A Gatekeeper druid, wielding primal magic passed down by a dragon to save the world. A duur’kala bard, inspiring her people while trying to preserve their ways against the worst. A shocktrooper of the Empire who has gone native among the orcs, fighting as a barbarian alongside their spirits. A hero artificer of the goblins, trying to build the ultimate arcane weapon to send the horrors of madness back from whence they came. We’re diving deep into the history of Eberron with a ready-to-play orc, hobgoblin, bugbear, and goblin fighting to save the world from the aberrant daelkyr of Xoriat!
I mentioned it in my review of Rising from the Last War: I really like what Eberron does with the orcs and goblinoids, seeing them as the ones who have earned the setting’s mortal Saving the World Merit Badge. So when I saw they we had been given stats for writing up all of them as player characters, I immediately wanted to play around with them (which would also allow me to review what they have to offer). Instead of a modern day adventure, though, I decided to work within the frame of their most important mutual event: the Xoriat invasion.
Thousands of years before the typical starting date of Eberron campaigns, aberrant monsters known as daelkyr invaded Eberron from the Plane of Madness, Xoriat. These daelkyr are where Eberron gets its mindflayers, beholders, and a slew of other aberrant monsters native to the setting. Standing against them were the orcish Gatekeeper druids and the goblinoid Empire of Dhakaan. These mortal forces banded together, sealing the daelkyr and Xoriat away and saving the world from their mad designs, although not without great cost: the orcs are still only a fraction of their ancient numbers today and are still plagued by Cults of the Dragon Below, while the Empire was mortally wounded, eventually collapsing and fracturing goblinoid society.
Quite the challenge for a band of adventurers to tackle.
Honestly, this nearly ended up in the Meet the Campaign category, because I’ve got a very specific idea in mind for these heroes. Yes, you could play an entire campaign set during the Daelkyr War, and I think that would be pretty awesome, but if that’s not what you want to do I think there’s still a pretty cool use for them: a flashback.
Perhaps your regular party of Eberron adventurers stumble into an area warped by Xoriat where even time goes runny at the edges, letting them ‘see’ what happened during the daelkyr invasion. Alternatively, consider a ‘prologue’ session: these ancient characters are attempting to seal a portal, imprison a daelkyr, or secure an artifact that will become relevant for the larger campaign. Either way, have your players set aside their own characters and pick these ones up to actually play out the flashback/prologue themselves! This will get the players invested with what happened in the past, pose some interesting ‘what happened since then’ questions for them to answer, and (if the main characters are lower than 10th level when the flashback is played) give them a taste of the power they’ll have/that’s needed to face down the lingering threat of the daelkyr in the modern era of Eberron.
Speaking of a taste of power . . .
Guhrta, Orc – Level 10 Druid
HP: 73 AC: 15
Str: 12 Con: 14 Dex: 15 Int: 12 Wis: 18 Cha: 8
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Aggressive, Powerful Build, Primal Intuition (Perception, Nature), Druidic, Spellcasting, Wild Shape, Circle of the Land (Swamp), Bonus Cantrip, Natural Recovery, Circle Spells, Land’s Stride, Nature’s Ward, Background: Outlander, Extra Language, Wanderer
Gear: Wooden shield, scimitar, leather armor, explorer’s pack, druidic focus, staff, hunting trap, trophy from an animal you killed, traveler’s clothes, belt pouch, 10 GP, a knife that belonged to a relative
Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Nature, Medicine, Intimidation, Athletics, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism kit, drum
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom
Cantrips: Druidcraft, Guidance, Poison Spray, Resistance, Thorn Whip
Guhrta brings the full force and lore of the Gatekeeper druids of the Shadow Marches against the abominations of Xoriat. Binding herself to the Circle of the Land means she’ll primarily be a spellcaster, with Swamp-flavored extra spells and even an extra cantrip thrown into the mix, but with her Dexterity and Wild Shape she’ll be no slouch in a scrap. Her Orcish features actually help her in a number of ways: Aggressive lets her close in on a foe at her speed as a bonus action, Powerful Build lets her count as one size larger when it comes to carrying capacity and brute strength, and Primal Intuition (my personal favorite) gave her a pretty wide variety of extra skill proficiencies to choose from.
