Previews
Previews for August and Beyond
By Mat Smith

It's a Summer of Hotness

Pretty much nobody in Seattle has air conditioning. So, when things get hot, they stay hot. You can bring in a fan, but it's still hot. (Okay, it doesn't get crazy-hot here, but we're used to overcast and cool -- you've seen Frasier.) The release schedule seems to be following a similar pattern, though. It's already got some really good stuff, and it's going to continue into the foreseeable future. I might even venture to say things are going to get hotter. Okay, the sun's beating through the window -- I should get on with this thing so I can go get a Slurpee or something. There's a lot of stuff cooking around here, and a goodly amount of things to show off -- check it out:

August

August 16-19: Gen Con Indy

If this hasn't already happened, and you can get there, it'd be worth the trip. If, alas, you can't (or didn't) get to Indy, you'll wanna poke around the D&D Home Page for the coverage.

August: Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk

Back in June, I gave you the back cover text for this 224-page superadventure that dares a brave party of 8th-level characters to delve into the sprawling dungeon that lies beneath the legendary Castle Greyhawk.

Normally, because this is an adventure, I don't show excerpts, because I don't wanna to spoil any of the fun for anyone on either side of the screen. But because this one is so big, the consensus here is that I can give you a little peek at something. (And, it's going on sale this month, so you could flip through a copy if you wanted to.) So, let's see how this works out. First, have just a little introductory text, then a little insight into the history of the adventure, and after that some background information (if you want it) about Zagig, the builder of Castle Greyhawk:

Introduction

In the Cairn Hills north of the Free City stands a monument to madness, a crumbling palace of trap-laden halls packed with treasure beyond imagining: Castle Greyhawk. The archmage who built it vanished nearly two hundred years ago, and the castle has beckoned adventurers from around the world ever since. They come seeking the wizard's treasure and legendary lore, to explore demiplanes attached to the castle's deepest dungeons, and perhaps to follow in the footsteps of the Mad Archmage Zagig Yragerne.

For when Zagig departed Castle Greyhawk, he did so as a living god.}

CASTLE GREYHAWK: A TRUE ORIGINAL

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk takes place on the Material Plane world of Oerth, specifically near the City of Greyhawk at the center of a continent called the Flanaess. The laws of the Dungeons & Dragons game govern the affairs of Oerth and its countless citizens, who worship the deities outlined in the Player's Handbook and Chapter 5 of Complete Divine. In the World of Greyhawk, the current year is 597 CY (Common Year).

Castle Greyhawk was the original campaign of D&D co-creator Gary Gygax, who developed most of the game's classic rules while leading characters such as Erac's Cousin, Tenser, Otto, and Serten through the dungeon's dangers. "Zagig Yragerne" is a play on Gary's name, and much of Castle Greyhawk's reputation for deviousness came from Gary's Dungeon Mastering style. When the business of Dungeons & Dragons consumed more and more of Gygax's time, Greyhawk's DM duties fell to Robert J. Kuntz, an expert on Castle Greyhawk from his years playing its most frequent explorer, the doughty Lord Robilar.

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk is not intended to precisely model Gygax and Kuntz's original campaign, but it takes inspiration from the exploits of a legion of early D&D player characters who fought and died there so that all of us could enjoy the greatest roleplaying game ever created. Thanks, guys. This one's for you.

So, now with that little background and insight, you know that this superadventure has, at its heart, elements and qualities of an old-school adventure. And what's more old-school or traditional than kicking things off at a tavern -- the most iconic of locations for adventurers to find work, hear rumors, and generally get themselves in trouble. There is no such place. So, of course, Expedition to Castle Greyhawk puts a tavern, its owner and staff, along with a number of NPCs, events, and a nice, little map at your disposal.

THE GREEN DRAGON INN

The Green Dragon Inn is located in Greyhawk's River Quarter, along a wide street crowded with rivermen, cutthroats, and thieves. At night the two-story stone building comes alive with activity, the sound of boisterous laughs and the sight of flickering windows attracting custom from all quarters of the city. Most of the shabby clientele are locals, Dockway bully-boys or bargefolk looking for cheap drinks and good atmosphere. The Dragon provides the latter in quantity, for its proprietor does little to quell light violence and overtly encourages enthusiastic drinking and carousing. Weapons and armor are allowed (and a wise precaution). It's a dangerous place but a friendly one, as long as no one harms the staff.

The Green Dragon's inviting taproom swells to capacity of nearly sixty patrons on weekend evenings and remains busy into the small hours of the morning. Against the back wall, to the right of the expansive and well-stocked bar, is a raised platform supporting a private dining area with a fireplace and a long mahogany table capable of seating eight. When he is not mingling with his patrons, Damaris holds court from the dais, surrounding himself with a coterie of intriguing folk. Since he considers the PCs his saviors, he frequently invites them to join him at the "Lord's Table."

