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[Let's Read] 4e Dragon & Dungeon Magazine: Monster Articles

VoidDrifter

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...Wow, do people find this article that boring? Seriously, I was kind of hoping to get some comments before I post the Engines of War article.
 

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
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Sometimes, one's job becomes so busy that one does not have time to read rpg.net on one's nonexistant lunch hour, so it takes a while to catch up on threads that one might be following.

Living spells were a very interesting feature of the Eberron setting, and made the Mournlands really distinct. Although I never ran it in Eberron, I realized later in my own game that they were literally wandering damage. There were no hooks to make interactions more interesting for the players and GM. Making some living spells be sapient fixed that (yay!), but unfortunately statting out a living spell in 4e wasn't as easy as "slap a template on an appropriate spell" was in 3.5. The Living Storm Pillar is a more interesting opponent than an autospammed storm pillar attack, but it takes more effort to get to that.

I also kind of think it would have been better, rather than have three generic types of living spells, to have statted out a bunch of specific living spells with really interesting personalities. Living Cloudkill that lives to kill may be an iconic Annihilator, but it's really boring. Living Cloud of Daggers that wants to be a performer and is seeking a partner willing to be blindfolded on a spinning wheel for its death-defying circus act doesn't fit "Builder", "Teacher", or "Annilhiator", but would be damn more fun to run.
 

RobertEdwards

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I skipped this back in the day, never realized that Living Spells came in sentient varities.

Now I want a Living Minding Spell. A Living Wall of Stone. (Can you say Mindcraft?). And, of course, a living Phantasmal Killer teamed up with a Living Hallucinatory Terrain.
 

VoidDrifter

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Alright, let's complete issue #419 of Dragon magazine with the article Engines of War.

Opening Thoughts
Not going to lie, this was a puzzler to me. I mean, I don't usually think of D&D encounters involving battles against fully functional siege engines. But, 4e does actually handle Dragon Warriors-style 1 vs. army combat pretty well if you use Minions, so I guess maybe it makes a certain amount of sense?

To avoid repeating myself, all of these creatures have the trait "Living Vehicle", which allows another creature to enter that creature's space through an entrance and/or by climbing atop of it, as the case may be, after which point they move with it as if the creature were a vehicle.


Clockwork Rookery
Combining masonry, clockwork and magic, Clockwork Rookeries are a masterpiece of artificer craftsmanship; a self-propelled, self-maintaining, semi-intelligent siege tower. They're not exceptionally bright (Int 4), but they are capable of trying to fulfill their duty or mission on their own devices if not directed by an ally - though they are meant to be used in conjunction with a humanoid crew to direct and maintain them.

Clockwork Rookeries were built by a cadre of artificers in alliance with Clerics of Erathis, the goddess of civilization, and first appeared in the aftermath of Nerath's fall. Whilst not as impressive as the warforged that Nerath had produced earlier, they were intended to be a powerful weapon to expand the borders of civilization - indeed, they are often sent to rove borders or even establish footholds that will later be turned into permanent fortification.

A Clockwork Rookery resembles a 35ft tall tower, comprised of three levels, each with its own 10ft tall internal ceiling. The roof of the rookery is crenelated and set all around its circumference with arbalests. The magic inherent in the structure animates these arbalests, similar to the "animated arbalest" strain of homunculus, although they can't function independently if removed from the rookery. Access is provided through a reinforceds iron door on the bottom level, which can be barred inside. A central ladder connects all of the levels of the rookery from the interior, culminating in a trapdoor on the roof that can be barred from either side. The muddle and upper levels have arrow slits, for further defense. The "rookery" part of its name comes from another intrinsic magical function; it generates ephemeral rooks when in battle, which are more like illusion spells than real - they harry the rookery's enemies, but are invisible to its allies... although, strangely, it can deploy these spirit-rooks to carry message like delivery birds.

If rendered inoperative, the rookery simply becomes inert rather than being destroyed, settling into place and becoming just an ordinary tower. The wreck can be salvaged and made to run again, but it's expensive and requires rare expertise; it's very rare for these things to be seen without a squad of protectors.

A sidebar notes that Clockwork Rookiers appear in the Eberron setting, creations of House Cannith - they are particularly common in the forces of Breland (which often stocks the tower with warforged soldiers) and Aundair. Karrnath is home to a variant called the Bone Belfry, which is usually manned by undead troopers and which produces shadowy bats instead of the ephemeral ravens. Apparently, some Bone Belfries launch bolts of necrotic energy rather than firing standard arbalest bolts, but no mechanics for that are provided.

Mechanically, a Clockwork Rookery is a Level 15 Solo Brute, with HP 600, AC 27, Fort 29, Ref 25, and Will 27. It is a Gargantuan Natural Animate (Construct) with Speed 6 and immunity to Disease and Poison.

It has the following traits:
* Harrier Rooks: Aura 5, the aura is Lightly Obscured to enemies.
* All-Around Vision: Enemies can't gain Combat Advantage by Flanking this creature.
* Juggernaut: This creature ignores difficult terrain, provokes no opportunity attacks, and cannot squeeze or grab.
* Instinctive Warfare: A rookery that starts its turn Dominated ignores the condition long enough to use Trample as a free action. A rookery that starts its turn Stunned ignores the condition long enough to use Arbalest Volley as a free action.
* Living Vehicle: DC 20 to climb aboard, door at base, door on roof.

