Dungeons & Dragons has transformed itself lately, and that trend continues with the upcoming Elemental Evil storyline set to hit the Forgotten Realms in pen-and-paper, board, and digital formats starting in March and continuing through the summer. In the words of the press release:
Heroes are needed in the Forgotten Realms to discover and defeat secret cults that threaten to annihilate the Sword Coast by harnessing the powers of the elements of fire, water, air, and earth.
Certainly sounds impressive, but before diving into Elemental Evil, let’s quickly review the status of the world’s most iconic fantasy gaming line.
The Road to Now
Back in 2012, Dungeons & Dragons hosted the keynote event at GenCon. Everyone knew that Dungeons & Dragons was in the process of releasing D&D Next (they were avoiding “5th edition” at that time). Among a lot of experienced gamers, their 4th edition was viewed as a step in the wrong direction. This 2012 keynote was the event where they were going to lay out their strategy for the gaming public. And, I am proud to say, I was there. Since then, I’ve been closely watching the evolution of this process and have been incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen coming out from Wizards of the Coast.
In addition to the fact that they were releasing a new core rule set (which we all knew already), they also announced at this time that Dungeons & Dragons was focusing their entire attention on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, rather than splitting their attention among a myriad array of different worlds. As the start of this, they released a series of 6 novels from August 2013 through June 2014, each by a different author and depicting how the world-shaking event “The Sundering” (also the name of the book series) was impacting the Forgotten Realms world. The 2013 GenCon keynote coincided with Drizzt Do’Urden’s 25th birthday, and also with the release of the first The Sundering book.
Throughout fall of 2014, after the final Sundering book, Dungeons & Dragons finally began releasing their new set of 5th edition core books. These have been covered fairly extensively at Black Gate. Here are some of the highlights for those interested:
- Art of the Genre: Playing D&D 5E and an In-Depth Look at the New DMG
- New D&D Monster Manual Unleashed on the World
- Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Handbook 5th Edition: Character Options & Rules Overview
- Art of the Genre: When an Old School mind Learns How to Play D&D 5th Edition
- Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: A Forensic Analysis
- D&D Announces a Tyranny of Dragons
Along with their core rulebooks, you may also notice the reference to their “Tyranny of Dragons.” This was their major game-related plotline of 2014, culminating in the release of two hardcover adventure books released to coincide with the 5th edition rulebooks. Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Amazon) and The Rise of Tiamat (Amazon) cover adventures taking characters from levels 1 through 15 as they battle dragon cults that are attempting to free Tiamat, the evil dragon goddess, from her prison in the Nine Hells, and establish a draconian (and draconic) empire on Faerun.
The Coming Elemental Evil
With those releases and adventures out of the way, the stage is set for the Elemental Evil storyline. Here’s a description from the content on the Wizards of the Coast website, giving some hints at the driving plot elements in the major tabletop RPG release, Princes of the Apocalypse:
Called by the Elder Elemental Eye to serve, four corrupt prophets have risen from the depths of anonymity to claim mighty weapons with direct links to the power of the elemental princes. Each of these prophets has assembled a cadre of cultists and creatures to serve them in the construction of four elemental temples of lethal design. It is up to adventurers from heroic factions such as the Emerald Enclave and the Order of the Gauntlet to discover where the true power of each prophet lay, and dismantle it before it comes boiling up to obliterate the Realms.
That description is definitely making me want to get together a group to dive into a full 5th edition campaign, that’s for sure.
Again, this plotline introduces themes that are designed to resonate throughout the Dungeons & Dragons product line, including:
- Neverwinter: Elemental Evil expansion module will release in early 2015 for the free-to-play MMORPG Neverwinter online game, which introduces the Paladin as a new playable class and increases the play to level 70. (Neverwinter will also be coming to Xbox One in early 2015.)
- Princes of the Apocalypse will be a tabletop RPG adventure running characters from levels 1 through 15 as they confront the Elemental Evil. Release Date: April 7, 2015. US Price: $49.95
- In addition, Wizards of the Coast has announced that ” Player content including more new races, plus the content found in Princes of the Apocalypse, available as a free downloadable PDF.“
- Elemental Evil will become a major element throughout the spring and summer in the D&D Adventurer’s League
- Elemental Evil-themed Dungeon Master Screen and unpainted resin miniatures from Gale Force Nine
- Temple of Elemental Evil board game, can be played as either a standalone game or as part of the Adventure System Cooperative play board games along with other games such as The Legend of Drizzt and Castle Ravenloft. Release Date: April 30, 2015. US Price: $64.99
- Pre-painted collectible miniatures from WizKids Games
- Both the Temple of Elemental Evil board game and the pre-painted miniatures will also have bundled in-game content that can be accessed in the online game Neverwinter
Between draconic tyrants and now evil elemental prophets, there’s no shortage of menaces for players of the new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition to face.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest and received Honorable Mention in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Science Fiction/Fantasy Competition. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Gate magazine, Andrew is the About.com Physics Expert and author of String Theory For Dummies. You can follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+.