For more than thirty years, adventurers have favored the Green Dragon Inn as a font of information about strange happenings in the city, unexplored tombs in the Cairn Hills, and even rumors about "lost levels" of Castle Greyhawk. The more adventurers who frequent the tavern, the deeper the information network grows, and the gregarious Ricard Damaris -- seldom far from the taproom -- is there to hear it all. Ricard closely follows events these days out of curiosity, but in an earlier time, information was the sole purpose of the inn. Robilar was a regular in the tavern until his betrayal of the Circle of Eight in 582 CY, but even then he didn't want anyone to know he was the owner. No overt signs of Robilar's involvement in the establishment remain, but a clever PC can figure it out easily enough.

The kitchen's specialty is "Quij's Plate," a heaping bowl of undercooked sausages and soggy potatoes large enough to please an ogre. A successful DC 18 Knowledge (history) or bardic knowledge check confirms that Quij was the name of an orc henchman of Lord Robilar. He has not been seen in years. If asked about it, Ricard smiles wistfully and recalls that the orc was a regular patron years ago but disappeared after Lord Robilar was run out of town back in 570 CY. He never admits Robilar's financial stake in the Inn, instead claiming that he owns the place himself and always has (a story that checks out according to the city's office of records).

The inn's second floor boasts several rooms for rent, each accommodating up to two characters. Only three rooms are available when the PCs first visit the inn, so members of larger groups might have to suffer the indignity of sleeping on the floor. Ricard and his staff live on the premises in a series of apartments off a hall from the guest quarters.

All prices for food, drink, and lodging conform to the standards set forth in the Player's Handbook.

So, all of that information already makes The Green Dragon Inn an interesting place for characters to visit. But the entry doesn't stop there. It goes on for almost three and a half pages, providing NPC "regulars" to interact with (and perhaps learn of adventure to be had), special encounters inside the inn, and side quests that take the action elsewhere. So while the Green Dragon Inn could function as a launching point/base of operations for the trek into the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk, it's also a nicely fleshed-out location that characters can rely on for further adventures (making it a nice bit of material you can use and reuse).

Flipping through the rest of the adventure, you'll find a lot of really good material that's relevant to the task at hand, but easily could be repurposed and recycled in another adventure or campaign. So, you're getting a lot more than "just" 224 pages of superadventure. You're getting a pile of building blocks that a resourceful DM can tap into again and again (which means DMs can spend more time being clever and devious). Check out this descriptive bit from an encounter, along with its map.

FEATURES OF THE AREA

This area has the following features.

Illumination: The room is lit by burning braziers.

Braziers: The braziers are fueled by burning coals. If a brazier is knocked over into an adjacent square, everyone in that square takes 2d6 points of fire damage and must make a successful DC 15 Reflex save or catch fire and continue to burn for 1d6 rounds. The fire can be extinguished as a full-round action with a successful DC 15 Reflex save. Rolling on the ground grants a +2 bonus on this save.

Cauldrons: These stewing cauldrons are full of caustic and poisonous fluids. Any character can push over a cauldron as a standard action by making a successful DC 10 Strength check. The contents of the cauldron spill out in a 15-foot line in a direction chosen by the character who pushed it, dealing 4d6 points of acid damage (Reflex DC 18 half) to every creature in that line. For the following 1d6 rounds, the squares covered by the fluid are filled with a noxious gas. Anyone in or passing through such a square must make a successful DC 15 Fortitude save or take 1d6 points of Constitution damage.

Tables: The three tables are covered with alchemical gear, dried-up solutions, and long-forgotten instruments. Because they are high and sturdy, the tables provide cover to anyone crouching behind them. A table can be knocked over in any direction corresponding to one of its sides as a standard action by making a successful DC 15 Strength check. Every creature in the path of the falling alchemical gear takes 1d8 points of damage from broken glass.

Bottles: The shelves are filled with ancient bottles, jugs, and cracked glass tubes -- fifty such containers in all. Some of these ancient receptacles contain dangerous compounds; others are full of stale spell components. Any of these bottles can be thrown as a splash weapon and has a 50% chance of functioning like alchemist's fire, except for the damage type (acid, cold, electricity, or fire, determined randomly). Vials that do not contain such a substance deal no damage upon impact.

That's just a half-page slice of an encounter that fills two pages, provides the NPC(s)/monster(s), stat blocks, encounter description (and reason for being). And you'll find stuff like that throughout the superadventure -- material that was built for Castle Greyhawk that could be picked up and dropped anywhere else in your campaign, regardless of where it's set.

