D&D 5E [Let's Read] Azrael's Guide to the Apocalypse

Libertad

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Once again the PCs return to the Lampstands, but the Elder accompanying them in the prior chapter says their goodbyes and passes into Heaven for good. With two braziers extinguished, the voice of God tells them their next mission:

“For you, in order that you might
know that that your last works
are greater than your first,
I invite you to witness the glory
of the Lamb who is worthy.
But stay vigilant, for even in Heaven
there are those who follow
the deep things of Satan.

The quote is exactly how it’s written in the book, in a poem-like format. Hey God, I think you forgot to put an end quote after your proclamation!

The next mission has the party enter Heaven, where there’s intrigue: Wormwood, one of the angels, is secretly a fiend in disguise! They arrive in a vast hallway covered in brilliant white, and there is a dais bearing a chest sealed with celestial runes. The chest contains the Scroll of the Seven Seals, and it can only be opened by someone matching the description of an ancient prophecy:

“Only he who has humbled himself
to share in our humanity,
who has become sin,
who has suffered, died, and
was buried, and then rose again
in fulfillment of the scriptures.
Only he may open the scroll
and read its contents.”

It’s public knowledge in Heaven that Jesus Christ, aka the Son of God, aka God, aka one third of the Trinity, matches the criteria. The celestials believe that once Scroll is unleashed then the tide will turn against Satan. This hall is chock full of various NPCs, ranging from celestials such as Michael the archangel to mortal Elders like Moses or the Christians who were killed by Marked troopers in the Consequence of the prior chapter. Wormwood has been given the title the Keeper of Keys, and is tasked with the honors of breaking the chest’s runic seals. Now you may think that this adventure has the PCs chat and roleplay to suss out who’s the traitor, right?

Well, no, actually. Wormwood has a special ability known as Supreme Disguise which means he is immune to truesight and other forms of divination that will reveal his identity. In fact, the adventure is predetermined to have him steal the Scroll of Seven Seals via a non-interactive cutscene.

After the PCs take their seats in the hall, Jesus shows up and sits next to them, dressed like a worker who just came from a construction site. And given that he was a carpenter before becoming a preacher, this is totally in-character for him. The party can roleplay with him a bit, then a cherubim calls for Wormwood to unseal the chest, and as he takes out the scroll he transforms into a demon before shooting up into the sky in a beam of light. Shock and horror fill the hall as angels alternatively sit frozen or fly up to give chase, but Jesus calms everyone down by saying to have faith and that everything happens for a reason. He tells the party that Wormwood is headed to World’s End, and says if they go there quick enough they may be able to return with the scroll before he even reaches the front of the room. This is a nod to the fact that Heaven operates on a completely different timeline, and during the next several chapters only several seconds will have passed in Heaven. Since Wormwood turned out to be a traitor, Jesus appoints the Apostle Peter as the new Keeper of Keys, unlocking him as a DMPC Elder! But the PCs cannot recruit any Elders for this chapter, for reasons that shall become clear later…

When the PCs and Azrael return to World’s End, they find Wormwood handing a briefcase to Ashmedai before the latter demon teleports away, and Wormwood unlocks a nearby prison to unleash Abaddon. The PCs thus have the difficult choice of dealing with one of the fiends while the other two get away. The adventure warns against splitting the party due to the difficult battles, and Abaddon and Wormwood can show up as encounters later on in the campaign if they escape. Ashmedai cannot be caught due to Plot Armor, as will be revealed later.

Abaddon is the same fiend as the one fought in Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible. The Archdemon of Wrath has a spiffy new stat block where he’s a CR 16 Huge fiend. He is pretty easy to hit with 14 AC, and at 136 hit points it won’t take long to down him for a “boss monster.” Abaddon can fly up to 60 feet, has high proficiency in two of the good saving throws (Dexterity +10, Wisdom +7), can cast spells of up to 7th level and with a preference for battle magic such as Blight, Insect Plague, Counterspell, and Destructive Wave. He radiates an aura of blinding smoke as well as a swarm of fiendish locusts that deal damage to those within. The more damage Abaddon takes the more locusts detach from his body, increasing the damage from 4d4 at near full health to as much as 10d4 when at 29 or less hit points. He has a melee attack that can curse targets to not be able to regain hit points until uncursed, along with legendary actions and resistance.

Abaddon is very much a glass cannon boss, and one who is more dangerous in melee. He does have some long-range spells like Scorching Ray and Insect Plague in case some PCs can get out of his range, and he can teleport up to 60 feet as a legendary action to help close the gap.

As for Wormwood, he must be chased through time and space via a Skill Challenge, but this one has less room for error. The party must succeed on all four checks without failing, or else he’ll escape. The challenges are pretty standard stuff like him veering to the side in a feint or maintaining balance while being propelled through a magical current, but the final challenge amuses me: Wormwood plunges into the waters of a large ocean on an alien planet, and it’s a DC 19 Investigation or Perception check to find him. The idea of looking through an entire ocean being boiled down to a single moderately challenging roll is kind of funny.

When it comes to stats, Wormwood is much less threatening than Abaddon, He has 110 hit points, 16 AC, is proficient in no saves, and his highest ability score is 20 Intelligence. His only real defensive feature that can withstand the PCs is Limited Spell Immunity, where as a reaction he becomes immune to one spell cast against him, but the ability has to recharge on a 5-6 on a d6. His only real attack is a spectral key that is wielded as a melee weapon that deals a lot of radiant damage and can forcefully teleport a struck character. Wormwood can also open or unlock any object or portal much like Peter can as Keeper of Keys. Finally, he spend an action to transform into a Fallen Star form, gaining a fly speed of 300 feet, able to plane shift and teleport at will, and all bodies of water become damaging and poisonous within a 500 mile radius. And since the party’s fighting him in the middle of a vast ocean…

Given that Wormwood can Teleport and Plane Shift at will, the question is raised of what’s preventing him from leaving mid-combat if the tide turns against him? Well, the adventure doesn’t go into detail on this. I presume the fight on the water planet is meant to be a sort of final stand, cuz otherwise I can’t see him being caught unless he gets low initiative and the PCs jump him with a flurry of attacks or successfully Counterspell his magic every time. If the party fails to catch Wormwood, they can’t go back to deal with Abaddon or Ashmedai, and Azrael uses the Book of Souls to locate the latter fiend in the next section.

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If the PCs pursue Ashemdai, the demon will appear in the middle of the capital city of the New Consolidated Nations, albeit still in the Veil. He is headed towards Unity Tower, the Antichrist’s headquarters, and releases the Shamir from the gemstone to distract the PCs. The Shamir is a Gargantuan kaiju worm and in terms of stats is the most physically resilient of the three bosses of this chapter: 247 hit points, AC 18, has high Strength and Constitution but terrible values in every other ability score (making it very susceptible to mental magic, although it has advantage on saves vs spells). There is an error in its stat block, where Dexterity is listed at 7 but has a +3 modifier. As it isn’t proficient in Dexterity saves or skills there’s no way for me to check which is the appropriate value. While the Shamir has no spellcasting abilities or flight, it can burrow through all nonmagical terrain and substances, and instead of dealing physical damage it can either use a rechargeable (5-6 on a d6) gaze attack that works as Disintegrate, or can manipulate a 30 foot cube of stone into a variety of shapes, mimicking the effects of Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, or causing a building to collapse, creating a damaging 30 foot cube AoE that can also restrain affected targets.

The Shamir’s major Achilles Heel is that its most potent attack, the Disintegration Gaze, both requires line of sight and must be recharged. Meaning the Manipulate Stone ability is its more reliable means of dealing damage, but that only triggers if the PCs are beneath a building for which the Shamir will make fall, of which there are many in this city. Staying out of the Shamir’s line of sight or out of reach of buildings (perhaps via flight, easily attainable at this level) can easily counter the Shamir’s threat.

During the battle there’s a d8 table of random building descriptions for when the Shamir inevitably burrows, disintegrates, or otherwise causes massive damage. But due to the fundamentals of the Veil all such damage reverts the next round like footage being rewound. And unlike the other battles, PCs who defeat the Shamir get a magic item from it, the Staff of the Shamir. This staff adds +1 to spell attack rolls and save DC, and has 11 charges which it can use to cast spells involving stonework: Meld Into Stone, Passwall, Stone, Shape, Wall of Stone, and of course Disintegrate. The book notes that the Shamir has been alternatively described as either a worm-like creature or a stone-like substance in different versions of the Babylonian Talmud, so the adventure derives inspiration from both kinds with Shamir as a creature and as a staff.

One way or another, Azrael takes the PCs to Unity Tower, Ashmedai’s last known location. However, the building is protected by powerful magic that prevents anyone from the Veil from entering it. In order for the party to circumvent this protection, they must “do something…a little weird” as Azrael puts it: enter the Material Plane as mere mortals!

And for just this occasion, the Book of Souls has a unique ability: a Lesser Incarnation which transforms the book’s wielder and up to eight willing creatures into temporary mortal bodies. They retain their alignment, languages, proficiencies, and mental ability scores, but otherwise they use the stats of a 3rd level character of the same class and subclass (multiclassed PCs must have the levels add up to a total of 3). They also lose access to their regular equipment, with nothing other than the clothes on their backs. So um, how does this affect Azrael given that he’s an NPC? The book doesn’t say, even though he does tag along for this mission (he’s presumed to be present during boxed text), which is a pretty big oversight.

Given that this is a highly-secured facility which the Antichrist uses to concoct all sorts of evil plans, the PCs can’t just go in spells blazing. This is in fact, a stealth mission!

Personally speaking I’m not entirely sold; as we saw in Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible, PCs can still be mere mortals but go past 3rd level, unless humanity’s collective abilities suddenly became stunted after Jesus died on the cross. I get the sentiment of wanting the characters to be subtle, but as the following chapter will have them later attempt a heist of the scroll in their normal forms I still think that a high-level “infiltration mission” should still be allowed.

You read that right, they don’t get the Scroll of Seven Seals the first time in Unity Tower. In fact, their first attempt is doomed to fail. On a meta-level, this section is meant for the PCs to explore the building and learn more about the Antichrist and his security for the heist mission in the next chapter.

Unity Tower is the second dungeon crawl in Azrael’s Guide to the Apocalypse; and unfortunately the last of its kind in the entire campaign. In spite of being 2,000 feet tall, only three relevant floors are detailed. Level A is the ground floor, while Level B is the Nightclub Level where the capital city’s power players relax and indulge themselves. Level C is the Rooftop, home to the personal offices of Jeremiah Resh, Melissa Mendax the False Prophet, and a vault containing prized possessions Resh seeks to sell at an upcoming exclusive auction. Most areas on Level A are open to the public, but Levels B and C along with some restricted rooms require key cards. Key Cards are grouped by three levels of security clearance. PCs who have key cards for the Nightclub Level may be able to blend in given there’s a party going on up there, but the top is invitation only by Resh and his social circles of close confidantes. Otherwise, PCs can get past key card locked doors via thieves’ tools and a Sleight of Hand check. Which is something I’ve seen before in Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible; this is either a house rule or misinterpretation of how tool checks work in 5e. Or maybe the authors want PCs to be good Christians and make being a thief mechanically harder!

