A monk with mastery of the element of air, with stat block for use in D&D 5E.
On a plateau above the clouds, surrounded by open sky and howling winds, awaits Zephas, the Master of Air. He meditates in anticipation of anyone who dares to face his trial. Those who challenge the Master must be prepared to overcome his control of the very air around them, or they will find themselves quickly blown aside by the storm he conjures.
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.
Zephas is only the first of the Four Masters! Be sure to check back later when we cover the Masters of Earth, Fire, and Water in future articles…
Carved steps continue to climb the slowly tapering column of stone as the air grows thin and freezing. Clouds conceal all but a few feet around you, soaking your clothes and coating the rock in slick moisture. Every step threatens to send you plummeting down. But you keep a hand on the mountain’s surface and its amber-leafed plants, and push on against the swirling winds and dizzying height.
You break through the thickest layer of clouds as you near the summit. Rolling plains of soft white stretch out as far as you can see, hiding the terrifying distance between them and the ground. The air grows calm and clean, as if in anticipation of your approach, and the unobstructed sun grants a faint warmth. A final set of steps brings you to a sheer summit. The mountain plateaus in a flat plane of stone, as if its true peak was once sliced away by the sword of a jealous god, leaving only a featureless stage at the meeting point of the heavens and earth.
Anvil Rock, named for the shape of its plateau, is a precarious platform at the peak of a towering mountain. It rises above the lowest, thickest level of clouds, where the air is clean and unimpeded. Aside from the stone and sky, the Rock’s only other features are the resilient, high-altitude shrubbery that decorates its surface and the stairs that are cut into the stone, leading to the peak. The ascent is a dizzying, terrifying pilgrimage that few ever attempt. But even more dangerous is its sole resident: Zephas, the Master of Air.
The Rock acts as the staging ground for Zephas’s ‘Trial of Air’. Those looking to attempt the trial must face and defeat him in combat. If Zephas bests them, or if they are thrown from the edge of the Rock, they fail. Fortunately for challengers, the punishment for failure is not death. An enchantment is inscribed into the cliffs of Anvil Rock, approximately 15 feet below the peak, that catches anyone who falls from the edge by casting the feather fall spell on them.
Zephas, Master of Air
A half-elven man with youthful features and soft, long brown hair, the top of which is tied at the back. He moves with a spry lightness, loose wrappings of white and silver-trimmed blue flowing like a dancer’s ribbons. But beneath them you spot lithe muscle. He pays you a confident smirk, stretching and limbering up with effortless acrobatics.
Zephas is an experienced monk with a deep attunement to the element of air. Having reached the peak of his discipline under the tutelage of the previous Master, Zephas accepted the prestigious honor of inheriting the post. As the new Master of Anvil Rock, he now spends his days tending to the site, aiding and teaching students that are sent to him for training, and facing what few challengers arrive for his trial. When not fulfilling these duties, Zephas lives peacefully in a small community at Anvil Rock’s base.
Zephas is a joyous and compassionate individual. Despite his lofty responsibilities, he never allows himself to be burdened or weighed by them, and wakes each day with optimistic vigor. His youthful appearance and often carefree attitude can serve as a distraction for Zephas’s opponents, who erroneously assume that his disposition extends to his abilities and sense of duty. But if there is one thing that Zephas does not take lightly, it is his role as Master of Air. Though, that does not stop him from approaching challengers under the guise of an excitable, questioning admirer as they prepare to make their ascent.
Master of Anvil Rock
As the Master of Air and caretaker of Anvil Rock, Zephas has almost complete control over the wind currents on the plateau. He wields them in combat as a means of disrupting his opponents and controlling the battlefield.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Zephas takes a lair action to use Shifting Squall:
Shifting Squall. Powerful winds buffet the plateau for one round. Each creature other than Zephas on the Rock must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pushed 10 feet in the direction of the wind.
Any creature in the wind must spend 2 feet of movement for every 1 foot it moves when moving against the direction of the wind.
