"The core rulebooks contain lots of clues about the stories we intend to tell going forward."
I decided to go through the core rulebooks and see what we could find. I'm sure I missed a million things, but I figured I'd take a stab at it.
I am also trying to figure out if the standing stones that appear in every adventure are connected and leading to some kind of crossover or mega-event or something.
Here are the topics I will discuss, in order:
- Storm King's Thunder Clues
- Campaign Settings
- NPCs & Places
- Classic Adventures
- A list of the NPCs Quoted in the Monster Manual
- 5th Edition Standing Stones Conspiracy Theory
a nice long list of what we learned right here.
The Ordning: The Ordning is a big deal in Storm King's Thunder. The Monster Manual goes into great detail on it. The Ordning is the caste structure of giants. In Storm King's Thunder, this system is purposely destroyed by the giant god, Annam.
(MM page 154) Annam: There's a big sidebar about the giant gods. Annam, the father of all giants, has been waiting for the giants to reclaim the world. In Storm King's Thunder, he punishes them for not fighting the dragons in Tyranny of Dragons.
It's funny because I know there was one piece of art from Tyranny of Dragons of a giant fighting a dragon, and it didn't appear in the book. Maybe the giants were involved in Tyranny at some part of the process and then this giant storyline took shape?
(MM page 246) Orcs: In the orc entry: "As well, orcs respect and fear the size and power of evil giants, and often serve them as guards and soldiers." Considering that this adventure starts at level one, it makes sense for there to be orcs in the mix.
(MM page 259) Remorhaz: "Frost giant hunters scour the icy wastes for remorhaz nests and eggs." Maybe the heroes will have to face off against a frost giant and their pet remorhaz.
(MM page 261) Rocs: "In the ancient days when giants battled dragons for control of the world, Annam, the father of the giant gods, created the rocs so that his worshipers might challenge the dragons dominance of the air."
Cloud giants and storm giants tame them, other rocs actually hunt giants for food. You could definitely get a wacky encounter out of this. Maybe a roc plays into the chapter where the heroes look for King Hekaton, who has gone missing.
(DMG page 218) Wave: Wave is one of the three artifacts from White Plume Mountain. It was created in a place called Thunderforge. A sea god imprisoned a family of storm giants there, and the giants forged Wave in an act of devotion to - or rebellion against - that god. Maybe we'll see Thunderforge in Storm King.
So yeah, nothing earth-shattering. Maybe I am missing something.
Many other settings get plenty of lip service throughout the books. This might tell us which settings are on the D&D team's radar.
Here's some setting stuff I found interesting:
(DMG page 68) Known Worlds of the Material Plane: The book describes a list of worlds and settings. It goes like this: Toril (Forgotten Realms), Oerth (Greyhawk), Krynn (Dragonlance), Athas (Dark Sun), Eberron, Mystara and.... Aebryinnis, home to the Birthright setting. Huh.
Curse of Strahd Clues: Curse of Strahd had an NPC who is from the Greyhawk setting. The vestiges in the Amber Temple included an entity that appeared in the Savage Tide adventure path (also set in Greyhawk). Another vestige in the temple is Tenebrous, the villain of the Planescape Dead Gods adventure book.
The Dusk Elves: For some reason I keep thinking the dusk elves in Curse of Strahd are from Mystara (I think I'm thinking of the Shadow Elves), but apparently that isn't the case. From what I understand, the dusk elves are from Dragon #382 and simultaneously appeared in the Ravenloft 4e adventure, "Fair Barovia" (Dungeon Magazine #207).
(DMG page 300) Planes of Existence: "The best-known worlds in the multiverse are the ones that have been published as official campaign settings for the D&D game over the years - Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Dragonlance, the Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Birthright, Dark Sun, and Eberron, among others."
Wow, they mentioned Blackmoor. If I remember right, it's been set both in Mystara and Greyhawk.
Let's check out things from each setting that are mentioned in the books. Eberron and Dark Sun are mentioned a lot, but I just want to focus on a few. What is mentioned may indicate the areas of interest of the designers and could clue us in on what we might see:
- (PH page 20) The "...debased Klar of Krynn."
