Pernicious Paladin Monsters for Your Next Session

by RJ on 5 December 2022. 

Historically in our beloved tabletop roleplaying game hobby, paladins are the good folk. They protect the innocent. They divide loot fairly. They save the day for the righteous faction. Sometimes they even go too far, especially if their player is inexperienced, and play their "usual" alignment of lawful good as lawful stupid. 

We can love it, hate it, be cynical about it, or we as Dungeon Masters can retool paladins for our own sinister plots and schemes.

The class that many believe to be the do-no-wrong and just? It's time to use it to churn out some monsters for your next D&D session. Fellow DMs all around, I introduce to you: pernicious paladin monsters for your next session:

  • A gnoll avenger
  • An obsidian earth elemental
  • A fire giant templar

We've done this before with other D&D 5E Player's Handbook classes like the bard, druid, and even fighter. Now, you'll be able to pepper paladin-based foes throughout your D&D adventures and campaigns. Before we dive into some fleshed out monsters, new abilities, lore and all else, let this list of six monstrous paladins ready your mind:

  1. A goblin who took the Oath of Redemption after stealing, eating one too many sheep.
  2. A kobold under the sway of the Oath of Vengeance thanks to the annihilation of her clan at the hands of a witty white dragon.
  3. An ogre magi/oni sworn to the Oath of the Ancients on the path to becoming a conduit for a primordial force.
  4. A fire giant in service to the Oath of Conquest on a crusade through the Upper Underdark, forcing drow, duergar, and darker beings under his banner.
  5. A rakshasa who follows an Oath of Devotion after being smitten by an angel of the Lower Heavens.
  6. An ancient gold dragon Oathbreaker who broke his powerful Oath of the Ancients to the Platinum Dragon to save a very dear loved one and continued a descent into absolute darkness.

Paladin Foe Generator

For this sampling of foes crossed with one of the classic D&D classes, I've crafted the Paladin Foe Generator. Try it out! It provides you with a base monster, where they can be found, and an ability/action inspired by the paladin class from D&D 5E and other editions gone by.

Now, let's look at some paladin-inspired foes.

Gnoll Avenger

Let's begin with a low-level monster boosted up with my second favorite paladin subclass: the Oath of Vengeance. I present to you, a gnoll avenger.

The story comes first, the "stats" arrive after.

What is a Gnoll Avenger?

Most gnolls serve in the name of Yeenoghu. They pillage, slaughter, and destroy without discrimination. In their eyes, everything is food for gnollkind and their demonic daddy, Yeenoghu. However, what if some gnolls rose above that basic level of intelligence? What if their bestial desires took the form of something concrete, something that could bind a gnoll to a set of principles they could use to enact power over other members of their society?

These calculating leaders of gnoll society are known as gnoll avengers. First established by elders in a time long passed, gnoll avengers lead roaming gnoll packs while abiding by an Oath of Vengeance brutally cut for their demonic species. Its tenets are as follows:

  • Fight the Greater Foe. More formidable folk once destroyed my species' chance on this world. They'll pay for what they've done, as will all who attempt to snuff our raging torch.
  • No Mercy for the Weak. No enemy, strong or weak, faltering or rampaging, is spared by my weapon.
  • Single-Minded Pack. I will not fail in my ultimate duty, no matter the cost to me or my pack.

In Eldar, these gnolls appeared in direct opposition to the Hungerless, a sect of pacifistic gnolls unburdened with Yeenoghu's constant growls. Gnoll avengers blame the Hungerless for their species' complete drop from the world stage, believing they'd rule multiple realms, if not the entire continent of Aelonis if the Hungerless had stayed by Yeenogu's side. Of course this is preposterous, but many packs led by gnoll avengers think it's true.

In Golgifell, gnoll avengers are extremely rare. They are rarely found outside the Gulonde, though one has made a spree all the way into the Odgrir Northlands, at war with the minotaur warlock clans there. In the Gulonde, they uphold a slightly revised version of the tenets above inspired by the unmatched hunger of their patron deity, The Devourer.

