Excerpts Archive | 5/21/2008
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Excerpts: Archons
4th Edition Monster Manual

In past previews, we showed you to 4th Edition’s angels. This time, R&D’s Dave Noonan introduces the archons—extraplanar creatures in the employ of the primordials.


We designed archons to serve a parallel function to the angels: smart, organized extraplanar monsters that work for the movers and shakers beyond the world. In the case of the archons, they work for the primordials. Their backstory describes them as an important step at the dawn of time in the arms race between the deities and the primordials. When the primordials saw armies of angels, they developed an army of their own: elementals-turned-soldiers called archons, each invested with the power of a specific element.

The battle between the primordials and the deities is over—at least for the time being. But the archons remain in the service of great powers that reside within the Elemental Chaos: Efreeti pashas, primordial nagas, salamander lords, and not a few demon princes. They’re also used as guardians at larger githzerai monasteries. Most remain amid the Elemental Chaos, but over the centuries many have found their way to the world, where they roam free or are bound to primordial cults, powerful spellcasters, liches, and other individuals and groups that typically bind elementals to service.

It’s also obvious that the Monster Manual only scratches the surface of available archons. We give you three fire archons (at levels 12, 19, and 20) and three ice archons (at levels 16, 19, and 20). But the Elemental Chaos is vast, and fire and ice are only two of the many forms it takes. Now that we’ve (thankfully!) separated the word “elemental” in the D&D sense from the classical Greek elements of earth, fire, air, and water, there’s plenty of room for archons of your own design. (And I imagine you’ll see more archons from us, too.)

How to Use Archons in Your Game

Archons are useful because of their single-mindedness. They’re intelligent, but they have no culture or society of their own. They’re intentionally disconnected from their roots so that every big bad evil guy can have archons in his employ—probably acquired in some dark ritual or bargain with the sinister forces from the Abyss or wider Elemental Chaos. Likewise, every soon-to-be-disturbed tomb or secret fortress can have archon guardians; they don’t age and they don’t mind waiting centuries for interlopers (read: the PCs) to come along.

Archons share some similarities with elementals, but two important differences will often point you toward one or the other when you’re designing a D&D adventure. First, archons are a lot smarter than elementals, so they’re a good choice when you want social interaction with the PCs or a monster that shows more than ordinary cunning during a combat encounter. Second, archons are focused on a single damage type, while elementals generally display aspects of multiple elements and damage types. Archons are thus good when you want to really emphasize a single element, whether you’re mixing them with other monsters that share that damage type or deliberately choosing complementary monsters.
--Dave Noonan






Archons are militaristic creatures native to the Elemental Chaos. Vaguely humanoid in form, they serve powerful primordial entities as well as various elemental lords and princelings.

Archons trace back to an ancient time when the world had hardly been formed, when primordial beings battled the gods for control of creation. In this cataclysmic conflict, the deities marshaled armies of angels and cadres of exarchs, and though the primordials could call forth titanic beasts and giants, they could not muster a true military to face their enemies until they found the means by which elemental creatures could be reshaped and hammered into soldiers. The warriors formed through this process were the first archons.



Be sure to return Friday for a look at swarms!