Finally, it has two attacks; Arbalest Volley as a Standard Action, and Trample as a Move action, both at-will.

Arbalest Volley is a Close Burst 20 (enemies) attack that is +20 vs. AC and does 2d10+7 damage on a hit.

As for Trample...
Effect: The rookery moves up to its speed and can move through enemies’ spaces during the move. Each time the rookery enters an enemy’s space for the first time during the move, it makes the following attack against that enemy. Enemies already in the rookery’s space when it uses this power cannot be targets of the power.
Attack: Melee 0 (enemy in the space); +18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d12 + 7 damage, and the target falls prone.
Miss: The rookery slides the target up to 4 squares to a square adjacent to the rookery.


Infernal Embassy
One of the most terrifying weapons of war used by the forces of Bael Turath was the Infernal Embassy; an enormous flying tetrahedron adorned with Asmodeus' mark upon its faces, with its interior containing a one-way portal from the Nine Hells into the mortal plane, allowing it to generate an endless swarm of legion devils to bolster Turathi forces upon the battlefield. Hurling hellish meteors from its interior, which open up rifts to let legion devils step through in their wake, a single Infernal Embassy could turn the tide of a battle - and in massed numbers... well, now you understand why the war was so bloody. Worse, when an Infernal Embassy is destroyed, it collapses in upon itself, often leaving behind a lingering evil that can taint the immediate area for generations.

Fortunately, it's not possible to construct these twisted edifices in the mortal world - they have to be made in Baator, and then summoned here. The ritual to do so is extremely difficult, and demands a high price in blood. Furthermore, it was only known to a select few of the leaders of Bael Turath.

As a result, it's believed that the ritual has been lost with the fall of the tiefling empire... but the Grandmaster of the Iron Circle, a force of Asmodeus-worshipping mercenaries from the city of Sarthel - who first appeared in the adventure "Reavers of Harkenwold" and were then fleshed out in "Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale" - has ordered their forces to scour the ancient ruins of Bael Turath holdings. If they find a copy of the ritual... well, it won't be good.

Mechanically, an Infernal Embassy is a Level 22 Solo Artillery, with HP 840, AC 36, Fort 34, Ref 33, and Will 33. It is a Huge Immortal Animate (Construct) with Speed 4, Fly 4, Immunity to Disease, Dominated and Poison, and Resist 1r5 to Cold and Fire.

It has the following traits...
* Baleful Presence: Aura 5, enemies in the aura take a -2 penalty to saving throws, devil allies that drop to 0 hit points in the aura explode and cause 15 Fire damage to all adjacent creatures.
* Action Recovery: All Dazing and Stunning effects on this creature end when it ends its turn.
* All-Around Vision: Enemies can't gain Combat Advantage by Flanking this creature.
* Juggernaut: This creature ignores difficult terrain, provokes no opportunity attacks, and cannot squeeze or grab.
* Living Vehicle: DC 20 to climb aboard.

It has only the one attack; a Standard Action At-Will attack called Hellish Meteor, which attacks an Area 2 within 20, targeting all creatures, at +25 vs. Reflex. On a hit, it does 2d12+18 Fire and Force damage, half damage on a miss, and whether it hits or misses, it summons 4 Legion Devil Legionnaires in unoccupied squares in the area. Summoned Legion Devils act immediately after the Infernal Embassy in the initiative order.


Predator Chario
One of the more common and frequently used siege engines in this article, Predator Chariots are used by goblins, hobgoblins and, rarely, other worshippers of Bane. As their name suggests, they are enclosed, armored carriages adorned with protective runes, pulled into battle by a specially bred strain of steel predators, which are smaller but faster and with greater resilience.

Hobgoblin lore states that the first Predator Chariots were engineered in Chernoggar, but the practice has spread to the mortal realms. They are much more manueverable than a similar horse-drawn vehicle, but the viciousness of the creatures drawing it means that a Predator Chariot requires constant handling, lest the beasts run rampant, ignorant to the chariot they are hauling along behind them

Mechanically, a Predator Chariot is a Level 16 Elite Solider, with HP 320, AC 32, Fort 29, Ref 28, and Will 27. It is a Huge Immortal Animate (Construct) with Speed 7.

It has the following traits:
* Juggernaut: This creature ignores difficult terrain, provokes no opportunity attacks, and cannot squeeze or grab.
* Living Vehicle: DC 15 to climb aboard, 2 side-mounted doors.

And the following attacks, all Standard Action:
* Slashing Fury (At-Will): Melee 1, +21 vs. AC, 2d10+7 damage and the target falls prone.
* Predatory Dash (At-Will): The chariot moves up to its speed. Each time the chariot moves adjacent to an enemy for the first time during the move, it makes a slashing fury attack against that enemy.
* Resonant Roar (Recharge 5 or if takes Lightning or Thunder damage): Close Burst 3 (creatures in burst but not in chariot's space), +19 vs. Fortitude, 2d8+15 Thunder damage and the targeted is Deafened and Dazed (save ends both).


