Wednesday, August 3, 2022

All About Manzorian the Archmage

Hail Greyhawkers! To coincide with a Legends & Lore discussion on Tenser and Mordenkainen, I decided to break out the old Paizo Age of Worms AP and see what was going on in that module with Tenser aka Manzorian. I am still flabbergasted that WotC made Erik Mona and company genericize much of Greyhawk's proper names in this series. Greyhawk was the defacto setting in 3.5 D&D and Paizo made highly detailed conversion articles for Forgotten Realms and Eberron. So....yeah. Anyhow, this post is a look into some of the material written about Manzorian, mainly from The Spire of Long Shadows by Jesse Decker in Dungeon #130. I hope you enjoy my commentary. Let's get into it!

Archmage Manzorian (LG male human wizard 16/archmage 5)

Manzorian is an interesting wizard name that definitely has more of a Greyhawk feel than an Ed Greenwood Realms name. Hm, Manzorian's Floating Disk? If I had never heard of the name Tenser, then Manzorian would be suitable. Also, I noticed the root name "Manz" is found in Living Greyhawk Journal #1 for a Count Ignaz Manz who is a 16th level fighter. Coincidence or some deep lore connection? Even though Jesse Decker wrote the module, I can imagine Erik Mona had a hand in renaming this important NPC.

One more thing, Tenser/Manzorian's level in previous products ranges up to 20th. I see in this timeline he got a bit more experienced. More on that later. Let's look at Manzorian's neighboring village, Magepoint.

"A community shaped and defined by the presence of an archmage, the village of Magepoint offers myriad portals to adventures of surprising breadth and difficulty, a result of the many visitors seeking Manzorian's advice...Magepoint has grown considerably in recent years, its growth spurred by a combination of untapped economic potential, readily available land, and the safety that comes from living within the shadow of Manzorian's power."

"After all but one of his clones were destroyed by a treacherous ally several years ago, the archmage's return to Magepoint has ushered in a time of prosperity for the village."

The latter part is a reference to Rary the Traitor killing Tenser and Otiluke before the Great Signing to end the Greyhawk Wars. Manzorian's return means the events of Age of Worms are chronologically meant to take place after the module Return of the Eight. Get this classic module for more info on Magepoint and the Fortress of Unknown Depths.

"Archmage Manzorian is a tremendously powerful character - in fact he's one of the most powerful NPCs the characters are likely to encounter...Handle him with care. You don't want the PCs to come to depend on him too much, but his presence shouldn't be downplayed."

The module goes to great lengths to show Manzorian is too busy to get directly involved, but the PC's quest is too important to ignore. He has agents and allies who can intercede for him if necessary.

"When the PCs first arrive in Magepoint, Manzorian is not present - he's finishing off important business on another plane. Anyone in town can tell the PCs this..."

"Manzorian returns from his travels to Arcadia..."

What was Manzorian doing in the plane Arcadia following his return from death? Was he getting his memory or abilities restored? Clones are just save-points after all, so he probably missed out on a few years. Since Manzorian is one level higher than Tenser was in RotE maybe he was on a divine quest for more power? The only Greyhawk deity I know who resides in Arcadia is Saint Cuthbert. Hmm. 

Two of the notable Magepoint citizens are long time agents of the archmage, Cymria of Celadon (13th level elven fighter-mage) from the module Vecna Lives! and clerical ally Agath of Thrunch (19th level) from the module Isle of the Ape.

Manzorian's Fortress of Unknown Depths (and to a lesser extent Magepoint itself) sits atop a mysterious well-spring of arcane power...The origins of this power are known only to a few, but many reap its benefits...even Manzorian himself has not yet mastered its full potential."

The origin of this power is called Oerthblood. For more info on this mystery read Return of the Eight or Dragon #351, Irongate: City of Stairs by Denis Tetreault and Gary Holian. For AoW however, all arcane spells cast within 1000 yards of the Fortress of Unknown Depths can potentially gain effects of metamagic feats Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell or Empower Spell without having to increase the spell's caster level. That's pretty cool and definitely makes Magepoint a place wizards would want to visit.

"Manzorian knows a fair amount about the Age of Worms and Kyuss."

