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The Four Masters - Ulka, Master of Earth - Banner 2

A monk with mastery of the element of earth, with stat block for use in D&D 5E.

A roaming sandstorm breaks to reveal ancient, sand-swept ruins. At the center is a stepwell decorated as a temple to combat and warriors, the greatest of them still remaining within the well: Ulka, Master of Earth. She stands ready for anyone that would undertake her trial and attempt to best her. But can they overcome the immortal embodiment of strength and resilience?

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.

Ulka is the fourth in our ‘Four Masters’ series. We also have Zephas, the Master of Air, Kawaryu, the Master of Water, and Iskar, the Master of Fire. This concludes the eponymous group of four, but could there be another challenge awaiting those who complete the trials?

The Four Masters - Ulka, Master of Earth - Additional Banner 2

The Town of Ulka and the Anchorwell

Just as the sandstorm threatens to bury you, you feel the winds abate and the sand comes to an unexpected rest. You open your eyes to see the storm parting. Its center expands in a peaceful eye, exposing a colony of ruined, half-buried structures where previously there was only sand.

Of these buildings, though only walls and foundations remain and many are still swallowed by dunes, you can make out the remnants of homes and small thoroughfares. The streets descend in concentric rings into a basin. They are separated by towering spires and ridges of stone that lean outwards like the moment of a great impact that was petrified in motion. Veins of green shine from where light touches the rocks.

The sandstorm continues raging, encircling the borders of the town. It fills the air with a low rumble, though the skies directly above are clear. You are left standing in a main street that looks forward to the lowest, central point of the settlement, where a temple-like structure stands, an unbroken epitaph amongst otherwise forgotten remains.

Coming to the center of the ruins, the sound of the sandstorm now lost in the distance, you arrive at a sand-buried courtyard that surrounds a square structure. Each of its four walls is intricately designed and decorated with images of warriors and heroes in poses of victorious combat. Their armor is trimmed with green gemstone, which is also liberally set in the structure’s columns and walls and matches the veins in the stone ridges of the surrounding town.

Progressing through the building’s many arched openings brings you into an open stepwell: a carved, square pit with walls lined with descending stairs. These steps all feature the same green stone as outside, increasing in density deeper in the well, though much of it is covered in sand that has swept in and collected on the well’s floor.

Ulka was once a flourishing town built in the crater of a great stone that fell from the sky and brought with it a valuable, green-colored gemstone. Though this magic-rich ore sparked a time of prosperity and strength, it did not protect Ulka for long, and the town eventually fell. Whether its doom was to conquerors, internal threats, or other, unknown causes, no one is sure, though its fate is likely linked to its current, elusive existence. The town’s exact location has been lost in the desert’s sand. This is worsened by horizon-encompassing sandstorms that bury anything or anyone caught in them. The few who have found Ulka speak of becoming lost in these storms, their supplies diminished and survival in question, when the buffeting winds pulled the dunes away to reveal the previously hidden ruins, providing them shelter. Curiously, each traveler estimated this occurring in a different location in the desert from each other.

At Ulka’s center is the Anchorwell. Originally a quarry used to gather the meteor’s stone, it later became a temple dedicated to those heroes who wielded equipment created from the gem. The most renowned of these is also now its only remaining inhabitant: Ulka, the Master of Earth.

The desert, sandstorm, and stepwell all form Ulka’s ‘Trial of Earth’. She does not take students, as her counterparts do, but instead awakens in response to challengers. These hopeful fighters must brave the desert, prove their constitution against its storms, and descend the steps of the Anchorwell to face Ulka herself.

Ceaseless sandstorms. The town of Ulka is hidden within a demiplane that is accessible only through a sandstorm that drifts across the desert. Ulka, the Master of Earth, is able to control the movement of this sandstorm. Challengers that enter the storm are transported into Ulka’s demiplane, where the sandstorm opens to encircle the town, giving the appearance that the structures materialized around them.

The area inside of the sandstorm’s winds is considered difficult terrain and is heavily obscured. 

When in the demiplane, any character that attempts to leave the town through the surrounding storm is unable to keep track of their exact position. After walking 100 feet in any direction within the storm, the character exits it in the same place that they had entered it from.

When Ulka wishes for those in the town to leave, the sandstorm again closes over the town. Anyone in the town other than Ulka is then transported back to the location they were in when they entered the demiplane. Alternatively, Ulka can choose to deposit them elsewhere in the desert by moving the sandstorm.

