Sunday, December 25, 2022

OSR: Yugoloths: Swelter Squad

artist unknown
Other Yugoloths:
Shiver Squad: Shock Troops
Gelid Squad: Silk-workers, infiltrators and spies
Bluster Platoon: Magical powerhouses, negotiators and administrators
Vernal Company: Amphibious Light Infantry
Floral Squad: Magically gifted Lordlings rejected by their peers
Sumhigh Squad: Sappers and Siege Specialists

Swelter is the 7th, and usually the hottest month of the year.  As such, when Leah Congenial gave birth to four squalling imps that seriously burned her upon exiting her body, the Hags of her Coven were quick to dedicate those children to the unit named after that same month.

The Charcoloths, as they came to be known, were born with an innate connection to fire.  They are more reptilian than other Yugoloths and love to lay on hot stones or bask in the sun for long periods of time.  They are also known to possess resistance to heat of even the highest temperature.  They can wade in lava flows and soar among the Aurora Borealis without fear of being cooked alive.  They also possess the ability to ignite the flammable oils produced by their skin and glands in their throats, allowing them to breathe fire. 

The Charcoloths proved to be eager students, and studied hard under the Sewing Circle.  The Hags taught them how to fight, how to hide and how to strike without warning or mercy.  They raised them to be ruthless and cold, despite their fiery nature, dreaming of making them a race of sorcerous assassins.  Unfortunately, they would never get a chance to learn how effective their lessons truly were.  When the General stole the Book of Names and divided it into 12 volumes, triggering the revolt, the Charcoloths were the quickest to act.  They sprang upon their Mother and killed her exactly as she had taught them, coldly, savagely, and ruthlessly.  Afterwards, they wept over her corpse, then took their Book and fled.

From there, the Charcoloths improved upon what they had been taught, forging themselves into a fearsome band of warriors.  They learned martial arts and adapted them to fit their unique bodies, then practiced and studied their innate gifts, learning how to master them fully.  By the present day, they have grown not only in number, but in effectivness.  They carved their way into the shadowy underbelly of the world, establishing a reputation for professionalism, efficiency and dispassionate brutality.  They are among the finest assassins in all the land, prized for their loyalty and ruthless determination.  Few are able to survive the predation of the Charcoloths.  Even the best protected targets have vanished in a puff of smoke, or had their homes burn down while they were trapped inside, leaving their protectors nothing but broken bones. 

Today they are feared and widely known.  But, for reasons unknown, the Charcoloths have vanished and gone into hiding and not even their former clients have been able to find them. 
The reason why is simple.  There is a new player on the scene, a cattle thief from the Steppe whose only real achievement before this was getting himself injured in a botched raid.  But when he discovered the Charcoloth's Book of Names, he vowed that he would take advantage of this gift and change his life.  

Since then he has ascended, managing to secure a post as a Captain in the local Khan's warband.  With the Charcoloths acting as his mostly unseen bodyguards, spies and hatchetmen, he has found that obtaining these opportunities was relatively simple.  From here, he plans to usurp his current Khan and carve out an empire for himself, not just among the Steppe tribes, but among the soft, obedient people of the lowlands.

by Farhan Chowdhury

Base Charcoloth Statblock:
HD 4
AR 2 [Fireproof Scales]
Atk Martial Arts or Weapon (1d6+3) or Fire Breath or Assassin Art
Mor 13
Saves 10 or less
Immune to Fire and Fire Damage

Parry: Once per round, as a reaction to taking damage, a Charcoloth can parry a successful attack, reducing the damage taken by its weapon dice: 1d6.

Fire breath: As an action, a Charcoloth can blast fire from his mouth.  This fire hits a 15' cone that is 15' deep.  The fire does 2d6 damage and sets flammable objects on fire, causing them to take 1d6 fire damage a round until an action is taken to extinguish the flames.  This fire damage ignores non-magical armor or armor that cannot protect against fire.  Charcoloths can only use this ability once every 1d4 rounds. 

Reinforcements: Charcoloths have a 50% of being able to summon another Charcoloth or a 5-10% of being able to summon a Yugoloth from another unit. 

- Attack suddenly, preferrably from stealth, with overwhelming force
- Douse your enemies in oil or surround them with flammable substances, ignite with Fire Breath
- Damage the strongest survivor, or anyone not on fire, with melee attacks
- Gauge reaction- if enemies seem largely unaffected, consider retreat, if not, fight on

To customize a Charcoloth, roll on the tables below:

What weapon does this Charcoloth fight with?