In terms of physical security, Unity Tower is filled with Marked Taskforce members, with the upper levels having more security than the lower ones. PCs who would otherwise end up dead at 0 hit points are captured and taken to the top level to be interrogated by the Antichrist. There’s also Ashmedai as well as two demons present on the Nightclub level:* DJ Murmur, who is dedicated to using his fresh beats for evil, and Madam Rahovart who hangs out in the cigar lounge. There are of course plenty of civilians here, who usually use the Commoner stat block or Noble in the case of Resh’s personal guests. Gethsemani is also here, undercover as a recently hired intern who the PCs can make contact with and she can share with them relevant information about security, the world under the Antichrist, the Antichrist’s plans to auction off the Scroll of Seven Seals to one of his demonic associates, as well as where to find hidden caches of gear such as weapons and spellcasting materials within the Tower.

*Who I’ll detail in full in the next post, given that’s when the PCs are most likely to fight them.

There are many opportunities for the PCs to be sneaky here, such as ambushing two Marked Agents in the parking lot to get their Key Cards, lifting key cards off of some drunk partygoers sleeping in the side booths on the Nightclub Level, meeting Ashmedai and convincing him that helping the Antichrist usher in the End Times will spell an early end to his hedonistic lifestyle, and hacking into the computer systems in a staff-only maintenance area. In this last case, this is accomplished via an Investigation check, and can turn on or off any electrical system or locked door in the building, and grant access to evidence and interesting clues about Jeremiah Resh and his allies as per the Legend Lore spell but with much faster casting time. Physically destroying the servers will cause the entire building to lose Internet access, permanently shutting down all cameras and alarms but causing key card doors to no longer function. Lights, radios, and sound equipment still function, however.

The top level has some prized material: for one, it contains the major database of the Marked Taskforce; PCs can give false sets of orders via Deception, but they can also delete the entire database via hacking. In this latter case, this ruins the Taskforce’s ability to operate efficiently in the future, imposing -5 to all Wisdom checks and Wisdom saves for Marked NPCs for the rest of the campaign. There’s also an Armory guarded by two Marked Ironclads which holds a Tactical Scope (a “magic” item which can be attached to a firearm, allowing one to see clearly up to 1 mile and see better in darkness and dim light) as well as granting a Commando Fighter one bonus Weapon Specialty if they take the time to merely examine the weapons. Jeremiah Resh’s personal office contains his laptop, which has very incriminating evidence of him blackmailing various world leaders as well as the many atrocities committed by the International Unity Project. It’s so detailed and damning that even Melissa Mendax will be unable to adequately justify it; exposing the Antichrist is mentioned as a notable Story Tracker choice, although it’s not truly a long-term campaign-changing thing so much as something the PCs can use to their advantage for a social encounter in the following chapter. There’s also a vault, which holds five unique magic items in display cases. The Scroll of Seven Seals is one of them, but as the PCs aren’t going to escape with the goods alive in this chapter I’ll detail their functions in the next post

But there is one oversight in this book: the chapter doesn’t explain what the civilians do in a crisis situation, like if the PCs blow their cover and initiative is rolled. Or even something as simple as “my PC pulls the fire alarm.” Or the specific placement of security cameras in the building.

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If the PCs manage to get to the top of the tower and into the Antichrist’s private quarters without being caught, he will arrive by the Power of Plot, where they can first engage him in conversation as 8 Marked Shock Troopers arrive. Otherwise it’s possible that the PCs end up captured, or Mendax or one of the demons is suspicious of the party and they take them to the top level only to turn them over to the Antichrist. In either case he will begin his evil villain speech, telling the PCs to open up the briefcase. It’s empty, and the Antichrist reveals that the entire chase was a ruse to lure them here just to show he can do so as a master manipulator. The Scroll of Seven Seals is in his possession, but it’s in the Vault, which he’ll happily give the PCs a personal tour!

He’ll explain the items within, including pointing out that two of them (a satellite remote that can launch an ICBM, and a Talisman of the First Sea that can awaken Leviathan) can be easily used to end the world should he so desire. But he doesn’t want to unleash an apocalypse upon Earth: in fact, he wants the world to survive until every last soul on it pledges allegiance to him and the Dragon. Then he will order the Shock Troopers to kill the party, which is very likely to happen given their level, although in case the players have some awesome build allowing them to survive it’s also suggested that it may be more efficient to just narrate their deaths. Even so, this doesn’t take into account something simple like the PCs jumping off the tower and casting Feather Fall once they’re out of assault rifle range. The Lesser Incarnation ability of the Book of Souls only lasts for 24 hours, but even then I could think of a likely scenario that averts death, even if it still results in a “failed mission.” Imagine what more creative gaming groups can come up with in such a scenario!

The PCs end up back in the Veil in their post-death forms, having just leveled up to 13.

Thoughts So Far: This chapter veers between awesome, then lame, then awesome again, then lame again. The Scroll of Seven Seals, its theft, and the PC’s inability to retrieve it is one massive railroad, and having a mandatory TPK (albeit a temporary setback) is rather disempowering and highlights the artificially constrained nature of the module’s plot. The three demons (or two demons and a Shamir) fights take place in cool areas and the enemies have neat abilities that give the fights a layer of tactical depth. The infiltration of Unity Tower is a cool concept where the PCs can perform a variety of sneaky shenanigans to mess with the Antichrist’s plans, but the mandatory depowering and the fact that they’ll be caught no matter what are low points.

Join us next time as we pull off a vault heist and fight the Antichrist in Chapters 4 and 5!
 

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Libertad

Hero
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For this post, we’re going to be covering two chapters instead of one. That’s because they’re both individually quite short.

Azrael is really down in the dumps about the failure of their last mission. In case the PCs haven’t figured it out, Azrael will tell the party that Jeremiah Resh is the Antichrist and is actually a being of pure evil taking the form of a human. Back at the Lampstands, there are four lights remaining.

The pillar engraved with the name “Smyrna” speaks, that ancient voice echoing in your mind as the flames flicker.

“Hear my voice and open the door.
For to succeed, you will need to separate.
Seek and find the missing scroll,
this time with the full power of the Reapers
and the aid of three Elders…”

And as the voice speaks, the rift opens in space to reveal the Elders once again, who cast down their golden crowns and wait for you to call them by name.

“However...
For two of you, this will be the end of your journey.
Two will be given the power of prophecy,
the power to save souls in need of hope,
The power to oppose the Beast.
But for these two, there will be no return,
And by their sacrifice, the rest might succeed.
Be faithful unto the end.”

Azrael explains that Unity Tower is going to have additional security, and on top of the Antichrist’s presence their odds of breaking in to get the Scroll of Seven Seals are virtually nil. However, the Antichrist is also a creature of pride who has spent considerable time building his empire and crushing all opposition. To distract the Antichrist, two people must publicly preach God’s word outside Unity Tower to draw his attention while the rest break into the complex.

The PCs can recruit three Elders instead of one due to the party split-up, and it’s up to the group who is chosen as the Two Witnesses. The book presses on the gravity of the situation in that the Witnesses are destined to die, can’t be resurrected, and Azrael and the Elders know this. Thus players who wish to have their PCs commit the ultimate sacrifice must be communicated this both in and out of character. Either way, portals will be summoned for the two groups, where they can enter the Material Plane but this time as their fully-powered 13th-level selves.

The characters who serve as the Two Witnesses materialize on the streets outside Unity Tower, and beyond being a distraction their other main goal is to sway as many hearts and minds as possible to God’s love and away from the Antichrist’s evil. This is done with Persuasion checks performed as an action each round, although said checks can be modified by things like providing evidence of the International Unity Project’s atrocities, recalling old scriptures relevant to the situation via Religion, or making a Persuasion check with disadvantage as a bonus action rather than an action. In two rounds the Antichrist will show up, give a standard cocky villain speech: basically saying that if they’re so self-assured of their God then He would surely protect His prophets from all manner of danger. Initiative is rolled, and as they fight the PCs and Resh can alternate between standard combat tactics and making social skill checks to win over more people.

In terms of stats the Antichrist is pretty much an unholy spellcaster. His physical abilities aren’t very high (135 hit points, 17 AC, highest physical score is 16 CON and is the only proficient save of the three), but his mental, social, and magical abilities are powerful. He can cast a limited amount of innate spells, from Dimension Door to Mass Suggestion to Dispel Magic. The only real direct damaging spells he has are eldritch blast which he can fire four per casting, Telekinesis to slam things into the Witnesses, and Power Word Kill which he’ll unleash on the 5th round of combat. Resh has a damaging Hand of Sin melee attack that can curse a target so that fiends automatically sense the characters when they come within 60 feet until uncursed, can forcefully teleport a target to hell as a rechargeable ability, taking them out of combat for one round and appear later with psychic damage (no save can resist), and as a reaction he can Counterspell at will and regain 1 Legendary Action if the counter is a success. The Antichrist can do a bunch of stuff with his Legendary Actions, from making an attack, cantrip, or Deception check (his favored tactic for winning over the crowd), can utter blasphemous words to stun nearby targets if they fail a Constitution save, or create a pall of supernatural darkness that snuffs out light sources. He can also use Legendary Actions to break open a seal on the Scroll of Seven Seals, but he can’t do that in this battle.

If either of the PCs are still alive by the 6th round, Resh will brutally murder them (no save, no way to resist) proclaiming them as terrorists or false prophets to the crowd. If the Witnesses have a chance at actually killing the Antichrist,* then 10 Marked Shock Troopers will be summoned to kill the pair.

*Which is likely for certain builds, as he has a low amount of hit points for a CR 21 character.

These social checks aren’t for show. They have consequences in Chapter 11 during the Battle of Armageddon, where the total number of the forces of good and evil in the mass combat are determined by how many successful checks the Witnesses and Antichrist got during this time.

While the Antichrist is busy and away from Unity Tower, the rest of the PCs are breaking in. The building now has a magical barrier mimicking the Wall of Force spell, preventing entry save from the ground floor, and this security can be disabled by hacking it in the server room or using the Disintegrate spell.

The party likely has access to 6th and 7th level spells by level 13, and you should prepare in advance for a couple of things the characters might try.

Teleport. First, a dedicated spellcaster has just gained access to the teleport spell, and might attempt to use this spell to bring the party directly into the Vault. Before the players commit to this, remind them that the vault is locked from the outside, and they can only use teleport once per day, so it may be best to save the spell as a means of escape, rather than entry.

Divination Spells. A variety of low-level spells, such as augury, commune, locate object, or divination could cause problems if you are not prepared. If a character attempts to use any of these spells, remind them that Unity Tower is warded against divination magic, and so any attempt at divination is likely to fail.

While this is reasonable advice, lower-level teleportation magic such as Dimension Door can still work via line of sight. Using such a spell to transport the party onto the roof while they’re flying should be perfectly doable, for instance. Unity Tower in this chapter reuses much of the prior one’s material, save that there’s now a higher number of Marked Taskforce members on all levels. Ashmedai, DJ Murmur, and Madam Rahovart will also be in the Nightclub level to fight the PCs, although they may run away if the battle turns against them (or in Ashmedai’s case can join the PCs if they’re clearly winning). None of the demons in the Nightclub are supplemented by Marked Taskforce members. The three of them plus the charmed civilians should be more than enough to handle for combat purposes.