Shifting stairs. The Master of Earth awaits her challengers in the center of the Anchorwell and awakens in response to their arrival. This meeting is also accompanied by the well’s structure adjusting to better accommodate the fight. Its lowest level of steps recedes into the walls, expanding the floor’s space by 10 feet on every side and surrounding it in sheer, 10-foot walls.

When Ulka awakens and the lowest stairs of the Anchorwell recede, the floor revealed under the stairs is flat carved stone rather than the blocks of the rest of the floor.

Arena of Earth - Jade - Day - Retracted Stairs Overlay - 20x20
A complimentary retracted stairs overlay for your use with our Arena of Earth map.

Anchorwell stones. The floor of the Anchorwell is made up of 10-foot cubes of the same gemstone-veined stone as the well itself. The outermost border of the floor, where it meets the stairs, is made up of 5-foot cubes of the same stone. This is all covered in a layer of sand, hiding the presence of the blocks from anyone that doesn’t investigate the Anchorwell’s floor. Underneath the cubes is smooth stone.

A kind master. Though Ulka seeks to test the strength and resolve of her challengers, she is not so unkind as to wish to kill them, and instead only renders her opponents unconscious.

In the event that someone within the town dies or is knocked unconscious and is at risk of dying, Ulka closes the sandstorm and releases them from the demiplane near a town or in the path of travelers in the desert, where they can be found.

Ulka, Master of Earth

(LN female construct)

Sitting motionless at the well’s center is a humanoid construct. It is carved from the same stone as the structure around it, with intricate plates fused to resemble musculature and coverings in a powerful, armored female form. Inlaid lines and natural veins of the town’s green gemstone adorn the golem’s body, much like the depictions of ancient soldiers and champions that lined the stepwell’s exterior.

Your first step onto the stepwell’s floor is met by a low hum in its center. There sits the construct, the gemstone that decorates its body now illuminating with undulating waves of interior light. Its stone muscles then shift. Awakening, the figure calmly rises to its feet, the pieces that comprise its form adjusting and flexing as if individually animated, as it turns to face you.

Many stories surround Ulka’s origin, from her being a wayward desert spirit to her being a conqueror that was petrified after laying waste to the town around her. The whole truth, only Ulka knows, and she is not one to speak of her past for long. What she does share is a secondhand recounting of her creation, from a time before the desert was a desert. 

Ulka was born as an experimental construct with the ability to learn from and adapt to those that she faced in combat. Her original purpose was as a tool for the town’s warriors, a training dummy that would grow stronger with each bout and force the fighters to ever greater heights. But with each new fight came additional experience, until the compiled knowledge created a spark within the construct. Ulka describes this moment as ‘the first time she opened her eyes’. Not long after her awakening, Ulka had become the town’s central figure and its greatest champion. Her success in protecting it earned her a connection with the town’s magical defenses, including the ability to conjure storms and obscure the town within a demiplane.

Ulka does not speak of her home’s downfall, preferring to remember her people as they were, not as they ended. She does share that she took its name in remembrance of the town’s people and that she has remained there since, facing those that journeyed in search of her and otherwise hiding the town beyond the reach of outsiders. She hibernates during this time, her consciousness receding into her eternal body, which itself remains immovable until she awakens again. 

This has caused the years to drift past Ulka, separating her further from the outside world. This is most obvious in conversation, during which Ulka is direct and endlessly placid, often appearing emotionless. Despite, or perhaps as a result of both this and her inhuman origin, she holds fast to her idea of identity and the humanity she has gained. Ulka knows not to invest herself in the wider world but does indulge in sentimentality. She enjoys wandering the remains of her town and delights in her few opportunities for conversation, listening to those that reach her and hearing of their many challenges and achievements. She is even known to manifest the town of Ulka in aid of those wandering the desert, inadvertently rekindling the rumors surrounding her and her home.

Yet Ulka’s primary role is always as a test and teacher to those who seek her. To them, she imparts lessons of resilience and indomitability, sharing her immortal wisdom; to learn from both failure and success, yet to never be defined by either and always be reforged stronger. She elaborates on this as she rises to meet her challengers, saying, “The mountains, the land, the stone; they may be reduced to naught but the finest sand, yet they are not destroyed. They are changed, yet they remain. This is what it means to be unbreakable. Let every experience be etched upon you, let it change you, break you, and be reforged stronger. Now come, break yourself against me.”

