Dungeons & Dragons Online

Steal My “Cultists”: The Neonites, (mis)understood blood mages

Hi, r/DnDBehindTheScreen – today I wanted to share with you some cultist stat blocks and lore I'm using in my game. Think Artificer, but instead of magical items, they use bodily humors (things like bile and blood) to cast magic. You can check out a nicer version (with pictures!) here.


The Power of Blood

Hrothir swung his axe in a wide arc, crashing the mithral-plated head into the ribs of the skinny, emaciated figure before him. It crumpled, as all puny mages do when confronted with the 5'2" bundle of anger.

"Damn cultists." he growled to his companions. "When will they understand that their weird gods won't protect them from adventurers?"

Unfortunately, dear Hrothir was grossly misinformed. He and his band of warriors had been dispatched from the Circle of Magi to deal with this new threat. The briefing was not unlike others they'd had: some religious hokeys had begun sacrificing people in the name of a higher power, it was bad, and it needed to be stopped. Little did they know, the Circle of Magi knew far more than they let on. These weren't simple cultists worshipping a devil or a demon: they were haemocrafters.

Haemocraft is a word banned in the marbled halls of Vendrak Tower, lest a foolhardy student overhears and begins to get ideas transmuting their own blood to reach higher echelons of power. Truthfully, this isn't the extent of Haemocraft. Haemocraft encompasses the use of the entire body: blood, yes, but bile, earwax, flesh, spinal fluid and phlegm play important roles, too.

A Haemocrafter need not rely on the ambient magic of the multiverse to cast spells. They need not learn complicated formulae and words of power to attain greatness. Rules, regulations and limitations are broken by their ceaseless advancement through experimentation. A haemocrafter is only limited by what is left to harvest in their own body, and whether they know how to turn a boil into a bomb.

Those with a penchant for the morally questionable side of magic can learn the ways of a haemocrafter. They study the body, learning everything they can about how and why it works to unlock its hidden potential. Most view blood as a vital fluid integral to survival – haemocrafters are those that understand that the bodily essences can achieve so much more than most expect of it.

The Circle of Magi in Vendrak Tower were scared of haemocraft. Were. Poor Hrothir was promptly slain by a bloodbeast, and the 'cultists' (they preferred the term 'Neonites') responded to the intrusion of a band of adventurers in their temple with a force overwhelming. Mages were subsumed by a horde of Neonite zealots, who slung spells with a fiery, bloody fury.


An Apple a Day

Haemocraft, for reasons that may be obvious, is not a practice taught among polite company. Most members of the Neonites are viewed as abominations by those that discovered their experiments. True, some may have been overzealous and practiced on bodies that were not theirs to pervert, but many operate within the boundaries of the law – and yet, they are still shunned. Haemocraft is a wildly misconceived art, and almost universally rejected. Using blood, bile and earwax to cast spells does not sit well among most of the population. Thus, the Neonites originally banded together to perhaps bring about change, and show the world the benefits of haemocraft.

The Neonites are a group of former doctors, healers and scientists. They are united by a common cause: the unlimited power of biology. Through this science, their practiced hands can pervert and perfect living tissue, and produce wonders that other spellcasters can only dream of. Watching a Neonite at work falls somewhere between beautiful and objectively horrifying. When faced with a burn victim in need of healing, some Neonites will create stitches of comprised of their own hair suffused with healing magic to re-knit the wound – others will expel bile as a plague of locusts to eat away the dead flesh and harden into a blackened patch of replacement flesh.

Most societies view them as a dangerous group to let run wild. Despite their usefulness, Neonite cells are often destroyed before they advance past infancy. To operate in secrecy, Neonites band together in groups of around a dozen, known as a 'corpus medicae'. They keep their meetings secret, adopt secret identifiers and handshakes to make themselves known to one another, and often make their base in abandoned ruins and dirty basements. As a result, they are very easily misidentified as a cult servicing a dark god, conspiring to overthrow the ruling class. Sometimes, this is not an inaccurate descriptor.


Fragile Egos

However: there was one problem. If you create a group of intelligent, powerful individuals and don't have a robust form of central administration, egos tend to get hurt and schisms form. Questions are asked: do we defend our craft with words or weapons? Do we experiment on ourselves, or beasts? Can we pervert the mind as well as the body? Each Neonite falls into a different camp, and in-fighting in a corpus medicae is rife. The only connection they share is a desire to have their discoveries celebrated by another – this does not require them to get along.

The diversity in a corpus medicae is both a blessing and a curse. Haemocrafters generally fall into three disciplines, identified by their guiding principle and the area that motivates them – internally these are referred to as 'Egos'.

