Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Building Bhakashal - Prominent NPCs - Illyig The Corpulent, Magus Warlock of House Horn

Image by Don Maitz

Bhakashal will include a number of examples of prominent NPCs to give an idea of the flavor of the setting and to give refs some ready made characters to use when running their campaign.

High level Magic-Users in AD&D are immensely powerful. Bhakashal’s version of the magic-user, the Warlock, is both more and less powerful than the standard AD&D version. The warlock below, Illyig the Corpulent, will provide a working example. I wanted to provide a few cases where the NPC in question was high level, and a few warlocks as well, so the ref will have an example of what a patron for the PCs could look like. 

Each Noble House is run by a Magus Warlock and an Ur Lord, who rule over the other warlocks and lords of the House. Illyig is 13th level and the Magus Warlock of House Horn.

In Bhakashal Illyig will have the following disadvantages when you compare him to a 13th level AD&D warlock:

1. In AD&D he could memorize 26 spells per day (5 1st, 5 2nd, 5 3rd, 4 4th, 4 5th and 3 6th level spells), in Bhakashal your number of spells castable per day is based on your level on a one to one basis, with a bonus for your INT score, so he could cast only 16 spells per day.

2. In AD&D Illyig can cast his spells without any chance for error or spell failure. In Bhakashal every spell you cast has a chance for failure or harm. For Illyig, with a 16 INT, he has a 78% chance of successfully casting any spell, if the spell fails, there is a 5% per spell level chance of a reverse/harmful result.

So there are two big disadvantages to Bhakashal warlocks compared with AD&D warlocks, first, you cast fewer overall spells per day, and two, every spell you cast has the potential to fail, or to harm you.

However, Bhakashal also gives warlocks significant advantages over AD&D magic-users:

1. When warlocks find a spell and roll a successful “to know”, the spell is permanently imprinted on their minds. There is no need to “memorize” spells every day, or to choose spells beforehand. Every spell a warlock has imprinted on them is permanently there. A warlock can have a maximum number of spells imprinted on their minds equal to their INT+Level+INT modifier.

2. A warlock’s number of spells per day restriction is not level specific, so if a low level warlock can cast 5 spells per day, that can be 5 of their highest level spells, 5 of their lowest, or any combination of the spells imprinted on their minds.

So the warlock gives up a significant number of spells, and has a chance of failure or harm every time they cast a spell, in exchange, they do not have to memorize spells every day, and they can cast any of their spells, regardless of level, as long as they don’t exceed their daily maximum. 

There were a few reasons for these changes:

1. To address the issue of a caster having the spell but not memorizing the spell, which caused a lot of heartache at the table. Having access to ALL of your spells at all times allows casters to be more flexible and helps them to have more tactical options. 

2. To cut down on the number of spells that could be cast. By mid-levels magic-users were getting kind of silly with the sheer number of spells they could cast. 

3. To add an element of risk to spell casting, magic is dangerous, so a potential reverse/harmful result makes this real. 

Generation of Spells for NPC Casters

Illyig’s spell collection was generated using the spell tables in Bhakashal. These tables break down every level of spell into offensive, defensive and miscellaneous. Illyig can have a maximum of 32 spells permanently impressed on his mind. When rolling up his imprinted spells, I rolled a d4 to see how close he was to his maximum, and I rolled a 2, so he had 30 spells. 

30 spells is 5 spells per level, I decided to give Illyig two levels with 5 spells each, two with 6 and two with 4, just to vary it a bit. I rolled randomly to see which levels had more or less than the average. 

Then I fully randomized the spells for each level, in each case I rolled for each spell to see if it was offensive, defensive or miscellaneous (d6: 1-2 offensive, 3-4 defensive, 5-6 miscellaneous), then I rolled randomly on the appropriate spell tables for each spell.

