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A (Mostly) Comprehensive List of Fantastic Terrain in 4e D&D

Mudflats

The 4th Edition D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide introduces (p.67) “Fantastic Terrain” as environmental dressing to spice up your encounters.  The second DMG and supplements thereafter have expounded upon the initial list, but keeping track of all the interesting varieties of terrain is difficult when one has to flip through half a dozen books.  The following tables aim to serve as an index of fantastic terrain.  The first table lists the terrain alphabetically; the second lists it by source.

(By request, it is now also available as a PDF)

FANTASTIC TERRAIN BY ALPHA

Aberrant Structures Desiccated, long-dead structures in ruins left over from Nihilath. Underdark (p.82)
Abyssal Wellspring A suppurating wound in reality where the raw madness and evil of the Abyss bulges into another plane. Manual of the Planes (p.21)
Acidic Mire Seas composed of flesh-dissolving liquids bordered by shores riddled with moors that churn with acid bubbling up from below. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.12)
Angelic Lantern These small, pulsating balls of light are faint manifestations of divine will. Manual of the Planes (p.21)
Armorfields Where Moradin’s exalted tread, armorfields spring up. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.50)
Ash Field Defiling magic withers verdant areas, dissolving plants into a fine powder and creating extended areas of lifeless ash. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34)
Astral Flame A fountain of fiery liquid, an astral flame is the burning essence of the Astral Sea. Manual of the Planes (p.21)
Barbed Cacti The barbed cactus has wicked hooks that cling to a creatures flesh. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34)
Black Sand When defiling magic is used to slaughter innocents, a residue mixes with the ground to create black sand. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34)
Blast Cloud The rust-hued dust particles conduct and amplify energy and elemental forces. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.58)
Blinkrock Nondescript gray-black stone with texture similar to granite and the ability to warp space. Underdark (p.65)
Blood Grate Hideous contraptions that revitalize formorians and their allies with the blood of intruders. Underdark (p.103)
Blood Midge Cloud A swarm of biting insects. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.58)
Blood Rock The site of ceremonial sacrifices, a great slaughter, or some other calamity. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67)
Bolt Stone Lightning energy fused with rock to form a highly unstable, dangerous mixture. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.58)
Bonepowder Haze Strange haze of fine, white powder, crackling with necrotic energy that saps the life force of creatures within and empower nearby undead The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Brainmoss Tissue seeded from living brains growing on cavern walls and floors.  Wild brainmoss picks up and retains strong emotional impressions of sentient beings around it and have significant effect on the minds of living creatures. Underdark (p.83)
Brainswell Nebula Gigantic cloud formations resembling a diseased and pulsating brain often encountered in githyanki-controlled sectors of the Astral Sea. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.28)
Brambleweed Brambleweed has finger-length thorns, sharp and sturdy enough to rend flesh. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34)
Carpet of Serpents Swarms of serpents (or other venomous creatures) that dart in and out of various hidden dens. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.86)
Caught Breath Tinkling crystals of warm breath frozen in air. Underdark (p.120)
Cave Slime Thin blue slime. Harmless but extremely slick. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67)
Chainstorm Phantasmal, shrieking chains are thought to be the echoes of an imprisoned deity’s rage manifesting in the Astral Sea. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Chaos Breath Powerful, unpredictable wind gusts that extend high into the atmosphere. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Chaos Spots Certain locations in the dominion are in constant flux. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.109)
Choke Frost Light, white mist, which congeals into thick ice as creatures move through it. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67)
Choking Vapors The fumes rise from volcanic vents. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.86)
Cloudspore Strange Underdark mushrooms that create a thick cloud of spores when disturbed. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67)
Combustibles Some treasures (paper, scrolls, precious wood) are flammable and can go up in flames. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.60)
Crawling Earth Ground that animates when stepped on, then quiets after a few moments. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Creeping Ice Areas infused with cold energy that slowly drain living creatures of life. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.58)
Cursed Obelisk These black, stone obelisks are usually covered in runes. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.87)
Darkrock Darkrock drinks in illumination, weakening the light and creating strange, unpredictable shadows. Underdark (p.14)
Dazzling Treasure A mirror, shield, or other shiny surface reflects and intensifies light shined upon it so that those nearby are temporarily blinded. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.60)
Dead Magic The most powerful arcane magic completely drains an area of plant an animal life. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 35)
Defiled Ground The dead do not always rest in peace. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Defiled Terrain Defiled terrain is created by the use of powerful defiling magic. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34)
Demon Jags Sharp, rugged stone formed when demons are trampled by other demons or are otherwise violently absorbed into the surrounding surface. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Demon Slick Odd, vile smelling slime that makes footing treacherous. Widespread where demons congregate. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Despond’s Draining Waters The Lake of Despond has a diminishing effect upon living creatures that touch it. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.69)
Devouring Cloud A chittering cloud of bright-red astral beetles. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Dimensional Turbulence Instability in the fabric of a plane making teleportation difficult and inaccurate. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Distracting Prisoner A dragon’s charisma and terror can unravel the minds of its prisoners. These fools might try to hamper or distract their would-be rescuers. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.60)
Divine Blood Wreckage from the ancient war between the gods and primordials still litters the planes. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Doomlight Crystal Glowing rock formations that trap a volatile gas that explodes in contact with air. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Dragon-Cursed Treasure These treasures carry the maliciousness of its owner to such an extent that anyone that handles them fall under a mild curse. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.61)
Drainer Lichen The Foothill’s rockier slopes are mottled by drainer lichen. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.50)
Earth Flow In the Elemental Chaos, earth moves constantly in rivers of rock, dirt, or mud. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Earthen Maw Parts of the broken badlands open and close like jaws, seeking to snare passersby. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.87)
Eldritch Influx Magical energy pools in this area flowing into the void left behind by the expenditure of magical item powers. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Elemental Seepage A strange, viscous mass that pulsates and quivers with the energy of the Elemental Chaos (elemental fire, cold, thunder, lighting, or some combination of the four). Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Elemental Spout Eruptions of material or elemental energy issuing forth from solid surfaces, bodies of liquid, raging storms, or empty air. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.13)
Elemental Windchurn Elemental turbulence crackling with energy, its swirling winds making flying difficult. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Ember Moss A strange Underdark moss that is highly flammable and burns brightly. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67)
Energy Alteration Field The air sparkles and the ground buzzes in chaotic energy alteration fields. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.15)
Energy Crystals These weird crystals collect and store energy of all kinds. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Energy Node A particularly strong confluence of arcane, divine, or other forms of power. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.59)
Erratic Portal When the magic of a portal finally fails, it may transform into an erratic portal. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Eye Unblinking Magic weapons made from ritually enlarged evil eyes and nourished by the blood of wounded foes which loose beams of arcane energy at invaders. Underdark (p.103)
Fey Circle A location empowered with the extraordinary energy of the Feywild. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Font of Power Planar energy, a powerful artifact, or some other power boost attacks. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Frozen Fire Portions of the Elemental Chaos experience cold so intense that even fire freezes, forming a highly unstable substance. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.15)
Glimmering Mirage Glimmering mirages are crafted by cruel primal spirits to confuse and distress wanderers. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 35)
Glowstone Glowstone provides patches of dim light that break up the darkness. Underdark (p.14)
Godrock Where fragments of Torog’s bones struck the earth, formations called godsrock sprouted. Underdark (p.119)
Godsblood The divine energy remaining within this godsblood temporarily supercharges the natural healing capability of any creature, but at the cost of its own stamina and sanity. Underdark (p.102)
Godsdream The energy remaining from Torog’s passage through the Shallows provides creatures with the certainty of one incredible blow against a foe, but hides everything beneath a filmy layer of a dream. Underdark (p.33)
