Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bestiarum vocabulum - Forkrul Assail

After the Jaghut (one of the most famous entries on this blog, for reasons I can’t fathom) and the T’lan Imass, here’s another (totally unofficial and biased) version of an exotic race from the Malazan Book of the Fallen novels – the dreaded neutral fanatics and dispensers of judgment, the Forkrul Assail.

The Forkrul Assail are my second favorite race from the Malazan universe (‘cause, you known, Jaghut rules!). In part because they’re given little spotlight in the novels (so far, read the next paragraph); but also because they’re so frigging alien and frightening – in appearance and behavior.

While one can argue that the K’Chain Che’Malle (another Elder race from the novels) are weird, c’mon!, they’re just funky lizard/dinosaur-men and we had already our share of them in fantasy. The Forkrul Assail, however, are something completely new. Besides, their view of “Neutrality” is something so inhuman and f*cked up that (IMHO) it goes beyond the traditional view of Alignments.

Well, the usual warnings:

1) Lately, I haven’t had the time to read novels or RPGs on a good pace, so I’m still stuck on the seventh book – Reaper’s Gale. That said, if anything new comes up on the next books they aren’t here. An example would be my T’lan Imass conversion; I made it after reading the first and half the second books. Reading those stats again showed to me that a lot things that weren’t right (like the “anti-magic” abilities, which I created out of a confused interpretation of Elder/normal magic).

2) I don’t care about canon. Like the Jaghut, the idea here is to add more cool stuff to the D&D mash-up. Forkrul Assail as “uber-neutral alien judges that can scare demons/sorcerer-kings” is a very cool concept. The stats try to reflect that idea.

3) As I already mentioned twice, my love for these guys come from their vision of what means to be True Neutral. Yes, they’re pushing it, but in a wondrous and bizarre way, perfect for Gamemasters who like to provoke their players (or just love Planescape).

4) Finally, the Forkrul Assail are my perfect excuse for a high-level humanoid menace. Most high CR humanoids that come in bestiaries just don’t “click” with me (like, for example, the Adlet, from Bestiary 3). The humanoid/monstrous humanoid types are also so hard to properly define. It looks like the former (should) represent weak/non-supernatural beings, but Pathfinder made Giant into Humanoids, so any distinction in this regard is totally gone for me. If not for the Giants I’d have made the Forkrul as Monstrous Humanoids, but let’s see what kind of monster we can make with a Humanoid type pushed to its (almost epic) limits.

The stats below represent a fully adult Forkrul Assail with lots of centuries on its back (and thousands of deaths in its judgment records). 

Bestiarum vocabulum – Forkrul Assail 

"To achieve peace, destruction is delivered. To give the gift of freedom, one promises eternal imprisonment. Adjudication obviates the need for justice. This is a studied, deliberate embrace of diametric opposition. It is a belief in balance, a belief asserted with the conviction of religion. But in this case, the proof of a god’s power lies not in the cause but in the effect. Accordingly, in this world and in all others, proof is achieved by action, and therefore all action – including the act of choosing inaction – is inherently moral. No deed stands outside the moral context. At the same time, the most morally perfect act is the one taken in opposition to what has occurred before...In this civilization...its citizens were bound to acts of utmost savagery. Vast cities were constructed beneath the world’s surface. Each chamber, every building, assembled as the physical expression of the quality of absence. Solid rock matched by empty space. From these places, where they did not dwell, but simply gathered, they set out to achieve balance."
-          Silchas Ruin on the Forkrul Assail, Midnight Tides


Art by derkhanblue

Forkrul Assail                         CR 20 (307,200 XP) 

N Medium Humanoid 

Init +24; Senses low-light vision, darkvision 120ft., blindsight 15 ft.  



AC 33, touch 24, flat-footed n/a (+9 natural, +12 Dex, +1 dodge +3 ring of protection) 
HD 390 (20d8+300) fast healing 10* 
Fort +27, Ref +29, Will +19 
DR 10/adamantine 
Immune asphyxiation, bleed, critical hits, poison, disease, fatigue, massive damage, weather; Resist all 10;
SR 35 
*stops if the Forkrul Assail is brought below 0 hit points 

Speed 90 ft. (40 ft. in armor) 
Melee flurry of blows +30/+30/+25/+25/+20/+20/+15/+15 (2d10+15/17-20 x3) or punch/kick +27 (2d10+21/17-20 x3) 
Space 5 ft.; Reach 10 ft. 
Special Attack Alien Limbs, Constrict (2d10+21), Combat Surge, Crippling Critical, Improved Evasion, Frenetic Reflexes, Grab (Large), Piercing Strike, Quivering Palm (DC 29), Pull (any natural attack, 15 ft.),  Push (any natural attack, 15 ft.),  Sneak Attack +5d6, Stunning Fist (DC 29), Trip. 