Sample Gnoll Avenger

Using the generator provided at the beginning of this article, I rolled up this gnoll avenger's abilities/actions:

  • Base Monster: Gnoll
  • Added AbilityAura of Arcane Defense. The foe naturally emanates an aura in a 10’ radius that grants resistance to all allies against spell damage.
  • Added ActionTouch of Divinity. The foe may use an action to touch one creature (including itself) and end all negative and/or positive effects on it.
  • Plot Hook: Roads into the vast desert are no longer safe. Bandits harry any patrols or guards who try to extinguish them. Every trade caravan trying to pass through is raided and almost nothing is left behind, save a few lives. Recent bandit viciousness comes from a gnoll avenger who has become a bandit lord of sorts. She wields the gnoll-specific Oath of Vengeance against the traders, justifying bandit cruelty against the rich, food and supply rich caravans. Will trade ever return to the region?

Go ahead and drop her into your next session. Let me know if she survives or if she falls in battle as she likely should!

Obsidian Earth Elemental

Next up is a rock-based enemy full of flair: an obsidian earth elemental. This creature is inspired more by the paladin's defensive abilities. Utilizing them, the usually stale earth elemental becomes something dark, exciting, and powerful when paired with a bruiser.

Let's roll right into the lore.

What is an Obsidian Earth Elemental?

The Elemental Planes bury many secrets. Oftentimes, only those who reach these fantastical realms of impossibility discover them, usually by chance. Invasions from these realms, however, sometimes force the hidden pieces into the eyes of the mortal world. One such invasion occurred in the distant past of many different worlds at the hands of the hardy folk known as goliaths.

They were not of the mortal world, instead they hailed from the Elemental Plane of Earth. They were masters of that place, but darker powers forced them to find a new home. The mortal world, or the Material Plane, would suffice, they thought. 

At the head of their invasion were their greatest creations: elemental begins molded not from normal earth or stone, but of crystals and wondrous ores. One of the rarest, earth elementals built entirely from obsidian, were piloted by goliath warlords. These large elementals were not only hardier than normal earth elementals, but also imbued with a touch of shadow. In the blink of an eye, they could vanish from sight, only to appear many feet away, prepared to crush their target. They could also rapidly come to the aid of goliaths, using tough shields and quick movement to absorb hits that would be taken by their creators.

Unfortunately, few survived this successful goliath invasion. The select survivors buried themselves beneath the earth, found a home in shadowy realms, or became treasures of the greediest wyrms of the world.

In Eldar, obsidian earth elementals roam the charred country of Imixia. These elementals are prized possessions of spellcasters there if they can be captured, as they are able to delve into the deep lava pools scattered across the terrain. In almost silent sects in Ogremocha, Imixia's neighboring realm, some goliaths rediscovered the art of forming these obsidian elementals. Their creations do not rival those of ancient earth molders, though.

In Golgifell, a single obsidian earth elemental from the World Below demolished the most bustling town in the Odgrir Northlands about 30 years ago. It still roams the ruins and spews forth steaming lava from its roaring mouth, keeping back any would-be heroes from recovering what remains in the ruins of Tarinbur.

Sample Obsidian Earth Elemental

Using the generator I linked at the start of this article, I rolled up this obsidian earth elemental's abilities/actions:

  • Base Monster: Earth Elemental
  • Added AbilityAura of Protection. The foe emboldens the defenses of all allies within 15’ of it, increasing their armor class by 1.
  • Added ActionNo Escape. When the foe makes an opportunity attack against a creature, it has advantage. If it hits, the foe can make a second attack.
  • Plot Hook: Arising from the bowels of the Material Plane is an ancient obsidian earth elemental, bent on destruction as it was in the earliest days of the world. Like a tarrasque, it moves from target to target without discrimination. Villages fall. Towns collapse. Cities quake. What awakened it? Who does it serve? Perhaps it's related to the Oath of the Ancients. What is its endgame? The mystery walks and brings doom. Will anyone divert or end its path?