Awakening to arrivals. Ulka awaits her challengers within the Anchorwell and awakens her body in response to their approach, only rising from her meditation when they step foot on the well’s floor. Her awakening is accompanied by the well’s stairs shifting to make space for the battle.

Remnant of Ulka

Ulka’s inherent connection to her namesake town and the Anchorwell grants her the ability to physically manipulate its stone and sand. She uses this to shift the battle’s environment in her favor, debilitating or moving her opponent and the stone around them in order to prime them for her next attack. 

Lair Actions

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Ulka takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

Quicken sand. A 10-foot-radius area of sand within 60 feet of Ulka churns and lashes at anyone that steps on it. This area is difficult terrain for the duration and any creature other than Ulka that begins its turn in the area or enters the area for the first time on its turn must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or have its speed reduced to 0. A creature that is being held in the sand can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself on a success.

The sand continues churning until initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties) of the next round.

Shift stone. Ulka moves one of the 10-foot cubes or two of the 5-foot cubes that comprise the Anchorwell’s floor. The cubes move up to 30 feet in a straight line before stopping in place. If a cube stops in the air, it levitates and remains locked in place where it stopped.

Any creature caught in the path of a moving cube must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be pushed by the cube and thrown 10 feet in the same direction of its movement once it stops. If the cube would crush a creature against a solid surface, the creature must make the same saving throw or take 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage.

Ulka’s stat block, like the other Masters, is based on a 12th-level monk. She is designed to fight a single player-character of a similar level and may need adjustment to be used against a full party. This is especially true for the combination of her Immovable Object and Unstoppable Force actions, the power of which is increased by the number of opponents attacking her.

Ulka’s Tactics

Ulka’s approach to combat embraces her immense durability to absorb damage and succeed through a battle of attrition. But this does not deprive her of the capacity to devastate her opponents with overwhelming force.

Part of Ulka’s strength comes simply from her resilience, as, despite being slightly easier to hit than her contemporaries, she possesses greater hit points. Her First and Third Law abilities, meanwhile, help prevent her movement from being controlled, while Step through Stone can provide a consistent shield of temporary hit points and the ability to reposition at the cost of ki.

This enhanced defense and Step of Stone’s added speed allow Ulka to maintain her assault on her opponent without fear of being restrained or overpowered. For those that can escape her movement speed, Ulka can also use her Unstoppable Force attack to close additional distance or attack from distance with Quaking Fist. The former can even be used to rocket Ulka in the air or targeted directly downwards to strike the ground, while also forcing targets along the path of Ulka’s charge if they fail their saving throw. But these both come at the sacrifice of damage, which Ulka already lacks in comparison to the other Masters.

But these factors are all part of the trap laid for Ulka’s opponents. Her ability to deal consistent and inescapable damage pressures her enemies to fight back in an effort to defeat her head-on. This creates the ideal opening for Ulka to use her Immovable Object defense, particularly if her opponents are priming their own barrage of attacks. Her objective is to lure them into striking her as much as possible while her body is locked, stockpiling the damage she takes. She can then return this damage on her next turn with Unstoppable Force, potentially eliminating one or more combatants in a single, decisive blow.

Against an intelligent opponent, this combination is likely to work only once. This makes it useful for Ulka to use both Immovable Object and Unstoppable Force individually before pairing them, giving her targets a false understanding of the abilities’ effects to further bait them into attacking her during Immovable Object.

Outside of these abilities, Ulka functions much the same as a regular monk while using her lair actions to alter the battlefield, deal damage, and set her opponents up for her attacks. Quicken Sand can slow enemies and grants her a better chance at hitting those that are caught in it, while Shift Stone can erect barriers for conjuring Quaking Fists and enabling the additional collision effects of both Second Law and Unstoppable Force.

Describing Ulka in Combat

Ulka being a construct provides a good foundation for describing her strength, movements, and abilities, both through emphasis and contrast. Her general movements, for example, appear semi-robotic. Each action she takes is inflexible and inorganically precise and gives off the sound of stones grinding together. She is also far heavier than a regular person. Flavoring her different descriptions with these factors helps to set her apart from the other masters by emphasizing her unique nature and her connection to her titular element. This then works to display the force of her movements when she attacks at the same speed as any other monk.