Godsrage An echo of Torog’s ancient fury, a terrible and appalling anger, infect travelers with a raging power. Underdark (p.64)
Grab Grass Thick, tough grass of the deep forests of the Feywild. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Gramble The Foothills’ rugged heaths are covered in patches of gramble, a dense, thorny bush with carnivorous instincts. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.50)
Grasping Bog An area of deep, viscous mud that hampers movement. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Grasping Slime Black, viscous goo whose clingy surface can cause a creature to become stuck. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Grasping Vines Vines, roots, and other vegetation that have become infused with aberrant energies that entangle those that come near. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.107)
Ground Swarms Masses of rats, beetles, tiny drakes, or other nuisance creatures. Underdark (p.100)
Haunted Terrain Haunted terrain radiates negative emotions, ranging from vague unease to crippling sorrow to virulent hatred of life. Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (p.29)
Healing Ground An area infused with primal energy that allows life of all sorts to flourish. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Hellfire Fire found predominantly in the Nine Hells. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Hungry Void Some places in the unending night below sap existence and unravel the threads of life. Underdark (p.120)
Ice Maws Expanses of permafrost that come alive with mouthlike openings. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.15)
Illusions Illusions can mimic any terrain. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Illusory Wall An illusory wall blocks line of sight. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Infectious Pallor Pockets of diseased air that drift through the Abyss. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.16)
Infernal Fumes Great clouds of gray smoke that drift as if alive. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Insect Cloud Swarms of flying, blood-drinking bugs, searching for targets for their hunger. Underdark (p.100)
Insect Swarms Swarms of biting, sucking insects, drawn by fresh blood and looking for their next source of food. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.107)
Jade Flame Strange, vibrant green fire that burns everything it comes near, yet protects them from other sources of heat. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Lifedrinker Caverns Strange, black-speckled lichen that feed on nearby injuries. Underdark (p.64)
Lightning Mist Fields of gray-blue fog that drift slowly through the Elemental Chaos and are hazardous to traverse quickly. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.16)
Lightning Pillar The pillar hums with elemental power and is clearly an otherworldly formation. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 35)
Liquid Thunder Highly volatile liquid pools coalesced from the force of a powerful elemental storm. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.16)
Living Stone Rock formations that grow on their own. Underdark (p.13)
Loadstone This strange rock dramatically increases the weight of all objects. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Martyr’s Monument The life energy of an ancient and powerful champion of the gods, embodied in a statue or some other holy icon. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Mask of Zorthos This Gargantuan phantasmal clay mask, believed to be the hollowed-out head of Zorthos, the slain god of doubt and lassitude, spins endlessly through the Astral Sea. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Mercyfields Locations visited by Bahamut’s exalted dragons develop into mercyfields. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.51)
Mirror Crystal Mirror crystals cause strange twists and turns in space. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Mudflats Underground water reservoirs seep up though the soil to create a dusty sludge. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 35)
Mushroom Arch A series of glowing mushrooms that grow together to form an arch over a corridor. Underdark (p.101)
Necrotic Ground An area infused with necrotic energy, draining those that enter. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.60)
Needle Hedge Sharp-needled bushes that grow in the dark forests of the Shadowfell. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.61)
Nihilath Shroud This roiling wave of gray ectoplasmic matter continually sprouts tentacles, which pull and tear at each other and are then reabsorbed into the larger mass. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Phase Crystal Related to phase rock, this translucent silvery crystal can be induced to discharge the extradimensional energy and shunt a creature out of phase for a short time. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.17)
Phase Mist A hazy cloud of swirling color connected to the strange spaces that exist between the planes. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.61)
Phase Rock Phase rocks are slightly out of sync with reality. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Pillar of Life This tall stone pillar is infused with life energy. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Pocket of Night In the darkest places of Samaragd, the shadows have an unnatural weight, and no natural light can penetrate the darkness. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.87)
Primal Mud Organic sludge which forms where life force rises up through the Feydark into the Feywild. Underdark (p.101)
Primordial Font Volatile fountains of liquid elemental energy that change those who bathe in them. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.17)
Psychic Reservoir Odd violet crystals grow in caverns or rocky terrain, psychic reservoirs containing latent energy. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 36)
Psychic Storm Psychic storms darken the astral clouds and reach the size of earthly hurricanes. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Quick Sear A viscous, silvery green liquid, resulting from the mixture of acid and quicksilver. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.61)
Rage Stone An expanse of black-veined crimson stone infused with the psychic residue of pitches battles and brutal atrocities. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.61)
Razorvine This hardy creeper plant ubiquitous throughout the planes has serrated leaves that unfold from black stems. Manual of the Planes (p.22)
Rocky Badlands The canyons and wastes of Athas’s rocky badlands are rugged and arid. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 36)
Sacred Circle A sacred circle is dedicated to a specific deity and infused with divine energy. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Salt Flats Bleak plains encrusted with saline deposits and bone-dry sand. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 36)
Sandy Wastes The wastes of Athas stretch for miles in every direction, largely featureless but for sand, wind, and relentless heat. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 36)
Sehil’s Guts Legend suggests that this Huge phantasmal knot of blood-red tubes is the remains of the intestines of Sehil, a primordial that Kord slew barehanded during the Dawn War’s final battle. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.29)
Shifting Piles and Slippery Coins Loose coins can be treacherous to move through, since they create unstable footing. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.61)
Sickening Heat Athas’s sun burns with peculiar intensity in areas where magic has defiled a copious amount of plant life. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 35)
Silt Pool Natural dips and crevasses in the land can fill up with extremely light, powdery silt that acts like quicksand. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 36)
Slides A slide is coated with a slick substance. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.68)
Super Fun Happy Slide Stone stairs convert into a slide leading straight to the monsters. The PC’s shouldn’t but, c’mon, when are they going to be back here? The Simpsons (ep. 1F04)
Slipsand In sandy areas where magic, primal power, or psionics have been used heavily, the ground becomes saturated with high quantities of glass particles. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 37)
Soul Shard Clusters Remnants of living creatures slain in the Shadowdark linger as soul shards. Underdark (p.121)
Soul Venom These areas of Samaragd contain tainted atmosphere. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.87)
Soulshocked Ground Patches of the Kalandurren arena have become soulshocked ground to keep arena fights bloody. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.115)
Spiderwebs The webs of giant spiders. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.69)
Spore Field Intoxicating spores that rapidly decompose organic matter. Underdark (p.109)
Strangling Wind The pressure of this wind is so great, and its blasts so turbulent, that it slows and even suffocates those who push themselves too hard. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.17)
Teleporters Magical gates that whisk characters from one spot to another. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.69)
The Weeping Lady The heart-wrenching sobs of a seemingly female voice haunt the Deeps. Underdark (p.64)
Thunder Shards Crystalline shards of solidified thunder energy which are both unstable and dangerous. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.61)
Tree of Life A tree of life is mystically infused with primal forces of life. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 37)
Valorfields When Kord’s exalted gather to fight, they leave valorfields in their wake. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.51)
Venomous Air These are clouds of nigh-undetectable poisons that hang in the air and amplify other poison attacks. The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.87)
Vicious Treasure Caches containing weapons, armor, and other such sharp objects can snag and cut the unwary. Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.61)
Whirlwind Whirlwinds form in areas infused with elemental energy. Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.69)
Wormrock Porous orange rock that is easy to dig through. Underdark (p.14)
Wrath Mud Eerie mud that saps the sanity from creatures within it, pushing them to violence through psychic pain. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.17)
Z’Tal Horde Colonies of z’tal lizards gather in a mass exuding a slippery ooze and a noxious vapor. Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 37)