Ekhaas, Hobgoblin – Level 10 Bard
HP: 73 AC: 18
Str: 10 Con: 15 Dex: 14 Int: 13 Wis: 8 Cha: 18
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Martial Training, Saving Face, Spellcasting, Bardic Inspiration (d10), Jack of All Trades, Song of Rest (d8), College of Valor, Bonus Proficiencies, Combat Inspiration, Expertise (Persuasion, Insight, Arcana, History), Font of Inspiration, Countercharm, Extra Attack, Magical Secrets*, Background: Sage, Two Extra Languages, Researcher
Gear: Rapier, breastplate, shield, diplomat’s pack, drum, dagger, bottle of black ink, quill, small knife, letter from a dead colleague posing a question you have not yet been able to answer, common clothes, belt pouch, 10 GP, a single caltrop made from bone
Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion, Insight, Perception, Arcana, History
Tool Proficiencies: Drum
Saving Throws: Dexterity, Charisma
Cantrips: Blade Ward, Message, Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery,
Spells Known: Cure Wounds, Detect Magic, Heroism, Sleep, Healing Word, Cloud of Daggers, Lesser Restoration, Bestow Curse, Dispel Magic, Confusion, Locate Creature, Greater Restoration, Fireball*, Cone of Cold*
Ekhaas is a keeper of Dhakaani history and an inspirer of Dhakaani hearts (a predecessor to the Kech Volaar in the modern era). Given the nature of the daelkyr threat, many of her spells are devoted to healing, helping allies, or thwarting foul Xoriat magic, although she still packs an offensive punch in part due to Magical Secrets. Part of the Dhakaani version of the College of Valor, she’s also a respectable front-line fighter, and actually has the highest AC in the party. As for being a hobgoblin, Martial Training has given her more weapons to have on hand, and Saving Face lets her add a bonus to a missed attack or failed ability check/saving throw equal to the number of allies who can see her.
Wuudaraj, Bugbear – Level 10 Barbarian
HP: 95 AC: 14
Str: 20 Con: 15 Dex: 14 Int: 8 Wis: 12 Cha: 10
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Long-Limbed, Powerful Build, Sneaky, Surprise Attack, Rage, Unarmored Defense, Reckless Attack, Danger Sense, Path of the Totem Warrior, Spirit Seeker, Totem Spirit (Bear), Extra Attack, Fast Movement, Aspect of the Beast (Wolf), Feral Instinct, Brutal Critical, Spirit Walker, Background: Soldier, Military Rank
Gear: Greataxe, handaxe x2 , explorer’s pack, javelin x4, insignia of rank, trophy taken from a fallen enemy, set of bone dice, common clothes, belt pouch, 10 GP, a tiny chest carved to look like it has numerous feet on the bottom
Skill Proficiencies: Stealth, Perception, Survival, Athletics, Intimidation
Tool Proficiencies: Dice, Vehicles (Land)
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Wuudaraj embraces the simple yet effective nature of the Path of the Totem barbarians: he’s very good at killing things and very difficult to kill in turn, thanks to the high HP and damage resistances he gets while raging. His bugbear traits are frighteningly synergistic but also provide some fun curveballs for the daelkyr to deal with. Long-Limbed gives him an extra 5’ of reach with that greataxe, and Powerful Build lets him count as one size larger when it comes to carrying capacity and brute strength (something he’s already good at). Sneaky granted him proficiency in Stealth, which will work well with the Dexterity he’s going to want to be raising now that Strength is tapped out. Surprise Attack feeds right into that: if he surprises a target and hits it with an attack on the first turn of a fight, he deals an extra 2d6 damage. Ambush barbarian. Terrifying!
Fenic, Goblin – Level 10 Artificer
HP: 73 AC: 17
Str: 8 Con: 15 Dex: 16 Int: 18 Wis: 12 Cha: 10
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Fury of the Small, Nimble Escape, Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting, Infuse Item , Battle Smith, Tool Proficiency, Battle Smith Spells, Battle Ready, Steel Defender, Extra Attack, Tool Expertise, Flash of Genius, Arcane Jolt, Magic Item Adept, Background: Folk Hero, Rustic Hospitality
Gear: War pick, light hammer, light crossbow and 20 bolts, studded leather armor, thieves’ tools, dungeoneer’s pack, shield, tinker’s tools, shovel, iron pot, common clothes, belt pouch, 10 GP, a glass orb filled with moving smoke
Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Investigation, Animal Handling, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: Thieves’ tools, tinkers’ tools, leatherworker’s tools, smith’s tools, alchemist’s supplies, vehicles (land)
Saving Throws: Constitution, Intelligence
Cantrips: Fire Bolt, Mending, Spare the Dying
Infusions: Boots of the Winding Path, Enhanced Arcane Focus, Enhanced Defense, Enhanced Weapon, Replicate Magic Item, Resistant Armor, Returning Weapon
Fenic brings the steel defender, infusions, and combat magic of a Battle Smith artificer to the war to save the Empire. He’s going to be able to enhance the entire party while also being a front-line fighter himself. Fury of the Small ties into that, letting him deal damage equal to his level (once per rest) to an enemy that’s larger than him. Plus, if things go wrong and he needs to reassess and re-equip, Nimble Escape lets him Disengage or Hide as a bonus action.
