Monster Analysis: Lord and Lady Briarwood, Round 1

And we’re back, right before the next episode airs! This one is a long one, with a lot of analysis, a lot of theory spoilers, and a lot of speculation.

Lord Sylas Briarwood

  • First appearance: 24 The Feast
  • Armor Class: 19 or greater (MM: 18 AC)
  • Challenge Rating: 15 (Warrior Vampire)
  • Darkvision 120 ft, Passive Perception 17
  • Resistant to necrotic and nonmagical physical damage
  • Speed: 30 ft, 30 ft (bat), 20 ft (mist)
  • Avg, Max HP of Vampire (MM): 144, 204
  • 203 taken before fleeing, including healing

Although Sylas was on his last leg, we very much doubt that this would have been his end. His “death” would have merely resulted in a retreat, as vampires turn into mist. It’s also highly likely that he had more than 204 total, as Matt has been wise to increase the health of enemies that are facing at least 8 characters that deal a significant amount of damage. His increased armor class also reflects this decision.

His legendary resistance (which you’ll remember that Rimefang also had) allows him to shrug off up to three failed rolls a day. He also has legendary actions, which allows him three extra actions that can be used at the end of anyone’s turn (including full movement as an action). These (thankfully) went unused, as the Briarwoods were merely playing with Vox Machina.

Also unused were his shapeshifting abilities and spider climb. His mist and bat forms were not nearly as useful to him as his vampire form, though, and his dexterity was high enough to not warrant a climb down from the second story.

Sylas also regenerates 20 hp each turn. This can be prevented when he’s exposed to radiant damage or holy water, or in the presence of sunlight or running water.

Sylas’s sword gives us the most cause for concern. Grog’s high Con and high rolls prevented us from finding out what effect the sword attempted to deliver. We were unable to find a comparable blade in our search of the DMG, as well.

Lady Delilah Briarwood

  • First appearance: 24 The Feast
  • Armor Class 16 or greater
  • Spell DC 19 or greater
  • Resistant to magic damage
  • +2 to Wisdom Saves
  • 93 taken before fleeing

Despite having a vampire for a husband, Delilah is not actually a vampire. She did not regenerate lost health at the end of each of her turns, and her use of spells showed that she preferred their use over the non-slot-using abilities of a vampire (e.g., Dimension Door instead of Mist travel, Hold Person instead of Charm, etc.). This is actually a very good thing, as her magic resistance paired with the vampire’s natural resistance to nonmagical physical damage would halve all damage against her. This is, fortunately, not the case.

However, even without being a vampire, we still think she’s more dangerous of the two. At this time, we don’t believe that she matches any creatures in the monster manual. However, we do know that she is a very powerful necromancer and war mage, and we shall assume she is a human wizard with an emphasis in necromancy, until more information is available.

Speaking of which, let’s look at the spells she used in the encounter:

  • Hold Person (2nd, Enchantment)
  • Hold Person (2nd, Enchantment)
  • Blight (4th, Necromancy)
  • Finger of Death (7th, Necromancy)
  • Feeblemind (8th, Enchantment)
  • Dimension Door (4th, Conjuration)
  • Plane Shift or Teleport (7th, Conjuration)

We also believe that she has her own PC-style character sheet. Unfortunately, it’s pretty brutal, to say the least. In order to use two level seven slots, she would have to be a level 20 wizard, which also comes with a level nine spell slot. Yes, be very afraid, if this is the case.

We know that she has the Warcaster feat, which grants her advantage on saves vs. spells and allows her to cast spells when an attack of opportunity arises. She probably has additional feats, as well, but we won’t know until we see them in action.

What went right

So much went right in this fight. The Seeker may have been of little use for most of the fight, but his move to grab Vax out of Sylas’s grasp ensured that our rogue stayed with us. One bite would have meant an instant death.

Percy’s choice to headshot Sylas was also a literal lifesaver. By putting him at a disadvantage, this also put his grapple checks against Vax at a disadvantage. A vampire can use their multiattack to first grapple a target, then bite them. A vampire can’t bite a victim if they aren’t grappled!

Vex’alia’s holy arrow prevented another 20 hp returning to Sylas on his last turn. This forced Lady Briarwood to think of her husband’s safety and get them away rather than continuing her run of devastation against the group.

Also, Natural 20s. Good for combat, great for storytelling.

What went wrong

Strategically, the only real problem area was Vax’ildan forcing the team into an impromptu battle in order to save him. With the rest of the group unprepared and the Seeker’s plan blasted to oblivion, the battle turned from what could have been revenge to saving a comrade. Even once Vax was rushed to safety and pumped full of health, the scattered party still hadn’t fully formed around their targets to vanquish them.

If Tiberius had been able to use his running water, Sylas could possibly have been defeated. However, Lady Briarwood’s Feeblemind ensured that Percy’s story continued rather than reaching a climax. On the other hand, had Tiberius countered Feeblemind and the Briarwoods had escaped, we would not have learned the true extent of her power. (Also, it was pointed out on Twitter that Tiberius was metagaming at that point, which was addressed after the show.)

In absolute hindsight, the wisest course of action would have been to focus attacks on Lady Briarwood, who presumably does not have the ability to escape death when it finally visits her. Her overwhelming arcane power is also intimidating.

Speculation

With all that said, we absolutely think that Vox Machina played it as smart as they could have with the knowledge they had and the circumstances as they were set. We also highly doubt the battle was meant to end in Emon. There’s too much going on in Whitestone for the BBEGs to meet their demise so soon. Lord Briarwood would have most certainly escaped doom, even if his wife had not.

With the Lord a vampire and the Lady a necromancer, we theorize that, although they share the throne together, Delilah is the real power of the throne. It’s not out of the question that she’s responsible for her husband’s state. Her masterful knowledge also gives a terrifying thought, on many fronts.

First, vampire spawn can only come to unlife after they’ve been killed by a vampire’s bite and have spent a full night buried. We theorize that the team of Sylas’s natural unholy powers and Delilah’s arcane abilities, she may have the capability of speeding up the process with but a spell.

Second, we very much doubt that the Briarwoods will bring the assault directly to Vox Machina. For one, it’s strategically unsound to fight on the enemy’s home advantage, and the Briarwoods are nothing if not strategic. Two, as a necromancer, Delilah has an array of spells in which Percy would have to fight the corpses of his family. For the sake of story and the sake of the Briarwood’s cruelty, it would be a logical and tragic fight to avenge the De Rolos.

It will be interesting to see how Sovereign Uriel responds to VM’s actions. Although Seeker Asum should be a strong witness for their sakes, the fact that they killed one of his guards, severely wounded and traumatized another, attacked and chased off diplomatic guests, and then (over)killed a tiefling and old woman in the span of one evening would be cause for concern for any leader. (Alignment shift, indeed.) UPDATE: Asum is technically charmed for the full 24 hour period. He may not be a good ally, either…
Edit: @dragonmustang01 pointed out, the killed guards were both part of the Briarwood’s  guards!