September

September: Exemplars of Evil: Deadly Foes to Vex Your Heroes

Last month, I passed along the back cover text for this 160-page supplement for DMs. This month, since it goes on sale, I've got more stuff to pass along. First, here's a little description. Inside the blue-covered pages, you'll find a wealth of information about creating and running truly memorable and challenging villains -- one of the best parts of any D&D campaign. Here. Check out the introduction:



Introduction

Acererak. Eclavdra. Iggwilv. Rary. Strahd. Warduke. Vecna. Manshoon. Artemis. Bargle. Dragotha. Kitiara. These names and others like them have great meaning to fans of the Dungeons & Dragons game. They are the iconic villains who have helped to shape the worlds in which we play. In many ways, they are just as integral to the D&D experience as the player characters themselves. Can you imagine what Caramon would have been without Raistlin? Would Drizzt have been nearly as compelling without Artemis Entreri as his foil? Could there have been a Strongheart without a Warduke?

All of these villains have one thing in common -- one trait that sets them apart from the anonymous hordes of goblins, creepy crawlers, and walking dead: They have stories of their own to tell. These villains loom large in our imagination because they seem to be living, breathing people: They have complex goals, fleshed-out personalities, and far-reaching purposes. They are more than just numbers. They are characters, as dear to us as the PCs we play whenever we sit down at the table -- and when well implemented, they can turn a good game into an exceptional one.

GREAT VILLAINS

Any DM can make a villain. Simply roll up an NPC, drape her with window dressings (a motivation, a few minions, and a dungeon to call home), and give her the desire to rule the world, kill all the halflings, or accomplish some other diabolical goal. Most PCs have faced an adversary of this sort, probably in a dungeon full of monsters to kill, traps to evade, and prisoners to free. And when the adventurers reach her sanctuary, she is waiting for them, cackling madly as lightning dances from her fingertips. With a word, her servants surge out of the shadows. Combat is fierce, but in the end, the PCs win the day. The experience is thrilling, to be sure: It generates the same excitement that PCs always feel when they wipe the floor with the bad guy and take all his stuff. Whether you plug in a blackguard, a half-fiend, a goblin witch doctor, or a surly red dragon, the experience is usually the same. Right?

Well, sometimes. But it could be much more. The foes mentioned above are villains, certainly, but they are not great villains. Rather than sit in a dusty castle, dungeon, or fortress waiting for the good guys to show up and kill them, great villains take action. They have motives. They have reasonable objectives and clear, realistic agendas. Sure, killing a big, evil adversary at the bottom of a dungeon is entertaining, but such villains rarely stand out in the minds of players. They are not the sort of foe that the PCs will think back on years later, cursing the wretch that dogged their every step until the satisfying moment when they finally put an end to his wicked schemes. Distinctive, unforgettable villains spark the imagination and bring players back to the table again and again.

USING THIS BOOK

Exemplars of Evil is a toolbox for creating memorable villains. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the many factors to consider when constructing an opponent for your PCs, including goals, motives, personality, occupation, and organizations. The chapter also offers new feats, spells, and alternative class features to help give your bad guy a fighting chance.

To show you how to put all that advice into action, the rest of the book presents eight new groups of villains. Each chapter is built around one primary villain (or pair of villains) and delves into his or her background, allies, minions, and base of operations. You learn how to use the villain in your campaign, including those set in Eberron and Faerūn. Each chapter gives full game statistics for the major characters, plus three detailed encounters of varying difficulty. In each case, you can drop the whole package into your campaign for a ready-made master opponent, or you can modify details as desired to fit your particular setting, style, or PC group.

(Wow -- Bargle. I forgot about him.)

There really is nothing like having a great villain in your campaign -- whether you're a DM or a player. Like I mentioned last month, I was running a D&D campaign several years ago and created a villain that absolutely caused my players to see red any time she put in an appearance.

(This next bit is me telling you about my villain -- just in case you want to skip over my little story and get on to the stuff you're here to read.)

She actually started off as a PC. One of my players wanted to run a wizard, but was willing to also play a cleric (nobody else in the party was up for it, and they didn't want to be without one). After a couple sessions, the player wanted to focus on his wizard and asked me if there was something I could do -- playing Saren, the cleric, as an NPC or getting another player to take on the double role. I opted for the former.

When Saren turned NPC, it was when she literally stabbed another character in the back in the middle of an ambush encounter.

Saren, started her D&D career as a cleric of Lathander, but didn't see much action in the first two sessions. As session three began, still under the control of her player/creator, she split off from the party for a short bit to "visit a private shrine." When she returned, she was carrying a longsword -- a "former paladin's weapon, of historical significance to the church." (Clerics of Lathander don't make with the sword wielding, so much. But nobody thought anything of it, after she explained that she'd been asked to transport the sword to a temple in the Dalelands.) Later in the session, in the middle of an ambush, Saren's player (now acting under my direction) positioned the cleric behind another party member and delivered a brutal surprise attack, nearly killing the other PC. Much confusion ensued as I took control of Saren's character sheet and continued to attack the party with her, alongside the ambushing brigands. Near the end of the fight, Saren slipped away, using a dimension door item. When next she put in an appearance, she was encased in a suit of armor that screamed "Evil Cleric of Bane." She taunted the party as her minions harried them. She hindered, thwarted, and dealt out some hurt, but always managed to stay back out of the fight enough to effect a not-too-cheesy escape.