In addition to the extra parts outlined above, it also has the following action:

  • Phase Shift. The obsidian earth elemental may use its action to turn invisible and teleport to an unoccupied space within 60'. On its next turn, it can attack a target within range. It has advantage on the attack.

Fire Giant Templar

Here's my personal favorite of the fleshed out monstrous paladin batch: the support-focused fire giant templar. 

It can be a mix of defense, healing, and dominating the battlefield with offensive auras. Fire giants are also excellent foes to incorporate into any story, so here's a bit of lore based on this specific variation!

What is a Fire Giant Templar?

Fire giant society is clearly split. While forgemasters and kings may rank highest in this division, a clear third place is held by templars. These fierce warriors uphold the profound tenets of all fire giants, following the fiery Oath of the Forge, every single letter of it.

Few outside giant culture know about the existence of this sacred oath. It helped cement fire giants as masters of conquering and crafting, as well as their position in the Ordning. These are its tenets:

  • For the Forge. The World Above and the Realm Below hold many people, resources, and secrets. All are food for our roaring forges.
  • Sacrifice for the Forge. Not all crusades into enemy territory end in complete domination. If faced with death and loss of claimed resources for the fire giant kingdom, I will sacrifice myself so that others may take back the won treasures.
  • Master the Forge. Strength in battle is second only to understanding the forge. I must comprehend what I might make the ultimate sacrifice for so that the forgemasters may continue to keep our society strong.

Are you interested in the Oath of the Forge for player characters? I'm working on it right now and will likely release it in good time. Once I do, I'll send out a quick message to everyone on my mailing list. Join it now if you'd like to receive this new paladin subclass in the near future.

In Eldar, fire giant templars are found at the head of Imixia's Burning Legion. They head all forays outside the blasted country, mostly into the Subterrane where they raid dark dwarf and drow settlements for resources, both living and inanimate.

In Golgifell, fire giants are scarcely seen. Fire giant templars, as a result are even more rare. However, in formerly giantish lands such as Odgrir or the Towerpeaks, distant descendants of fire giants who mated with other peoples are seldom found. A few of them live by a heavily revised Oath of the Forge, and a tiny subset seek out the original in dilapidated halls of stone and soot.

Sample Fire Giant Templar

Using the generator I linked at the start of this article, I rolled up this fire giant templar's actions:

  • Base Monster: Fire Giant
  • Added ActionAura of Health. The foe may use a bonus action to heal all allied creatures in a 10’ radius by 2d6 hit points.
  • Added ActionVoice of Redemption. The foe may use an action to raise a creature it can touch from the dead, as long as its body is intact, and it died less than 1 minute ago.
  • Plot Hook: Clouds of smoke obscure the skies above a usually bustling frontier town and terrifying, fire-breathing hounds scour the countryside around it. Dwarfish veterans whisper in the streets of a potential invasion from the World Below, led by fire giants and their enslaved warriors, but the truth is far more sinister. The town's newly elected mayor is a faithful of the Oath of the Forge, a human descended from a line of half-giants. He primes the town for complete invasion and take-over, working with his great, great grandfather: a fire giant templar. Soon, the streets of his town shall be covered in soot and forges of grand flame shall work through the night...Will this plot be discovered? Will the templar be stopped?

Summarizing Monstrous Paladins

Sometimes, making monsters can be difficult. Plenty of inspiration can be mined from the various books of the current D&D edition and of those past, including from player-centric books. Particularly, the flavor and mechanics of many character classes. To summarize:

  • Paladins make great foes and can be easily generated using the Paladin Foe Generator.
  • Oaths provide paladin foes with excellent goals and simple ways to portray a compelling enemy. Oaths last generations and usually speak to primal pieces of the world: vengeance, conquest, redemption. You can easily base an entire villain around this.
  • Almost anything can use abilities inspired by paladins. Earth elementals can gain their defensive auras or attacks. Dragons can imbue their claws with the powers of smiting. Influential dwarves can wield their force of will upon the meek.

In last week's post, I explored what you might do instead of outright canceling a D&D game when another member or two cancels. If you enjoyed this article, check it out.

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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