Oh, thank God, it’s not a bug this time.
This week we’re taking a look at the azer, a race of fire elementals. These guys have some pretty nifty lore: they are excellent blacksmiths who were responsible for the creation of the City of Brass, the legendary kingdom of the efreet in the Elemental Plane of Fire. Azers built the City, but were then betrayed by the efreet and ousted; now they live on the border between the Plane of Fire and the Plane of Earth.
There’s a lot of juicy stuff to unpack there. If your campaign deals with the Plane of Fire at all (and let’s be honest–what campaign doesn’t?), then you’ve pretty much got to bring in an azer or two. If your Big Bad is an efreet, perhaps your players could team up with some azers to take him down, playing off the long-standing enmity between the two peoples. Maybe your players need to sneak into the City of Brass, and an azer guide who knows its secrets would be an invaluable ally. Perhaps an azer could even serve as a patron of sorts for the players, rewarding them with finely-crafted treasures in return for striking against the efreet!
Even if you don’t want to bring the azer vs. efreet rivalry into it, azers could still be interesting additions to any jaunts into the Elemental Planes. Their habitat between the Plane of Earth and Plane of Fire could be an exciting place to explore. Think about it: magma rivers, huge volcanoes, roving bands of deadly salamanders–what a cool place for a dungeon! A small village of azers could help the players resupply before venturing back out; they might even need the players’ help to gather precious materials to craft some all-important macguffin. Alternately, perhaps the azers don’t take kindly to Material Plane wanderers mucking up their turf; a pack of angry azers, each wielding an impeccably-crafted weapon, would make for a fierce fight!
Of course, you don’t have to leave the Prime Material at all to interact with these guys. There’s every chance that an azer could have wound up outside its usual environs and is now hidden away somewhere, spoken of only in whispers about a legendary craftsman. Players could seek this master blacksmith out and (after undertaking a few appropriate sidequests) obtain his assistance to craft a powerful new weapon or other piece of gear.
In combat, azers are tough, but not terrifying. Like last week’s ankheg, they clock in at CR2: enough to pose a threat to low-level parties, or higher-level ones in large groups. They don’t have a lot of fancy tricks; their abilities revolve around being made of fire. The fire inside them sheds light around them, and they’ve got hot bods and hotter weapons. What this means in practice is that all of their melee attacks deal some extra fire damage, and more worryingly, every melee attack that hits them also deals fire damage to the attacker. This makes fighting them a bit trickier, unless the party has a lot of ranged combatants. Unfortunately for the azers, they don’t have a very deep pool of attacks; they can swing an axe and that’s about it.
Azers date back to the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, where they appeared in the Monster Manual II. They’ve since shown up in every edition, though they get tweaked a bit every time; for instance, in most previous editions, they were some variant of ‘elemental dwarf,’ but in 5E, they’re actually just fire elementals inhabiting dwarf-shaped bodies that have been forged for them; they reproduce when an azer decides to craft an azer body and imbue it with some of their own fire.
Azers are in a weird spot, monster-wise, because their ties to the elemental planes make them feel a bit niche. Really, though, they’re a great monster to use any time you need a master craftsmen, or even if you’re dealing with a Material-Plane-bound genie. Next time you want to spice up the local smithy, crack open that Monster Manual and give azers a chance!