Anyway, I know you'll find plenty of material and motivation for your villains inside the book. I'm just vouching for the efficacy of betrayal as a means to introduce a bad guy.

You know, coincidentally, flipping through the book, I found that page 32 agrees with me. Check out this section on bringing your shiny, new villain to the party:

INTRODUCING A VILLAIN

Armed with a fully fleshed-out villain, you are just about ready to send him after the player characters. However, while you have established all the details and honed the mechanics, you cannot simply drop your bad guy into the game: It is crucial to give him a proper introduction. Sure, having him lurk in the shadows, send minions after the PCs, and make their lives miserable from a distance is fun, but the first meeting with a villain establishes his unique relationship with the PCs and sets the stage for all the encounters down the road. As such, it should be special. Consider using or adapting any of the following methods of introduction.

FORESHADOWING

The easiest way to introduce a villain is to establish his character and nature before he comes onto the scene. The PCs might pick up a few pieces of information while dredging for rumors in a tavern, or they might stumble across a dead lackey while exploring the city's streets. Worse, the adventurers could encounter the villain's handiwork, and particularly in the case of a disturbing villain (see page 7), the unsettling scene could fan the fires of hatred early on.

Example: For days, the player characters move through a veritable forest of corpses impaled on spikes. On each victim's forehead is a strange sigil: a coiled serpent devouring an orb. When the PCs reach the next village, they find it has been all but burned to the ground. By interviewing the few survivors, they discover that the cruel warlord Roderick the Bloody has passed through these lands in search of his missing wife.

HERO-MADE VILLAINS

Player characters step on toes. They fight in the defense of the poor and downtrodden, brave horrid subterranean depths, expose and destroy cultists, thwart plots to kill kings, and try to right many other wrongs. But often, as soon as their job is done, the PCs move on to their next mission, and the people they leave behind are stuck cleaning up the mess. Sometimes the PCs' exploits can set in motion a disastrous series of events that result in the creation of a nemesis.

The player characters can encourage the birth of a villain in a distressing number of ways. They might dishonor or mistreat a villain-to-be without realizing it. They could make a bad decision with a ruinous outcome that leaves many folks craving revenge. The PCs might antagonize a foe on purpose, never suspecting that they are provoking him into becoming a lifelong enemy. Or perhaps the minion of a defeated master villain escapes before the PCs can catch him, and he now sets his sights on the party. No matter what his origin, a hero-made villain is memorable because the PCs played a role in his creation, making him -- and his crimes -- partly their responsibility.

Example: Between adventures, the player characters overhear gossip about a haunted castle a few days to the north. The locals claim that the place was run by a grim lord who killed himself in shame when his son was hanged for being a servant of Erythnul. Sensing that the site might still hold some treasure, the PCs head off to plunder the castle. After a few days of butchering goblins and other squatters, they fill their bags with loot and ride off. However, they inadvertently awaken the spirit of the dead lord, who is enraged at the looting of his house. He vows revenge and calls up a horde of hellish ghosts to help him torment and punish the thieves.

VILLAINOUS SERVANT

On occasion, you can introduce a villain by having him pose as a merchant or a servant of the player characters. He might be a hired companion, a henchman, or an NPC who sells them magic items or offers healing. This method also works if the PCs employ a monstrous creature, such as one tied to them by a planar ally or planar binding spell.

Example: The party has made several forays into an old dwarf hold that has been overrun by trolls. The locals claim that the creatures answer to a dreadful witch. Because trolls are so dangerous, the PCs proceed with care, retreating from the tunnels to rest and receive healing from a wise woman at the edge of town. The adventurers do not yet realize that she is the witch, and that she is assessing their capabilities so that she can design the perfect trap.

PARTY AS SERVANT

Another twist is to place the party in the service of the villain. In this approach, the villain hides his motives well, presenting an agreeable front to ensure that the characters serve his interests. The PCs might be unwitting pawns, or they might be the victims of a magical compulsion, such as a geas, undoubtedly foisted on them by the same villain.

Example: When his nation is attacked by a horde of barbarians from the ice-capped mountains of the far north, a king calls upon the PCs to help defend the country. In truth, the greedy monarch provoked the attack by sending his minions to steal an heirloom sword, which is said to hold incredible power and give the wielder command over the barbarians.

ALLY IN DISGUISE

Some villains are born from alliances gone sour. Perhaps a trusted friend is corrupted, possessed, or misled into opposing the PCs. On the other hand, the villain might have been a pretender all along, working with the characters for a time to study their strengths or gain valuable information.

