Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Stat Blocks - Azurl's Hoardseekers

One of the things I really love about 4E - and, really, this is the primary reason I am simply not interested in 5E or any of the earlier editions - is that building NPCs is so easy.

Unlike any other edition, you can have a clear concept of an NPC in your head and then translate that concept into mechanical terms. There was an element of this, of course, in 3.xE but the cost was literally hours of your time to find the right combination of race, template(s), class(es), feat(s), and prestige class(es) to pull this off... only for your carefully-crafted NPC to last maybe one round - two rounds at the most! - of combat.

That doesn't happen in 4E.

Also, one of the things I am finding I am enjoying more and more about 4E is finding pictures of groups of NPCs and then statting them out based purely on my response to what I see in the picture. I can't remember what was the first group I did this to - I think it was the Kneecappers, a band of halfing thieves and thugs - but I have posted Maurvurr's Marauders on this blog and that's attracted a surprising amount of traffic including emails. Clearly there is an appetite for ready-to-run 4E NPCs with a bit of backstory.

As for today's post, the picture comes from one of the few genuinely good adventures published by WotC for 4E, Madness at Gardmore Abbey. While I have taken the picture from there and have read the bit about the NPCs it depicts, I cannot recall any of the details so any influence from Madness is purely subconscious. And, as always, the names for the NPCs come from the list of names by Ed Greenwood I have compiled and posted <here>. In this instance, the names were all taken from the Castlemourn campaign setting which I will never use but which now serves as a convenient source of Greenwood-ian names.

(And if Bob Salvatore happens to read this, you should do the same unless, of course, you officially declare your FR fiction to be works of parody.)

From left to right, the NPCs depicted are: the female human fighter, Xavalla Lanceborn; the male drow warlock, Pelblaes; the male dwarf cleric, Azurl Forgebar, Chosen of Tiamat; Golaunt the male half-orc brute (he's not really based on a class); and Endreene the female human wizard.

Azurl's Hoardseekers

The Hoardseekers are part of the Cult of the Dragon, specifically that faction that seeks to bring the Cult fully under the sway of Tiamat.

(This is a concept first mentioned in the outstanding 2E product Cult of the Dragon and has been taken to its conclusion in the first campaign story for the 5E version of the Realms, the Tyranny of Dragons.  The Hoardbreakers could just as easily be used in the post-Sundering Realms or, indeed, in almost any era.)

The unchallenged leader of the Hoardseekers is the gold dwarf Azurl Forgebar who is also a Chosen of Tiamat. Clan Forgebar is one of the few genuinely evil dwarven clans and they have a particular hatred for metallic dragons, ever since the gold dragon Palarandusk attacked them in retaliation for the dwarves' massacre of the gnomes of Ieirithymbul before the Spellplague.

Largely as a result of Palarandusk's (completely justified!) attack on their clan, the Forgebar dwarves turned to the worship of Tiamat and, in the decades following the Dracorage in the Year of Rogue Dragons and then the Spellplague, the Forgebar dwarves earned a reputation for dragon-slaying but their focus was very much on the metallic dragons.

Many very young gold and silver dragons were slain and unhatched eggs destroyed before Palarandusk shook off the effects of both the Dracorage and the Spellplague and slew almost all of the Forgebar dwarves. Azurl is one of the handful who remain and his hatred for Palarandusk and the other metallic dragons is a tangible thing. His attraction to both Tiamat and the Cult of the Dragon both serve as an outlet for that hatred.

Azurl Forgebar, Chosen of Tiamat

In many ways, Azurl fights for the glory of the now essentially defunct Forgebar clan. And his number one goal is to convert, ideally forcibly, a metallic dragon into a dracolich in Tiamat's service. 

As would be expected from a Tiamat-worshipping dwarf, Azurl practically redefines the meaning of the word greed. He is petty and grasping in a way that, frankly, often embarrasses the other Hoardseekers but he sees this as part of his right as a Chosen of Tiamat.

In battle, Azurl sees Golaunt as his primary weapon. He constantly invests the half-orc with a measure of Tiamat's power and unleashes him across the battlefield. That is, at least until the dwarf is bloodied at which point the full wrath of Tiamat is unleashed and Azurl transforms into the five-headed dragon form of an aspect of Tiamat. At this point, his only available attack is the combined breath weapon of the aspect's five heads. His companions have learnt to stay away from Azurl when he is in this form as much as possible else they too may be caught in the aspect's fivefold blast.

Azurl's stat block began with me wanting to have a genuine PC-like leader among a group of NPCs, one who was capable of granting attacks like a bard or warlord. The idea of a transformation into dragon form was really an experiment in terms of fleshing out what the status of a chosen of a deity could possibly mean.