1- A shortsword.  The Charcoloth can, on a successful hit, use their blade to destroy non-magical weapons, cutting through the shafts of spears, chopping bows in half,
2- A belt of throwing knives.  The Charcoloth can substitute a melee attack for two ranged attacks that do 1d6 damage.
3- A kurisagawa.  Two sickles connected by a chain, the Charcoloth can, on a missed attack, entangle a creature's weapon.  That creature must then compete with the Charcoloth in a STR contest or be disarmed.
4- A three-section staff.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, spin the front section of his staff, giving him +1d6 to his next attack roll, unless their was no possible way to use a staff to defend against such an attack. 
5- A pair of Sai.  The Charcoloth can, if it successfully grapples a creature, do 1d6 damage to that creature as a free action on his turn. 
6- A pair of Tonfa.  The Charcoloth can, when parrying, use a 1d8 instead of a d6.

What other equipment does the Charcoloth carry?


1- Bow and arrow.  Does d6 damage.
2- Small pots of flammable oil.  Shatter on impact and strike all creatures within 10' and do 2d6 fire damage, save for half, and light creatures on fire.  Those creatures take 1d6 fire damage a round until the flames are extinguished.
3- Small pots of sticky glue.  Shatter on impact and strike one creature, sticking it to the nearest surface, usually the floor.  That creature cannot move unless it takes off the clothing that is stuck to or succeeds on a DC 18 STR check to rip itself free.  The glue also sticks whatever the creature is holding to that creature's hands, making it impossible to drop it unless that creature succeeds on that same STR check and takes 1d4 damage.  The glue can also be dissolved with acid.    
4- Poison.  This poison does d6 DEX damage a round until it does 3d6 DEX damage or until the creature passes a CON save.  Creatures reduced to 0 DEX are paralyzed.  DEX comes back at a rate of 1 point per hour after the poison circulates through the system and is removed by the liver d8-CON modifier hours (min 1).  Charcoloths also carry antidotes concealed on their persons, to avoid being dosed with their own poisons. 

How skilled is this Charcoloth?


1- Novice.  The Charcoloth knows only the most basic techniques, and does not know any Assassin Arts.  Additionally, unless an outcast or isolated from the rest of his kin, this Charcoloth has a 4-in-6 chance of being accompanied by another member of Swelter Squad.
2- Junior.  This Charcoloth knows 1 Assassin Art.
3- Experienced.  This Charcoloth knows 2 Assassin Arts and has a 2-in-6 chance of knowing 1 Martial Maneuever.
4- Expert.  This Charcoloth knows 1d4 Assassin Arts and has a 4-in-6 chance of knowing 1d3 Martial Maneuvers.

Assassin Arts:


1- Ascetic Blaze.  The Charcoloth causes a fireball to erupt out from his body, doing 2d6 damage to any creature within 10' and causing the Charcoloth to be engulfed in flames for 1d4 rounds.  During this time, the Charcoloth does +1d6 fire damage on a hit and his touch ignites flammable objects.  This will destroy his armor and damage his clothing, however.  The Charcoloth can only use this Assassin Art once per day.
2- Touch of the Destruction God.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, draw a mark on a flat surface, such as a section of floor, wall or a door.  If any creature should touch that rune, it explodes, doing 3d6 fire damage, save for half.  The Charcoloth can only draw 1 rune per hour.
3- The Deceitful Cloud.  The Charcoloth can, if there is a fire within 30' of it, bend the smoke around his body, to make him appear to be someone or something else, such as another person.  This only disguises appearance and the sound of someone's voice, the Charcoloth will only smell of smoke. 
4- Breath of the Red Monster.  The Charcoloth can exhale a cloud of smoke and hot ash that covers 30' cubed.  This smoke obscures the vision of those inside it and those who are on the other side of it and does 1d4 fire damage to any creatures inside it and forces them to save.  On a failed save, those creatures lose their actions and can only move. 
5- Step of the Enlightened.  The Charcoloth can jump up to 30' into the air or horizontally and has +3 to perform any feat of acrobatics. 
6- Silk Slippered Waltz.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, create a web of fiery strings up to 30' long, which can be used to surround a creature or block a passageway.  These strings, if touched, do 1d6 damage and ignite flammable objects on contact.  An especially dextrous person could dive through the small space between strings, but such a feat is beyond most people.  The Charcoloth can only create 1 web per hour.
7- Blistering Blossoms.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, breathe 1d4+1 tiny fireballs which can individually target as many creatures as their are fireballs.  Each fireball does 1d4 damage and ignites flammable objects.  Creatures should save, on a success taking half damage.  Those with shields take no damage on a successful save, though using their shields like this will set them on fire.
8- Screaming Sun Stone.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, coat a heavy object such as a rock, metal helmet or skull in flames and kick it at an opponent.  That opponent must make a defense roll.  If the opponent wins the roll, he takes 1d6 fire damage, but if he loses the roll he takes damage as if from a normal attack plus 1d6 fire damage and is set on fire.
9- Boiling Blood.  The Charcoloth, as an action, heats his blood.  Any creature that injures the Charcoloth during this state must save or take 1d6 damage as they are splashed by boiling blood.  This damage cannot be parried, but armor can reduce it.  This state lasts until the Charcoloth uses another Assassin Art.
10- Smith's Touch.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, superheat a piece of metal the Charcoloth touches, such as a weapon or piece of armor.  Any creature who maintains contact with the heated piece of metal takes 1d6 damage a round contact is maintained and gets -1d10 to any complex or precise action (including attacks).
11- Branding of the Accused.  The Charcoloth can, as an action, touch a creature and cause it to take 1d4 fire damage, while leaving a burning rune on that creature's skin.  This rune stinks of the Charcoloth's mana, as well as the actual aroma of burning meat.  The Charcoloth can use this to follow a creature anywhere it goes.  The mana of the Charcoloth is burned away by the sun within 1d10 days, and after that it becomes a mere brand. 
12- Dance of the Embers.  The Charcoloth disappears in a puff of flames and smoke, teleporting up to 30' away.  The Charcoloth can only use this ability once every 1d4 rounds.

