From Elemental Evil cultists to demon lords and drow, D&D continues to mine a rich past

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Elemental Evil: Princes of the Apocalypse (Wizards of the Coast)After the draconic storyline of the Tyranny of Dragons arc, the Dungeon Masters at Wizards of the Coast decided to give us something a little more … elemental in the newest published adventure scenario for the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game.

Enter Princes of the Apocalypse, the centerpiece of a multimedia story arc called Elemental Evil, which also encompasses a module for the free-to-play MMORPG Neverwinter and the Temple of Elemental Evil board game.

At over 250 pages, Princes of the Apocalypse is over twice as long as each of the previous adventure modules combined. Five of those pages are something new for D&D adventures these days: a lavish afterword consisting of concept art for the story’s iconic elemental cultists. (More, please.)

Four cult dedicated to evil elemental powers have infiltrated the North, bringing destruction to the Forgotten Realms. The cults’ agents are everywhere — but who are they, and what are their plans? When you don’t know whom to trust, knowledge is your only weapon.

Princes of the Apocalypse is everything you need to run a campaign from levels 1-15, pitting your players against the elemental cults in a desperate bid to avert absolute devastation. The hardcover book is packed with keyed maps, vivid descriptions and illustrations, new spells and a new player race: the elemental genasi. You don’t even need the D&D game’s iconic core rulebooks, just a free PDF containing the basic rules; there’s also an Elemental Evil Player’s Companion just for this adventure, which is available as a free PDF download from DNDClassics.com.

Princes of the Apocalypse continues Wizards’ recent tradition of outsourcing adventure design, in this case to Richard Baker’s Sasquatch Game Studio. (The previous two linked Tyranny of Dragons adventures, Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, were crafted with Kobold Press, and Green Ronin Publishing has credits in the next product, Out of the Abyss — but more on that later.)

Perhaps the biggest improvement I see with Princes is the pages themselves. Gone are the thick, matte cardstock pages of the previous two hardcover adventures. Princes’ pages are glossy, light (but sturdy) and beautiful, just like those in your Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual or Dungeon Master’s Guide — the way a full-color D&D book is meant to be. I don’t know if this change is a function of simply being a bigger book, but it’s certainly welcomed. Bear in mind that Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, the two previous volumes, formed one story arc (or not — they also can stand on their own). They were cheaper individually to buy than Princes, but also more expensive if you had to have them both: while each entry in the Tyranny arc would set you back $30, Princes comes in at $50.

Some diehards may be rankled by the fact that Princes of the Apocalypse takes the old-school D&D classic adventure The Temple of Elemental Evil and transplants its concepts from its original setting of the World of Greyhawk into the Forgotten Realms, which is Wizards of the Coast’s chosen setting these days. But Princes of the Apocalypse is no conversion of Temple to the new rules — you can do that fairly easily for yourself using the AD&D 1st Edition adventure on the secondary market or via PDF from DNDClassics.com (which was offered for free a couple years back but now goes for $15, though it’s currently marked down to $9.99).

This adventure is a spiritual successor to Temple, not an outright reboot, and it’s perfectly in line with Wizards’ practice of encouraging portability of content between campaign worlds. DMs have been doing this for themselves at home for decades, after all.

Rage of Demons: Out of the Abyss (Wizards of the Coast)

Up next: Rage of Demons — Out of the Abyss

The next storyline after Elemental Evil will be Rage of Demons, featuring Forgotten Realms icon Drizzt Do’Urden the heroic drow (dark elf), possibly the most loved/hated character in the Wizards stable. The subterranean Underdark features prominently along with demon lords such as Orcus and Demogorgon. Once again, the story arc will cross media, reaching into PC and console gaming as well as the tabletop.

The D&D adventure module for this campaign is titled Out of the Abyss, and is being designed for Wizards by Green Ronin, a respected company behind such games as A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, the Dragon Age RPG and the amazing Freeport setting. Out of the Abyss, due in fall, will also be a $50 hardcover adventure.

Hopefully the pages will be nice and glossy, too.

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