Starts off with an Ecology of the Beholder. A nice read, but nothing to update. Next up, though, is Lenard Lakofka column called Leomund's Tiny Hut. He introduces a NPC class the Death Master. An interesting take on a necromancer, but that's not what I'm looking for, here. Of interest is a collection of 5 new magic items. They are introduced as evil items, usually with negative effects for good characters. I scrapped that idea and offer them up as standard magic items.
Rare magic weapon (scythe)
This weapon appears to be slightly warped and wrinkled. The wood is dry and weathered, and the metal is dull, and can’t be polished.
Property: The withering scythe causes necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or it's hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the creature finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
Eyes of the Undead
Rare wondrous item
These opaque white lenses are made to fit directly on the eyes of the wearer. Once worn, the wearer’s eyes appear to be totally white, without an iris or pupil.
Property: While you wear these lenses, you gain darkvision to a range of 90 feet. You can also see invisible, hidden or otherwise concealed living things to a range of 90 feet. The eyes will see an aura of life without being able to see details of the figure’s face, etc.
You also gain immunity to the Domination power of a vampire.
Your Charisma score drops by 1 point when the lenses are worn, due to the unsettling nature of your eye’s appearance.
Cloak of Night
Rare wondrous item
This long cloak is fashioned from dark cloth, expertly crafted and weighs half as much as a normal cloak.
Property: The powers of the cloak of the night only function at night or in conditions of darkness. When worn at night, you can polymorph will all possessions into a bat, stirge, crow, or owl at will. You must return to normal shape before changing into a different form.
While you wear a cloak of the night with the hood up in darkness or areas of shadows you can attempt to hide, as long as no creatures are within 20 feet of you. You do not have to be obscured to make the attempt, but you must stay quiet.
This wand is made from the dark wood of a blackthorn tree. The tip comes to a sharp point.
Property: The wand has 7 charges. As an action, you can expend up to 3 charges to fire a jet-black ray to a range of 60 feet. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the ray deals 1d8 necrotic damage to it’s target per charge used. The target must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or it's hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the creature finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
If you expend the wand's last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the wand blackens and crumbles to dust, forever destroyed.
The wand ragains 1d6+1 expended charges each day at dawn.
Gauntlets of the Ghoul
Rare wondrous item
Made from gray, decaying flesh, these gauntlets mold to your hands and give your hands the appearance of undead flesh with sharp claws.Property: While you wear these gauntlets, you gain a claw attack that causes 1d4+2 slashing damage, and the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw (elves are immune). Failed Save: The target is paralyzed for 1 minute but can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the paralysis early on a successful save.
After this, the majority of the issue is devoted to a lengthy article on the 9 Hells, and an index of the first 75 issues of Dragon. I may revisit the 9 hells article after the Player's Handbook comes out, so that I can see what the new D&D cosmology is like.