FANTASTIC TERRAIN BY SOURCE BOOK

Dark Sun Creature Catalog (p. 34) Ash Field Defiling magic withers verdant areas, dissolving plants into a fine powder and creating extended areas of lifeless ash.
(p.34) Barbed Cacti The barbed cactus has wicked hooks that cling to a creatures flesh.
(p.34) Black Sand When defiling magic is used to slaughter innocents, a residue mixes with the ground to create black sand.
(p.34) Brambleweed Brambleweed has finger-length thorns, sharp and sturdy enough to rend flesh.
(p.35) Dead Magic The most powerful arcane magic completely drains an area of plant an animal life.
(p.34) Defiled Terrain Defiled terrain is created by the use of powerful defiling magic.
(p.35) Glimmering Mirage Glimmering mirages are crafted by cruel primal spirits to confuse and distress wanderers.
 (p. 35) Lightning Pillar The pillar hums with elemental power and is clearly an otherworldly formation.
 (p. 35) Mudflats Underground water reservoirs seep up though the soil to create a dusty sludge.
 (p. 36) Psychic Reservoir Odd violet crystals grow in caverns or rocky terrain, psychic reservoirs containing latent energy.
 (p. 36) Rocky Badlands The canyons and wastes of Athas’s rocky badlands are rugged and arid.
(p. 36) Salt Flats Bleak plains encrusted with saline deposits and bone-dry sand.
(p. 36) Sandy Wastes The wastes of Athas stretch for miles in every direction, largely featureless but for sand, wind, and relentless heat.
(p. 35) Sickening Heat Athas’s sun burns with peculiar intensity in areas where magic has defiled a copious amount of plant life.
 (p. 36) Silt Pool Natural dips and crevasses in the land can fill up with extremely light, powdery silt that acts like quicksand.
 (p. 37) Slipsand In sandy areas where magic, primal power, or psionics have been used heavily, the ground becomes saturated with high quantities of glass particles.
 (p. 37) Tree of Life A tree of life is mystically infused with primal forces of life.
 (p. 37) Z’Tal Horde Colonies of z’tal lizards gather in a mass exuding a slippery ooze and a noxious vapor.
Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.67) Blood Rock The site of ceremonial sacrifices, a great slaughter, or some other calamity.
 (p.67) Cave Slime Thin blue slime. Harmless but extremely slick.
 (p.67) Choke Frost Light, white mist, which congeals into thick ice as creatures move through it.
 (p.67) Cloudspore Strange Underdark mushrooms that create a thick cloud of spores when disturbed.
 (p.67) Ember Moss A strange Underdark moss that is highly flammable and burns brightly.
 (p.68) Font of Power Planar energy, a powerful artifact, or some other power boost attacks.
 (p.68) Grab Grass Thick, tough grass of the deep forests of the Feywild.
 (p.68) Grasping Slime Black, viscous goo whose clingy surface can cause a creature to become stuck.
 (p.68) Illusions Illusions can mimic any terrain.
 (p.68) Illusory Wall An illusory wall blocks line of sight.
 (p.68) Loadstone This strange rock dramatically increases the weight of all objects.
 (p.68) Mirror Crystal Mirror crystals cause strange twists and turns in space.
 (p.68) Pillar of Life This tall stone pillar is infused with life energy.
 (p.68) Sacred Circle A sacred circle is dedicated to a specific deity and infused with divine energy.
 (p.68) Slides A slide is coated with a slick substance.
 (p.69) Spiderwebs The webs of giant spiders.
 (p.69) Teleporters Magical gates that whisk characters from one spot to another.
 (p.69) Whirlwind Whirlwinds form in areas infused with elemental energy.
Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (p.58) Blast Cloud The rust-hued dust particles conduct and amplify energy and elemental forces.
 (p.58) Blood Midge Cloud A swarm of biting insects.
 (p.58) Bolt Stone Lightning energy fused with rock to form a highly unstable, dangerous mixture.
 (p.58) Creeping Ice Areas infused with cold energy that slowly drain living creatures of life.
 (p.59) Defiled Ground The dead do not always rest in peace.
 (p.59) Dimensional Turbulence Instability in the fabric of a plane making teleportation difficult and inaccurate.
 (p.59) Doomlight Crystal Glowing rock formations that trap a volatile gas that explodes in contact with air.
 (p.59) Eldritch Influx Magical energy pools in this area flowing into the void left behind by the expenditure of magical item powers.
 (p.59) Elemental Windchurn Elemental turbulence crackling with energy, its swirling winds making flying difficult.
 (p.59) Energy Node A particularly strong confluence of arcane, divine, or other forms of power.
 (p.60) Fey Circle A location empowered with the extraordinary energy of the Feywild.
 (p.60) Grasping Bog An area of deep, viscous mud that hampers movement.
 (p.60) Healing Ground An area infused with primal energy that allows life of all sorts to flourish.
 (p.60) Infernal Fumes Great clouds of gray smoke that drift as if alive.
 (p.60) Jade Flame Strange, vibrant green fire that burns everything it comes near, yet protects them from other sources of heat.
 (p.60) Martyr’s Monument The life energy of an ancient and powerful champion of the gods, embodied in a statue or some other holy icon.
 (p.60) Necrotic Ground An area infused with necrotic energy, draining those that enter.
