Tuesday, January 13, 2015

D&D: Speculating about Elemental Evil

Sasquatch Studios Will Produce ADVENTURER's HANDBOOK and PRINCES OF THE APOCALYPSE for D&D 5E in 2015! (EN World)
"After Tyranny of Dragons, Sasquatch Studios has been hired to produce Adventurer's Handbook and Princes of the Apocalypse. Sasquatch [is] made up of veteran game designers Richard Baker, Stephen Schubert, and David Noonan..."

Going forward, Wizards is going to produce two storylines per year, releasing additional Player options related to the current storyline as appropriate.  With the conclusion of Tyranny of Dragons, we're getting a story about the Temple of Elemental Evil, and it's got it's own Player's support book, too.

What kind of Player support do you release alongside the Temple of Elemental Evil?

I confess to knowing little about Stephen Schubert and David Noonan.  However, fans of D&D's 4th edition can't help but be familiar with Richard Baker.  Baker wrote a trio of my favorite 4e novels, the books in the Swordmage trilogy, which was set in the Forgotten Realms.  He also wrote the Last Mythal trilogy from the final days of 3.5, and he's got the lead credit on the 4e published adventure King of the Trollhaunt Warrens.  I think he was also involved in the Abyssal Plague trilogy set in the Nentir Vale, but if those books are still in print, WotC has done an excellent job hiding the evidence.  Regardless, we've seen Baker's work before, and while I've personally enjoyed a lot of it, it's not necessarily a good guide to what we're going to see with Adventurer's Handbook.  It's been all over the place.  Maybe we could argue that the overriding theme is a penchant for planar travel, but with a storyline that's dedicated to Elemental Evil, that was already a given.

I really liked Richard Baker's Swordmage.
Promotional copy for Adventurer's Handbook says the following:

"Create Heroic Characters to Conquer the Elements in this Accessory for the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game.

Not inherently evil, elemental power can be mastered by those with both malevolent and benign intentions. The Elemental Evil Adventurer’s Handbook provides everything that players need to build a character that is tied directly into the Elemental Evil story arc, with skills, abilities, and spells meant to augment their play experience throughout the campaign. Additionally, valuable background and story information provides greater depth and immersion. 

An accessory that expands the number of options available for character creation for the Elemental Evil story arc, providing expanded backgrounds, class builds, and races meant specifically for this campaign.

Provides background and setting information critical to having the greatest chance of success.

Accessory design and development by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC."

I'm not sure what to make of that.  There's bound to be a lot of fluff, new "skills, abilities, and spells", and "expanded backgrounds, class builds, and races", but what does that mean?

"Elemental Evil" encompasses an awful lot of stuff.  It used to include the demons of the Abyss, too, but now that the Abyss is no longer located in the Elemental Chaos, we can at least narrow it down a little.  However, we still have primordials, the City of Brass, elemental and demi-elemental planes, djinn and rakshasa, and the gods alone know what else.

There are a lot of potential possibilities.

So far, we've seen all the core Player races from 4e Player's Handbook, plus the drow, gnome, half-orc, and aasimar.  Clearly we need to add the genasi, the obvious choice for an elemental-based book, but it wouldn't surprise me if we added something else as well.  I'd personally like to see a bladeling or something like that, but it's also possible that we'll see elemental elves (fire elves?), variants of dragonborn, or something like an azer (i.e. an elemental dwarf).  I'd say there's an outside chance we'll see something like a daemonfey (a half-elf, half-demon from the Last Mythal trilogy), but that would make more sense if the Abyss were still in the Elemental Chaos.

For what it's worth, I once played a Bladeling Seeker with the Vistani background, and it was the coolest thing ever.  Granted, he was from Sigil and made more sense in a planar campaign than he would have in an elemental campaign, but he was still a badass.

Richard Baker literally wrote the book on Swordmages.  Dare I even say it?  Predict it?

We're going to get a Swordmage!

Seriously, how can you have genasi without having a swordmage?  Okay, sure, the swordmage tradition is supposed to spring from elven styles of magic (bladesingers), and genasi don't have anything in particular in common with elves, but still...  In the 4th edition, the swordmage was custom-made for the genasi.


Sadly, 4e is dead.  We may get a swordmage, but we may not.  There is no particular reason why sword magic is tied to elemental power, and in any event, it seems like WotC can't run away from the 4th edition fast enough these days.

