Previews for June and Beyond
By Mat Smith
Get into a Fight This Summer
I don't wanna spoil anything, but players might want to keep in mind that there's probably going to be a few armed conflicts in upcoming game sessions. I'm only mentioning that because we seem to have four adventures, a book filled with monsters, a title that begins with the word "War," and another set of miniatures that includes a number of creatures that don't traditionally take on "good guy" roles on the docket for this month's article. Check 'em out:
June: The Sinister Spire
This 64-page adventure was designed as part two in a three-part series of adventures (that started with DD1 Barrow of the Forgotten King), though you could opt to run it as a standalone adventure for a party of 4th-level characters in any campaign setting. Back in April, I passed along the back cover text, and I can't really add more than that. (You know, 'cause it's an adventure, and I wouldn't want to tip the DM's screen.)
June: Expedition to Undermountain
This infamous dungeon complex was originally explored in the 2nd-Edition boxed adventure, The Ruins of Undermountain and then revisited in Matt Sernett's recent-ish series of web features titled Return to Undermountain. As the most notorious and deadly labyrinth of corridors and chambers known in all of theForgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Undermountain offers fame, fortune, and a lot of fatalities to those who plumb the depths of the dungeons far beneath the streets of Waterdeep. (Though, you can drop Expedition to Undermountain into any campaign setting that'd have room for a big, bad maze of danger.)
I gave you back cover text in April's Previews article. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that you'll want to form up a tough party of 1st-level characters, send 'em into this 224-page superadventure, and see if they survive long enough to emerge as seasoned and wealthy 10th-level heroes.
June: The Forge of War
Anyone interested in the Eberron Campaign Settingis going to find this 160-page supplement to be an invaluable source of information, material, and opportunity. As the first in-depth exploration of the world-shaping event known as Last War, The Forge of War offers DMs and players a wealth of material that will expand character-building, encounter-creating, and campaign-shaping options.
Back in April, I had the back cover text for you. Last month, it was a goose egg. This month, since it goes on sale, I've managed to get hold of the book, so I can show you some stuff. Why not start with the 2-page spread of Wayne Reynolds art that's detailed on the cover and featured on pages 2 and 3?
So, sweet eye candy out of the way, I figure the best way to give you a really good sense of what's inside the book is by letting the book do it for me -- there's nothing better than reading through the Introduction and the chapter-by-chapter run-down of the contents.
The Last War is over.
After the Day of Mourning, the warring nations of Khorvaire quickly came to realize that victory was impossible -- the best the beleaguered continent could hope for was a lasting peace. What had been Five Nations united under the throne of Galifar was now twelve sovereign kingdoms, shocked by the wasteland that was once Cyre. Two years later, representatives from these nations hammered out the Treaty of Thronehold, a set of agreements to cease hostilities and establish new boundaries. After a hundred years, Khorvaire was at peace.
Still, the Last War might never be over.
The Valenar agreed to the Treaty of Thronehold merely to assess their foes and force them to acknowledge the elves as a new nation. Aundair signed the treaty, but longs to reclaim both Thaliost and the Eldeen Reaches. The king of Karrnath works for peace, but many in his nation will not be content until the continent rests under their control. The refugees from Cyre are desperate to discover the cause of the Mourning and ensure that whoever is responsible pays dearly.
Few people are willing to say it aloud, but they all know in their hearts that the peace of Thronehold is a fragile thing indeed.
The Forge of War supplement is about the war, of course, but every other Eberron game book and adventure is about the war, in some respect. Every adventurer is at least partially defined by what he did during the war, and many adventuring sites are ruins created by the Last War (the Mournland being only the largest such place).
The Forge of War delves further into the events, personalities, and repercussions of the great conflict. Whether your Eberron campaign takes place at the beginning, during the middle, or after the end of the Last War, this supplement will enrich it.
Using This Book
The Forge of War is focused on the events, armies, battlefields, magic, and heroes of the Last War, but it's designed primarily to help players and Dungeon Masters in a standard Eberron campaign -- that is, one set in the years just after end of the Last War.
Chapter One: The Course of the War presents a chronological overview of the major events of the century-long conflict. The discourse is taken primarily from an introductory textbook used at Soladas College of the Library of Korranberg, as annotated by the renowned Zil librarian Augusta Wainwocket -- as close to an impartial source as can be found. (Commentary taken directly from this source is interspersed throughout the chapter, presented in italic type and set off from surrounding text by blank lines.)
