Welcome to the April 2012 Edition of No Assembly Required, a monthly column that provides DMs with a ready-to-use monster for a Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition campaign. The monster can of course be adjusted for other gaming systems as well. Each monster in the series is displayed complete with Stat Block, Lore, Tactics, Power Descriptions and potential plotlines a DM can use during a campaign.
Of special note is the spectacular artwork provided by Grant Gould. He previously designed the mascot, Iddy the Lich, for my blog, The Id DM, and is illustrating each monster in the No Assembly Required series. He also developed the sweet logo below for the column. Visit his site to learn about commission pricing and view galleries of his artwork.
Please be sure to come back next month for another monster that can be used in your campaign. Batteries Included! This month, I present a ruthless female Shadar-kai, Kemah Timmonen, to spice up The Shadowfell (and Beyond) for the Paragon Tier.
I have been spending quite a bit of time with my players in The Shadowfell. I purchased the Gloomwrought and Beyond boxset a long time ago but only recently was able to include some of the material in my game. I previously wrote about my inspiration for adventures in The Shadowfell by discussing the addition of horror and action elements to the published Rooftop Chase skill challenge, and detailing the use of inexpensive craft and household products to create a necrotic liquid as the backdrop for a combat encounter. My campaign will likely continue in The Shadowfell for several months; it’s a setting that offers great story hooks and encourages the DM to remove the shackles and increase the intensity of the mood, setting and monsters. With this in mind, I decided to proceed with a Shadowfell theme for this month’s monster.
There are many factions vying for control in Gloomwrought, but the most interesting to me is Ghost Talon – a group of shadar-kai militants who assault citizens of other races. I do not wish to steal too much language from the boxset, but Ghost Talon’s ultimate goal is to drive all but shadar-kai out of the city; they are hateful and have a single-minded approach of removing people who are seen as obstacles. Because of this, authorities and criminals alike despise the group and their leader, Oristus. Several paragraphs are provided that detail Oristus’ background but I felt there was something missing. It is often said, “Behind every great man – is a great woman.” I was inspired to turn that phrase on its head in this case, “Behind every brutal man – is a terrible woman.” And thus Kemah Timmonen was born!
The design for Kemah developed from multiple directions. First, I informed Grant about the type of character I had in mind, “Go crazy with the hairstyle, piercings and tattoos. She could even look a bit like Lisbeth from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; kind of funky and screwed up. Another similar character would be the look of Assaj from Clone Wars. She should look sexy (not over the top though), deadly and cunning.” I also wanted Kemah to have the primary colors of orange and black. I’m an unabashed fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, and their playoffs start tonight; plus, it’s close to the color scheme featured in the published art of Oristus. Her name is a combination of two people and one city, Kima Greggs from The Wire, Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers and the town Kemah, Texas. Grant designed the amazing artwork above for Kemah, which allowed my brain to focus on her background and powers.
I’ve presented my views on the overload of status effects in 4th Edition. There are effects that should be interesting to use but they fall flat at the table for both players and DMs. The first status effect that comes to mind is Dominated; it should be a big deal, but it never feels like a game-changing moment during an encounter. The player is denied a turn so they just wait until the effect passes, and the DM is much too limited in how to control the character. The rules state the dominator can only take a single action (standard, move, minor or free) and can only use at-will powers. That is not dominated! That is making the player sit out combat while the DM uses one of the players weakest attacks or actions on another player. I wanted Kemah to have a powerful psychic effect on the party, and I wanted her domination to mean something and be truly scary without the player losing any of their turns in combat.
My solution was the Wrapped Around My Finger power. Some might argue it is overpowered, but it is a reliable encounter power that can only be used once. On a hit, the target is dominated by Kemah until the end of her current turn. During her turn, she can choose the normal economy of actions for the player to execute and this includes Encounter and Daily Powers. In this fashion, the player never loses an action in the normal flow of combat, but does lose the use of an expendable power. It makes the dominated player much more problematic for the party since they can unleash Encounter or Daily powers against their party members. And Kemah laughs! Dominated should work this way all the time. The other psychic power is Conflicted Emotions, which borrows a mechanic from Displacer Beasts in terms of the number rolled on the die (even or odd) affecting the outcome of the attack. The Conflicted status effect results in the player needing to first make a successful attack roll; however, a second phase kicks in on successful attack rolls. An even number on the die means the attack hits as normal, but an odd number on the die means the character hits itself for half damage. And when push comes to shove, Kemah can hold her own in melee combat and has a synergy with Oristus.
