September Challenge - Myth-Weavers

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September Challenge

September Challenge

The Challenge: Evil Henchman!
System: Any
Party: Any low- or mid-powered group of 4 PCs
Objective: Create an NPC that serves as a henchman to an evil leader.
Specifications: Submissions should include a brief background for the NPC, describe his/her relationship with the BBEG, provide details on his/her modus operandi, and suggest creative ways the NPC might be used to develop a story through direct or indirect interactions with the PCs.
Deadline: September 30, 11:59 pm GMT

System: D&D 3.5e
Party: 4 level 6-7 PCs

Name: Laiton
Race: Azer
Class: Monk 2/Sorcerer 4
Alignment: LE
Home: Elemental Plane of Fire
Position: Guard or Head of a group of guards
Description: Laiton is about the size of a large dwarf, except that he is clearly otherworldly. His skin appears to be made of brass and his long hair and beard look like flames that are burning downward. In his beard is a
This is the Brooch of Shielding with 101 charges remaining.
golden clasp, inlaid with silver and electrum, that looks like a leaping flame, while around his thick, sinewy neck he wears a
This is a Necklace of Fireballs Type I, with 1 5d6 fireball and 2 3d6 fireballs.
string of three, small, orange globes. He wears a
The kilt has two outside pockets, made of woven chain, that contain his Figurine of Wondrous Power (Silver Raven) and his Elemental Gem (Fire).
metal kilt made of
This is just fluff, but a clever DM could certainly make use of this for game-rule purposes.
thrice-forged Fire Brass, an especially tough type of brass that is found on the Elemental Plane of Fire. On his arms are a set of simple
Worth 200 gold pieces. However, these bracers are also the focal point of the summong magic that was used to bring Laiton to this plane. If they are removed, a task he cannot perform himself, Laiton will return immediately to the Elemental Plane of Fire, carrying whatever objects he had at the time.
brass bracers studded with three rubies. Other than that, his brassy skin is bare, since he has no real need for clothing.

Background: Laiton grew up in a typical Azer community, but from the start he was fond of wrestling over armed combat. When his magical ability manifested, he decided to strike out on his own. He learned non-fire spells (since those would be useles against the largely fire-immune inhabitants of the plane), hoping to make a name for himself on the Plane of Fire. For the most part, however, he is only a minorly successful brazier on his home plane. However, he has been bound by several different magicians on several different occasions to serve as a bodyguard/soldier/etc. This time he is lower on the totem pole, but he still takes his job seriously. His lack of fire spells often takes arrogant heroes by surprise, especially if he is called in to guard something in a volcano or other exceedingly hot locale.

Relationship to BBEG: Laiton was called by the BBEG several weeks ago. Shortly after his summoning, the BBEG was able to bind him to this plane (using a spell, plot magic, whatever), the focus of this binding magic is the set of brass bracers that Laiton wears (maybe each creature must have a specific item as their binding focus). Regardless of the kind of magic that allows him to remain, the real reason he agreed was the payment. The BBEG immediately offered him a minor magical item (the Brooch of Shielding), but it was the gold and silver that drew his attention. Additionally, the BBEG has promised a significant amount of jewels and gems every few weeks. The first of these payments has yet to be delivered and Laiton is getting annoyed.
Laiton is a relatively low minion for this particular BBEG. He might have been called to protect a secret ritual location within a volcano, he might have been called to journey into such a place to find an object, or perhaps the BBEG simply has a theme or a plan that involves fire/elements/outsiders/dwarves/etc. Laiton does not particularly care what the BBEG's plan is, even if it means the end of the world. He has heard of, or worked for, too many "evil magicians bent on detroying the world" to be concerned. It seems to him that some plucky band of mortals always manages to stop them at the last second.

Modus Operandi: Laiton's tactics in battle are generally a simple series of steps.
  1. Cast Mage Armor if no enemies adjacent.
  2. If no enemies within 30 ft, fire Acid Arrow at closest enemy not wearing lots of armor and move away if necessary; if enemies within 30 ft. but not adjacent, fire quartet of magic missiles at closest enemy and move away; if enemy adjacent, next step.
  3. If adjacent enemy is wearing metal armor, use shocking grasp, if not, attempt grapple.
  4. If enemy remains adjacent, continue/retry grapple or use shocking grasp again; otherwise, fire acid arrow or magic missiles.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 as needed.
Laiton does not stop for anything. Unless the BBEG has given him instructions to retreat, or similar orders, he will continue fighting until defeated. While his body will "die" on this plane, as soon as the brass bracers are removed he will immediately return to the Elemental Plane of Fire alive and well, ready for the next summon by an up-and-coming evil magician.

