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Game On - How the fringe went mainstream

By Jonathan 'Killstring' Herzberger

"Sorry, our Princess is in another castle." It was in the fall of 1985 that those iconic words first blazed across television screens around the world. After a surge of popularity in the 80's, video games seemed primed to stand beside the Pet Rock, Pogs and (with any luck) Disney's singer-actors as forgotten fads.

But despite the millions of unsold Atari cartridges buried in the Nevada desert, the bankruptcy of virtually (unfortunate pun not intended) every video game company at the time, and the advent of Personal Computers, Nintendo's N.E.S. Console rekindled the embers of the industry, and the rest is history.

Now, some 24 years later, even as gaming becomes a more prevalent part of our culture, many stereotypes remain. Myths of The Gamer still persist - he is male, socially underdeveloped, unemployed, possessed of poor hygiene, and likely lives in his parent's basement. But are these preconceptions based on facts, or are these stereotypes the lingering ghosts of misconceptions long since unproven?

To find out, we conducted interviews around the campus, speaking to Professors and students alike - and some of the answers may surprise you. When asked, Professor Paul Skalski said, "The 'official' reason I game now is because it's part of my job, as a video game scholar... But in truth, I also game because it's fun. I grew up with games and have been a huge fan my whole life. I don't know what I'd do or where I'd be with(out) video games... I'm proud to be a gamer."

Graduate student Pete Lindmark agrees, saying that he "plays to relieve stress," even after studying video games for work on his thesis.

And according to Jamie, a sophomore here at CSU, the perception of gamers being holed up in their rooms, cloistered from society simply isn't true. "(Gaming is) social," she said. "Even a when playing a single player game I compare how I'm doing with friends or talk about how good or bad a game is. Before gaming, I didn't really fit into a social group, and after I started I found people I was comfortable with."

The various facets of gaming, whether they be digital, or more traditional board or improv-based, have long been victims of unfair characterizations, but Skalski thinks that is changing.

"There are some stereotypes associated with players of online games like World of Warcraft that are kind of amusing," says Skalski, "but even those gamers shouldn't be embarrassed. We live in a tech-fueled society and dorks, nerds, and geeks are taking over!"

And according to a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the 12-17 age bracket seems to gel with Prof. Skalski's forecast, with 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls actively gaming. Their tastes run the gamut, with Activision's wildly successful Guitar Hero being the most popular, closely followed by Halo 3, and the various iterations of Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution.

Roughly two-thirds play with family or friends, and about 25 percent socialize online. Quite frankly, the next generation looks to be saturated with gamers of all stripes. But in regards to the populations as a whole, a similar study by NPD found that over 63 percent of the United States population plays video games. Sixty- Three Percent. That's a healthy majority. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned earlier, Of course, all this discourse is ignoring one of the more enduring facets of Gamer Culture - that is to say, that the term has enveloped 'hobby' gamers since long before Mario took that first fateful jump.

While many assume that 'pen and paper' role playing games (RPG's for short) began in the 1970's with Dungeons and Dragons, tabletop gaming can trace its roots back as far as 1824, where Otto Von Bismark's General Staff would play Kriegsspiel - a game which introduced conventions such as red and blue representing different armies, complex mathematical rules for movement and combat, adjudication of said rules by independent umpires, and the use of dice to simulate randomizing factors. 184 years later, the innovations of Kriegsspiel persist.

However, strategy gaming would not be forever the domain of armies and the independently wealthy. Like so many contributions to 'geek' culture, it would take a Science Fiction author - noted pacifist H.G. Wells - to move the concept of wargames into the commercial market, with the publishing of Little Wars: A Game for Boys from Twelve Years to One Hundred and Fifty and for that More Intelligent Sort of Girl Who Likes Games and Books.

Despite the fact that this is essentially the greatest title ever, the name was truncated to the much tidier moniker Little Wars. Within its pages, Wells argues for gaming- as-catharsis: "Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster - and no smashed bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties ...that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence."

However, classical Gaming - if such a phrase could be coined - was by no means confined to the table. In a sense, the roots of 'roleplaying' date back to 16th century Commedia dell'arte - an energetic brand of Theatre with predetermined characters, and 'set pieces', but was otherwise improvised. 19th century parlour games, Mock trials, murder mystery dinner Theatre, and Viola Spolin's Theatre Games all carry the same traits of predetermined characters, a set of rules, and improvised interactions. Even the legendary comedian Harpo Marx talked about live-action gaming during the 1920's in his autobiography, Harpo Speaks! - and while the subculture of live-action role playing games or LARP's is a topic that reaches far beyond the scope of this article, students have no shortage of commentary on both the hobby, and social element of the Role playing subculture.

Jessica - a biology major in her junior year at CSU, games in large part due to this social aspect. "(Gaming's) pretty much the only social experience I have. I am trying to prepare for Medical School, I study all the time, and sometimes I just need a break, go and pretend I'm someone else for a while... but in all honesty, the friends I've made gaming are the nicest people I have ever met. I am not embarrassed to say I am a gamer." CSU Art professor Peter Wells echoes the sentiment.

"Think of it like softball -" he said, granting an interview in the middle of that most hallowed post-game ritual, breakfast in a 24-hour diner. "You play softball, or go to a LARP - that's about 40 people, most of whom you might not know otherwise. You've got things in common - Softball or Gaming as the case may be, and you're going to meet people who share other interestsl, sporty things in one case, nerdy things in another. It's social networking - only difference is nobody gets hurt LARPing, and the government will provide you with a place to play softball."

But large gatherings of adults in costumes ranging from Mad Max to Victorian waistcoats isn't the sort of thing one can do without a building. Many groups have solved this problem by renting halls at party centers, but for the average college student, this can get expensive quickly. In response to this situation, Wells sought an unorthodox solution, and in 2003, with cooperation from a few other Cleveland area Gamers, founded Undead Ltd, a partnership of Role-players turned real estate investors. Purchasing a set of three properties in the West 25th neighborhood, the group proceeded to renovate and rent out two of them. The third property, however was in complete disrepair.

"We got the property stupidly cheap," says Wells, "because nobody wanted to touch that house - it was a wreck." Nevertheless, gamers from all around the Greater Cleveland area embraced Wells' vision, and beginning in the summer - when the unfinished walls, and drafty roof posed less of a problem, groups began hosting their games at the house, asking for donations of $2 to go towards renovations. Today, the so-called "Vega House" stands as the only building of its kind in the entire world - a site dedicated exclusively to gaming, and financed entirely by donation. "If this was going to happen anywhere in the world," said Wells, "it was going to be Cleveland."