- (PH page 20) The "...noble Dewar clan of Dragonlance."
- (PH page 23) The "...silvanesti of Dragonlance"
- (PH page 24) The Kagonesti
- (PH page 35) Draconians
- (PH page 37) Tinker gnomes
- (PH page 121) There's pages of talk about Tika Waylan.
- (MM page 48) Lord Soth: Soth gets an interesting feature. He is literally the death knight in the Monster Manual. He gets a big sidebar that explains his origin.
- (PH page 81) Monasteries dedicated to Zuoken and Xan Yae
- (PH page 81) Evil monks of the Scarlet Brotherhood
- (MM page 167) Mordenkainen has a quote about Maure Castle in the Monster Manual. The quote is, I think, not quite a direct quote from the article reprinted in Dungeon Magazine #112. Gary Gygax wrote about when he played through Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure with Rob Kuntz as DM. Mordenkainen was turned to stone by this huge iron golem's whip. Bigby turned him back to flesh, but Yrag - Gary's first D&D character - was killed and Bigby was turned to stone (he got better, as far as I know).
- (DMG page 41) There is a mention of the Barrier Peaks of Oerth and the wreckage of a space vessel.
- (MM page 56) We get an Iggwilv quote in the Monster Manual. She points out that demons are difficult to control.
(DMG page 40) "Novels and game products set in Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread, explore dark-fantasy elements in a D&D context."
(DMG page 51) Domains of Dread: "In remote corners of the Shadowfell... horrific demiplanes.. best known is the valley of Barovia. Beings of the Shadowfell called the Dark Powers created these domains as prisons for these 'darklords', and through cruelty or carelessness trapped innocent mortals in these domains as well."
(MM page 296) Vampires: There's a huge quote in the Monster Manual from Strahd talking about his origin. This quote is taken directly from the Tome of Strahd in the original AD&D Ravenloft adventure.
- (PH page 302) We get a mention of the gate-towns of the Outlands, the Spire and Sigil, portals, etc.
- (DMG page 45) A discussion of Sigil's portals.
- (DMG Page 67) Lots of details on the Outlands and Sigil. They actually list all of the gate towns of the Outlands.
- (DMG page 68) The Lady of Pain: "Is Sigil her prison? Is she the fallen creator of the multiverse?"
- (MM page 147) There's a quote from Kesto Brighteyes, who is an NPC from Uncaged: Faces of Sigil. He tells a story about a wish gone wrong. Of all the NPCs in Planescape, why did they pick him? He owns a bookshop that supposedly contains every book there is.
- (MM page 313) Shemeshka the Marauder has a quote about power. She's a pretty big deal.
|Corellon vs. Gruumsh|
Gruumsh, God of Orcs:
There is a lot of talk about the orc god, Gruumsh:
(PH page 123) "Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god Gruumsh and are thus inclined toward evil."
(PH page 41) The Mark of Gruumsh is built right into the half-orc race description. Even half-orcs hear Gruumsh whisper in their dreams, calling on them to unleash their rage.
(MM page 245) Gruumsh vs. Corellon: There is a lot of info on Gruumsh in the orc entry. We get a big explanation as to why he hates elves and dwarves. We learn that Corellon, god of the elves, half-blinded Gruumsh by firing an arrow into his eye. Since that time, Gruumsh gives divine might to orc champions who pull one of their own eyes out.
(MM page 245) Go Forth and Procreate: Luthic, the orc goddess and wife of Gruumsh demands that orcs "procreate often and indiscriminately" so that their hordes swell.
You get the vibe that we could see some kind of elf/orc war somewhere down the road. Speaking of the god of elves...
|From the 1e Deities & Demigods sourcebook|
(PH page 121) Corellon's Gender: "The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic." It goes on to note that some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. This is something that was established way back when in the AD&D 1st edition Deities & Demigods book.
I think having these elves battle an orc army would make for a really cool adventure.
(MM page 133) Ettins and Demogorgon: Apparently, Ettins are orcs who were transformed by the power of Demogorgon. Orcs treat them as distant cousins.
