Spoiler: The Build in a Nutshell
Torquemada is a Justice Archon Antiquarian Rogue 1/ Paladin 4 -> Blackguard 4/ Shadowbane Inquisitor 7/ Blackguard +2. His alignment is Lawful Good -> Lawful Evil. Torquemada's fall happens between CR 18 and CR 19, that is, CR 19 is when he takes his first level of Blackguard.
Torquemada starts off at CR 6 with 6 HDs and ends up at CR 20 with 20 HDs and 14 class levels. He is a follower of Heironeous (Lawful Good deity).
The description of the Shadowbane Inquisitor class states:
Spoiler: Shadowbane Inquisitor DescriptionShould an inquisitor who also has paladin levels ever gain levels in the blackguard class, his shadowbane inquisitor levels stack with his paladin levels when determining the number of extra abilities that the blackguard gains for having paladin levels. For example, if a 5th-level paladin/1st-level rogue/5th-level shadowbane inquisitor takes a level of blackguard, he gains extra blackguard class abilities as if he were a fallen paladin of 10th level.
This means that when Torquemada is a Rogue 1/ Paladin 4/ Shadowbane inquisitor 7, he has 11 effective levels of Paladin. Relatively to those levels, the Blackguard description reads:
Spoiler: Blackguard Description11 or more: Favored of the dark deities. Evil deities like nothing more than to see a pure heart corrupted, and thus a fallen paladin of this stature immediately gains a blackguard level for each level of paladin he trades in. For example, a character who has twelve levels of paladin can immediately become a 10th-level blackguard with all abilities if he chooses to lose ten levels of paladin.
So Torquemada's Paladin levels are eligible for a trade in. We note however that only true Paladin levels can be exchanged, since the Shadowbane Inquisitor description explains that the levels only count towards the added benefits. They are not considered full-fledged Paladin level; as such they can't explicitly be traded in, or at least the RAW errs towards this interpretation. Compare with the Gray Guard class, where a more exhaustive formulation is employed:
Spoiler: Gray Guard DescriptionLevels of gray guard are treated as levels of paladin for the purpose of advancing in the blackguard prestige class.
Hence, only 4 levels are exchanged. The 7 levels of Shadowbane Inquisitor then confer the benefits of 7 levels of ex-Paladin.
Moreover, thanks to the Absolute Conviction class feature that Shadowbane Inquisitors gain at first level, Torquemada retains all the clas features and benefits of those seven levels even when his alignment changes to Lawful Evil, despite the fact that it makes him fail to meet the Lawful Good alignment prerequisite of the class.
Since Paladin is the favored class of Justice Archons, Torquemada does not suffer from Exp penalty, in case it would be played as a PC rather than a villain.
Spoiler: Ability Scores
The natural ability modifier array of the Justice Archon is Str + 6, Dex +2, Con +10, Wis +2, Cha +4.
The elite array is then applied as follows: Str 12 Dex 10 Con 8 Int 14 Wis 13 Cha 15.
CR Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha Notes 6 18 12 18 14 15 19 8 18 12 18 14 15 20 8 HD +1 Cha 12 18 12 19 14 15 20 12 HD +1 Con 16 18 12 20 14 15 20 16 HD +1 Con 20 18 12 20 14 16 20 20 HD +1 Wis
Torquemada is of Lawful good alignment from CR 6 to CR 18 included, then shifts to Lawful Evil. He then carries on from CR 18 to CR 20.
Torquemada speaks Celestial, Draconic, Infernal, Common, Abyssal and is under the effect of a permanent Tongues spell.