"A former companion of mine, a wizard named Balakarde, made an extensive study of Kyuss and his ways. You might even say he was obsessed with Kyuss...When Balakarde learned Kuluth-Mar was the likely location of Kyuss' divine apotheosis, he could barely restrain himself. I cautioned him against going to investigate the ruins. One does not simply teleport into an unknown region without doing some research."

Oh, like when Mordenkainen sent you to Halmadar the Cruel's tomb in Vecna Lives? Tsk tsk Manzorian. This is the part of the adventure where Manzorian starts dumping lore on the players. It's really good stuff and even if you never intend to play Age of Worms, get it just for the lore. He continues: 

"I intended to try to track him down, but unfortunately, other events conspired to take my attention away. I suspect he is dead now. Or worse."

Again, if not for a botched Circle of Eight mission in Vecna Lives, a subsequent cloning, followed by Rary zapping him dead then his next clone being turned into a dretch, and a trip to Arcadia that couldn't wait, he would've totally gone after his friend. Sure, Manzorian, sure. For those who haven't read AoW, Balakarde is actually Bucknard of the Everfull Purse fame. It's silly that besides his famous purse, this is perhaps the first time the NPC has been utilized in some useful lore and he had to be renamed. Ah well, let's see what other lore Manzorian is dispensing...

"The Age of Worms prophecy predicts that several major magical artifacts shall surface in the months before the end...I know of several that have surfaced of late; the Black Blade of Aknar Ratalla, the Tome of the Black Heart, the Obsidian Eye, the Dread Forge, the Bindings of Erivatius, and...a fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts."

What are all these delicious artifacts? I mean, we all know the Rod of Seven Parts, and the Tome of the Blackheart I know from Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, and the Maure Castle Dungeon #112 megadungeon. I had to do some searching for the others, but it looks like the Paizohawk crew was slipping in easter eggs via Manzorian. For instance. Dungeon #119 has a generic high-level adventure, Tomb of Aknar Ratalla by Jack Flynn. Then Dungeon #120 has a module named The Obsidian Eye by Nicholas Logue and Brendan Victorson. The Bindings of Eritavius is from the epic level module Quicksilver Hourglass in Dungeon #123 by Anson Caralya. Erivatius is the Lord of Inertia, a demigod of aging and death and would be just as bad freeing as Kyuss. I couldn't find a reference to the Dread Forge but based on the others I am 100% certain it's from a Dungeon adventure. If anyone recalls the reference let me know in the comments.

"When the PCs are ready to go, Manzorian directs their attention to the numerous paintings on the walls - to one in particular. These paintings are of significant locations of historical import throughout the world, and each is imbued with divination magic to aid in teleportation."

As I mentioned before, there is supplemental articles on how to port Tenser/Manzorian in other game worlds. In Eberron, Age of Worms suggests that Magepoint is a haven for dragons, and that Manzorian is actually a dragon in human form (LG wyrm gold dragon archmage 4). In the Forgotten Realms, it is suggested the Fortress of Unknown Depths is called the Tower of Twilight and is inhabited by a family of wizards. Manzorian here is even MORE powerful and goes by the name Malchor Harpell, a NG Illuskan wizard 20/archmage 5). This seems unnecessary since Tenser was already recast, but he does get a more Realmsy name this way, I guess. 

Manzorian meets the PCs again before the climatic end of the adventure in Dungeon #135, Dawn of a New Age by Tito Leati. No spoilers, but ol' Manzorian counsels and finds a way to help the PCs battle Kyuss without getting directly involved of course. Check out that issue for some epic level information. That's all for now. Until next time!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Let's Fight Vecna! (1990 Version)

Greeting Greyhawk Heroes! Today I'm bringing back the "Let's Fight" column where I examine the stats for a Greyhawk deity and see if players have a chance against them. It seems timely of course to bring in the one god everyone is talking about, yes folks I mean the Archlich Vecna! Even before Netflix fame, Vecna has appeared in more than a few publications including most recently 5E where some people have already been discussing how to fight him. However, we hipsters in the Greyhawk community feared this villain long before he was cool, so I'm going with the oldest source on him for this fight, the mere manifestation of the demigod Vecna from 1990's Vecna Lives! by Zeb Cook. To make things even more interesting, Vecna has not recovered either his Eye or Hand artifacts for this battle even though the module accounts for this eventuality. He just doesn't need them except on principle. Enough talk...let's FIGHT VECNA!