Chapter Two: Guide to the Last War features numerous encyclopedic entries concerning major events, key locations, important organizations (including the dragonmarked houses and national armed forces), and concepts of the war.
Chapter Three: Heroes of the Last War includes backgrounds that focus on wartime activities, and ideas for lasting scars -- of the physical or emotional variety -- that might help define characters. In addition, spells, magic items, and teamwork benefits provide new options for any Eberron campaign.
Chapter Four: The Last War Campaign deals with various ways to use the materials in The Forge of War. It discusses three different campaign styles and gives suggestions to Dungeon Masters for running each one, or a combination of them.
If you are playing in any other Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the material in this book can be used to flesh out a war-torn region of the world, to add depth to military characters and armies, or simply provide new treasures and opponents for the characters.
The Last War began in 894. It came to an end in 996, with the Treaty of Thronehold. While accounts of how things got started and how it all came to an end have been touched on, we have yet to see a more detailed and comprehensive survey of the entire century-long battle. Until now. If you were paying attention back there in the Using This Book section, you'd've seen that Chapter One: The Course of the War covers all the major events of The Last War, in chronological order (not just because that's the way the war was fought). To give you an idea of the kind of details and insights you'll find in this opening chapter, take a look at the entry for a campaign that took place in the latter part of The Last War:
The Third Siege of Korth
Showing some signs of recovery, Queen Dannel ordered a new offensive against the hated Karrns in 971. The Cyran forces, heavily supplemented by new warforged units, once again pushed north and laid siege to Korth. It was never a particularly active siege, but rather one intended to strangle Karrnath and slowly demoralize the nation, with its king effectively held prisoner by Cyran troops. Cyre maintained the siege for nearly two years, and King Jaron never left the city -- indeed, he was rarely seen outside the palace, where he consulted with his generals and fomented strategies to repel the invaders.
In the same year, Aundair's arcane siege engines pummeled Thrane's western defenses and destroyed Fort Light. The retreating Thrane soldiers entrenched at Sword Keep, keeping Aundair from sweeping across southern Thrane. A nearly simultaneous Aundairian strike toward the city of Daskaran was repelled, and its advance into northern Thrane stalled.
The winter of 972 brought a rare cold-weather assault on the walls of Korth. Cyre actually breached the walls, advanced a short distance into the city proper, and assaulted the Holygate from the inside.
The city garrison -- the White Lions of Korth -- managed to hold the gate long enough for clerics of the Sovereign Host, led by Alinda Roerith, to fuse it shut. Meanwhile, the city's defenders quickly converted each noble's solidly built homes into small fortresses, containing the Cyran breach. Eventually the Karrns rallied behind King Jaron, Alinda Roerith, and the Captain of the White Lions, and forced the Cyran back across the walls. The Holygate has remained sealed ever since.
The cost of victory was severe: King Jaron's eldest son Prince Drago was killed in battle. The king himself was wounded, but initial reports claimed it was minor. Soon after, the country suffered a second shock when it was announced that King Jaron had passed away unexpectedly. The same proclamation revealed that the old king had a newborn son, named after his father Kaius. This happy news did little to provide the nation with a strong wartime leader, however. Were it not for the Cyrans at Korth's gates, Karrnath might have dissolved as the warlords began bickering over who would be regent.
As Cyre prepared another attack, King Jaron's sister Moranna emerged from Atur at the head of a new army of undead and began marching east. This news heartened the Karrns, and they were once again able to hold Korth's walls. As Moranna approached, the Cyrans abandoned the siege. After coming so close to victory, the 973 retreat was a bitter pill for the Cyrans. Queen Dannel ordered the army to entrench in Cyran territory across Scions Sound.
Given her relief of Korth, it was not surprising that Moranna became regent the next year. No sooner had she consolidated power than Aundair struck by sea. This assault culminated in the Battle of Ten Bombards, a midsummer naval engagement between Aundair vessels, supported by dragonhawks and the Fairhaven Wands, against the First Fleet of Korth in Scions Sound. The Aundairian navy was beaten back, with significant losses on both sides.
Of course, even though the Last War officially ended in 996, there's still a lot of conflict going on throughout Khorvaire -- and beyond. The struggles between nations continue at a fever pitch, but under the façade of civility. There's no end to the risks and rewards at stake for characters that get caught up in the dangerous world of the Shadow War.