As studies suggest, and our interviewees echoed, many gamers play as a form of stress relief. And while many have been quick to blame crimes that are difficult to understand on a subculture that has proved just as elusive, in his book Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games As Social Worlds, Sociologist Gary Fine finds that Suicide, violent crimes, and many of the other negative behaviors attributed to gaming are not caused by fighting imaginary goblins today, anymore than they were by listening to Elvis in the 50's. Fine found that Suicide is caused by depression and feelings of isolation - and social networks, the kind that gaming subculture can provide - are the best way to address and support these individuals. Like rock-n'-roll before it, the subculture of Gaming is migrating from a marginalized and often misunderstood cultural phenomenon, to an accepted and integral facet of modern life. So game on, my friends - in a very real sense, the world games with you.

Top 10 D&D CRPGs

This is a brilliant guest post on DUNGEON MASTERING by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome’s Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site.

The digital world of Dungeons & Dragons
Truth be said, computers do face quite a few problems when striving to provide us with proper RPG experiences. That’s, I guess, why we needed this CRPG term. Just to make sure roleplayers never raised their expectations too much. On the other hand, them CRPGs do tend to handle combat particularly well, and if you’re a munchkin you don’t really care for the RPG part of RPG gaming, do you? Then again, you might care but lack the time to gather half a dozen people to play. And a good story always is a good story.
Anyway. Enough with the intro bit. What follows is a selection of 10 of the best Dungeons & Dragons CRPGs presented for your enjoyment in the rather rare reverse chronological order.

Neverwinter Nights 2
Published by Atari
Developed by Obsidian
Released: 2006
Ruleset: D&D 3.5
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
Official Site, MobyGames, Wikipedia, GameRankings
NWN2Following the original BioWare developed and immensely successful Neverwinter Nights, NWN 2 improved the game in every respect and provided us with a shining gem in all its action-focused, story-heavy, dungeon crawling glory. The visuals are nothing short of jaw-dropping, the music is superb, the available options ridiculously varied, the gameplay perfectly balanced and the plot appropriately epic, though admittedly quite a bit on the generic side of things. What’s more, and besides the replayability of the thing, NWN 2 can double as an impressive DM’s tool. Heck, there’s even a properly funny gnome bard thrown in for comic relief. Just remember to patch it before you start playing. Oh, and you’ll need a decent PC to enjoy it too.

The Temple of Elemental Evil
Published by Atari
Developed by Troika
Released: 2003
Ruleset: D&D 3.5
Setting: Greyhawk
More info:
Official Site (archived), MobyGames, Wikipedia, Sorcerer’s Place, Game Rankings
ToEETroika Games, the developers of The Temple of Elemental Evil are apparently no more, and if you have actually played any of their games, you are probably very sad about it; just like I am. If not, you should be. After all, they are the only team to attempt such a faithful implementation of the 3.5 edition rules while recreating this rather classic D&D adventure. Ok, so the plot development isn’t brilliant with its standard evil rising theme and the game did ship with its fare share of bugs, but what really stands out, the turn-based combat system, will more than make it up for you. As for the party of five the player leads through Greyhawk, it interestingly has an alignment which affects both the plot and the available choices. Mind you, ToEE still has a vibrant, creative and very active fanbase, that constantly comes up with new bug-fixes, enhancements and extra content.

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
Published by Interplay
Developed by Black Isle Studios
Released: 2001
Ruleset: D&D 3rd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Game Rankings
iwdhow.jpgYes, it’s an expansion for Icewind Dale, I know, but it’s such a glorious one it’s worthy of its very own mention. Changes include such things as the addition of several types of classic Dungeons & Dragons critters, a higher experience point cap, new magical items and the much needed option to play in a resolution higher than 640×480. Heart of Winter, with its basic though definitely grand plot, focuses on epic battles and intense (!) spell casting. Guess it’s something like hack-‘n’-slash for wizards really. Great fun and will last you for quite a while too.

Planescape: Torment
Published by Interplay
Developed by Black Isle Studios
Released: 1999
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition – heavily modified
Setting: Planescape
More info:
Official Site (archived), MobyGames, Wikipedia, Planewalker, The Escapist, Game Rankings
planescape.jpgIf there is one game that really (and I do mean really) puts an emphasis on storytelling, reading of extensive texts, plot twists, literary pleasures and non-combat focused gameplay, well, as you might have guessed, Planescape Torment has to be that game. Now, I do not want to spoil anything from its great story, but do know that there’s a brothel of intellectual delights to be visited, death plays a prominent role, the atmosphere is absolutely impressive and the bits of included humor actually work. After all, Planescape Torment, frankly, is way above the average D&D novel in terms of writing quality, character development and of course plot. It’s no Dostoyevsky of course, but no Salvatore (and I don’t mean that in a good way) either.
On the more mundane side of things, Torment is based on the Infinity Engine, meaning it features some of the best 2D environments possible and plays like a cross between an adventure and an RPG. Also, players don’t get to choose their party –it would definitely hamper storytelling- but they do get to pick some of the characters they’ll recruit and join a variety of factions from the Anarchists, to the Dustmen, the Sensates and more.

Baldur’s Gate
Published by Interplay
Developed by Bioware
Released: 1998
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
Official Site, MobyGames, Wikipedia, Planet Baldur’s Gate, Game Rankings
bg.jpgBaldur’s Gate, slightly flawed as it is, was the CRPG behemoth that kick started the genre renaissance of the late nineties and is still considered one of the best single player RPGs money can buy. The story is decent and, combined with the rich world of the Forgotten Realms, provides with the perfect canvas for character development and –admittedly- gratuitous goblin murdering. There are literally tons of battles, both random and staged, to fight, tons of dialogue to wade through and a moral system in the spirit of the game’s Nietzsche inspired slogan: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster…”. Oh, and so you know, two of Baldur’s biggest key selling points were (arguably still are) the intuitive real time combat system and an absolutely huge quest taking place over the entire –and very lovely- Sword Coast. Now, care for a bit of trivia? Good. Baldur’s Gate actually is the name of the sprawling fantasy metropolis part of the game takes place in.

Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession
Published by SSI
Developed by Dreamforge
Released: 1994
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Ravenloft
More info:
MobyGames, YouTube, Quandary review
ravenloft.jpgI remember feeling that weird sort of melancholy invented worlds tend to inspire when you realize they don’t actually exist when I first read through the original AD&D 2nd edition Ravenloft box set. It really was that good a romantic masterpiece, filled with incredibly powerful yet cursed characters, a dark history, imaginative realms and a deep sense of dread. Yet, I never played a Ravenloft session. Always thought it would have to be too epic to really matter. Well, Strahd’s Possession is epic. A bit too epic to be frank, and I do mean this in a setting altering way, but it still offers a passable story and a chance at some truly atmospheric computer gaming. Happily, it also offers a pretty innovative for its time full 3D world viewed in first person perspective and a healthy dose of dark gothic atmosphere. Oh, yes, and some appropriately cryptic Vistani too.