Originally from Amn, the battlemage Eldreene is a mage-for-hire and the simple fact is, Azurl pays well. Further, the dwarf allows her access to the arcane lore held by the Cult of the Dragon which is her real passion. In fact, the only reason she is a mage-for-hire is so she can acquire more lore. When not involved in an adventure with the Hoardseekers, Eldreene can typically be found with her nose in an old spellbook or set of scrolls.

In battle, Eldreene's fighting style is simple: she unleashes damage at range. There is no subtlety to her choice of spells - she is not trying to control the battlefield - but she exists simply to unleash massive damage.

Her stat block reflects three of the more common attack spells that almost any wizard in the pre-4E editions, and almost definitely in 1E and 2E, would have had in their list of spells. Rather than anything fancy I just decided to make her a simple blaster. Open with a fireball, follow that up with lightning bolt against two targets (and repeated as it recharges), and then spam magic missile (and triple spam magic missile after she is bloodied) until the end of the combat. Her lack of any utility magic is a deliberate - and uncharacteristic - choice on my part.


The half-orc Golaunt is genuinely loyal to Azurl as the dwarf purchased him from duergar slave traders from Gracklstugh and then he gave Golaunt his freedom.

Out of unfeigned gratitude, Golaunt is more than happy to serve as Azurl's primary weapon on the battlefield. He enjoys the strange feelings of power when Azurl invests him with a touch of Tiamat's might via Tiamat's champion and dragon scales. He prefers dealing acid damage as he enjoys how it makes flesh dissolve before his eyes.

Golaunt prefers to range across the battlefield making a series of charge attacks. He normally charges an enemy in such a way as to trigger fuel my bloodlust before attacking with his greataxe. He then makes another attack with greataxe courtesy of Tiamat's champion and, unless directed by Azurl to stay and keep fighting, he will charge another enemy and repeat the sequence of attacks.

One of my PCs is built to focus on charge-based attacks. Golaunt is my attempt to do the same with an NPC.


The Hoardseekers are evil. Pelblaes is really, really, really evil. There is something fundamentally sinister about him that almost anyone can sense - including (perhaps especially) animals - due to his close ties with some of the darkest parts of the Shadowfell.

More specifically, Pelblaes is inextricably bound to a vestige of Sammaster, the mad mage and former chosen of Mystra who founded the Cult of the Dragon. He is able to commune with this vestige very directly: he can simply use gloom walk to step into the vestige's presence in one of the darkest pits of the Shadowfell without harm to himself, but woe to any creature he banishes there when he uses share Sammaster's fate....

In many ways, Pelblaes is a pawn of this vestige of Sammaster but his ability to access Sammaster's knowledge makes him invaluable to Azurl and to the Cult of the Dragon in general. For the moment at least, the vestige of Sammaster has Pelblaes firmly allied with, and loyal to, the chosen of Tiamat but that could change at any time.

In combat, Pelblaes generally opens with gloom walk so that on his second turn he can deliver a devastating claws of the ur-dracolich. He saves share Sammaster's fate for an enemy that is clearly a major threat on the battlefield and who must be removed so that his allies can regather their strength or attain a tactically-superior position. 
Originally I was going to built Pelblaes as a skirmisher more along the lines of a traditional 4E warlock, but thinking about what it would mean for him to be a binder warlock and thinking back to the original binder in 3.5E's Tome of Magic had me thinking about him as more of a lurker. I think he will be more fun in play this way.

Xavalla Lancenorn

Xavalla was originally part of adventuring band along with Eldreene in Amn. A trained elite bodyguard for Amnian merchant princes, Xavalla found herself naturally falling into the same role in her adventuring life and she essentially appointed herself as Eldreene's guardian, a role she fills to this day.

Like most from Amn, Xavalla likes wealth and she sees her membership in the Hoardseekers, and in the Cult of the Dragon in general, as an opportunity to accumulate more wealth before they both return to Amn one day to retire and live off their respective investments. 
In combat, Xavalla generally hangs back and protects Azurl and Eldeene leaving Golaunt and Pelblaes to roam around the battlefield seeking targets. However, if the situation demands it she will step more directly into the fray although, when this happens, Eldeene is likely to come with her as she feels vulnerable when she is not protected by Xavalla's shield.

In PC terms, Xavalla is clearly a defender and I tried to emphasise that in a way I haven't seen before except, perhaps, with a shielding swordmage. It will be interesting to see how she works out in play.

What are the Hoardseekers Doing?

I'm still a few sessions away from using them in play but I am thinking that the Hoardseekers may be in Neverwinter tracking down rumours of a steel dragon that is playing a role in the reconstruction of the city. This is Zundaerazylym whom the PCs have, until just recently, thought was an eladrin cleric of the Moonmaiden whom they knew only as Lady Moonsilver. Before Neverwinter was ruined, she was also the head of an organisation known as the Soft Claws

While the Hoardseekers are no match for Zundaerazylym I might give them a custom magic item that makes them a threat and then let the PCs come to the steel dragon's rescue. 

No comments:

Post a Comment