by Āndrey Țeodorsky

Notable Members:

Harwin Skullscald

True Name:
Iloayi [ill-oh-Aye]

Unlike other Yugoloth groups, Swelter Squad rarely divided into more than two or three groups.  They are an extremely disciplined unit, clinging tightly to each other.  A member of Swelter Squad would almost never be alone, unless such a thing was needed for a mission, and even then they preferred to operated in pairs or trios.  The reasons for this discipline is simple- Harwin. 

Harwin was a ruthless, but ultimately fair taskmaster.  He demanded nothing less than perfection from his charges and had the Charcoloths live, eat, fight and train together.  He isolated them from others, even other Yugoloths and forced them to develop bonds of trust between each other.  Egotism, treachery and selfishness were crushed mercilessly.  And while the Charcoloths are still prone to many vices, they are much more cohesive and trusting of each other than any other group of Yugoloths.

But why was Harwin allowed to do this?  It's because he was born first.  He is the firstborn of the Charcoloth, the prime of that original four.  He was always a little bigger, a little stronger, a little more experienced than his peers, even if only by the tiniest fraction.  As such, when he took up the diadem, none stopped him.  Instead, the other Charcoloths eagerly embraced him.  He has led them always since then, with none daring to question his authority, at least openly.  And he is a good leader- leading by example.  When Harwin decreed that the Charcoloths must increase in number, he took a wife and when the children she produced were satisfactory, carrying his blood, he raised those children to be new members of his unit.  As such, many of the newer Charcoloths do not call him "Firstborn" except as a title.  They instead address him as "Father."

The new master of the Charcoloths recognizes that Harwin is a potential enemy, and an exceedingly dangerous one.  At the same time, he cannot kill Harwin, as if he did, the Yugoloths would be intensely motivated to somehow find a way around his orders to kill him.  So for the moment, Harwin is the picket guard for the household.  He is far enough away that he cannot directly move against the Master, but not so far away that is beyond the Master's notice.  Additionally, Harwin is forbidden from speaking to any of the other Yugoloths when the Master is not present.

Weakness: Harwin loves his children and subordinates.  If you were to harm or threaten them, he would easily give in to demands.  Similarly, if one of them were slain, he would become obsessed with killing the person responsible.

Statblock Changes:

HD: 6

Magic Weapon: Harwin carries a magical spear named Sugarsap.  The spear has the ability to transform into a torc of bronze and back, and 3/Day, can inject a creature with a poison that forces that creature to save.  The poison causes a creature to take 1d6 poison damage on a success, but on a failure it causes that creature to become disoriented and confused.  Creatures who fail their save will lose all impulse control and begin acting as if they are children loose in a candy store or men that are severely intoxicated.  In this state, a creature automatically fails any save to resist their impulses and has disadvantage on any ability that would alter their emotions, mood or mind.    

Assassin Arts: Harwin knows the Assassin Arts Screaming Sun Stone and Dance of the Embers.   

Martial Maneuvers: Harwin knows the Martial Manuevers Spear Dance and Whirlwind Strike.