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Figure that now’s a good time to talk about the two newer demons. DJ Murmur was once an angelic composer of holy music, and when he joined Satan’s rebellion he rededicated his talents to using music to corrupt people into evil. His musical equipment is magically enchanted, and are placed throughout the Nightclub Level allowing him to make musical attacks several rooms away. There’s a big party happening at this level at almost standing room only, and DJ Murmur will use his music to mentally compel the crowds to violently crush the PCs and each other, force charmed people to make Performance checks in dance-offs which cause psychic damage of shame to the loser, create forced movement by making people dance a certain way, and limit visibility by smoke machines and flashing strobe lights. The limited visibility and charm effects are his regular actions, with the more harmful ones being Legendary Actions. DJ Murmur has no real means of non-musical attacks, so he’ll transform into an Imp and flee if the PCs manage to destroy his musical equipment or otherwise negate their effects.

DJ Murmur is one of my favorite characters in this book. He is just so different from the rest of the fiends, who tend to feel more classically Biblical.

As for Madam Rahovart, she operates the cigar club in Unity Tower, using it to gain access to the world’s most wealthy and powerful businessmen. Over time she gains their trust and respect, using her influence to make them even more selfish and reinforce the existing systems of oppression in society. If she ever learns that one of the club members has a change of heart or is considering using their influence for good, she has them assassinated, and absorbs their soul into a magical handbag she calls her “soul purse.” Rahovart isn’t in the Bible, but she is based off of a demon from Dictionnaire Infernal.

In terms of stats Rahovart has no Legendary Actions, and her main attacks are all cigar-themed. She can do a fire-based melee attack that can blind a target, exhale flaming cigar smoke as a low-damaging AoE that also pushes targets away, and can transform into a cloud of cigar smoke as a rechargeable ability, being similar to Gaseous Form save that those she moves through take poison damage and risk the poisoned condition on a failed Constitution save. She can also absorb the soul of a creature who dies within 60 feet as a reaction with her soul purse, but if that’s destroyed all the souls within are freed and move on into the afterlife.

Once the PCs reach the Vault, they will find out that two of the items are missing: the Scroll of Seven Seals and the Talisman of the First Sea which can summon Leviathan. At this point every television in Unity Tower will turn on to a news broadcast of Melissa Mendax, spinning the events of the Two Witnesses as Resh being attacked unprovoked by religious fanatics. Looking directly at the camera, her next message is meant for the PCs, saying that Resh plans to make an appearance at Unity Memorial’s podium where he will read a rehearsed speech from a scroll. She will then hold up the Scroll of Seven Seals, winking as she says that “we will not be stopped.”

So I haven’t been writing this review in secret; sometimes I share my thoughts of the books I read with my friends and acquaintances to get outside opinions. And one of them said that if his PC was one of the Two Witnesses, he would’ve quit the game right then and there after Mendax’s speech.

Think of it like this; the Scroll of Seven Seals and the events revolving around it have been one big railroad. Ashmedai must be captured, even if the PCs smell something fishy. Wormwood must not be detected, even if the PCs know there’s a traitor in Heaven, and he has special abilities to thwart all forms of divination magic. PCs who pursue Ashmedai at the cost of letting Wormwood and Abaddon go free will still have him get into Unity Tower. PCs who infiltrate Unity Tower are destined to experience a “rocks fall, everyone dies” at the hands of the Antichrist. And once again there’s a chance that at least one PC will get killed by the Antichrist again in this chapter, this time with no way of coming back. And then they go for the Vault once again…and the Scroll isn’t even there.

Let’s talk about the three valuable items left behind in the Vault. They’re a Holy Nail (one of the nails used to crucify Jesus), an Orbital Strike Remote which is that nuke-bearing satellite I mentioned in the previous post, and a Ring of Symbiosis. The Holy Nail is an 8 inch long spike that can be wielded like a dagger when fighting evil-aligned creatures, and has a +3 enhancement bonus. If the nail is used to drop such a creature to 0 hit points, the nail permanently consigns the target to Hell and prevents them from returning to life by any means, even if there’s something in a creature’s stat block that would allow this to happen.

As for the Ring of Symbiosis, the person attuned to the ring can once per short or long rest spend a reaction when making an attack, ability check, or saving throw to add a d6 to the roll, but they take a number of damage equal to the die’s result. They’re basically giving themselves an extra boost by drawing upon their own life force. If the ring-bearer is reduced to 0 hit points in a manner that isn’t instant death, they instead drop to 1 hit point. This only works if they used the ring earlier that day, and if they don’t use the ring’s abilities for 3 days it falls off their finger and becomes lost.

Okay, let’s move on to the Orbital Strike Remote. The PCs have a nuclear warhead in their hot little hands! What are its effects? Well you first have to make a DC 19 Investigation check to enter the launch coordinates; if successful it has the effects of the Meteor Swarm spell but is nonmagical, and if you roll a natural 1 the user is at ground zero. There’s only one such warhead, meaning this item can only be used once.

I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but they managed to find a way to make a 9th level spell feel underwhelming. Personally speaking I’d reflavor it as orbital laser strikes.

As for why the Antichrist wanted to auction it off…well he had it designed as a failsafe mechanism for taking out the last bastions of resistance and as leverage against his enemies, but never had to use it as by the time he achieved near-total world domination there was nobody significant to use it on.

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Although the PCs level up to 14, this technically isn’t the end of their mission yet, so if they have any Elders still in the party they’ll continue to accompany them until the end of this chapter. The PCs have one day (and thus one long rest) until the Antichrist arrives at Unity Memorial. The PCs can choose to go there early, which denies them a long rest but also denies the Antichrist and any surviving demons (Ashmedai won’t be there) the benefits of a long rest as well, meaning they won’t get any per-day abilities back.

Azrael has a vague premonition that this may be the last time he interacts with the PCs. While he won’t share this openly, he will try to be extra helpful and supportive, saying any last things he feels the PCs need to hear. In regards to the scroll, he doesn’t think that the Antichrist should be able to open it due to the prophecy, but even if he cannot, the man “is a murderer, and it is time to avenge our friends.”

The PCs have various means of reaching the Memorial. It is perched at the edge of a waterfall with subway tracks running through its lower levels. The place is well-defended: if the PCs approach by subway they only have to deal with 2 Marked Agents, but any surviving demons from the Nightclub will be waiting at the subway station along with a pair of Marked shock troopers. PCs who approach by air will be attacked by 7 Marked rotorcrafts and Melissa Mendax’s Marked snipers will shoot at them. If going by water, the PCs will need to fight soldiers specially trained to fight underwater, being 5 Marked ironclads supplemented by an Infernal Warmage.

This new enemy is very obviously demonic, being a physically frail fiend (42 hit points at CR 9) but can cast up to 6th level spells and can cast single-target spells as opportunity attacks. Most of its spells are geared for damage and combat, from Cone of Cold to Scorching Ray to Counterspell.

PCs who use high-level magic such as Etherealness or Teleport to reach the Memorial can more or less bypass the above encounters. The adventure is encouraging the PCs to go by rail, and when you look at the sidebar it’s pretty obvious why: there’s detailed rules for passing subway cars as a damaging lair action, and anyone who moves on the “third rail” that provides electricity to the subway can take a lot of lightning damage. Most of the Memorial doesn’t have any other enemies to encounter save what I’d dub as three “boss battles,” and the only big treasure of note is a spellbook in the Administrative Office that contains up to 7th level spells.

The positions of Melissa Mendax and the Antichrist depend on the PCs’ method of arrival, arranged so that the party is most likely going to deal with Melissa first. In spite of all forms of religion being banned, the Antichrist is still prepping society for open Satanism, and has built a magically-powered statue of a seven-headed dragon on the Grand Rotunda. Its subtle infernal influence has caused a number of people in the capital city to make pilgrimages to it. The statue can be possessed by Satan himself, using Adult Red Dragon stats but with alterations such as being a Construct and its Frightful Presence is replaced with a Compel Worship ability that reduces targets to falling on their knees prone when they become frightened.

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As for Melissa Mendax, she too is an Amalgam demon taking on a mortal body much like the Antichrist. While she has a limited amount of innate spellcasting, none of them are overtly offensive. The bulk of her offense comes from her reactions, which she can take one per turn in combat rather than per round. This is to represent her being a sort of villainous mastermind, where she built many contingencies in dealing with the PCs ahead of time. As an action she can have up to 4 Marked Snipers make a ranged attack with a sniper rifle; this isn’t just flavor, as the Snipers exist as their own NPCs and taking them out reduces her Actions by that number.. As for her Reactions, she can gain immunity from all damage against one attack (once per day), can grant one of her 4 Legendary Resistances to an ally to use when they fail a saving throw, have one of her Snipers shoot someone who just attacked her…or use Reveal Hostage, a once per day ability where she holds up a live video feed on her phone of a character’s loved one being held hostage next to a Marked Agent. She also casts Arcane Gate at the same time as this reaction. The intent is to force the character between choosing to go through the gate and save their loved one, or refuse and put them in danger. A PC who goes through the gate has it snap shut behind them, effectively taking them out of the battle. Refusing the deal or taking any other kind of action will have Mendax spend her next turn to order the Agent to kill the hostage.

On a first impression, Melissa Mendax strikes me as a pretty cool boss encounter. The danger she poses isn’t so much from herself so much as the people around her and what she has planned. I also like how the hostage ability still has an out with creative play: the Marked Agent is very weak, and since a character has line of sight to them and the hostage they may be able to do something like shoot the Agent without having to pass through the portal, and even refusing her lets them and the entire party get an effective round to still try and save them.

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We’ve already discussed Jeremiah Resh’s statistics in the prior chapter. Against an entire party he won’t pose as big of a threat given his lack of highly-damaging abilities besides a one-use Power Word Kill. However, now that he has the Scroll of the Seven Seals he can spend 2 Legendary Actions as well as Lair Actions to break a Seal. Each broken seal imparts unique boxed text as well as terrain effects: the first four seals broken will unleash a Horseman: Conquest, War, Famine, and Death in that order, and they all gallop into the city leaving waves of destruction in their wake. Once Rhesh breaks the fourth seal Azrael will scream in horror as he begins to violently transform into the Horseman of Death. Rhesh will laugh as Azrael’s free will gets hijacked and he is made to carry out his role in the prophecy, wordlessly riding into the city followed by absolute silence.

Technically speaking it’s possible, likely even, that the PCs will kill the Antichrist before he breaks open all seven seals. But for plot reasons it’s extra-important that he breaks at least four of the seven seals, for the Horsemen comprise a significant part of the rest of the module.

The fifth seal unleashes a chorus of ethereal ghosts who cheer on the PCs, giving them buffs against the Antichrist. The sixth seal causes the sky to become night, and every star in the sky winks out, plunging the world into complete darkness. The seventh seal causes the entire world to be affected by an infinite-range Silence spell. If Resh manages to survive by the eighth round, then a world-wide earthquake will occur, causing Unity Memorial to split into two and the harbor’s water to drain into a vast chasm. The Antichrist will die from the earthquake, ending this encounter. Regardless of how he dies, a tiny demonic frog will climb from his corpse, saying that the Reapers haven’t actually won. He will also explain how he was able to break the Scroll of Seven Seals: by taking on a human-like form he thus “humbled himself” to share in their humanity, and at their hands he has suffered and died, only to rise again.