Depending on your group, you might consider permitting one of the PCs to be a villain in disguise, or you could tempt a genuine player character into betraying the rest of the group. However, this twist is not recommended for parties of inexperienced players, who need every advantage they can get, or for newly formed gaming groups, whose players might take a double-cross personally.

Example: The PCs belong to the Watch Knights, a group of warriors who guard the border between their own realm and a land infested by orcs and goblins. While on patrol with NPC allies, the group is ambushed by the monsters. During the attack, one of the PCs sees a member of their party run into the woods after firing a crossbow bolt into the patrol leader's neck.

So, that was just a page from Chapter One: Great Villains, which gives you a densely packed crash course in crafting your villains, providing suggestions, guidelines, rules, and examples of nefarious plots, motivations, archetypes, and other trappings of a well-fleshed-out villain, along with feats, alternate class features, and spells, giving you the mechanics to back up your machinations. There's even a section with material about minions and lackeys -- every villain's gonna want some of those, right? Once you're past that, you've got eight chapters, each of which details a specific sample villain. Not only do you get the villain's stats and background, you get goals, a description of appearance and behavior, major NPC allies (each with their own description/motivation and stats), adventure locations (with encounter descriptions, maps, and monsters ready to go), adventure seeds, and campaign hooks (including ways to incorporate these baddies into your Forgotten Realms or Eberron campaigns). Of course, with eight distinct villains, you've got plenty of campaign material. And when you start using what you've got in Chapter One, you can tweak, alter, combine, or otherwise tailor those villains to suit your own needs. (And, obviously you've got all you need to build your own BBG from the unhallowed ground up.)

I don't want to give away too much about these pre-gen villains, 'cause they're going to be easy to run and really useful, but I'll give you a look at a couple of the minions, just to give you a sense of the kind of stuff you can expect -- remember these are just the sub-bosses, not the Big Bad, but you can probably see how you could wrap entire adventures, even a chunk of campaign just around these guys. What a rotten layer of onion that'd be for your PCs to peel away.

GURN SIRENSONG

"Why would I be nervous about Zargath? He does what he does, I do what I do, and we both get what we want. 'Don't ask, don't tell' -- that's my motto. Besides, I owe him. He's the one who got me to where I am."

This twisted gnome is a hedonist and a sadist. Originally a promising illusionist who attended a prestigious magician's academy, Gurn Sirensong quit his studies after several years to explore the world and seek adventure. During his wanderings, he discovered his two great loves: indulging in creature comforts and hurting people. His drift into crime was inevitable.

At first, Gurn knew nothing about an orc revolution, nor would he have cared if he did. Currently, however, his fortunes are tied to the success of Zargath's revolution. Gurn deliberately tries to remain ignorant of the details, but he is smart enough to connect the rumors of strange orc attacks with the battle-damaged merchandise that he fences for his ally. Gurn knows that he's riding a tiger, but he is not sure how to dismount.

GOALS

Gurn's goal is to make life as comfortable as possible for himself and as uncomfortable as possible for everyone else. However, he badly underestimated the beaten and abused orc who helped him become leader of the Gray Knives -- he thought he was using Zargath, but he is starting to realize that it might have been the other way around.

He cannot deny that his alliance with Zargath has been good for him personally and for the thieves' guild overall. The raids provide a steady stream of valuable loot, and the orc is his best customer for illicit weapons and captives. But as he hears more rumors about Zargath's ambitions, Gurn wonders why the orc needs so many weapons -- and what really lies behind Zargath's mask of friendship.


ILISS GITHOM-VAAS

"Can you blame me? Why should I submit to Vlaakith's hunger, when there is so much left to experience, to savor, to enjoy? What right has she to lay claim to my life?"

-- Iliss Githom-vaas, renegade githyanki lich

Like Kastya, Iliss Githom-Vaas is an exile who fled from Tu'narath after she attained enough power that the lich-queen found her threatening. Iliss escaped certain death and took up with Kastya, who promised to extend his protection to her in exchange for her perpetual service. Now, Iliss commands the githyanki that are loyal to the necromancer, and she organizes expeditions to gain the tools Kastya needs to destroy the lich-queen.

GOALS

Iliss has little interest in Kastya's goals, and if she could destroy Vlaakith on her own, she would. In fact, she does not hate the cruel githyanki ruler, but she realizes that she can never return to her people as long as the lich-queen demands her soul.

She has reluctantly joined the necromancer in undeath. Although becoming a lich has provided her some benefits (including the ability to avoid damage on the Negative Energy Plane), it has also given Kastya more power over her. Her fear of the necromancer is enough to ensure that she remains a useful servant. If she failed Kastya, she could face a fate worse than the oblivion promised by Vlaakith.