It is similarly effective to incorporate these descriptions both when Ulka’s attacks hit and when a character hits her. A description of being hit by a fist of solid stone shows the character a great deal about Ulka’s strength and the threat she poses, even before mentioning the damage and any mechanical effects of the strike. The same can even be done for Ulka’s attacks that don’t hit. Instead of glossing over it, use her missed attacks in the starting rounds, especially if it is her first attack of the fight, to describe the character’s perception of a near-miss and the force of it either moving past them or impacting the environment. This also goes for Ulka’s defenses, such as a character hitting the stone of Ulka’s body, with her lack of reaction to the attack serving to inform them of her resistance to physical damage types.

While these descriptions of her general actions can be used at the start of the fight to introduce Ulka’s combat abilities, they should become less frequent as the fight continues, to avoid slowing its pace. Instead, you can incorporate the same themes into the descriptions of her specific abilities, as they appear. Here are some examples of how you can do that…

Unarmed Strike (hitting a target on Ulka’s first turn):

Her fist rushes past your defenses, ignoring its own weight to travel as swiftly as an arrow. You know what is coming but are not given even a moment to prepare. It connects with your midsection, solid stone moving at such a speed that you swear the sheer force might tear right through you.

Unarmed Strike (missing a target on Ulka’s first turn):

Her fist rushes past you as you narrowly avoid its path. Yet still, in the moment of it passing you, you feel the displacing pressure of such a blow; an attack of solid stone, flying as fast as an arrow.

These are good examples of descriptions that only need to be given once. They help establish the threat of Ulka’s attacks in a way that also highlights her unique identity, which is a great introduction to the fight. They will, however, quickly overstay their welcome if repeated. If you find the battle becoming too mechanical as it continues, you can give smaller descriptions that reference back to these on later turns.

Step through Stone:

She steps forward and her form phases into the stone, disappearing without the slightest disturbance. The sound of shifting earth continues from within, moving until she then re-emerges, her body now covered in scales of stone and condensed sand.

Unlike Ulka’s unarmed strike, it is important to quickly highlight the visual effect that is included at the end of this description whenever she uses this ability. The appearance of the additional stone armor is an indication that Ulka has gained temporary hit points, which may be important for her opponent to know. This does not mean that you should simply say that she has gained temporary hit points, however. Instead, consider describing the damage that her temporary hit points absorb as chipping away at the stone scales but leaving her unharmed.

Immovable Object:

Lowering her stance, she appears to lock her body in place, the glow of the gemstone fading and slowing in its undulation.

Part of the purpose of Immovable Object’s description, particularly in its first appearance, is to not reveal too much information about what is going to happen. While Ulka’s lack of movement is obvious and her increased defense can be inferred, the skill itself should not spoil the next turn’s use of Unstoppable Force. 

You can include a clue to the damage absorption if you wish, though it should be kept subtle. When Ulka takes damage, describe her lack of avoidance or reaction and mention the gemstone’s light brightening at the point of impact. If you are worried about this giving away too much information and would rather have a middle ground, wait to give this description until she has taken a certain amount of damage or a number of attacks.

Unstoppable Force (after using Immovable Object):

Her joints relax, yet the light of her body’s green stone builds, swirling faster and faster as she drops one shoulder, her eyes fixing on you. Then, in a single, blurring moment, she rockets forward. She closes the distance in an instant, the sand parting in her wake and her arm braced for a collision.

Unstoppable Force (impacting a stone surface):

The impact of her charge connecting with the stone shatters its surface into a web of cracks and crumbling rocks. It sends a shockwave blasting outwards that scatters debris, batters you with concussive force, and threatens to knock you to the ground.

These descriptions have a more straightforward purpose: impact. The combination of Immovable Object and Unstoppable Force is likely to be Ulka’s most devastating attack and is the closest thing she has to a ‘signature move’. As such, you want their appearance to be special and to sufficiently embody the threat that the technique poses. While the above descriptions are most likely to be used for her first use of the combination, similar descriptions can be repeated for particularly potent uses later in the fight.

Map Downloads

The Anchorwell is modeled to fit our very own ‘Arena of Earth’ battle map, though we have other maps that would make for great settings for Ulka and her trial…

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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