The Shadow War
The Treaty of Thronehold formally ended the Last War, but it did nothing to put a halt to the underlying conflicts. The nations compete as constantly and viciously today as they did at the height of the war -- they've simply found more subtle ways of going about it. A state of cold war and hidden conflict exists between all four of the surviving Five Nations, as well as the other lands recognized by Thronehold. Dubbed the "Shadow War" by the Korranberg Chronicle, this not-so-secret campaign could last for generations -- or, with nary a warning, erupt into a new war that could make the "Last" one pale in comparison. Only one thing is certain: In whatever form it takes, this struggle is unlikely to end any time in the foreseeable future.
The Last War might have ended, but the nations continue to struggle in the shadows
The Arms Race
Inspired by true intelligence and simple paranoia, each nation seeks military supremacy over its neighbors. Though this stance is primarily for the purpose of defense, it's certainly possible that if one nation obtains overt dominance, it might launch a preemptive strike, hoping to end the next war before it begins. Currently, each nation has a clear advantage in one specific area.
Aundair: Although it has neither the strongest military nor the best intelligence, Aundair maintains its superiority in the field of arcane magic. Its various guilds and schools produce enough battle-capable sorcerers and wizards that no nation is yet prepared to field an army against it.
Breland: The King's Citadel, and specifically the Dark Lanterns, remains the most skilled intelligence organization on the continent. The forces of Breland might not be able to match the other nations on the field, but they're almost certain to have advance notice of any move against them.
Karrnath: Karrnath remains the dominant military power in the region. Its armies are larger, better trained, and better equipped. If it can find a way to counter even one of the other nations' advantages, Karrnath would almost certainly be the dominant power among the Five Nations.
Thrane: Unsurprisingly, Thrane holds the advantage of divine magic. It can field an army second only to that of Karrnath, bolstered by clerics capable of calling on the gods' favor, healing injured soldiers, and in some cases demolishing Karrnath's undead units.
Other Nations and Dragonmarked Houses
Although the bulk of the Shadow War entry refers specifically to the surviving four members of the Five Nations, the information applies just as well to the other nations as well as the dragonmarked houses. These entities make use of similar techniques against one another, such as Orien's frequent sabotage of Lyrandar trade operations, and against the four primary nations. The dragonmarked houses certainly aren't above manipulating governments to their advantage.
July: Night Below Booster Packs
Back in April I showed you the Kobold Trapmaker and the Frost Giant Jarl. Last month, you saw the Kuo-Toa Whip and Kuo-Toa Hunter. This month, I've got two more minis to show -- these guys are both Large Rares. Don't stand downwind of the first one and don't stare at the second.
To get a look at even more Night Below minis, and find out some details about how they work in the world of skirmish gaming, check out Steve Schubert's Miniatures on the D&D Minis page. And, you'll want to pick up a copy of Dragon magazine, while you can, to see their exclusive minis coverage.
July: Monster Manual V
If you're looking for new challenges, stuff to fight, ways to earn XP, and opportunities to gain more treasure, you're in luck, 'cause MMV offers 224 pages of all of that in the form of monsters. And everybody likes new monsters. The surprise and the unknown always make unfamiliar creatures interesting (and a tad more deadly). So get your healing potions, restoration scrolls, revivify spells, and a lot of diamond dust ready. (Or just run off another blank character sheet.) Inside the covers of this hardcover menagerie is an array of new monsters, variations of existing creatures, sample encounters, maps of monster lairs, and tactics sections to help DMs make the most of the more complex critters. Of course, DMs will also find the now-familiar information of where particular monsters might call the Forgotten Realms or Eberron home.
Last month, I had the back cover text. This month, I actually have a file to flip through, so I found a critter to show off. If the idea of an encounter where characters are exploring a crumbling ruin and are suddenly ambushed by a monster sounds familiar (or "classic," perhaps), this new creature will appeal to you. Of course, this time around, it's the ruins themselves that arethe ambushing monster.
What appeared at first to be the debris of a fallen wall or crumbling building suddenly lurches to its feet. Composed entirely of rubble, this immense hunchbacked biped rumbles quickly toward you, its rocky fists raised.
Ruin Elemental CR 10
Usually N Large elemental (earth)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Listen +9, Spot +9
AC 23, touch 9, flat-footed 23
(-1 size, +14 natural)
hp 161 (14 HD); DR 5/--
Fort +16, Ref +4, Will +6
Immune elemental immunities, spike stones
Speed 40 ft. (8 squares)
Melee 2 slams +19 each (1d8+9)
Ranged rock +19 (2d6+9)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Base Atk +10; Grp +23
Atk Options Improved Bull Rush, Improved Sunder, Power Attack
Special Actions shock wave
Abilities Str 28, Dex 10, Con 24, Int 9, Wis 15, Cha 7
SA rock throwing, shock wave
SQ elemental traits
Feats Brutal Throw*, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Sunder, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (slam)
* New feat; see sidebar.