September: Fortress of the Yuan-Ti

Following on the heels of Barrow of the Forgotten King and The Sinister Spire, this 64-page adventure is the conclusion to the trilogy. If you've been playing through the series, you're ready to go. If not, you can run Fortress of the Yuan-Ti as a standalone adventure for a party of 6th-level characters. I showed you the back cover text for this one last month. And, again, while I don't normally pass along anything from the interior of an adventure, let's see how things go if I show you folks the Introduction text -- just to give you a little more scene-setting flavor/background.

Introduction

"Who else knows?" The sibilant voice carried a foul taint, like the first wisp of breeze catching the rising smoke of a crematorium. Shiuahn wanted to look away, to blink the sweat from her eyes, but she was unable to break the Master's gaze. "No one, Lord."

"WHO KNOWS?!"

Shiuahn fell to her knees. Like all her kin, all her neighbors, she had been pressed into service years ago by the new occupants of the strange castle recessed into the face of Cettrux Hill. However, where many of the humans suffered beneath the lash of the overseer's minions or the crushing weight of starvation, Shiuahn had maintained the favor of the serpent-folk through eager cooperation.

If only her curiosity had not gotten the better of her. . . .

"No one, Lord, I swear! I meant no trespass! But I saw the gate active when it should not have been. I feared intrusion. . . ." The torturer's words ran over one another in her haste. Blood dripped from her lips where her teeth, chattering with fear, had torn them.

The Master looked not to Shiuahn but to the foul creature behind her. Long-fingered hands were clenched on the human's shoulders, tentacles writhing around her head. The mind flayer's answer came not in words, but as raw thought.

She speaks truth. None of the others saw what she saw.

"Good." The Master reached out, gently cradling Shiuahn's head in a bloated, scaly hand. "You might have caused us much trouble, Shiuahn. The willing sacrifice you witnessed was the first of a series of great rites, the most important ever conducted in this world. For now, they must progress in secret. What good fortune that the only one to learn of them was a human so loyal as you."

Shiuahn stood a little straighter. "I live to serve, Lord. If I might be of any service to the ritual, you need but demand it of me."

The Master's gaze flicked from Shiuahn's eyes to the blood drying at the corner of her mouth. "Why, Shiuahn, we could not perform it without you. . . ."

Fortress of the Yuan-Ti is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for four 7th-level player characters. PCs who complete this quest should advance to 8th level or higher, depending on how successful they are in defeating the challenges presented herein. It can be played as a stand-alone adventure or as the conclusion of a series that began with Barrow of the Forgotten King and The Sinister Spire.

September: D&D Dungeon Tiles V: Lost Caverns of the Underdark

Last month, I gave you the back cover text and a look at a few of the tiles. This month, I figured, I'd show you a few more tiles from this, the fifth installation in the series of these dungeon-building, encounter-creating, map-building accessories. If you've picked up any or all of the other sets, you know you're getting a pile of sturdy terrain tiles that'll let you build an increasingly unlimited variety of maps. And, like I pointed out last month, this latest set offers the first excursion into the realm of natural passages, tunnels, caverns, nooks, and crannies -- underground adventuring au naturale. So, this is the "base set" of tiles that'll help DMs improve adventures and encounters in the Underdark and other subterranean realms. (And you might have more than a few minis that're just right for that kind of thing. I know we've got a few good ones on the way.) Okay, enough of that, take a look at this trio of tiles:

September: Legend of Drizzt Scenario Pack

Okay, so Drizzt Do'Urden is really popular and all that. And, sure, he and Wulfgar killed Icingdeath. But, that Gargantuan White Dragon is what this Scenario Pack is all about. (Not to detract from the fact that you actually get a new Drizzt and a Wulgar in the box too -- not bad.) I don't have any of these guys in front of me to look at, but I've seen Icingdeath floating around here, and I can tell you that it's a nice-lookin' dragon. The wings are particularly neat, with an icy translucence to them. The sculpt and paint job are both really good. And the size of the critter doesn't hurt when it comes to making a white dragon look fierce. You put this big, cold-breathing wyrm next to that hammer-swinging barbarian and his stoic drow buddy, and you gain a real appreciation for what it'd be like for two little guys to take on a behemoth like this. (The nifty bit is you don't have to imagine very hard -- there's a scenario booklet, map, and stat cards that give you the opportunity to see how well you can pull off the classic battle from The Crystal Shard.

Drizzt Wulfgar
Icingdeath

So, if you're reading this, you've recovered from looking at the minis. Perhaps you'd be interested in a refreshingly light read from the back of the box:

Some Legends are Born out of Darkness.

Drizzt Do'Urden grew up in the underground city of Menzoberranzan, home of the drow -- a race of twisted, evil dark elves. However, Drizzt fled the Underdark for the surface realm, where he befriended the human barbarian Wulfgar. Together they battled the most terrible threat ever to ravage Icewind Dale: the white dragon Icingdeath!

COLLECT

Proudly display Drizzt, Wulfgar, and Icingdeath with your finest collectable figures.

