The Magic Tree

welcome

The best of the web – magical, mythical and majestical! Fantasy and Mythic websites and materials/downloads. Roleplaying, Tabletop and Esoteric Games.

Main Page - Guild Wars Wiki GWW




Welcome to the Official Guild Wars wiki, the comprehensive Guild Wars reference written and maintained by the players.
via Main Page - Guild Wars Wiki GWW

Allakhazam.com: Talking DDO with Kate Paiz




It's been nearly a month since the Dungeons and Dragons Online launch of Mod 8 and the community has responded both positively and negatively. One of the major features that didn't quite make the live push was the highly anticipated Hirelings system which was previewed a few weeks later. We had the opportunity to sit down with Kate Paiz, the games' Executive Producer. During our lengthy conversation we discussed Hirelings, the Druid class, Mod 9 and the Shavarath storyline; which we talked about in great length, several times!
via Allakhazam.com: News

The Dracolich - 2nd AD&D





The dracolich is an undead creature resulting from the unnatural transformation of an evil dragon. The mysterious Cult of the Dragon practices the powerful magic necessary for the creation of the dracolich, though other practitioners are also rumored to exist.


A dracolich can be created from any of the evil dragon subspecies. A dracolich retains the physical appearance of its original body, except that its eyes appear as glowing points of light floating in shadowy eye sockets. Skeletal or semi-skeletal dracoliches have been observed on occasion. The senses of a dracolich are similar to those of its original form; it can detect invisible objects and creatures (including those hidden in darkness of fog) within a 10-foot radius per age category and also possesses a natural clairaudience ability while in its lair equal to a range of 20 feet per age category. A dracolich can speak, cast spells, and employ the breath weapon of its original form; it can cast each of its spells once per day and can use its breath weapon once every three combat rounds. Additionally, a dracolich retains the intelligence and memory of its original form.


Combat: Dracoliches are immune to charm, sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold (magical or natural), electricity, hold, insanity, and death spells or symbols. They cannot be poisoned, paralyzed, or turned by priests. They have the same magic resistance as their original forms; only magical attacks from wizards of 6th level or higher, or from monsters of 6 or more Hit Dice have a chance of affecting dracoliches. The Armor Class of a dracolich is equal to the Armor Class of its original form, bettered by -2 (for example, if the AC of the original form was -1, the AC of the dracolich is -3). Attacks on a dracolich, due to its magical nature, do not gain any attack or damage roll bonuses.


Initially, a dracolich has the same morale rating as its original form. However, after a dracolich is successful in its first battle, its morale rating permanently becomes Fearless (19 base); this assumes that the opponent or opponents involved in the battle had a Hit Dice total of at least 100% of the Hit Dice of the dracolich (for instance, a 16-HD dracolich must defeat an opponent or opponents of at least 16 total HD to receive the morale increase). Once a dracolich receives the morale increase, it becomes immune to magical fear as well.


The dracolich has a slightly stronger ability to cause fear in opponents than it did in its original form; opponents must roll their saving throws vs. spell with a -1 penalty (in addition to any other relevant modifiers) to resist the dracolich's fear aura. The gaze of the dracolich's glowing eyes can also paralyze creatures within 40 yards if they fail their saving throws (creatures of 6th level {or 6 Hit Dice}or higher gain a +3 bonus to their saving throws). If a creature successfully saves against the gaze of a dracolich, it is permanently immune to the gaze of that particular dracolich.


The attack routine of a dracolich is similar to that of its original form; for example, a dracolich that was originally a green dragon will bring down a weak opponent with a series of physical attacks, but it will stalk more formidable opponents, attacking at an opportune moment with its breath weapon and spells. All physical attacks, such as clawing and biting, inflict the same damage as the dracolich's original form, plus 2d8 points of chilling damage. A victim struck by a dracolich who fails a saving throw vs. paralyzation is paralyzed for 2d6 rounds. Immunity to cold damage, temporary or permanent, negates the chilling damage but not the paralyzation. Dracoliches cannot drain life levels.


All dracoliches can attempt undead control (as per a potion of undead control) once every three days on any variety of undead with 60 yards. The undead's saving throws against this power suffer a -3 penalty; if the undead control is successful, it lasts for one turn only. While undead control is in use, the dracolich cannot use other spells. If the dracolich interrupts its undead control before it has been used for a full turn, the dracolich must still wait three days before the power can be used again.


If a dracolich or proto-dracolich is slain, its spirit immediately returns to its host. If there is no corpse in range for it to possess, the spirit is trapped in the host until such a time -- if ever -- that a corpse becomes available. A dracolich is difficult to destroy. It can be destroyed outright by power word, kill or a similar spell. If its spirit is currently contained in its host, destroying the host when a suitable corpse is not within range effectively destroys the dracolich. Likewise, an active dracolich is unable to attempt further possessions if its host is destroyed. The fate of a disembodied dracolich spirit -- that is, a spirit with no body or host -- is unknown, but it is presumed that it is drawn to the lower planes.


Habitat/Society: The creation of a dracolich is a complex process involving the transformation of an evil dragon by arcane magical forces, the most notorious practitioners of which are members of the Cult of the Dragon. The process is usually a cooperative effort between the evil dragon and the wizards, but especially powerful wizards have been known to coerce an evil dragon to undergo the transformation against its will.


Any evil dragon is a possible candidate for transformation, although old dragons or older with spell-casting abilities are preferred. Once a candidate is secured, the wizards first prepare the dragon's host, an inanimate object that will hold the dragon's life force. The host must be a solid item of not less than 2,000 gp value resistant to decay (wood, for instance, is unsuitable). A gemstone is commonly used for a host, particularly ruby, pearl, carbuncle, and jet, and is often set in the hilt of a sword or other weapon. The host is prepared by casting enchant an item upon it and speaking the name of the evil dragon; the item may resist the spell by successfully saving vs. spell as an 11th-level wizard. If the spell is resisted, another item must be used for the host. If the spell is not resisted, the item can then function as a host. If desired, glassteel can be cast upon the host to protect it.


Next, a special potion is prepared for the evil dragon to consume. The exact composition of the potion varies according to the age and type of the dragon, but it must contain precisely seven ingredients, among them a potion of evil dragon control, a potion of invulnerability, and the blood of a vampire.


If the potion works, the dragon's spirit transfers to the host, regardless of the distance between the dragon's body and the host. A dim light within the host indicates the presence of the spirit. While contained in the host, the spirit cannot take any actions; it cannot be contacted nor attacked by magic. The spirit can remain in the host indefinitely.


Once the spirit is contained in the host, the host must be brought within 90 feet of a reptilian corpse; under no circumstances can the spirit possess a living body. The spirit's original body is ideal, but the corpse of any reptilian creature that died or was killed within the previous 30 days is suitable. The wizard who originally prepared the host must touch the host, cast a magic jar spell while speaking the name of the dragon, then touch the corpse. The corpse must fail a saving throw vs. spell for the spirit to successfully possess it; if it saves, it will never accept the spirit.


If the corpse accepts the spirit, it becomes animated by the spirit. If the animated corpse is the spirit's former body, it immediately becomes a dracolich; however, it will not regain the use of its voice and breath weapon for another seven days (note that it will not be able to cast spells with verbal components during this time). At the end of seven days, the dracolich regains the use of its voice and breath weapon. If the animated corpse is not the spirit's former body, it immediately becomes a proto-dracolich. A proto-dracolich has the mind and memories of its original form, but has the hit points and immunities to spells and priestly turning of a dracolich. A proto-dracolich can neither speak nor cast spells; further, it cannot cause chilling damage, use a breath weapon, or cause fear as a dracolich. Its strength, movement, and Armor Class are those of the possessed body. To become a full dracolich, a proto-dracolich must devour at least 10% of its original body.


Unless the body has been dispatched to another plane of existence, a proto-dracolich can always sense the presence of its original body, regardless of the distance. A proto-dracolich will tirelessly seek out its original body to the exclusion of all other activities. If its original body has been burned, dismembered, or otherwise destroyed, the proto-dracolich need only devour the ashes or pieces equal to or exceeding 10% of its original body mass (total destruction of the original body is possible only through use of a disintegrate or similar spell; the body could be reconstructed with a wish or similar spell, so long as the spell is cast in the same plane as the disintegration). If a proto-dracolich is unable to devour its original body, it is trapped in its current form until slain.


