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The Horned Lord

Medium undead, lawful evil

Armor Class 23 (natural armor, robe of the archmagi, Harrowblade, cloak of protection)
Hit Points 285 (38d8 + 114)
Speed 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
10 (+0) 14 (+2) 16 (+3) 20 (+5) 22 (+6) 20 (+5)

Saving Throws Dexterity +9, Intelligence +12, Wisdom +13, Charisma +12
Skills Arcana +12, Deception +12, History +12, Insight +13, Intimidation +12, Perception +13, Persuasion +12, Religion +12
Damage Resistances force; bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison, psychic
Condition Immunities charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, unconscious
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 23
Languages Common
Challenge 22 (41,000 XP)

Special Traits

Actions

  • Multiattack. The Horned Lord makes three attacks with Harrowblade.
  • Harrowblade. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6+5) slashing damage plus 14 (4d6) cold damage. On a natural 19 or 20 attack roll, living creatures must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) psychic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
  • Dominate (Recharge 5–6). The Horned Lord speaks in a commanding voice, calling on all to bow down to him. Each creature within 60 feet of the Horned Lord must succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw or be incapacitated for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the Horned Lord’s Dominate for the next 24 hours.

Legendary Actions

The Horned Lord can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The Horned Lord regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.

  • Cantrip. The Horned Lord casts a cantrip.
  • Cast a Spell (Costs 2 Actions). The Horned Lord casts a prepared spell.
  • Stunning Wave (Costs 2 Actions). The Horned Lord unleashes a pulse of overwhelming evil energy. Each living creature within 20 feet of the Horned Lord must make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of the Horned Lord’s next turn.
  • Death Gaze (Costs 3 Actions). The Horned Lord chooses one creature within 60 feet of it that it can see. The creature must make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the creature drops to 0 hit points. On a success, a creature takes 21 (6d6) psychic damage.

Lair Actions

The Horned Lord instinctively makes his lair in a dark fortress, located in the heart of a wasteland far from civilization, and here, he marshals his evil forces, summons nightmarish demons, and performs unspeakable sacrifices. Guarded by hordes of evil humanoids and fiends, the Horned Lord can also perform several unique acts to help defend himself against those who dare to challenge him in his lair.

On Initiative 20 (losing initiative ties), the Horned Lord takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects. The Horned Lord can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row.

  • Miasmal Cloud. A dark miasma permeates the area in a 90-foot radius from the Horned Lord. All living creatures in the area must make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the end of Horned Lord’s next turn.
  • Shades. The Horned Lord summons memories and shades from one living creature’s past. The creature must make a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw or take 36 (8d8) psychic damage and gain a level of exhaustion.
  • Wall of Arms. The Horned Lord can make the ghostly limbs of past victims manifest in the air around foes in a 60-foot radius centered on him. Each creature in this area must make a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw or be restrained until the end of the Horned Lord’s next turn.

Special Equipment: “Harrowblade”

Weapon (scythe), artifact (requires attunement)

This perpetually bloody weapon is a crooked scythe, a farming implement. It appears truly ancient, the blade filthy with ichor and long rust-covered. It stands 7 feet tall and exudes menace; it awakens a primal fear within all living creatures, causing their bowels to loosen in terror.

  • Unholy Aura. Living creatures cannot take long rests within 300 feet of Harrowblade. In addition, within 10 feet of Harrowblade, all holy water is destroyed, and creatures of CR 0 and plants that are not creatures die.
  • Magic Weapon. Harrowblade is a heavy, two-handed weapon that deals 2d6 slashing damage plus 4d6 cold damage on a hit, and you have a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with the weapon. You score a critical hit if you roll a natural 19 or 20 on the attack roll with the weapon, and any living creature struck by the critical hit must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, taking an additional 4d6 psychic damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage on a successful saving throw. Finally, Harrowblade also functions as a mace of terror, save that it has 7 charges and regains them at midnight.
  • Blessings of the Dead. You have a +1 bonus to your Armor Class while you wield Harrowblade, and have resistance to radiant damage. In addition, at the beginning of each of your turns, you regain 1d6 hit points if you have at least 1 hit point remaining.
  • Sentience. Harrowblade is a lawful evil magic weapon. It has hearing and vision to a distance of 120 feet and understands all the languages you do. It can communicate with emotions alone. It has an Intelligence of 10, a Wisdom of 14, and a Charisma of 16. Harrowblade’s purpose is to enslave all living creatures and enthrone its wielder atop the new empire of tyranny it has helped create. It will rebel against a wielder whom it believes is not strong enough to carry out such a task.
  • Destruction. Harrowblade can be destroyed by a group of 7 lawful good clerics immersing Harrowblade into a bath of holy water, then each casting holy aura on the weapon. The combined might of these blessings is enough to shatter the blade of the magic weapon into fragments, leaving it nascent…until the Horned Lord rises again.

