Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lingusia - the Age of Strife: Fire Knife Assassins in D&D 5E

So the rule of thumb is: as soon as I invest time in another fantasy game, I start pining for D&D 5E again. With that, I offer you the 5E version of the Fire Knives for your enjoyment....

Fire Knives
Group Alignment: Neutral Evil
Leader: Shadulos Elas Boron
Headquarters: An anonymous guild hall in the Guild District
   The Fire Knives are an international organization of illuminated conspirators who have supporters within Hyrkania, Octzel, and Jhakn. Rumors indicate that there are even members operating within the empires of Persedonia and Galvonar to the south, and maybe even as far east as Cretea and Namintha. The Fire Knives are a vicious predatory political organization, motivated less by religious or moral principles than they are by political gain, despite their origins as a cult to Haro, the god of murder. The mysterious Council of Thirteen are a secret council of dissident political radicals from across the Middle Kingdoms who work together to maintain long distance ties and support. Their agendas are many and varied. Some employ magical prowess which is often learned from the Cabal of Southern Hyrkania, while others practice bastard magic, culled from the books of Blue Robes and Geomancers who dared to cross their path. Most members of the guild are common men and kindred folk who rely on stealth and swift assassination to accomplish their nefarious deeds.
   At its roots, the guild looks like some sort of thug-enforcer type of thieves’ guild that seems to have little obvious direct connection to their actions. In some cities, such as Octzel, their movements are silent and unobserved by most people. In Krythia, they wear their shield of stars surrounded by a weapons symbol proudly, and are believed to be a mercenary's guild by most people. In Jhakn the existence of the Fire Knives is unknown, as their movements are so carefully concealed and hidden that not even close allies know who they are dealing with.
   In Octzel, the Fire Knives have few allies and many enemies, often coming to blows with rival organizations and guilds. Of the many thieves and mercenaries guilds in Octzel only the Order of the Blade maintains neutral relations, and is willing to hire out sellswords to the Fire Knives for any unsavory deeds.
   The Fire Knives have the primary support of three Barons, and possibly other nobles, in Octzel. House Boron, House Killaman, and House Agrapor are the primary backers. House Boron, of the Merchant Lord Shadulos Elas Boron, and his wicked daughter Teylayurana Sorinos are the most dangerous members. Hallergan Blacknails is an infamous orc assassin of the order.
   Beside the illegal and secretive activities which likely take place in the shadowed chambers of the manors of each noble house, the Fire Knives own property through indirect channels throughout the city. They own a trade and import shop in the Marketplace which leads to a secret meeting place. They own a Guild Hall that is rented out regularly, except on dark, moonless nights when they convene for a recap of their actions. They own warehouses by the docks, where imports of special relation are often kept, or where bodies can safely be dumped. Members of the Fire Knives learn as much as they can about the back alleys, secret passages, sewers, and catacombs beneath the streets of Octzel.
   Some would say that the Fire Knives go beyond being a society of political assassination and into the realm of a secret society for the sake of secretiveness. Much of this is due to the fact that the three barons behind the house lack the backing or funds of a major political interest, and it is believed that none of them belong to the Thirteen. Yet, since some claim that Fire Knives in Hyrkania, such as Dame Magna Mordent, say that there is a member of the Thirteen in Octzel, then who is he or she, and what are they planning?

The Thirteen
   The Thirteen are an entity unto itself, operating in utter secrecy throughout the Middle Kingdoms and the East to further its diabolical ends, using assassination, slavery, and the sale of opiates (especially of the blue and black lotus) to manipulate the political currents of the realms.
   An agent, follower or servant of the Thirteen is likely to be a lower order member of the Fire Knives, but someone could also have a conflicted relationship if they revere the god Haro, or are independent assassins, and an adversarial relationship could stem from any number of cases where one would see cause to oppose the actions of a murderous guild-cult.

