[Let's Read] The 4e Monster Manual and Monster Vault

Gilphon

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A little early, but didn't 4e also emphasize elementals that were combinations rather than dull blobs of a single type of elemental matter? I always thought that was an interesting take on it. Could work well with the archons, too, especially with those names: "Blazesteel" screams "earth and fire" to me.
It's a shame they never quite went there; that could've been neat. They closest we get is Archons of a element other than the main four, like Ice or Metal. I guess the idea is that while elementals are just kind of randomly spawned from the Elemental Chaos itself, Archons were something that the Primordials intentionally designed, and therefore there's a lot more standardization than the more chaotic Elementals.

But there's no reason why some Primordial couldn't have decided it liked the idea of a lightening/earth Archon, so that would've been nice.
 

Eklev

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It's a shame they never quite went there; that could've been neat. They closest we get is Archons of a element other than the main four, like Ice or Metal. I guess the idea is that while elementals are just kind of randomly spawned from the Elemental Chaos itself, Archons were something that the Primordials intentionally designed, and therefore there's a lot more standardization than the more chaotic Elementals.

But there's no reason why some Primordial couldn't have decided it liked the idea of a lightening/earth Archon, so that would've been nice.
There are combination archons though. Mud archons are water/earth. Storm archons are water/air. Magma archons fire/earth.
 

VoidDrifter

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It's a shame they never quite went there; that could've been neat. They closest we get is Archons of a element other than the main four, like Ice or Metal. I guess the idea is that while elementals are just kind of randomly spawned from the Elemental Chaos itself, Archons were something that the Primordials intentionally designed, and therefore there's a lot more standardization than the more chaotic Elementals.

But there's no reason why some Primordial couldn't have decided it liked the idea of a lightening/earth Archon, so that would've been nice.
There are combination archons though. Mud archons are water/earth. Storm archons are water/air. Magma archons fire/earth.
Complete list of 4e Archons by source:
* Monster Manual 1: Fire Archon, Ice Archon
* Monster Manual 3: Earth Archon, Storm Archon, Water Archon
* Manual of the Planes: Air Archon
* Secrets of the Elemental Chaos: Iron Archon, Mud Archon
* Dungeon #183: Magma Archon

So, in total, we have Earth, Air, Water and Fire Archons, with five additional "Paraelemental"/"Quasielemental" Archons. Mono-Element Elementals didn't appear until the MM3.
 

Bira

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Azer

To close out the As, we have another classic, the Azer. I remember them from D&D 3.5 as basically dwarves that are on fire. Here we get a tiny bit more background tying them to the Fourth edition cosmology.

The Lore


Way back at the dawn of time, dwarves were all slaves to the giants. Eventually they rebelled agains their masters and escaped into the world, where they would proceed to build their own civilization. Well, most of them did.

Those that stayed behind were mutated by fire giants and transformed into azer. Some of those broke free later, but some remain enslaved as laborers and guards. So if you're raiding the castle of the fire giant king, you're going to run into troops of azer before you start seeing giants. They're Unaligned and about as intelligent as regular dwarves, so you might be able to negotiate with them and foment rebellion.

Azer don't have a Monster Vault counterpart.

The Numbers

As inhabitants of the Elemental Chaos, 4e Azer are paragon-tier opponents. We get several stat blocks for them here. The signature Azer traits are Resist Fire 30 and Warding Flame: each enemy that starts their turn adjacent to 2 or more azer takes 5 fire damage. They are not particularly vulnerable to cold.

The Azer Warrior is a Level 17 Minion, useful for padding out encounters involving fire giants or azer regulars. They attack with warhammers that do fire damage and a tiny bit of ongoing fire damage.

The Azer Foot Soldier is a regular version of the warrior, a Level 14 Soldier with 141 HP. his equipment and attack (singular) are pretty much identical, aside from having normal rolled damage for their level.

The Azer Rager is a totally metal Level 15 Brute who has 181 HP. She attacks with gauntlets that menace with spikes of fire (and cause ongoing fire damage). When bloodied, she can call upon Chains of Flame, which cause fire damage in a Close Burst 5 around her and immobilize enemies who were already on fire from other attacks.

The Azer Taskmaster is a Level 17 Controller (Leader) attacks with a scourge that menaces with spikes of fire (and does a mix of physical and fire damage). Once per turn it can cause a nearby enemy who just took fire damage from any source to also take ongoing fire damage. This guy is probably an exception to the negotiation bit - he likely gets special privileges in exchange for keeping the other azer in line.