That said, besides a swordmage build for the Wizard class, there are a few other things I'd like to see:

 -- An elemental build for the Barbarian.  Similar to the Path of the Totem Warrior, but when you rage, you catch on fire!  Call it the Path of the Flaming Horde.  That would be truly awe-inspiring.

 -- A primordial build for Clerics.  In the Forgotten Realms, this would make you the (presumably evil) priest of a primordial.  Folks used to worship Kossuth as I recall, and they weren't necessarily evil, but I doubt they do that much anymore.

 -- As with the Barbarian, it'd be cool if we got an elemental Druid.  Druids can already Wild Shape into elementals, so I'd make this a pet subclass, with the druid bonding some kind of elemental spirit animal as a companion or familiar.  Either call it the Circle of Fire or, more likely, the Circle of the Shaman.

 -- An elementalist Fighter?  There was an excellent Warlord/Warlock build in Dragon #369 that required using a polearm as a Pact Implement.  With Warlords now subsumed into the Fighter class, that could come back here.  More likely, we see some kind of Fighter classed Warden build based on elemental power.  I don't know that I'd say that's likely, but it's certainly possible.

 -- We already have an elementalist Monk.

 -- As with the other "naturalist" classes, I could see adding some kind of elementalist Ranger who specializes in leading folks through the wilds of the Elemental Chaos.  I suspect this would not be a complete build so much as it would merely be an inclusion of more types of favored terrain and perhaps the possibility of adding an elemental-based companion for your Beast Master-type Ranger.  As in, "Why yes, my animal companion is a Hell Hound.  Why do you ask?"

 -- The two most obvious inclusions in the new book are for Sorcerers and Warlocks.  They'll probably dress it up a bit, but it'll be something like Sorcerous Origin: Elemental Bloodline and Warlock Pact: Elemental Prince.  Maybe we add the Warlock Pact of the Glave here as well?  That would be badass.  I may have to homebrew a variant of that in the next few weeks just to see what it might look like.

They had a minotaur on the cover, but it was the
Infernal Captain's Pact that caught people's imaginations.

Elemental traveler?  Plane-touched?  Primordial cultist?

It seems a little weird for a 1st level character to start with an elemental-themed background, but I suppose you could use it describe a denizen of the City of Brass.  Still, it's hard to see how such a character would survive in the early going.

I doubt we get new mundane equipment, but I can well imagine a raft full of elementally-themed magic items and maybe some extra-planar mounts, vehicles, and that sort of thing.  Maybe we finally get stats and prices for that Nightmare you've been wanting to ride around on?  We've also not seen specs for an Astral Skiff, but we'll definitely need something that can take us around as we sail the seas of the Elemental Chaos.

As long as we get official specs for Greenflame Blade, I don't care what else is included.

Eh, okay.  I'd really like to the addition of a new variant of Electrified Lash as well.

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  1. Maybe...

    The original Temple of Elemental Evil actually had very little in the way of element-based stuff in it. There were very brief excursions to elemental pockets at the very, very end of the adventure, but even that was pretty limited stuff.

    But that also is in Greyhawk, not the Forgotten Realms. At this point, I'd say nearly anything is possible.

    1. I didn't know that. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote about the new Adventurer's Handbook is because I've never read the original adventure. That said, it's telling that they're calling it PRINCES OF THE APOCALYPSE. Totally new name, presumably for a totally new adventure. The new book weighs in at a whopping $49.95, so it's liable to be a whole Adventure Path. Certainly, there's gonna be a lot there.

      Speaking personally, I wish they would publish more, shorter adventures. MINE OF PHANDELVER was great, but even that is a little long. I think a raft of 5-page PDFs for $4.99 on iTunes would sell like crazy.

  2. WotC officially announced the Princes of the Apocalypse storyline today, but if I'm reading the announcement correctly, it looks like the (presumably) attached Adventurer's Handbook has either been cancelled of subsumed into the Princes adventure book. I don't know that this changes the nature of the speculation above, but the genasi has been confirmed, and a new Players' support PDF is supposed to be on the way as well.

    Anyway, I'd been considering a retraction of this article, but being that it was always "speculation", I suppose that's unnecessary. We know more now than we did, but still don't necessarily know a lot.