Spoiler: Build & Spellcasting Tables
CR Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Racial/ Class Features 6 Justice Archon (6 HD) (MMIV) +6/+1 +9 +6 +7 Hide 4.5 (cross-class), Diplomacy 9, Bluff 4.5 (cross-class), Disguise 4.5 (cross-class), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 4.5 (cross-class), Gather Information 4 (cross-class), Knowledge (Religion) 4 (cross-class), Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 4 (cross-class), Knowledge (Local) 2 (cross-class), Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Power Attack, Cleave, Planar Touchstone: Catalogues of Enlightenment (Courage Domain) (PlH) Darkvision 60ft, Low-Light Vision, Aura of Menace, Immunity to electricity and petrification, permanent Magic Circle against Evil and Tongues, at-will Aid, Continual Flame, Detect Evil, Teleport (self only plus 50 pounds), +4 to saves against poison, DR 10/evil, Fly 60ft (good), Aligned Strike (Lawful and Good), Justice Strike 7 Rogue 1 +6/+1 +9 +8 +7 Hide 4.5, Diplomacy 10, Bluff 4.5, Disguise 8.5, Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 9.5, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 4, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Sneak Attack +1d6, Antiquary ACF (trade out Trapfinding; CC) 8 Paladin 1 +7/+2 +11 +8 +7 Hide 4.5, Diplomacy 11, Bluff 4.5, Disguise 9 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 10 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Detect Evil, Smite Evil (1/day), Aura of Good 9 Paladin 2 +8/+3 +17 +13 +12 Hide 4.5, Diplomacy 12, Bluff 4.5, Disguise 10 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 10.5 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Awesome Smite (CC) Divine Grace, Lay on Hands 10 Paladin 3 +9/+4 +17 +14 +13 Hide 4.5, Diplomacy 13, Bluff 4.5, Disguise 11 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 11 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Divine Health, Aura of Courage 11 Paladin 4 +10/+5 +18 +14 +13 Hide 5 (cc), Diplomacy 14, Bluff 4.5, Disguise 12 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 11 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Turn Undead 12 Shadowbane Inquisitor 1 (CAdv) +11/+6/+1 +20 +14 +13 Hide 5, Diplomacy 14, Bluff 5 (cc), Disguise 12, Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 12.5 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Skill trick: Assume Quirk (CSco), Travel Devotion (CC) Absolute Conviction, Pierce Shadows 13 Shadowbane Inquisitor 2 +12/+7/+2 +21 +14 +13 Hide 5, Diplomacy 15 (cc), Bluff 5, Disguise 13 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 13.5 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Sacred Stealth (+4), Smite Anyone (1/day) 14 Shadowbane Inquisitor 3 +13/+8/+3 +21 +15 +14 Hide 5, Diplomacy 15, Bluff 8 (cc), Disguise 13, Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 13.5, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Improved Sunder (Shadowbane Inquisitor 3 bonus) 15 Shadowbane Inquisitor 4 +14/+9/+4 +22 +15 +14 Hide 5, Diplomacy 16 (cc), Bluff 9 (cc), Disguise 13.5 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 14 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Mask of Gentility (EoE) Sneak Attack +2d6 16 Shadowbane Inquisitor 5 +15/+10/+5 +22 +15 +14 Hide 5, Diplomacy 17 (cc), Bluff 9, Disguise 14.5 (cc), Sense Motive 8, Use Magic Device 15 (cc), Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Merciless Purity 17 Shadowbane Inquisitor 6 +16/+11/+6/+1 +23 +16 +15 Hide 5, Diplomacy 19 (cc), Bluff 9, Disguise 15.5 (cc), Sense Motive 8,Use Magic Device 15, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Smite Anyone (3/day) 18 Shadowbane Inquisitor 7 +17/+12/+7/+2 +23 +16 +15 Hide 5, Diplomacy 20 (cc), Bluff 9, Disguise 17.5 (cc), Sense Motive 8,Use Magic Device 15, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Staggering Strike (CAdv) Sacred Stealth (+8), Sneak Attack +3d6 18 Paladin 4 ->
+17/+12/+7/+2 +23 +16 +15 Hide 5, Diplomacy 20, Bluff 9, Disguise 17.5, Sense Motive 8,Use Magic Device 15, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Loses:
Aura of Good, Detect Evil, Smite Evil (1/day), Divine Grace, Lay on Hands, Divine Health, Aura of Courage, Turn undead, Paladin spellcasting.
