So given that we want to tell a story about a bad guy gate-ing in a bunch of servants of a badder guy — and maybe even make corporeal the baddest guy at the top of the pyramid — what does that look like? What’s actually going on?
At first, I was going to talk about how sad I was that there weren’t good stats to summon for a proxy — you know, it’s unreasonable that there be stats for Yeenoghu in the monster manual, but surely a challenge 10 demon that could serve as a sort of general “I’m the thing this cult is worshipping” — or at least “I’m the lesser servant of it, and the big guy is coming in behind me around challenge 20” or something.
But if D&D doesn’t have such stats, then surely such a thing must not exist; deities and archdemons simply do not manifest at less than their glory. The yocholol, Handmaiden of Lolth, should have been my clue: custom servitor yes, avatar no.
Okay. So what model do we have for a lower-powered proxy for a deity? Well, it’s right there in the query: we have the cleric and the warlock! So my plan is to make a sort of template which can beef up a creature into a proxy for its remote patron.
These rules are completely compatible with blogofholding.com’s Exceptional Leaders for Every Monster. They don’t assume their use, but they do encourage it, since you’ll probably want your diabolic proxy or squamous indweller to stick around for a few rounds of combat.
An aspected creature is a creature with a portion of the powers of some greater patron. The creature to be invested comes to a warlock-like pact with the patron and acquires some measure of its legendary nature and skills. The patron must be much, much more powerful than the aspected creature: at least 5 challenge levels, and ideally more like 10. It must be a legendary creature. It must be willing.
Good examples of this are the Chosen in the Forgotten Realms, the cultists of a demon lord or great old one, the kobold true-believer of a great wyrm, or the devotee of a mad lich bound towards demi-godhood.
The aspected creature’s type changes to one pleasing to the patron — often aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, fiend or undead. I could imagine construct or monstrosity popping up, too: whatever fits the story. Maybe the type doesn’t change at all; that’s fine too.
The creature gains magic resistance and damage resistance to mundane weaponry (if it lacked either or both; if it makes sense). It also gains 1, 2 or 3 uses of legendary resistance (per day; if it fails a save, it choose instead to succeed) and of legendary actions (per round; at the end of other creature’s turns, one at a time, with the semi-standard set “move, attack, or cast a cantrip”; individual creatures should of course customize further).
The creature gains the Innate Spellcasting trait (Charisma-based), with “appropriate spells” from its patron; I suggest 1 spell/day of each level up to a maximum indicated in the below chart.
- Any challenge: Two or so cantrips
- Challenge 2: Spell level 1
- Challenge 3-4: Spell level 2
- Challenge 5: Spell level 3
- Challenge 6: Spell level 4
- Challenge 7-8: Spell level 5 if it is at least aspect 2.
- Challenge 9: Spell level 6
- Challenge 10: Spell level 7
- Challenge 11-12: Spell level 8 if it is at least aspect 3.
- Challenge 13: Spell level 9
Also, I suggest allowing spells of up to level 5 to be 3/day if they are at least 2 below the max castable — and spells of 1st and 2nd level to be at will if they are at least 4 below the max castable. Use judgment.
After applying all these changes, increase the creature’s challenge by the number of legendary points it got, less 1 if it already had mundane weapon resistances, less 1 if it already had comparable or better spellcasting (but minimum +1 overall, anyway). I don’t worry much about challenge values, so this is quite eyeballed.
So for instance, an Aspect of Yeenoghu would be a creature allied with that abyssal butcher, with 1, 2 or 3 (depending on investiture strength) legendary charges and as high as it can climb on the ladder of spells:
- Cantrips: True Strike, Vicious Mockery
- 1st: Bane
- 2nd: Blindness/Deafness/Mute
- 3rd: Fear
- 4th: Confusion
- 5th: Hold Monster
- 6th: Create Undead
- 7th: Plane Shift
- 8th: Antimagic Field
- 9th: Weird
Yeenoghu being who and what he is, the base is likely to be an abyssal ghoul (Hezrou) or perhaps a double- or even triple- elite Fang of Yeenoghu. Scary stuff.
Since the template is so easy to slide on or off (extra Legendaries, maybe unlocking the higher spells), you can use it in a scene pretty easily. If the baddies finish the ritual, they summon some demonic reinforcements, and their chieftan becomes Aspected III instead of Aspected II. If the jeweled idol is destroyed, the chieftan is reduced to Aspected I instead of Aspected II. That sort of thing.
For another example, you can make a nature-touched creature (I have previously quite happily used this scheme to make a druidic direwolf; I regret nothing!)
- Cantrips: Druidcraft, Guidance
- 1st: Goodberry
- 2nd: Pass Without Trace
- 3rd: Plant Growth
- 4th: Conjure Woodland Beings
- 5th: Tree stride
- 6th: Heal
- 7th: Regenerate
- 8th: Control Weather
- 9th: Gate