Just a quick “in and out” for a pile of gems. That’s all this was supposed to be. Now here we are, surrounded by a bunch of fiery dwarves with warhammers drawn. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire…
In a previous campaign, I had too many players and had a real hard time getting the game to “flow”. One of my solutions to keep the game flowing despite the sheer number of players with different ideas and goals was to make a linear megadungeon to corral the party.
In hindsight, I would never do that again. It was super railroady and I got burnt out from how many people I had to keep track of not too long after the completion of the dungeon. However, one good thing that came out of it was that I got to use a ton of different creatures in the dungeon.
The azer was one of these creatures and they are some nasty fire elementals. They have phenomenal physical defenses without paying the price of lesser offensive capabilities. They also have some cool lore. After all, they helped to create the City of Brass.
Azers are natives to the Elemental Plane of Fire. While they are elementals, they take the appearance (and mannerisms) of male dwarves albeit with bronze skin and hair made of fire.
They also don’t naturally reproduce. They instead craft others and give “birth” to their child/creation by imbuing their body with a bit of their inner flame. Since this process is so intense the azer population is small. Their bodies do at least have the benefit of requiring no rest or sustenance to survive.
The natural habitat of an azer is deep within a volcano. Inside their volcanic home, they build fantastical cities and dig deep into the earth to find rare gems, minerals, and ore. They also have the strategic benefit of having a city that’s quite difficult for their natural enemies, the salamanders and efreet, to assault.
Azers are regarded as the most talented craftsmen in D&D lore. They’re so well regarded that powerful people will summon them to the Material Plane just to have them forge a masterwork piece.
Azer Stats and Abilities
You can find the azer’s statblock on page 22 of the Monster Manual.
Size: Medium elemental
AC: 17 (natural armor, shield)
HP: 39 (6d8 + 12)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR: 17 (+3)
DEX: 12 (+1)
CON: 15 (+2)
INT: 12 (+1)
WIS: 13 (+1)
CHA: 10 (+0)
For a CR 2 creature, this is a solid ability score array. They have no negative modifiers and their two most important abilities are above average with Strength getting some additional love at +3.
Their common saving throw abilities are decent as well. They have proficiency in CON saves so they’re safe in that regard. Both Dexterity and Wisdom only have a +1 modifier which isn’t great but isn’t bad either.
The bright spot of this portion of their statblock is for sure their physical defenses. 17 AC is exceptional. The 15 base AC without a shield is also great for a CR 2 creature. 39 HP is a solid chunk of health to carve through, especially since they have two excellent damage immunities to bolster their survivability.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Saving Throws: CON +4
Damage Immunities: fire, poison
Condition Immunities: poisoned
Senses: passive Perception 11
CR: 2 (450 XP)
Fire and poison are two of the most popular damage types in D&D 5e. Being immune to just one is a boon. Having immunity to both is a huge benefit in combat for a creature with already solid defenses.
Also, keep in mind that immunity to poison damage typically gives you the added benefit of being immune to the poisoned condition.
Their passive perception is decent as well. You may have also noticed that the azer lacks darkvision. This may come as a surprise as they are creatures that live underground and thrive in dark spaces. However, due to the literal fire that makes up their hair they have a natural light source, rendering darkvision useless.
Azers are on the upper-end of CR 2 in my opinion. Their phenomenal defenses put them a leg above their CR and give them some extra breathing room to utilize their average offenses.
Traits and Abilities
Heated Body. A creature that touches the azer or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.
Heated Weapons. When the azer hits with a metal melee weapon, it deals an extra 3 (1d6) fire damage (included in the attack).
Illumination. The azer sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.
Heated Body is both flavorful and super effective. It’s a bit of extra chip damage to deter the party’s melee from going all-out on their foe. Melee combatants must make a choice when fighting an azer. Do they continue to take the additional chip damage or do they swap to a less effective ranged weapon?
Heated Weapons is another small boost to the azer’s damage output. All of these small damage-dealing perks will add up quickly. Especially since thanks to their stalwart defenses, the azer will have plenty of time to keep chipping away at their foes.
Illumination is a welcomed trait for a creature that lives underground but does not have darkvision. However, it does come at the cost of ensuring that an azer will have few opportunities to sneak up on or ambush their foes.
Warhammer. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage, or 8 (1d10 + 3) bludgeoning damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack, plus 3 (1d6) fire damage.
Their single attack per turn is quite solid. The +5 to hit is a respectable bonus for a CR 2 creature and its 10-11 average damage per turn is in-line with most other CR 2 creatures.
I will say that like with most shield-wearing creatures with variant weapons it’s in your best interest to take the lower damage dice and keep the +2 AC shield. It’s nice to have the option of dealing a smidge more damage, but 17 AC is just too good to not take advantage of.
Phenomenal Low-Level Tank
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better tank creature at the lower levels of play than an azer.
Their generous health pool of 39 HP is tough to break-through even without including their immunity to fire and poison damage. That’s assuming you even can hit through their 17 AC thanks to their metallic bodies and shield.
