Monday, July 29, 2019

Aerial Servant

This is the first of a series of posts where Imma re-imagine all the AD&D monsters from the monster manual(s?) into something more usable for my campaign, talk about my take on the original incarnations a little bit, and draw them too just to give myself a series of prompts to git gud

The Aerial Servant is a bit of puzzler. It is very similar to the largest variety of Air Elemental, but it is typically invisible, and furthermore, native not to the sky, but to the Ethereal and Astral planes, typically only seen in this world as a servant (hence the name) of a mighty cleric. Much is made of how strong they are, how much they can carry, how hard it is to escape being grappled by one, and so on, and have an interesting specification that, if frustrated from the completion of their assigned task, they go insane, return to the responsible cleric, and attack at double strength. It is also mentioned that, despite their impressive combat stats, they 'do not fight, per se, but are exceedingly strong and fast.' Clearly a monster with a very specific role, but it's the sort of monster that 12-year old me read and was like 'this is dumb bloat that overlaps with the air elemental, wtf' but modern me realizes it's a puzzle monster. Distant Evil High Priests (EHPs) can sic these on parties of pretty much any level with a 'capture or steal so-and-so' command, or probably even better, on valuables or VIPs the party is invested in protecting. If you force it into a fight you're probably going to get rent asunder, but if you can foil its directive with clever use of the environment and planning (my immediate idea is to seal the valuable item or VIP in an iron coffin that weighs in excess of 10,000 gold pieces) it will probably kill the responsible EHP, because even if 'double strength' only applies to their weight capacity, they're still an invisible flying monster that gets a surprise round 4-in-6 times and deals 8d4 damage.


Elementals in my setting are among the first entities of the world, composed of primordial dark matter entering a covenant with the Light of the First Sun and obtaining energy and orderly form, where before all was writhing, inchoate darkness. Elementals are the enforcers of biological processes like eating, aging, reproduction, etc. Anyone in violation of these processes is considered 'undead' and is probably gonna have a bad time as the world itself starts trying to go all Repo-man on the matter that was loaned to the spirit of the violating body.

Anyway, that means the people who would be able to summon and command Aerial Servants would be the Heleognostics, who worship the Sun(s) for bringing stability, warmth, and light to the Daylands so that humans can live more easily there. And the name would instead be slightly tweaked based on your knowledge.

A Heleognostic would call this being a Cloudless Windlass (or Windless) in reference to them being composed of pure air, that lifts things without wind, but rather, direct possession of the air itself.
Priests and scholarly adherents to the Law of Civilization would call them Air Servitors, servitor being a neutral term for any sort of non-mortal being that does not have an independent soul-light and instead has a soul light directly dependent on another, presumably greater, entity of light.
Everyone else who was mildly ignorant would call them Air Elementals, the key difference being that these entities respond to human prayer while Air Elementals are, well, just look at the weather for a demonstration of their temperament.
Anyone who was extremely well informed would call them by their truest name, Mirair, for indeed, these entities are in fact light-hungry reflections of air elementals. They hail from the mirror realm, and answer to Lumar, the mirror-goddess responsible for answering all prayers directed to the ineffable 5th sun.
Stats: As Air Elemental but invisible. I may have warmed up to the Aerial Servant in the end, but it still coulda been part of Air Elemental statblocks

Summoning Method- A circular mirror, at least 8' diameter and of high clarity, with a rim fashioned to mimic the outline of the 5th sun (10,000 coins if commissioned, though utterly still ponds with much careful artistic digging along the sides and so on can work too) must be used to reflect an empty blue sky in a region where no Air Servitor has been summoned before. Each cloud, moon, star, flying object (birds ruin the ritual all the time), or additional sunset hue will decrease the number of words that can be used to command the creature by 1, and the number of words are equal to the summoner's level + 1/3rd of their combined intelligence, wisdom, and charisma, and the language used must be either Elvish or a dead language of the forgotten age of the First Sun.

The resulting Servitor will attempt to complete whatever task is given to it, then return to the ritual mirror, meaning many requests can be worded such that they benefit from an implicit 'and bring it back here' clause at the end of the request. They cannot be explicitly commanded to harm or kill beings, presumably because of legalese with the elemental contract. Actually Lumar hopes to bring incautious heleognostics to her realm and bamboozle them into serving her, wittingly or no,
This ritual cannot be used anywhere on the isle of Heliologos due to all 'available' Servitors having long since been summoned in ages past. Most major Dayland cities are similarly useless save for those in Saresare (as the people there have a long habit of using Ifrits for such magical tasks instead). Anywhere in the Moonlands is probably fair game due to the rarity of worked mirrors and blue skies, though old Alvish ruins and living Elvish enclaves may have used the ritual in the past before, and ancient Serpentine ruins are probably no good either.
The reason for the murderous insanity and retribution upon failure of a task is unknown, but presumed to be some sort of violation of the forgotten elemental contract. But the most enlightened adherents of Lumar know that, having failed its contract that was to gain it purchase in the sunlit world with a lightful and lawful contract, the Mirair 'panics' and reverts to the common Mirror-Realm behavior of attempting to bring more light, typically in the form of the soul of the unfortunate summoner, back to the mirror realm to illuminate and shape that obscure realm. If successful, they can use that light to become full entities, but what usually happens is that the reflected air they were born of changes too much and they de-sync, becoming a reflection of something that no longer exists and so doomed to spontaneous annihilation.

In retrospect having the first monster of this series be an infamously invisible one was silly and this heleognostic
who is supposed to be being lifted up by a windless air entity is pretty obviously actually
just doing yoga

I expect being lifted by one of these entities would feel very strange, but not unpleasant- perhaps like an air mattress in terms of initial softness that becomes resistant hardness as further pressure is exerted, that can writhe and dis-corporate into the optimal shape to hold people and other fragile objects in place, for either safety or restraint. This departure from what you might expect, ie,  the air acting like wind buffeting you around, seems to me to be necessary to explain the invisibility and presumed quiet nature of the creature to merit such high surprise odds, and gives it some much needed differentiation from standard air elementals, which are noisy and messy.

Coolness: C
Can't see it which cuts down on the flashyness, the puzzle aspect is only good if there's forewarning otherwise it's a bit of a cheap shot, really advanced tactics and cleverness probably can't spice things up due to limited intellect and behavioral restrictions.
Lovability: D- Nothing to see, bad personality, expensive tastes. Saved from F tier only by the ability to hold you and offer air travel and furniture moving. 2/10 would not swipe widdershins on Monstr
Potential: C While perhaps decent for one plot arc of an EHP using these for no good in a series of different set pieces where the monster can shine (my immediate thoughts are a prison where it can go through bars and is aiming to capture a prisoner who knows the EHP's location, a canyon where the Air Servitor can strand people on top of rocks and toss them into a river 100 feet below, and finally a wizard lair where a berserk servitor defenestrates people and also drops other monsters and furniture atop them) I am hard pressed to imagine multiple campaigns making heavy use of them.

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