A proto-dracolich transforms into a full dracolich within seven days after it devours its original body. When the transformation is complete, the dracolich resembles its original body; it can now speak, cast spells, and employ the breath weapon of its original body, in addition to having all of the abilities of a dracolich.


The procedure for possessing a new corpse is the same as explained above, except that the assistance of a wizard is no longer necessary (casting magic jar is required only for the first possession). If the spirit successfully re-possesses its original body, it once again becomes a full dracolich. If the spirit possesses a different body, it becomes a proto-dracolich and must devour its former body to become a full dracolich. A symbiotic relationship exists between a dracolich and the wizards who create it. The wizards honor and aid their dracolich, as well as providing it with regular offerings of treasure items. In return, the dracolich defends its wizards against enemies and other threats, as well as assisting them in their various schemes. Like dragons, dracoliches are loners, but they take comfort in the knowledge that they have allies.


Dracoliches are generally found in the same habitats as the dragons from which they were created; dracoliches created from green dragons, for instance, are likely to be found in subtropical and temperate forests. Though they do not live with their wizards, their lairs are never more than a few miles away. Dracoliches prefer darkness and are usually encountered at night, in shadowy forests, or in underground labyrinths.


Ecology: Dracoliches are never hungry, but they must eat in order to refuel their breath weapons. Like dragons, dracoliches can consume nearly anything, but prefer the food eaten by their original forms (for instance, if a dracolich was originally a red dragon, it prefers fresh meat). The body of a destroyed dracolich crumbles into a foul-smelling powder within a few hours; this powder can be used by knowledgeable wizards as a component for creating potions of undead control and similar magical substances.


LINK


LINK

ROLE-PLAYING HUMANOIDS PART II



By Bill Slavicsek

Tribal Life
All humanoid tribes share a fear of the supernatural, and anything they do not understand falls into this category. This results in superstitions which fill their days and nights, and dictate the way in which they conduct their lives. Superstitions serve to reinforce the opinion that humanoids are primitive savages, though few humans get to know them well enough to see their beliefs in practice.

Tribal life starts in earnest when humanoid children are old enough to understand and participate in the world around them. Most humanoids relegate different roles and tasks to males and females, and children are immediately immersed in the social order so that they grow to know and embrace it. They receive instruction, usually in informal settings, learning what they need to survive and prosper by observing, participating, and some training. The level of training depends on the nature, disposition and societal level of the race in question. During their early years, children spend most of their time with females and shamans. Here they learn the legends and beliefs of their tribe, as well as many of the social rules they will need in tribal life. Children begin to work as soon as they are able, at first helping with whatever domestic activities the tribe engages in and eventually moving on to their life's work.

When they near maturity, humanoids apprentice themselves to adults in order to learn the trades of the tribe. This apprenticeship can be formal, as in the case of orcs, or extremely informal where younger tribe members learn through observation and proximity as opposed to specific instruction. In cases where there is even a hint of formality, tribal shamans, witch doctors, and chiefs assign children to specific trades (hunting, raiding, mining, fighting, etc.). They make their decisions based upon their observations of the children, the needs of the tribe, the social rank of a child's parents, and by reading the signs and omens associated with a particular child.

From an early age, a humanoid's role in the tribe is set. Most prefer this arrangement, for it gives them a function and purpose. A select few desire to find their own path, and these inevitably are weeded out through violence, cast out by decree, or leave of their own accord to make their own lives. These are the outcasts, the hermits, and the adventurers. The few that find their way into human society are the ones we are most concerned with.

Social and Racial Disadvantages
Humanoids start out with disadvantages in non-humanoid societies. All but the most enlightened civilizations consider humanoids to be monsters. Centuries of competition, violence and warfare has made humans and humanoids natural enemies, striving for the same resources. Truth became legends, and legends bred fears that haunt both sides, filling their heads with truths, half-truths, and lies. But humans are more numerous, more advanced, more established. They are winning the battle of dominion over the world. For better or for worse, though there are still vast stretches of untamed wilderness, it has become a human world.

For this reason, humanoids find themselves at a disadvantage. When they leave their tribes to find their own path in the world, it inevitably crosses into human civilization. Humanoids are strangers to human civilization (or even demihuman, for that matter). They know it only as something out of tribal legends, or from the scary stories told around the evening fire, or from the skirmishes their tribe may have had with a town or village in the past. They do not know the customs. They do not know the social etiquette. They probably do not understand many of the "advanced" conveniences that dominate civilized life.

It is up to players and DMs to work together to stress a humanoid's unfamiliarity with civilization. In the same way as a DM describes newlydiscovered magical items by their appearance without giving away any details, so too must a DM describe the items and practices of civilization. From a humanoid's point of view — clothing, armor, weapons, tools, utensils — everything is strange, wondrous, frightening, and unknown. The trappings which players normally take for granted should become new and mysterious to humanoid characters.

For example, Breeka the aarakocra enters a human town for the first time. What are the strange wooden caves that humans go in and out of? Why do those humans shake hands? Or press their lips together? Or give shiny objects to (me another? And why is that human yelling because Breeka ate the pig in front of his wooden cave? Breeka, who has never before encountered a human town, finds herself surrounded by unusual trappings and strange practices which she will have to spend time getting to understand. While players can roleplay a lack of understanding concerning human social customs, it is up to the DM to keep in mind that the most obvious thing to a human or demihuman is probably a mystery to the humanoid, and to describe encounter scenes accordingly.

Beyond the social disadvantages which humanoids face when dealing with communities beyond their own, there are also racial discriminations to deal with. Because most humans and demihumans see humanoids as little more than monsters, there will be extreme prejudices directed at them. Humanoids will be watched almost constantly when they enter a human community — if they are allowed to enter at all. Many towns and cities will have laws forbidding the entry of humanoids. They will be stopped at the gates, turned away, or even attacked. Humans fear that a humanoid has come to scout out the community for attack, or seeks to cause some other type of trouble. They believe that humanoids eat humans (and some do), and who wants a monster walking on the streets of town?

Many inns have rules against serving humanoids. Shops refuse to deal with them. Local authorities stay close, watching for the least sign of trouble. They have no qualms about arresting and locking up humanoids that so much as look at a human the wrong way — and banishment or confinement are the nicest things they might do to them. Mobs form quickly in the presence of humanoids, ready to take torch and pitchfork to a monster in order to protect their loved ones. Again, it is up to the DM to enforce this disadvantage. Even the most powerful humanoid PC will be hard-pressed to find a place to rest or buy supplies in a hate-filled, fearful town. If a humanoid is allowed to operate as any normal PC as far as NPCs are concerned, then a great roleplaying challenge is lost.

Another problem facing humanoids in human communities deals with the fact that things are built in human dimensions. Doors and rooms are made to accommodate human heights and widths. Chairs and beds are made to hold human weights. Even most transportation modes, such as horses and wagons, cannot sustain large-sized humanoids. This is not a problem for the man-sized humanoids, but tiny-, small-, and large-sized humanoids must learn to live in a human-sized world.

ROLE-PLAYING HUMANOIDS PART I




By Bill Slavicsek
Players who decide to create humanoid characters should have good role-playing as their ultimate goal. Avoid choosing a humanoid character type by its benefits, hindrances, or how powerful it can become. Strange humanoid beliefs, uncivilized habits, the reactions of others, and the clash of human and humanoid cultures are a few of the many hooks upon which a humanoid personality can be hung. Humanoids are best viewed as unusual personas through which character and story development can take place.

Suggestions to help players create humanoid characters that are well-rounded and fun to play, with an eye toward keeping any "unfair" advantages in check. Further, some of these suggestions can be used by the Dungeon Master to restore campaign balance if a character gets off track.

It is up to the players and the DM to make them work in the context of a particular race of humanoids in a particular campaign setting. Examples are provided, but space limitations make covering every possible combination impossible.