Non-Combat Interactions: As noted earlier, it is possible that the PCs might be able to bribe Laiton with a suitable offering of gems or jewels (usually 300+ gp worth), but this event is relatively unlikely. Instead, what is more likely is that he will be interrogated if he is captured alive (a difficult challenge since his body burns through rope very quickly). If so, he responds to bluff, diplomacy, or intimidate checks (DCs determined by DM as appropriate). While he might not know much about the BBEG's powers or his plans, he does at least know one thing: a location. Laiton has been communicating to the BBEG using Beaky, his Silver Raven statuette, which requires a location to deliver a message. It might be that another, more powerful henchman is stationed at this location and is merely relaying the message to the BBEG via magic, or perhaps Beaky really has flown to the lair of the villain. Either way, the PCs now have a new lead on their quest to stop the bad guy.

Further Interactions: Given that his defeat on the Material Plane does not constitute permanent death, it is quite possible that the PCs will see him again. Indeed, a character capable of summoning (and who learns Laiton's name, not a difficult task since he will tell it if asked) might choose to call on the services of the Azer. Or, perhaps the BBEG learns of his minion's defeat and summons him once more, intent on forcing Laiton to make up for his failure by destroying the party (probably with the help of other minions as well). Or, maybe the party is successful in defeating the BBEG, but in a later adventure they run across Laiton again, this time called to help a new villain or perhaps just to guard a treasure.

System:The Masque of the Red Death / Ravenloft-Homebrew Variant
Name: Igno
Race: Visitani
Class: [Evil Druid/Gypsy]
Alignment: Evil
Home: Carifax, England
Position: Independent Cultist of the Red Death

Description: Set within a pre-historic variant Earth, the plane of Ravenloft and Earth collided. A portal was opened, spewing forth a vile and evil entity known as the Red Death. The Red Death is known for having caused mysterious deaths during the time period of 1842. The mysterious deaths included a new disease that caused "bleeding from the poores, vomiting and nausea." Media of the mid nineteenth century marked this passage as the Red Death and soon swept through Europe, having an initial start in England. Not only did the Red Death bring death itself but other unworldly monsters and arcane magic. Deformities paving caustic drudgery in the cobblestone paveways they called streets. Their was one lone, independent cultist, that believed in the Red Death and somehow aquired the arcane art of the Red Death. This is his story.

Backround: Igno born from the realm of Ravenloft was somehow transported through the mist that transports people, whole kindgoms and sometimes whole planes to the world of Ravenloft. Serving Azlant the demilich and his quest to unify all of the borders of Ravenloft, Azalant created a powerful artifact in his realm. At first Igno was a follower of Van Richten as the Vistani Gypsies and Van Richtan heard word that Azlant was going to use the powerful artifact. Reaching the final chamber as the group of heroes tested the very fabric of evil in Azlants lair, the demilich was sucessful but the reverse happend. He transported Van Richten and Igno to Earth. Something happened during the reformation and channeling through the planes. Igno became mad, with evil intent, hell bent on surving the darker and insidious plans of the Red Death as some of the mist was transformed into the Red Death.

Relationship to Red Death: Igno was gifted and called to serve the Red Death to the very end. Gifted with evil drudaic powers, he is the opposite of a person within a natural setting. Where druids use the power of nature to their advantage, Igno destroys it with evilness, corruption and a vile taint that radiates from him in a 20 ft radius. Animals flock away from him as he makes his way through the wild landscapes of the mountaineous region in Carifax. He can summon other unworldy denizens of dread that do his bidding. Usually low level monsters, ayptically summoning undead. He works independently, but searches to wreak havoc and destuction on the streets. Operating in the low hub of the lantern street life of the 1800's. Igno searches for Van Richten, thinking that Van Richten is all thats stopping the Red Death from total consumation of Earth.