Skills Hide -1*, Jump +13, Listen +9, Spot +9
* Ruin elementals have a +4 racial bonus on Hide checks in areas of ruined stone.
Advancement 15-26 HD (Large); 27-42 HD (Huge)
Immunities (Ex) Ruin elementals take no damage and suffer no impeded movement in the area of a spike stones spell.
Rock Throwing (Ex) Like giants, ruin elementals are accomplished rock throwers and have a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls when throwing rocks. A ruin elemental of Large size can hurl rocks weighing up to 50 pounds (Small objects) up to five range increments. A Huge ruin elemental can hurl rocks weighing up to 80 pounds (Medium objects) up to five range increments. The range increment is 150 feet for a ruin elemental's thrown rocks.
Shock Wave (Ex) Every 1d4 rounds, as a swift action, a ruin elemental can strike the ground to create a shock wave in a 20-foot-radius spread centered on itself. All creatures not of the earth subtype within the radius of the shock wave are treated as if bull rushed by the ruin elemental. The ruin elemental receives a +4 bonus on this check from Improved Bull Rush, as well as +4 for each size category it is larger than the targeted opponent. A typical ruin elemental has a +17 bonus on the opposed check against Medium creatures, +21 against Small creatures, and +13 against Large creatures. Creatures that fail the opposed checks are pushed back 5 feet and knocked prone.
Brought into being by ruin chanters (page 132), ruin elementals arise in wasted lands and shattered fortresses. They keep to themselves, avoiding contact with other creatures.
Strategies and Tactics
Ruin elementals are passive, patient creatures, but they turn violent when others trespass within the territory they are dedicated to defending. Ruin elementals guarding their lairs are aggressive and virtually impossible to negotiate with, seeing all creatures in the area as threats to be slain or driven away. Only the ruin chanter that created it and those designated as harmless by the ruin chanter can approach a ruin elemental without fear.
When defending their homes, ruin elementals first attempt to take out opponents with volleys of thrown rocks. When foes close to melee range, the elemental meets them with its slam attacks. If fighting multiple foes, a ruin elemental uses its shock wave ability to knock them down. Prone foes likely remain within the creature's reach, but it concentrates on one target before moving on to the rest.
In defense of their lairs and the areas they are sworn to protect, ruin elementals fight to the death.
Ruin elementals are the servants of ruin chanters. These elementals are called to the Material Plane, and they seldom appear in large numbers.
Masterless Servant (EL 10): A lone ruin elemental lurks within the rubble of a fallen castle. The ruin chanter that created it is long dead, but a doppelganger has a lair nearby. The shapechanger knows which areas of the ruins it can hide in to avoid the elemental's wrath. If the doppelganger observes PCs investigating the area, he poses as the ruin chanter and demands tribute in exchange for ordering "his" guardian to stand down. The doppelganger then flees with the payment (or if his ruse is discovered), leaving the party to face the ruin elemental.
Final Guardians (EL 13): A trio of ruin elementals guards the exit from an ancient dungeon explored by the PCs. When the characters emerge, the elementals hem them in, preventing their exit but keeping them from fleeing back into the place. Unless the PCs drop the loot they took from the dungeon, these guardians attack and fight until destroyed.
Ruin elementals reflect the destructive forces of nature and time even as they protect the remains of history. Their ruin chanter masters create them to guard ancient places against those intent on plunder or defilement.
Ruin elementals instinctively collect curios from the ruins in which they arise, usually taking great care to safeguard such objects. These items can be nearly anything from worthless statuary to potent artifacts. Although a ruin elemental is very possessive of the treasure it collects, the surface of the creature's body is so abrasive that most objects it touches and handles suffer significantly from that contact. Mundane items in a ruin elemental's hoard are inevitably damaged by its touch, and they often look like nothing more than junk.
Environment: Ruin elementals guard long-abandoned cities, temples, and fortresses in the farthest corners of the world. Trackless deserts, tundra, and other places so inhospitable that their ruins were never resettled are these creatures' homelands.