The Dark Queen of Krynn
Published by SSI
Developed by MicroMagic
Released: 1992
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Dragonlance
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia
dqok.jpgA classic. A true masterpiece. A technical achievement. A game that just can’t age and a brilliant dungeon hacking romp that enthralled (parts of) humanity and quite obviously me. Also the last installment in the Dragonlance based Krynn trilogy of games that were released as part of the aforementioned Gold Box series. Evil (well, the aptly named Dark Queen herself actually), you see, even after being defeated twice, just couldn’t leave Krynn alone and a band of adventurers just had to stop her. In a glorious 256-colours VGA world with SoundBlaster support, no less.

Eye of the Beholder
Published by SSI
Developed by Westwood Studios
Released: 1991
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Game Rankings
eotb.jpgAnother megahit and a respected award-winner from the era when gamers bothered with exercising their imagination. An era when pen and paper were the only way to map a game. Eye of the Beholder, not unlike Dungeon Master before it, was one of the earlier first person RPGs with a then-impressive 3D tile-based graphics engine. The title, as retro gaming CRPGers should remember, refers to the game’s final adversary, a nasty monster, gamers and their party of four would only reach after fighting a thousand battles, making friends with an assortment of dwarfs, murdering the odd Drow, casting roughly 40 different spells and solving lots of taxing puzzles in the sewers of Waterdeep. Eye of the Beholder was successful enough to spawn two sequels, quite a few spin-offs and port itself to everything from the Amiga and the Sega (Mega) CD to the Atari Lynx and the SNES.

Pool of Radiance
Published & Developed by SSI
Released: 1988
Ruleset: AD&D 1st edition
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Dragonbait’s Page, GameBanshee
por.jpgPool of Radiance was the first of a long and brilliant series of RPGs that shared a common graphics engine and common gameplay mechanics, and came to be collectively known as the Gold Box series. Must have been the gold boxes in which the games came, methinks. Anyway. Point is, Pool of Radiance is a legend and a 20-year old game everyone with the slightest interest in CRPGs and their heritage should play, even though admittedly some of the later Gold Box games actually bested it. Still, not many of them received the accolade of being called “the best RPG ever to grace the C64, or indeed any other computer” by Commodore User magazine. - _note-0The game only allowed fighter, cleric, wizard and thief and severely restricted them in their level advancement, but its combination of first person dungeon exploring with 3rd person turn-based combat and the official endorsement of TSR made sure it was years before anyone actually noticed it.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain
Published & Developed by Mattel
Released: 1982
Ruleset: AD&D 1st edition
Setting: none in particular
More info:
MobyGames, YouTube, IntelliVision Lives, Video Game Critic
addcm.jpgI’m not 100% sure on what exactly this Intellivision game is called, though its loading screen does imply that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons should be enough, but I do know it’s not the first D&D game ever. 1974, you see, saw the release of dnd, which being playable only on a mainframe failed to reach a wide demographic. Not that this game did, but, well, at least it tried. Originally being worked on under the title of “Adventure” until TSR licensed the game, AD&D was the first Intellivision cartridge to use more than 4kb of ROM and feature randomly generated mazes stuffed with monsters, in what could easily be described as Diablo’s great grandfather. I’d suggest tracking a copy of the thing online and actually seeing how impressively innovative it was. Finding a free copy shouldn’t be too difficult, even if your reward would have you recovering the two pieces of the rather silly-named Crown of Kings.

What are your top CRPGs?
Let us know what kept you enthralled for social-life-mangling weeks!

Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War by Global-A Entertainment

The Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War was developed by Global-A Entertainment. The story dates back to 70000 years ago, when gods and demons had a truce and is the sequel to the original Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground. In the second dungeon maker the gods dropped two mountains to prevent the demons from entering their homeland. There was much needed peace between the two for some time but after 700 centuries came a demon called Revenger. He has a single objective and that is to start a new battle of good versus evil.

In Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War, players get into the character of a bespectacled dungeon maker. The duty of the players in this game is to make twisty corridors inside the earth to trap the monsters. Obviously the highlight of this game is that it allows you to create your own dungeons, then populate them with monsters, and finally kill everything inside. This stands to contrast to other RPGs on the PSP like Dungeons & Dragons Tactics, and gives Dungeon Maker II a huge replay value.Your main objective in the game remains to hunt down the demon Revenger and restore peace in the world. In the meantime, you would also be asked to bring down a few beasts to make armours and weapons. In short, the Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War is a thrilling game with an interesting gameplay.

There are many quests for you to accomplish in the dungeons. There are also items to collect as you progress to various floors. Building the dungeons is an easy task. All you have to do is to collect blocks and build them in a manner to trap the monsters. Upgrade your rooms to invite more monsters in order to finish them up easily. Rules are very simple and you can even access them in the middle of the game if you have any doubt about it. If you build the dungeon in a complex manner, you can be sure of capturing many monsters.

The most amazing feature of this game is the gameplay. Unlike other games which boost up the ranks of the players on bringing down monsters, here you have to collect the pieces of monsters, form a meal to increase your health, wisdom and strength, etc. All these features have helped in sustaining the thrill encircling this exciting game. Play the bespectacled dungeon maker, build dungeons and help the gods defeat the deadly demon Revenger.

Which classic D&D Character Are You?

D&D Sunday Morning Mega Quiz: Which Classic D&D Character Are You?

Back in June of ’08, Yax helped you channel your inner 4th Edition D&D character. Now we’re bringing you a quiz that gives you an even deeper insight into your inner PC. Do you live for power, money, fame, or pure adventure? Are you more like Drizzt Do’Urden or Raistlin Majere? Answer the questions below to find out which classic D&D character you are.

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Here’s an Adventure Hook: Download D&D for FREE.

Explore 4th Edition Now. Download the Quick-Start Rules and H1: Keep on the Shadowfell—and Let the Adventure Begin.

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D&D UK Community


Welcome to D&D UK

Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 02:33 PM GMT
Posted By: CharlesRyan

Hi, everybody, and welcome to the D&D UK group. As the description says, this is where we'll tell you about events, activities, news, and whatever that is of interest specifically for the UK gamer. Keep your eyes on this space--we should be posting actual content (as opposed to this fluff) soon!