Modus Operandi:

Radius: Spoil Surroundings

Lvl 1: Taint Water
Lvl 1 : Taint Food
Lvl 2: Taint Soul
Lvl 2: Decomposition Nature
Lvl 3: Necrotic Sludge
Lvl 4: Feeble Ray
Lvl 5: Touch of Disease

System: D&D 3.5e
Party: 4 PCs level 10-12

Name: Zavax the Dead
Race: Deathtouched
Class: Sorcerer 2/Binder 1/Anima Mage 10
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Position: Chief Arcanist, Second in Command

Physical Description: Black hair, white skin, azure eyes, usually dressed low-key; should usually be described as non-descript, despite his odd coloration. Closer inspection (Spot DC 15) reveals sharp incisors protruding only slightly onto his lower lip. Carries a ring of wizardry I, a ring of wizardry II, a lesser metamagic rod of silent spell, and the necessary components for three castings of stoneskin.

Background: Zavax's life hasn't exactly been great. His heritage has always been an issue, but he's managed to get along in society for the most part. He has a broad range of knowledge about matters arcane and pact magic, learned from practical application and university studies. However, some people are bigots; howling, fanatical bigots that try to torch you, thinking you're an undead monstrosity that's going to kill their children, rape their wives, and eat their flesh.

Relationship to BBEG:
Zavax was chased from his home city by such a group of fanatics, beaten near to death and left for dead. The BBEG found Zavax and brought him into the fold, nursing him back to health. He found a quick mind and a talent for matters arcane, as well as a charismatic, likeable individual. Zavax swore undying loyalty to the BBEG in exchange for saving his life, and now serves as his second in command.

Modus Operandi
Zavax typically has an overland flight spell cast on him, which he will use to take to the skies and cast solid fog to allow him a round or two to buff up. His first immediate defensive spell will be wind wall, followed by lesser globe of invulnerability. If the heroes haven't found their way out of the solid fog by round three, he'll also cast stoneskin.

The first person to emerge from the solid fog will be hit by a readied action disintegrate. Beyond that, he'll try to end the fight quickly with direct damage spells, divide their forces with charm person, and try to be as large of an annoyance as possible.

If his overland flight is dispelled, he'll dimension door to the nearest elevation advantage he can (top of a building, etc). If the fight has gone badly and he's low on hitpoints, or if no elevation advantage is at hand, he'll attempt to teleport back to his sanctum in his shop. If counterspellers try to stop him, he'll lay down a second solid fog and try again, saving 2 5th level spell slots and 1 4th level spell slot for this very contingency.

Non-Combat Interactions
Zavax will own and operate a magic item shop in the largest city (or most-frequented hub) in the campaign setting, which sells scrolls and wands of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level Sorcerer/Wizard spells (and a few scrolls of 4th+ level spells, at exponentially increasing prices), as well as some minor wondrous items. He may, also, be one of the campaign setting's few information sources on pact magic. Zavax will gladly train the heroes as Binders and Anima Mages; for free, if they show a large enough interest in learning about pact magic and its uses and abuses.

Zavax will show no overt association with the BBEG, and be typically friendly, cogenial, and helpful. He may also request the adventurers locate some minor item for his "research" after they begin to grow in levels, sending them to increasingly deadlier places in hopes that the heroes will die before they learn of his master's plans.

Zavax may also be encountered in any place the heroes go to try and uncover more of the BBEG's plan if it involves an item that the BBEG needs to carry out his plots. He'll attempt to tag along with them and let them clear out the ruins, helping with an occasionally well-timed (1st or 2nd level) spell and being charming. He may try to use his metamagic rod to charm person one or two low Will save party members to have them be more helpful toward him. When they locate the item, he'll wait for them to get out into open ground and/or rest for the night before attempting to make off with the item.

Further Interactions
If defeated, but not killed, Zavax will grudgingly give details about the plan in hopes that the adventurers won't kill him. He will not, however, swear an oath not to come against them, due to an oath given to the BBEG to serve. If killed, the BBEG will have a Cleric in the organization cast resurrection or raise dead on him some time later, and keep him closer to home.

If not killed in the initial scuffle, Zavax will return to his magic shop and continue to sell his items, while informing the BBEG of what has transpired. The PCs will still be able to purchase items from him if they wish, at a slight discount (10-15%) if they spared his life, and will still teach players about pact magic. If the fight ended with a teleport spell, he'll try to talk them down from fighting, and offer the above benefits (discount, pact magic access) as incentive. If not, well - he's got an awful lot of scrolls to put to use against them in round two - including one scroll of horrid wilting he'll grab when they enter his shop.

The players may also attempt to redeem Zavax, either before or after the fight, restoring him to a Neutral alignment but still refusing to go against his master. He will, however, agree to accompany them on any quest that doesn't go against his master's plans if they require arcane services.