The heroes have already carved their way through Vecna's entire cult and haven't broken a sweat. Vecna now has to get his hands, er hand dirty now. The Whispered One usually appears as he did when he was a lich. a mummified body in tattered clothes, with a left arm ending in a stump and a veil over his missing eye. However, this lesser demigod manifestation could appear as any humanoid creature really. After the initial shock wears off, (those 5 HD or less must deal with his Fear aura) the heroes win initiative (Vecna would automatically go first vs mortals in his full demigod form). They have exactly one round to slay him or things get ugly (though as a lich or demigod he will be reformed in 1d100 days anyhow). Vecna's defenses?

1. Disclaimer: as a 20th level spellcaster with millennia of experience and a 20 INT & 18 WIS, Vecna can conceivably have any wizard spell precast on himself. He knows all spells of all schools and does not need a spell book (yeah he could carry one in his ribcage just for show). As we all know from years of reading about archmages like  Elminster and Mordenkainen this means Vecna will come into this fight with classic spells like Contingency, Stoneskin, Fly, Fire Shield or Spell Turning already in effect. Pick your poison DMs. 

2. Vecna's hit points are decent for 1E/2E era at 116 and he has an AC of 0 (that's AC 20 in today's terms fyi). His manifestation may just be a high-level uber-lich, but he can be destroyed by brute force by a lucky experienced party. 

3. As a lich he is of course immune to charm, sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity and death spells. No cheap shots against the Maimed Lord. He must also he hit by +1 or better weapons, like anyone would go into this fight with less...

4. Vecna cannot be turned. Clerics, I am shocked. Shocked I say!

5. Magic Resistance 45%. Yeah, I didn't forget about you wizards either (It'd be 70% with all his body parts intact) 

Vecna's turn? While it's true his Eye and Hand have quite a few nasty offensive powers that can wreck the PCs, the scary thing is Vecna can cast all these same spells without his artifacts. He has at minimum two 9th level spell slots are available so you can be sure his first move is either Time Stop or Mordenkainen's Disjunction. He is a lich so any spell requiring touch will also cause chill damage and paralysis. There is little chance he would go hand to hand however, especially when all the most damaging wizard spells in existence are at his fingertips. Vecna might even turn the players against each other with Domination. And even if the heroes have a secret plan up their sleeves, Vecna the Master of Secrets will know it so leave your trick plays at home. 

So yes, the PCs have a fighting chance against a depowered demigod Vecna. However, when he gets his Eye and Hand or ascends to lesser deity status like in later editions, there is very little chance indeed mortals could take him down without divine intervention. If anyone has battled Vecna in their campaign in any edition, including the newest 5E version on D&D Beyond, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Before you go here is some bonus links to old Greyhawkery posts relevant to Vecna lore. This one is on the Sword of Kas through the editions, and this post is all about the Eye of Vecna

Bonus bonus content: Here is a custom-made trivia quiz that I created about Vecna. Enjoy!

Until next fight...

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Wars of Greyhawk: Battle of Shamblefield

Hail Greyhawk lords and ladies! Today is a good day because I'm finally releasing another battle in my Wars of Greyhawk series. You may remember my last one was on Gahru's Folly. These battles take a lot of work researching and writing so I'm usually hesitant to post them right away. As a result, I've sat on this a while, but the only way I'll write more battles is if I get this one out first. Shamblefield is a famous battle in Greyhawk lore, so I hope my interpretation of the events does it justice. Enjoy! 

Bonus: Here is a comic on the featured battle from 2010.