One of the things I have learned while play testing Bhakashal is that randomization of this kind is pure gold. It keeps you from choosing the same spells every time, it surprises you when you create NPCs (being surprised by your creations is a particularly cool game design feature), and it creates tactical opacity, e.g. it makes it harder for your PCs to guess what spells they might be facing when they go into battle with a spell caster. The combination of randomly generated spells and a vastly expanded spell list (Bhakashal has more than 400 custom spells) means that magic-users become unpredictable and mysterious again. 

That alone makes the game vastly more interesting, fun and challenging. 

Without further ado, here is the Magus Warlock of House Horn, Illyig the Corpulent.  

Illyig the Corpulent - Magus Warlock – Ward 9 – Building Ward – House Horn

Human - 13th Level Warlock 

S - 14 I - 16 W - 10 D - 8 C - 10 C – 12 

AC: 5, MV: 12, HP: 29

Weapons: Dagger (+4/+4)

Magic Items: 

+2 dagger

Bracers of Defense AC 7

Cloak of Displacement

Rod of Beguiling (12)

Ring of Water Walking

Scroll: Forecage, Sink

Scroll: Sequester, Astral Spell

Spells - 16 spells of any level per day.

1st Level - Feather Fall, Protective Circle*, Magic Missile, Shield

2nd Level - Detect Invisibility, Levitate, The Sinister Smoke Serpent of Illyig the Corpulent, Shatter, The Mischievous Ricochet of Mardon the Enchanter

3rd Level - Fireball**, Gust of Wind, Fire Trap, Leomund’s Tiny Hut

4th Level - Dimension Door, Fire Shield, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Keenal’s Rapid Retention,  Niltor’s Infernal Article, Polymorph Self

5th Level - Conjure Elemental, Contact Other Plane, Farranthir the Vain’s Pilfered Proficiency, Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound, Teleport***

6th Level - Bigby’s Forceful Hand, Control Weather, Enchant an Item, Ensnarement, Invisible Stalker, Legend Lore

* “Protective Circle” is Bhakashal’s version of “Protection from Evil”, it is not alignment specific, otherwise it is the same.

** Illyig substitutes a paste made of fire bat guano for his fireball spell, it guarantees a min of 2hp damage per die if save is failed, but a maximum of 5 hp per die if the save succeeds.

***Illyig's teleport location is a small apartment in the building ward that is warded with many Fire Traps. The apartment is located over a bricklayer's store. The bricklayer is a 5th level fighter named Namir, a former henchman of Illyig. His only treasure is a +3 sword and a potion of frost giant strength. He will defend Illyig to the death.

General Characteristics

Illyig favours clothing with yellows, oranges and reds, he always dresses in fine robes trimmed with rare furs, the best leather boots, the finest silk gloves, etc. He is heavy set, but very strong, his loose fitting, colorful clothing concealing his true strength and speed. Illyig himself picked his nickname to throw off his opponents and get them to think he was an easy, slow moving target. 

Illyig is not handsome, nor loathsome, with a long black beard but no hair on top of his head. He has an unnerving quality to his smile that he is well aware of. He loves to gamble, he is vain, easy to flatter, and philosophical about life and death. He has several tattoos on his body, none magical, but they contain in them symbols that can be decoded to know Illyig’s secret name. He assented to them as part of a bargain with a demon, and as a result if he is ever possessed or entrapped his soul will return to a special container in his tower and his body will regrow over a month. The tattoos are usually covered by his clothing.


Illyig grew up the child of a rich family in a faraway coastal town. He left at a young age to pursue the magic arts. Illyig retained his love for the finer things and lives well in his tower. He dabbles with powerful forces, but for the most part relies on his wits and his deceptive speed. 

He is a former member of an adventuring party, Illyig found the city early in his career, apprenticed to a powerful city warlock and took over his position when he defeated that wizard in an arena battle. Illyig keeps the right foreclaw from every dragon he has had a hand in killing; he currently has 5 that adorn his mantle.


