Dragon #353


Dragon #353

Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Publish Date: 02/2007
Volume: XXXI, Number 10
Pages: 98
Rating: 4 out of 10
Retail Price: $7.99

Hello again folks. I’d like to get right to it this month, but first I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the advertisement on this issue’s back cover: the folks at Paizo have put together a collection of my favorite installment ever! Dragon: Monster Ecologies is billed as 128 pages of awesome and starting in April, will be available through their website or your favorite local gaming store.

All right, down to business. The esteemed James Jacobs kicks it off in March with the latest installment of the Demonomicon of Iggwilv, “Malcanthet: Queen of the Succubi.” One of the great things about the Demonomicon articles is that, piece by piece, through tales about the various demon princes you get the same lore offered from the pages of Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, and this month is no exception. Jacobs explains how when mortals capable of consciously choosing evil came onto the scene, a whole new kind of nastiness starting cropping up in the Lower Planes. Succubi are the manifestation of the sin of lust, and Malcanthet was one of the last standing after what amounted to a civil war between the “sisters.”

As per usual, this article features a version of Malcanthet advanced using the rules from FC1 all the way to CR28. You’ll also find updated rules for weapons like the scourge and whip dagger, of particular interest at the Archive as questions about the whip dagger popped up on the forums. The article is filled out with a new type of demon (the incubus; and no, they aren’t just succubi in male form), a Thrall of Malcanthet PrC and some info about her cult on the Prime as well as her home back in the Abyss. There isn’t much I can say about these articles except that if you like demons, or any villains with plenty of flavor and background for that matter, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s a tough act to follow but Todd Stewart and Oliver Diaz are up to the task with “Multiple Dementia: A Guide to the Demiplanes.” For those who don’t know, demiplanes are a DM’s way of designing a world as big or as small as their adventure requires without it needing to be connected to anything else. All you need is a portal or some other way to get to the place (and, preferably, a way to get home) and voila, you can make up weird junk to your heart’s content. You can find a handful of them in the 3.0 publication Manual of the Planes, and this article features a sidebar with almost thirty in addition to detailing three.

The real gem here is a blurb on Moil, “the City that Waits.” Moil plays a prominent role in the events of Bruce Cordell’s 2E module Return to the Tomb of Horrors but is quite a cool place even if you’ve never played that adventure. Here and there throughout the article are references to other modules and boxed sets in D&D’s history, which is a treat for the old guard as well as inspiration for the newer generation. My only complaint about this piece was that at six pages it was far too short.

Back in #347, Eric Jansing and Kevin Baase collaborated to bring us an article about the Princes of Elemental Evil. For those who know a great deal about D&D mythology, these baddies were around to see the sundering of the Rod of Seven Parts. Well, although they were around first, the Princes of Elemental Good quickly followed suit and this month we’re treated to some information about them.

“Treat” may be the wrong word to use. I understand the stats provided here hover around the low 20s in CR because that’s where most campaigns either culminate or start off, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that immortal beings as old as Fire or Water are less powerful than some creatures in the Monster Manual. Furthermore, aside from a handful of spell-like abilities each of the four “archomentals” is essentially a really powerful representative of that element; Ben-Hadar, Prince of Good Water Creatures, is a souped up water elemental who can use Horrid Wilting once per day. If you happen to be planning a campaign featuring the Good and Evil archomentals, this is the article you’ve been waiting for but I’m pretty sure you aren’t, and haven’t.

Next we have “The Ecology of the Keeper,” again by Todd Stewart. First appearing in the Fiend Folio (3E, not 1E), Keepers wear black goggles to conceal the fact they don’t have eyes (or many other aspects of human anatomy, either). Named for their obsession with secrets (and killing those who know them), Keepers basically fill the niche of “creepy bad guy to hound the heroes when they learn too much.”

Being an Ecology installment, the article goes a long way toward explaining what makes the Keepers tick but some questions are left unanswered. However, this seems appropriate given the subject matter and there is certainly enough here to run an encounter or even an adventure featuring them as the primary antagonists. The real problem with this is that, like in recent issues, the monster featured is not from a Core book and may not be very useful to most people. Anyway, for added fun, note the section on the names of various groups Keepers congregate in and compare some of the titles to places in Stewart’s article on demiplanes.

Jason Bulmahn returns this month with the next installment of “Savage Tidings: Advancing the Wyvern.” At various points during the Savage Tide campaign, the ship you use to get around is bound to take a beating. The Sea Wyvern will likely eventually need repairs; so if you’ll have to replace part of the ship anyway, why not enchant it or use fancy materials? The last page of the article offers more new ways to introduce replacement PCs into the party as well as interesting tidbits about the island the heroes might glean using Gather Information checks.

The problem I see with the material presented here is that the cost is so prohibitive. To magically negate the speed penalty as you weigh the ship down with cargo will set the party back 12,000gp& I’m pretty sure that will never happen. Last month’s “Savage Tidings” installment featured numerous plothooks that gave the PCs plenty to do while exploring the island and making contacts in Farshore and I think the author would have done his readers a great service here by providing ways for the DM to reward the players with enhancements for the ship instead of treasure. Anyway, as the article suggests if this stuff tickles your fancy more material like it can be found in Stormwrack.

Thomas M. Costa gives us “Volo’s Guide: Outsiders of the Forgotten Realms.” In a Core D&D campaign, the Multiverse is organized roughly like a wheel (and is in fact called the Great Wheel Cosmology) but in Forgotten Realms that isn’t the case. If the Outer Planes are different, so must the Outsiders who live there be, right? There are some pretty neat creatures detailed here: my favorite is the Harmonious Choir of the Words. It’s basically a floating mask with runes coming out of its mouth, capable of casting a lot of bard spells and even possessing creatures. The name sounds angelic but the Choir is Neutral, being a manifestation of the Words of Creation used to form the Multiverse.

Normally I would swear up and down that articles like this are wastes of space and that we need new monsters even less than we need new feats or Prestige Classes, let alone campaign-specific ones. However, while aside from the above creature the material is somewhat lacking, Mr. Costa kindly provided a sidebar explaining where these creatures could be found in the Core cosmology or in the Eberron Campaign Setting.

Amber E. Scott of Giant In The Playground fame closes this month’s issue with “Dragonmarks: Manifestly Strange.” In Core D&D, some planes are far removed from others and some are so close they are only a hop, skip and a jump away (relatively speaking). In Eberron, some planes move so close to one another they start to “bleed through,” creating what are called manifest zones. These manifest zones may be anything as simple as a volcano connected to the plane of fire to a really dark room on nights when the plane of shadow is coterminous.

The material presented here is a goldmine for idea-starved DMs for the same reason the demiplanes article earlier was so great: the theory behind it is that you can make up pretty much whatever you want and the effect is self-contained. One of the manifest zones in the article is a ruined castle where time flows more slowly, letting you play with the concept of time in various parts of the dungeon passing at different rates (useful if the party is split up). When the group gets tired of this, it’s a simple thing to just leave the dungeon behind and go somewhere else. Even though the locations presented in the article are Eberron-specific, the idea is still so good I recommend it if you’d like to experiment with extraplanar stuff.

Some of the articles this month were fantastic, others were lukewarm and still others, while not being badly written were still pretty awful. The magazine as a whole suffered because of the wide variety in quality but the upshot is that there is likely something for everyone here, so I still recommend you at least thumb through it at your local newsstand.