Dragon Roots

Researchers have long noticed the universality of dragon lore, and many have tried to explain why this monster is so common in world mythology. Both a Munich geology professor and American astronomer Carl Sagan have suggested that an ancient memory—carried in genes inherited from our mammalian ancestors—is responsible for an inborn fear of large reptiles. Prehistoric memories of dinosaurs seep from our subconscious into our impressions of the world, according to this theory, and turn old nightmares into legend.

These fears may have been confirmed in people’s minds whenever they accidentally uncovered fossilized dinosaur skeletons, seemingly real proof that such creatures existed. Some ancient saurians still live, however. The Komodo dragon, a lizard named after the Indonesian island where Westerners first learned of it in 1912, is the living creature that most closely resembles a traditional dragon. These carnivorous monsters may grow to more than 12 feet in length, and can eat large mammals such as goats. They are related to a fairly recently extinct Australian monitor lizard that could reach three times that length. Although they don’t breathe fire or fly, Komodo dragons still present a very formidable appearance and might easily provoke terror-stricken witness reports of dragons if encountered unexpectedly.

Author Peter Costello believes that human craft may have played a role equal to that of nature in reinforcing the idea of dragons. From the early to late Middle Ages, he says in The Magic Zoo, the custom of using giant, fluttering windsock dragons as battlefield banners spread from Asia to Europe. Each banner held a flaming torch to present the daunting illusion of a flying, fire-breathing dragon, and may have helped turn the tide of many medieval battles. At night, in the heat of battle, the billowing figures may have appeared real, and those who lived to tell the tale probably swore they battled dragons.

Steal This Hook - Threads That Connect

by Robert Wiese

You've come up with a fantastic, even epic, adventure site and a long quest that should keep your player characters occupied for months. Or, you've picked up Scepter Tower of Spellgard, for example, and can't wait to run it. But does all your hard work have to go for only the one adventure? Not at all! The world and all things are interconnected somehow, so you can use the information in your epic background or setting to drive side adventures or future adventures. You can even introduce your epic adventure through a side adventure that features story elements from the main epic.
This month's hooks are all geared toward the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, newly updated for 4th edition just a few months ago. And they all link somehow with, or into, the recently released Forgotten Realms adventure Scepter Tower of Spellgard. They are easy to adapt to your campaign world, though, as is Scepter Tower of Spellgard.

Looking for more information on the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms? Bruce Cordell’s Plague of Spells has just come out, along with a sample chapter, interview with the author, and even a campaign workbook article on Starmantle available online.

The Smoking Cave

Forgotten Realms
The road to Spellgard passes between the Graypeak Mountains and the Weathercote Wood. From the road, the Graypeaks are some distance away (more than a couple miles, but not more than 4 miles). Even at that distance, however, something strange can be seen at night high up in the mountains. Reports come from different sources of a glowing green smoke or mist that rises from the mountains in the evening. Here are a number of ways you can introduce the green smoke:
  • Travelers coming to Spellgard tell stories at the Monastery of the Precipice in which they saw some glowing green smoke or mist in the mountains while they camped. They speculated that some wizard was doing experiments in a remote fortress, but the glowing smoke was so far away that they decided not to investigate.
  • Equally, traders in taverns just about anywhere in the region could relate stories of glowing green smoke and being chased away from a cave by fierce magic and monstrous creatures such as young green dragons, wyverns, carnage demons, or whatever else you want to introduce into the adventure.
  • The PCs could see the glowing smoke themselves as they travel to or from Spellgard. It comes out only at night and is quite bright against the darkness.
  • A seeker is told by Lady Saharel that the answer she seeks is in the cavern of the green fog, which is supposedly nearby. This seeker begins asking others at the monastery and in seeker camps if they know of a cave with green fog. Either someone does, or she can attempt to hire the PCs to help her look. The seeker could also be encountered in a town some distance from Spellgard, having not found anyone at the site to help her.
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table, or make up your own.
1-20: The smoke is caused by a wizard who has built an underground fortress in the Graypeak Mountains. He wants privacy for some dastardly experiments on animals and demons. The cave is an air hole for the fortress, and the smoke is just escaping from his experimental chamber. An air shaft at the end of the cave grows too narrow for anyone to pass through it, but another entrance is somewhere on the same mountain.
21-40: The cave is a side exit for a green dragon's lair. The glowing mist is the visible form of several living breaths that this dragon has created. Like bats, they go out at night to prey on creatures, and they return in the morning when they are not so visible in the dawn light.
When it comes to powerful liches, January’s Open Grave offers a number of new options, including the baelnorn (eladrin), thicket dryad, void, alhoon, and demiliches. Here’s one of the demiliches powers, a standard, at-will ranged attack:
Drain Soul
Ranged 5; does not provoke opportunity attacks; +25 vs. Fortitude; the target is dazed and restrained (save ends both). First Failed Saving Throw: The target is instead stunned and restrained (save ends both). Second Failed Saving Throw: The target dies, and its soul is trapped in one of the demilich’s soul gems until the demilich is destroyed; see also consume soul and the “Fate of Drained Souls” sidebar (page 201).
41-60: The green mist is part of a warding system designed to protect the lair of a powerful lich. The glowing fog is supposed to keep people from coming too close, since they won't know what is causing it. It has worked so far.
61-80: The glowing mist is an acidic elemental creature that has been trapped in the cave. It has recently figured out how to leave the cave itself, but it cannot go more than a few hundred feet from the cave mouth. It has been going out nightly, hoping to attract some creature that can help it escape its bonds permanently. It is bound to a magic circle that could be part of a wizard's lab or an old demonic base of operations.
81-100: Beyond the glowing mist is a small dungeon formed by ruins from an ancient time, perhaps ancient Netheril. Netherese settled the area, and one of them could have made a private lair in the mountain. The lair is now full of guardians, traps, and maybe treasure.

How'd They Get So Good?

Forgotten Realms
The PCs are at the Monastery of the Precipice in the ruins of Spellgard, or perhaps at a camp on the road that they are sharing with the dwarven trading caravan heading toward Spellgard. Thurr Gargengrim, the caravan master, has taken a liking to them and imparts this bit of news in the course of conversation.