Aesthetic Ego

The vast majority of Neonites fall into this category. This Ego tends towards both healing and harming a body. Their surgical prowess is unparalleled, and they freely perform surgery on themselves for the sake of progress. They actively create suitable conditions for the extraction of humors, by cultivating swathes of festering pores and painful boils, which provide a ceaseless discharge of potential magical power that can be shared among allies to aid them in battle.

Aethetic Neonites typically are the ones left to pick up the pieces after a fellow member of their Corpus Medicae has gotten on the wrong side of a brandished sword. They are the backbone of the operation, and work to keep their fellow Haemocrafters healthy and alive, while working to pervert the schemes of their enemies. They are quick healers that often prepare cures ahead of time, and grant allied Neonites the ability to use their Fast-acting curatives feature.

You can find an example of a Neonite with the Aesthetic Ego in the Neonite Adept stat block below – theirs is the least specialised of the Egos, and represent your typical Neonite.

Monstrous Ego

A Haemocrafter with a Monstrous Ego explores the darker side of Haemocraft and learns how to manipulate the body's humors to alter its form, willingly or not. Many of the monstrosities that wander the planes are the results of the mad tinkering of a Haemocrafter with an interest in this field of expertise. These Neonites are also represented by the Neonite Adept stat block, but with the addition of the variant ability Monstrous Ego.

Monstrous Haemocrafters also harbour a literal darker side – tinkering with your own body is prone to revealing the primordial origins of your species. A monster from the dawn of time that was never supposed to see the light of day. Some are in constant battle to prevent their inner demon from revealing itself, while others revel in it. These alter egos are prone to explosively burst out of their hosts when they become frustrated, angry, or threatened. You could treat them like a terrifying passenger, like the Hulk, or a useful tool, like Mr Hyde. Neonites have developed pheremones that can direct this beast, and often distribute these among other members of their Corpus Medicae.

An alter-ego might look like the Neonite's normal race with a larger frame and scarier teeth – others look nothing like the original.

You can represent these alter egos with the Bloodbeast stat block below – these beasts are still demonstrably the Neonite that originally harboured them, but are more prone to revelling in the basest of desires: violence and bloodshed. Consider giving the other members of their Corpus Medicae the Monstrous Pheremones variant ability to help direct this horrifying weapon.

Incandescent Ego

Joy. Fervor. Rage. Despair. Jubilation. As a Haemocrafter with an Incandescent Ego, the incandescent neonites know that the make-up of the body does not stop at the physical, and emotions can be manipulated just as well as vitality. Passion burns bright within the hearts of creatures – be it for good purpose or ill – and they have learned how to manipulate it, and bend it to their will.

Incandescent Neonites (stat block below) know how to use their special brand of magic to beguile the senses. They are proficient in social deception, and have learned how to manifest this in both subtle and explosive ways. It is difficult for a layman to ignore their allure, and incandescent neonites are often used to spread propaganda and garner support for the neonites among the common folk.


Stat blocks and variant abilities

Variant: Monstrous Pheremones

If accompanied by a bloodbeast, a neonite may use a bonus action to trigger the bloodbeast's Pheremone Frenzy rection.

If a neonite adept or incandescent neonite has this variant, its challenge rating is increased to 4 if there is also a Bloodbeast in the encounter. For each Bloodbeast in an encounter, only one neonite should be increased to CR 4

Variant: Fast-Acting Curatives

When accompanied by a neonite adept, a neonite may use a bonus action to expend an adept's spell slots to cast the cure wounds spell. This features' uses are shared with the adept. For each level of a spell slot spent, one use of this feature is expended (for example, if either an incandescent neonite or a neonite adept cast a 3rd level cure wounds as a bonus action, the adept expends one third level spell slot and all three uses of this ability are used for both creatures).


New spell: Blood Boil

Blood Boil

cantrip transmutation

  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Range: 30 feet
  • Components: M, S (a drop of blood and a match)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

The blood of creatures around a point of your choice within range begins to boil. Each creature in a 10-foot cube centered on that point must succeed on a constitution saving throw or take 1d4 fire damage. This spell has no effect on Constructs and Undead.

This spell's damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level (2d4), 11th (3d4), and 17th level (4d4).

Neonite Adept

Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment

  • Armor Class 15 (chain mail)
  • Hit Points 119(14d8+56)
  • Speed 30ft.

10 (0)14 (+2)18 (+4)14 (+2)10 (+0)10 (+0)

  • Saving Throws Con +6, Int+4
  • Skills Arcana+4, Medicine+4
  • Condition Immunities None
  • Senses passive Perception 10
  • Languages Common and any two languages
  • Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Variant: Monstrous Ego (1/day) As an action, the neonite adept may expend a 3rd level spell slot to transform into a bloodbeast. This transformation lasts for four hours, after which the neonite adept retains the hit point total it had prior to transforming. If the bloodbeast is reduced to 0 hit points, the adept becomes unconscious for 1d4+1 hours and is at 1 hit point.When using this variant, the bloodbeast's xp value should be used when creating the encounter instead of the adept's. Normally, this ability would be used before combat starts.

