Monster Analysis: Forge Guardian

Thanks to @BlackSalander for this art piece!

  • First appearance: 108 The Core Anvil
  • Armor Class 24
  • Legendary actions
  • 15 ft melee reach
  • Blade Storm (Rechargeable)
  • 727 damage taken, 82 HDYWTDT by Keyleth

A veritable divine guardian, the huge stone and metallic sentinel watched and maintained the final chamber within the underwater volcano, Scaldseat. While we'll never know if it was programmed with another trial in mind for those seeking to use the Core Anvil, we do know that it embodied the full strength and will of the very god who forged the original Divine Trammels ages before.

Solid stone with pieces of metal around the body formed a frighteningly high armor class. This, paired with its giant disabling blade and 15-foot reach made the Forge Guardian extremely formidable. (It should be noted that Vox Machina wasn’t confident that their attacks were worth the trouble until the end of the second round.)

Let’s Battle the Thing With the 15’ Cursed Sword

The three strongest challenges in this battle were the burning terrain, the blinding curse of the Rune Blade, and the intimidatingly high armor class. 

The large amount of damage it could deal on a legendary action, let alone of a fully charged turn action, was made all the more dangerous by the prone and blinding effects (DC 20 Constitution Saving Throw to resist) it handed out with each +14 attack (3d12 + 13 damage). With blinded and prone foes, the odds of a crit increased significantly. Its Blade Storm allowed it to attack as many foes it could reach within a 15-foot-radius circle. On its most damaging attack, it dealt 198 damage and blinded Grog, Vex, Vax, and the hostile Water Elemental.

Unlike the previous guardians, who chose Vox Machina’s magic users as their primary targets, the Forge Guardian focused primarily on Grog and Vax (when it didn’t have its Blade Storm available to attack everyone surrounding it). This was an extremely well-calculated tactic that, by blinding them with its cursed blade, prevented the rogue and barbarian from doing what they do
best: dealing massive amounts of damage to a single opponent. Vax lost his Sneak Attack bonus and found himself unable to cast spells that would add to his regular damage. Grog’s Reckless Attacks became straight rolls that opened the goliath up for practically-guaranteed hits from the construct.

Scanlan found himself kicked twice into the boiling lava, taking a combined 130 fire damage just from the molten rock and metal. Without Pike’s Death Ward, Keyleth’s Planetar ability to heal Vex’s blindness, and Vex’s quick flight to pick him up, Scanlan could have found himself dissolved in the lava on his next turn. (We’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination how Vox Machina might have been affected had they lost their Tome of Isolation reader and provider of six bardic inspirations to forge the trammels.)

Vox Machina

Vox Machina’s first round was rough, but not quite as bad as it had the potential to be. Vax opted to cast Bless, which benefitted Scanlan, Keyleth, and Percy (#blessed) until Vax lost consciousness. Percy misfired twice, the Guardian was immune to the Elemental’s damage, and Vex discovered for everyone just how hard the Guardian was to hit. Vex and Scanlan managed to deal a combined 61 damage, though, and Keyleth Shapechanged into a Planetar, which would prove to be a party-saver and Guardian-defeater later. The Forge Guardian rolled very poorly on its first Blade Storm, only rendering Grog blind and prone.

Round two wasn’t great for Vox Machina, either, though by the end, the tide began to turn in their favor. Much of the round was spent healing hit points and sight. Scanlan successfully grappled the rune blade with Bigby’s Hand, giving it disadvantage on its strikes (though it never managed to prevent it from hitting anyone, it did prevent it from landing a critical hit on Vax in Round 3). Grog, finally given the opportunity, dealt 80 damage to the Forge Guardian right at the end of the round.

From there, Vox Machina spent the next two full rounds on full assault. Percy’s newest gunslinger abilities, Hemorrhaging Critical and Vicious Intent, allowed him to deal considerably more damage than he would have even one level prior. Grog dealt a massive amount of damage to the Guardian, and took that damage in kind. After her vision was restored, Vex, with her flying speed of 50, rescued Scanlan from his second dip in the lava.

Planetar!Keyleth made effective use of her form’s abilities to both heal and strike, which more than made up for losing control of her conjured water elemental. Her sword was the only physical weapon on the board whose damage could, outside of a critical hit, outdo the Forge Guardian’s blade. It was her final strikes that forced the Forge Guardian to acquiesce to Vox Machina’s use of The Allhammer’s forge.