The Azer Beastlord is a Level 17 Soldier (Leader) or, in other words, a hellhound wrangler. His basic attack is a battleaxe that mixes physical and fire damage, and marks on a hit. The real attraction here are his other powers, though. He can make an allied elemental beast recharge one of its encounter or daily powers as an at-will minor action, and once per encounter he can hand out a free attack to every allied elemental beast who can see him and is flanking an enemy.

The suggested encounters are:

- Level 14: One pair of azer footsoldiers and one pair of salamanders. These poor sods escaped the fire giants only to be enslaved by salamanders.

- Level 15: 6 warriors, 2 ragers, and one immolith demon. These poor sods have it even worse.

- Level 17: One taskmaster, one beastlord, 8 warriors and 1 firebred hellhound. These could be free azer! You should totally swap the warriors for another 2 hellhounds.


Final Impressions

Dwarves on fire! The foot soldier is a bag of HP with a single melee attack, so it's quite boring on its own. The others are a bit more interesting, though I feel like the taskmaster should have a ranged attack of some sort. In fact, the azer lineup in this book is very lacking in ranged firepower, so they need some external artillery support. They also suffer from the classic "fire monster in a fire dungeon" problem, where any smart party will prepare themselves to resist much of their damage.

The most fun of the lot is definitely the Beastlord, particularly when associated with a pack of hellhounds or even other, non-fire elemental beasts.

If your previous exposure to Azer was the low-level stat block in the 3.x monster manual, seeing them as mid-to-late paragon tier creatures might be a bit jarring. Their abilities are simple enough that you could comfortably reduce their level by 10 or so to make them appropriate for heroic tier games without changing what they do in combat.
 

Gilphon

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I feel like the reason there's so high level is so they can serve as underlings for fire giants/titans without being hilariously irrelevant by the time the PCs are ready to fight said monsters.

Which is really the only context I can see myself using Azer. Well- I guess if I need some fire-themed NPCs, and for reason I don't want to use Fire Genasi, Salamanders, or Efreet. But that's quite possibly a symptom of my general apathy for Dwarves; I bet somebody more interested in them than myself could get some milage out of their new backstory.
 

JoeNotCharles

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Yeah, I love the new backstory for both Azer and Duergar (who aren't in this book so it's not spoiling anyway to say that they're descended from Dwarves who bargained with devils in return for freedom).
 

NobodyImportant

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Azers were one of the monsters really improved by 4e’s revamped setting. They have a real place in the setting for the first time. I’m not gonna lie, I’m glad things are more or less back to business as usual, but 4e had some real gold I’m sad to see go.
 

Bira

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Indeed, the azer are this level so they can easily be mixed with fire giants and the like. Still, something about the very uncomplicated nature of the Azer Foot Soldier makes me think it was originally a heroic tier monster that got up-leveled to fit with the others.
 

VoidDrifter

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Fun fact; Azers are not alone in this edition. The Monster Manual is also home to the Galeb Duhr, an obscure earth elemental race from earlier editions which, here, is re-envisioned as a stony counterpart to azers (traditionally, they looked like a cross between a boulder and a dwarf, but they became more humanoid in 3e). Secrets of the Elemental Chaos continues the list by creating the entirely new Eisk Jaat species, an elemental dwarf offshoot race who are to frost giants what Azers are to fire giants. Dragon #383 also introduced Forgeborn Dwarves, which are dwarves descended from clans that were on the verge of turning into elementals like the Azers, Galeb Duhr and Eisk Jaat did, but were freed by Moradin before that could happen; this grants them an innate affinity for elemental energies, and makes them extremely dedicated to either saving or destroying their former kinsfolk as well as slaying giants, genies and other elementals.

For comparison to the past, azers in AD&D and 3e were extremely generic elementals; there was no reason given for why they looked like dwarves, and their main characteristic was pretty much being master metalsmiths, and thusly frequently attacked by the efreeti, who value them as slaves, and their extremely repressive, stratified culture. Like duergar, they're characterized as being unfriendly, taciturn and merciless, but honor-bound as part of their lawful nature. Issue #350 of Dragon Magazine introduced the Azerbloods, a race of dwarven planetouched consisting of shield dwarves with azer ancestry.
 
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Eklev

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Azer make great ”civilians” of the Elemental Chaos, particularly in the City of Brass. Efreets are the ruling class, and azers—along with salamanders and genasi—are the regular people (if that concept truly applies over there) the party can come in contact with.
 
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