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D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Four Horsemen - War

It’s not last call today on Epic Monsters but we are doing the Last Judgment. Grab your sword and board, strap on your armor, and get ready for some ultra violence: it’s time for War!

4 Horsemen WAR dnd5e banner.jpg

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from Earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
—Revelation 6:3–4

With the conditions for slaughter set by the first herald (Strife) this horseman rolls in to make sure the mayhem is in full effect. There’s no doubt that the initial harbinger will cause bloodshed but whatever has been spilt before its arrival is a paltry puddle compared to the sanguine ocean unleashed by War. The armies arrayed against one another might see it fight on behalf of all sides—it battles only for whichever outcome will result in the maximum number of lives lost.

Design Notes: Considering the tricksy bent for Strife it seemed like of the remaining Four Horsemen that War should be the most outright powerful so it's strong as all get out, fast, tough, and hits like a truck. On top of that it's well-equipped for handling spellcasters with endless counterspells and several reactions each round plus legendary actions (one of which will probably be soaked up with dragging a fleeing adversary back for a hit likely with some finality about it). Let’s do the numbers! Largely because of its low armor class the DMG cruises in at 21.75 while the much more sober rubric on the Blog of Holding lands at 25.16. We’ll take the average of 23.45 and put War’s CR at 23.

War

Medium monstrosity, neutral evil
Armor Class 17
Hit Points 315 (30d8+180)
Speed 60 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
30 (+10)​
24 (+7)​
22 (+6)​
25 (+7)​
23 (+6)​
19 (+4)​
Skills Athletics +24, Intimidation +18, Perception +20, Survival +20
Damage Resistances cold, fire, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Damage Immunities poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, disease, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., truesight 60 ft., passive Perception 30
Languages all
Challenge 23 (50,000 XP)

Ageless. War cannot suffer from frailty of old age, die from old age, or be aged magically.

Innate Spellcasting. War's innate spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 22). War can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: counterspell, fly, phantom steed
3/day each: antimagic field, detect thoughts, earthquake, plane shift

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If War fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Magic Resistance. War has advantage on saving throws made against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons. War’s weapon attacks are magical.

Regeneration. War regains 60 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point.

Shapechanger. War can use a bonus action to polymorph into a Small, Medium, or Large humanoid it has seen, or back into its true form. Its statistics, other than its size and the ability to breathe water, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Siege Monster. War deals double damage to objects and structures.


ACTIONS
Multiattack. War uses its Frightful Presence and attacks four times.

Blade. Melee Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 28 (4d8+10) slashing damage.

Personified Fury. Ranged Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, range 200/800 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d6+10) force damage and the target makes a DC 25 Strength saving throw or is knocked prone.

Frightful Presence. Each creature of War’s choice that is within 120 feet of it and aware of it must succeed on a DC 22 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to War’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.


REACTIONS
Fast Reactions. War can take 3 reactions each round, but never more than one reaction against the same creature.


LEGENDARY ACTIONS
War can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. War regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
  • Attack. War makes a melee weapon attack.
  • Return Straggler (Costs 2 Actions). War chooses a creature it can see that has moved any distance away from it since the beginning of its last turn. The creature makes a DC 25 Strength saving throw or is pulled 30 feet closer to War. A creature that ends this movement adjacent to War provokes an opportunity attack.
  • Sunder (Costs 3 Actions). War makes a melee weapon attack against a weapon or shield wielded by a creature within its reach. On a hit, the wielding creature makes a DC 25 Strength saving throw or the object is destroyed. A magic weapon or shield grants advantage to the saving throw, and on a successful save is not destroyed but instead transformed into a mundane object for 1 minute.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

It's awesome that you're tackling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Quick question: is it intentional that War has a lower AC than Strife? Maybe it's because the idea of Ares from the comic book universe in his full blown suit of armor is too engrained in my head (and yes I realize that the God of War is not the same as the Horseman) that this seems odd to me? I'd expect that someone who is the embodiment of war would be pretty well-armored. :)

Other than that, I like the overall concepts presented thus far in the two Horsemen. The Sunder action is pretty cool, and I could see where that could be pretty frightening to even high level PCs since undoubtedly their magical items would be a big contributor to their combat effectiveness.

The only other comment I'll make is that maybe the Return Straggler action's pronouns are a little ambiguous? I'm guessing that the "it" referred to is War, but I submit that using that pronoun makes it difficult to ascertain whether it's the target creature that's being referred to. A common approach I see in the official material is to simply use the name of the monster as well as the word "creature" or "target" explicitly, even when it seems a little awkward, just to be crystal clear on the subjects of each clause, and in this case I think it's really just a single "it" that needs to be clarified.

Maybe something like...

"War chooses a creature it can see that has moved any distance away from it since the beginning of War's last turn. The creature makes a DC 25 Strength saving throw or is pulled 30 feet closer to War. A creature that ends this movement adjacent to War provokes an opportunity attack."

...?