 (p.61) Needle Hedge Sharp-needled bushes that grow in the dark forests of the Shadowfell.
 (p.61) Phase Mist A hazy cloud of swirling color connected to the strange spaces that exist between the planes.
 (p.61) Quick Sear A viscous, silvery green liquid, resulting from the mixture of acid and quicksilver.
 (p.61) Rage Stone An expanse of black-veined crimson stone infused with the psychic residue of pitches battles and brutal atrocities.
 (p.61) Thunder Shards Crystalline shards of solidified thunder energy which are both unstable and dangerous.
Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (p.60) Combustibles Some treasures (paper, scrolls, precious wood) are flammable and can go up in flames.
 (p.60) Dazzling Treasure A mirror, shield, or other shiny surface reflects and intensifies light shined upon it so that those nearby are temporarily blinded.
 (p.60) Distracting Prisoner A dragon’s charisma and terror can unravel the minds of its prisoners. These fools might try to hamper or distract their would-be rescuers.
 (p.61) Dragon-Cursed Treasure These treasures carry the maliciousness of its owner to such an extent that anyone that handles them fall under a mild curse.
 (p.61) Shifting Piles and Slippery Coins Loose coins can be treacherous to move through, since they create unstable footing.
 (p.61) Vicious Treasure Caches containing weapons, armor, and other such sharp objects can snag and cut the unwary.
Manual of the Planes (p.21) Abyssal Wellspring A suppurating wound in reality where the raw madness and evil of the Abyss bulges into another plane.
(p.21) Angelic Lantern These small, pulsating balls of light are faint manifestations of divine will.
 (p.21) Astral Flame A fountain of fiery liquid, an astral flame is the burning essence of the Astral Sea.
 (p.22) Divine Blood Wreckage from the ancient war between the gods and primordials still litters the planes.
 (p.22) Elemental Seepage A strange, viscous mass that pulsates and quivers with the energy of the Elemental Chaos (elemental fire, cold, thunder, lighting, or some combination of the four).
 (p.22) Energy Crystals These weird crystals collect and store energy of all kinds.
 (p.22) Erratic Portal When the magic of a portal finally fails, it may transform into an erratic portal.
 (p.22) Hellfire Fire found predominantly in the Nine Hells.
 (p.22) Phase Rock Phase rocks are slightly out of sync with reality.
 (p.22) Razorvine This hardy creeper plant ubiquitous throughout the planes has serrated leaves that unfold from black stems.
Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (p.29) Haunted Terrain Haunted terrain radiates negative emotions, ranging from vague unease to crippling sorrow to virulent hatred of life.
The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (p.50) Armorfields Where Moradin’s exalted tread, armorfields spring up.
 (p.28) Brainswell Nebula Gigantic cloud formations resembling a diseased and pulsating brain often encountered in githyanki-controlled sectors of the Astral Sea.
 (p.86) Carpet of Serpents Swarms of serpents (or other venomous creatures) that dart in and out of various hidden dens.
 (p.29) Chainstorm Phantasmal, shrieking chains are thought to be the echoes of an imprisoned deity’s rage manifesting in the Astral Sea.
 (p.109) Chaos Spots Certain locations in the dominion are in constant flux.
 (p.86) Choking Vapors The fumes rise from volcanic vents.
 (p.87) Cursed Obelisk These black, stone obelisks are usually covered in runes.
 (p.69) Despond’s Draining Waters The Lake of Despond has a diminishing effect upon living creatures that touch it.
 (p.29) Devouring Cloud A chittering cloud of bright-red astral beetles.
 (p.50) Drainer Lichen The Foothill’s rockier slopes are mottled by drainer lichen.
 (p.87) Earthen Maw Parts of the broken badlands open and close like jaws, seeking to snare passersby.
 (p.50) Gramble The Foothills’ rugged heaths are covered in patches of gramble, a dense, thorny bush with carnivorous instincts.
 (p.107) Grasping Vines Vines, roots, and other vegetation that have become infused with aberrant energies that entangle those that come near.
 (p.107) Insect Swarms Swarms of biting, sucking insects, drawn by fresh blood and looking for their next source of food.
 (p.29) Mask of Zorthos This Gargantuan phantasmal clay mask, believed to be the hollowed-out head of Zorthos, the slain god of doubt and lassitude, spins endlessly through the Astral Sea.
 (p.51) Mercyfields Locations visited by Bahamut’s exalted dragons develop into mercyfields.
 (p.29) Nihilath Shroud This roiling wave of gray ectoplasmic matter continually sprouts tentacles, which pull and tear at each other and are then reabsorbed into the larger mass.
 (p.87) Pocket of Night In the darkest places of Samaragd, the shadows have an unnatural weight, and no natural light can penetrate the darkness.
 (p.29) Psychic Storm Psychic storms darken the astral clouds and reach the size of earthly hurricanes.
 (p.29) Sehil’s Guts Legend suggests that this Huge phantasmal knot of blood-red tubes is the remains of the intestines of Sehil, a primordial that Kord slew barehanded during the Dawn War’s final battle.
 (p.87) Soul Venom These areas of Samaragd contain tainted atmosphere.
