10 February 2021

Monster Spotlight: Elemental Guardian

 "Standing in the centre of the room, you see a 10 ft. tall stone statue. Each of its four arms seems to bear the symbol of one of the base elements; Air, Earth, Water and Fire. The Stone arm, covered in rough hewn rocks, is raised as if to strike downwards at a smaller creature. The Water and Fire arms are each outstretched, each bearing an arcane rune on their palms for their respective elements, seemingly carved into the stone itself. Finally, the arm bearing the symbol for Air hangs towards its side, a bladeless handle for a scimitar gripped in its massive stone palm.

As you begin to approach the figure, you see dust begin to fall from its body. as it slowly begins to move. Each arm flexes in turn, the symbols on them beginning to glow faintly, as its eyes snap open, solid black gems, as dark as the void itself, and it's attention turns to you. Flames crackling, water gushing, earth shaking, and the blade of air whistling through the scimitar, it begins to approach."

The Elemental Guardian is the final encounter of my recent Temple of the Elements adventure, and is undoubtedly one of my favourite elements of the dungeon (pun very much intended). The initial idea for the Temple adventure was to actually run it as a much lower level adventure, with Motes and Mephits as the main enemies in each path, and a final fight against a combined type of elemental creature as a final battle. The adventure actually went through about 4 'final' bosses, before we actually decided to finalise the Guardian.

Another idea we played with was a sorcerer as the final battle, fighting using a combination of magic and Motes, with the paths only being made up of a puzzle and an elemental, without any motes until the final chamber.

Suffice to say, we are very happy with our final product.

The Guardian itself was also a difficult creature to design. We knew we wanted each and every element represented in the fight somehow, and we knew they needed to all be completely unique in their own right. The final idea, of four arms = four attacks, and the ability to destroy each arm individually, came after a lot of frustration (seriously, the plan had, at one point, been to have it breath a different element each turn, and fighting mainly through slams).

It was after looking at a lot (a lot) of other elemental creature stats and ideas (including some we have created ourselves), we settled on the final line up. The fire arm was an obvious choice, as far as we were concerned, and having a non-caster creature using burning hands seemed like a great idea. The earth arm, too, was really simple. Rock hit hard. For water we considered playing with cold damage in some way, but couldn't find a way that worked thematically that we liked. The final idea of knockback damage actually came from the decanter of endless water, of all places. Not even a monster! Finally, that left us with air. Pushing would have been the obvious choice, but we really liked the idea of water being the knockback arm. We ended up going with the slashing damage from out own Air Motes for this, as we felt that it was a good match for the element, worked well thematically with the rest of the adventure, and the idea of an air bladed scimitar sounded really, really, cool.

When we finally settled on the statblock in the adventure, we also thought a lot about the look we envisaged this colossal construct to have. After a lot of thinking, and even more research, we kept finding ourselves drawn towards Tibetan Buddhist statues and imagery, and Hindu depictions of the god Shiva. We hope, more than anything, to one day have an artist realise our exact idea for this incredible creature. Until then, just imagine it with a lot of south-eastern Asian influence.

In case you missed it before; The Elemental Guardian!

The fight against the Elemental Guardian, too, was a great fun encounter to consider. After all of the doors in the temple closing as soon as they are passed, the players will definitely have a paranoia about letting other party members move ahead of them alone. Knowing that all party members would be present, we got to work trying to make a single creature fight (without legendary actions), that could provide a challenge to a group of level 7-9 adventurers. Our answer? Lair Actions.

After dealing with the elemental motes beforehand in the dungeon, the party will likely be lulled into a false sense of security around them when they first appear in this room. Probably seeing the guardian as the bigger threat, they will continue to focus their attacks against it. Which is all well and good, except that on the next turn, they will suddenly get sucked back into the construct, healing it. A mistake they won't make twice. But then, wasting a turn to take the Motes out? Now the guardian hasn't taken any damage for a while! Great. No motes, and a guardian with more health than before. What's next? Oh. Of course. The room is shaking, and half the party are now on the ground.

However you decide to run this combat, there is a lot of potential to turn a single enemy into a fight your party will remember for a long time.

I hope you've liked this little look behind the scenes of my creature creation process, and I really hope you have enjoyed running my adventures in your own games. Keep watching this space, as some hopefully big announcements are on the way! Until then, however, thanks for reading!

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