"Yes, the Gargengrim clan has been profiting from the Monastery of the Precipice's whiskey for close to twenty years now, and that relationship is as strong as ever. It's at home where the danger threatens. In the past weeks, ogres from the surrounding mountains have been raiding our work parties and outposts. They always do, of course, but they've suddenly gotten a lot better at it. For years we've been chasing off disorganized bands of the creatures, but now they're the ones doing the chasing. Our mineral production is down, and with it our ability to trade. Whenever we send scouting groups into the mountains after them, the scouts don't return or they don't find anything. It's a problem, and one that seems beyond our clan's ability to handle. I keep up the trade with the monastery, and sell the whiskey for them, but it might all be for naught soon enough."
Hopefully the PCs are interested in looking into the strange goings-on with the ogres.
Possible Motivations
Select or generate possible motivations from this table, or make up your own.
01-35: Thurr is telling the truth, and though he doesn't expect the PCs to help, he'd sure like some offers from someone. He tells this news a lot, casting his net wide so that he can catch an interested fish or two.
36-65: Thurr is telling the truth, but he received word of a prophecy (some dwarves met with Lady Saharel) that said to look for their solution from the PCs (you get to add the appropriate descriptive if needed). Thurr has identified the PCs as those spoken of in the prophecy and is crafting his words carefully to get them interested without overtly telling them about the prophecy. He is afraid of ruining it somehow and having his people suffer because he handled the information incorrectly.
66-100: Thurr is telling part of the truth. There are ogres, but they are not nearly as dangerous as he makes them out to be. His people would just like them eliminated, and they don't have the stomach to massacre the ogres themselves. They'd rather dupe someone else into doing the dirty work.
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table, or make up your own.
01-25: A group of ogres in the mountains surrounding the Gargengrim dwarf clan has recently come under the control of a hag who wants to force her authority on the dwarves in the region.
26-50: A band of orcs has settled in the same lands as the dwarf clan and wants to drive out the dwarves. They are using the ogres to do the dirty work. Combined with the third motive above, this could make an interesting adventure once the "tools" figure out what is really going on.
51-75: A dead dwarf is sprawled in a clearing at the edge of the mountains. The clearing was her campsite, and she was murdered. She had discovered a new cache of gold or valuable minerals in the mountains and was killed to protect the secret of the location. This might be because the ogres and their masters want the wealth, or perhaps it was just to keep more dwarves from having reasons to come into the mountains.
76-100: Monsters much worse than the ogres are at the leader's beck and call, or at least available through alliances and payment deals. These monsters become problems for the PCs once they get into the mountains.

A Little Digging

Forgotten Realms
Far from Spellgard, or perhaps in the Monastery of the Precipice itself, the adventurers end up in a cozy chat with a certain traveler. Or, perhaps they overhear the traveler talking with a friend in the bar. Whichever way it happens, the conversation is the same.
In the text below, the traveler didn't hear anything from a "cousin," so feel free to substitute someone else in the boxed text (and see "Possible Motivations" below) if you wish.
Read the following aloud:
"That travelers' aid monastery at Spellgard -- they call it the Monastery of the Precipice. Though, whether it's actually on a precipice I don't know. Anyway, I hear tell that it's sitting on top of some powerful artifact. That's right, an artifact, and from the days before the Spellplague too. Now that I have your interest . . ." The talker takes another drink of beer and continues. "What was I saying? Oh, the artifact, yeah. Well, the story is that some adventurer was confronted by the Lady of Saharelgard and he then gave up his adventurin' and built the monastery. But why? Just to make it easy on travelers? Not likely, I tell ya.
"My cousin told me he went to this Spellgard and saw the ghost there, and she told him that some artifact was buried underneath the monastery. Something called the Chaos Diamond, supposedly with the powers of the elemental chaos itself. My cousin was afraid to go find it, or even to think about it, and killed himself shortly after, poor soul. But I find it mighty interestin' myself, though I don't know quite how to get the thing without some help."
If he's with the PCs, he asks if they're interested in an artifact.
Possible Motivations
Select or generate possible motivations from this table, or make up your own.
01-20: The traveler is the "cousin" of whom he spoke. He made a pilgrimage to Spellgard to find a powerful artifact that was close. He wants help to begin ruling the world (or his small part of it, or even just knock off a rival -- choose a power level for the artifact that suits your campaign).
21-40: The traveler met the "cousin" who told him about the artifact, and then killed the "cousin" off so that he would be the only living person to know of it. Now he realizes he needs a bit of help getting it.
41-60: The traveler is a harmless person who hears a lot of stories and evokes confidences from people easily. The "cousin," who is really unknown to him, related the story one night a few weeks ago in a tavern much like the one where the PCs hear the story.
61-80: The "cousin" is the traveler's sister/brother/parent, and the "cousin" has been put under magical compulsion to find this artifact. The traveler is worried and really wants to hire the PCs to find and protect his relative on the quest, or break the compulsion that drives the relative.
81-100: The traveler is the disguised supernatural agent of a deity (good or evil) who wants or needs the artifact but cannot reach it.
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table, or make up your own.
01-20: The Monastery of the Precipice was built on some older ruins from the time of ancient Netheril, which predate even Spellgard. Lady Saharel knew that this artifact would be dangerous for the world, and she acted to conceal it before anyone asked her about it (or related topics).
21-40: The artifact, called the Chaos Diamond, harnesses the elemental chaos of nature and existence and uses it to transform one thing into another, on a large scale. It has been all but forgotten, until the "cousin" in the story asked about the artifact.
41-60: The artifact is actually a primordial that yearns for release so that it can destroy something (or everything -- pick something useful for your campaign). Lady Saharel knows this and has been trying to keep the artifact secret and buried, but the artifact forced her to tell someone. Lady Saharel has more information to help the PCs reach and contain or destroy the artifact, but they must meet her through the method described in Scepter Tower of Spellgard.
61-80: The artifact does not want to be carried/used by just anyone, and it must test those who seek it. It can transform the very walls of its prison into defenders, so the PCs could face pretty much anything. It likes to make challenges very difficult but able to be overcome, since it does want to find someone it feels is worthy to carry it.
81-100: Getting to the artifact is a bit of a trick, since it is located in ruins beneath the Monastery of the Precipice and there are no convenient passages. The PCs have to find where to dig and do a lot of manual labor just to reach a way into the prison.

About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.

Steal This Hook - Threats of Legendary Evil

by Robert Wiese

The wilderness is a known place of danger, and usually that danger comes in great numbers. However, sometimes numbers are not needed, as the rush of air or the crackling of twigs can come from only a single dangerous threat. One monster in the wilds can be as much danger as many, and can be equally hard to root out…. or it could be very easy to find but not as easy to be rid of. With the upcoming release of D&D Minis Legendary Evils—and some new minis in your collection—you might add some single creature fun into your campaign with the following hooks.