Illyig is very strong and has surprised many opponents grappling in close combat when it is required. Outside Illyig will generally levitate up at the beginning of melee to clear enough room for a Fireball, or to get the height for sharpshooting with Magic Missile. The Rod of Beguiling is useful when facing large numbers, Dimension Door and Fire Shield make a particularly showy combination Illyig has used to great effect in the arena. Illyig is a favorite in the arena for his showmanship. Casting a Control Weather spell before a duel to have a storm raging while he suffocated his competition, Veeg Nainfell the Choaline, using three separate castings of his signature spell, The Sinister Smoke Serpent of Illyig the Corpulent. Illyig’s custom fireballs pack more punch and he has mastered the art of following up with a Gust of Wind that will fan the flames and spread them, a battlefield tactic he has used many times for his House.  Illyig will goad others into combat, relying on his cloak to protect against the first attack. Illyig has used Aerial Servant to assassinate rivals, but for the most part purely in a retributive way, he prefers to fight his rivals openly in the arena. In a desperate situation, Illyig would cast Protective Circle and Conjure Elemental, and Teleport away if he lost control of the elemental. He can dive off any cliff and use Feather Fall, so will have that as an option for an emergency exit. 

If forced into close corner combat, Illyig has several options, he has double proficiency with his only weapon, a +2 dagger, so gets +4 to hit and to damage with it, he also has The Mischievous Ricochet of Mardon the Enchanter, which allows him further bonuses ricocheting it off a surface at a target. Magic Missile is a fast solution to anyone getting too close, Dimension Door provides for a fast exit if overmatched, Bigby’s Forceful Hand can push back bigger opponents to get him breathing room. 

Illyig is merciless to victims that appear to pose any sort of threat, but for wealth he can be convinced to do many ill-advised things.

Illyig has used Keenal’s Rapid Retention to make use of the vast resources of House Horn’s libraries, Contact Other Plane to gather knowledge, and has used Legend Lore to locate and bring home many powerful items for House Horn. He has “gifted” most of these to other Warlocks at the House to buy loyalty, House Horn is Chaotic Evil in alignment and marked by much in-fighting and rivalry.


Illyig’s tower is made from the finest black marble, striated with orange. All of the windows on the tower are shaped like teardrops and they form a pattern that describes a symbol that protects the tower, barring the entry of any with the intent to steal. Breaking the 33rd window from the top breaks the enchantment while simultaneously shattering all of the windows.

His main hall features a throne located in the middle of a large pool filled with hundreds of fish and a pair of giant crabs. HIs ring allows him to walk over the water, and will use that to deal with assailants who have no such ability. A lower level of the tower has a 2 floor room with a small bound fire elemental and a nest of 50 firebats he harvests for material components for his fireball variation.

Intrigue and Associations

The Corpulent one has control of the various builder's guilds and has amassed a fortune over the years. The Lord of his house, Lord Vashenghol, trust’s Illyig to run his operation independently, focusing on training his warriors. Illyig has no immediate magical rivals in House Horn, he has ruthlessly defeated each incumbent from within either by battle or retributive assassination. In the latter respect he utilizes the assassin's guild and he offers a number of safe houses to its members in his ward (2% chance that a given residence or 1% chance that a given business is a safehouse) marked with a symbol of Teernak (a three headed figure) inscribed on the underside of the arch above the entrance.

Illyig has connections in the Raosks he uses to monitor the hunt and get unique components (he sidesteps the thieves' guild to do this as he has a feud with the current guildmaster) as well as a well-known public rivalry with the wizard of House Bharin, a Necromancer named Dalkin.

Bhakashal Spells

The Sinister Smoke Serpent of Illyig the Corpulent (Evocation)

Level: 2

Casting Time: 2 segments

Range: 2” per level

Duration: 1 round/level

Area of Effect: 2” radius column

Components: V,S,M

Saving Throw: special

For this spell to work there must be a source of fire at least as big as a bonfire. The spell magically enhances this fire, and produces a thick roiling black smoke. The warlock can then make a smoke column emerge, 2” in radius across and as long as the range of the spell. The caster can make one attack per round with the column anywhere in the range, and it has two possible effects (roll d4, 1-2 = a), 3-4 = b)):

  1. Victims must save versus spell or be temporarily blinded for 2 rounds

  2. Victims must save versus spell or be temporarily asphyxiated, spending 2 rounds coughing and gasping for breath (no dex bonus to AC, no other actions possible)

The material component of this spell is a handful of soot thrown into the fire source.

