House Xorlarrin is a powerful drow house from Menzoberranzan whose true power does not lie with its priestesses - though they still hold the reins of power as is normal in matriarchal drow society - but with its male wizards. And these males are accorded an unusual level of respect within House Xorlarrin, verging on (heretical, according to some) near-quality.
With its focus on arcane might, House Xorlarrin was a natural choice to first hear from Lolth's emissary that the Demon Queen of Spiders was seeking to rebuild the Weave, broken as it was by the Spellplague, as the Demon Weave and further increase her power by becoming the deity of magic in place of (presumably) dead Mystra.
Xorlarrin wizards, supported by priestesses, have been tasked with exploring various sites of power, some touched by the Spellplague and some wellsprings of primal or primordial power. The stat blocks that follow relate to the House Xorlarrin outpost beneath Neverwinter known now as Plaguelost. Originally it was called Spellspire and was a place of arcane experimentation away from the judgemental, heresy-hunting eyes of Lolth's inquisitors in Menzoberranzan, as well as being a convenient place from which to trade with Skullport and Karsoluthiyl.
Because of the magic that was present in the former-Spellspire, the Spellplague's effects truly devastated the outpost and House Xorlarrin began to refer to it as Plaguelost and assumed that it was, indeed, lost to their house. However, Bregan D'aerthe delvers looking for alternative routes to Skullport found it once more and traded that information to House Xorlarrin for magic and the right of access to the outpost which they continue to enjoy.
And House Xorlarrin realised that the effects of the Spellplague on Plaguelost made it the perfect place to study the broken Weave and, perhaps, to make genuine progress in the creation of the Demon Weave.
These stat blocks relate to Ulvdril Xorlarrin, the spellscarred wizard who now leads this outpost, and those of his guards, his assistants/apprentices, the overseeing - in theory, at least - priestesses and underpriestesses, their quaggoth slave guards, and the demons summoned to assist with the Demon Weave's creation.
Ulvdril Xorlarrin is the leader of Plaguelost but, in reality, he is so busy with his arcane experiments that actual control of the city rests with the drow priestess Lirda Xorlarrin.
He was born in the former Spellspire before the Spellplague struck and was one of those who escaped but it forever marked him: he is, himself, spellscarred and, if his heavy robes are removed, his bones can be seen glowing with blue flame through his skin in a strobe-like effect in time with his heartbeat.
In addition to the mark of the Spellplague, Ulvdril's body is horribly twisted. His spine and body were broken by angry inquisitors of Lolth who saw the blue flames of his body as an abomination and affront to Lolth. However, it seemed the Queen of Spiders had plans for Ulvdril because she sent a yochlol to stop the inquisitors from striking the killing blow... although she also did not require that they heal him. The injuries were so severe that he now scuttles like some sort of lizard or insect when he walks leading to his nickname, The Lizard.
(One of those inquisitors now exists as a blue obsidian paperweight on the spellscarred wizard's main desk while the other two are formless oozes that prowl the sewers of Menzoberranzan. The Lizard was permitted his revenge....)
Ulvdril's battle tactics generally involve unleashed a wall of blue flame to shape the battlefield as early as possible, and then alternating between spellplague glasstrike and shiver flesh from a distance if at all possible. His preference is to only enter combat when his two mezzoloth thralls of Lolth guards are present (see below).
Ulvdril often makes use of apprentice spellspinners as messengers and ritual assistants. They sometimes accompany patrols in order to obtain battle experience and their ability to levitate and then blank the battlefield with poisonous web makes them valuable to the arcane guards and footsoldiers they accompany.
And while they use similar tactics if encountered together with Ulvdril, their main role when they are fighting at the side of the senior wizard is to draw the enemy's attacks away from him.
Lirda Xorlarrin is the sole ranking priestess in Plaguelost and, if she was ever to tell the truth, she feels completely out of her depth. She realises that what Ulvdril is doing has Lolth's blessing and she is simply hoping that his success will benefit her as well. But as a priestess of Lolth she hates being unable to control her circumstances, and also seemingly dependent upon the success of a male!
