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What Happens in Vegas ...
Ampersand
by Bill Slavicsek

Ampersand What Happens in Vegas …

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with members of my original gaming group for a weekend of D&D. These are the guys I first discovered the game with, the guys who were there week in and week out as we explored dungeons, battled monsters, and learned to love roleplaying. I was the Dungeon Master back then, and I was the DM for this event as well. We gathered in Las Vegas, coming from states far and wide, including Washington, California, New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. We rented a suite in the Mirage, and we gamed from morning to evening, taking a couple of breaks along the way to venture out in search of restaurants.

To prepare for the event, I made use of D&D Insider's Character Builder to create and print out character sheets and power cards for all of the players. We're working through the bugs of this awesome gaming aid, but even with a few faults, it made preparation and play much easier to accomplish. Creating characters will never be the same once we launch this application. As the day of the trip loomed closer, I collected all of the miniatures I was going to need to run the encounters. I'm still not sure what the people who examine luggage thought as they saw the armies of plastic monsters slide past the x-ray monitor as I passed through the airport checkpoint.

In Vegas, Rich, Paul, Curtis, John H., John C., and Scott all arrived on schedule. We also added Rich's son Ryan to the group, who was born, coincidentally, right before I first moved from the east coast to join TSR 16 years ago. Wow. Time flies …

I ran the group through a couple of 1st-level encounters from H1: Keep on the Shadowfell just to warm them up and get them used to the new game mechanics. Then we dived into the deep end, advancing to 7th-level to take on the challenges within H3: Pyramid of Shadows. The action was fast and furious. The snacks were plentiful. The dice rolled high. The dice rolled low. And the bad jokes and puns, as always, were as bad and as hilarious as ever. There was also an amazing number of heroic moments, tense battles, amusing interactions, and spectacular deeds of derring-do. The final battle of H3 was maybe the best encounter of an entire weekend full of great encounters. It was full of action and suspense, with near deaths, frustratingly fun villains, and cool interactions with the poster map. In the end, the adventurers were victorious and the villains were whupped real good -- in short, we had a great weekend of D&D.

Thanks for joining me and making the weekend so much fun, guys! When can we do it again?

The Stowaway

If you're looking for something fun to read, I heartily recommend R.A. Salvatore and Geno Salvatore's The Stowaway. Set in the Forgotten Realms world and guest-starring everybody's favorite drow ranger, The Stowaway follows the adventures of 12-year-old Maimun as he evades a demon and searches for answers along the Sword Coast. It's a fast and exciting read, and the ending left me -- literally -- wanting more of the story immediately. I can't wait for the next book in the series! Look for it wherever young adult novels are sold.

Weekend in the Realms

Speaking of the Forgotten Realms campaign, "Weekend in the Realms" is coming up later this month. Part of the new Living Forgotten Realms campaign from the RPGA, Weekend is a worldwide event that kicks the new living campaign into high gear. It features an exclusive mega-adventure called "Beneath Haunted Halls" designed by Matthew Sernett. The adventure is divided into three parts, and you can play one, two, or all three throughout the weekend, as well as participate in related D&D events at participating locations.

Weekend in the Realms happens on October 24-26. All organizers who have scheduled the event by October 8 will receive an event kit that comes with the special adventure. Organizers who schedule the event after that date receive an electronic version of the kit instead of a hard copy.

This event is a great way to get involved in the Living Forgotten Realms campaign. The exclusive, weekend-only adventure is tailored to low-level play and offers both new and existing Forgotten Realms fans a unique experience. Whatever your character accomplishes will follow him or her to other Living Forgotten Realms adventures. Check here to find an event location near you.

Delve Night

Another new program from the RPGA launched recently, D&D Delve Night. Based on the legendary delve events we've run at GenCon and other conventions for years now, this monthly dungeon crawl recreates the delve format that gets to the heart of a D&D adventure. It features ready-to-play encounters, including monster stats and room layouts that can be built using D&D Dungeon Tiles. Just bring a character of the appropriate level and leap into the action!

Delve Night provides a fun way to meet other D&D players without committing to a long campaign. It's specifically created to run in public locations such as libraries and retail stores. And it's a great way for you to try out new character concepts and ideas without changing your ongoing character in your home campaign.