Life as a Humanoid
For the majority of humanoids, life is lived in a clan or tribe. These tribes are made up of loosely-related families which are led by chiefs. The chiefs are normally the strongest and most able fighters of the group, though some tribes turn to elders and thinkers for leadership. Life in the tribes is hard. The wilderness does not give up sustenance easily, and tribesmen must constantly work to survive. This work could be hunting, gathering, fishing, craftworking, scavenging, mining, farming, raiding, plundering, or some combination of these, depending on the tribal race, alignment, and nature.

In most cases, a humanoid tribe will be less civilized, less advanced, and less established than its human or demihuman counterpart.

Lawful tribes prefer stability and order. They organize themselves in all endeavors, setting up rules to cover all aspects of life and society. For these tribes to function, there must be an obvious and unchanging chain of leader-ship. In lawful evil tribes, there are severe laws and harsh punishments. These are not established to provide justice, but to preserve the stability of the tribe.

Good tribes cherish life. They are more concerned with finding ways to make their tribes prosper than in competing for social positions (at least in openly hostile ways). Life is more positive among these tribes, though not necessarily easier.

On the evil side, might makes right and fear keeps the masses in line. Change is still sudden and frequent, but it tends to be violent and deadly in nature. Many evil humanoids are nomads, though some do set up semi-permanent settlements when they find a location that fills their survival needs and greedy habits, Once settled, they quickly deplete the location of the resources that attracted them. They treat the land and its bounties as they treat each other — with little respect and as something to be exploited. When a region no longer suits their needs (due to their own overindulgences and uncaring practices), these humanoids move on in search of new spoils and plunder.

Chaotics share a frivolous or capricious nature. Change is often welcome, or and even sought out on a daily basis. Few activities are organized beyond the minimum level necessary to accomplish a given task. Some chaotic cultures seem to find even this level of organization difficult; disagreements and in-fighting often result.

On the good side, chaotics like to manage their own affairs. They may bow to a single leader, but prefer to do as they please so long as they stay within broad behavioral guidelines. Even though they love independence and despise rules, many chaotic and good humanoids come to love nature and respect its bounties. Many form such dose ties with their environments as to become caretakers of a sort. Nature may be used, but never abused.

In a chaotic evil tribe, life is even more of a struggle. Not only must tribe members battle the elements, nature and other tribes, they often fight among themselves for positions of leadership and the pick of loot. Life is cheap among them, for killing is usually the easiest method of advancement up a tribe's social and political ladder. This may also be true in other evil and neutral communities, but such violence is usually less random.

Spelljammer Wiki




What is Spelljammer?
Spelljammer is a fantasy universe where magic allows ships to sail through space. Spelljammer was created by TSR and is now owned by Wizards of the Coast.
Spelljammer was used as one of the campaign settings of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon (2nd edition) game and also featured in a series of novels, comics and a computer game. Magazines licenced by TSR and Wizards of the Coast have published additional articles about Spelljammer.
Additionally, other role playing products and novels from TSR and Wizards of the Coast have passing references to Spelljammer within them.
via Spelljammer Wiki

Dragonmeet - Home




Dragonmeet 2008 will open its doors on Saturday the 29th of November 2008 at 10am. Once again Kensington Town Hall will be hosting London’s foremost roleplaying and collectable card gaming convention.
Dragonmeet 2008 promises a day jam-packed with games for you to play. Whether you want old favourites or something new, there’s space for all and everyone can join-in; on the day you simply sign up for the games you want to play.
via Dragonmeet - Home

TUCKER’S KOBOLDS




By Roger E. Moore - November 1987

We get letters on occasion asking for advice on creating high-level AD&D® game adventures, and Tucker’s kobolds seem to fit the bill.
Many high-level characters have little to do because they’re not challenged. They yawn at tarrasques and must be forcibly kept awake when a lich appears. The DMs involved don’t know what to do, so they stop dealing with the problem and the characters go into Character Limbo. Getting to high level is hard, but doing anything once you get there is worse.
One of the key problems in adventure design lies in creating opponents who can challenge powerful characters. Singular monsters like tarrasques and liches are easy to gang up on; the party can concentrate its firepower on the target until the target falls down dead and wiggles its little feet in the air. Designing monsters more powerful than a tarrasque is self-defeating; if the group kills your super-monster, what will you do next - send in its mother? That didn’t work on Beowulf, and it probably won’t work here.
Worse yet, singular supermonsters rarely have to think. They just use their trusty, predictable claw/claw/bite. This shouldn’t be the measure of a campaign. These games fall apart because there’s no challenge to them, no mental stimulation - no danger.
In all the games that I’ve seen, the worst, most horrible, most awful beyond- comparison opponents ever seen were often weaker than the characters that fought them. They were simply well-armed and intelligent beings who were played by the DM to be utterly ruthless and clever. Tucker’s kobolds were like that.
Tucker ran an incredibly dangerous dungeon in the days I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C. This dungeon had corridors that changed all of your donkeys into huge flaming demons or dropped the whole party into acid baths, but the demons were wienies compared to the kobolds on Level One. These kobolds were just regular kobolds, with 1-4 hp and all that, but they were mean. When I say they were mean, I mean they were bad, Jim. They graduated magna cum laude from the Sauron Institute for the Criminally Vicious.
When I joined the gaming group, some of the PCs had already met Tucker’s kobolds, and they were not eager to repeat the experience. The party leader went over the penciled map of the dungeon and tried to find ways to avoid the little critters, but it was not possible. The group resigned itself to making a run for it through Level One to get to the elevators, where we could go down to Level Ten and fight ‘okay’ monsters like huge flaming demons.
It didn’t work. The kobolds caught us about 60’ into the dungeon and locked the door behind us and barred it. Then they set the corridor on fire, while we were still in it.
‘NOOOOOO!!!’ screamed the party leader. ‘It’s THEM! Run!!!’
Thus encouraged, our party scrambled down a side passage, only to be ambushed by more kobolds firing with light crossbows through murder holes in the walls and ceilings. Kobolds with metal armor and shields flung Molotov cocktails at us from the other sides of huge piles of flaming debris, which other kobolds pushed ahead of their formation using long metal poles like broomsticks. There was no mistake about it. These kobolds were bad.
We turned to our group leader for advice.
‘AAAAAAGH!!!’ he cried, hands clasped over his face to shut out the tactical situation.
We abandoned most of our carried items and donkeys to speed our flight toward the elevators, but we were cut off by kobold snipers who could split-move and fire, ducking back behind stones and corners after launching steel-tipped bolts and arrows, javelins, hand axes, and more flaming oil bottles. We ran into an unexplored section of Level One, taking damage all the time. It was then we discovered that these kobolds had honeycombed the first level with small tunnels to speed their movements. Kobold commandos were everywhere. All of our hirelings died. Most of our henchmen followed. We were next.
I recall we had a 12th-level magic user with us, and we asked him to throw a spell or something. ‘Blast ‘em!’ we yelled as we ran. ‘Fireball ‘em! Get those little @#+$%*&!!’
‘What, in these narrow corridors?’ he yelled back. ‘You want I should burn us all up instead of them?’
Our panicked flight suddenly took us to a dead-end corridor, where a giant air shaft dropped straight down into unspeakable darkness, far past Level Ten. Here we hastily pounded spikes into the floors and walls, flung ropes over the ledge, and climbed straight down into that unspeakable darkness, because anything we met down there was sure to be better than those kobolds.
We escaped, met some huge flaming demons on Level Ten, and even managed to kill one after about an hour of combat and the lives of half the group. We felt pretty good - but the group leader could not be cheered up.
‘We still have to go out the way we came in,’ he said as he gloomily prepared to divide up the treasure.
Tucker’s kobolds were the worst things we could imagine. They ate all our donkeys and took our treasure and did everything they could to make us miserable, but they had style and brains and tenacity and courage. We respected them and loved them, sort of, because they were never boring. If kobolds could do this to a group of PCs from 6th to 12th level, picture what a few orcs and some low-level NPCs could do to a 12th-16th level group, or a gang of mid-level NPCs and monsters to groups of up to 20th level. Then give it a try. Sometimes, it’s the little things - used well - that count.