Answer Me These Questions Three

To the right, the mountains rise toward the sky. You have been following them for days now, as your destination is at the other end of the range. Periodically, roads branch towards the mountains, and from one of these you see a group of puzzled and somewhat battered travelers come toward you.
“Don’t go this way, travelers. If you must traverse the mountains, find another pass. A sphinx guards the way ahead, and we failed its challenge."
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. The travelers are adventurers (but of lower level than the PCs) who were going into the next valley looking for a great treasure that is rumored to be buried in a crypt in that valley. They could not answer the sphinx’s riddle and it would not let them pass, so they were forced to retreat.
2. You might have these travelers give the riddle to the PCs so they have a head start at solving it, although (as you wish) the sphinx could ask a different riddle of every traveler it encounters.
3. The sphinx is in league with a green dragon that lives in the valley. They are trying to remove the great treasure that they discovered. While the dragon removes it, the sphinx delays or deters travelers. The dragon could double-cross the sphinx, or not.
4. The sphinx doesn’t know about a treasure. It does know that something with a great curse was buried in that valley years ago, and the sphinx is tasked with keeping people away from it. If you want, you could have this be a descendant of the original sphinx, still with the same task. In this case, the evil was buried in the valley centuries ago, perhaps during a past war that collapsed the kingdom that once was here.
5. For monsters you can use a sphinx (MM1) or a sphinx of mystery (MM2). You could also use a creature that acts like a sphinx (gives riddles) but has very different powers and may not look like a sphinx at all, such as the rimefire griffon, minotaur thug, or scarecrow stalker.
6. A human from one of the towns in the region made friends with the sphinx years ago, and has a secret phrase to bypass the sphinx’s danger. The human is trying to gain a great treasure or harness a great evil in the small valley beyond the sphinx.

Bad Dog!

The PCs are in town late at night, somewhere near a tavern and close to the outskirts of the town or city. As they are walking along, or rescuing someone from a mugging, or mugging someone, they see a drunk man wander aimlessly toward them. At least, he initially appears drunk. He is also covered in scratches, some of them bleeding. He seems disoriented and doesn’t even know he’s been injured. If asked, he says that he saw a dog, a two-legged dog, but doesn’t remember anything else.
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. The man was attacked by a two-legged dog-like creature, such as a werewolf (MM) or a barghest (MM2). He did not fight off the creature; in fact he did not fight at all. The creature was tearing into him when it was called off or distracted by something, or heard the watch patrol coming and fled.
2. The creature, whatever it is, haunts the outskirts of the town or city and picks off lone stragglers. It could take them for food, or it could be working with a cult and taking them for sacrifice.
3. The creature is cursed, and to remove the curse it has to bathe in the blood of certain types of people. All of the victims have fit this profile. The drunk man would have sufficed; the creature was desperate due to ritual timing.
4. The creature is actually a large canine, like a dire wolf or even a worg. Its master has a vendetta against certain people in the city, and is killing these people or their relatives (for inspiration, you might consider watching the film Brotherhood of the Wolf). There is a definite pattern to the murders. The drunk man was mistaken for someone else, or he could be part of the master's plan after all.
5. The creature is actually a possessing spirit that transforms its hosts into two-legged canines. When it attacks someone, it transfers to the new host and the old one dies. The spirit is looking for someone in town, and uses the knowledge of the new host to choose a target. However, it is a fairly random process as the spirit looks for its true target.
6. There are several creatures in an alliance, but only one comes out at time to disguise their numbers. They have a lair outside of town and are hunting in the town in the same way that hunters go to the wild to kill creatures for food.

Predator on the Loose

The PCs are traveling down the road in a sparsely populated area near some farmland. Everything has been very ordinary until they pass a mound of pig manure just off the road. As they get close, the mound moves and a man sticks his head up from it. “Is it gone?” he asks you breathlessly.
The man is Stavin, a farmhand from the nearest farm to this location. He says that he was working in the fields when he heard an awful screechy roar. Then he saw it – a huge, bloated blue creature with long claws extending from the back of its hands. He ran for it and it started after him. Luckily for Stavin, he passed the pig sty while fleeing and the monster was sidetracked by easier prey. He doesn’t know how long ago that was; he’s been hiding here inside the mound the whole time. He might even have fallen asleep. The farm is about half a mile away, and he’ll take the PCs there if they want.
There is some comedic value to this scene, so if your players like comedy have Stavin's big dog stick its head out of the mound too.
Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. The creature that Stavin saw is a talon slaad (and templated as a slaad spawner (MM2 pg. 185).
2. The slaad was summoned by a wizard to its ferocity and ability to produce slaad spawns. The wizard is trying to harvest them and train them to be guard beasts. This one escaped and has been looking for food ever since.
3. This is not the first farm to be attacked. Slaads desire a lot of food (and mayhem). The PCs can find other farms with dead animals or even dead farmers. The trail of destruction should lead back to the creature’s makeshift lair, or the wizard that summon it.
4. The slaad may not have escaped from the wizard, but was intentionally released to spread its slaad spawns across the farmlands knowing what they would do. The wizard wants the farmers gone.
5. There is more than one of these creatures. In fact, there’s a whole nest of them now that several spawn have already been created. More of them are marauding around the region, and they all have to be stopped.

About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.

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E3 Prince of Undeath

D&D Adventure
Bruce R. Cordell and Scott Fitzgerald Gray
This epic-level D&D adventure is designed to take characters from 27th to 30th level. In this adventure, the demon lord Orcus tries to usurp the Raven Queen’s power over death using a shard of evil plucked from the depths of the Abyss. Only the world’s most powerful heroes have the slightest hope of stopping him.
This adventure can be played as a stand-alone adventure or as the conclusion of a three-part series that spans 10 levels of gameplay.

In our E3 Prince of Undeath excerpts, we present the adventure synopsis, three encounters, as well as a look at the mighty Wand of Orcus!

Prince of Undeath

Orcus intends to usurp the powers and privileges of the Raven Queen, the god of death, fate, and winter. If he accomplishes his aims, no soul shall rest easy again. To avert this theft of divine portfolio and purpose, epic adventurers must dive down to the bottommost pit of existence, where the Heart of the Abyss festers.

  • Introduction and Synopsis (179 Kbs PDF)
    Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead, wants to usurp control over the spirits of the dead from the Raven Queen, the god of Death and Fate. The Prince of Undeath has slowly drawn his plans against her from the heart of his Abyssal realm, the citadel called Everlost. Everlost straddles a yawning chasm whose sheer slopes hold hundreds of tombs and burial sites, creating a tiered necropolis.
  • Chaos Ship Overview (194 KBs PDF)
    Whether through a portal opened by Audaviator, a scroll of Planar Portal provided by a godly messenger, or through some other agency, the adventurers find the chaos ship Shevaithan moored to a docking mote within the swirling vortex of the Abyss.
  • Magic Items and Artifacts (254 KBs PDF)
    Orcus carries a heavy mace tipped with an enormous skull. Its haft is smooth obsidian studded with blood rubies. This weapon transforms those it slays into undead horrors. The Wand communicates silently with its wielder, in Abyssal, using brutal and gory imagery to highlight its blood-soaked ends.
  • S1: Boarding the Ship (334 KBs PDF)
    What might have once been a human woman stands atop the sterncastle behind the wheel, her flesh split and darkened, revealing demonic scales beneath. She wears a tattered hat, and madness dances in her eyes. The creature behind the wheel screams, "Repel the boarders! In Orcus’s name, scrub these worms from my ship!"
  • R10: Warden of Everlost (364 KBs PDF)
    The boiling Bloodstorm parts like a veil as the Death Gate swings wide. The portal that leads back to Shevaithan is active, but a horde of rot harbingers swarms around it, flanking a humanoid figure in the midst of a ritual directed at the portal itself. The beholders slain here have been raised as undead, letting out a keening wail of alarm.