The Antichrist is dead, but in his place an entity known as the Beast will rise, and now the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been unleashed on the world. The PCs are called back into the Veil, and for the first time they are adrift and alone without Azrael to guide them. They reach 15th level, and find his Timekeeper and Book of Souls lying at their feet along with the Scroll of Seven Seals. His Scythe of Death can be retrieved in a later chapter.

Thoughts So Far: Engaging in a literal and rhetorical battle against the Antichrist to expose him in front of a crowd is a cool concept. So is him breaking the Scroll of the Seven Seals in battle to generate Biblical-themed legendary and lair actions. Melissa Mendax’s “I just planned for that” counters, the alternative ways to get to Unity Memorial, and the flavorful demons with music and cigar-themed attacks really stand out. But the other aspects of these chapters, such as the mandatory deaths at the hands of the Antichrist, the Scroll being taken out of the PCs’ reach once again, and having another “this can be averted, but it must happen for the sake of the module” event for having at least four seals be broken really weigh down these chapters.

There’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed in this module, where the writers retcon events in the Book of Revelation so that several unambiguously awful actions taken by the forces of God are instead changed to have Satan and his minions be the responsible parties. In the Bible, Jesus was the one who opened the seven seals and unleashed the Four Horsemen into the world. In some interpretations, Jesus is even one of the Four Horsemen himself! Furthermore, they are encountered later in the module, but the angels from Revelation 9:14-9:21 who are unleashed to kill a third of humanity with the Horsemen’s cavalry are changed into demons known as Chained Devourers. Furthermore, the 200 million cavalry of the Four Horsemen in those same passages are evil-aligned fiends in the module known as Plague Bringers, helping Satan’s forces destroy the world.

In Azrael’s Guide to the Apocalypse, the role of the celestials is to defend the remaining human population centers from the misery and destruction rending the world, rather than participating in the mass slaughter of mortalkind.

Personally speaking, I’m fine with these changes, although keeping the Four Horsemen neutral-aligned is still a major stick in my craw. While Azrael’s forced transformation indicates a sense of loss of free will, this isn’t entirely the case with the others who more or less existed far before the seals are broken. And later in the module it’s possible to get the Horseman of Death to voluntarily surrender. While Red Panda Publishing is likely threading a delicate needle when it comes to remaining faithful to Revelation while not making the side of good unpalatable, I’m getting really weary of seeing characters in tabletop products knowingly and willfully participate in (or attempt to) genocide people and/or destroy of most or all of civilization and be something other than evil-aligned.

Join us next time as the PCs head into Heaven and defend it from Conquest’s infernal army in Chapter 6: the Citadel!
 
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Libertad

Hero
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Now that the PCs have Azrael’s Book and Timekeeper, they can shift to any time and place in the Veil. However, due to timeline rules they can only be passive observers, meaning they can’t do something like kill Hitler or save Jesus. I get the sentiment, but this robs the party of doing something awesome like bringing Moses along to summon a flood and thunderstorm during the Beer Hall Putsch or the party Commando pulling a Farnsworth.

Regardless, the PCs wander aimlessly for a while, with the DM throwing as little or as many cosmic encounters involving celestials and fiends as they desire. The Elders present during the prior two chapters depart with one last goodbye before moving on to Heaven, and when it’s time to move on the Timekeeper will show a mysterious third button that just so happens to match an illustration in the Book of Souls. Pressing the button summons the party into the middle of the Glassy Sea, a placid region of heaven with a seemingly endless body of water said to be fed by the rivers in the Garden of Eden. Nobody can get tired from swimming or drown due to the environment, and characters are as buoyant as they wish to be. A nearby fortress on an island known as the Citadel is the closest feature among the vast blue. The Citadel is a former military fortress used by Angels during Satan’s rebellion. Since there’s been no wars in Heaven from then on it’s been converted to a library, living space, and mission center for the Reapers. In fact, one of the rooms in the Citadel is the Lampstands, and the only person currently here is Sophia. Sophia is a Virtue, a type of angel who is linked to one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues. Such angels are creatures of pure intuition and feeling, having the utmost faith in God’s plan and relying on divine instinct over methodical strategy and learning.

In terms of stats Sophia (as well as all Virtues) are pretty strong celestials: a CR 15 creature with 179 hit points and a 17 Armor Class. They have a +6 Proficiency Bonus in spite of their Challenge Rating, and have a massive 30 Wisdom and 27 Charisma, and their Wisdom save in particular is peerless at +22. They can intuitively sense any lies, but unlike Azrael there is no mention of limitation for written lies. Virtues can cast two innate spells once per day each depending on their Heavenly Virtue: for instance, Kindness can cast Heal and Dispel Evil and Good, Chastity can cast Forbiddance and Guardian of Faith, and Patience can cast Greater Restoration and Time Stop. A Virtue’s major actions include a thrice-per-day healing touch that removes damage and certain negative conditions, and a thrice-per-day Holy Burst AoE whose effects depend on how many have been already used that day: damage and forced movement, blindness, and damage plus covering someone with glitter in a manner similar to Faerie Fire. As she can join the party during certain missions, Sophia is a pretty convenient ally to have.

Sophia’s Virtue is meant to be chosen by the DM, but overall her personality is that of a whimsical and carefree woman. She and Azrael were close friends, and she has drawings of him in her sketchbook. Sophia will be incredibly upset to hear that he was forcefully changed into the Horseman of Death. They do love each other, but their relationship is something deeper than simple romance, for both represented two sides of the same coin in ways that allowed both to better understand and complement alternative means of viewing the universe.

Sophia will take the party through a tour of the Citadel, which has a lot of details particularly for defending it during a siege.* She even prepared the party their own personal bedrooms whose decorations and belongings map closely to their personalities and backstories. Azrael’s room is at the end of the corridor of bedrooms, and contains his Mantle of the Reaper along with a copy of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Sophia will mention that Edmund was his favorite character. This conversation, along with a PC who takes the book, has relevance later in the campaign when the PCs fight the Horseman of Death. There’s even a Treasury full of magic items, which have to be “purchased” via the rules for the celestial reputation economy as mentioned back in the first part of this Let’s Read. Such items include things like the Chains of Solomon (can magically restrain a creature it is thrown at, and if they fail to escape three times they cannot escape again until they complete a long rest), a Holy Lance that once belonged to the Roman soldier Longinus (+3 weapon, wielder is immune to becoming blinded, a natural 20 to hit an evil creature blinds them without allowing a save and they cannot be cured save by Wish or attuning to the lance), a Ring of Heavenly Protection (+1 AC, can spend 1 of 2 charges to knock hostile creatures prone and push them back 15 feet if the fail a Strength save, fiends and undead have disadvantage), and a Staff of the Cross forged from the wooden used to crucify Jesus (+2 quarterstaff that also gives +2 to AC and saves, has 10 charges which can be spent to cast travel-related and healing spells, can spend all 10 charges to teleport perfectly to a named destination that automatically bypasses magical defenses). Quite a bit of useful stuff!

*I bet you can’t guess what’s going to happen later on in the module!

Once the party is ready, they are led back to the Lampstands where they receive their next mission: to defeat the Horsemen and restore the Scroll of Seven Seals. The PCs can spend downtime researching the Four Horsemen, where they make an Investigation roll where results from 1 to 32 reveal various aspects of the Horsemen’s abilities. This effectively partially reveals aspects of their stat blocks, and as each result corresponds to a specific Horseman ability further rolls can allow pieces of information about particular Horsemen to be revealed on an equal or lower roll as well. Sophia will also suggest the PCs use the Timekeeper and Book of Souls to teleport to Jerusalem during the reign of King Solomon to ask him for help and advice. If they do so, they will arrive at a time when the Jewish kingdom is in its prime, where the First Temple has just finished construction. Solomon is able to sense and interact with the PCs despite them being in the Veil, and if they are respectful to him he can offer three gifts: the Ring of Solomon as a unique magic item, the services of Benaiah as an Elder, and +5 on all Investigation checks for researching the Horsemen to 1 PC. The Ring of Solomon is a pretty useful treasure for this adventure path, as it affects a constant Detect Thoughts on all fiends within 120 feet without allowing them saving throws, and can cast Dominate Monster that only targets fiends once per short or long rest.

Eventually, the PCs will fight the Horseman of War. The Book of Souls will alert the PCs to his presence in four time periods at once: 1944 AD when the Allies storm the Beaches of Normandy, 216 BC when the Roman Empire besieges Carthage at the Battle of Cannae, 1099 AD during the Siege of Jerusalem when European crusaders invaded the Caliphate, and 2002 AD in a nondescript modern urban battle zone.

I should note that the book has some POLITICAL OPINIONS in regards to the Crusades: namely it takes the stance that the Crusader’s belief that an invasion of the Holy Land was divinely sanctioned was a lie. God had no desire to see innocent blood shed in His name, where people such as the Templars were deceived and corrupted into a war their God didn’t want.

In order to stop the Horseman of War, the PCs must use the Book of Souls and Timekeeper to jump to one of these eras and overcome the Horseman in combat in order to return them to the Scroll of Seven Seals. During this battle the Horseman will transport themselves and the party between the four battlezones by spending 3 Legendary Actions, and each environment has its own terrain hazards, map, and enemy units which are equally hostile to War as well as the PCs. The enemies are Warbound, not actual flesh and blood beings but Enigmas representing the bloodlust and brutality of violence throughout history. For example, the Beaches of Normandy have Warbound Rifleman who attack with guns, and terrain features include buried land mines, machine gun encampments that deal AoE damage, and shallows and slopes that are difficult terrain. The Siege of Jerusalem is perhaps the simplest, for it has no ranged attackers nor siege weapons, just a bunch of Warbound Crusaders who are attempting to climb/break through the city walls and gates.

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In terms of stats the Horseman of War is the physically strongest of the Horsemen, a CR 21 creature with nearly 300 hit points, 20 AC, Strength and Constitution scores of 27, and interestingly a massive History bonus of +17.* War also has advantage on all attack rolls against creatures that don’t have all their hit points and heals 20 hit points at the end of his turn if he strikes a creature in melee. Furthermore, he can also cast Confusion and Destructive Wave at will, which do a good job of representing the “fog of war.” Like all Horsemen, War’s mount is actually a part of his body and soul and cannot be knocked off the horse against his will. War’s more notable features include an AoE trample attack that leaves the Horseman unbalanced (attacks against him are made with advantage until start of his next turn), while his legendary actions include increasing AC to 22, an AoE attack dealing thunder damage centered on himself, a bonus attack with his hooves, and changing the battlefield map and era to one of the other three.

*War does feature prominently throughout history, after all.

Overall, the Horseman of War is a chaotic, unpredictable force. His attacks are a threat to his enemies as well as himself, be it the Warbound fighting everyone or the unbalancing trample. All of his attacks deal partial or total thunder damage which few beings have resistance to or immunity. War’s main weakness is that he doesn’t have unconventional movement speeds such as flight, a common weakness for all Horsemen save for Death. Without any good ranged attacks besides the Confusion spell, PCs who take to the skies need only worry about artillery and arrows when it comes to damage. I can see this being a fun battle, but the regular cycling between four maps looks pretty challenging.