The squall disperses gas or vapor, and it extinguishes candles, torches, and similar unprotected flames in the area. It causes protected flames, such as those of lanterns, to dance wildly and has a 50 percent chance to extinguish them.
Each time Zephas conjures the squall, he can change the direction of the winds.
Aside from his unique abilities, Zephas’s stat block is based on a 12th-level monk. This makes him ideal for pitting against a character of the same level, such as a monk that is tasked with facing the Four Masters.
It is also possible to use him against a party of lower-level characters in an earlier story arc, though balancing the encounter becomes more complicated. Zephas does not have legendary actions or the increased damage and hit points that help other creatures make up for the disadvantages of being outnumbered. His Challenge Rating is, therefore, only a guideline to help with determining if Zephas is an appropriate threat for your party. If Zephas appears too weak, consider having a number of his students join him in the fight. You can also add more danger to the encounter, or make Zephas more of an antagonist, by removing Anvil Rock’s safety enchantment!
As a wielder of the element of air, Zerphas does not rely on superior endurance or brutal attacks. Instead, he uses his unique abilities to dominate combat by engaging and disengaging quickly, and dictating when other creatures are able to approach him. If a target favors ranged attacks, Zephas can keep them close, and if they prefer melee, Zephas can fight from range or with evasive speed.
In addition to his expected use of Stunning Strike, Zephas also wields the Shifting Squall of Anvil Rock. This allows him to forcefully move and slow his opponents without hindering himself, creating moments where he can attack but they cannot.
His signature technique, Eye of the Storm, furthers this strategy as a means of countering ranged combatants. The vortex forces Zephas’s targets to risk remaining engaged in melee with him and being subjected to his Stunning Strike and Flurry of Blows. Otherwise, they must retreat to a disadvantageous position and attack through the protective winds. That is, if the storm does not throw them off the edge of Anvil Rock.
Controlling his enemies’ movement makes Zephas’s Step of the Gale and Returning Winds abilities even stronger, particularly against close-ranged targets that may have similar abilities to himself. He can attack from range or move in, strike, and retreat. Doing so while the Shifting Squall is repelling Zephas’s opponent forces them to spend time reaching him, potentially requiring them to use a Dash action, or to fall back to weaker ranged attacks. Zephas’s Step of the Gale also prevents him from falling, should his opponent try to use the terrain against him.
While it is entirely your choice to change them, our Four Masters are designed as difficult trials for monks or similar warriors to ascend to the highest level of recognition within their order. They are a test, not a fight to the death, and the consequence of failure is a story element, not a dead character. This also means that it is okay (and even fitting) to have them use abilities that are countered by the character they are fighting, such as throwing knives that are knocked away by a monk’s Deflect Missiles. The master is simply testing what they have learned. This also rewards the character for the skills they have amassed and the tactics they use. But the Master is also a trained, experienced fighter. They have learned to counter their enemies and will adapt to the character as they display new attacks, defenses, and techniques. Overcoming them will be a gruelling task.
Describing Zephas in Combat
For many people, one of the most enjoyable parts of creating a player character is flavoring their spells and abilities with a distinct visual style. The same should be done for important non-player characters! Describing Zephas’s skills, even those that are common to all monks, in a way that highlights the element of air helps show his total mastery of it. Here are some examples you might use or build from…
Deflect Missiles (against an arrow):
Zephas leans slightly in the moment before being struck; not far enough to dodge it, yet a sudden gust catches the arrow and turns it aside.
He spins as he falls, the flowing of his robes seeming to conjure a vortex that encircles Zephas and gently lowers him to the ground.
Evasion (to avoid fire):
Zephas flips back as the flames reach him, his foot sweeping up and summoning a blast of wind that splits the fire around him, leaving him unscathed.
As always, overdoing these descriptions can end up slowing combat down. Describing the first use of a skill is enough, and repeated instances can quickly reference the effect and a previous use.
Map and Asset Downloads
Zephas is the master of our very own vertigo-inducing Anvil Rock battle map, which you can find on its own or in a number of variants. We also have a variety of other maps and assets you can use for the Rock or wherever else the party might encounter the Master of Air…
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