 (p.115) Soulshocked Ground Patches of the Kalandurren arena have become soulshocked ground to keep arena fights bloody.
 (p.51) Valorfields When Kord’s exalted gather to fight, they leave valorfields in their wake.
 (p.87) Venomous Air These are clouds of nigh-undetectable poisons that hang in the air and amplify other poison attacks.
The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (p.12) Acidic Mire Seas composed of flesh-dissolving liquids bordered by shores riddled with moors that churn with acid bubbling up from below.
 (p.13) Bonepowder Haze Strange haze of fine, white powder, crackling with necrotic energy that saps the life force of creatures within and empower nearby undead
 (p.13) Chaos Breath Powerful, unpredictable wind gusts that extend high into the atmosphere.
 (p.13) Crawling Earth Ground that animates when stepped on, then quiets after a few moments.
 (p.13) Demon Jags Sharp, rugged stone formed when demons are trampled by other demons or are otherwise violently absorbed into the surrounding surface.
 (p.13) Demon Slick Odd, vile smelling slime that makes footing treacherous. Widespread where demons congregate.
 (p.13) Earth Flow In the Elemental Chaos, earth moves constantly in rivers of rock, dirt, or mud.
 (p.13) Elemental Spout Eruptions of material or elemental energy issuing forth from solid surfaces, bodies of liquid, raging storms, or empty air.
 (p.15) Energy Alteration Field The air sparkles and the ground buzzes in chaotic energy alteration fields.
 (p.15) Frozen Fire Portions of the Elemental Chaos experience cold so intense that even fire freezes, forming a highly unstable substance.
 (p.15) Ice Maws Expanses of permafrost that come alive with mouthlike openings.
 (p.16) Infectious Pallor Pockets of diseased air that drift through the Abyss.
 (p.16) Lightning Mist Fields of gray-blue fog that drift slowly through the Elemental Chaos and are hazardous to traverse quickly.
 (p.16) Liquid Thunder Highly volatile liquid pools coalesced from the force of a powerful elemental storm.
 (p.17) Phase Crystal Related to phase rock, this translucent silvery crystal can be induced to discharge the extradimensional energy and shunt a creature out of phase for a short time.
 (p.17) Primordial Font Volatile fountains of liquid elemental energy that change those who bathe in them.
 (p.17) Strangling Wind The pressure of this wind is so great, and its blasts so turbulent, that it slows and even suffocates those who push themselves too hard.
 (p.17) Wrath Mud Eerie mud that saps the sanity from creatures within it, pushing them to violence through psychic pain.
Underdark (p.82) Aberrant Structures Dessicated, long-dead structures in ruins left over from Nihilath.
 (p.65) Blinkrock Nondescript gray-black stone with texture similar to granite and the ability to warp space.
 (p.103) Blood Grate Hideous contraptions that revitalize formorians and their allies with the blood of intruders.
 (p.83) Brainmoss Tissue seeded from living brains growing on cavern walls and floors.  Wild brainmoss picks up and retains strong emotional impressions of sentient beings around it and have significant effect on the minds of living creatures.
 (p.120) Caught Breath Tinkling crystals of warm breath frozen in air.
 (p.14) Darkrock Darkrock drinks in illumination, weakening the light and creating strange, unpredictable shadows.
 (p.103) Eye Unblinking Magic weapons made from ritually enlarged evil eyes and nourished by the blood of wounded foes which loose beams of arcane energy at invaders.
 (p.14) Glowstone Glowstone provides patches of dim light that break up the darkness.
 (p.119) Godsrock Where fragments of Torog’s bones struck the earth, formations called godsrock sprouted.
 (p.102) Godsblood The divine energy remaining within this godsblood temporarily supercharges the natural healing capability of any creature, but at the cost of its own stamina and sanity.
 (p.33) Godsdream The energy remaining from Torog’s passage through the Shallows provides creatures with the certainty of one incredible blow against a foe, but hides everything beneath a filmy layer of a dream.
 (p.64) Godsrage An echo of Torog’s ancient fury, a terrible and appalling anger, infect travelers with a raging power.
 (p.100) Ground Swarms Masses of rats, beetles, tiny drakes, or other nuisance creatures.
 (p.120) Hungry Void Some places in the unending night below sap existence and unravel the threads of life.
 (p.100) Insect Cloud Swarms of flying, blood-drinking bugs, searching for targets for their hunger.
 (p.64) Lifedrinker Caverns Strange, black-speckled lichen that feed on nearby injuries.
 (p.13) Living Stone Rock formations that grow on their own.
 (p.101) Mushroom Arch A series of glowing mushrooms that grow together to form an arch over a corridor.
 (p.101) Primal Mud Organic sludge which forms where life force rises up through the Feydark into the Feywild.
 (p.121) Soul Shard Clusters Remnants of living creatures slain in the Shadowdark linger as soul shards.
 (p.109) Spore Field Intoxicating spores that rapidly decompose organic matter.
 (p.64) The Weeping Lady The heart-wrenching sobs of a seemingly female voice haunt the Deeps.
 (p.14) Wormrock Porous orange rock that is easy to dig through.

