Previews Archive | 4/5/2010
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April and Beyond
Bart Carroll

Here we are, folks. Spring has thankfully, gloriously arrived -- and so has our April Fool's Day content. In case you missed the fun, be sure to consult our Periodic Table of Dragons for all of your dragon needs, as well as our database of Movie Quote powers (both of which we could use your help in furthering).

For those who missed articles posted in past years, we also have the 4th Edition characters sheet, rules errata, and last year's epic scenario, "Fool's Gold," featuring Francis the Badger. Of course, you can also read Penny Arcade's Witchalok class, see the Drizzt Magic: the Gathering card, and (since, really, we're never tired of showing it off) take a look at the My Little Ponies RPG.

May: Dragon and Dungeon Magazine

What can you look forward to in Dragon next month? Although plenty of material for a multitude of classes (including the artificer) and races (including the revenant) will show up there, you can also read up on the new Guilds and Groups, the Shades of Darkness:

Wickedness might thrive in the Shadowfell, but not all welcome its presence. Some recoil at the growing corruption, appalled at its free reign. Although good people take the fight to the darkness in the Shadowfell just as others do in the world beyond, the few organized efforts to push back against the interlopers have gained strength, and among them none are more feared than the Shades of Darkness.

Over in Dungeon, we have a continuation of Dungeon Delve's Coppernight Hold, a new Chaos Scar adventure ("Elves of the Valley"), plus a look at Balcoth, the Groaning King:

The many deadly primordials are slain, caged, diminished, shattered, or otherwise warded away from devastating the world with their power. Balcoth, the Groaning King, is one such primordial, but he is unlikely to remain so for long. The Dawn War ended with his severed head immured in a dungeon for all time, but his mastery of arcane mysteries sustains him and calls allies and servants to him. As his power base grows, he becomes more likely to reunite with his body -- which rages, headless, through the Elemental Chaos -- and reclaim his throne.

May: HS1: The Slaying Stone

The town of Kiris Dahn, built by human hands, stood strong against invaders for decades after the fall of the empire of Nerath. It had magical stones -- created by tiefling artisans -- that could kill anyone who attacked the town. The number of stones dwindled until all were spent.

Eight years ago, the citizens of Kiris Dahn abandoned the town when faced with invading goblin hordes. The town had endured a long decline under the rule of the Kiris family, and the citizens scattered rather than follow their ruler, Kiris Alkirk. Along with his advisor and seer Treona, Alkirk found a place to live in obscurity.

The goblins overran the town and renamed it Gorizbadd. The town quickly fell into ruin, since goblins were far more interested in vandalism than in proper maintenance. A faction of kobolds took over the slums, since the goblins live mostly in what were once residences for the wealthier people of Kiris Dahn.

Recently, Treona discovered old records that indicate one slaying stone still remains. She now looks for powerful individuals to recover it.

So sets the stage for The Slaying Stone! In the past months, we've run through the adventure synopsis, shown off some of the key factions, and even revealed the slaying stone itself! This time, let's showcase an encounter near the kobold slum:

May: Player Strategy Guide

Every person who plays D&D has his or her own reasons and rewards for playing the game. Some revel in working alongside their friends to achieve goals. Others enjoy exploring the stories crafted by the Dungeon Master and players as the campaign unfolds. Still others appreciate the opportunity to transport themselves beyond their everyday lives to a world of fantasy and adventure.

If you pick up the Player's Strategy Guide, it's likely that you enjoy playing effectively at the table -- building an interesting and powerful character, using your powers efficiently and wisely, creating compelling storylines, and working well as part of a team. If that's true, congratulations! You've come to the right place.

On the other hand, you might be struggling with the number of options available to your character. If you have difficulty deciding between one feat and another, or if your party can't seem to overcome the challenges placed in front of you by the DM, relax. We're here to help.

In the Player's Strategy Guide, you'll find tips, tactics, anecdotes, and explanations, all designed to help make your games better. This book helps you optimize your characters, provides tips for managing character resources, advises you on solving age-old gaming challenges, and assists you in creating and managing effective adventuring parties. You'll also find ideas for how to create cohesive parties, how to enhance the capabilities of allies (buffing) and how to hinder the effectiveness of enemies (debuffing), and how to adapt your party's strategies to take advantage of the strengths of different combinations of characters.

You'll learn (among many other things) how to make the best healer, the fastest character, or the best talker.

And, since we all love our characters, we also asked folks from around Wizards of the Coast -- and from the larger world of D&D -- to tell us about their favorites. We've just wrapped up our Robot Chicken video podcast series; co-head writer Douglas Goldstein contributed the following:

When we started a weekly Dungeons & Dragons night two years ago, I knew it was going to be fun, but I also knew that we were a crazy bunch of idiots who wanted to make each other laugh just as much as we wanted to kill exotic monsters for their pocket change. I had to create a character that would let me do both and with such a sense of self-righteousness that I could blame everything on my character's devotion to god, to justice, to his backstory, or some other such umbrella. In other words, I would be an obnoxious paladin.