Shadulos Elas Boron
   The guild master of Fire Knife operations in Octzel, Boron is a local merchantman with family ties back to Hyrkania. His rise to power on the surface appears to be one of a shrewd businessman, but behind the scenes he is suspected of being ranked as one of the Thirteen, relying on the bloody death that his guild can heap upon those who stand in his way to further his ambitions.
   Boron has locked down the city for the Fire Knives, eliminating most other rival guilds, and now schemes to find ways to dislodge the Black Lotus and the Guild of the Spheres.
Level 12 Human fighter, NE
CR 6 (2,300 XP)
STR 12 (+1)     DEX 16 (+3)     CON 18 (+4)    INT 15 (+2)      WIS 17 (+3)     CHA 20 (+5)
HPs 114 (HD 12D10+48)         AC 16              Saves STR +5, CON +8, DEX +7
Initiative +3
Skills Intimidation +9, Perception +7, Persuasion +9, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +7
Multiattack Shadulos Boron may make three rapier attacks or three ranged dagger attacks (or any combination) as an attack action.
Melee Rapier Attack +9 attack, 5 foot reach; 1D8+5 piercing damage; any attack may be sacrificed to attempt a disarm: the target must make a DC 18 DEX save or become disarmed (see additional details below).
Ranged Poisoned Daggers +9 attack, 20/40 range; 1D4+4 damage and target must make a DC 17 CON save or become paralyzed for 1 minute (target may make a save each round to end). If Shadulos rolls a critical hit the target also takes 4D8+2 poison damage.
Disarming Personality Shadulos has learned a little magic in his time and may cast charm person 3 times per day and charm monster once per day. Shadulos has subjected his very body to complex rituals to allow for unnatural magical guile.
Entourage Shadulos rarely travels alone. Typically he travels with 1D6 assassins in his presence at all times.
Equipment scale mail, Rapier +2 of disarming, a bandolier of 2 dozen poisoned daggers, 3 vials of paralytic poison (6 doses per vial), 1,230 GP pocket change

Teylayurana Sorinos
   The bastard daughter of Shadulos Elas Boron, Teylayurana has worked her way up the ranks in the Fire Knives to become the premiere assassin in Octzel. She is ruthless and efficient, though regarded as unstable by those who have seen her succumb on occasion to a bloodlust driven by her madness. Some believe that when she experiences these “episodes” she is actually channeling the spirit of Haro himself; no one knows for sure, but her skill has nonetheless attracted the attention of Celiobantes Astiriate in the east, and within the guild it is rumored the two have had relations.
   About two years earlier Teylayurana also traveled with the adventurer Cassius Augustus and was lured into a war between the Fire Knives and the Guild of the Spheres. This conflict led to ongoing enmity between the two guilds.
Level 14 human rogue, CN
CR 9 (5,000 XP)
STR 14 (+2)     DEX 20 (+5)     CON 13 (+1)    INT 16 (+3)      WIS 12 (+1)     CHA 14 (+2)
HPs 77 (14D8+14)                   AC 19              Saves DEX +10, INT +8
Initiative +9
Skills Acrobatics +10, Intimidation +7, Perception +6, Sleight of Hand +10, Stealth +10
Multiattack Teylayurana may make three twin dagger attacks (at 2 attacks per strike) or three ranged crossbow attacks (or any combination) as an attack action.
Melee Twin-Dagger Strike +12 attack (twice), reach 5 ft against 1 or 2 targets; 1D4+7 piercing damage per strike and target is subject to blue lotus poison (see below).
Ranged Hand Crossbow +12 attack, 1D6+6 piercing damage, and target subject to blue lotus poison (see below).
Blue Lotus Poison target must make a DC 19 save vs. CON or target is incapacitated (save each round to end) due to intense and sudden hallucinations.
Sneak Attack if Teylayurana has advantage on the target then she deals an additional 7D6 damage on a single successful attack.
Evasion if Telayurana rolls a successful DEX save she takes no damage. If she fails the save she takes ½.
Blindsense Teylayurana does not roll for disadvantage on attacks and actions in total darkness or while blinded.
Equipment Leather +2 (wyvernscale), 2 daggers +2, 6 vials of blue lotus poison (5 applications per vial), one hand crossbow +2, a case with 30 bolts, pocket change of 500 GP

Hallergan Blacknails
   Hallergan Blacknails is Shadulos Boron’s right-hand man. He is an accomplished mage, a tough fighter, and a tricky devil. Hallergan is approaching middle years, but has worked hard to keep a lean figure, and avoid the bloatedness so characteristic older male orcs. His snout is stubbier than usual, perhaps due to some forgotten human blood in his ancestry, and he will often pass without question in the city streets if he wears heavy robes like a priest. He is a master tactician when it comes to weaving his magic, and he can bring down some rather impressive foes with little difficulty.
Level16 Orc fighter/warlock, CE
CR 7 (2,900 XP)
STR 20 (+5)     DEX 12 (+1)     CON 18 (+4)    INT 15 (+2)      WIS 14 (+2)     CHA 20 (+5)
HPs 141 (11D8+5D10+64)      AC 19              Saves STR +10, CHA +10
Initiative +5
Skills Arcana +7, Intimidation +10, Perception +7, Stealth +6
Multiattack Hallergan may make two axe attacks as an attack action.
Melee Great Axe of the Beheader +13 attack, reach 5 ft; 1D12+7 slashing damage. On a natural 20 the axe deals triple damage and if the target reaches zero hit points is automatically decapitated.
Ranged Spectral Syphon +10 attack, reach 60 ft (one target); 4D8+5 psychic damage and target must make a DC 18 INT save or target gains -1 AC and Hallergan gains +1 AC. This effect continues each round dealing damage and making a save until the target succeeds; AC gain/loss is cumulative and lasts five minutes. This terrifying and unique warlock power Hallergan has taught himself drains spirit energy from the target and does not stop until forcibly interrupted or the target succumbs.
Warlock Abilities Hallergan has a Spell Attack modifier of +10 and Spell Save DC of 18.
Cantrips: eldritch blast, true strike, blade ward
Warlock Spells (3/day): invisibility, Dream, Hallucinatory Terrain, vampiric touch, tongues, dimension door, hunger of hadar, crown of madness, contact other plane, misty step, shatter
Equipment Great axe +2 of the Beheader, full plate +1, loose change of 225 PP and 1,500 GP