(MM page 220) Merrow Origin: Merrows were merfolk that became tainted by an idol of Demogorgon. They went to the Abyss and were warped further. Now Demogorgon sends them to mortal worlds to wreak havoc.
All these mentions could just be because a lot of gods live on Acheron, but they went out of their way to mention the plane over and over. Acheron is awesome and I hope it gets used in a future adventure.
- (MM page 34) Bugbears: Hruggek is god of bugbears. He lives on Acheron.
- (MM page 166) Goblins: Acheron is mentioned again in the goblin section. Maglubiyet has a goblin army on Acheron, and the goblins fear his tyranny more than death.
- (MM page 187) Hobgoblins: In the hobgoblin entry, there is more talk of Maglubiyet. It says hobgoblins don't fear death because their spirits battle on in Acheron under Maglubiyet's banner.
(DMG page 10) The Raven Queen: They do list the 4th edition Dawn War deities. The Raven Queen was very popular so I'm interested to see if they will ever do anything with her.
(DMG page 11) Zehir is Set Renamed: I had no idea. I used Set when I ran Dead Gods a few months back, should have switched it!
(MM page 191) The Origin of Hydras: Tiamat killed a god named Lernaea. Her blood sprayed into the multiverse. Each droplet of blood became a hydra, full of hatred.
(DMG page 49) The Fey: Queen Titania and the Queen of Air and Darkness have a jealous rivalry.
(PH page 163) Gary and Dave: I never noticed that our two example players are D&D creators Gary (Gygax) and Dave (Arneson). That's pretty great.
(MM page 19) Weird Solar Story: There are only 24 solars in existence. Most of them rest in a state of contemplation, "...waiting for the time when their services are needed to stave off some cosmic threat to the cause of good." That sounds ominous! No idea what this could be part of.
(MM page 311) Serpent Gods: There is a big sidebar in the yuan-ti entry in the Monster Manual. It lists a few serpent gods. An entity that calls itself Sseth is claiming to be an avatar of Merrshaulk and is trying to get the yuan-ti to build a new empire. Some think Sseth actually devoured Merrshaulk, who has thought to have been "slumbering" for a long time.
(MM page 312) Yugoloths Were Made by Hags: Asmodeus had some night hags create the yugoloths. The hags made the four Books of Keeping, which hold the truename of every yugoloth (except for the General of Gehenna).
(MM page 195) Kenku had a Mysterious Master: The kenku actually stole the secret of how to speak from their mysterious master. In retaliation, this person took away their wings and forced the kenku to beg forever. I know that in earlier editions, the kenku had a god named Quorlinn. I had a player who was obsessed with Quorlinn. According to the above wiki page, Pazuzu might have had a hand in their creation.
I'm not dying for a remake of anything, but I noticed that quite a few classic adventures are mentioned by name in the core rulebooks.
Here are some references that I thought were notable:
(PH page 181) "Delving into the ancient Tomb of Horrors, slipping through the back alleys of Waterdeep, hacking a fresh trail through the thick jungles on the Isle of Dread - these are the things that Dungeons & Dragons adventures are made of."
Tomb of Horrors:
(MM page 49) Epitaph: There's a quote - Acererak's epitaph. I was wondering if this quote was right out of the original Tomb of Horrors adventure, but I don't think it is. The only quote I could find on a quick flipthrough is from room 28. There's glowing letters on a wall:
"You who dared to violate my tomb now pay the price. Stay here and die slowly of starvation, or open and enter the door to the south, where certain but quick death awaits. Whichever you choose, know that I, Acererak the Eternal, watch and scoff at your puny efforts and enjoy your death throes."
(MM page 50) Demilich: Acererak gets a huge sidebar on page 50. It tells his origin and stats out his trap the soul power. DC 19 Charisma save or your soul is sucked into one of his gems.
Temple of Elemental Evil:
(MM page 62) Rufus and Burne: There's a quote from a half-elf wizard named Nelume. She says her group went in, saw body parts everywhere and fled back to the village of Hommlet. Rufus and Burne laughed at them.
(DMG page 206) Swords of Answering: "In the world of Greyhawk, only nine of these blades are known to exist. Each is patterned after the legendary sword Fragarach..."
The DMG entry actually has a chart that describes each sword.