The Mischievous Ricochet of Mardon the Enchanter (Alteration)

Level: 2

Casting Time: 2 segments

Range: same as the missile enchanted

Duration: 1 round/level

Area of Effect: special

Components: V,S,M

Saving Throw: none

The Mischievous Ricochet is cast on a missile firing weapon (such as a bow or a crossbow) or on individual missiles. If a weapon is chosen, it may make one shot per level of spell under the impact of the enchantment; if it is cast on a missile it will enchant one missile per level. Note that the missile or the missile weapon need not be used by the caster once the enchantment is cast. When so enchanted, any missile used will be capable of ricocheting off any surface in range and striking its target at +1 to hit for every 4 levels of the caster, to a maximum of + 4. This spell thus allows missile fire around obstructions and cover (removing the AC bonus associated with them) providing there is a path for the ricochet. It also allows flank shots and rear shots with the appropriate to hit bonus. The spell may only be used on regular missile weapons (e.g. not on swords), though they may be magical. The material component of this spell is a silver piece that must be touched to the missiles or missile weapon and then must be ricocheted off of a nearby surface.

Keenal’s Rapid Retention (Alteration)

Level: 4

Casting Time: 1 turn

Range: touch

Duration: special

Area of Effect: individual

Components: V,S,M

Saving Throw: none

Keenal’s signature spell allows the caster to reduce the amount of time needed to learn anything. The reduction in time is 10% at 8th level, and an additional 10% for every level thereafter, e.g. a 12th level caster could reduce learning time by 50%. The highest reduction possible is 90%. The spell can be applied to physical skills, mental skills or raw knowledge. The warlock may apply this spell to themselves or to others, but the reduction for others is 5% per level, +5% for every level past 8th, and may not reduce more than 80%. The material component of this spell is a strip of gold wrapped around the caster’s finger.

Niltor’s Infernal Article (Alteration)

Level: 4

Casting Time: 4 segments

Range: 1” per level

Duration: 1 round/level

Area of Effect: special

Components: V,S,M

Saving  Throw: neg.

When the warlock casts the Infernal Article she must designate up to one target per level that is within reach of the spell range. Immediately a small rock laced with metallic striations and sizzling with heat will appear in mid-air somewhere near the designated victims. The sphere will immediately fly to the hands of the nearest victim, if they make their save the sphere will move on to the next victim. If they fail their save the sphere will do 1-4 hp of damage. If the victim chooses to keep the sphere in their hands it will do an additional 2 hp of damage per round for the duration it is held, if they choose to throw it away it will go to the next designated victim. This will continue to happen until someone chooses to hold the sphere, or until the spell duration ends. The material component of this spell is one potato and a handful of coal dust.

Farranthir the Vain’s Pilfered Proficiency (Alteration)

Level: 5

Casting Time: 5 segments

Range: 1” per level

Duration: 1 round/level

Area of Effect: special

Components: V,S,M

Saving Throw: neg.

Farranthir’s devious spell allows the caster to pilfer one skill from the victim when the warlock is at 10th level, and one additional skill for every 2 levels thereafter (alternately, when the caster can pilfer more than one skill, she may choose more than one target to take it from, but they must be within the range of the spell). This skill can be combat related (e.g. THACO), class related (a thieving skill, say hide in shadows, or a slayer’s tracking skills), or a non-weapon proficiency like blacksmithing, but it cannot be spell casting. For the duration of the spell the caster will perform this skill exactly as the victim would. During this time, the victim cannot perform the skill in question unless they were a willing victim. The material component of this spell is a magpie feather.

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