A monk with mastery of the element of fire, with stat block for use in D&D 5E.
Fire and lava burn in the blackened caldera of Mount Cindercrest. And there, in the ruins of a lost temple, is a passionate and excitable elemental that has taken the name Iskar and the title of Master of Fire. All are welcome to challenge Iskar, but those that do must keep a cool head and prove their conviction, or be burned by the Master’s fire.
The four masters are expertly-trained monks with mastery over their chosen element. They may serve as a trial for others of their order, guardians of openings to elemental planes, or the keepers of a set of ancient relics that must never be reunited. Whatever their purpose, the masters stand waiting for challengers who might face them.
Cindercrest and the Burning Stage
A vague interpretation of a path ascends the black stone of the mountain, carved sections of rock winding across loose stones and gravel. In the distance, growing ever closer as you continue, is a line of burning orange; a stream of lava cascading over a ledge at the peak and winding down the mountainside as it cools. The air grows hotter and its sulfurous stench thickens with every step.
Finally, just as the scorching heat and suffocating smoke were becoming unbearable, the path comes to a structure. Perched on the caldera’s rim between bright, burning lava and the mountain’s sheer edge is some sort of carved staging area. It is cut from the same dark stone as the mountain, arranged as a set of stairs leading to an outer ring that is then separated from a central platform by a mote of lava which pours over the edge to the mountainside below. A number of columns stand at the corners of the structure. The site is damaged, more so than simple erosion or wear, and you immediately recognize bodies slumped against stones and steps or collapsed in the dirt. The gravel crunches underfoot as you approach and a single head sluggishly raises, eyes flickering open.
Mount Cindercrest is a volcano historically popular for those looking to summon elementals and other creatures of fire. Named for the perpetual glow of its peak, it is said to be a location where the plane of fire infringes on the Prime Material, keeping the caldera permanently alight despite never erupting. Various mages, orders, and cults have laid claim to the volcano’s caldera over the centuries, each one leaving behind ritual sites and other small structures to be claimed by the ever-simmering lava. One such site is the Burning Stage. Set on the thin edge between the lava and steep mountainside, the Stage was most likely used to attract and appease fire elementals for some nefarious end or another. Its original creators are long gone, leaving the Stage to one solitary fire elemental: Iskar, the Master of Fire.
While ill-equipped to house the many students that they attract, the Stage acts as the perfect place for Iskar to reside and conduct their ‘Trial of Fire’. The inescapable heat and the determination one must muster to survive it are perfect extensions of Iskar themself. Anyone that wishes to undergo the trial or to train under Iskar must be ready to do more than weather the flames; they must harness their own.
Slumbering students. Close to a dozen of Iskar’s students lay unconscious around the Burning Stage. The students are of varying origins but are all dressed for the heat and most are beside a pack full of traveling supplies.
Characters who look over the students easily recognize that they are alive and breathing. A character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Medicine) check of one of the students identifies bludgeoning marks, likely from punches and similar impacts, as well as burns that have had healing ointments applied to them. Despite the injuries, the students are all simply resting from exhaustion.
Flowing lava. Cindercrest is known for the lava that remains constantly active in its basin. A creature that comes into brief contact with the lava surrounding the Burning Stage takes 16 (3d10) fire damage. If a creature makes prolonged contact with the lava, such as entering the lava or ending its turn in it, the creature instead takes 33 (6d10) fire damage.
Emergency extinguishing. As the caldera’s single elemental resident, Iskar has limited control over the heat of the lava and rock. If Iskar believes a creature might be killed by falling into the lava, they rapidly cool and solidify the lava beneath the creature into stone, preventing the creature from becoming submerged.