Str 31, Dex 35, Con 40, Int 23, Wis 25, Cha 27 
Base Atk +15; CMB +30; CMD 52 
Feats Combat Reflexes (B), Combat Expertise, Deflect Arrows (B), Dodge (B), Gorgon’s Fist, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative (B), Improved Sunder, Improved Vital Strike, Mobility (B), Medusa’s Wrath, Power Attack, Scorpion Style, Spring Attack (B), Weapon Finesse (B), Vital Strike 
Skills Acrobatics +35, Bluff +22, Climb +20, Diplomacy +14, Intimidate +20, Knowledge (Arcana) +20, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +10, Knowledge (History) +24, Knowledge (Planes) +15, Knowledge (Religion) +20, Linguistics +20, Perception +31, Sense Motive +15, Stealth +35, Survival +23, Swim +28, Use Magic Device +17 
Skill Racial Bonuses +8 Perception 
Languages Forkrul Assail, Aboleth, Common, Undercommon, Aklo, Dwarf, Elven, Giant, Jaghut, Goblin, Infernal, Celestial, Abyssal, Draconic, Necril, Protean, Ignan, Terran, Aquan, Auran and two other dead and exotic languages of your choice, besides Telepathy (100 ft.) 
Special Qualities Blindsight, Compression, Darkvision, Hard to Kill, Improved Evasion, Keen Scent, Low-light vision, Preternatural Awareness, Primal Anatomy. 

Environment any 
Organization solitary, pair or army (30+) 
Treasure none 

Alien Limbs (Ex) Forkrul Assail possess strong arms and legs with multiple joints. This increases their speed and threat range but also allows them to fight opponents at close combat. 
Crippling Criticals (Ex) Forkrul Assail are deadly martial artists. Their critical range with their natural attacks is 17-20/x3. If they confirm a critical hit, the attack also inflicts 1d10 ability drain to a random determined ability score.
Frenetic Reflexes (Ex) Forkrul Assail are so quick and their long limbs so agile that taking a 5 ft. step or a withdrawn action within their threat range provokes an attack of opportunity (though using Acrobats still works). 
Preternatural Awareness (Ex) Forkrul Assail are never flat-footed and have a +8 racial bonus to Initiative and Perception. Flanking or surrounding a Forkrul Assail doesn’t grant any bonus or mechanical advantages. 
Primal anatomy (Ex) Forkrul Assail have a unique anatomy, incredibly primitive but also very efficacious against trauma.
They (also) breathe through their skins, can survive underwater under practically any pressure, don’t suffer altitude sickness, can hold their breaths for an absurd amount of time and can, theoretically, hibernate through millennia.
They have multiple and redundant organs, except for their brains (which can, however, regrow cells if not completely destroyed) with makes them immune to critical hits and grant a 50% chance of ignoring precision damage (like Sneak Attacks) and ability score damage (but not drain).
Even though Forkrul Assail doesn’t have the regeneration special ability, they can regrow arms and legs, given enough time (or promptly recover lost members, if reattached a few minutes after removed, including their heads). Their amazing recoverability works like fast healing, with one difference: if a Forkrul is brought below 0 hit points, their fast healing is shut down.
Finally, their amazing resistance to damage also grants them a relatively immunity to weather (like endure elements) and resistance against all kinds of damage (thus their energy resistance). Forkrul Assail do eat and drink, but don’t die due to starvation. 
Hard to Kill (Ex) Forkrul Assail can keep fighting below 0 hit points and only die after reaching double their Constitution scores. Even after that, unless their heads are destroyed or their bodies are totally dismembered, it’s quite possible that the Forkrul Assail will eventually recover from their wounds. They’re immune to massive damage. 
Stunning Fist (Ex) Forkrul Assail can use this class feature as a 20th level Monk. The DC is 29. 
Piercing Strike (Ex) Forkrul Assail’s natural attacks work as +5 magic weapons and adamantine for the purpose of overcoming DR or bypassing hardness. 
Combat Surge (Ex) Forkrul Assail using a full-round action with her natural weapons attack like a 20th level Monk using a flurry of blows. They also gain an additional move action every round.  