War Willow Treant
Most commonly found amongst elves, but logic suggests that other forest-loving beings such as shifters, gnomes or wilden would also make heavy use of them, War Willows are... well, the name says it all; they are especially large treants who deign to carry humanoid soldiers into battle, clinging to its branches as it lumbers into the fray.

...Were you expecting more? Sorry, but the amount of fluff dropped off sharply as this article progressed, not helped by the stupidly huge D&D Online advert on the final page. What you see here is what you get.

Mechanically, a War Willow Treant is a Level 17 Elite Soldier, with HP 336, AC 33, Fort 30, Ref 27, and Will 28. It is a Huge Fey Magical Beast (Plant) with Speed 8 and Forest Walk.

It has the following Traits:
* Wrathful Roots: Aura 3, the aura is difficult terrain for nonflying enemies, which must also make a DC 23 Acrobatics or Athletics check to stand up in the aura.
* Living Vehicle: DC 15 to climb aboard.
* Threatening Reach: The treant can make opportunity attacks against enemies within 3 squares of itself.
* Wooden Body: Whenever the treant takes Fire damge, it also takes ongoing 5 Fire damage (save ends).

And the following Attacks, both Standard Action At-Wills:
* Slam: Melee 3, +22 vs. AC, 2d8+16 damage, the treant slides the target up to 2 squares, and the target falls prone.
* Trample: The treant moves up to its speed and can move through enemies’ spaces during the move. Each time the treant enters an enemy’s space for the first time during the move, the treant makes a slam attack against that enemy.


Closing Thoughts
I... wouldn't exactly call this a necessary article, and I'm not sure how much use the average DM will get out of it. It's nice to see 4e's design philosophy of "the world is fantastical to the core, not faux-medieval Europe with fantasy clumsily sprinkled on top" being embraced in this way, but I wouldn't call this article exceptionally interesting.

Tune in next time for something folks should enjoy seeing; Dragon #420's Fey of Wood and Wind. We are officially closing up the Dragon half of this project, folks! Only 8 articles to go before we begin entering the weird, wonderful world of Dungeon's articles.
 

JoeNotCharles

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Weird how we have such different reactions to this. The fact that these are so cool and different from other monsters makes this a really cool article. I missed it when it came out, but it makes me want to run a 4E campaign just to work some of these individuals.

I especially like the Trent. It doesn't get as much because it doesn't need much: you don't need a lot of explanation of its origins to see how you can fit it into a campaign.
 

ESkemp

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Whereas I'm more of the sort who likes the Infernal Embassy. That's the sort of thing I'd love to have as the potential end-boss of a campaign arc, or possibly as an end-boss that is also a dungeon that the PCs then have to escape when they bring it crashing to the ground. It's a great idea, a neat visual, and in just about the right place to be the capstone of paragon tier.
 

Strange Visitor

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Whereas I'm more of the sort who likes the Infernal Embassy. That's the sort of thing I'd love to have as the potential end-boss of a campaign arc, or possibly as an end-boss that is also a dungeon that the PCs then have to escape when they bring it crashing to the ground. It's a great idea, a neat visual, and in just about the right place to be the capstone of paragon tier.
It also sounds like an excellent motivator for a "We really need to stop this damn ritual, because otherwise we're probably going to end up being the people having to deal with the damn thing" situation.
 

Bira

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For some reason the Clockwork Rookery gave me the impression of a gentle tower-shaped pachyderm who only fights in self-defense or as directed by its beloved flock of soldiers, which it treats much as a mother hen would its chicks.
 

JoeNotCharles

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Whereas I'm more of the sort who likes the Infernal Embassy. That's the sort of thing I'd love to have as the potential end-boss of a campaign arc, or possibly as an end-boss that is also a dungeon that the PCs then have to escape when they bring it crashing to the ground. It's a great idea, a neat visual, and in just about the right place to be the capstone of paragon tier.
Oh, I like that too. All of them were really cool. I just particularly like the idea of riding an ent as a war machine, and (separately) wanted to say why I didn't think the sparse fluff was a problem for that particular case.
 

ESkemp

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Sure, I getcha. I'm not trying to say that the treant isn't cool, just that the flying infernal tetrahedron really got into my imagination.

Maybe this article gets more response than the living spells did because for a number of tables, 4e's strengths lent itself well to things like large-scale combat. Now, I may not be the average DM, but I find living siege engines way more usable than living spells. I think part of that is due to 4e's slaughter of sacred cows -- any one individual spell is less common and iconic in a world where sorcerers and wizards don't share the same spell list, so a "living fireball"'s impact is based more on what players remember from previous editions as the iconic fireball. But a living siege engine is the sort of thing that translates over pretty well: it feels novel because you don't fight them very often, but it's not a hard concept to get across at all. We're pretty used to doomsday weapons in a lot of our media. And 4e's really good at building them -- the living siege tower in Monster Vault's another fine example.
 
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