Up From the Mud
Dispatched by the high druid of the Three Caverns, Acolyte Litner searches for a forgotten relic
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Spell save DC = 14
Spell attack modifier = +6
Proficiency bonus = +2
Saving throw = +4
Hit Dice: 4d8 + 12
Hit Points: 32*
Strength 14, Dexterity 16, Constitution 17, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 18, Charisma 10
Wild Shape (duration of 2 hours, twice per rest period, max. CR of 1/2, no flying speed)
Druid Circle (Land)
Natural Recovery (recover 2 levels of spells after a short rest)
Circle Spell: Forest (spider climb, barkskin)
Light armor, medium armor, shields; can’t use metal armor
Shelter of the faithful
Cantrips: 4, 4 1st-level spells, 3 2nd-level spells
Cantrips: druidcraft, mending, poison spray, produce flame, shillelagh
1: charm person, cure wounds, healing word, detect magic, spider climb
2: darkvision, enhance ability, heat metal, hold person, moonbeam
Skills: Insight, Medicine, Nature, Religion
Base speed: 30 feet
Languages: Common, Druidic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Goblin
Weapons: Quarterstaff (1d6 bludgeoning, versatile 1d8), scimitar (1d6 slashing, finesse, light), 2 javelins (1d6 piercing, range 30/120)
Armor: Leather armor (AC =14)
Druidic focus (hazel branch)
Sticks of incense (5)
Belt pouch with 42 gp*
Personality traits: I quote sacred texts and proverbs. I hold up a serious facade that can be cracked by a good joke.
Ideal: I must uphold and take responsibility for the druidic traditions of my forefathers.
Bond: I long to connect with interesting, decent people outside the Sect of Hades.
Flaw: I secretly feel that the Ashoum religion is morally simplistic and corrupts decent people into superstitious fanatics.
Acolyte Litner is a mid-ranking druid of a sect based in the Three Caverns, one of the last remaining havens claimed by his druidic sect, which locates most of its holy sites in the subterranean reaches of the world. The Sect of Hades holds a nontheistic philosophy teaching that all living creatures are, after death, reintegrated body and soul into the natural world, which reincarnates them into its being, living or otherwise. Theologically, this sharply distinguishes the sect from the Ashoumite religion, whose followers have at times claimed that the sect’s veneration of its founding archdruid, Hades, is a cover for Upan worship.
The Sect of Hades has long sought to maintain a healthy, if not always close, relationship with both the peasantry and nobility of Balos — a strategy that has led to its current damaged and vulnerable footing. Although their sacred rites were conducted in the wilderness, druids would typically reside in the rural areas in proximity to provide services as herbalists, midwives, and healers. (The sect also proactively offered its services of euthanasia, as it held that resisting natural mortality was an abomination. Certainly this incited controversy and fed rumors of Upan worship.) To curry favor with the ruling class, the sect would attempt to induct the occasional member of the nobility into its mysterious rites (which were often exaggerated in solemnity and piety for just this purpose) — but honorary membership often meant little more than permission to access holy sites and witness the usual rites.
The Crofters’ War was not kind to the sect. Generations of ingratiation with the nobility were effectively wasted as the Coiner Princes took power, most of whom saw little point in extending further leniency to morbid, backwater nature-worshippers. With the increase of land rents, a number of peasants took to raiding the sect’s then-robust resources, though some Ashoumite fanatics joined in the plunder, seeing also the opportunity to expose the druids’ purported Upan worship (or in some cases, kill them anyway). After the then-High Druid petitioned for aid and was rebuffed, the sect found itself in dire straits. A number abandoned the faith, reintegrating into the general populace. As many as two in three were simply killed in the war.
In the aftermath of the war, the Sect of Hades, numbering about two dozen, has attempted to recoup its losses, preserve what remains of its tradition, and attract new blood. Broadly, the sect’s leadership has taken three approaches to recovery. First, it has sought to establish positive, or at least exchange-based, relationships with Balos’s peasantry, and cautiously proselytizing among them. Second, it has attempted, with little success, to reignite its alliances with the kingdom’s original nobility, positioning themselves as potential enemies of the Coiner Princes. Third, it has dispatched its members to recover holy sites and relics (often magical) to maintain the sect’s faith and legitimacy. However, the ranks of the sect have debated the viability of the first two approaches, some instead favoring greater seclusion from the outside world; such controversy has yet to reach a full-blown dissent.
Despite (or due to) the sect’s teaching the acceptance of each person’s eventual perishing, the remains of esteemed druids (within or outside the sect) are highly prized, and mummified and enchanted. While the druids’ corpses are normally destroyed or left as carrion for animals, a small fragment of a few teachers are allowed to be preserved for inspirational purposes. These relics’ existence is always seen as temporary, and are one day expected to be destroyed by the sect itself, as a community of perfect faith would not need to enshrine physical tokens to guide its belief and practice. Whether the sect will eventually itself destroy all of what remains of its venerable dead is likely a moot point, as most of these relics — including several magical skulls and fingerbones — were stolen during the Crofters’ War.
In addition to safeguarding sacred locations in the wilderness, the sect practices the study of the natural world, contributing (most of) its findings to the wider druidic community across Solveon when possible. The sect teaches medicine, particularly relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and assisted suicide, to its members and outsiders. Meditation, woodworking, and the art of dancing into an ecstatic trance-like state also count among the sect’s curricula.
At present, Acolyte Litner has been sent to search for the skull of former High Druid Tosha, a martyr of the sect who died 38 years ago. The relic is believed to have potent powers of divination and protection.