In the 1e Temple of Elemental Evil adventure, Fragarach and these swords are detailed on pages 126-127. Fragarach has a weird trait: it always strikes last in a round. That's why it is called "The Answerer." (Thanks to commenter Lucho for pointing this out!)
White Plume Mountain
- (DMG page 216) Blackrazor: "Hidden in the dungeon of White Plume Mountain, Blackrazor shines like a piece of night sky filled with stars."
- (DMG page 218) Wave: This artifact was created in a place called Thunderforge. I mentioned this up in the Storm King section.
- (DMG page 218) Whelm: Whelm was made by a dwarf clan known as the Dankil or Mightyhammer clan.
- (MM page 281) The Riddle: In the Sphynx entry, the actual riddle that the sphynx of White Plume Mountain tells is reproduced here. My group guessed the answer in milliseconds.
(DMG page 302) The Far Realm: "Ancient elves once pierced the boundary of eons with a vast portal to the Far Realm within a mountain called Firestorm Peak, but their civilization imploded in bloody terror and the portaI's location - even its home world - is long forgotten."
The Isle of Dread
(DMG Page 56) The Isle Moved: The isle is now located on the Plane of Water. I think in 4e it shifted between the Feywild and the world. Here, ships from the world sometimes end up wrecked here.
Rod of Seven Parts
This one is interesting because apparently the rod of seven parts is involved in both the Acquisitions, Inc. series and Force Grey: Giant Hunters. It looks like each group will get a chance to obtain at least one piece of the rod.
(DMG Page 53) Aaqa: In the section about the plane of air, the book talks about Aaqa, a shining domain of silver spires. The wind dukes of Aaqa are dedicated to law and good, and they maintain a vigilant watch against elemental evil.
(MM page 13) Aarakocra: These bird-people serve the wind dukes of Aaqa. It tells the story of the rod of seven parts here and says that the aarakocra are hunting for the pieces while keeping their eyes peeled for Elemental Evil.
Vaati: Both in the DMG and in the MM, it says that the Vaati are a separate race from the wind dukes. I'm pretty sure in the 2e Rod of Seven Parts boxed set, "Vaati" was just another name for wind duke. There were a bunch of castes. It seemed needlessly complicated. The Wendeam was the caste in charge of finding the rod parts.
Monster Manual NPCs
There are a lot of great NPC names in this list that will really help you out in a pinch.
Throughout the Monster Manual, there are a bunch of "dungeon survival" tips from a guy named X the Mystic. X is a pregen from Dwellers of the Forbidden City. He's a 7th level lawful good magic user armed with a few scrolls and a potion of healing.
I compiled them:
X the Mystic's Rules of Dungeon Survival:
- Trust a flumph
- Before you drink from a fountain or pool, toss a copper coin into it. It's a small price to pay for your life.
- Sometimes a chest is just a chest, but don’t bet on it.
- No one carves statues of frightened warriors. If you see one, keep your eyes closed and your ears open.
- Keep a few gems in your pocket. A hungry xorn is a helpful xorn.
- Before opening a sarcophagus, light a torch.
(MM page 21) Levity Quickstitch - Halfling Rogue: Got a scar from the animated sword of a pirate.
(MM page 23) Arakses Al-Saqar - Efreeti Pasha: Loves Azer slaves and thinks they do great work.
(MM page 26) Lludd the Behir: Lives in the Lost Caverns of Tsojacnth and can eat a lot. Wow. I just looked it up. Lludd really is in that adventure. Room 3, page 21. Lludd is smart and can speak a bit of many languages. The actual behir monster debuted in this module. That makes Lludd the first behir ever.
(MM page 29) Valkara Ironfell - Dwarf Sage: Thinks beholders are narcissists with low self esteem, basically.
(MM page 30) Jastus Hollowquill - Explorer of Undermountain: Apparently survived an encounter with a death tyrant.
(MM page 243) Jaster Hollowquill: Ran afoul of a gelatinous cube. Is this a typo or is he/she Jastus's brother or what?
(MM page 39) Batley Summerfoot - Halfling Adventurer: Thinks centaurs are good mounts.