Lirda enjoys battle and has been known to personally lead a "spider" or "double spider" (see below) on patrol in the Great Grotto of Plaguelost particularly when hook horrors are sighted. She still enjoys the visceral thrill that comes from cracking the horrors' shells with her scourge and she also has a taste for fresh hook horror marrow consumed on the battlefield.
And while there is only one full priestess in Plaguelost, there are many underpriestesses as they are an integral part of the rituals related to the Demon Weave. House Xorlarrin sent only the most promising underpriestesses with the strongest sense of disciple and grasp of ritual magic. At any time, eight underpriestesses will be performing the necessary rituals at the altar within what is now known as Blue Flame Spire.
If forced to end their rituals to fight, they will fight to the death but, if their enemy retreats, they will not pursue as they see returning to their rituals as their primary task.
Their ability to deal ongoing poison damage, and then to increase that ongoing poison damage with Lolth's caress, forms the basis of their combat tactics.
The bulk of House Xorlarrin's drow soldiery are known as the Arcane Guard. The Arcane Guard is made up of glaive-wielding swordmages - arcane guards - organised in units of seven arcane guards led by an arcane guard captain. Because these units have eight members, they are referred to as "spiders".
(These are not the only "spiders" employed by House Xorlarrin. Another form of "spider" is comprised of seven quaggoth guards led by a quaggoth thonot and when two or more "spiders" are operating together, they are referred to as "double spiders", "triple spiders" etc....)
The Arcane Guard relies heavily on its ability to lock down the enemy on the battlefield but their captain's ability to create and sustain a swordmage's gate provides them with formidable mobility. Beyond their combat utility, Ulvdril values their presence because he can use their arcane skill to supplement certain ritual magics that he performs.
In fact, the heavy presence of the Arcane Guard has had much to do with the speedy process that The Lizard has made in terms of his creation of a miniature weave that, even now, is being corrupted with the abyssal energies of the Demonweb Pits to create the first functioning version of the Demon Weave.
The Arcane Guard also combine well with drow lizard cavalry whose extreme mobility, particularly in the ruins of Plaguelost where their ability to jump and spider climb means they can essentialy ignore the penalties of difficult terrain, allows them to keep up with the Arcane Guard even when they have used their captain's swordmage's gate to travel to another part of the battlefield.
The drow lizard cavalry is built with a single stat block rather than separate stat blocks for the rider and mount. In view of the way they operate in battle, it just made more sense to go with a single stat block.
Finally, House Xorlarrin has also more mundane drow footsoldiers in Plaguelost. While Ulvdril sees them as little better than sword- and spell-fodder, they are very well-trained, mobile, and flexible in their attacks. Hand crossbow give them a ranged capability (including ongoing poison damage which is very useful if they are fighting with underpriestesess) but their preference is to rely on very mobile skirmishing tactics - they can shift 2 squares with each minor action thanks to footsoldier's nimble step - that are very defensive in nature: they rely heavily on their defensive buckler strike as their primary attack using rapier primarily if they choose to charge or make an opportunity attack.
The Demon Thralls of Lolth
The city of Plaguelost is the backdrop for the PCs' quest to recover the third and final Tear of Selûne. In view of the fact that the Demon Weave is supposed to be being fuelled by, inter alia, magical artefacts, it would make sense that these drow after finding the Tear would try and corrupt it so that it can also feed this new Weave of Lolth's.
From what I have read of D&D's lore regarding the Abyss, glabrezu are supposed to be major corruptors. As such, it made sense for at least one of the demons that would be found in Plaguelost to be a glabrezu and for the glabrezu to be in charge of the ritual that sought to corrupt the Tear with the power of the Demonweb Pits.
As I have noted elsewhere on this blog, consistent with my desire to run campaigns set in the Heroic Tier, I prefer to change the level of monsters to match their 1E hit dice. While glabrezu are a mixture of high Paragon and also Epic threats in 4E, in 1E and 2E they had 10 hit dice so I decided to make mine a level 10 monster. I was tossing up between soldier and controller as their role but I looked at the 2E write-up in the Monstrous Compendium: Outer Planes Appendix and saw they had access to both reverse gravity and power word: stun. They seemed to be something like signature powers that I wanted to preserve in my 4E stat block. I replaced a direct conversion of power word: stun with blasphemous word which was also inspired by a similarly named power on the official 4E stat block.