Ptah Trakken swung a bastard sword because it was the biggest sword I could find and it was the only weapon with a curse word in it. I wasn't in the mood to play a character with finesse or subtlety. I wasn't showing up to pick pockets or talk to plants. I can do that stuff in real life. Here, I wanted to run in sword-first and remove chunks of things: a great way to get out stress and relax.

Of course, I wanted to be a wiseass while doing it. We're a creative bunch of Hollywood writers, artists, and prop guys, so we all created snarky or humorous characters and played to make each other laugh as much as to get experience points. Often, Ptah would slam his sword against a goblin's shield while yelling, "I mean you no harm!" or shout at the biggest baddie in the crowd, "Don't you dare die before you fight ME!" I was one crazy nut of many, but I'd never play this way if I weren't playing with friends.

But even among friends, a character like this can grow a little tiresome. Ptah tended to give away our position with ill-timed battle cries (after all, my deity rewarded bravery), and there was that one little disagreement about splitting up treasure. Hey, when the rogue tried to pocket some treasure for herself, I don't see that I had any option other than throwing her across the room and threatening to kill her.

The other players eventually tried teaching me lessons aimed at changing Ptah's behavior. Running headlong into battle and provoking opportunity attacks garnered less and less sympathy. They even argued that Ptah should give up some of his goodies to help the weaker characters.

"Wouldn't a paladin want me to have a higher Armor Class?" the dwarf asked. Yeah, I thought, why don't I give you a massage after each battle, too? You're not getting my ring of +1 AC.

Sadly, Ptah's self-confidence would get him killed, but not at the hands of a horde of monsters like you'd expect.

Instead, he overheard some werewolves warn each other that the last thing they should do was pull a certain lever. Of course, what the villain says don't do, the hero does. That was quite the jolt of electricity that fried Ptah to beef jerky.

Everyone was upset -- you might even say shocked -- that such a fun character died. Of course, that didn't mean they lifted a finger to stop the zombies from carrying off his corpse. Ha ha, guys.

After all those months of playing Ptah, I think I got enough stress out of my system to play a character who was a little less disruptive. Turns out my catfolk ranger/scout can stay in the background and shoot arrows with enough damage to blow monsters away just fine. The only controversy left is my friends' disbelief that a single arrow can bring that much pain!

June: Monster Manual 3

In a recent post, we showed off the art order and a bit of the art for the catoblepas (what can we say, we have a soft spot for Pliny the Elder and medieval bestiaries). Let's offer some stats for this brute (designed by Steve Townsend -- who also created Monster Manual 3's mimic):

With its head low to the ground, a catoblepas roams the land, leaving death in its wake. The catoblepas is a rare creature made of shadows and death; and its gaze can wither those it has injured. Each creature plods between worlds, surfacing unexpectedly. So strong is the catoblepas's association with death that the beasts sometimes accompany the Raven Queen and her entourage.


Religion DC 23: Steadfast souls who hunt a catoblepas might resist its call, but when faced with its deadly gaze or toxic breath, most choose cowardice over bravery.

A ritualistic hunt of a catoblepas can earn the hunters the Raven Queen's blessing. Knights hunt the creatures for honor and glory, and a knight who returns with a catoblepas's head earns great esteem among his or her fellowship. A knight who displays the catoblepas badge on a coat of arms commands deep respect on the battlefield.

When the creatures of the Feywild embark on the Wild Hunt, it is often a catoblepas they seek. The catoblepas's ability to shift between worlds makes it one of the most challenging quarries. A catoblepas cannot truly be destroyed, nor can its ill tidings be disavowed. A catoblepas, if slain, forms again in the Shadowfell and continues its plodding journey through the planes.

Adventurers can track a catoblepas by following the trail of death in its wake. If they work to mend the sorrowful places where the beast has passed, they might look upon the eyes of a catoblepas without fear of death. For these champions, the Raven Queen might release a soul to life again or grant someone the ability to foresee his or her own death and thereby avoid it.

Catoblepas Harbinger
Level 10 Elite Controller
Large shadow beast
XP 1,000
HP 220; Bloodied 110 Initiative +7
AC 24, Fortitude 22, Reflex 20, Will 22 Perception +15
Speed 6 Blindsight 5
Resist 5 necrotic
Saving Throws +2; Action Points 1
Raven Queen's Presence Aura 5
Any creature within the aura that fails a death saving throw takes damage equal to half its bloodied value.
Standard Actions
MeleeGore At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +15 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 9 damage.
Close BurstPoison Breath (poison) Recharge56
Attack: Close blast 5 (creatures in blast); +13 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d6 + 6 poison damage, and ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
Triggered Actions
Close BurstFinal Glance (charm, necrotic) At-Will
Trigger: An enemy within 5 squares of the harbinger willingly moves away from it.
Attack (Opportunity Action): Close burst 10 (triggering enemy in burst); +13 vs. Will
Hit: 5 necrotic damage, and the target is immobilized and gains vulnerable 5 to all damage (save ends both).
Aftereffect: 10 necrotic damage.
Str 18 (+9)
Dex 15 (+7)
Wis 21 (+10)
Con 22 (+11)
Int 3 (+1)
Cha 11 (+5)
Alignment unaligned
Languages --

June: Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings

You bear the mark of evil.