While contact with lava should be dangerous, the amount of damage it deals depends on how long a creature or character is touching it. This is mostly done as a means of balancing the lava as an aspect of a larger fight. It is a hazard that threatens challengers but will not end the fight if they make the tiniest contact with it. You are able to adjust the exact damage rolls however you wish, particularly in response to how a character touches the lava, be it running across its surface, being thrown into it, or even falling prone and becoming submerged. For a point of reference, ‘brief contact’ would refer to a character crossing the lava quickly and with the use of a monk’s Unarmored Movement or while affected by the water walk spell, both of which prevent the character from being able to sink into the liquid lava.
Iskar, Master of Fire
On the steps at the side of the stage, dangerously close to the bubbling lava, is the unconscious form of a young drow woman. Her skin is only a shade lighter than the dark grey stone beneath her, while her hair, cut only to a central mohawk that has fallen and matted out of place, is jet black. She is dressed for the heat in sparse bindings and white and red cloth. Her eyes are closed and limbs motionless, but you do make out the subtle movement of her breathing.
The cracks in the stone around the body fill with a growing glow and distorting heat waves. Sparks spit and flames lick around it. The fire rises in bright ribbons, reaching out from the cracks and nearby lava and encircling the unconscious girl’s limbs. Others follow her shallow breaths into her mouth and nose. They fill her lungs and wake her with a start. She quickly pulls her knees to her chest and springs to her feet, landing upright. As she loosens her joints, embers wash across her skin and hair with every movement, and she looks to you with burning golden eyes.
In the blazing heart of Cindercrest is an energetic and capricious fire elemental named Iskar. As an ageless embodiment of zeal, they were long ago stricken with a curiosity for mortal beings and the pursuit of what it meant for those same mortals to truly live. They spent many years drifting through various lands, observing and interacting with different peoples in an attempt to discover their passions. They hoped to find something that might ignite them in the same way. As one might expect of the now Master of Fire, they eventually found their answer in battle. The thrill of single combat was a fuel unlike anything Iskar had felt and started them on their path to mastering the art.
Eventually, people were attracted to Iskar in the very same way that they had once been attracted to the mortal world. Iskar’s lack of an official temple or school on the volcano on which they now reside has not stopped potential students from braving the locale’s dangers in search of their tutelage. Many hopeful proteges journey to Mount Cindercrest seeking Iskar’s teachings, though few are ready for the eccentric wisdom that they receive.
“All else pales in the light of that which sets the soul ablaze”; this is the core value that Iskar holds to. Many find their excitable, chaotic nature, love of freedom, fighting, and spectacle, and joyful appreciation of sometimes silly humor to be a sign of immaturity or lack of discipline. But these beliefs rarely survive an encounter with Iskar.
Iskar fights and trains by inhabiting the bodies of their willing students; an ability Iskar discovered as a means to overcome the relative weakness of their natural form. The host remains conscious and perceptive to what is happening as Iskar engages their opponent, whether it be another student or a challenger of the Trial of Fire. They are shown a taste of Iskar’s passion, the fire to push through pain and exhaustion and give the entirety of one’s being to a singular focus, then told to seek out whatever fills them with the same drive. The same goes for whomever they are fighting as Iskar pushes them to find and transcend their limits in pursuit of their passion. And should either of them find the same zeal in combat, they are free to stay at the Burning Stage and train amongst their peers. Iskar is then able to further teach their students by reinhabiting their bodies, each time leaving behind traces of muscle memory for the students to hone against each other. That is when Iskar’s acolytes are not resting from their Master having spent every last spark of energy in their bodies.
Spirit of the Burning Stage
Iskar’s identity as an elemental spirit and the time they have spent in Cindercrest’s caldera grants them unique abilities beyond the reach of mortals. They use these when facing challengers, never forgoing an advantage or giving their opponents time to find their own.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Iskar takes a lair action to use either Wall of Lava or Transfer Flames:
Wall of Lava. Iskar causes a section of the surrounding lava to erupt upwards. They choose 8 10-foot squares of lava, each of which must have at least one edge adjacent to the edge of another square. The lava rises 20 feet into the air, creating a solid, opaque wall. Any creature within the area when the lava rises must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 16 (3d10) fire damage, taking half as much damage on a success.