Aura of Evil, Detect Good, Smite Good (1/day), Poison Use, Dark Blessing, Aura of Despair, Command Undead, Sneak Attack +1d6, Blackguard spellcasting.
Additional gains for 10 effective levels of ex-Paladin:
Smite Good +2/day, Lay on Hands, Sneak Attack +1d6, Fiendish Summoning.
19 Blackguard 5 +18/+13/+8/+3 +23 +16 +15 Hide 5, Diplomacy 22, Bluff 9, Disguise 19.5 (cc), Sense Motive 8,Use Magic Device 15, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8 Fiendish Servant, Smite Good (4/day). 20 Blackguard 6 +19/+14/+9/+4 +24 +17 +16 Hide 5, Diplomacy 23, Bluff 9, Disguise 22 (cc), Sense Motive 8,Use Magic Device 15, Gather Information 4, Knowledge (Religion) 4 , Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) 5, Knowledge (Local) 2, Knowledge (The Planes) 8
Spoiler: Caster level & Spells per day
The following table includes the bonus spells per day granted by a high Wisdom score.
CR CL 1st 2nd 3rd 11 2 1 - - 12 2 1 - - 13 2 1 - - 14 2 1 - - 15 2 1 - - 16 2 1 - - 17 2 1 - - 18 4 2 2 - 19 5 2 2 0 20 6 3 3 2
Commonly prepared spells:
CR 11-17: Divine Sacrifice (SC)
CR 18-20, 1st level: Corrupt Weapon, Blade of Blood (PHBII), Divine Sacrifice (SC).
2nd level: Investiture of the Bearded Devil (FCII), Investiture of the Chain Devil (FCII), Hand of Divinity (SC).
3rd level: Fangs of the Vampire King (SC), Investiture of the Steel Devil (FCII).
Spoiler: Fiendish Servant
Beginning at CR 19, Torquemada summons a Fiendish Bat, Lago, as his servant. The advancement of the Blackguard's servant is based off character level, not class level. As such, as a CR 19 character, the Celestial confers Lago with the maximum possible bonus.
Size/Type: Diminutive Magical Beast (Evil, Augmented)
Hit Dice: 8d10 (44 hp)
Speed: 5ft, fly 40ft (good)
Armor Class: 23, touch 16, flat-footed 21 (+4 size, +2 dex, +7 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/-7
Full Attack: -
Space/Reach: 1 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Smite Good 1/day
Special Qualities: Blindsense 20ft, Low-Light Vision, Darkvision 60ft, Improved Evasion, Share spells, Share saving throws, Blood bond, Speak with Blackguard, SR 13, Resistance to fire 5 and cold 5, DR 5/magic
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +4
Abilities: Str 5, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 4
Skills: Hide 25, Listen 8, Spot 8
Feats: Alertness, Martial Study (Shadow Blade Technique) (ToB), Martial Stance (Island of Blades) (ToB)
CAdv: Complete Adventurer
CC: Complete Champion
Csco: Complete Scoundrel
EoE: Exemplars of Evil
FCII: Fiendish Codex II
MMIV: Monster Manual IV
PHBII: Player's Handbook II
PlH: Planar Handbook
SC: Spell Compendium
ToB: Tome of Battle
All items for which the source is not mentioned where they first appear come from the SRD.
Spoiler: Villain concept
Torquemada is a villain devised towards the concept of a character turning to evil in the greatest of stealth.