    The figure wheels, its ritual forgotten. "The defilers of the Red Hold save me the trouble of finding them, I see. Hoping for mercy perhaps? You have caused much grief for my lord, but consuming your souls will sate his wrath. I am Harthoon, voice of Orcus and castellan of Everlost. I am your doom!"
  • F5: Deal with the Devils (404 KBs PDF)
    Patches of shattered crystal burn white hot within this blackened cavern. A squadron of devils occupies the chamber, led by a great pit fiend whose eyes burn red with rage. "Demon ilk!" she shrieks. "Thralls of Orcus! You shall die just as your masters have fallen before you!

The Importance of Terrain

Design & Development

by Stephen Radney-MacFarland

The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”
Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to

A proper command of terrain wins battles -- generals from Sun Tzu to Norman Schrwarzkopf have known this to be true. There's a similar relationship between encounter design and terrain -- a canny use of terrain can transform good encounters into great ones. One of the goals of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide is to help the Dungeon Master perform just such transformations, which includes providing a bunch of evocative terrain types and advice on their placement and use. Since the book doesn't come out for a while, let's illuminate some of the basics of terrain in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
While it might seem elementary, let's first examine what we mean by terrain. Terrain is not just what litters the field in an encounter; terrain also forms the dimensions and tactile experience of the encounter itself. Knowing that, there are some things about 4th Edition D&D design that you should keep in mind when building encounters.
First and foremost, not only does the standard 4th Edition encounter tend to have more combatants than in 3rd Edition, both PCs and monsters are more maneuverable as well. This means that the 10-foot by 10-foot rooms of yore have gone the way of the dinosaur (actually that happened in 3E, but that's not relevant to this discussion). Likewise have the 20 by 20 room and even the 30 by 30 room as the sole encounter areas. In fact, the minimum amount of space you typically want to have for a standard encounter is one of those large 10-square by 8-square dungeon tiles! That's 50-feet by 40-feet for all you still counting in feet. Just hold on before you start chucking all those 2-by-2 square dungeon tiles in the garbage -- you'll still need them!
Any DM worth her salt knows that dynamic and interactive stories are more satisfying than railroading narratives. The same is true for battle areas. Larger spaces with interesting terrain that both the PCs and their enemies can take advantage of -- or be foiled by -- is infinitely more fun than a small and relatively empty room that constrains combatant choice to a small set of dreary moves.
But here's the rub -- large areas of interconnecting chambers, complete with alcoves, galleries, and antechambers, are far more exciting than just plopping down a 10 by 8 tile and sprinkling it with rubble. Creating a network of interconnected areas creates numerous avenues of conflict and creates the possibilities for a series of evolving fronts that metamorphoses same-old encounters into tactical puzzles that'll sing like legend to a gaming group. See, you're going to need all those smaller pieces!
Then, once you have the main layout done, populate it with furniture, shrines, rubble, pillars, or maybe even the occasional lightning column or patch of doomspore where needed (and where appropriate), and you've got yourself a pretty vibrant encounter area for your combatants to interact with.
Oh, here's a bit of sound advice that'll keep you out of trouble. Be careful with pits and other steep inclines, and leave 100-foot (or endless) chasms for paragon- or epic-level play. Some of that increased maneuverability of the combatants in 4th Edition comes from attacks that can move foes against their will -- which is all fun and games until someone loses a character!
That aside, D&D is more than just a tactical skirmish game; it's also a game of storytelling and heroic adventure. When designing adventures, you're doing more than just placing interesting terrain pieces for the battle that (let's admit it) will most likely occur; you are also setting the stage of your story. A canny eye toward terrain set up can also help you communicate story elements to your players quickly and without the need to say a single word. Just put down some sarcophagi, and the players will know it's a crypt. Put down an altar, and you've just communicated that it's a temple. Put down piles and piles of bones in front of a yawning cavern, and the players will know their characters are likely in a world of trouble … or you've seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail one too many times.
What the Heck is Doomspore?
Isn't it annoying when those know-it-all designers and developers drop an Easter egg in a preview article and don't back it up with any description? Yeah, I hate that too -- unless I am the one doing it. That said, I empathize a little, so here's the doomspore (or at least a recent version of it).
Doomspore (Any)
Usually found in large, natural caverns, this fungus takes the form of a clump of toadstools, some of which reach a height of about 3 feet tall. A square of doomspore is difficult terrain and provides cover to anyone standing within.
If any creature enters a doomspore's square (or uses a standard action to kick or poke at it, if within reach), a doomspore releases a cloud of spores that provides concealment to all creatures within its own and adjacent squares. Furthermore, a bloodied creature in the area of a cloud when created, who moves into the cloud, or begins its turn in the cloud, is subject to a Fortitude attack (+10) that deals 1d10 points of poison damage on a hit. In addition, a target hit by a doomspore is weakened and takes ongoing poison 5 (save ends both conditions; creatures with immunity to or resist poison 5 are immune to the weakened condition also).
This cloud (and its effects on a bloodied character) persists for the remainder of the encounter (or for 5 minutes). Once the cloud settles, the doomspore can't produce another for 24 hours.
Placement Advice: More than one doomspore in a room may give an advantage to creatures immune or resistant to poison. Intelligent undead tend to cultivate doomspore, and this debilitating fungus can often be found in caverns infested with zombies. It absolutely inundates areas of the Shadowfell as its growth thrives in the presence of undead flesh that has been shed from its host.
As for the lightning column -- well, you'll just have to wait for that one. I would say I am sorry … but you know I'm not.
About the Author
Born on a stormy Christmas day, in our nation’s capital, during the Nixon administration, the stars were definitely wrong when Stephen Radney-MacFarland came screaming into the world. Spending most of his impressionable years as a vagabond and ne’re-do-well, Stephen eventually settled in the Northwest to waste his life on roleplaying games.
Once that RPGA guy, Stephen is now a developer in RPG R&D where he doesn’t create the traps … he just makes them deadlier. He also teaches a class on roleplaying design for the Art Institute of Seattle, molding the minds of young and upcoming designers. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Design & Development

by James Wyatt
Art by Lee Mayer

The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”
Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to