The wall of lava remains in place until initiative 20 (losing initiative ties) of the next round.
Iskar and their counterparts are all built from the stat block of a 12th-level monk, which balances them for combat against a single opponent of similar strength. They require adjustments if used in an encounter against an entire party. Fortunately, Iskar is naturally surrounded by a number of their students, who can be used to even the playing field. Iskar’s Transfer Flames can also become an even more interesting ability when some of their other possible hosts are already combatants in the same fight.
Transfer Flames. Iskar transfers from their current host body into another one of their students within 30 feet. They fly in a formless mass of fire that moves in a straight line to the new body. Any creature in their path must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 4 (1d8) fire damage, taking half as much damage on a success.
Any part of the line that is on the ground is also lit on fire until initiative 20 (losing initiative ties) of the next round. Any creature that steps into the flames for the first time on a turn or that ends its turn in the flames takes 3 (1d6) fire damage.
While Iskar does fight using the bodies of their students, this does not impact their hit points or abilities, as Iskar is not a hostile spirit and does not use their students as a shield like a ghost might. This means that Iskar’s stat block remains the same between hosts, helping to simplify combat amidst the Master’s many other abilities.
Like a wildfire, Iskar’s approach to combat is swift, aggressive, and persistent. Rather than relying on the debilitation or control of their opponent, they overwhelm them with sheer ferocity and constant attacks. Iskar’s goal is simply to see their opponent fall before they do. To overcome them, a fighter must be able to weather Iskar’s barrage.
At the core of Iskar’s repertoire is their Ampli-fire ability that uses ki points to draw on their fire without harming the current host body. At its base level, Ampli-fire grants them the abilities of Ignited Soul. These center around passive enhancements to their existing monk abilities. They are able to see through magical darkness, move faster without the expenditure of ki, and gain further reach to their melee attacks. This additional power makes Iskar far more threatening, particularly against single opponents, by preventing targets from being able to escape Iskar by speed or obscurement. Its ki efficiency also allows Iskar to maintain Ignited Soul for all or most of a standard fight.
Iskar can also choose to charge more of their ki into Ampli-fire and awaken their Blazing Soul. This heats their body and ignites the ground beneath their feet, while also giving ammunition to their Sure-fire Flames. These are all direct damage abilities used to assault a target that is already within attack range. They can also serve to punish attackers and dissuade them from using their own abilities, such as Action Surge or Flurry of Blows, with the counter damage of Iskar’s Heated Body. Meanwhile, Pyric Path and both of Iskar’s lair actions create damaging barriers to prevent and punish the opponent’s escape attempts. As a tradeoff, the ki required to maintain Blazing Soul makes it unsustainable for extended periods of time.
Finally, Iskar has access to their Flare Strike and Conflagration. The former is a replacement for Stunning Strike that trades the stronger stunning effect for a weaker blind but with added damage and the ability to affect multiple targets. Conflagration, while not always available, is an alternate bonus action that hits everything around Iskar, with the chance to light them on fire. While its average damage is weaker in one-on-one than a Martial Arts attack, any target that fails their saving throw must then spend an action to douse the fire or take continuous damage that can quickly turn the tides in a fight.
Iskar’s abilities allow them to deal consistent, inescapable damage to their opponent. This provides a very different obstacle than Iskar’s water and air counterparts, who both manipulate the movement and flow of the fight. Iskar’s multiple sources of damage might seem daunting to have a character face at first, but it is important to remember that the Four Masters are designed as tests for the character. They cannot approach the encounter the same way they did Zephas or Kawaryu and must find a new answer to Iskar. At the same time, monk characters, who are the most likely the face the Masters, also have access to the Evasion class ability, helping to cut down the damage from Iskar’s Sure-fire Flames and Conflagration. How they deal with the rest of Iskar’s attacks is up to them to figure out, whether that be in the heat of the battle or before earning a rematch with the Master of Fire.