(MM page 45) Evangeliza Lavain - Necromancer: Makes crawling claws from dead criminals. She appears again on page 170. Evangeliza hates it when her grave diggers get caught and hanged.
(MM page 47) Ethelrede the Fighter: Not a fan of darkmantles. Ethelrede is a pre-generated character from The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, an AD&D 1e adventure. He is a chaotic neutral fighter with five javelins of lightning.
(MM page 78) Harobaal the Pit Fiend: Tries to corrupt someone.
(MM page 97) Pelios of Ersoth - Silvanesti seer: Spots the dragon Cyan Bloodbane corrupting a king.
(MM page 121) Pellanistra the Drider: She failed Lolth once. She's a character from some Forgotten Realms novels.
(MM page 129) Nelar Autumnwell - Elf Cleric: Doesn't like drow.
(MM page 150) Captain Dwern Addlestone: Talks about giants laying siege to Sterngate. This is in Eberron. The fortress of Sterngate protects Breland from invaders.
(MM page 152) Eler Zelane of Istivin: Talks about Angerroth the barbarian, who died in the Giant Wars. Istivin is in Greyhawk and was caught in Lolth's Demonweb for a time. The city was detailed in Dungeon Magazine.
(MM page 166) Stalman Klim - Slave Lord: Thinks goblins are dumb. Stalman aka Mordrammo is a bad guy from the actual Scourge of the Slave Lords series.
(MM page 192) Qorik El-Slurrk - Mindflayer: Likes brains.
(MM page 195) Endroth Knag - City Watch Corporal of Waterdeep: Is on to the tricks of the kenku.
(MM page 198) Malfeore Serrang - Pirate-mage of Tethyr: Knows a lot about krakens.
(MM page 200) Sabal Mizzrym of Menzoberranzan. She was a character in a Forgotten Realms book by Richard Lee Byers.
(MM page 212) Thornstaff - Elf Druid: Not interested in fighting werewolves. Somebody wrote some fan fiction that includes Thornstaff and the Company of the Black Moon.
(MM page 214) Marthok Uldarr - Dwarf copper merchant: Wary of manticores.
I think it was this one.
(MM page 235) Explictica Defilus - Spirit Naga: Talks tough. What a great name. It turns out this monster is from Against the Cult of the Reptile God. She isn't exactly a god, but she does run the cult.
(MM page 238) Riddlefiddle the Satyr: Thinks ogres can't dance. Don't listen to this guy, ogres. Follow your dreams.
(MM page 250) Xarshel Ravenshadow - Gnome professor at Morgrave University: Is not a fan of Owlbears. Morgrave U. is in Eberron. I could have sworn I'd seen that last name in Seekers of the Ashen Crown, but I don't see it.
(MM page 251) Tyllenvane d'Orien - Dragonmarked Scion: Thinks a pegasus is faster than a dragon. House Orien is from Eberron.
(MM page 254) Rivergleam - Pixie fashionista: Trendy.
(MM 291) Arlax Hammermantle - Dwarf spelunker: "Smells like an orc's loincloth in here!"
(MM 206) Kelesta Hawke of the Emerald Enclave: Knows a yeti when she hears one. The Enclave is a Forgotten Realms faction.
(MM page 317) Fonkin Hoddypeak: Turned Beek into a zombie. Beek Gwenders and Fonkin are pre-generated characters from the AD&D Against the Giants/Drow series. The names were cooked up by Gary Gygax and have weird meanings. This group included Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Flerd Trantle, Frush O'Suggil and Cloyer Bulse.
The Standing Stones
There are mysterious standing stones in every adventure so far. They could be connected to some overarching plot to be revealed in a massive future storyline.
I checked and it is true. Every published 5e adventure has a set of mysterious, ancient stones.
We'll go from newest adventure to oldest.
Curse of Strahd
|Two sets of stones, both near hags.|
Check out page 128 of Curse of Strahd. It says each stone has a crude carving of a city, each associated with a different season. The heroes can learn the legend of the Four Cities, said to be cities of paradise where the Morninglord, Mother Night and other ancient gods once dwelled.