The family of gods for 4th Edition is a mix of old and new. You'll see familiar faces like Corellon, Moradin, and Pelor, and some new faces as well, like Zehir, Torog, and Bane.
Yes, Bane.
Before I explain what the Forgotten Realms' god of tyranny and war is doing rubbing shoulders with Pelor, let me say a bit about our thinking when we created a pantheon in the first place.
There was a time when the team working on "the world" of D&D thought we could get away with creating general rules useful to clerics regardless of which pantheon existed in the campaign, and then presenting a variety of fictional and historical pantheons for DMs to adopt or adapt as they saw fit. I believe it was Stacy Longstreet, the senior D&D art director, who pointed out that this solution would leave us in a bit of a bind.
When we wanted to put a temple in an adventure, what god would it be dedicated to? We could make Generic Evil Temples™, but that would sap a lot of the flavor out of our adventures, and rob us of specific plot hooks and story lines based on the portfolios and histories of these gods.
When we wanted to illustrate a cleric in one of our books, what holy symbol would the cleric hold? Again, we could rely on a stable of generic symbols (maybe the Zapf Dingbat font?), but at the cost of a lot of flavor.
We ended up creating a new pantheon. At first, we used some of the gods from 3rd Edition as placeholder names -- we thought we'd come up with new names for [Pelor] the sun god and [Moradin] the god of the forge. Ultimately we decided that using some familiar faces was preferable to giving our players a whole new set of names to learn. Besides, if a god looks like an elf and took out the orc-god's eye like a certain well-known elf god, why not call him Corellon?
Corellon: The elf god is a good example of a god who kept his well-earned place in the D&D pantheon. But "the elf god" shouldn't be taken to literally. Sure, he's often depicted as an elf or an eladrin, and many eladrin in particular revere him. But he's equally popular among human wizards, and even dwarves who practice the finer arts are prone to offering him prayers. One of our goals with the new pantheon was to loosen the tight associations between gods and races that has in the past led to the creation of whole pantheons full of elf, dwarf, orc, and goblin deities. Corellon is still associated with elfy things like arcane magic and the Feywild, and he still hates Lolth and the drow. But his appeal is a little broader now.
Bahamut: Here's another example of a familiar, draconic face showing up in a somewhat new light. Maybe it was the Platinum Knight prestige class in Draconomicon that did it, but something convinced me a long time ago that Bahamut was a much cooler god of paladins than Heironeous ever was. Like Corellon, Bahamut's not just for dragons any more. He's the god of justice, protection, and honor, and many paladins of all races worship him. Many metallic dragons revere him as well, thinking of him as the first of their kind. Some legends about Bahamut describe him as literally a shining platinum dragon, while others describe him as a more anthropomorphic deity, who's called the Platinum Dragon as a title of respect. Exhorting his followers to protect the weak, liberate the oppressed, and defend just order, Bahamut stands as the exemplar of the paladin's ideal.
Bane: Here's another god whose placeholder name just stuck, despite some reservations. We wanted an evil war god in the pantheon, and without Heironeous, Hextor didn't make a lot of sense. We wanted the kind of heavily militaristic god whose temples you might find among non-evil societies who have spent long years at war, as well as among hobgoblins. We wanted a god who embodied just the sort of tyrannical dictatorship that Bane stands for in the Forgotten Realms. We started calling him Bane as a placeholder. He went through a number of different, unsatisfying names. Finally, someone said we should just call him Bane. So Bane he remained.
Like chocolate and peanut butter, we think Bane and Bahamut are two great tastes that taste great together. Does that mean you have to use them in your 4th Edition game? Of course not. But we think that, when you see these gods in action in our core books and adventures, you'll agree that they belong in their new places of honor in the pantheon of the D&D game.

About the Author
James Wyatt is the Lead Story Designer for D&D and one of the lead designers of D&D 4th Edition. In over seven years at Wizards of the Coast, he has authored or co-authored award-winning adventures and settings including the Eberron Campaign Setting, City of the Spider Queen, and Oriental Adventures. His more recent works include Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, and The Forge of War. His second Eberron novel, Storm Dragon, is in stores now.

The Core Mechanic

Design & Development

by Matthew Sernett

The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”
Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to

Grab a d20. Roll high.
That’s the basic rule of 4th Edition just as it was in 3rd Edition, but the new edition puts that mechanic more solidly in the core of the game than ever.
Ever faced one of those life-or-death saving throws? Hours, weeks, or even years of play can hang in the balance. It all comes down to that one roll. There’s drama in that moment, but it’s drama you didn’t create, and you don’t want.
That’s gone in the new edition.
Have you played a spellcaster and been a little envious of the excitement of other players when they roll critical hits? Have you wished that you could do that for your spells?
You can in 4th.
Have you ever had some confusion or miscalculation about your normal AC versus your touch and flat-footed AC?

You won’t have to worry about it.
If you want to know whether or not you succeed in doing some action in 4th Edition, you grab a d20 and try to roll high. Just as in 3rd Edition, you add a modifier to that roll from your character sheet, and you check for any extra bonuses or penalties from the situation or from your allies. The key difference in the new edition is what you roll for and what you add.
The standard defenses remain (AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will) but now they all work more like AC. When a dragon breathes fire on you, it attacks your Reflex and deals half damage if it misses. The DM rolls a d20, adds the dragon’s modifiers, and asks you what your Reflex score is. The dragon might roll a 1 and automatically miss no matter how much tougher it is than you, but there’s also the frightening possibility that it will roll a 20 and deal double damage.
Folks familiar with the new Star Wars Saga system will recognize this concept, but it’s evolved a bit to better suit D&D. In 4th Edition, when a creature only needs to touch you to deliver an attack, it targets your Reflex. When you’re surprised, you grant combat advantage, but you don’t need to look at a special AC on your sheet -- the normal number works fine. When a pit suddenly opens up beneath your feet, you make a check to jump out of danger, but if a crossbow trap fires an arrow at you, it the bolt attacks your AC.
What we mean when we talk about streamlining the system is this: making design decisions that make learning and using the game less difficult, while keeping the system just as robust. And making it more fun as the result.

About the Author
Matthew Sernett has been a designer of 4th Edition, the editor-in-chief of Dragon Magazine, a pizza cook, an onion packer, and an assembly line worker in a spring factory. In 1999, while working for Men's Health Magazine, he narrowly avoided being a wardrobe tracker in the male fashion industry. He feels very lucky to now be employed as a creative/world designer for Gleemax. Hail the bottled brain!