Though it might seem dubious that an Archon, a being of pure Good and Law, might turn to darkness, there are actually more than a few precedents in D&D cosmology. First, Asmodeus himself used to be a Celestial, wasn't he? And with him each an every demon that has known the cosmos before the Pact Primeval. Demons and devils did not all spring up from nowhere. Second, the Justice Archons are described, in the MMIV, as short-tempered and borderline self-righteous Celestials. Other Archons do not completely trust them because their anger at the sight of evil makes them sometimes act too rashly to be Good. The archetypical Justice Archon given in the MMIV, Hanzuriel, is even stated out as a Lawful Neutral Celestial unaware of his alignment shift. Not only that, but he is accompanied by two Hound Archons, still Lawful Good, and potentially unaware of this fact too. This example also shows us that is it possible to unwittingly undergo an alignment change. And finally, certain beings of pure Good and Law turn out not to be so.
So guessing that Torquemada has come to the lower end of the alignment pool is very difficult for an outside eye, even more so that at the beginning, the Archon does not know it himself either. As such, he fights for Heironeous with the fullest of his ill-placed might yet with the earnest endeavour. How is this feat achieved? Let us review together what is lost by the alignment change and how Torquemada can be oblivious to these changes.
- The most iconic Paladin feature, at-will Detect Evil, is lost. But Justice Archons possess at-will Detect Evil as a racial class feature. Thus, the Blackguard does not notice the loss.
- Speaking of which, Torquemada could actually realise that he himself triggers Detect Evil whenever he uses it! But since Shadowbane Inquisitors are loath to be stupidly flushed out by their aura of good when they are in an undercover mission, they take care to hide it. Items of Nondetection and the likes are very cheap and common, for example a Ring of Mind Shielding costs 8000 gp. But these devices can be Dispelled. The Mask of Gentility feat, however, is an Ex effect that allows Torquemada to ping off as True Neutral. Since the feat has no alignement prerequisite, it works fine whether the Archon is Good or Evil. And that means that Torquemada does not seem to have changed alignment, fooling even himself. Since the Auras of the Paladin and the Blackguard, be they good or evil, are detected by the same divination spells that are foiled by the feat, they are taken care of as well.
- Divine Grace is replaced by Dark Blessing for exactly the same bonus.
- Lay on Hands as well. The amount of healing is the same when the conversion occurs: Paladin level 4 times Cha bonus 5 = 20 = Blackguard level 4 times Cha bonus 5.
- Smite Evil. For one, Torquemada only loses Smite Evil 1/day, gains Smite Good 1/day, but at the same time retains Smite (anyone) 3/day from Shadowbane Inquisitor. So he can still Smite here and there; and he usually spends one Smite per day or so to power his Awesome Smite feat. This feat conveniently asks for "a Smite attempt", and does not specify whether it has to be a Smite Evil or a Smite Good. Hence, the difference in the two Smite disappears as they are both used the same way for the feat.
- Turn Undead: the Archon knows that given his poor effective Cleric level, using his attempts to effectively try and turn some undeads is a waste of resource. So instead, he fuels his Travel Devotion feat with them (which can be powered by either Turn or Rebuke attempts too). And when he gains Rebuke Undead instead, he does not see the difference.
- Paladin spellcasting. The only spell that Torquemada prepares throughout his Lawful Good carrier is Divine Sacrifice. When he becomes a Blackguard, the spell still is on his list of known spells. His conversion occurs between levels and as such he does not expect his powers to change before he gains another level. This means he does not know that he suddenly got three more spell slots, and unknowinlgy lets them empty when he prays for his spells. Another thing of note is that the fact that Clerics of evil gods only usually pray for spells at dusk. It is not mandatory. Since Paladins and Blackguards prepare their spells as Clerics, Torquemada can pray at dawn for his spells without any problem...except for the fact that Heironeous won't grant him spells anymore. Here, I have to admit that I will use something more of a fluff reasoning that a RAW one. The fallen Archon still receives spells because, unbeknownst to him and just to piss off his half-brother, Hextor will grant them to him instead of Heroneous. Of course, Torquemada is still chasing after Hextor followers before he realises his change of heart. But the god of tyranny knows that sooner or later, the Celestial will discover his new nature. In the meantime, he does more damage to Heironeous' reputation by pretending to be one of his followers that to Hextor's ocean of minions.
