The evils that haunt Etharis are many, though few can stand against a party of grizzled adventurers alone. In this series, Villains of Grim Hollow, I’ll draw back the curtain on some of those uncommon antagonists that can go toe-to-toe with your Grim Hollow campaign’s player characters. In addition to the relevant rules, each article in this series will dive into the villain’s backstories, provide plot seeds to incorporate them into your game, and of course, survey the sweet loot they drop if your party manages to defeat them.
Naedre, Herald of the Great Union
“Have you heard the good news? A Great Union awaits and Naedre will show us the way!”
Born a member of the Limgri clan, Naedre was exiled from his village after he beat another villager to death over a minor insult. Naedre spent years in exile wandering the mountains, occasionally attempting to re-enter society but was rejected each time due to the brand that marked him as an outcast. One particularly cold winter, Naedre took shelter in a cave when he became enthralled with a low thrumming from somewhere deep within the earth. What he discovered there changed him forever.
The Beacon, as Naedre named it, is an oval statue cut from an unknown black stone. Naedre spent days communing with the stone—placing his hands upon it and letting it speak directly into his mind. He saw visions of death, destruction, and a sublime dissolution of independent thought and being. In the following weeks he began to convert other exiles to his newfound faith, ultimately forming a small community of outcasts located around the cave.
Once the population of his settlement had grown into the hundreds, Naedre returned to his clan and requested an audience with its elders. There he presented himself as a spiritual leader and offered to aid the Limgri in their ongoing efforts to rebuke the clans of the Thrull province. He was accepted back into his clan with slithering ease. Ever since, Naedre has worked to make himself and his community an invaluable asset to the allied clans of the Kandar, all while spreading the insidious psychic virus he calls his faith.
Naedre In Your Campaign
If you wish to incorporate Naedre into your Grim Hollow campaign, consider using or drawing inspiration from the following plot seeds.
Into the Dark. Thalion, a Thrull warlord of the Völgr clan, has sent scouts into the Kandar province to discover the truth behind rumors of a priest who has the ability to command the dead. Only half the scouts returned, claiming that the others had converted to the priest’s new religion. Thalion is looking for outsiders to attack Naedre’s encampment without further risking the lives of his own warriors.
Stone Village Suspicions. The family of the man Naedre murdered prior to his exile is disgusted with his return to Kandar society. They are suspicious of his newfound faith and believe he is manipulating or lying to his believers. Although the family has little wealth, they have pooled resources to hire adventurers to investigate Naedre and his growing cult.
In public spaces, Naedre pretends to be an open-minded leader eager to welcome new followers while remaining respectful of other faiths. He maintains this persona in an effort to gain as much political power as possible before the full nature of The Beacon becomes apparent to the clans of the Kandar province.
In truth, Naedre is a zealot biding his time. Beneath his friendly facade, Naedre believes those who reject his teachings must be forcibly indoctrinated for the glory of the Great Union. Despite his desire to spread the faith conveyed to him by The Beacon, Naedre secretly longs for death so he can become one with the Great Union.
Ideal. “Blessed are the dead for their flesh serves the will of the Great Union.”
Bond. “The Beacon must be protected at all costs. It is the conduit between the living and the Great Union.”
Flaw. “I wish to spread the word of the Great Union but I long for death so I can join it.”
Naedre in Combat
In a fight, Naedre prefers to cast spells from the backline while his cultists and undead servants fight in melee. While at range Naedre enfeebles his enemies with spells like bane, hold person, and hideous laughter. If forced to join the fight, or if an enemy closes distance with him, Naedre will use bestow curse and inflict wounds. Naedre will use his higher level spell slots to increase damage dealt or to ensure more opponents are caught with his enfeebling spells.
Once Naedre is defeated he transforms into the Herald of the Great Union. In contrast to Naedre, the Herald launches itself into the frontline of a fight, smashing enemies and rending flesh from their bodies to regenerate its own.
Naedre considers the location of The Beacon the grand cathedral of the Great Union. The Beacon’s psychic influence is strongest on Naedre but also affects others in the lair. To a lesser extent, those in the surrounding region also experience rapturous and violent hallucinations.
The challenge rating of Naedre is 8 (3,900 XP) when he’s encountered in his lair.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Naedre takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects; he can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row. If Naedre dies, the Herald of the Great Union can use these actions instead, following the same rules.
- Naedre calls upon his loyal followers. 1 + 2d4 cultists or 1 + 1d4 zombies appear in unoccupied spaces of Naedre’s choice within his lair and obey his telepathic commands. These creatures take their turn on initiative count 1.
- Naedre directs The Beacon’s attention at a creature of his choice within his lair. That creature must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by Naedre. While charmed in this way, it must use its movement to go where Naedre chooses and use its action to make one weapon attack against a creature of Naedre’s choice. At the end of the creature’s turn, it can repeat this saving throw. The charmed condition automatically ends if Naedre targets another creature with this lair action.
- Naedre causes The Beacon to emit a burst of crippling psionic energy. Each living creature within the lair must succeed on a DC 17 Intelligence saving throw or take 14 (4d6) psychic damage. If this damage reduces a humanoid to 0 hit points, it immediately dies and rises at the start of its next turn as a zombie under Naedre’s telepathic control.
The region around the Naedre’s lair is influenced by The Beacon’s corrupting psychic influence, creating one or more of the following effects:
- Within 1 mile of Naedre’s lair, when a creature takes psychic damage it takes an additional 1d4 psychic damage.
- When a humanoid spends 8 hours within 1 mile of Naedre’s lair, it must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or experience a series of violent hallucinations combined with euphoria for 1d4 hours. After the initial saving throw, this saving throw must be repeated every 4 hours until the humanoid spends at least 8 hours further than 1 mile from Naedre’s lair.
- Within 3 miles of Naedre’s lair, deceased creatures twitch and convulse until they are so decomposed there is no longer any musculature on the corpse.
These effects persist beyond Naedre’s death. If The Beacon is destroyed, these effects end immediately.
Naedre carries no objects of particular value or magical power. After his transformation into the Herald of the Great Union, his remains can be used to create a ring of regeneration. Doing so requires a successful DC 18 Dexterity ability check using jeweler’s tools and 1,000 gp worth of precious metals and additional materials. A creature attuned to the ring also has resistance to psychic damage and has disadvantage on saving throws against The Beacon’s mind-altering powers. When a creature wearing the ring dies, it rises again at the start of its next turn as a zombie under the control of The Beacon.
DC 10 Intelligence (History): Naedre is a village leader and persuasive priest who was once exiled from his clan. Since his rise to power within the Kandar province, other exiles have flocked to his banner.
DC 14 Intelligence (Religion): Naedre preaches a religion unheard of outside the Kandar province. This faith worships no gods but venerates a psychic power called the Great Union that Naedre believes sufficiently pious mortals join upon death.
DC 18 Intelligence (Arcana): The Beacon described by Naedre and members of his faith bears a striking resemblance to an artifact destroyed hundreds of years ago that served as a conduit between Etharis and the distant realms of the Aether Kindred.