Battle of Shamblefield (Caldni Vir’s Charge)

Conflict & Date: 
The Battle of Shamblefield occurred in the spring of 109 CY.
Armies & Commanders: 
Imperial Army of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy (10,000 total)
        Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom.
        Herzog of the North Province.
        Sir Caldni Vir of Edgefield. 
        3,000 light infantry, 2,000 medium infantry, 1,000 heavy infantry, 1,500 medium cavalry, 500 heavy cavalry, 500 pikes, 500 crossbows, 1,000 archers.
*****
Kingdom of Fruztii. (Frost Barbarian Horde) (20,000 total)
        Fruztii nobles and chieftains.
        10,000 light infantry, 5,500 medium infantry, 500 light cavalry. 4,000 archers. 
Result: 
The Great Kingdom of Aerdy defeats the Fruztii Horde.
Casualties:
Imperial Army of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy (6,800 total)
        2,300 light infantry, 1,500 medium infantry, 500 heavy infantry, 900 medium cavalry, 150 heavy cavalry, 325 pikes, 275 crossbows, 850 archers.
*****
Kingdom of Fruztii. (Frost Barbarian Horde) (15,000 total)
        7,500 light infantry, 4,000 medium infantry, 300 light cavalry. 3,200 archers. 
Prelude

A):  During the reign of Overking Manshen of Rax, annual raids by Suel northmen had drastically increased on the coastal towns of Bellport and Kaport Bay, and worst, Aerdy’s northernmost settlement of Johnsport, was now occupied by these barbarians. The ineffectual herzog of the North Province (House Naelax) was unable (some say unwilling) to deal with these incursions, a fact that incensed the Overking. 
B):  In the spring of 108 CY Manshen turned to his most experienced, trusted generals and tasked them with securing and fortifying the northern frontier of the kingdom without the direction of Eastfair. Answering the Overking’s call, veteran Aerdian legions massed at the town of Knurl, where the campaign was then headed by the finest warriors in the land, the Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom.
C):  By autumn of that year, the Imperial Army had easily marched between the Rakers and the Blemu Hills dislodging the Fruztii occupation. Part of the army camped south of Kalmar Pass and started laying the foundations of what was to become Spinecastle. 
D):  The Knight Protectors continued to advance, using their royal mandate to call up thousands of reinforcements from the local North Province (despite objections the herzog personally led this contingent). 
That winter, the Aerdian campaign culminated in a decisive battle at Johnsport, that forced the surviving barbarians back over Grendep Bay. 
E):  Word of the bitter defeat at Johnsport spread like wildfire in the barbarian lands, and by the start of 109 CY, thousands of enraged Fruztii headed south along the Timberway to exact their revenge.
Battle
F):  Filtering through several smaller mountain passes in the spring of 109 CY, the assembled Fruztii horde managed to eliminate or evade Aerdy’s patrols, and thus surprised the lightly fortified encampment of the Imperial Army overseeing the construction of Spinecastle. Thousands of howling barbarian warriors quickly outflanked the Aerdian positions, encircling the castle-works before the defenders could fully muster their legions, in the process inflicting significant casualties. Completely surrounded, the Knight Protectors courageously rallied the Imperial Army; their vaunted heavy infantry and pikemen holding the line against waves of attackers, in order to buy time for any outlying patrols to come to their aid. The barbarian horde seemed endless however, and they were certain to overrun the stalwart Aerdians. 
G):  The first patrol to respond to the barbarian attack was headed by the young Knight Protector, Caldni Vir of Edgefield who commanded a heavy cavalry column that was part of a larger reserve contingent led by the Herzog of the North Province during the recent campaign to liberate Johnsport. Famously, Vir turned his cavalry toward Spinecastle to counterattack, defying orders from his liege to abandon the imperial forces and fall back to the south. The Naelax banner was thrown down and the valorous Knight Protector raised the standard of the Imperial Orb into battle. 
   Approaching the site of the battle from hills to the north, hundreds of heavy horsemen with lances rode down upon the rear of the Fruztii formation without warning. The spearhead of Caldni Vir’s charge managed to break through the enveloping Fruztii lines, sending the unwary northmen into disarray. The other Knight Protectors saw the standard of the Imperial Orb carried by Caldni Vir’s troops and were emboldened to turn the tide against their foes. Fierce fighting ensued, lasting until sunset with both sides suffering massive losses. 
H):  Eventually, the Fruztii sensed defeat and retreated toward the Loftwood where no pursuit was given by the beleaguered victors.
Aftermath 
   The battle site that would be called Shamblefield, left thousands of Aerdian and Fruztii corpses to burn, bury, and rot. Centuries later, farmers still turn up bones and relics from the battle, and tavern stories tell that remains of the dead that day were used in the mortar of Spinecastle’s foreboding walls. The Kingdom of Fruztii was diminished, they would never again be dominant among the people of the Thillonria Peninsula. Overking Manshen rewarded the courage of Caldni Vir, elevating the young Knight Protector to become the first marquis of Bone March, named for the terrible price paid at the Battle of Shamblefield.
Heroic Hooks
   DMs who wish to feature the Battle of Shamblefield in their own campaign should note this conflict takes place 467 years before the starting timeline of the World of Greyhawk boxed set. This battle is set during a time when the Great Kingdom is at its height, and her Knight Protectors are still noble and just. While a campaign set in this era isn’t advised here, the Battle of Shamblefield could make a good historical flashback. The following hooks are suggested for DMs who want to have player characters participate in the Battle of Shamblefield without necessarily reenacting the entire event.
        Barbarian side: The player characters are scouts of the Fruztii tribe or the allied peoples of the north. They are tasked with aiding the advancing horde at infiltrating the Raker Mountains by eliminating an Aerdian patrol. When the battle starts the PCs must circle around the defensive works and try to stealthily capture alive a protected Aerdian architect so that the king of Fruztii can build his own massive castle. 
        Battle Couriers: In the heat of battle, the PCs are tasked by the Knight Protectors to deliver news of the barbarian invasion to the Imperial garrison at Johnsport so they can swiftly contact Overking Manshen. Not only must the couriers break past the barbarian horde, but they must also contend with agents of the Herzog who don’t want the Overking to find out.
        Rescue the Banner: The PCs are trusted allies of the Knight Protectors and stand by their side in the pitched battle. The Overking’s banner, the Imperial Orb, has been taken by a clutch of barbarians and is being brought to a hill overlooking the battle to be sacrificed to their gods. The PCs must break off from the main conflict to regain the flag and surely boost Aerdian morale.
 