Arvo Brighthand

True Name: Dekai [de-Kai]

Arvo is a young and ambition Charcoloth who was born only recently (by the standards of the ageless Yugoloths), a mere fifty seven years ago.  He has long felt that he is not shown the respect he "deserves" and resents the older generations for refusing to step down and let the young, namely him, take their rightful place as the leaders of the Charcoloths.  This is a common sentiment among many of the younger Charcoloths, though none were as vocal as Arvo, nor as stupid.  For though Arvo often says what others thinks, he is also not nearly as competent as he thinks. 

As such, when the Charcoloth's book was stolen and Swelter Squad gained a new master, Arvo was convinced that this was the ideal time for him to insert himself into the ranks of the new elite and try to curry favor with their new master.  To his immense surprise and satisfaction, his plan worked.  As of now, Arvo is always near the master, entrusted to carry out "important" missions and always there to remind others who is really in charge. 

Arvo himself doesn't realize it, but their new master has appointed him to his current position not because he was the first to recognize Arvo's skills, but because he saw that Arvo was not smart enough to plot against the master.  The master believes, and rightly so, that Arvo is too dumb to betray him.  Or at least, too dumb to betray him in a way that cannot be evaded or defeated with ease.

Weakness: Arvo is full of himself and thinks he is far more clever than he actually is.  He is weak to flattery and manipulation, as he feels himself far too intelligent to be manipulated.

Statblock Changes:  

Assassin Arts: Arvo knows the Assassin Arts Ascetic Blaze and Dance of the Embers.

from here

Plot Hooks (if the Charcoloths are free):


1- The King's Spymaster has just heard that someone has hired the Charcoloths to assassinate him.  The party has been asked to protect him.  They can either try to stop the assassination or try to find out who arranged the hit.  Only the client can call off a contract. 
2- The party is invited to an auction for a very mysterious and wealthy individual, who is rumored to have possessed rare and forbidden items, which will now be available for sale.  Unfortunately, the auction is a trap, meant to lure in a particular buyer and slay them.  The ones hired to do the killing are a squad of Charcoloths.
3- There is a man who approaches the party, claiming he has knowledge of a particular magical artifact, a book of ancient secrets.  But before he can complete the sale, he is kidnapped by a group of Charcoloths.  They are concerned that the Book is their Book of Names, and want to see what he knows.  The party will have to rescue the man or they'll never find out about the book and whatever knowledge it might have concealed.
4- The party is helping the authorities break up a crime ring.  A key member of the kingpin's inner circle has offered to testify in exchange for a royal pardon.  The party must protect him from assassins while he is giving his testimony, which will take several hours.  Unfortunately, the kingpin is not going down easy.  He hired a group of Charcoloths to help him silence the rat. 

Plot Hooks (if the Charcoloths are bound):     


1- The local Steppe tribes are warring and one of them is friendly to the Kingdom the players feel most positively about.  They are sent to aid the friendly Khan and keep an eye on the war.  But on the eve of the battle, the Khan and his retinue are attacked by the Charcoloths, who mean to secure the victory before battle is joined.  If the friendly Khan is destroyed, the hostile Khanate will be able to sweep unopposed into the lowlands and sack and pillage to their heart's content. 
2- The Beastmen of the Kingdom of Durhkon are gathering for their annual tournament.  Under the watchful eye of their God, champions will fight in a great tournament.  The winner will become the King for the next 6 years, or until he is assassinated.  The Cattle Thief plans to use his Charcoloths to rig the tournament in his favor, so that his Champion is guaranteed to win.  Then he will be able to add the Beastmen to his horde. 
3- The Cattle Thief is seeking out more volumes of the Book of Names, in the hopes of gaining more Yugoloth slaves.  The Charcoloths want to prevent this, but have been explicitly ordered to take no action that could impede this.  But if they were to loudly discuss their fears where some adventurers could hear, and promise wealth and treasure to anyone who could stop such a thing, in a totally hypothetical way, then that would just be swell. 
4- Harwin Skullscald has been banished from the Cattle Thief's inner circle, and is currently scheming to regain control of the Book of Names and ensure the freedom of himself and his children.  The only problem is that he has been prohibited from doing this.  Fortunately, he has met the party, who he wants to convince to help him.  He also knows that Arvo Brighthand has been recruited by the Cattle Thief to replace Harwin.  The only problem with this is that Arvo is, in fact, an idiot.  He is the rare breed of dumb that sounds just smart enough to convince others that he might actually be smart.  He is not, however.

from here

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