TOP 10 CLASSIC D&D ADVENTURES


November 18, 6:39 PM
By Daniel Nations, Games Examiner
Dungeons and Dragons is one of the single most popular games ever and has reached out from its pen and paper roots to touch computer and console gaming, fantasy literature and even the big screen. What made it so popular? An inventive and yet relatively simple system, for one, but there is no doubt that the classic D&D adventures found in the various modules played a significant role in its popularity.
From the original D&D box set to AD&D's first edition all the way up to the current 3.5 edition, Dungeons and Dragons has always had a foundation of creative modules ready and prepared for the willing adventurer, thus taking some of the burden off of would-be dungeon masters.
In looking back at some of my favorite role-playing memories, my mind slides over numerous classic D&D adventures. And is it any surprise? Among their authors number Gary Gygax, who started this whole thing; Tracy Hickman, who along with Margret Weis struck gold with their Dragonlance books; Douglas Niles and Ed Greenwood, who have both authored of over a dozen fantasy books based on AD&D settings; and David Cook, who went on to become the lead designer for City of Villains and is currently working on Stargate Worlds.
The Top 10 Classic D&D Adventures
    10. The Keep on the Borderlands
The Keep on the Borderlands and exploring the Caves of Chaos were many people's first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. Having come bundled with the D&D basic box set, it was easily enough translated to AD&D rules. Like many of the early D&D adventures, the module consisted of a spot to grab your gear and talk to locals and a nearby dungeon to explore.

  1. 9. White Plume Mountain
One of the most memorable modules, White Plume Mountain had a lot of great puzzles to go along with the classic dungeon crawl. The adventure takes place in a geyser-spewing mountain where the adventurers search for three artifacts: a trident named Wave, a war hammer named Whelm, and a sword named Blackrazor. The module is often remembered for the similarity of the sword to Elric's Stormbringer. Blackrazor also makes an appearance in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.

  1. 8. Isle of Dread
While not the most inventive module, Isle of Dread is memorable because it takes place mostly in the wilderness of an island, which separates it from the dungeon-crawling modules of that day. This classic D&D adventure was also distinctive in that it also featured a number of prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs, giving it a Land of the Lost feel.

  1. 7. Expedition to Barrier Peaks
A classic D&D adventure module with a twist, much of Expedition to Barrier Peaks took place on a crashed spaceship complete with strange alien creatures and laser-shooting robots. Players of the early Might and Magic computer role-playing games might note the similarity -- no doubt Expedition to Barrier Peaks was the inspiration to that classic crpg series.

  1. 6. Caste Amber
Possibly one of the most difficult to solve and bizarre modules, Castle Amber had a decidedly Edgar Allen Poe feel to it. If taking part in a boxing match and meeting an ogre that thinks he's a human women wasn't enough, Castle Amber also contained Averoigne, a setting-within-a-setting. Grognardia has a great feature on Castle Amber.

  1. 5. Against the Giants
The G series of modules began with Steading of the Hill Chief, proceeded to the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and ended with Hall of the Fire Giant King. Perhaps one of the most well-remembered modules, Against the Giants is the classic dungeon crawl, with a wide range of nooks and crannies and numerous creatures to fight.

  1. 4. Ravenloft
Written by Tracy and Laura Hickman, it should come as no surprise to find Ravenloft among the top five, and many would argue that it deserves an even higher rank. In trying to imbue vampires with a sense of Dracula again, Tracy and Laura created a module that went on to spawn an entire campaign setting as well as a series of books.

  1. 3. Descent into the Depths/Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Before being popularized to the point of nausea by R. A. Salvatore, drow elves were the residents of the Underdark reached through the Descent into the Depths and ruled over by the demi-god spider-queen, Lolth. Drow elves make their first appearance in Against the Giants, which is used as a lead-in to the Descent into the Depths modules. Later, G1-3, D1-3 and Q1 (Queen of the Demonweb Pits) was rolled into one huge adventure called Queen of the Spiders, which later was named the best D&D adventure of all time by Dragon magazine.

  1. 2. Temple of Elemental Evil
The Temple of Elemental Evil makes it to #2 on the list by virtue of being the utter epitome of the classic D&D adventure. Many people were first introduced to the Temple of Elemental Evil by virtue of visiting the Village of Homlet and the nearby ruined keep long before the Temple of Elemental Evil was released. Originally intended as a series, the individual modules never made it out the door, but a compilation did and it went on to become one of the most popular dungeon crawls in D&D history.

  1. 1. Tomb of Horrors
The Tomb of Horrors contained perhaps the fewest monsters of any of the classic D&D adventures, and yet it was by far the most deadly. The adventure takes place in a tomb filled with deadly traps, like an illusion of an expensive tapestry hiding a glob of green slime and an ending that wasn't an ending. In fact, Tomb of Horrors was so difficult, especially the final showdown with Acererak, that many players found it simply unfair.
What's Your Favorite Classic D&D Adventure?
In formulating this list, I nailed down the basic period I would consider as 'Classic' Dungeons and Dragons as pre-Forgotten Realms and pre-Dragonlance. While there are many great Forgotten Realms modules, and many cool post-Greyhawk settings, I consider this era to be the 'Classic' era of D&D adventures.
So what are your favorites from this time period? There are many other great adventures from this time, and this list simply comprises those most memorable to me and those my friends and I talk about the most.
What's your favorite?

Player Handouts




Handouts are one of the most important techniques I use. Actually I encourage other DM's to use them. Even going to the "extreme" in some cases. More often I use them to show players what a creature, or NPC looks like. Sometimes a picture of an elegant home, or castle. Or the gates of graveyard. Things like this all add emotion to the players, which encourages them to role play better. And it even helps me out in college by giving me idea's and such for my next art project!



In some cases however I tend to go a little "overboard" as the players call it. In one case I had a gnome who was sent to deliver a message to a high noble house of a city. During his travel he was attacked by a band of ogres. Lucky for the little gnome the PC's stumbled into the area and helped him out, but not soon enough as the gnome was quickly dying. So in a desperate need, the gnome gave the adventurers a scroll case to give to the noble. So where does the handout fit in?


Actually I created the scroll case by using paper mache, and covering a paper towel roll. After letting it harden I cut of the tip of one end creating the opening. I then created a top for the case by covering a cup that was just slightly larger than the paper towel roll, thus it would slide on snug. After that was created I spray painted it all gold, added some fancy lettering and designs and there I had a scroll case. I soaked a piece of white construction paper in tea for a day, thus turning it a tannish brown color, then hung it over my wood stove, so it would dry and become "crinkly." I then wrote of a letter on the computer and printed it out on the paper (which was very difficult!) and that made the letter, I then rolled it up, sealed it with wax and placed it into the scroll case. I then went out and bought a glitter popper (them things people use at parties that look like a little bottle, and when you pull the string, confetti, glitter, or whatever come shooting out). I placed (super glue) a smaller piece of round cardboard in the scroll case, covering the actual letter, and creating just enough room for the glitter popper to fit. I placed the popper there, and super glued it to the cardboard disk, and then the pull string was glued to the top of the scroll case.


Knowing my players, always curious and greedy, they readily accepted the scroll case, and once the gnome passed away, they decided to open it. Quickly the groups thief snatched up the scroll case I made off the table, and ripped the top off the case, and was covered in glitter, which in game terms was actually a sneezing powder! Anyway, to end this, it worked out quite well, and was a hell of a blast to watch.


Morgan {TempesT} "It's swirling like a drunk man dancing!"

Best Moments




I have a scene to describe. A little background first. I tend to think of myself as a rather devious DM. Why not enjoy the game too. I rarely kill off a player in my games unless there is no way to avoid it, but this was one of those moments that this "situation" could not be avoided.


I had been harassing my party for about 5 gaming sessions now with a Nyciiea Daemon, a rather nasty bit of work, but more cruel than anything. The party were, I quickly learned, adapt at bringing him down quickly to a certain level of hits to which he would normally make a hasty retreat, but I wanted a little more fun out of it. The original reason the daemon was sent was to retrieve the artifact the party had been questing for, and return it to the "Villain" of the game. However after the first encounter I realize I would have to wear them down first. They would always take up a similar attack, Dwarf, Paladin in front, next is Rogue and Ranger with bows, and finally the wizard and Cleric. When ever someone upfront had taken a lot of damage, they would rotate that line, and attack with the most powerful weapons and spells, while a hand off of potions healed them - I found out later that they had been hording healing potions secretly in anticipation of a nasty encounter like this. Well, needless to say, they beat the begeezus out of the daemon really quick, but instead of running, I had other plans. The daemon did disappear, but returned four more times, each time doing a little bit more damage (I really felt bad, killing the Paladin's warhorse; he almost cried; and I did a separate adventure to let him find another).


