitudes and beliefs regarding the ancient primordial powers and their failed war against the heavens have been shaped by the gods and their servants over millennia. The gods point to their victory as proof they were right in their cause, and claim that the world is now as it was intended to be. The primordials have been checked in their desire to control and shape the planes, and the faithful of the gods give thanks for a world free of the raging chaos that once was. However, to say that the primordials' elemental power is vanquished is to tell a dangerous lie.

The primordials are very much alive. Their bodies are imprisoned—weighed down by chains, sealed in inescapable vaults, or clouded by sleep. However, their minds and spirits still endure. They think. They plot. They hate. And as they do, elemental magic flows from the primordials and the Elemental Chaos that is their legacy, spreading insidiously across the planes.

Creating Elemental Heroes
Much speculation exists regarding a vast reservoir of magical power said to be hidden in the depths of the Elemental Chaos. Its signs are everywhere. One doesn't have to look hard to understand the energy emanating from the Plane Below, filtering into the upper planes through the magic of mortals and immortals alike. A fireball spell harnesses elemental flame, and the evocations unleashed by druids and shamans tap into a power even greater than the primal magic that controls it. Some sages believe that elemental power encompasses the power that lives in every other magical tradition, from the dread cold of shadow magic to the wild and unpredictable spells used by the chaos sorcerers. Others believe that elemental power can be harnessed, shaped, and used as a mystical energy separate from the common systems of magic. In the end, both theories might be true, connecting all magic in ways known only to the heroes of the Elemental Chaos.

The first chapter of Heroes of the Elemental Chaos explores the fundamentals of elemental power, and includes the following sections:

  • Elemental Magic: A discussion of elemental magic, what it is, and who can call on its power.
  • Elemental Influence: A broad overview of how the Elemental Chaos influences the planes.
  • The Elemental Chaos: A discussion of the Plane Below, whose power is the font from which all elemental heroes draw their magic.
  • Elemental-Touched Races: An overview of how different races and cultures are touched by elemental power.
  • Gaining Elemental Power: A discussion of the processes by which characters tap into elemental power, and a survey of the primordials that can serve as patrons for such characters.
  • Elemental Power in Your Game: Tips for DMs seeking to introduce elemental power into a campaign.

And that's this month's look at what's coming out in the months ahead!

Bart Carroll
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
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