        Caldni Vir’s Ride: The heroes are part of Lord Vir’s mounted hill patrol. The news has arrived that the castle works are under attack by thousands of barbarians. Caldni Vir has ignored orders from the North Province to withdraw, and you ride. The PCs must be the tip of the spearhead, charging into the rear guard of the Fruztii horde. They must last long enough to carve their way to the Aerdian line, and hopefully turn the tide of the battle.
Sources:
Carl Sargent. From the Ashes.
Gary Gygax. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983).
Roger E. Moore. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins.
Gary Holian; Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
Gary Holian. Places of Mystery: Spinecastle and Veralos. Living Greyhawk Journal #9 (Dragon Magazine #293)
Hunter103. Rhizia: A History of the Northeastern Flanaess. Canonfire!


Saturday, July 2, 2022

Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains - Nimhon the Despised

Welcome back fans of Greyhawk! It's summer, there's holidays, haven't really been working on anything new, but it's good that I have my ongoing Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains to fall back on! In fact, this latest entry in my NPC catalog was written back in the winter-spring. Nimhon the Despised was written with low level play in mind. Ull like anywhere in Greyhawk, is a place that can support all levels of game play, but in my opinion low-mid level campaigns are the most fun. For example, PCs should struggle to survive and get around in Ull. To that end, all one needs is a horse. What could go wrong? 

“Ull can seem rather boorish and backward to visitors from the east. However, one universal truth that all cultures can agree on is horse thieves are scum of the Oerth.

Nimhon the Despised (human, male, ranger 3)

Northern Ull is well-known for its vast herds of horses, bred and trained to be the hardiest and most dependable in all the Baklunish West. This is a fact that has led many traders, armies, and adventurers from all over the Flanaess to go out of their way to acquire one of these fine animals. While there is a lively horse-market in Ulakand, supply never keeps up with demand. The nomadic families of Ull treat horse-ownership like a religion, so there is no greater taboo than horse thievery. Horses taken in combat is considered an honorable act, and freely giving one’s mount to another is also a sign of respect if not outright acceptance into a tribe. That said, there is less a stigma against stealing from and selling stolen horses to foreigners. This is where Nimhon the Despised thrives.