Forkrul Assail. Forkrassal. Krussail. Judges. Watchers. Balance Keepers. Demons. They’re known but a thousand names, deep in the legends and mythos of most humanoids civilizations of the present age and bygones ones. Few, however, recognize them for what they really are. Most people misjudge this elder race for just another exotic type of demon or outside – a dire mistake.
Forkrul Assail were ancient before the first elf was even born. The Winds Dukes of Aaqa knew them. The Forkrul walked the world long before the serpent folk and the jaghut. It is whispered that they’re almost as old as the aboleth, the mi-go and the neothelids. Even the primordial qlippoth were subjects to the Forkrul Assail’s judgments during their initial forays in the material planes.
At the present age, most Forkrul are long dead. Destroyed and eradicated by unlikely and desperate alliances of Good and Evil pantheons and ancient races. Unfortunately, a few survived. It’s just too hard to kill a Forkrul Assail. During the heat of battle – or worse, war – it’s tempting (or convenient) to just trap or bind them.
The Forkrul Assail are humanoid, although taller and thinner than humans or even elves. Their bodies are alien and belong to older eons of existence. A Forkrul possess more joints in their limbs and hands, a jointed sternum, large, solid black eyes and blue blood rather than red. They are physically far more robust than most humanoids, and appeared to be virtually un-killable through conventional means, healing from cuts and blows extremely quickly. They also possessed incredible strength, speed and agility, and are able to successfully combat several powerful opponents at once while sustaining only minor wounds. In addition, they have preternatural longevity and could live for millennia without food or water.
Their mind is as alien as that of the aboleths, though one can argue that the Forkrul’s worldview came rather from eons of decadence and inhuman philosophy than from contact with strange realities and entities. Unlike the illithid and the aboleths, the Forkrul were born on this sphere. Maybe that gives them a more frightening aura – what mortals can become after long and strange ages living upon this world.
Forkrul Assail are obsessed with Neutrality and Judgment, with restoring the Balance, the perfect stance between all Moralities, the ultimate pinnacle of Equilibrium. It can be argued that this almost religious passion eventually drove the entire race mad (the other option being too alienating to contemplate – that the Forkrul found the Final Truth of Neutrality).
To most living creatures, the Forkrul Assail’s worldview of balance and perfect neutrality is a vast, dead and motionless desert. After all, where nothing can change, where no improper act of moral can happen, the Balance would hold forever. The few Forkrul that took enough notice of the younger races in the first place to proper address the issue (usually while quickly slaughtering the listeners) said that such “gross oversimplification of the matter is a just and sufficient evidence of the Judgment’s ontological necessity”.
The knowledge that a breathing Forkrul Assail has awakened and is wandering the local region is enough to force alliances between metallic and chromatic dragons, to force the awakening of a neothelid or even an avatar or outsider intervention. More careful beings quickly leave the area. At least one of the dragon flights of the last millennia was actually provoked by the sighting of three Forkrul Assail leaving an underworld passage in the mountains to the north.


  1. You definitely need to read to the end of the series, the last book, 'The Crippled God' contains alot of material on the Forkrul Assail. And by the way, they use ships to cross the seas, so I don't think the primal anatomy with the watertight build fits, but I may have missed a passage or two in previous books which states otherwise. I'm just happy somebody else finds the Malazan Book of the Fallen as an engaging and as incredible as I do!

  2. Hi Sean!

    Thanks for the comments! I'm really excited to known that the Forkrul Assail will have a bigger role still in the Erikson's books (I just wish I could read faster... almost finishin Reaper's Gale now). I was lead to believe that the FA would only appear on the Esslemont's books (there is a volume called 'Assail', no?).

    I find the Malazan Book of the Fallen an amazing world-building excercise, I can only hope that the Kharkana Trilogy and the Esslemont's series are also as good.

  3. IMHO I think Esslemont isn't as good Erikson as far as the writing goes, but Ian is constantly improving with every book! So far I haven't been disappointed with any of his books. As far as Ian's last book, 'Blood and Bone,' I'm still a little confused as to the timeline regarding when those events took place. Enjoy the rest of the series. : )

  4. Hmmm... I read the first chapter of Return of the Crimson Guard and the writing seemed rather poor (against Erikson’s). But I’m glad to hear that he’s improving. Does the Esslemont series must be ready chronologically? (I jumped Night of Knives…)

  5. Oh man, this is really terrific. I too find the Assail to be absolutely horrifying in their alien neutrality. For only having read through Reaper's Gale you've done an impressive job of capturing the race. You'll definitely have to read books 9 and 10 though (honestly book 8 is the toughest one to get through. You can pretty much skip the first 60% and not miss a beat, but I digress...). 9 and 10 have a lot to do with the Assail, and they follow your idea of Assail being a really nasty super-villain.

    I won't spoil anything, but I think when you finish the series you will find you have a similar experience looking back as you said you did with the Imass. The assail are really fleshed later on and you will find that there is a lot Erickson doesn't reveal about them until those final books. He's a real bastard about that kind of thing ;) Which is one of the reasons I found his books so addicting. I just had to know more!!

    Keep reading, and keep up the awesome work on these Malazan stat blocks. I use Imass, Jughut, and Assail in my campaigns and I absolutely love how my players react when they meet up with those characters.

  6. Thanks Christopher! I finished 'Toll the Hounds' last night. Can't wait to start book #9 :)

    P.S.: Although the book #8 is hard to get by it finally did some justice to the Tiste Andii. I never really "got" them until reading this one (maybe I'll get the Kharkarnas trilogy after all). Now... I have to do some Tiste race stats for Pathtinder, maybe with the new Mythic rules.