PCs who defeat War can claim his Sword of War or trade it in for an item in the Citadel’s Treasury. They will level up to 16 as they return to the Glassy Citadel to rest.

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The next chapter involves fighting the Horseman of Conquest, but this time the PCs don’t seek her out; she plans to take the fight to the PCs at the Citadel!

But first, the party receives some very worrying news as the loud peal of seven trumpet blasts echo across the entirety of Heaven. Sophia and all celestials recognize this warning: it was sent only once before, when Satan rebelled against God.

This time, Satan is not making war in Heaven, but instead the Material Plane. Michael the archangel arrives to tell the PCs that fiends are opening up portals all across the Veil to spill onto Earth, in numbers so vast that just their cavalry alone numbers around 200 million! This is actually incredibly out of character for Satan and his minions: even before Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross and weakened the power of fiends to operate on Earth, demons never used overt military force on the Material Plane. They much prefer to manipulate mortals into performing evil deeds so that they can walk into the fires of Hell themselves. War is immediate, indiscriminate, and can send many otherwise corruptible souls to Heaven before they have the chance to choose evil.

Well, the reality of the situation is that the invasion of Earth is but a distraction: knowing that the celestials will seek to protect humanity they will leave Heaven less-defended, where the Horseman of Conquest seeks to march upon the Glassy Sea, breach the Citadel, and establish a foothold in Heaven.

But the PCs and other angels don’t realize that yet. Michael and Sophia stay behind at the Citadel as the PCs are sent to Earth. It’s been about a year since the Antichrist unlocked the Scroll of Seven Seals, and much of the world is now in a post-apocalyptic state. A nearby human city has ten demons known as Plague Bringers heading towards its front defenses, which are manned by Gethsemani (who now has a shotgun and frag grenades) along with four other defenders who are hopelessly outmatched Commoners. During combat various Lair actions will take place reflecting the sorry state of the world, such as flaming hail raining from the sky, mountains collapsing into a nearby river causing massive waves to rush across the plains, the sun and moon just randomly stop giving light, and the awakening of a massive demon known as Chained Devourer hundreds of miles away (no game effect, more a foreshadowing).

Gethsemani is destined to die during this encounter, and upon her death she will become an Elder. Her soul will refuse to come back to life if the PCs attempt to revive her, as “she died for what she believed in and wouldn’t have it any other way.” During Gethsemani’s death the Book of Souls will reveal this to be her destiny, and the DM is encouraged to allow some social interaction and roleplay for a PC who was particularly fond of her and/or has an appropriate Eternal Trait.

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The Plague Bringers are fiends who are basically mounted cavalry, albeit their mounts are but biological growths on the backs of the real creatures, and the “horses” and can effortlessly create a new “mount” upon their backs. They, along with the Chained Devourer above, will kill one third of humanity just by their efforts alone, and they’re one of this adventure’s more fanon interpretations of the Bible. For in the Book of Revelation, these mounted cavalry and the chained beings were angels instead of demons. Statwise a Plague Bringer is a CR 6 fiend which attacks with a longsword and tail that deals necrotic and poison damage on top of physical damage, and their rechargeable breath weapon can alter between damaging fire, blinding smoke, or acidic, poisonous sulfur. There are sidebars for alternate types of Plague Bringers, such as one wielding a greatsword but attacks against it have advantage, a spellcaster who specializes in damaging and battlefield control spells up to 4th level, and Dark Scions with innate psychic abilities that take the form of spells such as Detect Thoughts, Fear, and Knock.

After defeating the demonic cavalry, the Book of Souls will alert the party that the Horseman of Conquest is leading an army of demons to besiege the Citadel. When the PCs arrive back at the fortress, they can recruit 1 Elder to aid them in its defense,* and the party has 12 hours to make preparations. This can include a Long Rest if desired. Attempting to prematurely attack Conquest or her forces will just have her launch the assault early.

*Sophia is here, along with 2 Chalkydri Dawnbringers to aid in the defense, but Michael is gone. Chalkydri are blue phoenixlike celestial birds who burst into light instead of flames upon death, and will be killed semi-offscreen when battling in the first wave.

Conquest’s main goal is to take control of the Citadel, acting under the Antichrist’s orders to seize the lampstand room to give it over to the demons. But as that particular room has magical wards, attempts at using magical transportation won’t work. Thus, a conventional takeover of the fort is Conquest’s plan. The Horseman’s siege takes the form of 5 waves to wear down the PCs. The waves see a return of some enemy types we haven’t seen in a while, such as Infernal Dreadnaughts and Legionaries, along with Plague Bringers, but the fourth wave has new enemy types in the form of an infernal priest along with infernal warmages and a warlord.

The infernal priests look like demonic humanoids dressed in the style of a Catholic or Orthodox priest, but with the spiral triple 6 Mark of the Beast instead of the holy cross for motifs. They were originally humans who were part of a secret training program for the International Unity Project, to be the priestly class when the Antichrist would unveil the new religion of overt Satanic worship. They are true believers that even in death never regretted their denial into Heaven. Infernal priests are basically NPC Cleric spellcasters, having the same advantage versus fear and charm effects as the Marked Taskforce but can cast spells of up to 5th level with a preference for battlefield control such as Darkness, Spirit Guardians, and Black Tentacles.

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The fifth and final wave will just be the Horseman of Conquest, who is confident that the prior waves weakened the Citadel’s defenses enough for her to mop up any survivors. In terms of stats she is less physically resilient than War, having 216 hit points and an armor class of 18. She is immune to force damage, meaning that any warlocks in the party who use eldritch blasts as their main weapon are going to have a bad time. Along with truesight of 120 feet* and a Passive Perception of 24 it is extremely hard to get the drop on her. She can cast Bane, Conjure Volley, and Wall of Fire at will, and her default attack with the Bow of Conquest can make up to four attacks that let her choose from a list of 6 extra effects on top of damage. Such effects are things like letting an ally make one weapon attack as a reaction,** can blind a target on a failed Constitution save, turn an invisible opponent visible, or deal an equal number of damage to an adjacent target as well. Her Legendary Actions include making an extra bow attack but with no additional effect, gaining advantage on her next attack roll against a target she can see, or 2 Legendary Actions to cast one of her innate spells. As only Conjure Volley is non-concentration, this spell is the one she will most likely use over the course of battle.

*all Horsemen have this ability.

**this would be useful, IF SHE HAD ANY ALLIES ACCOMPANYING HER!

Like War, Conquest has no alternative movement types than a land speed, although relying upon a bow means that just trying to fly out of range isn’t a surefire solution. Being able to attack four times per round along with legendary actions and extra effects means she has quite a bit of “action economy” in replicating a multitude of attacks even in just one round. However, one big weakness is that she has no Crossbow Expert equivalent of ignoring disadvantage on ranged attacks when being adjacent to a hostile creature, so this can even the playing field a bit.

Like War, the Horseman of Conquest is absorbed back into the Scroll upon defeat and the party can claim her Bow as a reward or to exchange for an item in the Citadel’s Treasury. They will now be 17th level, with 2 more Horsemen to go.

Thoughts So Far: Chapters 6 through 10 are what I’d describe as a “Boss Rush.” They are incredibly similar in being combat-heavy and revolve around fighting a Horseman, whether as the sole major encounter or after fighting through a wave of minions in Conquest’s case. The start to Chapter 6 is appropriately paced and touching, where the PCs learn a bit more about Azrael through Sofia and prepare for the battles ahead. While I can’t truly judge them until I run the encounters myself, the fights against War and Conquest look like they can be fun. Unfortunately Conquest has one element of poor design in that one of her arrows is useless in the battle by RAW, but otherwise I don’t have much else to complain about their stats. My main concern is that these successive Horsemen battles may be too monotonous and result in “battle fatigue.”

Join us next time as we go back to the Garden of Eden to fight Famine and begin a tearful reunion with a changed Azrael in Chapters 8: Wrath and Famine and 9: Death Waits!
 

Libertad

Hero
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The PCs are now 17th level, meaning that the pure casting classes get access to 9th level spells. The book has a sidebar for how to handle several of them in play: Gate can be used to summon Elders beyond the limits for a mission, but with the drawback that they will leave play after the mission ends. True Resurrection can do the same thing in “summoning” an Elder who hasn’t already left for Heaven. Imprisonment can be used to bind a Horseman back to the Scroll of Seven Seals, but its casting time of 1 minute means that it can’t be deployed in conventional combat without a clever plan.

And what of Wish, the most powerful spell in the game? Well, the book just says that it can perform one or more of the above abilities, which…is kind of a letdown. I mean, what happens when a PC tries to Wish for all the surviving humans on Earth to get transported to a new, safer planet or to travel back in time and warn Heaven about Wormwood? The spell is incredibly open-ended.

After defending the Citadel, Michael will return and report on casualties back on Earth, along with the fact that the Antichrist is now a stronger monster known as the Beast who all the demons are now serving. During the next long rest, the Book of Souls will motion the party to return to the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life’s vow of protection for the Woman and her Child is nearing its end, and it summoned the party here to safeguard the Garden from the Horseman of Famine. A giant spectral bowl appears in the sky, another prophetic sign that will take the form of lair actions as it pours all sorts of things onto the battlefield, from blasts of scorching fire to acidic blood that affects enemy and ally alike.

Much like Conquest, Famine’s arrival is preceded by two waves of demons, and the Woman will aid the party via a single special ability such as Restore Faith before disappearing. Conversely the Tree of Life is in for the long haul, and while immobile it does have its own stats and Famine and the demons seek to kill it. In terms of mechanics the Tree of Life is a hardy creature with Legendary Resistance but no Legendary Actions, and primarily casts healing and battlefield control spells but possesses no inherent means of damaging enemies on its own. It is vulnerable to necrotic damage, a damage type that Famine and one of the demons (a Fallen Virtue, like the celestial of the same name but unleashes bursts of necrotic enemy and can reverse healing/damaging spells to do the opposite as a reaction) possess.

In regards to Famine’s stats, they* are the spellcaster of the Four Horsemen, having up to 9th level spell slots with a preference for damaging and debilitating magic such as Blindness/Deafness, Blight, and Wall of Thorns. Famine has no standard default attacks, in which case it would rely on either Poison Spray or Thorn Whip Cantrips. Once again there’s some slight errors in the stat block, of being CR 24 but with a Proficiency Bonus of +7 instead of +8, and their 11 Dexterity has a +1 modifier. As a reaction Famine can automatically summon twig blights whenever they are damaged by a spell, which individually aren’t a threat to the players but I imagine if their numbers add up enough they can do some damage to the tree.

*The book more or less says that this Horseman is nonbinary due to starvation affecting everyone. So what does that say about Conquest and War, who are male and female respectively?

The plot presumes that the PCs save the Tree of Life, and once the Horseman is bound back into the scroll the Tree will offer the party the Talisman of the First Earth for safekeeping. Much like the Talisman of the First Sea, it summons a monster of legend, in this case the Behemoth. The book notes that whether or not the Tree of Life survives is actually not of consequence, as the world (and thus all life) will end anyway and the PCs will find the Talisman among the Tree’s desiccated remains. Which honestly is yet another letdown, as it really makes this chapter and the other ones fill a lot like Boss Rush filler.