If his master's life is threatened, he will spend three rounds maximum casting defensive spells and teleport to his master's side, taking to the skies and unloading as much magic as possible into the target(s).

System: D&D 4e, but can be converted to any system easily enough.

ConceptThe main henchman NPC (we’ll call her Skyla) is a female control Wizard. She is attractive, bright & bubbly, and completely amoral. She will constantly frustrate the PCs as she steals their stuff (along with a few kisses) and skips away, always one step ahead.

BackgroundHer background will be setting-dependent, but she should have some historic connection with the PCs. Perhaps she studied at the same magic college as the party wizard. Perhaps she is from the same small town as the fighter. Perhaps she is from the same elf tribe as the ranger.

She will be introduced to the PCs early on in their career, and will aid the PCs over an adventure or two. She will develop a good rapport with the PCs, and will genuinely like most (if not all) of them. She might flirt a little with the fighter; concede the warlock is a master of the arcane; listen respectfully to the cleric.

She favours non-lethal spells such as web and sleep. She will enjoy toying with enemies, using illusions & ghost sound to confuse them before & during a fight.

However, Skyla will be (or has been) ‘seduced by the power of the dark side’, and seeks out the BBEG for employment rather than fighting against him as the PCs do. Deep down, she is incredibly selfish and narcissistic, and has decided that the BBEG will give her more of what she wants (money, power, fame, praise, widgets, it’s up to you) than the Forces of Light.

Her first act of betrayal should be stunning. Perhaps she will fight alongside the PCs for an entire adventure, and then steal the Macguffin at the climax, handing it over to the BBEG. However it happens, her betrayal should be stunning and unexpected.

Modus OperandiSkyla never comes out as a completely evil character. She is a cheerful mercenary, a smiling assassin. Everything is a big game to her. While she betrays the PCs, she will go out of her way to ensure that they don’t come to any harm.

There should always be some doubt in the PC’s minds as to whether Skyla is truly evil or simply misguided. Should they kill her or try to rehabilitate her? This can really foster role-playing within the PC group.

When she next encounters the PCs, Skyla will have gathered a posse to help her. Ideally they would be two human whip fighters and two bola rangers using the rules from Dragon 368. You could add in a rogue or two if you really want to be nasty.

Typically, the PCs will be attacked like this:

The two rangers will quickly immobilise the mobile members of the party, using twin strike & bolas. The whip fighters will then move in, and use knockdown assault & their whips to further control the party. Skyla will use sleep and web to hamper the PCs. The rangers will move in, and attack the prone & immobilised PCs. With some luck, the squishiest PCs can be quickly isolated & surrounded, and potentially taken hostage or even coup-de-graced to death.

The idea is that Skyla’s posse will immobilise and frustrate the PC’s, without harming them very much. Skyla will play the ‘I don’t want to hurt you’ card a lot, and will continue to flirt & joke etc with the players.

She should be a recurring opponent, designed to infuriate the PCs. They will hate fighting her gimmicky posse, but hate her winning even more. If the PCs are on the verge of delivering the lost Amulet of Plot Device to Lord Questgiver, Skyla will show up, whip the PCs around a bit and steal it. If the PC’s have been tasked to guard Lady Helpless, her posse will break up the defensive line, haul the protectee out and kidnap her while the PC’s lie about, useless.

Make sure Skyla ambushes the PCs amongst interesting terrain. Along a high cliff face, where the PCs are threatened with a deadly fall by the shifty whippers. Have a low-lying fog about that will poison anyone who breathes it in (ie, is lying prone on the ground). Have large swinging pendulums, with the bola rangers trapping the PCs in the paths of danger.

Advanced OptionsSkyla can be almost any race. Human, elf, eladrin, gnome, tiefling, Halfling, whatever. Whatever suits the setting, and whatever you (the DM) would like to play.

She is best suited for a control Wizard, but she could also be a Warlock, Sorcerer, Bard, or Druid. If your party is light-on in a role (ie missing a Controller or Leader) she could be recruited as an ‘Eric the Generic Cleric’ type character to fill the gaps. This gives you an excuse to include her in the party for a while, and will also punish your players for not optimising their party composition. Evil DMs represent!

You can show her descent into evil. At first she takes care to avoid harming innocents, but by the end, she will be completely corrupt and will slit the throats of anyone in her way. She might use hostages (even one of the PCs captured by her posse). OR, her morals could remain a point of confusion and dissent amongst the party. Even at the end, she might still be able to feign repentance and get the PCs to let her go.

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