   Nimhon has no family name. He is a nomad outcast who many whisper was originally a member of the vaunted Jadrun Khanate, though such open claims often result in a head on a pike. Nimhon is called the Despised due to his reputation throughout Ull as a shady horse-trader and smuggler. A skilled ranger and master horse-rider, Nimhon, mainly roams the southern and eastern fringes of Ull, often along the Banner Trail in the shadow of the Barrier Peaks. He can be found venturing into villages and towns along this trail, such as Semust and Kurukand trading stolen horses and leather goods to unwary foreigners and unscrupulous locals. Nimhon also frequently trades with the reclusive Yorodhi hillmen in the south, who do not fear the ranger as they do Ull’s marauding warbands.

   Though he predominantly steals from foreign caravans and unsuspecting travelers, Nimhon has still made enemies of several Uli warbands and a few smaller khanates, for thieving their prized horses. He does not care that he is despised by his kinsmen, and even takes pride in liberating fine horses from those he deems undeserving. Nimhon is considered cowardly by Ull society. Since he generally works alone, Nimhon does not fight fair and if necessary, he will drop everything he owns to evade capture. Naturally when he has lost his pursuers, the wily ranger will always circle back and get revenge, or in the very least steal back his belongings.

DM’s Campaign Notes: Nimhon knows the land well and is adept at stealth and trailing potential targets. He is resourceful, often using distractions and at times minor magic items to help sneak into caravans and camps undetected. Given his ranger background, Nimhon is uncanny at handling horses, sometimes they come to him as if he speaks their language. Despite his reputation as a coward, he is trained in all bows and light weapons, and will not hesitate to kill if there is no other option. Nimhon also reputedly sells stolen horses to the enigmatic Yellow Cartel for use in their drug cultivation and supply line. This unspoken arrangement perhaps gives Nimhon a degree of safety in Ull.

   Nimhon the Despised makes a good low-level foil for a wilderness type campaign. He is not a real threat to most adventuring bands, but he can make a good recurring character to antagonize the heroes. If dealt with diplomatically, Nimhon can be a source of gear, information and even direct the PCs to even more dangerous encounters.

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Greyhawk Mini Map: Adri Forest

Greetings Greyhawkers! It's Low Summer, everyone I know but me has vacation plans, and this week there is no Legends & Lore stream. So for this post I decided to break up the monotony of my Ull and Sea Princes NPCs and do a quick mini map (pen and colored pencil). While this map of Adri Forest may look big, it's really only the size of a postcard. I don't know why I chose to draw this map, maybe it's because I've been staring at the color green the last few days while I paint my house! 

At any rate, the Adri is a huge, dense forest with a lot of history and geography going on. This map is a hex-to-hex copy of the Darlene map with elements from Ivid the Undying thrown in, like the Coldwood which I first became enamored with in Dragon #208 when they did an excerpt of Carl Sargent's work. I also know places like Knurl and Innspa are well discussed these days in the Greyhawk community. Those are two local towns that I know relatively little about. If you like my "cartoony" style of maps suggest another region I can zoom in on and try next time I'm bored. Enjoy!



Monday, June 13, 2022

Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains - Khafir the Slicer

Well met Greyhawk faithful! This week's entry to Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains is a baddie drawn from the original Fiend Folio. Despite the book's reputation for some of most vile creatures in all D&D fandom, let's see if this particular antagonist ends up being sympathetic to you and your players. This is Ull after all...  

Life in Kester is harsh, and tragedies are all too common to the point locals can become inured by its daily presence. This makes the back alleys of the city a haven for all manner of dangerous creatures”.

Khafir the Slicer (skulk, male)

   A few years ago, news of a back-alley serial killer known as Khafir the Slicer first spread among the rumor-mill of Kester. The Slicer, nicknamed by fearful beggars who discovered his eviscerated victims, has allegedly never been seen, nor has his home been found. Despite this, locals know the Slicer as Khafir, because the name is often marked in a grisly fashion on his victims or on nearby walls. Another calling-card of the Slicer is broken mirrors, leading some to wonder if Khafir is a vampire, though no blood is ever drained from the deceased. The truth is even more strange, in truth Khafir lives among the commoners of Kester yet beneath their notice. The only person who has claimed to see the Slicer is a nine-year old street urchin that considers Khafir an imaginary friend and protector, much to the scorn of other street gang youths.