I don't know, maybe it was clear through careful examination of the grammar, but I figured I'd point it out. 🤷


Edit: Never mind, after really thinking about it, it's probably easy enough to ascertain what "it" was referring to just based on how they're all used. :)
 

Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
It's awesome that you're tackling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Quick question: is it intentional that War has a lower AC than Strife? Maybe it's because the idea of Ares from the comic book universe in his full blown suit of armor is too engrained in my head (and yes I realize that the God of War is not the same as the Horseman) that this seems odd to me? I'd expect that someone who is the embodiment of war would be pretty well-armored. :)
I think the AC dropped a touch when I went to balance things out, but I reckon War can handle taking more hits than Strife (only 30 more HP but 20 more from Regeneration so more like 90 more HP) and in a drag-out fight with adventurers is a Bigger Problem.

You know we haven't done a single one of the Olympian gods yet? We'll get there I'm sure. Weird to have Odin around but no Zeus.
 



Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
That is weird... and I can't believe I didn't pick up on that at all. After a while, all of the different mythologies just sorta run together to me. LOL
It can be tricky! The Olympians are tricky too—I keep calling them that here because they have more different distinctions than their names between the Romans and Greeks. We'll get to them eventually though!
 

dave2008

Legend
Mike, thank you as always. Really enjoying the horse-people series. I do have one question: why do you seem to prefer regeneration over HP? I like it thematically, but at 60hp / round that is not thematic. I have a few issues with this:
  1. At 60hp / round that is a significant part of War's defensive CR; however, it can be completely negated by chill touch. That amount of HP seems to be to important to be trivialized by cantrip to me.
  2. I, an other DM's I know, sometimes have a hard time remembering to always include regeneration HP. It would be easier if War is a solo fight, but if there are other combatants to keep track of, it can easily be missed. At 60 hp per pop, that is not something you want to miss. Personally, I have relegated regeneration to a thematic role (say 15-20 hp/round) rather then major contributor to CR for that reason.
 
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Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
Mike, thank you as always. Really enjoying the horse-people series. I do have one question: why are you do you seem to prefer regeneration over HP? I like it thematically, but at 60hp / round that is not thematic. I have a few issues with this:
  1. At 60hp / round that is a significant part of War's defensive CR; however, it can be completely negated by chill touch. That amount of HP seems to be to important to be trivialized by cantrip to me.
  2. I, an other DM's I know, sometimes have a hard time remembering to always include regeneration HP. It would be easier if War is a solo fight, but if there are other combatants to keep track of, it can easily be missed. At 60 hp per pop, that is not something you want miss. Personally, I have relegated regeneration to a thematic role (say 15-20 hp/round) rather then major contributor to CR for that reason.
War's got the counterspells to deal with that (which will always succeed for cantrips). Moreover somebody's got to spend their turn on a chill touch and I think that's a tough choice in tier 4 play. In a multiple horse-people fight it'd make good sense to just ignore the regeneration and tack another 60 hit points onto its total, but otherwise I'd for sure recommend keeping Regeneration on blast (there's nothing like the quaking among players when they see their last round of attacks healed away).
 

dave2008

Legend
War's got the counterspells to deal with that (which will always succeed for cantrips). Moreover somebody's got to spend their turn on a chill touch and I think that's a tough choice in tier 4 play. In a multiple horse-people fight it'd make good sense to just ignore the regeneration and tack another 60 hit points onto its total, but otherwise I'd for sure recommend keeping Regeneration on blast (there's nothing like the quaking among players when they see their last round of attacks healed away).
Just to be clear, per the DMG, you would add 180 HP to the total, not 60. War's effective HP (with regeneration and legendary resistance) is 585.
 

I love how war's abilities give him a lot of extra attacks. That makes him a terrifying opponent. I may borrow some of these abilities for a future 3rd edition boss monster.
 


It can be tricky! The Olympians are tricky too—I keep calling them that here because they have more different distinctions than their names between the Romans and Greeks. We'll get to them eventually though!
They ARE tricky, indeed! If you've ever watched the Overly Sarcastic Productions short clips on the Youtubes, you quickly realise that how powerful they are depends upon which version from when in their real-world history that you decide to settle on. Pan can be a relatively minor nature god........but he was probably older than the rest of the pantheon & once a major figure of worship. The same for Dionysus - his most ancient form was an absolute nightmare, then later he was more about the ups & downs of the party hardy life.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
I'm seriously impressed. How about adding some beneficial abilities? Like an aura of courage for his lackeys?

Actually, have you considered giving the Horsemen synergistic powers so they are even more powerful together?
 

Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
I'm seriously impressed. How about adding some beneficial abilities? Like an aura of courage for his lackeys?

Actually, have you considered giving the Horsemen synergistic powers so they are even more powerful together?
For the past year I've been playtesting epic material and I'm convinced that multiple auras is a problem. Just one harbinger? Not a problem. Just your adventurer? Also not a problem. Multiple creatures with multiple auras? You're going to forget stuff. It's just going to happen. So if you do give this an Aura of Courage for lackeys, remove Frightful Presence.

As for synergy I'd say the same thing but I do have a simple solution (for anyone that has EN5ider anyway): there's a 9th level spell in next monday's article (Spells from Hell) calllleeeeddd |checks| raise Hell which, should they all appear, I'd kick off on initiative count 20 once the whole quartet are in attendance.
 

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