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The PCs are level 18, and they have one more Horseman to go. In this case, it is Death, aka the Horseman formerly known as Azrael. He is waiting for them at World’s End, and Sophia will want to accompany the party. But when the PCs arrive, Death is in fact using a skeletal double double known as the Avatar of Death, who is surrounded by a half-dozen shadowy canines (dire wolves) in an attempt to get the party to expend their best resources before the real fight. However, the PCs have their own ace up their sleeve: if a character has the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in their possession, only that character can make a DC 25 Persuasion check for the Horseman to voluntarily surrender and be absorbed back into the scroll. Even if the check fails, the shred of the old Azrael will have sentimental feelings and be unable to attack that PC if he fails a DC 25 Wisdom save, being forced to choose another target.

When it comes to stats, the Horseman’s body double (Avatar of Death) is a pretty hefty foe all its own, a CR 18 creature with 189 hit points, a small amount of death-themed spells of limited use in actual combat (Speak with Dead, Gentle Repose) and two which are (Chill Touch and Circle of Death). The only major offensive feature is attacking with a Scythe of Death, along with legendary actions including a 3 action Reap that instakills anyone with 50 or less hit points. As for the Horseman himself, he alone among the four has a fly speed, has Legendary Resistance as well as Legendary Actions, more powerful death-themed spells such as Power Word Kill and Finger of Death, can make a ranged necrotic bolt spell that autohits anyone within 120 feet in addition to typical melee reaper scythe attacks, and his Legendary Actions include a single-target stun where he asks the target “have you lived a good life?” along with multi-target wing buffets and summoning beasts of shadow to attack the characters.

Also, the Horseman of Death has abilities that are extra-deadly to undead, such as an aura that destroys all undead of CR 2 or lower, but honestly speaking those won’t come up in a typical campaign unless one of your PCs is making liberal use of Animate Dead and similar magic…which doesn’t sound very Christian to be honest.

If for whatever reason the PCs waste several days before meeting with Death (the Book of Souls tells the party where he is waiting), he will get more Lair Actions to use in the fight that reflect the gradual disintegration of Earth and the cosmos, such as the sun exploding with the effects of a Sunburst spell that affects everyone in battle or the friggin moon falling on Earth and forcefully hurling all combatants into the void of space from the force of the impact. And if Wormwood is still alive and/or free, he will appear on the battlefield to start unlocking the celestial prison cells, releasing powerful archdemons that rise into the darkness and will reappear as additional waves of foes during the Battle of Armageddon.

Once the PCs deal with Death by words or by force, the heat death of the universe comes around and the Physical Realm comes to a true, final end. The PCs end up in their own 1 on 1 scenes, even for the PCs who died during combat. Like the Consequence encounters in Chapter 2, these ones give rewards upon resolution, with all but two giving a unique magic item, and the remaining two allowing a PC to modify or remove their Eternal Trait in a roleplay scene with a vision of Azrael or the Woman. The magic items include a Scroll of Bittersweetness (can be eaten to permanently raise a mental ability score by 2, but are poisoned for 24 hours), Censer of Intercession (can cast Storm of Vengeance, but has to be ‘recharged’ by answering the prayers of mortals in need of guidance, including a random d8 table of sample results such as a widow worrying about feeding her children), Azrael’s Scythe of Death,* and a Gift of the Spirit (not a magic item but a spiritual boon in line with a moral virtue, such as a Gift of Understanding granting truesight out to 60 feet and either proficiency or expertise in Religion depending upon whether or not existing proficiency in that skill is possessed).

*The Scythe has the same stats as the one in Azrael’s stat block. However, when wielded by a PC, if they would die they can choose to offer their soul as a vessel to the weapon, whereupon the PC becomes an Avatar of Death and uses that creature’s stat block, and the transformation is irreversible. Although a powerful creature, since the PC no longer has class levels or can level up its effectiveness really depends on their original class and build.

The vision with Azrael is particularly sweet, where the PC is sitting with him next to a fireplace as the angel reads his favorite book, asking the character if he knows why Edmund is his favorite character. The reason is that he’s the only one who shows growth as a result of his actions, eventually redeeming himself in the story. And that is the path that Azrael is hoping for the PCs, too.

Once they’re back at the Citadel (with or without Sophia depending on whether she died and wasn’t resurrection),* the PCs are tasked with restoring the three remaining seals as part of their next lampstand mission from God. God also warns the PCs that the Beast’s forces have seized Jerusalem. The last three seals are relatively simple; a spellcaster expending a spell slot corresponding to the seal number (5-7) does the job, but the book notes if the party has no qualifying characters…that this part can just be skipped, lol.

*That brings up some questions about the immortal state of celestials in this setting.

Once the Scroll is back to normal, the PCs are transported back to Heaven, mere seconds after Jesus announced that the party should be back before he reaches the door and people are still shocked about Wormwood’s betrayal. Even so, the events at the Citadel and elsewhere in the universe have already come to pass, and Jesus is sad for the lives lost. With everyone expecting Jesus to open the scrolls and use its powers for good, he hesitates and ponders the meaning of worthiness, asking the PCs what they think it means to be worthy. Just as the characters answer, Michael appears suddenly with news that the Beast’s forces have taken both Jerusalem and the nearby fortress of Tel Megiddo. This is the climactic crux of the war, where the PCs are summoned to a council of Archangels (they have the honors of attending due to their relationship with Azrael, who was once on the council himself) and battle plans are drawn out to prepare to take back Jerusalem.

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What, did you think this Boss Rush was done because the Four Horsemen are gone? Think again! While the PCs rest and sleep before the big Battle of Armageddon, they are drawn into the nightmare realm of Babylon, Mother of Abominations. She is an enigma that draws power from the fears and doubts of mortals, and her domain is its very own Realm. A Dream Realm, if you will. Unlike most of the other fights in this campaign, a Total Party Kill here isn’t necessarily a Game Over. They will reawaken without any damage, but any Curses gained during this chapter stay with them as a long-term debuff but can be magically healed. Instead, the fight against Babylon here is more of a battle against one’s own worse nature.

Before the PCs fight Babylon, they embark on a series of individual Dream Scene encounters from a 1d20 table forming a greater skill challenge. They must get a total of 7 successes, and failure during these encounters can take various forms but each has the DM give a private note handout of a question expressing some kind of doubt in relation to the encounter. For example, one encounter has a PC standing at the trial of Jesus, where like with Peter the Apostle a person in the crowd will accuse the PC of knowing Jesus. The PC must succeed on a DC 21 Charisma save to overcome their own fear from the hostile crowd, or else deny knowing Jesus and getting a “Could I Have Done Any Better?” handout. One of these encounters calls back to the teenager in the church/synagogue way back at the beginning of the adventure, where the girl sees the PC and recognizes them. After some roleplay she reveals some general info about the Dream Realm and who Babylon is. This scene has no skill challenge and auto-succeeds.

Personally speaking I think this shouldn’t be consigned to a random encounter; as it’s calling upon an important detail from way back in the first chapter, it should be something that is part of the default for story purposes.

Once the PCs eventually succeed on 7 checks, they appear spread out across a stormy void, standing on floating stones with electrical clouds below them. In the middle is a platform where Babylon sits, a woman larger than a mountain.

Babylon is a kind of puzzle boss. She has a particular ability, Armor of the Faithless, where any creature within 120 feet of her who has an in-character doubt, fear, or other uncertainty grants her immunity to all damage and other negative conditions from that creature until the end of the creature’s next turn. Additionally, she can use an ability called Manifest Doom on a creature within 120 feet where she creates an illusion tailored to reflect their worst fears and warped interpretations of their Bonds and Ideals. A creature can overcome this illusion via a DC 20 ability check in a manner that can be justified in-character. Additionally, she has two other offensive abilities that impose things that can trigger her Armor of the Faithless, such as an Eternal Doubt that is a kind of curse* or a damaging psychic attack that imposes the Frightened condition on a failed Intelligence save. Her Legendary Actions have her spill blood from a chalice, summoning Bloodfiends into battle.

*For example, “nothing I do works; why should I keep trying?” gives the cursed character 1 level of permanent exhaustion.

Okay, so unless the party has Eldritch Spear Warlocks or a Commando with some long-range artillery, Babylon more or less has Plot Armor against anyone who failed a prior encounter before battle or who got cursed or frightened by her. So how do the PCs overcome this? Well magical spells that can heal curses can work, but otherwise the book has a sidebar that suggests having a PC go through another Dream Scene when she Manifests Doom, and a successful check to escape can be used as inspiration for PCs overcoming this. So basically, DM Fiat.

If the PCs defeat Babylon, they will gain her Cup of Iniquity as a treasure. This item is actually a corrupted imposter of the Holy Grail, created from inaccurate expectations that the mere clay cup used during the Last Supper was a priceless golden chalice. By default, the Cup can summon Bloodfiends when the attuned user spends a spell slot, but the Bloodfiends have no loyalty to the caster and will attack indiscriminately. If a good-aligned character attunes to the Cup, it transforms into the Cup of Blessing (and back again if an evil character then attunes to it). The Cup of Blessing looks like a more humble clay cup, and it can enchant liquids poured into it to cast either Greater Restoration or Heroes’ Feast for up to 6 creatures once per day, and as an action the user can present the cup to someone and force them to kneel prone out of respect if they fail a Wisdom save.

Once the PCs exit the dream, victorious or defeated, they will have leveled up to 20th just as the forces of Heaven are ready to take back Jerusalem.

Thoughts So Far: Overall, I’m not a fan of these chapters. They’re too brief and too repetitive, basically being single set-piece battles (plus or minus a smaller combat encounter or two) one right after another. Babylon in particular comes out of nowhere, having virtually no buildup besides an optional Consequence way back in Chapter 2. The fact that failing to protect the Tree of Life has no real consequences, and that Babylon’s curses can be removed by magic blunts the consequences of defeat against her. Although chances are the PCs won’t have much downtime to commit too many spell slots in removing all the Curses at once.

The encounter with Death is pretty cool, and I feel that it is a very strong moment for roleplay as the PCs fight someone who was basically their shining light for the first half of the campaign. However, the Persuasion check touches on a personal pet peeve of mine.

In this adventure, the Four Horsemen are Lawful Neutral. While they’ve been Biblically retconned to be tools of the Antichrist rather than being deliberately unleashed by Jesus into the world, they are what I see as a problematic trend I touched upon two posts ago regarding genocide and Thanos-level crimes against reality. Now, I can see the argument that the Four Horsemen are but slaves to prophecy, and this is a rather strong point in that Azrael didn’t want to become the Horseman of Death in the first place.

However, when a character can talk the Horseman of Death into voluntarily abandoning their duty, not with magic or a similar change in cosmic foundation, this shows that the Horsemen (or at least Azrael) are more than automations. They can reason, they can listen to others and take in new information, and alter their decision-making based on that input. In other words, a free-willed creature.

While I can’t be too hard on this book, given that it is aware of and tries to avert other instances of God-sanctioned mass slaughter into being the Devil’s work, it’s still something I wanted to raise and criticize in this particular chapter.