On the final encounter, things took, well a twist. I had been giving the party clues and pieces of the armor, but they did not put two and two together until this night. The daemon had returned, appearing in the middle of the camp. The party had decided to bed down on a rising cliff - they felt it prudent to only be attacked from one direction. Who am I to argue the logic. By the end of this encounter they had learned to fly...;-)


The daemon grabbed the wizard, a female who had just recently bonded with the cleric. He ran with her to the edge of the cliff, the party following enmasse. When he reached the edge, he held her over the cliff (about 250' drop to the typical jagged rocks), and demanded the armor. ??? The armor - my crew wondered. what possible could he mean. He asked again. I want the armor - and held out his other hand. Ok, I realize that Paladins try to be noble...but really - the Paladin removed his magical armor, and bundling it up in a fish net, gave it to the daemon. The daemon, of course, lobbed it over his shoulder, and over the cliff. The Paladin screamed (yes screamed) and jumped after it. The rangers eyes got the size of saucers, and jumped after him. The dwarf shook his head and put his face in his hands. The wizard looked around shrugged his shoulders, and using a magic item began to fly after the cleric, who was using a medallion of telekinesis to hold onto the armor, which at this point had a naked paladin clinging onto it. The Ranger went whizzing by, missing the whole Paladin/armor thingy and gave me a very stressed look on when I told him he missed. The Cleric also went whizzing by trying to get to the Ranger. They did meet up of course in a very dramatic 6 rolls of d20 dice, and the two began to fly up, meeting the Paladin on the way down (Ranger had freaked and lost concentration). The Ranger quickly regained composure and began levitating the Paladin/armor up again.


In the mean time the dwarf walked past the daemon, looked over the edge and watched the whole episode. (That what he said he did). The Rogue had done what I expected him to do, disappear. He had gotten a ring of levitation at some point and went straight up. About 100 feet. He watched as the dwarf walked toward the daemon, and thinking the obvious - the Dwarf was attacking - began a controlled decent toward the daemon, holding out his trusty knife in front of him At about 25', the ring gave out (shoot - did I forget to tell you, the magic on the ring was time limited??? ;-) ) and with a rather startled look - began to plummet. I never though a jaw could drop twice, but it did, a) the Rogue watched in horror as the daemon got closer, really quick and b) watched in even more horror as the dwarf, walked by the daemon, not attacking him as the Rogue had originally thought. I stopped talking. smiled and waited for the whirlwind to die down. When the discussions stopped I had five very stressed players looking at me. And a twisted Dwarf waiting for the hammer to fall....I had some fun.


The rogue fell. He bounced - no ricochet off the daemon and onto the Dwarf (now I had six stressed players...heh heh) the Rogue, weighs around 165, ample enough to do some damage, and had fallen from over 20 feet. The Dwarf was already leaning over the side of the cliff ( remember that was what he said). Being in this awkward position and the speed and weight of the Rogue...well, both began screaming over the cliff. They did encounter some resistance though, the group coming back up. The dwarf is a walking tank, and hits the Ranger/Cleric grouping. Bad rolls (1, 1) indicate that, well, the Ranger and Cleric are unconscious. The four of them begin a free fall. The Paladin gets high enough to meet eye to eye with the daemon but is about 10' away from the side of the cliff. Think Wylie Coyote here. He begins to plummet. The daemon watches as the players make little red spots. The room is very quiet. The wizard looks at me. I stand up, put my arm out, shrug my shoulders, pinch my hand together and make a juicy snapping noise, and motion to toss the Wizard off the cliff.


The room was very quiet for a long time. Then the Rouge pips up,


"Oh crap, I had that Staff of the Magi. Would that have helped?"


I laughed so hard I gave myself a stomach ache. It was a month before we started again.


A final note. When we started up the game, they all looked at me and asked how the Daemon could follow them around? I said he didn't. When he was hurt bad enough, he polymorphed into a flea and lived on the Dwarf until he had healed then attacked again...


The player never used a Dwarf again...


Man I love this game...;-)

Peter Bath

NPC Traits





I thought I would pass along an idea I found and use for my NPCs. The idea came from the Gazetteer series for the D&D Known World (Mystara).


I have PCs play the NPC henchman but whenever the PC has the NPC do something that may be dangerous or different, I roll against the NPC trait. If I roll lower, the NPC does it. If higher, the NPC balks.


The traits I use are: modest, peaceful, loyal, honest, trusting, courageous, forgiving


I create the scores by rolling 3d6. To test, I roll d20. I also use modifiers based on what I think is appropriate.


How I use the system is like this: 1) PC commands the NPC to go in first. I would roll against the courageous trait.


2) PC slights the NPC. I would roll against forgiving to see if NPC holds a grudge that could come up later (as a negative modifier on other rolls).


3) An enemy NPC offers a bribe to the henchman. I would roll against loyal to see if accepted or not.


Basically, in any situation where the NPC may or may not do something, I roll. The trait scores can change over time, based on how the PC treats the NPC.


This has made for some interesting situations where the PC has said the henchman will do something and the henchman has not (You're going in. No, I'm not. Yes you are.)


Players do not know the trait scores but over time, they can get an idea of what a henchman is like (ie: Henchman is slow to jump in, probably has low courageous but will never run so has high loyal score. A PC has a henchman like this. He knew the henchman would never jump into a fight right away, but would not leave him if he went down. In another situation, the PC took a high courageous score for loyalty and when he went down, the henchman fled.)


Anyway, I thought I would pass along this idea. Enjoy.


Actually, you can use this with major NPCs. If I know a NPC will be having regular contact with the PCs, I'll give the NPC these traits so I can see how the NPC will react in different situations.


For example, if the PCs always go to a certain bar, I will give the bartender a loyalty trait to see what happens if the players need him to cover for them. It's interesting to see the player's reactions when they find out how (dis)loyal Ol ' Tom is.




The Northern DM

An example of Horror





Here's the example of a night's play that did well on the horror side. The module was Ravenloft, but I added some elements to the town. Tristan is a cleric, Sniffinpuff a thief, Modom a dwarven fighter, Dexter a human fighter, and Arthur -- an NPC Paladin.




This example incorporates all of the elements that I mentioned before: surprises, lethality, helplessness, taking away options, and pacing. The game itself lasted about 2.5. hours.


The Village of Barovia


The village seemed deserted. The houses were old and run-down, and the windows were all boarded up. However, at a few houses, listening at the doors found muffled whispers inside. Pounding on the door produced no answers, save for the cessation of whispers inside. Strangely enough, most of the houses seemed to have claw marks on the wood and stone.


Continuing on, the party found an open square with a brackish fountain in the middle. Streets radiated out from it. However, more interesting to the group was a dim light from a largish building. The sign on the building read "Blood on the Vine", and it seemed to be an inn. Going inside, they found 10-12 people huddled around a dim fire and the barkeep polishing glasses.


Little was learned from the people at the inn, save that death walked the night and they had best stay inside. When a cut-off scream echoed through town, the villagers seemed to huddle together even more. When the party went outside to investigate, they could not tell where the scream had come from, and so went back in and passed an uncomfortable night on the floors of the inn.


The next day, they searched the town. They found the body of the woman who screamed the night before. It seemed drained of blood, with it's throat ripped out. Strangely, there did not seem to be many blood stains near where she fell.


The group also found a church, broken and battered, with a cemetery behind it. Far above, they could see a 1000' precipice and at the top, the hint of a castle looking over the town.


Inside the church, it was a shambles save for the altar. At the altar was a cadaverous priest who whispered prayers in a hoarse and weak voice. The party questioned him as they tried to clean up the church. They found out the following:


- The priest's name was Danovich. He had lived here all his life, and each night since his father died, had fought a lone battle against Evil. Each night, he prayed all night, eyes closed, as Evil fought against him for the sanctity of his church. So far, he had prevailed though he was weak with exhaustion, hunger, and terror.


- He did not know the name of his God, save that he was the God of the Sun. His father had never told him.