   DM’s Campaign Notes: Khafir the Slicer is a lone Skulk. (see Fiend Folio, AD&D, or Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, 5E) The Slicer has been living in Kester for a long time now, thus he has advanced knowledge of the city’s roads, alleys, and shortcuts. Due to his natural “invisible” camouflage, the Slicer can move about day or night unseen by all but those with mirrors, or at times by certain small children. Lonely and generally paranoid, Khafir used to kill indiscriminately in order to survive, but he has now become skilled enough to inhabit the town without bringing too much attention. Khafir leaves his name scrawled at murder-sites not only to scare away troublemakers who get to close to finding his hideout, but also in hopes that another skulk recognizes this and makes contact.

   Khafir’s hideout changes as needed, and he has got exceptionally good at concealing his presence. His current home is in the shop of an apothecary, that according to signs hung on the entrance is either “closed” or “will return shortly”. All doors to the shop are locked, and the windows are dark and curtained. Persistent customers are directed by another sign to leave written orders with some payment through a slot in the door. So far, these rare orders have always been fulfilled, though no customer has ever seen who delivered the goods. In reality the skulk made the apothecary vanish and is now doing his best to keep up appearances as long as possible. The Slicer has no use for money, being able to take what it wants with ease. He has taken to watching over local street children, stealing them food and money and leaving it discreetly to be found. So far only one child has actually glimpsed Khafir. Surprisingly this development has now led the skulk to become protective of the kids, indeed more than a few adult thugs have met their end after harming these street youths.

   Khafir the Slicer makes an excellent villain for an urban-based murder mystery plot, as PCs follow the trail of bodies and clues to their inevitable source. The Slicer also makes a good foil for roguish characters who sneak about Kester at night or become too rich and arrogant. Given circumstances of the campaign, this villain could even become a valuable ally for certain character classes that are not so quick to judge.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Greyhawk Monsters: Thessalworg

Welcome back Greyhawkers! I tried my hand at 5E monster design recently with the Briar Golem. My next attempt, the Thessalworg is based on my love of the creepy weird Thessalhydra which first appeared in MM2. Thessalhydras are a magical combination of a hydra and some stock "thessal-monster" with a huge maw a pincer tail and acidic drool. Other monsters have gone on to reproduce with the progenitor Thessalhydra leading to weirder things like the Thessalmera and Thessalisk. We later find out in Age of Worms AP that a lich named Thessalar originally from Faerun but currently living in Rift Canyon is responsible for their genesis. So yes, DMs feel free to add the Thessalworg to your monster toolbox. If your players complain, blame it on the Forgotten Realms. Enjoy!

THESSALWORG (5E)
This horror is an unforeseen branch in the family of magical hydra hybrids called thessalmonsters. It partly resembles the thessalhydra, except that instead of the giant maw in the center of the ring of snake heads, it has a large wolfish head. Unlike sentient speaking worgs, the thessalworg is a slavering beast, that in particular attacks normal worgs and other canines on sight. Thessalworgs can be found in most any climate or terrain, either singly or in packs.

THESSALWORG (5E)
Large monstrosity, unaligned

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 45 (6d10 + 12)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 16 (+3)
DEX 13 (+1)
CON 15 (+2)
INT 5 (-3)
WIS 9 (-1)
CHA 7 (-2)

Skill Perception +3
Damage Immunities
acid
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, stunned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Language -
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Keen Hearing and Smell. The thessalworg has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The thessalworg makes two attacks: one Bite attack, and either one Flurry of Bites attack or one Tail Pincer attack. Alternatively, it may use its Acid Saliva.

Flurry of Bites. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage plus 5 (2d4) poison damage.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Tail Pincer. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage, and the target is grappled. As an action, the target can escape the grapple by succeeding on a DC 13 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (its choice). Until this grapple ends, the thessalworg can’t use its tail pincer.

Acid Saliva (Recharge 5-6). The thessalworg spits a glob of acid at a point it can see within 30 feet of it. Each creature within 10 feet of that point must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.