I realize this is a different approach to the monsters I have built before since it is so closely tied to an existing setting and monster. I believe Kemah can be used in a campaign with or without Ghost Talon. But for DMs who already plan to include Ghost Talon in the campaign, she provides an excellent motivator and balance for Oristus. Please read through the details for Kemah Timmonen below, and contact me if you have any questions or feedback about the monster.
Kemah Timmonen spent her formative years in the mountains and caves of Thyrin Gol. Her parents were killed when she was very young due to the constant quarreling of warring shadar-kai tribes. She was taken as a prisoner by the Thyrin Tribe, which emerged as the most powerful and united the remaining shadar-kai under one leader, Yxir. However, old grudges and disputes exploded throughout Thyrin Gol as the shadar-kai continued to fight among themselves. The lack or resources combined with a healthy distrust of everyone in the Thyrin Tribe taught all shadar-kai in the region to develop a keen sense of paranoia. Kemah Timmonen simply elevated her paranoia into something far more powerful and threatening.
Kemah never discovered who was directly responsible for killing her parents. Had she learned, she surely would have slaughtered them. She was considered expendable and belonging to no one,and thus thrown into battles at a young age. She learned early to defend herself and use whatever means at her disposal to fend off enemies – both from inside the Thyrin Tribe and outside threats. She honed her talents by battling legions of undead and other creatures from the Shadowdark, and notching numerous crucial kills in the Thyrin Gol’s conflict with a band of Doomguard. Having achieved a level of attention and renown within the tribe, Kemah immediately considered herself a target to other shadar-kai attempting to capitalize on her name. Fearing her death around every corner from either friend or foe, she fled Thyrin Gol and disappeared into Gloomwrought, City of Midnight.
She slipped into Gloomwrought and searched for greater means to protect herself from outside threats. She gravitated to The Fettered Ward, which thrived as an entertainment district. She found many in the district to be addicts and slaves, easy prey for her as they were consumed by the pursuit of pleasure and unaware of her true motives. She stole everything they had, killed them or left them so broken of soul and mind that they were left as miserable wretches littering the back alleys along the Avenue of Chains. Within several years, she developed a small personal fortune but continued to be fearful of someone from Thyrin Gol locating her in the city. She determined that she required additional protection.
During her years in The Fettered Ward, she developed multiple powers of influence over other beings. Her allure broke even the most-disciplined sense of honor and she constantly sought those in power to corrupt and bend to her will. Her travels within Gloomwrought led her to the Raven’s Eyrie, the temple to the Raven Queen and largest landmark in the Temple District. She developed relationships with members of the Ebony Guard and Enveloping Shadow as they considered her a useful tool with knowledge of the culture on the streets. Meanwhile, she pressed these members of the Eyrie for as much information as possible, which is how she learned of a growing dispute within the ranks between the high-priestess, Nira, and her brother, Oristus.
Kemah learned that Oristus had risen quickly within the Eyrie’s clergy, but still held resentment against the shadowborn halfling pirates that murdered his parents. Intrigued by their shared suffering, Kemah used her talent to gain access to Oristus. In the following months, she carefully used his connections inside the Raven’s Eyrie to learn great secrets of the mind. She fueled Oristus’ bitterness with other races – and in turn – his search for vengeance stimulated her own hatred and paranoia. Kemah did not trust easily, but she sensed a powerful ally in Oristus and while the term love is not applicable to such foul-hearted spirits, they formed a perfect union of revenge. Kemah assisted Oristus with the early stages of forming Ghost Talon, and encouraged him to leave the Eyrie – a decision that was made for him by his sister, Nira. Oristus was banished by Nira from the Eyrie, and Kemah has sworn an oath to bring down the Eyrie and personally execute Nira. Under the leadership of Oristus and Kemah, Ghost Talon has grown into one of the most feared organizations in Gloomwrought. Their shared goal is the eradication of all but shadar-kai from Gloomwrought, and then to reclaim Thyrin Gol for themselves.