BATTLE

Play out the legendary battle between Drizzt, Wulfgar, and Icingdeath, or pit the Gargantuan White Dragon against the best warbands your friends can muster.

ROLEPLAY

Unleash the Terror of Icewind Dale -- the white dragon Icingdeath -- upon your party of unsuspecting adventurers.

This Dungeons & Dragons Icons package includes:

  • 3 figures -- Drizzt Do'Urden, Wulfgar, and Icingdeath the Gargantuan White Dragon -- in scale with other Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game collectable figures (prepainted, fully assembled, durable plastic)
  • 1 fold-out, illustrated battle map
  • 5 full-color game stat cards, including epic stat cards for Drizzt Do'Urden and Wulfgar
  • Scenario booklet, featuring an excerpt from R.A. Salvatore's latest Drizzt novel, The Orc King

October

October: Inn-Fighting

What started as a lunchtime conversation about tavern brawling turned into the dice game you'll see on shelves and gaming tables next month. While visiting the local tavern is a tried-and-true way for characters to gather information and find leads to new quests, it's also a great way to wind up in a friendly knock-down, drag-out brawl. All it takes is one character to throw that first punch or swing that first chair at the person (or monster) standing nearby.

It's a typical night at the inn. Ale flows, music plays, and the constant murmur of conversation reverberates beneath the rafters. Behind the bar, Silver Jack the Drow Barkeep pours drinks and notices the signs that inevitably lead to a tavern brawl.

Over there, Balthur the Dwarf Cleric "accidentally" bumps into Charrg the Half-Orc Barbarian, spilling his goblet of wine all over the nearby caravan guards.

Near the blazing hearth, Xxyzzt the Beholder Barfly whistles at the comely serving wench, who smiles and tosses a full mug of ale at the floating orb. It misses, cracking Nameless the Warforged Fighter on the head instead and splashing ale onto Veravel the Elf Wizard's spellbook.

Duryan the Human Fighter sighs. He picks up a mug of ale in one hand and a chair in the other. "Fine," he shouts, repeating the phrase he uses every time he visits Silver Jack's inn. "All I wanted was a quiet night of drinking and eating, and what happens?" Duryan smiles.

"Bar fight!"

Suddenly, every bystander and adventurer in the place leaps up and explodes into action, answering the age-old question: What do adventurers do between quests? They get into tavern brawls!

Let the inn-fighting begin!

Kinda like Three Dragon Ante, which is the card game of choice amongst the characters of D&D campaigns, Inn-Fighting is the dice game you'd see tumbling across the ale-soaked tables of Faerun, Eberron, and Greyhawk. And, just as 3DA has variant rules that allow you to adjust your game play according to your character's abilities, Inn-Fighting will offer a template (which you'll find on our website) that'll enable you to add your own characters to the fracas. Whether you want to embroil your own PCs or not, you'll have everything you need to get a good barfight going anytime with what you'll find inside the box:

WHAT IS INN-FIGHTING?

Inn-Fighting: D&D Dice Game is a game for 3 to 6 players about what some adventurers do for relaxation. It's a lighthearted re-creation of the chaos and exhilaration of a fantastic tavern brawl that might occur in any town or city in any Dungeons & Dragons world.

OBJECT OF THE GAME

You compete to wreak the most havoc in the tavern. On your turn, when you damage an enemy Adventurer and end your turn with 20 or more victory points (VP), you win the game!

COMPONENTS

  • 6 custom Brawl Dice
    • 5 gold dice
    • 1 red die (Defense Die)
  • 52 Inn-Fighting cards
    • 15 Adventurer cards
    • 20 Bystander cards
    • 14 Action cards
    • 2 Game Summary cards
    • 1 blank Adventurer template card
  • 1 20-sided die (d20)
  • 1 rulebook

Here's a look at two of the Character Cards and an Action Card. Those, along with the Game Summary card back there will give you a little idea of what game play could be like.

Looking at the Credits page, I recognized the name of the artist who did the illustrations for the game: Attila Adojany. He's a really cool guy I met and hung out with at San Diego ComicCon, geez, about three years ago. We didn't get ourselves into a tavern brawl, but we did do a fair amount of research on the venue. Anyway, he's got a lot of great stuff to look at over on his blog, including in-progress sketches of some of the other artwork you'll see in the game, so take a look.

I got the chance to play through a game a month or two back, and I really had fun. (This won't mean anything to you now, but I got to take a Luck action every turn but one.) I got so close to winning, but didn't pull it out in the end. Still, one of the things I really enjoyed about the game was how the dice and your character really inform what you can and should do -- but don't dictate it, necessarily. There are times when you'll have the option of either Punching someone on your Left or Smashing a chair over the guy on the Right -- and there'll probably be a strategically better thing to do -- but you can always go for the revenge/fun move and smack around the buddy of your choice. (The thing that really appeals to me about this is how easy that makes starting the game, especially for nongamers. Because you haven't built up that inevitable in-game rivalry yet, the game mechanics help you get in those first few attacks without making it "personal." Unless you want to, that is.)