Wet-Erase Pen Comparison: Staedtler vs. Expo

Staedtler vs. Expo

If you’re a DM who uses a battlemat, you’ve no doubt heard one or both of these names.  For the uninitiated, vinyl battlemats such as those sold by Chessex provide a DM with a gridded surface on which they can draw whatever they need for their encounter or game.  Wet-erase pens (of which Staedtler and Expo are two manufacturers), are used to draw on the mats and, as their name suggests, can be erased simply by wiping the surface clean with a little water and a paper towel.

I’ve been using the Staedtler pens for many years now, and I wasn’t even aware that there was another manufacturer of wet-erase pens until I saw a Wizards.com forum member post that he preferred Expo’s Vis-à-Vis.  I decided to give them a try.

I did a side by side comparison of all the colors of each pen (except purple, for which I only had one pen).  Staedtler Lumocolor is on the left (spelling mistake noted) and Expo Vis-à-Vis is on the right:

It should be noted that this was on a Chessex Battlemat and as such results may be different on other surfaces (such as GameMastery’s Flip-mats).  This photo was taken with a flash to help highlight the differences in color and, more importantly, ink coverage.  (For a more naturally lit comparison, see here and here).

The Winner: Staedtler Lumocolor

The most noticeable difference is the coverage of the ink (or the depth of the color, if you prefer).  The Staedtler pens deliver a nice, even ink, whereas the Vis-à-Vis pens come up a little on the thin side.  This is particularly noticeable in the black, brown, and blue, and also visible a bit in the red and orange.  The Staedtler pens all have fairly true colors, though the red and yellow are a bit on the orange side.
The verdict:  Stick with Staedtler wet-erase pens, as they deliver a deep color with good coverage.  Expo Vis-à-Vis pens, on the other hand, lack the fullness of the Staedtler pens, appearing thin and “watered down” on the mat, so to speak.

Keeping Track of Miniatures

Never Lose Track Of Your Zombies

A battlemap covered in identical miniatures can pose a difficult challenge to DMs and players alike when it comes to tracking hitpoints and statuses or indicating targets.  Some of this can be mitigated through the use of aids like tokens, chits, or flags for marking conditions, but DMs often still need a way of distinguishing between monsters in their notes, and players shouldn’t have to resort to latitude, longitude, and GPS coordinates just to say which minion they are attacking.

Fortunately, if you’re using D&D miniatures, it generally isn’t too difficult to find a way of marking the bases in order to identify them.  Avery makes round, colored, 1/4 inch, removable labels that work great for the task, and you can pick up a pack of 760 of them for less than five bucks at Staples.

The labels come in four colors:  green, yellow, blue, and red. The red and yellow ones are perhaps the most useful as the provide the greatest contrast for black ink.  You’ll probably find that something like an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie is your best bet for writing dark, crisp numbers.

Different Dot Colors Help Differentiate Creatures

Having multiple colored labels can prove useful for distinguishing between different but similar miniatures that are likely to appear together in an encounter.  A perfect example are the Kruthik minis, which are all basically the same except for size and slight variations in color.  Using a different colored label for each type of Kruthik makes them stand apart a bit more, ensuring that you won’t accidentally confuse your young with your hatchlings.