Join us next time as we finish up this adventure in Chapter 11: the Battle of Armageddon and Chapter 12: the Dragon!
 
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The penultimate chapter of Azrael’s Guide to the Apocalypse throws in a fresh mix on things, where instead of a big singular boss taking up the majority of the chapter it’s a prolonged siege involving multiple encounters, a pseudo-dungeon crawl, and then a proper boss fight.

In order to take back Jerusalem, the forces of Heaven have a multi-step plan: go into Nazareth and defeat the demonic army assembled there, then march through the Valley of Megiddo. There, they will claim the fortress of Tel Megiddo, which the forces of the Beast have claimed as a strategic base. Once that’s done and a reliable supply line is established, the celestials will move on to Jerusalem.

The first combat in Nazareth involves General Sabnock, a pit fiend commanding a two-thousand strong army of the dregs of Hell. The demons are individually weak, using Cultist stat blocks and can be easily dealt with via area of effect spells. Fighting them isn’t really so much of a combat as it is to let the PCs feel awesome and powerful, and General Sabnock is just as prone to flee when his forces are depleted.

Once Nazareth is claimed, the Battle of Armageddon begins in full. The sourcebook suggests using one’s favorite mass combat rules for more involved wargaming, but in the book itself we have some barebones suggestions: there are CR 9 stat blocks for Heavenly Legions and Infernal Legions representing masses of weak celestials and fiends, whose total number is dependant on how many hearts and minds were swayed by the Two Witnesses in their battle with the Antichrist back in Chapter 4. Legions are treated as individual monsters, and are rather simple swarms who can make 6 melee attacks and an AoE Whelm that grapples and restrains affected targets. Remaining Elders can be placed in control of Heavenly Legions, adding some of their special abilities to the stat block of that particular Legion.

The battles involving the Legions occur separately from the PCs. The party instead will have their own problems to deal with on the Front Lines, where they will fight a number of waves equal to the number of PCs there are. The waves are randomly determined, and the specific enemies they fight are based on small Flashback scenes related to a character’s Eternal Trait and appropriate emotion. For instance, a Flashback where feelings of anger and/or chaos were prominent will have the party fight Bloodfiends of every type, while a flashback involving Mounsing or Loss will pit them against 5 Plague Bringers. The scenes are pretty bare-bones, with the GM making things up in congruence with the backstories of said PCs and the actions they took during the course of the campaign.

Sadly, the resolution of the Heavenly and Infernal Legions doesn’t have any long-term changes for the remainder of the chapter. The angelic attempt at taking Tel Megiddo is a disastrous failure no matter what, as the front lines of the celestial are wiped out in a flash due to the Orb of Xenocide, an artifact specifically tailored to kill their creature type. However, the PCs aren’t celestials, being mortal spirits, so they won’t be affected. Thus the party has to infiltrate Tel Megiddo and deactivate/destroy the artifact and signal to the army it’s safe to besiege.

Tel Megiddo is a 20 room dungeon crawl populated by a mixture of Marked Taskforce members, actual fiends, and in one case a lich. Any Elders who were part of a defeated Legion can be found in the Prison, and the Armory can give another Weapon Specialty to a PC with at least 15 levels in Commando. The administrative building holds various collections of intelligence gathered by Hell’s forces, and the PCs can learn some pertinent info about the rest of the fortress’ defenses via an Investigation check. As for the lich, his name is Gamigin and he allied with the demons in hopes of finding a way to bind or imprison the Horseman of Death. He also knows how to deactivate or change the Orb of Xenocide.

The Orb itself is kept in a tower, and was a careless experiment by the Watchers in the past who never intended to see the thing used. It was later claimed by demons who put it to evil use. The Orb of Xenocide is a legendary item which will automatically emit a 1,000 foot radius blast of magical energy that deals 10d10 force damage whenever a creature of a particular type comes within 120 feet of it. It can only do this for 1 hour at a time, and a DC 25 Arcana check (or receiving instructions from someone who operated it before) by someone proficient with Tinker’s Tools can recalibrate it to affect another broad or specific target type.

After the PCs deal with the Orb, the archangels Michael and Uriel will arrive with reinforcements to take control of Tel Megiddo with minimal casualties. The PCs can take a long rest while the armies of Heaven dig in and set up a teleportation circle supply line. But the demons aren’t going to let this happen without a fight, so the PCs have to shore up the defenses against three waves of attacks. The first two waves are large numbers of various fiend types and Marked Taskforce soldiers and vehicles, and the book does point out that using the Orb of Xenocide can automatically destroy one wave. But the third wave unleashes a Chained Devourer who seeks to outright destroy the fortress. Additionally, any fiends from earlier in the module who escaped during Wormwood’s prison break will show up as extra waves. Including Lilith and Beelzebub from Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible!

In terms of stats, the Chained Devourer is a CR 23 gargantuan fiend who is first and foremost a physical engine of destruction. It has multiattack and can make a bunch of slam attacks, fling enemies and objects as a ranged attack, has an Inevitable Presence that Frightens enemies and reduces their speed to zero, deals fire damage when struck in melee or as an explosion upon death, and has legendary resistances and actions such as more attacks and an AoE wing buffet attack.

Like so many other big beefy melee enemies, the Chained Devourer doesn’t possess any significant long-range attacks; even its Fling has a maximum range of 60 feet. However, it does have a 40 foot fly speed, meaning it can chase after aerial enemies sniping at it. Its biggest weakness is perhaps its mental saving throws: its highest score in these categories is 20 Charisma, and it’s only proficient with physical saving throws.

Once Tel Megiddo is secured, the PCs take a short rest to march on Jerusalem. But the Beast has one final ace up his sleeve: by breaking the Talisman of the First Sea, he summons Leviathan who rises from the Mediterranean Sea. This monster’s very presence is causing apocalyptic tremors and waves, and it’s expected that the PCs will break the Talisman of the First Earth in order to summon the Behemoth who will fight and counter the Leviathan.

Amusingly, if the PCs don’t do this, this will actually make things easier, as any lair action effects that come from the Behemoth will be ignored. Which is a pretty big example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, given than the intent is to use the Behemoth to slow the Leviathan’s destructive impulses.

Getting past the walls of Jerusalem is technically a battle, as there are Marked soldiers and fiends in the various areas around the wall on a gridded map. But the goal is to gain entry into the city rather than defeating all the enemies, so PCs who manage to get through can move on without incident. Once inside,* the PCs must head to the Temple Mount where the Beast waits in the Throne Room. Michael will join the PCs in combat against the Antichrist’s true form.

Sadly, what Jerusalem looks like and if it still has any living mortals within, is unmentioned in the adventure.

The Beast is a CR 27 enigma (not fiend, strangely) who is a seven-headed monstrosity. He doesn’t have a lot of spells (dimension door, dispel magic, levitate, and telekinesis 3 times per day each) and has the “multiple head” ability the Dragon has in ignoring certain negative Conditions, and his primary physical attacks are a pair of claws. But the Beast’s real major offense comes from his Legendary Actions, and he can do one such action per round for each active head he has. He has a Visage for each of the 7 Deadly Sins, which can cost anywhere from 1 to 4 Legendary Actions. For example, Sloth’s Visage (2 actions) is an AoE cone that can reduce affected targets’ speed to 0 on a failed Dexterity save for 1 round, Greed’s Visage can telekinetically pull all Rare or rarer magic items closer to the Beast on a failed Strength save, and Pride’s Visage (4 actions) is also a cone that stuns all targets (no saving throw but anyone affected is immune for 24 hours).

The Beast has no special movement speeds, but as the fight takes place in an enclosed throne room and all of his Visages are AoE effects he can be guaranteed to hit at least a few characters per round. While he has quite a bit of resistances and immunities, two of the good saving throws (Dexterity and Wisdom) he is not proficient in and thus has a mere +3. While he has Legendary Resistance and is immune to the charmed and frightened conditions, the Beast is pretty weak to most area of effect stuff.

Once the Beast is defeated, whispers will fill the air speaking of the Beast’s death, and a doorway in the wall behind the throne opens up into darkness. As the PCs are already 20th level, they instead gain an appropriate Epic Boon, Blessing, or Gift of the Spirit as an upgrade.

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The final chapter is the shortest one of the book, involving a final battle against Satan in his seven-headed Dragon form. The PCs find themselves back in the Lampstands, with one torch remaining:

“A new day is dawning.
I know your works,
your patient endurance;
but remember from what you have fallen.”

Each PC will then have a brief scene narration related to a flashback from Chapter 11. Six sample visions begin with events from Biblical history, such as the serpent convincing Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, or Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac. How the scenes resolve are dependent upon the flashbacks, and the DM is expected to draw something out in line with the PCs’ backstories and Ideals/Bonds/Flaws/Eternal Traits.

Once that’s dealt with, Satan in snake form appears at the base of the lampstand. As it lunges at the party its course is stopped by Jesus suddenly appearing to stomp on the snake’s body. Satan continues to bite his ankle, and although bleeding and in pain Jesus speaks softly. He says he didn’t want things to end like this, and that Satan still has a chance at taking the high road and being forgiven. Satan defies Jesus, still biting, as the PCs realize their final mission as Reapers as God’s voice speaks once again, “to bind the Dragon.”

The floor breaks as the PCs and Satan fall into the void of space, with galaxies and stars passing by. Jesus produces the Scroll of the Seven Seals, this time summoning the Four Horsemen to join the party in battle against Satan who has now taken Dragon form. The Four Horsemen no longer have Legendary Actions or Resistances, but this time the Dragon does!

We talked about the Dragon’s stats way back in Chapter 2, so let’s talk about the new tools he has. He has 6 uses of Legendary Resistance, and a number of Legendary Actions equal to the number of active heads. The Actions include Unholy Insight (learn the target’s greatest fears and they can’t benefit from their next Long Rest…which is amusing as this is the final fight of the campaign), casting Dispel Magic, a cone-shaped AoE Tail Sweep, offering a Dark Bargain to a character who has been marked by a use of Unholy Insight (Satan offers something to the character; if they accept 1d2 of the heads are stunned but they are returned to life and taken out of the battle with their offer fulfilled), and Rend Reality where the Dragon speaks a perverted version of “Let there be light.” This last ability creates one of four following effects: all creatures become older or younger and have to reroll initiative; the Dragon speaks the name of a location of special significance to a character and has up to a 1 mile cube of the place teleport and crumble before their very eyes to deal psychic damage; a multi-target effect against all creatures with 100 hit points or less, forcing otherworldly creature types back to their home plane and destroying “unliving” types such as constructs, elementals, and undead; causing all stars to dim within 5 light years and all natural creatures (plants and beasts) with fewer than 50 hit points to instantly die.

So what are the Dark Bargains? Well Satan isn’t so cliche as to ask for eternal ownership over souls. Instead he has something more insidious in mind. He offers a character something of deep meaning, and will fulfill it for them. If accepted, they will return to life to enjoy the offer.

But what’s the catch, really? Well, beyond just disappearing from combat and leaving the rest of the party to fight Satan, this represents a lack of trust and uncertainty in God’s plan, as well as marking the character as being vulnerable to temptation. Like any good demon, Satan wants the PC to live a long mortal life where they can make future mistakes and future sins, therefore taking them further from Heaven each time.