Next month, I'll have some more details about the game -- perhaps another card or two, hopefully a look at the custom dice, and whatever else I can grab.

October: Dragons of Eberron

While dragons have always, traditionally, been a focal point of many a D&D campaign, in the world of Eberron, they've long remained a mystery. This 160-page supplement for the Eberron Campaign Setting offers the first detailed look at the continent of Argonessen, homeland of Eberron's dragons, along with a horde of information about the draconic denizens of the world. I'll have more good stuff for you next month. But, for know, here's the back cover text:


Like the wings of a great dragon, the Prophecy unfolds. . . .

This supplement delves into the mysterious draconic Prophecy and various dragon-themed organizations. It explores the continent of Argonnessen, homeland of the dragons, and describes various new adventure sites. The book also investigates dragons on the continents of Khorvaire, Sarlona, and Xen'drik and provides several ready-to-play dragons for your campaign.

Inside this book, you'll find:

  • A detailed exploration of Argonnessen, the great continent of the dragons
  • Secrets of the draconic Prophecy, and guidelines on how to use it in your campaign
  • Ready-to-play dragons, complete with statistics, lairs, and adventure hooks

October: Dungeon Survival Guide

There's a purple worm on the cover of this book. Kinda makes falling rocks and spiked traps seem desirable. This 64-page guide offers an illustrated guide through some of the most infamous and perilous dungeons in the history of adventuring in the realms of Dungeons & Dragons . Aimed at novice adventurers interested in the world of fantasy, wizards, knights, dragons, and monsters, Dungeon Survival Guide offers tips and tricks for exploring treacherous dungeons -- and entices them with tales of great treasure guarded by fierce monsters and deadly traps. Take a look at the back cover text:

Treasure and terror await you in the darkest dungeons of the D&D world.

Explore
Fantastic dungeons, from the perilous Tomb of Horrors to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Survive
Fierce monsters and fiendish traps.

Uncover
Legendary treasures and arcane secrets of a forgotten age.

October: Rules Compendium

You've already seen, and maybe picked up, the Spell Compendium and the Magic Item Compendium. So, you'll probably have an instant understanding of and appreciation for this 160-page compilation of all the essential rules of the game (along with errata and commentary by the Designers and Developers). I'll have more for you next month, but for now, enjoy the convenience of having the back cover text featured right here:




All the Rules of the Game . . . in One Awesome Book

Tired of hauling all of your D&D rules supplements to the gaming table? Having trouble finding the rule you need? This supplement takes all of the roleplaying game's most important rules and presents them in a single comprehensive, easy-to-reference volume for players and Dungeon Masters.

In addition to presenting the rules of the game, this supplement incorporates official errata as well as behind-the-scenes designer and developer commentary explaining how the rules system has evolved and why certain rules work the way they do.


November

November: Desert of Desolation Booster Packs

It's been a month -- that's probably enough time for you to have gotten a good handle on your Night Belowminiatures. Even if you're still hunting down the choice minis you need to complete your collection, or to amass an army, you're still going to want to see the minis that're on the way in November's release of Desert of Desolation. It has been a long time since Harbingerdelivered the promise of prepainted plastic to our gaming tables, so it has been equally long since we had a chance to buy a booster pack with an Umber Hulk lurking inside. (And this one's actually umber.) And we've had a few cool female drow spellcasters, but they just keep getting better. Take a look.

Umber Hulk Drow Spider Priestess

If you wanna get a look at more Desert of Desolationminis -- and I know you do -- you should check out Steve Schubert's Miniatures Preview Articles he posts over on the D&D Minis page. He'll not just show you the mini, he can give you some insight into the mechanics, strategies, and other Skirmish-relevant info. (He's also taking some toys with him to GenCon . . . if you wanna see 'em first-hand.)

November 3rd: Worldwide D&D Game Day

On Saturday, November 3rd, game stores around the globe will be hosting the increasingly popular Worldwide D&D Game Day. This is the fourth year we'll all enjoy the enormous community of friends and fellow gamers that gather for this thing. Not only is it a good time for veteran players, but it's a great way to learn the game. So, grab your friends and family and get 'em to try rolling some dice. They'll have fun, get a better idea of what it is you're up to when you're at the gaming table, and might just get the urge to roll up a character of their own. And, if you're not already in an ongoing campaign, or want to start/join one, WWDDGD is a prime opportunity to meet other dicebag-toting folks. (And, there's going to be some nifty promotional stuff available for participants. While supplies last, and all that. I'll have more details on that when they're nailed down. It's a bit far out for that right now.) I'll have more information for you next month.

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.


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