Our ancient heroes were built using only the PHB and Rising from the Last War, plus the standard array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 as is D&D Meet the Party tradition . . . although only Wuudaraj’s starting Ability Score Increases lined up perfectly with his class, a point in favor of the time-worn argument that tying ability scores to race can be a little restrictive. I made some gear tweaks where they felt necessary, particularly for Ekhaas and Fenic, who picked up some important proficiencies through their builds for items that would be pretty easy to acquire.
I also broke with MtP tradition this time and picked out their cantrips and spells, where applicable; as these are characters leaning much more to the one-shot side of things, it seemed polite to take as much work off the shoulders of potential players as possible.
Also, there’s an interesting note to make regarding the time period and language. ‘Common’ as a language almost certainly doesn’t exist, with humans’ appearance on the scene centuries away at best. The lingua franca is probably Goblin, actually. Gurhta’s Common is probably reasonably replaced with that and since Ekhass, Wuudaraj, and Fenic already have that their Common could probably be replaced with Orc. The extra languages that some characters get could include Draconic, Elven (the ancestors of the Valenar elves were mucking about on Khorvaire relatively recently), Infernal, or whatever squamous nonsense the daelkyr’s minons have been gibbering in lately. Mechanically no effect, so long as everyone shares at least one language, but a cool bit of flavor that also tells you what languages modern characters will need to know to read the journals or what-have-you left behind by this embattled band.
Who They Are
Guhrta is answering what is, to her, a nigh-holy calling. Taught the traditions of druidism passed down to the orcs by the dragon Vvaraak, the ongoing war against the daelkyr is to her what a crusade would be to a modern-day paladin of the Silver Flame. She is fighting not just to save her people but the entire natural world from the madness of Xoriat, and whether it’s beside her fellow Gatekeepers or the goblinoids of Dhakaan that once menaced the orcs she is willing to stand and give her all . . . although she longs for quiet days when she can appreciate the beauty of the world, instead of sacrificing to save it.
Ekhaas is a duur’kala, a dirge singer, a cornerstone of Dhakaani society: healer, diplomat, spiritual leader, lorekeeper, and inspiration on the battlefield. As the very foundations of the Empire crack under the pressure of the daelkyr assault, as goblinoids are warped and sent back against their former comrades, Ekhaas has redoubled her efforts to lead her allies . . . but a note of despair tinges many of her songs these days. She will never give up the fight, not while she draws breath and remains herself, but she has begun to consider plans for what happens if the Empire – and dar society at large – do not survive.
Wuudaraj was a shocktrooper in the armies of the Empire, but after years of fighting alongside the orcs of the Shadow Marches it is safe to say that he’s ‘gone native’, and not just in a cultural sense. While he still feels bound to the concepts of muut and atcha, duty and honor, that were drilled into him as a soldier, he now extends the same bonds to the orcs and the spirits that work with them – and more than one spirit has returned the favor. He despises the daelkyr, and that hate and rage are echoed by the totems he now fights with.
Fenic is a hero amongst his fellow goblins, rising to prominence in a role often occupied only by hobgoblins, using his artifice to save many from the predations of dolgrim and worse. Like many Dhakaani artificers, he is obsessed with ‘building a better gnome trap’, as the saying goes. Surely there is some weapon, some application of magic, some blending of Dhakaani strength and Orcish lore, that can vanquish the daelkyr and see the Empire – and its people – saved. The best place to find it, as always, is on the front lines with ‘practical experiments’.
How They Interact
You’re not going to have a lot of time to see these characters interact with one another if you’re taking the flashback/prologue one-shot route, so I’m going to keep this simple. Given the dire nature of the fight against the daelkyr, and their level, it’s likely that this is a pretty tight-knit band of warriors that has already gone through a lot together. They have probably established a relationship as a group that functions well together and gets results, which is why they’ve been entrusted with whatever it is that’s the goal of the flashback adventure. There are some personal touches you may consider, though. Guhrta and Ekhaas trade tales of their respective people. Ekhass ropes Fenic into schemes that may help lay the foundation for the modern Heirs of Dhakaan. Wuudaraj explores a deeper connection to the primal spirits with Guhrta. Wuudaraj clashes with Ekhaas’s traditional views. Fenic attempts to study druidic magic with Guhrta, to build a better weapon against the daelkyr.
Will Guhrta, Ekhaas, Wuudaraj, and Fenic survive the Daelkyr War? Will they instead fall to the twisted abominations of Xoriat, and perhaps even join them? In either case, what legacies will they leave behind for player characters active in 998 YK? What unfinished business will those modern heroes have to try and wrap up? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
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