It’s been rather a while since I’ve posted any Aurikesh content. Admittedly, they’re of interest to a narrower group than some of my other subjects, but much like I said the last time I wrote a Monsters of Aurikesh post, I want to get better at creature design. Also I apparently have some surrealist horror in my hindbrain that is… mimsy, like unto a borogrove.
I started work on this idea with scribbling down names, most of which were nonsense syllables of calamitous intent, not all of which passed the playground test, much less the cool-enough-for-use test. I liked “orb spawn” for awhile, but kept fiddling with it until I got to “orb thrall.” Turning it around and adding in a second, related idea (thralls of the mask) helps it to feel less like a straight lift of Brust’s work… not that I’m shy about stealing from my favorite authors when the time is right, but with some of the other things already in the setting, this wasn’t that time.
Stats are below the cut, so that my players can preserve their fear and ignorance if they want. (If you want to read the stats, though, I don’t mind.)
Thralls of the Orb
In the eastern domains of the continent of Balioth – Gallmonte, Kaldeshar, and Tyrema – people have begun to encounter creatures very similar to beruch, but distinctly wrong. Instead of reddish, their skin is gray, like dead flesh, and where the beruch have cloudy white crystalline growths, these creatures have smooth black stone, like marble. More rarely, these creatures have no eyes, only a single orb of green stone like the eye of a cyclops. When they are aggressive, the eyeless ones are the leaders (or perhaps shamans?) of their squads; some kind of connection through the stone of the leaders and the thralls increases the power of the leaders’ attacks against the opponents the thralls strike in combat.
The goals of these “thralls of the Orb” (a name revealed in a telepathic conversation) are not yet widely known, but violence is their primary means to that end. When the legates of the Orb win a battle, they focus their “gaze” on the bodies of their captured or dead enemies. A beam of grayish light emerges from the legate’s eye and constructs a copy of that person as an Orb thrall. If the target is a beruch, the newly-constructed being is a legate of the Orb instead. The legates are known to negotiate terms for the return of their captives, revealing their need for the same food and drink that most non-veytikka favor.
Thralls of the Mask
- 1561 KR: The first performance of the new opera Aquiline Transcendent in Merrionbard (a province of Ferradona) sets off two days of rioting. Count Orichell Greenwater closes all theaters in Merrionbard for eight months and arrests several of the actors for treason, though they are later released under the condition that they never return to Merrionbard.
- 1564 KR: The revelers of a Gallmontese courtly masquerade vanish overnight, without any sign of struggle. Wherever they went, they took their masks along with them. Their families have offered extraordinary rewards for their safe return, but they have received no response.
- 1565 KR: A series of high-profile thefts take place in Grevanda, Grand Terrace, and Adeschon, apparently committed by violent thugs wearing papier-mâché masks and wearing tattered finery. None of them were apprehended alive; they fought to the death rather than face capture. The Prince of Grevanda and the Reeve of Adeschon have attempted to hush the whole thing up, apparently to avoid a panic… or a diplomatic incident.
Thralls of the Mask are another new threat across the breadth of Balioth. Newly-made Mask thralls look like normal people wearing expensive, beautiful masks and (typically) fine garb. They lose all care for the maintenance of their clothing, however, and over time their finery becomes ragged and torn, even as their flesh hardens into grotesquely corded muscle. A band of Mask thralls is led by a grace-of-the-Mask, and there are reports of still more outlandish individuals bound to the Mask… whatever it is.
Mask thralls seem reluctant to attack normal people who are wearing masks, and on some occasions a grace-of-the-Mask is even willing to converse with such people. Beware, however, for the grace-of-the-Mask will surely demand a contest of some kind – of wit, of dueling, of pure will – and defeat in such an encounter snuffs out one’s individual will. From that point forward, the person is a Mask thrall, body and soul. If one could defeat a grace-of-the-Mask in such a contest, though, it might be possible to end the Mask’s control over not only that person, but the whole band of thralls.
Stats below the cut. I am struck by how… un-badass monsters are in D&D Next.
End Spoiler Alert
Thrall of the Orb
Armor Class: 12
Hit Points: 16 (3d8+3)
Speed: 30 ft
Senses: detect magic 30 ft.
The Orb Is All: Thralls of the Orb resist anything that would force them to obey a will other than the Orb. They make saving throws against the charmed effect with advantage.
Melee Attack – Spear: +4 to hit. Hit: 1d8 piercing damage.
Guiding Thrust – Spear: +4 to hit. Hit: 1d6 piercing damage, and orb blasts made against that target before the end of the thrall’s next turn gain advantage. If the orb blast already enjoys advantage, the orb blast deals +1d6 damage instead. The Guiding Thrust attack is an encounter power, and recharges when the legate becomes bloodied or scores a critical hit.
Level 3: 80 XP
Legate of the Orb
Armor Class: 14
Hit Points: 21 (4d8+4)
Speed: 30 ft
Senses: detect magic 60 ft
Eyeless: Legates of the Orb have no eyes, and thus do not make Spot checks. Thralls telepathically communicate most visual information to them, but a legate without any thralls nearby is completely blind.
Melee Attack – Unarmed: +3 to hit. Hit: 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
Ranged Attack – Orb Blast: +6 to hit (range 30 ft/120 ft). Hit: 1d10 force damage, and see the Thrall of the Orb’s Guiding Thrust power.
Create Thrall of the Orb (at-will, requires a helpless or recently dead humanoid target, one use per target): A legate of the Orb can create a new thrall of the Orb from any willing, helpless, or recently dead humanoid, on an Int check (DC 13). This creation takes 1d6 minutes. The thrall of the Orb is not created with weapons or any other possessions, but it is typically easy for it to scavenge these.
Level 4: 150 XP
Thrall of the Mask
Armor Class: 13
Hit Points: 13 (3d8)
Speed: 30 ft
Senses: Low-light vision
Pack Tactics: A Thrall of the Mask gains a cumulative +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls, to a maximum of +5, for each friendly creature that is within 5 feet of its target.
Melee Attack – rapier: +4 to hit. Hit: 1d8+1 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack – thrown dagger: +3 to hit. Hit: 1d4+1 piercing damage.
Level 3: 80 XP
Armor Class: 13
Hit Points: 17 (4d8)
Speed: 40 ft
Senses: Keen Hearing (advantage on all Listen checks)
Gracious Under Pressure: A Grace-of-the-Mask gains +1d6 to all contested Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma checks.
Melee Attack – rapier: +5 to hit. Hit: 1d8+2 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack – starlock pistol: +5 to hit. Hit: 1d6+2 piercing damage.
Endow with Grace (1/day): A Grace-of-the-Mask can endow a Thrall of the Mask with extraordinary physical grace. For one minute, all weapon attacks against the target Thrall of the Mask suffer disadvantage, and the Thrall of the Mask heals 1d6 hit points at the start of each turn.
Level 4: 150 XP