Describing Iskar in Combat
A good foundation for playing and describing Iskar in combat is to emphasize their character. They talk throughout the fight, taunting, complimenting, and commenting on their opponent as a means of motivating them. They revel in seeing what their opponent can do when they bring their all to bear and what they can achieve when they truly test their limits. When controlling Iskar, play into this by highlighting their excitement when their opponent does something impressive. This could include executing a clever plan, landing a critical hit or a high-damaging turn, or demonstrating a unique ability. The closer the fight, the more excited Iskar is. The reverse can also be true, with Iskar expressing disappointment if they can intuit that their target is holding back or not meeting their expectations. Finally, all of this also extends to the surrounding students, whose behavior reflects their Master’s. They awaken and begin spectating the fight as it progresses, cheering for both sides and enjoying the techniques on display and everything they might learn from the clash.
The same elation should be incorporated when describing Iskar’s skills and attacks, alongside their aggression. Fortunately, fire tends to be the most straightforward element to describe, and Iskar’s distinct Ampli-fire levels give a structured jumping-off point for how much intensity to put into each description. Doing so also acts as a way to keep the characters aware of Iskar’s Ampli-fire, which is important when it comes to abilities such as Heated Body. Here are some examples of how you can differentiate these descriptions…
Flare Strike (from an unarmed strike within 5 feet):
The pain of the hit sets in quickly as you adjust in preparation for the next. But what draws your attention is a building glow from within Iskar’s fist. Before you can truly understand or react, the light erupts in blinding white.
Flare Strike is a good example of a description that only needs to be given the first time it is used in a fight. Each subsequent use can be shortened to something like, “the same blinding light flares from their attack.” This helps save time during combat and also allows the character or party to more easily understand when they are seeing something new, or when it is a repeat of a previous ability.
Iskar’s muscles briefly tighten before loosening again. As they do, the cinders across their body and hair glow brighter and spit small flames, distorting waves of heat shimmering in an aura around them. They look to you with an open smile, light burning from within.
In addition to this description, Ignited Soul also adds reach to Iskar’s melee attacks. This can take many forms. You can choose to flavor it as blasts of fire or even fiery constructs taking the forms of whips, chains, or even entire weapons, like a glaive. If you can’t decide on one, consider having it vary between each host body that Iskar takes.
Step of the Wind (while under the effect of Ignited Soul):
Embers wash down Iskar’s limbs, collecting in their palms and feet before blasting out in sudden explosions of fire that rocket Iskar forward.
If Iskar does not need to use their Step of the Wind or its additional jump distance, you can always mix this description into their general movement. This can help to demonstrate the enhancement of Ignited Soul and its effect on regular monk abilities without having to go out of your way to make sure Iskar uses them. You can even foreshadow a brutal series of attacks by having Iskar leap at the target and mixing this description into the strike.
The heat of the volcano, scorching as it already was, grows even hotter as Iskar prepares themself. In a sudden crackling ignition, their embers focus into smoldering bands and markings on their body that burn with violent flames. Orange light pulses beneath their skin as though their very core is alight, and four small flames spark in the air around them, growing into focused motes of fire.
Blazing Soul’s three abilities are individually recognizable and much easier to describe in isolation, as they occur. This brings the advantage of making Blazing Soul visually distinct from Ignited Soul, saving you from needing to specifically mention if Iskar has also activated Blazing Soul each turn. Instead, the motes of Sure-fire Flame and the fire of Pyric Path should do it for you.
The ground burns and sparks under each of Iskar’s steps, bursting into flames that spread outwards to cover their path.
Sure-fire Flames (on a hit):
As the blow connects, one of the motes of flame orbiting Iskar’s shoulder flies forward. It follows and winds around the path of their strike in the moment of impact, exploding as it reaches you.
Iskar’s home of the Burning Stage is based on our recent ‘Arena of Fire’ battle map, but we have plenty of other equally fiery, volcanic, and lava-filled battle maps that would be perfect settings for the Trial of Fire…
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