You could, of course, simply buy a metallic Sharpie to mark your miniatures, but that’s permanent and why mar a figure when a removable sticker works just as well, if not better.  Besides, you might want to sell your collection on eBay some day so you can, I dunno, spend the money on a Gargantuan Orcus.

Custom Miniature: Crawling Claw

Pewter Hand Charms

Crawling Claws are creepy little undead creatures that have been around since the early days of D&D.  In 4th Edition they made their appearance in Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead, and have several variants (Crawling Claw Swarm, Crawling Gauntlet, Lich Claw, etc.), but it in each case represent severed hands, paws, or claws, reanimated by necrotic powers or necromancy.

In a recent game, my players entered a tomb in which the skeletal remains of failed tomb robbers had been reanimated to protect it.  To enhance feeling that some magic force was manipulating these remains, I threw a few Crawling Claws at the party, in the form of reanimated skeletal hands.  Since Wizards of the Coast had not, to my knowledge, produced a suitable miniature, I had to go in search of a substitute.

After much searching, I finally managed to find a pewter hand charm sold by an online jewelry supply shop that would make due in a pinch.  The size was perfect:  not much more than half an inch long.  Of course, since they were supposed to represent skeleton hands, I slapped a quick couple coats of white paint on them.  I also clipped off the loops since I obviously wasn’t planning on using them as charms. Finally, to make them easier to manipulate, I affixed them each to a plastic chip with a bit of sticky tack.  Voila, instant Crawling Claw!

Custom Crawling Claws

More On Spiders: Monster Manual 3

Monster Manual 3

Apparently I’m on the same wavelength as someone at Wizards of the Coast.  Last week I blogged about Giant Spiders, Spiderling Minions, and a Giant Spiderweb trap appropriate for a 1st level party.  This week I picked up Monster Manual 3and what does it have in it?  A 2nd level spider, spiderlings, and a web trap.

The Ambush Spider is a level 2 lurker with the ability to become hidden if it has cover or concealment (i.e. it doesn’t require superior cover/total concealment).  Strangely, its only while it is hidden that its attack delivers the additional ongoing poison damage and effect associated with it.  I’m not sure how one would explain this “in-world”:  Does the spider have shy venom sacs that can only produce when no one is watching?

The Spiderling is a level 4 skirmisher minion with a mechanic that makes it imperative to kill most of them as quickly as possible.  When a spiderling hits with its attack, the target gains vulnerability to poison.  If the target already had vulnerability (i.e. from a previous attack), the vulnerability increases.  What starts off as a typical dinky minion can soon turn into a threat capable of inflicting massive damage.

In a sidebar, the section on spiders also discusses Spider Webs.  MM3 describes a terrain called Web Sheets which has all the hallmarks of a simple trap (perception DC, attack and effects, and countermeasures) but for whatever reason they stop short of making it an actual trap.  In my implementation, I chose to make the trap automatically hit when a character failed perception and walked into it.  In their version, it makes an attack versus reflex (like most traps).  I probably should have done something similar in my implementation, but I wanted the drama of the players having to deal with being stuck in a web while a giant spider descended upon them.  They also chose to make it simply immobilize a character (can’t move) whereas I reasoned that a web meant to trap a meal would be more likely to restrain the individual (can’t move, -2 to attacks, grant combat advantage).

Trapped: Giant Spiderweb

Come into my parlor...

If you’re going to fill a cave, dungeon, or forest with Giant Spiders, there has to be a way for them to catch their prey, doesn’t there.  To go along with my custom 2nd level arachnid I created a Giant Spiderweb trap designed to snag unsuspecting adventurers.  Because it does no damage and is essentially one-shot (I reasoned that anyone escaping essentially destroys the web in the process), I decided it was a Minion trap and worth 25XP.

Giant Spiderweb
Trap
Level 1 Minion
XP 25

This giant spiderweb is barely visible… until it’s too late.

Trap: A giant spiderweb.Perception✦  DC 15: The character notices the spiderweb.Nature✦  DC 10: The character identifies the web as the creation of a giant spider, and recalls its properties.TriggerThe trap attacks the creature when it enters its square.AttackImmediate Reaction      MeleeTarget: The triggering creatureEffect: The target is restrained (cannot move, grants combat advantage, -2 to attacks).Countermeasures✦  Acrobatics DC 10 or Athletics DC 10: A character restrained by a web can make a successful check as a standard action to free themselves from the web.  The web is completely destroyed in the process.
✦  A character can attack the web (AC 4, REF 4, FORT 12; hp 15; vulnerable 5 fire, 5 acid; immune poison, psychic, necrotic, and attacks against will).

In play, the trap works well stretched across entryways or narrow spaces.  And of course, in the process of trapping the adventurer, the trap is also likely to inform its creator (the aforementioned Giant Spider) that dinner has arrived.

Update:  The Monster Manual 3 describes a terrain called web sheets (MM3 p.183) which is very similar to my Giant Spiderweb Trap design.  It makes an attack versus reflex (which the Giant Spiderweb Trap should probably do to be consistent with trap design) but only immobilizes victims (can’t move).  I think restrained (can’t move, -2 to attacks, grants combat advantage) is more consistent with how a giant web would work (and be more useful to the spider spinning it) but to each their own.

Creature Variant: Giant Spider and Spiderlings

Giant Spiders

I’ve always liked giant spiders as denizens of fantasy worlds, ever since my young mind was introduced to them by way of The Hobbit.  Spiders are creepy to begin with in the real world, so it seems only natural to imagine bigger and deadlier versions lurking in the dark places between the points of light in D&D.  Imagine my surprise when 4th edition only offered up a couple of variants of this classic monstrous vermin, and none that were simply a low-level Giant Spider (as vanilla as that may be).  (Update: the Monster Manual 3 offers up the Ambush Spider, a 2nd level lurker).