(The other reason for choosing a power with blasphemous as part of its name was that I imagined the glabrezu's ritual would involve it muttering foul blasphemies in Abyssal or Dark Speech over the Tear.)
Also, having chosen the controller role I wanted to give it an aura that could potentially have a major effect on combat. Glabrezu are noted deceivers and I thought aura of deception was consistent with that trait. Limiting it to only function while the glabrezu in unbloodied should help minimise any frustration factor that can otherwise attend lost attacks... especially lost attacks that are redirected at allies!
To guard the glabrezu while it performed its foul ritual - as well as making their own contributions - I decided to use mariliths. I admit, my primary reason for doing so was because I had two marilith miniatures that I have never used and I really wanted to use them.
It was really a toss-up between making the mariliths skirmishers or soldiers. The ability of pre-4E mariliths to constrict suggested a soldier role but I decided to make them a more mobile combatant as per their official 4E stat blocks.
In 1E, mariliths - although they were known as type V demons at this point - had 7+7 hit dice which was probably an editing error in the same way that balors - aka type VI demons - had 8+8 hit dice when the logical progression from the other lower ranked demon types would suggest that the marilith would have 12 hit dice and the balor 13 hit dice. Indeed, 2E corrected this.
So, why the error? 1E had really poor rules editing as anyone trying to decipher the unplayable-as-written combat rules would agree. Reading between the lines from various posting I have seen from TSR alumni, it seems that the late Gary Gygax wasn't too fond of "criticism" even when that criticism was legitimate editing. So, back to hit dice of the type V and VI demons. When they appeared in Eldritch Wizardry, the type VI was noted as having 12-sided hit dice thus making its hit points significantly higher than a normal creature with 8+8 hit dice. I think type Vs were supposed to be the same but I cannot recall precisely, and looking up an editing error is just a waste of time.
So, back to my version of the marilith. I was starting with the idea that, because the marilith had 12 hit dice in 1E, it would be a level 12 monster in 4E. And a level 12 monster in 4E has the same XP value as a level 8 elite monster in 4E... but, for some reasons, my self-editing failed me and I statted it up as level 7 elite. Oh well, the marilith thrall of Graz'zt that is going to make an appearance in a few sessions' time will be a level 8 skirmisher. And, let's face it, the PCs won't notice. :)
The abovementioned Monstrous Compendium: Outer Planes Appendix noted that the mariliths were strategic and tactical geniuses, even the generals of the Blood War. As a result, I also wanted the marilith to be a (leader) but I didn't want something too complicated. I settled on the mistress of the battlefield aura which alows her to move around enemies and allies. In the case of enemies, that can be described as being the result of the marilith's lashing tail while, in the case of allies, it can simply be her tactical genius.
Anyway, most importantly, it's simple.
Otherwise, the marilith in combat is a mixture of using dance of blades when it is available to move and attack all over the battlefield and then using wall of blades when a strong defensive position that allows for more than one enemy to be attacked is found. The marilith's powers are all about position.
Finally, the third member of our demonic trio is the mezzoloth, also known as the mezzodemon in 4E and the mezzodaemon in 1E. I'm not big on Planescape-y stuff and I don't need any backstory or rationale for these name changes. I'm just sticking with the 2E name and giving it the demon type as is the case in 4E.
Interestingly, the mezzoloth/demon/daemon was once creature that exists in 4E with a lower level than its 1E hit dice. There is a level 7 version in the Compendium, and even the official mezzodemon is level 11, only one more than its 1E hit dice. Nevertheless, I wanted to stay true to my choice to use 1E hit dice as the 4E monster level so I made my mezzoloth a level 10 soldier.
The charm resistance trait comes from something out of its first appearance in D3 Vault of the Drow and I wanted to keep that original piece of flavour. Otherwise, it's largely based on the 4E version. Story-wise, these are just meant to be elite guards for Ulvdril Xorlarrin, holding back his enemies so that he is free to unleash his ranged attacks.
And that brings to an end the stat blocks for the House Xorlarrin forces in the city of Plaguelost. You can read about how the party fared against these <links to be inserted when the session reports are finished>.