There’s also optional lair actions offered for DMs who feel that they can handle additional complexity, and involve various cosmic effects as the universe approaches eventual heat death. It’s a random d8 table with things such as falling through the debris of a crumbling planet that adds asteroids which provide cover, falling past the event horizon of a black hole that deafens all creatures, an interdimensional ripple teleporting all creatures to random places within 120 feet, and the actual heat death where all stars wink out and everyone takes 10d6 cold damage that can be resisted via a Constitution save.

It doesn’t matter whether or not the PCs defeat Satan; what actually alters the ending (on an individual level, at least) is if one of them accepts a Dark Bargain. Such a scene is individual to that PC and ran in a collaborative manner similar to how they died before the beginning of the campaign, but with the addition of a feeling that they can’t shake that there is something or someone out there watching them, waiting for something…

Otherwise, another optional aspect is offered to the battle: the PCs can only defeat the Dragon if they drive a Holy Nail through its heart before the start of its next turn once it reaches 0 hit points. That way, Satan will be confined irreversibly to Hell for all time. If the PCs don’t have such a weapon, Jesus will give it to them in the lampstand chamber.

The default ending is almost the same as how the campaign began:

Your consciousness fades as your last thoughts drift through your mind. You feel one last surge of emotion that you can’t quite place... almost like walking into a room and then forgetting why you’re there. Then there is nothing, and the world goes black.

[pause]

A moment later, you slowly become aware of a soft, gray light coming from a source you cannot see, and the form of someone leaning over you. You feel yourself regaining awareness of your limbs as a warm, comforting voice asks:

“Are you ready?”

You now become fully aware of a man with black robes reaching out a hand to help you to your feet.
A hood obscures the top half of his face, but he appears friendly and somehow almost familiar to you... like he is an old friend whose name you can’t quite remember. As you struggle to remember why he looks familiar to you, he speaks again.

“My name is Azrael, the Angel of Death. Are you ready?”

The ending is meant to be vague and subject to interpretation. Perhaps it is Azrael having found the PCs worthy and is asking if they’re ready to go to Heaven. Or it could be a time loop as the PC(s) is still not ready, bound by their Eternal Trait and can now try again this time hopefully learning from their mistakes. Or the entire adventure was a near-death fantasy in the characters’ own minds, coming to terms with their Eternal Traits in a reflection of themselves and their life choices. There is an alternate ending where the PCs find themselves back at the Lampstands, where a hidden meaning in each mission statement from God is formed into one message:

As your last thoughts flash through your mind, you recall the words of the Lampstands. First Laodicea, then Sardis, and then the rest flash through your mind one after another in quick succession. As these memories tumble through your mind you realize that the first line of each Lampstand’s message had an additional meaning, and that these words had been right in front of you the whole time...

Laodicea: I am standing at the door, knocking
Sardis: wake up, for this has all been
Thyatira: for you, in order that you might
Smyrna: hear my voice, and open the door
Pergamum: The time is now, for death is upon you.
Philadelphia: Open your eyes and see,
Ephesus: A new day is dawning.

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There are three Appendices in Azrael’s Guide to the Apocalypse: Magic Items, Creatures, and Elders & Heroes. Given that I covered most of them in the proper parts of the adventure, there isn’t much to go over here but I’ll still point out the stuff I didn’t touch.

For Magic Items, there’s a Benedictine Shield (+1 AC, cannot become cursed while attuned) and Sword of the Cherubim (can burst into flame when a command word is spoke and mentally commanded to float and attack creatures within 60 feet, dealing +2d6 fire damage on top of greatsword damage),

Each of the Four Horsemen have their own special items. We already covered the Scythe of Death in prior posts.

The Bow of Conquest is a +3 longbow that functions as a Weapon of Warning and can cast Crusader’s Mantle as a bonus action once per day. It technically has infinite ammo with a single arrow connected to a golden threat that is automatically retracted when fired, but creatures hit can spend a reaction to restrain the arrow and prevent it from returning if they succeed on a DC 24 Strength check.

The Scales of Famine function as a staff that adds +1 to spell attacks and save DCs, and can spend charges to cast various debuffing spells (Ray of Sickness, Contagion, etc). It can also spend 7 charges to reverse the financial fortunes of everyone in 10 miles, turning all copper pieces into gold and turning all gold and platinum pieces to ash, and everyone’s lifestyle changes to Modest. Hmmm, that doesn’t exactly sound very famine-like to me…

Finally, the Sword of War is a +1 weapon that can take the form of any sword. It grants advantage on melee attacks made with it against any creature not at its maximum hit points, and grants the wielder an amount of healing equal to half a target’s hit point maximum when the target is reduced to 0 hit points.

Each of the Horsemen’s items are sentient and have their own personalities. They have views and ideologies in line with their original wielders. For example, the Sword of War thrives on chaos and violence and believes that times of peace generate corruption, commerce, and discrimination.

As for creatures, we’ve got a few. The First is the Avatar of Satan, which is a manifestation of the Devil in human form. The Avatar is but a Construct with 1 hit point and no damaging offensive capabilities, but has amazing mental and social scores and skills, and is immune to all damage and conditions over than force. He can cast a small variety of low-level spells usually involving subtle magic, and his Touch of Temptation can fill a target with doubt and impose disadvantage on their next ability check as well as being more susceptible to temptations for the next 24 hours.

This stat block is most likely never going to see the light of day. The Avatar is posing as an intern in Unity Tower in Chapter 3, and is only there to watch the ensuing events with detached amusement.

The other is a Foul Frog Spirit, creatures summoned by fiends or wicked mages to act as messengers, and in some cases phylacteries in the case of liches. The Antichrist takes the form of such a spirit upon his death in order to usher in the apocalypse. In terms of Stats the Foul Frog Spirit is a CR 0 creature with no offensive capabilities. It is immune to all damage until it reaches its destination, has a fly speed of 50 feet, is incorporeal, and can cast Plane Shift and Teleport on itself at will.

Thoughts So Far: The Battle of Armageddon is a refreshing change of pace from the prior 5 chapters, and the waves of enemies do a good job at wearing down the party’s resources, being mostly individually weak so that 20th level characters can feel awesome tearing through them, and also making the chapter feel like the backdrop of a greater war. Personally speaking I’m not fond of the fact that the initial battle before Tel Megiddo doesn’t have any consequences for losing, and having the main villain of Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible show up as a one-time optional wave encounter feels kind of…well, she’s the final boss of the prior adventure, it doesn’t seem right to just make her a mere road block in the greater battle. Then again, I can see it as a means of showing how much more powerful the PCs in Azrael’s are, and that Satan is pulling no punches in sending out his best.

Similarly, having this lack of consequence in fighting Satan and losing in the final battle also feels unrewarding. It goes back to that Biblical Cosmic Horror, where the true test isn’t so much the fight as it is resisting his Dark Bargains. Which is fine, but at that point why bother with rolling initiative? There should be some stakes if the PCs fight and lose, even if God will win in the end. And the ending itself to the campaign leaves me with mixed feelings. I’m personally fondest of the idea of Azrael greeting the PCs once again, helping usher them into Heaven. Making the adventure end with “syke, it was all in your head!” is something only a DM who is very, very familiar with their gaming group and knows they won’t feel let down by this. The Lampdstand’s message as an alternate ending also lacks that oomph when it’s really just a series of encouraging words. At least let them see Jesus’ Thousand Year Reign or something!

Final Thoughts: Azrael’s Guide to the Apocalypse, much like its prequel product, has high expectations: to turn the final book in the Bible into a gameable adventure. It sought to create an epic story where the PCs oppose the forces of evil across time and space, and unlike most campaigns its enemies and environs are explicitly otherworldly. It very well may be one of the few campaigns out there where most of the enemies aren’t some variety of humanoid!

But as far as campaigns go, Azrael’s Guide is not one I’d recommend. While it does a good job of making the high-level adventures feel appropriately cosmically epic, many of the encounters and adventures are linear in a bad way. Be it the very railroaded scripts, the lack of consequences one way or another for various events (like whether or not the Tree of Life dies), the bare-bones nature of places the characters visit before being spirited away to some other domain, make the product feel unfinished and in need of a good polishing to make it shine.

I’ve tried my best to not make direct comparisons to Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible, trying to judge this product on its own merits. I’ll admit that Adventurer’s Guide really raised my expectations, and I won’t lie that it didn’t contribute to feeling quite let down when I found this book quite lacking in comparison.

But I feel that it’s inevitable.

If you look at my review for that book, I talked about the loving care and detail in writing up the various locations, events, and characters. Many of the adventures had open-ended means of resolution to encourage a variety of play styles, the faction system and side content unrelated to the main quest made the world feel more real and that there were things beyond just the PCs, the lovingly-detailed research notes in back gave a great springboard for DMs who wanted to do further research in the time period…all of this gave extra weight to the battle against the Archdemons, for a DM had all the tools they needed to make the players care about the world and its people.

Yet in Azrael’s Guide, we don’t have opportunities to stop and smell the roses. The world under the Antichrist is extremely vague, committing the classic pitfall of being barebones to avoid looking like one is giving a political message or ending up dating one’s product. When the PCs fly into Jerusalem with angels at their side, the city itself is undetailed. In Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible, we had a map, a list of districts, characters and side quests, and an explanation of the recent history and its current political and religious unrest. In Azrael’s Guide, none of that matters, only the battle against the Beast. How the people survive under the Antichrist’s yoke doesn’t matter, only the infiltration into Unity Tower and to get back the Scroll of Seven Seals.

Barring some rare exceptions such as Azrael and Gethsemani, most of the characters in Azrael’s don’t really have much time to get to know the PCs and bond with them, more often appearing to fulfill a Biblical checklist like with the Woman and her Child. And such checkmarks have to be done, even if there is an illusion of choice. The Antichrist must break at least four of the seven seals, the Scroll of Seven Seals must not be taken back, and when there are choices like with fighting the Dragon at the end or the Legions during the Battle of Armageddon…too many just don’t matter.

And add onto that the errors in the stat blocks, this only brings the product down further.

I don’t like to end things on a bad note. I still want to see Red Panda Publishing continue to make Biblical 5e material, and I am interested in seeing what other famous religious figures from folklore and history they convert (pun intended) in their upcoming Heroes of the Heavenly Host expansion. I’ve seen how good they can be when they wrote Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible, and even in this product I can tell they put a lot of work into it. They are doing something precious few other publishers are able or willing to do in the tabletop gaming scene, so I view Azrael’s Guide as more of a setback than an inevitability for future productions.
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Well, like the previous book, this was a crazy read. Thank you for the analysis- I only run my own setting nowadays, but learning of and reading about weird-arse stuff like this gives me plenty of inspiration.
For me, purchasing a product like this is a question of whether the mechanical stuff like monsters & magic items, or individual scenes/encounters, can be stolen/riffed on.
 

Libertad

Hero
I wouldn't recommend it as a bestiary or new magic items. That material is but a fraction of the whole book, and they're quite strongly themed in being mostly fiends.

I'm sure there are some scenes/encounters that can be used in other settings, but that's a very subjective theme and overall I wasn't satisfied with the adventure so I can't recommend it on that front either.
 


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