Desiring an creepy but simple-to-run arachnid for my game, I quickly threw together a Giant Spider of my own, using the Deathjump Spider (MM) and Bristle Spider (MM2) as templates.

To add to the creepy-crawliness of the encounter, I also whipped up some Spiderlings, minion versions of the Giant Spider.  They lack the poisonous sting of their mother, but possess that uncanny spider talent to move out of the way just as you’re swinging a shoe sword their way.

Add in a few squares of spiderweb terrain (DMG p.69) and a couple of Giant Spiderweb Traps, and you have an encounter fit for beginning adventurers.  (The newly released Monster Manual 3 contains a sidebar [MM3 p.183] presenting cobwebs in which spiders can hide and web sheets which are similar, but less potent, than my homebrew Giant Spiderweb Trap.)

DMing Boldly

Sarah Darkmagic recently blogged about playing boldly:

For me, playing boldly means a few things. Most importantly, it means coming outside your play style comfort zone and having your character do interesting things. It’s really scary, I know. D&D doesn’t have save points and there is always an underlying risk of character death. But the truth is, I’m not some heartless computer adjudicating the rules exactly as written. And the players aren’t some sort of kill bots looking to rack up the most damage possible against the big bad guys. (Well maybe they are, but that’s a different story.) Doing the same thing week after week, using the same powers in the same way, over and over again, makes for a boring game. I can try my best to shake things up by adding different challenges, but if the players approach them the same way, then I’ve accomplished nothing.
Besides, it’s these moments of vulnerability, of epic wins and epic failures, that make for great gaming stories.

This is great advice for any player, but I think it’s also something to keep in mind as a DM.  The responsibility of running several monsters at a time, encounter after encounter, tends to make it easy to fall into a rut.  The monsters fire off their powers, and maybe take advantage of a tricky ability, but then resort to whatever their best attack is.  Repeat ad boredom.

Maybe you have really clever tactics written down for the enemies in each of your encounters, but I can honestly say that so far in the campaign I’m running I haven’t made a monster do anything remotely “bold”.  I mean, I’ve had a few notes here and there suggesting some interesting actions the monsters can take, but they usually rely on very specific circumstances and get forgotten in the heat of the moment.  It’s just so much easier to choose a power or attack, roll the dice, and move on.

But if I don’t want my players to always take that approach, then neither should I.

Sure, risky and daring actions are the purview of adventurers, but why should they have all the fun?  I’ve littered encounters with all sorts of dungeon dressing in the hopes that the PCs will do something fun with them, but if they’re not going to then the monsters deserve the chance to improvise. Of course, your average dire rat isn’t that clever, nor your average goblin brash enough, but tougher, smarter, more cunning foes just might be.  What better way to encourage bold and interesting play from the players than to have their foes show them how it is done?

Just as the players won’t be able to show off their daring heroics every encounter, neither will their foes always assault them with risky and cunning gambits.  But when they do, it may turn an average encounter into a legendary one.

Handout: Kalarel’s Specter

This is a little something I Photoshopped up for my D&D game where I’m running H1: Keep on the Shadowfell.  It’s a handout I created to show the player’s Kalarel’s spectral apparition.  If it’s useful in your game, feel free to use it.

Kalarel's Specter

Creature Variant: Kobold Fire Skeleton

“There is a sound like breaking branches and the clattering of bones.  Something stirs among the smoldering remains of the pyre, and suddenly the bones of the departed kobolds rise from the ashes and compose themselves.  With a whoosh like tinder finally set alight, the skeletons are engulfed in flame.  One raises a bony, burning finger, and from within the empty sockets of its eyes bolts of roiling fire grow…”

The players in my campaign (Keep on the Shadowfell) recently tangled with a nasty goblin named Irontooth who had been leading a band of kobolds in raids against the town of Winterhaven.  They were unable to take him down in their first encounter with him and were forced to regroup and rest up.  Since they had wiped out most of his minions in their initial assault on his hideout, I wanted to make their return visit a little more interesting than finding him alone in a cave.  I decided that while the PCs were licking their wounds, the few remaining kobolds would gather up their dead and perform last rites.

Kobolds have a strong association with dragons, so it seemed appropriate for them to burn their dead in a funeral pyre, symbolic of the “cleansing fire” of the dragons they worshiped.  In addition to being a nice way to make the world seem more realistic and alive (the PCs would return to the cave to find a smoldering pyre and kobold bones) it also let me introduce a what I hoped would be a cool and unexpected encounter.

In keeping with the undead themes presented later, I envisioned the Kobold Wyrmpriest gathering the bodies and heaping them on a pyre, performing a dark ritual (perhaps influenced by the teachings of a priest of Orcus).  This rite had the power to reanimate the dead to ward against intruders.  The bones of the fallen would rise from the ashes, wreathed in fire, flames roiling inside their hollow eye sockets.

Thus, the Kobold Fire Skeleton was born:


These creatures provided a fun, unexpected encounter for the PCs who were in the middle of patting themselves on the backs for dispatching Irontooth and his minions.  In the actual encounter in which they appeared, I tossed a handful of kobold minions at the PCs (a hunting party that had returned to the cave and was ordered by Irontooth to guard the entrance), surprising the players by having the skeletons rise in the second round of combat. The appearance of flaming kobold skeletons that shot fire from their eye sockets elicited a couple of “whoas” and at least one “cool”, which, as a DM, is one of the more rewarding words you can hear at the table.