Other Fire Knife Assassins

Use the assassin in the MM but substitute blue lotus poison and black lotus poison (below) for master assassins.

New Magic Items and Gear:

Great Axe of the Beheader
Very rare (attunement required) weapon
This +2 great axe deals triple damage on a critical hit. If the target is reduced to zero hit points as a result of being struck by this axe, the target is automatically beheaded (or equivalent, if target does not have a head).

Rapier of disarming
Very Rare (attunement required)
This +2 rapier makes disarming an opponent incredibly easy. Whenever a strike connects, instead of dealing damage the wielder may declare a disarm attack. The target must save vs. DEX at a DC equal to 8+DEX Mod+Proficiency+2 of the wielder or the target’s weapon lands 1D10 feet away from him in a random direction. Target may save at advantage if it is a two handed weapon or larger.

Blue Lotus Poison
Uncommon (poison); typical retail value 250 GP/vial
The blue paste that is made from the leaves of the blue lotus poison is well known for it’s strong hallucinogenic properties, which seem to cause distressing feelings of madness and entrapment within the walls of the City of Nith in the Dreamlands of Ethenur; some mages speculate that the person’s astral self is actually displaced by this poison.

When used the target must make a DC 19 save vs. CON or target is incapacitated (save each round to end) due to intense and sudden hallucinations. One vial contains 5 doses, and each dose will last for one combat.

Black Lotus Poison
Rare (poison); typical retail value 4,000 GP/vial
The incredibly deadly black lotus leaf, when treated correctly with a special alchemical ingredient known only to assassins and poisoners, can be applied in food (for ingestion) or to a blade (for wounding). The poison in minuscule doses causes severe hallucinations and catatonia (DC 19 save vs. CON or become incapacitated) for 1D6 hours; a DEX check (DC 18) is needed to correctly apply the dose at this level (proficiency in alchemy or poisons will grant proficiency bonus to this check). At full doses the user must make a DC 15 DEX Save to avoid accidentally making contact with the poison, subjecting him or herself to its effects (roll at advantage if wearing thick leather gloves; cloth won’t do). Once applied, a single dose will last until a target drinks or eats the poisoned product, or a wound is made. The target then makes a DC 18 CON Save or immediately drops to zero hit points and begins making death saves. If the target stabilizes he or she will remain catatonic and unconscious for 1D6 hours.

A typical vial of black lotus poison contains 3 doses and comes with measuring tools, pestle, and the “vitae mortae” liquid added to bring out the lethal component of the leaf. Rumors that the liquid is derived from the blood of medusae are not entirely unfounded.

Fun notes about statting for 5E vs. 13th Age:

In working out comparable stats for both systems I realized that 13th Age is much quicker, but also very floaty, since you can pretty much make up anything you want as long as you confine your design to something that makes sense....and be ready to revise when it doesn't work as intended in actual play. The incredibly basic core stat block of 13th Age is also a real boon for quick monster design. It's not the fastest system for statting NPCs and monsters (that honorific necessarily goes to Tunnels & Trolls) but it's probably the fastest one for D&D, short of Swords & Wizardry.

D&D 5E has more precision in it than one might realize, since you have lots of design rules and guidelines (those who say otherwise are coming from Pathfinder and 3.5, where the mechanical complexity makes 5E feel spartan), and compared to 13th Age it's rather complicated in that regard. But you can "template" classes as a base of design without having to rigidly adhere to all features of the class (as I did above), instead focusing on those elements relevant to the likely encounter. It takes longer than 13th Age....but if you get used to 5Eisms and memorize the process it can be almost as speedy.

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