Typical Physical Characteristics: Ruin elementals are stooped, shambling creatures that stand some 14 feet tall. Their rocky forms weigh about 7,000 pounds. Over time, the rubble from which a ruin elemental is made is ground down by its movement and the friction that movement creates against its surroundings. The oldest ruin elementals look as though they are made of rough gravel and spurs of harder stone.
Alignment: Ruin elementals care little for the lives of other creatures, and they are typically benign unless they or the areas over which they claim stewardship are threatened. They are usually neutral.
Ruin elementals collect whatever odds and ends they find interesting, but these items are not necessarily valuable or useful. Although they are rarely found in possession of coins, ruin elementals frequently hoard fine weapons and art. These are often worn or damaged in some way because of the creature's abrasive touch, and they are worth their full value only to collectors. Magic items are also commonly found in a ruin elemental's lair, since such objects are more capable of withstanding the ravages of time and the creature's touch. Ruin elementals have half standard treasure for their Challenge Rating, almost all of which is in the form of the aforementioned items.
Ruin Elementals in Eberron
New Feat: Brutal Throw
You have learned how to hurl weapons to deadly effect.
Benefit: You can add your Strength modifier (instead of your Dexterity modifier) to attack rolls with thrown weapons.
Normal: A character attacking with a ranged weapon adds his Dexterity modifier to the attack roll.
Special: A fighter can select Brutal Throw as one of his fighter bonus feats.
Ruin elementals can be found across Eberron, from the ruins of Xen'drik to the blasted wastes of the Mournland. In the Demon Wastes, ruin elementals are thought to have been created by ruin chanters dedicated to guarding that land against the return of the Lords of Dust. Rumor has it that a ruin chanter has hidden a powerful artifact within territory guarded by his creations -- a relic said to be instrumental in the plans of those seeking to free the fiends that were bound at the end of the Age of Demons.
Ruin Elementals in Faerun
Thought to be little more than legend, ruin elementals are found in the deep deserts and tundra of Faerun. Within the lairs of the oldest ruin elementals, powerful magic items of Faerun's past are said to be hidden. Factions of the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards search constantly for such sites, and they pay handsomely for information regarding such locations. They also reward those who thwart others in similar searches.
July: FR2 Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land
This 160-page super-adventure serves as the sequel to Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave, and prequel to the next adventure in this three-part series. (Though, you can play it as a standalone adventure, if you'd prefer.) I can't tell you terribly much about this adventure, except that it's designed to really challenge a party of 8th-level characters interested in some heroic activity within the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
I gave you the back cover text last month. And if you're running around the Realms, you're going to want to check it out -- someone needs to do something about this.
August: Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk
If it seems like it has been forever since you heard anything from us about Castle Greyhawk, it's because there hasn't been anything to hear -- not since 2nd Edition. Finally, and at last, we get a chance to return to the stomping grounds of Mordenkainen with a 224-page superadventure. Designed for a party of 8th-level characters, Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk explores the legendary Castle Greyhawk and the classic dungeon that sprawls beneath. So immense in scope (and subtle of design), this massive adventure can serve as a self-contained mini-campaign, a major story arc in an existing campaign, or as a series of side treks that culminate in a grand finale. (And, of course, DMs won't have trouble wrangling this massive module into any campaign setting that you're playing.) I don't have a whole lot else to contribute here, but I can pass along the back cover text:
Mordenkainen needs you.
The good people of Greyhawk need you.
What are you waiting for?
Twenty-seven years ago, a band of adventurers led by the great wizard Mordenkainen entered the dungeons below Castle Greyhawk and released the evil demigod Iuz, intending to slay him. Betrayal led to failure, Iuz escaped, and many lives were lost. Today, evil has returned to Castle Greyhawk, and Mordenkainen must place his trust in the hands of a new generation of heroes. Those who fail will be lost, and those who triumph will be legends.
Castle Greyhawk has become a grand fixture of the Cairn Hills, tempting the likes of Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser with its dark mysteries. Today it lies in ruin, ravaged by years and countless assaults. However, many of its greatest treasures and secrets remain hidden in the sprawling dungeons beneath, where terrible monsters and fiendish traps defy new generations of heroes in search of fame and glory.
This campaign adventure revisits the legendary ruins of Castle Greyhawk and its dungeons, incorporating many new twists and surprises. It is designed for characters of levels 8-13 and features an easy-to-use combat encounter format. This book also presents several new monsters and magic items.
There it is.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and used to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same. Now, he's back to just playing the game 'cause it's fun.