Regional Effects

The region around the Horned Lord’s lair is warped by his magic, creating one or more of the following effects: Hot Lava. Fissures and magma eruptions spread across the area, destroying structures and causing 11 (2d10) fire damage per turn to anyone who falls into one.

  • Dark and Stormy. The sky grows gloomy and clouded, causing dim light conditions and occasionally lightly obscured patches of smoke and dark fog.
  • Sulfurous Gas. Vents of sulfurous gas release poison into the atmosphere. Anyone encountering such a vent must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or take 13 (3d8) poison damage and be poisoned for 1d6 hours. If the Horned Lord dies, conditions surrounding the lair return to normal over the course of 1d10 days.

About

An aura of terror radiates from the figure on the throne as it regards you with burning red eyes. It is a clean, fleshless skeleton seemingly crafted from pale stone, a pair of great antlers rising from its bare skull, and it is clad in rich purple robes. In one hand it clutches a tall, wickedly curved scythe that pulses with evil energies.

The foul being known as the Horned Lord has troubled civilization for millennia, returning time and again from apparent destruction to once more lead his hordes in a war of conquest. So many times has the Horned Lord returned that his origins are lost the depths of legend, to the point that no one living knows the truth.

The Horned Lord’s rising recurs every few generations, usually just as the tales of his last rise are beginning to fade from memory. He returns through some unusual process, often foretold by prophecy — accidentally awakened by adventurers, summoned by cultists, returned when the stars are right, and so on — inevitably accompanied by his feared minions, the twelve shadow captains. Once he has proclaimed his return, the Horned Lord begins to assemble an army of orcs, gnolls, humans, or other evil beings, corrupt the surrounding kingdoms through the acts of cultists or secret followers, and sets out once more on the path of conquest.

Just as surely as the Horned Lord rises, so he falls, but only after untold destruction and bloodshed. The coming of the Horned Lord inevitably heralds an end to civilization and the beginning of a barbaric dark age. Only when civilization has returned to its original level does the Horned Lord return and the cycle repeats itself.

No one truly knows where the Horned Lord came from, and in fact, he rises up again only when stories about him have begun to fade from memory. The truth can be found, but it would require travel into the distant past, research into incredibly ancient books, or communication with the gods themselves. Countless millennia ago a monarch sought to build the greatest empire that the world had ever known. In doing so he made deals with many gods and wielded vast magical power, and as his power grew, so did his arrogance. When at last he had achieved his goal — a vast and unconquerable empire with him at its head — he was blinded by his pride and declared himself greater than the gods and turned his back on them. The emperor was to be the realm’s only god, and all the deities of the past were to be forgotten, their priests slaughtered and their temples overthrown.

As one might guess, the gods were mightily displeased and struck down the emperor, cursing both him and his realm.

Soon his proud empire had crumbled to dust and barbarism ruled the land.

But the gods had not finished with the emperor, so great was his transgression. He was transformed into an undead thing, doomed to be reborn again and again, consumed by the desire for conquest — a desire that can never be fulfilled. Always would the Horned Lord see his dreams crumble, and perish among the ruins of civilization. Always would he return with the same dreams of conquest, only to be crushed and forgotten.

Dealing with the Horned Lord can provide PCs with a number of challenges. At the very least, he is your garden variety Evil Dark LordTM determined to spread his evil like a stain across the land. On the other hand, should the adventurers learn something about his history and the cyclical nature of his appearances, they may deduce that this one is subtly different. Further research may reveal a way of lifting the Horned Lord’s curse and possibly freeing him — and the entire world — from his endless cycle of war and destruction. This would, of course, require a fairly involved series of high-level adventures, possibly including direct contact and appeal to the gods themselves.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Tome of Horrors © 2018, Frog God Games, LLC; Authors: Kevin Baase, Erica Balsley, John “Pexx” Barnhouse, Christopher Bishop, Casey Christofferson, Jim Collura, Andrea Costantini, Jayson ‘Rocky’ Gardner, Zach Glazar, Meghan Greene, Scott Greene, Lance Hawvermale, Travis Hawvermale, Ian S. Johnston, Bill Kenower, Patrick Lawinger, Rhiannon Louve, Ian McGarty, Edwin Nagy, James Patterson, Nathan Paul, Patrick N. Pilgrim, Clark Peterson, Anthony Pryor, Greg Ragland, Robert Schwalb, G. Scott Swift, Greg A. Vaughan, and Bill Webb