One ancient transgression echoes down through the generations to you, bestowing an inheritance of wrongdoing written across your face and form. This curse flows in your blood, and it taints every interaction you have, from the day you're born until the day you die.

To be a tiefling is to be defiant -- defiant of the stares, proud despite the whispers, and sure of yourself regardless of a heritage of darkness. Tieflings laugh in the faces of those who would judge, sneer at those filled with ignorant fear, and stand tall amid all the accusations, spoken or unspoken.

To play a tiefling is to wield the power granted by an ancient evil, and to adopt the sly grin and twinkling eye. With a tiefling character, you play the part of the ne'er-do-well who doesn't mean any harm, the rake with a heart of gold, the reluctant hero, the rogue scholar tempted by forbidden knowledge, or the antihero who stalks the shadows while trying to fight his own darker nature.

The latest in our Player's Handbook Races series (following Dragonborn), Tieflings starts with the history of the race.

Long ago, so long that none but immortals can remember it, a human kingdom called Bael Turath expanded into a grand empire. As with all great empires, Bael Turath built itself up on the prostrate backs of conquered kingdoms. Assuredly, some conquests were just, and the world was better off without Bael Turath's enemies. Of course, the people of the growing empire also fought and died in many wars for less than noble reasons.

Also as with all great empires, at its height Bael Turath was closest to its fall. It strained under the pressures of ruling defeated peoples. Noble houses schemed to carve out their own kingdoms or to replace their betters in the halls of power. Civil wars, seceding territories, assassination plots, famine, plague -- Bael Turath endured all these threats to its existence and survived by only the barest of margins.

The ruling family and others among the nobility prayed for a means of securing their country and their eternal dominion. Bael Turath had lasted for centuries, and they hoped to ensure its continuance for centuries more.

Alas, their prayers were answered…

From there, the book offers a wealth of options and material for your tiefling characters: backgrounds, names, and new paragon paths for the arcane, divine, martial, primal, and psionic tieflings. Here's a look at a Hell's Keeper paragon path power (perhaps the greatest power name/effect combo ever).

To Hell with You
Hell's Keeper Attack 20
Fiery chains enwrap your foe, whisking it away to burn screaming in the Nine Hells.
Daily Divine, Fire, Implement
Standard Action Ranged 20
Target: One bloodied creature
Attack: Charisma or Wisdom vs. Will
Hit: The target is banished to an oubliette in the Nine Hells (save ends). While banished, the target is removed from play. It is also stunned, loses any fire resistance or fire immunity, and takes ongoing 15 fire damage. On a save, the target returns to the space it last occupied. If that space is occupied, the target returns to the nearest unoccupied space of its choice.
Miss: The target takes 15 fire damage and is immobilized and cannot teleport (save ends both).

Add to that new feats and magic items, and you have a rich source for tieflings to plunder!

Sustaining Cloak
Level 2+
The master arcanists of Bael Turath bound supernatural spirits to these cloaks to fuel their power.
Lvl 2 +1 520 gp
Lvl 7 +2 2,600 gp
Lvl 12 +3 13,000 gp
Lvl 17 +4 65,000 gp
Lvl 22 +5 325,000 gp
Lvl 27 +6 1,625,000 gp
Item Slot: Neck
Enhancement: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
Power (Encounter): No Action. Trigger: A power or an effect you could sustain would end. Effect: You sustain that power without using the action normally required (sustaining it on subsequent rounds still requires the appropriate action).

June: Dungeon Tiles: Desert of Athas

Here they are, folks -- Dungeon Tiles tailor-made for your Dark Sun (or other desert environ games). As premiered in the Harrowing Halls set, we'll continue to offer 3D tiles as part of the Desert of Athas -- including stairs, walls, and even market carts. But the main show is on the desert terrain, so let's reveal a few of those.

Of course, what could be more of a desert than Tatooine? We finish today with a mention of an additional desert tile download you might consider for your desert games, offered way, way, waaaay back in December 2004.

Star Wars: Masters of the Force

Finally, a preview of several of the minis in the forthcoming Masters of the Force set due out in days (April 6th) -- including several figures from the dejarik hologame. In the past, we've discussed ways to make use of alternate minis for your D&D game, either as stand-ins or to outright keep your players guessing; dejarik hologame minis would work quite well for use as unspeakable horrors, unknown creations -- or Gamma World mutants.

Jedi Investigator

Ewok Warrior

Chiss Trooper

And that's this month's sneak peek! As always, be sure to check our excerpts for individual previews from our books, and Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand for the earliest insights and announcements about the game!

About the Author

The body of the author appears quite shapely and human. He typically wears human clothing. However, his face is of horrid visage, and his snaky hair writhes, so at a close distance (20') this gives the author away. The glaring red-rimmed eyes of Bart Carroll are visible clearly at 30'.

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