Spellcasting The neonite adept is a 5th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Constitution (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The incandescent haemocrafter has the following spells prepared: • Cantrips (at will): blood boil, chill touch • 1st level (4 slots): bane, cure wounds, inflict wounds, tasha's hideous laughter • 2nd level (3 slots): aid, blindness deafness, ray of enfeeblement • 3rd level (2 slots): dispel magic, life transference

Actions

Multiattack The adept adept makes two shortsword attacks

Shortsword Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit 5 (1d6 + 2)

Blood Boil The blood of creatures around a point of the neonite adept's choice within range begins to boil. Each creature in a 10-foot cube centered on that point must succeed on a constitution saving throw or take 2d4 fire damage. This spell has no effect on Constructs and Undead.

Bonus Actions

Fast-Acting Curatives The haemocrafter adept may use a bonus action to cast the cure wounds spell. For each level of a spell slot spent, one use of this feature is expended. The haemocrafter adept's allies may also use this bonus action, expending the haemocrafter adept's uses of this feature and spell slots.

Bloodbeast

Large humanoid (any race), any chaotic alignment

  • Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
  • Hit Points 180(19d10 + 18)
  • Speed 30ft.

14 (+2)16 (+3)18 (+4)8 (-1)14 (+2)11 (+0)

  • Saving Throws Str+6, Con+7, Int+2
  • Skills Arcana +2, Athletics +6, Medicine +2
  • Senses passive Perception 12
  • Languages Common, plus any two languages
  • Challenge 6 (2300 XP)

Strength of the Flesh The bloodbeast makes attack and damage rolls with their natural weapons with their constitution score. Additionally, the bloodbeast adds its constitution modifier to strength ability checks and saving throws (included in the stat block)

Return to Form When reduced to 0 hit points, the bloodbeast is not killed. Instead, it transforms into a Haemocrafter Adept with the Monstrous Ego variant. When it transforms, the bloodbeast regains 1 hit point and is unconscious for 1d4+1 hours.

Actions

Multiattack The bloodbeast makes three overbearing smash attacks.

Overbearing Smash Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit 8 (1d8 + 4)

Grasping Leash (Recharge 5-6) The bloodbeast targets a creature it can see within 30ft of it., and unleashes a horrifying leash of bubbling flesh. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or become restrained. When a creature starts their turn restrained in this way, they are pulled 15ft towards the Bloodbeast and take 3d8 bludgeoning damage. A creature may use an action on their turn to attempt to succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw, ending the effect on a success. The bloodbeast may only affect one creature at a time with this ability. If they target another creature with Monstrous Leash, the existing effect ends. Similarly, if the bloodbeast ever starts their turn more than 30ft away from a target affected by Grasping Leash, the effect ends.

Reactions

Pheremone Frenzy When a creature uses the Monstrous Pheremones ability, the bloodbeast must use their reaction to move up to 30ft and make an Overbearing Smash attack.

Incandescent Neonite

Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment

  • Armor Class 13 (hide armor)
  • Hit Points 73(9d8+37)
  • Speed 30ft.

10 (0)14 (+2)18 (+4)14 (+2)10 (+0)10 (+0)

  • Saving Throws Con +6, Int+4
  • Skills Arcana+4, Medicine+4
  • Condition Immunities None
  • Senses passive Perception 10
  • Languages Common and any two languages
  • Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Indentured Servants The incandescent neonite and their allies have advantage on any attack roll made while within 5ft of a creature charmed by the incandescent neonite.

Spellcasting The incandescent neonite is a 5th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Constitution (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The incandescent haemocrafter has the following spells prepared: • Cantrips (at will): blood boil, friends • 1st level (4 slots): absorb elements, charm person, inflict wounds • 2nd level (3 slots): calm emotions, crown of madness, flame blade • 3rd level (2 slots): beacon of hope, fireball

Actions

Hand Crossbow Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 30/120., one target. Hit 5 (1d4 + 1)

Blood Boil The blood of creatures around a point of the neonite adept's choice within range begins to boil. Each creature in a 10-foot cube centered on that point must succeed on a constitution saving throw or take 2d4 fire damage. This spell has no effect on Constructs and Undead.

Reactions

Jubilant Riposte When hit by an attack, the incandescent neonite may use their reaction to force the attacking creature to make a DC 14 wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the target takes 2d8 fire damage and is charmed until the end of the incandescent neonite's next turn. While charmed in this way, the target's speed is reduced to 0 and they are incapacitated. On a success, the target takes 2d8 fire damage and is not charmed.

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