- He had lived here all his life, as had his father and grandfather before him. His father had died when he was six, cut down by the Evil which surrounded the church each night. Since then, he had struggled against the Evil each and every night, striving to preserve the one place of sanctity and sacredness in all of Barovia. He was in his 50's.


- The name of the Lord of the land was Strahd von Zarovich. He lived in Castle Ravenloft, far above the town. It was whispered by the town that *he * was the Evil which walked the night. Danovich had never seen the Evil One, yet he believed that it was Strahd as well.


- He believed that there was a book in the library of Ravenloft which told of the early days. Perhaps there was some clue in it that might help to destroy him. So had said his father before he died.


The party decided that this night, they would protect the church as well. They spent the day preparing barricades and sharpening their weapons. When night fell, they were confident that they would destroy that which was plaguing this town.


The Battle for the Church


As night fell, the mists drew in thicker and closer. However, they stayed away from the walls and inside of the ruined church. The party set up continual light rods around the inside of the church. At the stroke of midnight, pale translucent shapes oozed out of the graves in the cemetery, Swirling around the church, they fled through it and down the road. As the party watched, they disappeared down the road that supposedly led to the castle.


As they were watching, they noticed a tongue of the mist stretching towards the broken doors of the church. At the same time, their continual light rods dimmed and flickered out. Shouting, they took their places: Modom, Arthur, and Dexter at the barricade; Sniffinpuff high in the rafters; Tristan at the altar next to the priest.


The mist flowed through the gaping, ruined doors, a ground fog which stretched a mere 2' from the floor. Strangely thick, it separated into two streams that bypassed the group at the barricade and flowed into a swirling column near the altar that rose up to the blackened rafters. Arthur turned and ran back to the altar. The mist thickened, with winking blue lights inside of it, and then suddenly fell into a ground fog again. Behind the group at the altar stood a tall man, dressed in a black cloak with a high color. His eyes burned like red coals. He stretched his arm forth at Arthur and gestured at the kneeling priest.


Arthur turned and swung his sword high to strike at the unprotected back of the priest. His eyes gleamed with an unholy light. Tristan cast a *hold person* at Arthur and saw him stiffen into immobility. At the same time, Sniffinpuff fired off an *Arrow of Human Slaying *and missed. She fired an *Arrow of Orc Slaying *as well, and saw that strike the tall man. With a curse he faced her. The rest of the party charged towards him.


The tall pale man gestured at Sniffinpuff, and she fell from the rafters with a plop. In horror, the party saw that she had transformed into a toad. She hopped frantically out of the church into the night.


Meanwhile the group had surrounded the man. They jostled each other as they tried to strike at him, and none managed to hit him. He turned and stared at Dexter, gesturing towards the frozen form of the Paladin. Dexter swung his sword with all his might against the back of the Paladin, and dropped him with a crushed skull. Again, Tristan cast a *hold person,* against Dexter this time, and saw him stiffen into immobility as well. The battle was not going well -- nearly half of the party was out of action, and the man had barely been scratched.


With a snarl, the man swung towards Modom and gestured at the priest. Modom swung towards him and crashed his axe into the skull of Danovich, dropping him instantly. Tristan cast a *protection from evil *against Modom and watched him grind to a halt as the power giving him orders subsided. Only Tristan stood between the man and the rest of the party. With horror, he saw the remains of the priest begin to stir and then rise as a zombie.


The zombie attacked Tristan, swiping with his clawed hands, and missing. Tristan swung back to the tall man, only to see him gesture again ... and this time Tristan was caught up in webs and lay there helplessly as the tall man with burning eyes slowly advanced towards him. Modom attacked with fervor and managed to drop the zombie.


The tall man bent over the helpless Tristan, his mouth stretched into a grimace of hate and lust. His teeth were pointed, his eyes burning coals, and slaver dripped from his mouth onto Tristan. Tristan struggled helplessly against the webbing, trying desperately to escape.


Modom swung his axe against the unprotected back of the man, only to see it bounce off uselessly. The man straightened with a snarl, and slashed with his talons against Modom's face... it burned like acid had splashed him and Modom felt a piece of his soul shrivel and decay. He swung again, missing. Tristan watched, trying frantically to somehow to free himself.


Modom swung again, and missed again. But the tall man had swung away from Modom and was staring fixedly at the wall of the church... where Tristan suddenly saw a slight glow surrounding the Holy Symbol of Pelor... and that the old priest had somehow stretched forth his arm towards it.


With a barking laugh, the man dissolved into the mist, and the party watched it flow out of the door. The glow faded from the Holy Symbol, and Tristan noticed that the old priest's arm was limp.


The battle was done, and the priest of the Sun was dead. The Church, and all of Barovia, was unprotected against the Evil that pressed against it.

New Dog…Old Tricks? « Dice Monkey




Hello fellow gamers, I’m Bryan, the newest writer in the pack of wild Dice Monkeys. I have a lot to say about the newest Dungeons and Dragons installation called 4th Edition. Some good, some bad, but all-in-all I believe 4th Edition is a step in the right direction; however, today I only wish to discuss one facet of my opinion.
4th Edition is not only a clean slate, it’s a brand-new one that has just been taken out of its box and bubble wrap. New game, new rules, new style of gameplay, new strategy…all of this is as welcome as the scent of a brand-new car just off the showroom floor. Unfortunately, classic head-thumping, heart-pounding adventures such as The Temple of Elemental Evil, Castle Ravenloft, and the epic series of Dragonlance adventures, may start to fall to the wayside if they haven’t already. I encourage DMs to go back through these legendary campaigns and breathe new life into them by converting them into 4th Edition. Currently I am converting an old 3.0 Ravenloft adventure into 4.0, and it really is a lot of fun. In addition, you can put your own spin on the classic adventures, custom-fitting them to your own tastes or that of your players. Creating monsters from scratch may be frustrating at first, but practice often makes perfect. Another interesting option may be to further the timeline of an old adventure, and bring the threat back into the limelight. Dungeons and Dragons did just this with their release of Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, which I had the privilege of DMing for a short-time.
via New Dog…Old Tricks? « Dice Monkey

REVIEW OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 4TH EDITION DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE




The Dungeon Masters Guide is the second of the New D&D core rulebooks, which deals with the basics and tips in actually running the D&D game. Of course in the new edition, a lot of the rules (the stats for magic items, for instance) are now in the Players Handbook (PHB) so the new DMG is a slimmer book that focuses on gamemaster-specific tips and charts that are only relevant to the DM (tables for generating treasure and XP, for instance).
*
Chapter 1: How to be a DM is an introductory chapter that starts with certain premises. For instance, the game design means that the game is best played with six players. (More and the group tends to fragment, less and the 'roles' aren't covered) One interesting bit about the new DMG is that several D&D veterans offer "Tips From The Pros" in sidebars. It also acknowledges that game tools include PDAs and other digital equipment for scanning in the middle of a session, not to mention snacks.
*
Much like Aaron Allston's classic Strike Force book for Champions, the new DMG classifies certain player types in addition to character types. Here they're described as the Actor (immersive role-player), the Explorer (who wants to discover new things about the game world), the Instigator (who likes to trip traps and provoke NPCs 'just to see what happens'), the Power Gamer and the Slayer (self-explanatory), the Storyteller (who emphasizes the overall narrative over the characters), the Thinker (who enjoys problem-solving and planning) and the Watcher (who's just kinda there). In these descriptions, the book emphasizes what a particular player type is in the game for, what the DM should emphasize with that player- e.g. by "never forcing (a Watcher) to be more involved than he wants" - and what aspects of each type the DM should watch for (e.g. be sure the Actor doesn't justify disruptive actions as being 'in character').
*
There are several bits of advice for setting up a group of PCs, some obvious and some not so obvious. It's even proposed that groups can rotate the GM role, or shift between a long-term campaign or episodic games. The pros and cons of each are discussed. Certain bits of in-game etiquette are discussed, like showing up on time or contributing for food, whether one is speaking "in character" and so forth. Also: "Agree on some ground rules before naming characters. In a group consisting of Sithis, Travok, Anastrianna, and Kairon, the human fighter named Bob II sticks out. Especially when he's identical to Bob I, who was killed by kobolds."
*
Chapter 2: Running the Game goes over "what a DM does." However the chapter also emphasizes that running a game includes the players' role in running everything smoothly. It starts by reviewing the time requirements of a usual session, stating that if a game session has up to 30 minutes to "ease into" the game and 30 minutes of wrap-up time and the average group gets through an average encounter in one hour, then a one-encounter session is two hours of time. That ease-in time includes settling in and doing recaps of what happened last time, which can be fairly important.
*
Description is important, not simply for flavor purposes but in terms of giving the players the information they actually need to use their skills and operate in combat. For instance, you want to tip off players to a monster's special abilities that are in fact perceptible so the players aren't surprised by a game detail. For instance, when running a pit fiend, the DM is advised to state: "The heat emanating from the devil is intense even at this distance. You know that getting within five squares of it is going to burn you." (I probably wouldn't phrase that part so mechanically, but it's good advice.) The standard is called the Information Imperative: "If there's information the PCs absolutely must have to continue the adventure, give it to them."
*
Other bits of advice here are guiding your inevitable moments of improvisation with mini-dungeons and other aids to cover unforeseen situations, easing out of bad judgment calls (e.g., generally it's easier to scale up a too-easy combat encounter than to scale back an encounter that's too hard), dealing with problem players, and teaching the game to newbies, which is basically a matter of going over one page of core mechanics.
*
Chapter 3: Combat Encounters concentrates on what the book describes as the "basics" of the game. It is basically the counterpart to the combat chapter in the PHB; whereas that described the basic combat rules, this chapter describes what the DM needs to do to run a combat encounter. It starts with some fairly common-sense stuff, including advice for what the rules don't cover, or clarifications. For instance: "When a power has an effect that occurs upon hitting a target- or reducing a target to 0 hit points- the power only functions when the target in question is a meaningful threat. Characters can gain no benefit from carrying a sack of rats in hope of healing their allies by hitting the rats." (Damn.) Among other things, it's advised that you have some method of keeping track of ongoing conditions that PCs and monsters place on each other, and the back of the book has print-out cards for this. This is also the chapter with definitions for surprise; whereas in Chapter 2 the DM is advised to inform players of everything the characters would know, to set up the possibility of surprise or ambush he has to examine the factors that would undermine PC (or enemy) preparation and readiness.
*
Under "Actions the Rules Don't Cover," there's also a master list of Difficulty Class and average Damage by Level, so you have numbers for improvised actions. For instance, if the Rogue wants to swing on a chandelier and kick the Ogre into burning coals, you can set both the appropriate Difficulty for the skill required (Acrobatics) and appropriate damage for the effect.
*
This is also the chapter with the rules for special combat situations like flight and aquatic combat. Chapter 3 then gives us the rules for disease; this format lists diseases on a staged format where the first stage is cured, the second stage is the "initial effect" where you roll an Endurance check to see if it improves or worsens, and then you get to progressive or final (terminal) stages. Poisons are similar but are bought as items and their format description resembles that of a character attack, since mechanically the poison is an "attack power".
*
Chapter 4: Building Encounters shows how to actually design a combat encounter.
*
In designing opponents for a PC group to fight, the game creates a separate set of monster roles, analogous (but not identical) to character class roles, like Artillery (basically, ranged striker), Brute (deal lots of close-in damage), Controller (manipulate the PCs or the combat environment), Lurker (strike from surprise and then retreat) and Minions (as in other games, Minions are intended to display PC combat prowess by being easy to take out in numbers; an attack that does any damage at all destroys a minion, and minions are worth 1/4 the experience of a standard monster of their level). There are also Skirmishers (who attack with mobility) and Soldiers (who attack from fixed positions in units and control their enemies with tactics). There are also "Elite" monsters (worth twice the XP of another monster of their level) and truly nasty solo monsters that are intended to take on an entire group by themselves and are worth five times their level in XP.
*
Oh yeah, then you get the rules for XP. In determining how much experience a party gets, a DM first has to determine the encounter level (where a standard encounter is the same as the average PC level, an 'easy' encounter is up to two levels below that and a 'hard' encounter is two to four levels above that), then multiplies a standard monster's XP by the number of PCs and that yields an "XP budget" for the mix of monsters the DM wants to put in the encounter. So with 5 1st-level PCs and a standard monster being 100 XP, a minion being 25, an elite being 200 and a solo being 500, the DM gets a budget of 500 XP worth of monsters to threaten the PCs with, which can be one solo monster, twenty minions, five standard or some combination in between. This format then leads to a small list of encounter templates like a commander and soldiers, or a "wolf pack" of skirmishers, along with rules for tweaking each encounter type.
*
There are also rules and suggestions for encounter settings, since the setting not only adds flavor (with the possibility of fantasy elements like floating platforms, faerie woods, or the like) but adds complications such as obstacles or cover.
*
Chapter 5: Noncombat Encounters states that (contrary to popular belief) "No D&D game consists of endless combat." In Chapter 8 of the PHB, the concept of "skill challenges" was introduced, including the use of skills for various encounters where success or failure is critical. This category also includes the classic dungeon elements of puzzles and traps. Because a skill challenge does not rely on character level so much as player decision, "a skill challenge is defined by its context in an adventure." Generally skill challenges require X number of successes, and if half that number of failures occur on the skill rolls, the challenge is failed. The number of required successes depends on the level of the challenge on a scale of 1 to 5, where level 5 is considered to have "the same weight" as a combat encounter, and requires 12 successes to prevail, or is lost after 6 failures. In some cases (like climbing a cliff where the lead character has the rope) "group" efforts may add a bonus to the lead character's roll (like Complementary Skills in HERO System). Conversely, a skill challenge may involve separate elements requiring each party member to use specialized skills- the example given is where the group Cleric uses his Religion skill to guess where cultists would build their temple, and the Fighter uses Athletics skill to get to a certain vantage point to search for it. Thankfully there are several detailed examples as to how all these elements would work, including an example of a skill challenge mixed with a combat encounter (a gas fills the room as monsters attack and the PCs have to figure out where the trap is an disarm it before the gas takes them down). Likewise there are rules and examples for puzzles, traps or hazards ('If it can hurt the party, but it isn't a monster, it's either a trap or a hazard').
*
Chapter 6: Adventures teaches how to run adventures, on the premise that an adventure "is just a series of encounters." It gives advice on tweaking published adventures for use in the particulars of your campaign, fixing problems (like, your PCs killed the big boss a bit too early) and building your own adventures. In terms of using published stuff, the main advice is to change the flavor text (if your campaign is in the equivalent of Arabian Nights Baghdad and the module is in the arctic tundra, describe hot and dusty wind instead of snowstorms). If the big boss gets killed, you can try to resolve the narrative in terms of the setting; like say you promote the guy's lieutenant to be the leader of the dungeon. And if the PCs blow through half of what you were going to use and bypass the other half, well you can always use that unseen material for the PCs in another adventure. In building your own adventure, the book goes over a basic beginning-middle-end narrative structure with points from how to get through each and what each should include. The book uses the game term "quest" to describe the "fundamental story framework" of an adventure, or its general intent or goal. This serves as a basic organizing structure and the book actually encourages handing out "quest cards" for players to keep track of what quests they're on, somewhat like how World of Warcraft can have multiple quest goals in the same adventure. (For instance in the PHB, the example was given of going to a certain castle for a quest and then finding that the monsters had enslaved several humans to work for them, so another quest develops to free the slaves.)