History DC 18: The tattoos that course along Kemah’s body consist of a dizzying array of intertwined symbols and shapes. Although several tattoos are carefully obscured, you suspect some markings suggest she was once a member of the Thyrin Gol region, which rests in the lands beyond Gloomwrought. The Thyrin tribes of shadar-kai warred with each other only to finally unite against a common enemy from the Shadowdark. The Thyrin are known to lack trust in outsiders – and may hold even more doubts and suspicions about the shadar-kai within their ranks.
Streetwise DC 15: Kemah Timmonen is a member of the militant shadar-kai organization, Ghost Talon. She is believed to be second only to its leader, Oristus, in terms of chain-of-command. The relationship between Kemah and Oristus seems to be one of mutual respect and fear. Ghost Talon works tirelessly to exterminate all but shadar-kai from Gloomwrought.
Streetwise DC 21: Kemah Timmonen is rumored to have been a major player in activities within The Fettered Ward in recent years. She was known as a talented entertainer who offered unusual delights to patrons. However, it was noted her patrons seemed to fall into despair or disappear altogether. This only seemed to increase her level of fame as wealthy thrill-seekers sought her out for the best nightlife Gloomwrought has to offer.
Kemah Timmonen In Combat
Kemah will attempt to remain out of range of melee attacks during the beginning of any combat. She will attempt to confuse as many enemies as possible with Conflicted Emotions when a battle is initiated. She will then scan the battlefield for the most powerful warrior and bend that enemy to her will with Wrapped Around My Finger. Once she ascertains the available powers of this warrior, she will use the most devastating option against his or her allies.
When she has exhausted her ranged attacks, she will deftly manuever in and out of position to inflict massive damage with Easy Prey through Bleeding Katar and Slashing Siren. When Kemah feels threatened, she will utilize Shadow Jaunt to escape being surrounded; she will also use the power in an attempt to flee combat if she fears her life is in danger. Kemah is more likely to flee if Oristus falls in combat, as this eliminate the benefits of Bound By Revenge.
Easy Prey: The female shadar-kai uses distractions to her advantage. She nimbly manuevers through the battle to target your most vulnerable area. Her blade pierces your defenses and blood erupts from the wound and sprays her cold hand and lean arm. She laughs at your agony.
Bound By Revenge: Kemah and Oristus conduct a symphony of rage and bitterness during the battle. Their hatred and passion seem to fuel each other and bolster their ability to avoid your attacks. It seems this bond is stronger than lust or love, and may only be severed by death.
Bleeding Katar: Kemah flexes her arm and punctures your body with the small jagged blade. The precision of the her strike and the quickness with which she twists and removes the blade would be admirable if you were not left with a gaping wound that continues to bleed.
Slashing Siren: The female shadar-kai combines grace and power as she delivers a swift slash with her longsword. The blade appears to sing as it penetrates your defenses and you see her eyes up close for the first time. You become lost in her eyes, which lay bare the layers of hate, sorrow and pain in her heart. The raw power of the emotions is too much sensory input to comprehend, and you close your eyes hoping for the waves of rage to subside.
Conflicted Emotions: As you engage in battle, a flood of doubt enters your mind. Are these shadar-kai really the enemy? Perhaps we have rushed to judgment in this matter? Your mind considers the alternatives to fighting with Ghost Talon. A new source of thought blossoms. We are wrong, all life except shadar-kai should be destroyed. We are defiling their realm. The voice in your head grows stronger leaving you confused about whether or not to land your next blow.
Wrapped Around My Finger: Kemah surveys the battle with her hands on her hips. Her calculations are unclear. Does she seek the weakest link in your party, or perhaps the most formidable enemy to strike. Her eyes travel in your direction and it’s as if you’d be struck with a thunderbolt. The combination of evil and beauty causes your heart to despair. Nothing has ever affected you in this way before. You can think of nothing but making her happy, and follow her every command. Her voice calls to you from a distance, corrupting your ability to think for yourself. She mocks you as she takes complete control of your mind and body.
Shadow Jaunt: Just when you think you have the female shadar-kai in your sights, she disappears into shadow only to emerge far away from you. Her tactical prowess is impressive, and you fear this is something she could do once more!
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.