Their high Constitution and proficiency in Constitution saving throws make them hardy as an ox. While their Dexterity and Wisdom aren’t as impressive, they’re at least within the realm of “decent” making them overall difficult creatures to crowd control with magic.
One of the most important factors of a tank is that they are a constant threat. Otherwise, why bother attacking them?
Their respectable damage output and average movement ensure that the party cannot just ignore these creatures and hope for the best. Ignoring an azer in combat could prove to be a deadly mistake.
Counters Melee Attackers
Melee combatants already get the short end of the stick in combat in 5e. Being right up in the thick of every fight has plenty of risks that ranged attackers aren’t privy to.
The azer’s high AC makes them difficult to hit with direct attacks which are the primary damage source for melee combatants. It’s a solid annoyance but it’s not one unique to melee combatants though.
Heated Body is the bane of a melee attacker’s existence. Sure, it’s only a bit of chip damage each attack and you’ll probably dish-out more damage than you take, but a dungeon crawl in D&D 5e is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Taking 15 damage to drop an azer will use up more resources that you might’ve needed later.
If you’re not using a weapon with Reach then you’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis on if it’s worth the chip damage to keep engaging an azer in melee combat.
Lack of Ranged Options
The azer is a very well-rounded creature, but they do have one glaring weakness. Their lack of a ranged option.
This is a glaring weakness for the azer as well since the ideal tactic is to hit them from afar. Avoiding Heated Body’s chip damage while still attacking the azer. In doing so you’ve negated the azer’s extra damage plus they have no tools for returning fire, nullifying their threat.
The azer’s only tool for dealing with ranged attackers is to pray and hope the Dash action is enough to close the gap. They could also use the Dash action to retreat and lure their attackers into a more ideal environment.
How to Play an Azer
Goad Your Enemies Into Combat
The azer deals respectable damage themselves with their warhammer and Heated Weapons. However, they shine the most in combat when you can fully utilize their Heated Body trait to deal chip damage each round.
To do this, you need to focus on positioning your azers close to the enemy’s frontline. The enemy’s play should be to focus on any backline damage dealers that the azers’ are paired up with. Your job is to ensure that the azers match the enemy’s movement and stick to them.
If you’re able to stick to them the enemy has to make a choice. Either they attack your azers taking additional chip damage, they swap to their weaker ranged weapons, or they waste their action economy using Dash actions to break free from the azers.
Any of those outcomes are a success. Either the party’s frontline winds up dealing suboptimal damage or they take the extra chip damage from attacking the azers’ Heated Body.
The azer is a strong creature with a glaring weakness. A lack of answers to ranged attackers.
However, just because the creature is weak to something doesn’t mean that your encounter has to have such a flaw as well.
Pairing the azer up with a glass cannon type creature such as an archer or spellcaster creates a symbiotic relationship between the two creatures. The azers can continue to run interference in the frontline while your ranged creatures can snipe the party’s ranged units from afar. It’s a win-win.
Different creature combinations can help level the playing field for the encounter. One creature’s strength can shore up another creature’s weaknesses.
In the case of the azer, while a lack of ranged options is a noticeable flaw. It’s not a difficult hurdle to overcome.
5 Azer Plot Hooks
- Revenge of the Efreeti – The efreeti have tried for generations to destroy the azers so that the secrets of The City of Brass remain hidden. They are so desperate to do so that they have pledged to bestow power, wealth, and fame upon whomever can defeat the azer.
- Seeking a Comission – A wizard is looking for adventurers who would seek out a willing azer from the Elemental Plane of Fire to come to the Material Plane to work on a comissioned set of armor for them.
- The Secrets of the City – The City of Brass is known to hold untold riches in secret locations that only the creators of the city know of. The azer must have plans or blueprints somewhere within their homeland.
- My Teacher – A master armorsmith hopes to be seen as worthy to apprentice under an azer master craftsman. However, the Elemental Plane of Fire is dangerous, so they’re seeking a few bodyguards for the trip.
- Inner Fire – The azer’s magical lifeforce, their inner fire, is said to hold powerful arcane properties that can be used to imbue items by a master arcanist. It’s a tough reagent to acquire, but should you do so you’d be handsomly rewarded.
The azer is a firey elemental with some great backstory and aesthetic. Yet, even though they’re the master artisans they’re still quite formidable in combat. Their base stats and traits make them fantastic tanks at the lower tiers of play.
Heated Body is an interesting mechanic and thanks to their fantastic physical defenses they will get plenty of mileage with it. Unless of course, your party is chock-full of ranged combatants.
While it’s true that they have practically no answer to ranged enemies that’s an easy problem for a DM to fix. Give the azer a couple of ranged allies of their own and the playing field is leveled.
All in all, the azer is a solid creature that I don’t see get enough love. Part of that is, of course, that they are difficult to weave into an adventure based on their canon lore, but they have a lot of fun mechanics and lore to play around with if you can slot them in!