*
In creating adventures, Chapter 6 also advises a certain encounter "mix" that engages players, plays up the fantasy setting, and appeals to the various player types (like Power Gamer) mentioned in Chapter 1. In this it goes over the various adventure settings available in D&D, including the Underdark and the "planar" settings including the dominions of the gods. Each setting has elements that contribute to its atmosphere and personality. Many sample physical elements (doors, machines, etc.) are mentioned along with fantastical elements like fey gardens or an artificial sun. This leads to how to map out these elements for a dungeon, including how to map diagonal lines for the game's square-based mapping (start at the middle of a square's edge to the middle of the adjacent square's edge so that you know if a character can occupy the area). This chapter also discusses the proper use of NPCs, including party allies. It's advised earlier to go with stereotype here, because the "subtle nuances of an NPC's personality are lost on the players."
*
Chapter 7: Rewards details how characters get stuff. Such as experience. The master experience point chart for monsters by level is here (on page 120) with a noncombat encounter being treated as a "Standard Monster" of that level. The options for varying XP gain are given, including just assigning level advancement every eight encounters or so without bothering to keep track of precise points. Quests are worth a certain amount of XP for their level. Characters can also get extra action points per every milestone (two encounters), which the introductory page states as an incentive "to take on more encounters before stopping to take an extended rest."
*
This chapter also includes the random treasure tables, which are not dissimilar to those in prior editions of the DMG. These are generally organized in treasure "parcels" of monetary treasure, art objects, and magic items appropriate to the treasure level rolled.
*
Chapter 8: Campaigns states that just as an adventure is a series of encounters, "a campaign is a larger story that ties those adventures together." Each published setting has a campaign guide, the primary example of which is the FORGOTTEN REALMS Campaign Guide (making this chapter something of a plug). Each campaign guide gives ideas and places for starting a campaign, and for story hooks to get the PCs together. After the first few adventures it's expected that the DM will develop a "theme" for further games. This theme sets a direction for the campaign and "gives the players a sense of purpose." It could be an organization that sponsors adventures (like the Harpers, or at least like the old Harpers, in FR), or a need to face a certain master villain, or the like. In this section, one of the tips is: "Don't be afraid to steal... The DM's job is to entertain, not to be original." This chapter also discusses certain campaign subgenres, like Horror, Mystery or even Wuxia. (You may have to wait on the next PHB for decent Monk/unarmed martial arts rules for that last one, though.) It also brings up the concept of the "super adventure", like Greyhawk's Temple of Elemental Evil, where several levels could be spent dealing with the monsters of a single dungeon/setting and roleplaying the intrigues of the area. They generally allow for "nonlinear" ways to accomplish the goal of the adventure; for instance with the old Vault of the Drow you reached the Drow city and had the options of dealing with the various things there, starting conflicts with the nobles in the adjacent estates, or bulling through the estates to the main Temple of Lolth to reach the Demonweb Pits.
*
If running a campaign boils down to running a series of adventures, this chapter gives advice on how to link the adventures into a campaign. Having ideas for "what went before" is one way to do this, giving hooks for the PCs to explore the history that led things to where they are. Examples of these elements are maps and NPCs. Learning about that history naturally leads to foreshadowing of events that will involve the PCs as they become more involved with the world.
*
Chapter 8 also goes over New D&D's level tier system, since each new tier gives the PCs new abilities and alters the scope of what is or is not possible for them (and therefore what the DM can use against them). Note that while the PHB mentioned that the Epic Tier campaign culminates with a Destiny Quest to achieve immortality and exit the material realm, and that it is "described more thoroughly in the Dungeon Masters Guide" there really aren't any details given for it here.
*
It's also mentioned that you don't have to end the campaign at 30th level, but "at some point though, your campaign will have to end- and it's better to do it with a thrilling quest and final victory than to let it fizzle out."
*
Chapter 9: The World gives us a little more detail on the background of the new game setting, which came in bits and pieces with the PHB. But it says flat-out that you won't find a world map in the core D&D books. The idea is that D&D games operate on certain core assumptions but each DM fills in the essential details or customizes the setting. Most of these core assumptions are based on fantasy fiction, such as "The World is a Fantastic Place." They do pose the idea that the DM can change these assumptions, for instance maybe it isn't a fantastic world and all characters use Martial powers and no magic. But given how strongly oriented New D&D is on those assumptions (what happens to a party without magical artillery and healing?) it's probably best not to stray beyond them.
*
In discussing civilization, the game goes over the essential characteristics of villages and larger settlements. Some of the other core elements come into play here: After the fall of the last human empire, the "civilized races" who were all subjects in that empire remained in contact through surviving settlements, and much like medieval Europe, nobles of various ranks rule these areas based on authority handed down from the days of empire. It is also assumed, however, that the universe caters to the adventurer in that there is actually a magic item economy to sell items the PCs can't use, that there are wizard colleges, permanent teleportation circles between cities and so on. Also as in medieval Europe, there are great stretches of wilderness between outposts of civilization, and of course these are the spots where adventurers will usually be headed, in hopes of finding lost relics and treasure from the ruins of bygone nations. In this section you get the environmental hazard rules for starvation, exposure and such. The Endurance skill is used for survival in most of these situations.
*
Then the cosmology of the D&D "world" is given, with the Astral Sea containing the heavenly abodes of the gods (including evil gods) and the Elemental Chaos at the foundation of the world. The Primordials of the Elemental Chaos gave the world its material form, but the gods gave it a permanence hostile to the Primordials' nature, and thus the gods exiled them. One of these exiled beings planted a seed of evil in the foundation of the world, and thus at the eye of the whirlpool of Chaos lies the Abyss where demons dwell, standing against even other evil beings like devils and the evil gods. In the interaction between the gods and Primordials during creation, certain "echoes" developed outside the main world, creating the Feywild, home of eladrin and other fae creatures, and the Shadowfell, a dark realm of death through which mortal souls travel on to the afterlife.
*
There is a brief discussion of the gods and a presentation of the "malign gods" in the same format as the good/unaligned deities presented for PCs in the PHB. Most of these are old Greyhawk classics (including Tiamat, queen of evil dragons and Asmodeus the lord of Hell) and there is also an evil god of snakes and poison named Zehir. It's noted here that while paladins (like clerics) can have any alignment, those NPC paladins devoted to evil gods probably shouldn't have radiant damage effects and other powers associated with holy light. Depending on the case, the DM should give such paladins necrotic/darkness effects instead.
*
While most of the magic items in-game are now listed in the PHB, examples of legendary artifacts are given in this chapter. What's interesting about the new rules is that the artifacts have a "concordance" mechanic measuring how pleased the artifact's guiding intelligence is towards the owner. Concordance is measured on a scale from 0 to 20 and starts at 5. Generally a higher concordance will add to the base level of an artifact's powers, and a concordance below 5 will cause problems. Another characteristic of artifacts is that like the One Ring, they can "move on" and desert an unworthy owner or seek a more worthy one. Even a worthy owner will never have the artifact longer than is required to accomplish its primary goals.
*
Finally, the chapter goes over game languages in one page. As they put it, "A universe with ten languages might seem improbable, but it's explainable in the context of the D&D world and better for the play of the game." Of these ten, one (Supernal) is the primal language of creation (shades of Mage: The Awakening) while Abyssal is a corrupted version of the Primordials' original language. PCs can't learn these languages at start, and it's implied that their use in tomes gives the pages artifact-level power.
*
Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox is basically a grab-bag, and as the name implies, it gives various options a DM can use for making scenarios. These include random encounter tables which can (in theory) be used to run a game without a DM, random dungeon generation, tables for NPCs, "who work much as the players' characters do, using the same classes and the same basic rules", adjusting monster level (including adjustments to account for magical equipment and the like), actually creating your own monsters, and templates, which like 3rd Edition take a monster/character of another type and overlay another type on it, as with the Lich (for undead spellcasters) or the Battle Champion (added to an NPC or monster battle leader).
*
Chapter 11: Fallcrest is an example of a "base town" where characters can buy gear, rest and interact with natives to spark new adventures. The fact that the game uses a term like "base town" instead of just "town" or even "home" indicates that even this basic aspect of a game world isn't immune to being reduced to a rules element. But anyway, the town started up in the uncivilized Nentir Vale, as a hero from the empire of Nerath obtained a charter to set up a fortress at the falls, around which the town developed. It's mentioned here that Nerath began to crumble around a century ago, and around this point a tribe of Orcs rampaged and devastated the area. Since this "Bloodspear War" the town was barely able to reestablish itself, and the town is once again at the edge of civilization. The major buildings and NPCs of the town are described, and the features of the Vale are described with certain story hints. There are also notes for how PCs of each race and class might have ties to the area. Finally, there's an actual dungeon, Kobold Hall, which includes various 'hooks' (quests) to get the party involved, and serves as an example of how encounters and XP awards are set up. Fitting the nature of Kobolds, there are a lot of defensive traps, and a little surprise at the end.
*
James Gillen
November 14, 2008