This program is available to retailers and other public D&D play locations through the new Wizards Play Network. If you're not seeing the Delve in your area, ask your favorite retailer to participate. And take down a monster or two for me!

Staff Updates

Just when I think things have settled down, we go and shake things up by promoting people and hiring people. Go figure. I'm proud to announce the recent changes that have happened in my department …

We've split the duties of my senior managers to spread out the work load and make room for a new member of my immediate staff. James Wyatt has accepted the position of Design Manager for D&D, and he now joins Chris Perkins (Creative Manager) and Andy Collins (Development Manager) as my key managers of all D&D game product. Along with this shake-up of the Design Team, Mike Mearls is moving over to handle the Lead Game Designer role, freeing Rob Heinsoo to fully concentrate on his duties as Senior Designer.

On the D&D Insider team, we've promoted Bart Carroll to Web Manager of the free portion of the D&D Website, where he'll serve as the "editor-in-chief" of all free elements and continue to work closely with Chris Youngs, who serves in the same role but for the subscription side of the site. We've also moved Chris Sims onto the team, to help keep the cool previews and constant magazine updates happening on a regular basis. Hmm … or maybe Chris Perkins is trying to assemble the ultimate All-Chris Team. I wonder if Steve Winter and Bart will agree to change their names to make this happen?

We've also just hired Torah Cottrill to work with Kim Mohan to make sure that every product gets the final editing attention it deserves, and we've re-absorbed designer Matthew Sernett and developer Mike Donais from elsewhere in the organization. We're glad to have them back on our team!

Yup, my department continues to grow, and we're not done yet. Keep watching the Wizards' job site for other opportunities as they appear in the near future. I'm always looking for talented, enthusiastic people -- maybe the next one I hire will be you!

Preview: Manual of the Planes

Before I sign off for another month, let me share something cool with you from the upcoming Manual of the Planes. Here are the stats for the demon lord Graz'zt and his terrible sword. This is just a small part of the entire Graz'zt entry, which also includes related paragon-tier and epic-tier villains for use with the demon lord.

Next time, D&D Insider should be completely in subscription mode. When that happens, I'll pull out all the stops and provide something really special as a thank you to the first subscribers. See you then!

Graz'zt

Demons aren't subtle, but then every rule has its exception.

Graz'zt is the schemer of the Abyss, and he constantly plots against Demogorgon and Orcus from his realm of Azzagrat. Graz'zt uses seduction, guile, and trickery as his weapons, launching demonic hordes only after his intrigues leave enemies in disarray. Known also as the Dark Prince, Graz'zt appears and acts more human than other demon princes. However, he is capable of atrocities to rival even the most sadistic demons. Graz'zt has black skin, six small horns atop his head, and six digits on each hand.

Graz'zt was once a devil and a trusted advisor to Asmodeus, who charged Graz'zt with invading the Abyss and seizing the evil seed that created it (see "The Birth of the Abyss" sidebar, Monster Manual, page 52). Graz'zt's initial invasion was successful, and he managed to seize three layers of the Abyss. However, pressure from Orcus and Demogorgon stalled Graz'zt's descent toward the heart of evil. Graz'zt eventually rejected his heritage and turned the conquered territory into his own kingdom. Today, he is one of the most powerful demon princes. And whether he truly spurned the Nine Hells or is secretly colluding with Asmodeus is known only to Graz'zt. Regardless, that doesn't preclude a change of allegiances later.

Graz'zt cultivates an atmosphere of indolence and lassitude within his horrid palace. The outward decadence of his court masks the truth, though: The palace is a nexus of schemes that extend throughout the planes and across the centuries.