More Megaliths: On page 165, there is another set of megaliths in Berez - the home of another hag, Baba Lysaga.
This Note Seems a Little Sly: "A couple lean inward as if to share some great secret with their inscrutable neighbors."
The Stones are Old: "- one of the oldest structures in the Balinok Mountains - older than the Amber temple and much older than Castle Ravenloft..."
It actually says that the Berez menhirs were raised by the same ancient folk who carved the megaliths near Old Bonegrinder.
These Berez stones have glyphs that represent different animals: bear, elf, hawk, goat, owl, panther, raven, and wolf.
Heroes can learn weird things:
- Druids can sense that powerful gods once blessed this site.
- Creatures within the circle are protected from divination and scrying.
- When a druid wild shapes, gains max hp.
Check out page 106: There is a circle of stone menhirs predating Blingdenstone in a small cavern. The gnomes think this is a cluster of ancient galeb duhr, venerated as manifestations of the gods.
There's another stone thing nearby on page 109 - part of a quest:
I'm not sure if the steadfast stone is part of the weird menhir thing. It could be that the gnomes originally built the temple there because of the standing stones, and then years later they modified and enchanted the steadfast stone.
Princes of the Apocalypse
Page 153 - The Moving Stones: These tunnels and chambers beneath the town of Red Larch contain giant stones which mysteriously change positions.
Page 157 - The Petrified Ironstar (?) Dwarf: Near the stones, there's a petrified dwarf discovered in year 1459 in Red Larch West Quarry in broken condition.
Area 6 - Another single stone nearby: There's a hovering stone. It's a normal rock that floats "because of ancient magic."
Page 158 - Chamber of Moving Stones: "An odd array of stone monoliths - some upright standing stones, and others arranged in three-stone arches..."
Page 159 - Dwarf Involvement: The dwarves of Besilmer carved this place out thousands of years ago. They enchanted the floor so you can stamp on it, causing the stones to hover.
Those stones throw me off a little because they hover. It just seems weird.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen
Page 62 - Ancient Portal: "The portal is one of several that predate the Cult of the Dragon."
Page 63 - More Stones: The group uses a portal in Castle Naerytar to appear next to two ancient stones outside a hunting lodge. In the boxed text, it says: "Within sight are more standing stones."
There are three other sets of stones, each "re-tuned" by the cult of the dragon to suit their own ends. There are grooves that spell out words in the language of Netheril that talk about where the portals can be used to go to.
"Over time, the stones have been used to reach many sites within the realms."
Who is Xonthal?
But there is a wizard in Rise of Tiamat named Xonthal. As far as I can tell, Xonthal has not appeared in any products before - at least, not under this name.
Here's what we are told about Xonthal:
- Xonthal traveled everywhere on Faerun, including Zakhara, Maztica and Kara Tur.
- He focused on conjuration and elemental evocation.
- He kept elementals and genies for company.
- Nobody knows what happened to him.
- Xonthal was trying to bend or trick an efreeti into service when he disappeared. The efreet is Taraz the Fair, still trapped in Xonthal's Tower.
- Xonthal studied dimensions and time.
3e Adventure: I googled for more. There was a 3e adventure called "The Standing Stone." I don't know if it's in any way connected to this. A wizard used the magic of the stones to replace people with animals transformed into humanoid form, loyal to him.
The Megalith: Google shows me that there is a D&D thing called a Megalith - it's a living planet, basically. The Megalith is part of the Mystara setting. Again, not sure if that has anything to do with it. I guess the stones could be pieces of a "dead" megalith.
Author James J. Haeck asked Chris Perkins about the megaliths on twitter. Here's what he said:
It 'relates to the entities that formed the mists.' I assume that's the Dark Powers of Ravnloft, who may be the vestiges trapped in the Amber Temple.
I guess the stones are just a thing for the DM to mess with. If I hear anything more, I will add it to this article.
OK. We're done. I don't know if we learned anything but I got a kick out of it. This took me a lot longer than I thought it would.
Feel free to let me know if I missed anything important. If you feel so inclined, go ahead and send me any of your own pet theories about future storylines.
Merric Blackman has a great recap of a talk Chris Perkins gave on future storylines here.