Graz'zt
Level 32 Solo Controller
Medium elemental humanoid (demon)
XP 135,000
Initiative +27; Senses Perception +24; darkvision
HP 1,430; Bloodied 715
AC 48; Fortitude 45, Reflex 48, Will 48
Immune charm; Resist 20 variable (3/encounter; see Monster Manual, page 282)
Saving Throws +5
Speed 6, teleport 6
Action Points 2
MeleeWave of Sorrow (standard; at-will) Acid, Teleportation, Weapon
Reach 2; +37 vs. AC; 2d10 +10 damage, and ongoing 10 acid (save ends), and Graz'zt teleports to an unoccupied square adjacent to the target.
Close BurstSorrow Cyclone (standard; recharge 56) Acid, Teleportation, Weapon
Requires Wave of Sorrow, close burst 1; targets enemies; +37 vs. AC; 2d10 +10 damage, and ongoing 10 acid damage (save ends), and Graz'zt teleports to an unoccupied square adjacent to a creature hit by the attack.
RangedOverwhelming Domination (standard; recharges when no enemy is dominated by Graz'zt) Charm
Ranged 20; targets two enemies; + 35 vs. Will; the target is dominated (save ends), and saving throws against this effect take a -4 penalty. Graz'zt can force a creature he has dominated to use encounter attack powers. A creature dominated by Graz'zt counts as his ally and is not considered dazed (as per the dominated condition) for the purpose of flanking. Aftereffect: The target takes a -4 penalty to Will defense until the end of the encounter.
Area BurstUnholy Blight (standard, recharge 56)
Area burst 5 within 10; targets enemies only; +35 vs. Reflex; 2d10 +10 damage, and the target is weakened until the end of Graz'zt's next turn.
Change Shape (minor; at-will) Polymorph
Graz'zt can alter his physical form to appear as an attractive Medium humanoid of any race or gender (see "Change Shape," Monster Manual, page 280).
Combat Advantage
Graz'zt deals an extra 4d6 damage against any target he has combat advantage against.
Vicious Twist (free, when Graz'zt hits a creature with an attack that has the weapon keyword; encounter) Weapon
That creature takes an extra 20 damage.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages All
Skills Arcana +27, Bluff +32, Diplomacy +32, History +27, Insight +29, Intimidate +32
Str 27 (+24)
Dex 33 (+27)
Wis 27 (+24)
Con 22 (+22)
Int 22 (+22)
Cha 33 (+27)
EquipmentWave of Sorrow

Wave of Sorrow
Level 30
Wave of Sorrow is a massive, black greatsword that Graz'zt wields in one hand. The serrated blade undulates when wielded by the Dark Prince.
Lvl 30+63,125,000 gp
Weapon: Greatsword
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +6d8 damage
Property: This weapon deals ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends) on a successful melee attack.
Power (At-Will Teleportation): Free Action. Use this power when you hit an enemy with a melee attack or a close attack that uses this weapon. You teleport to a square adjacent to the target you hit.

Graz'zt Tactics

In combat, Graz'zt usually uses overwhelming domination first. He makes enemies into allies and then sets them up to help flank opponents with him.

Due to Graz'zt's overwhelming domination power, one or more characters will likely be dominated through much of the fight against Graz'zt. If your players are amenable, allow a person to retain control of his or her character if the player agrees to fight faithfully on Graz'zt's behalf.

Graz'zt is elusive on the battlefield, moving from flank to flank, teleporting when appropriate. If the PCs are intent on maintaining their distance, then Graz'zt employs unholy blight. If the battle turns against Graz'zt, he flees and leaves his allies to die.

Graz'zt Lore

A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana or Religion check.

DC 20: Graz'zt is the Dark Prince, a demonic patron of tyrants and despots. Evil schemers swear obeisance to him.

DC 25: Graz'zt's greatest rival is Demogorgon, and Graz'zt would like nothing better than to destroy the two-headed demon prince and claim the title of "Prince of Demons."

DC 30: Graz'zt rules a three-tiered realm in the Abyss known as Azzagrat. Within the twisted streets of this landscape dwell hordes of demons and deadly elementals.

DC 35: Graz'zt was once an archdevil in the service of Asmodeus. Graz'zt was sent by Asmodeus to retrieve the shard of evil embedded in the heart of the Abyss, and though he did not succeed, Graz'zt did conquer three levels of that plane. He established his own kingdom there, rejecting Asmodeus to instead reign over his newly conquered territory.

DC 40: Graz'zt carries a massive, serrated greatsword called Wave of Sorrow. He wields the sword in one hand, and the blade moves like a wave when he brandishes it. In addition to fighting with the sword, Graz'zt is a master of dominating his enemies, whom he directs to fight on his behalf.

About the Author

Bill Slavicsek is the R&D Director for Roleplaying Games, Miniatures, and Book Publishing at Wizards of the Coast. All of the game designers, developers, editors, book editors, and D&D Insider content managers working on Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and the WotC Publishing Group report into Bill's R&D team.