- Aura of Courage: to be fair, Torquemada is not really immune to fear as a Blackguard. But since he traveled to the Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, paradise of any creature of pure law, he got access to the Catalogues of Enlightenment planar touchstone. As normal for a follower of Heironous, he chose to benefit from the Courage domain. The aura is actually the same as the Aura of Courage of the Paladin (10ft radius, +4 morale bonus against fear), except in regard to himself. He gains the +4 as well instead of being flat-out immune to fear. So when the Celestial embraces the path of the Blackguard, his aura remains, and so his comrades don't see the difference. As to him, he went from a fear immunity to a respectable +19 Will save against fear, so he likely won't see the difference either.
- Divine Health: Ok, for this one, no workaround. Torquemada flat-out loses his immunity to diseases. However, he boasts a +23 Fort save, which means that he will only fail on a 1 against each and every disease that I know of. Moreover, people assume he is, as a Paladin, immune to disease...
And how about what he gains rather that replaces? Namely, Detect Good, Poison Use, Aura of Despair and as said before, a few spell slots. Well, since he does not know that he obtained those abilities, he will simply not use them. No one told him that he could now safely handle poison, so he won't!
To sum it up, there are only a few ways to make Torquemada realise that something is very wrong: hit him with a sufficiently powerful fear effect, make him catch a disease, or use a non-divination effect to detect his alignment or his aura, like a Smite Evil to the face or a Holy Word.
But even when that happens, well, Torquemada won't stop believing in Heironeous. This is what it is all about: the Justice Archon fluff, the Shadowbane Inquisitor fluff. The latter class is practically designed exclusively towards an entry into Blackguard: it gives Improved Sunder as a bonus feat, has Hide as a class skill, advances Sneak attack, counts as Paladin levels for the purpose of Blackguard bonuses and retains its class features when you are not Lawful Good anymore. The Celestial will still display courage, as is expected to a servant of Heironeous; simply, he now feels unbound by the cumbersome Paladin code of conduct. After having slowly verged towards the limit between Good and Neutral, all that is needed is one particularly horrendous commandment, and the earnest opinion that it was the best thing to do, tp push Torquemada over the edge directly from Good to Evil. Upon this realisation, the fallen discovers the extent of his newfound powers, and uses them to the fullest to destroy evil whenever it is found, even if it is in the Celestial's imagination.
What follows at once fleshes out Torquemada, gives suggestions as to how play him out as an archvillain, and gives a special focus on what he can and cannot do in combat at CR 18 and CR 20, the former being his sweet spot.
Spoiler: Highlights and Advice
Since Torquemada is an evil opponent only beginning at CR 18, a direct confrontation with the PCs is not the best way to introduce him as the villain. I suggest the following ideas to harmoniously fit him into a campaign.
Spoiler: First encounter, CR 10
The PCs have been tracking down a cult of Hextor for several weeks now. They are looking for a particular Necromancer who is said to lay devastation in its path looking for a certain magic item. They are rejoined on their hunt by a squad of followers of Heironeous, led by CR 12 Torquemada. This Shadowbane Inquisitor has been assigned to this mission as a specialist of religious items of relevance (Antiquarian Rogue ACF). In the party of Heironeous happens to be present a Lawful Good Malconvoker.
Torquemada proves to be very convincing in his ask for help (Diplomacy +23). Teaming up, the allies catch up with the servants of Hextor on a rocky hill and dispatch them. The PCs are unnerved by two things: the devils conjured by the Malconvoker, and the unorthodox technique of Torquemada. They show him disguising (+19) as an Erinyes and accompany the actual summoned Erinyes to approach the Hextorites. When he has come to the necromancer, he reveals himself as a servant of Heironeous and attacks him up front, but the PCs are baffled to see a Paladin even using a disguise. He even flanks some henchmen with the Erinyes and, after they have refused to surrender, resorts to Sneak Attacks on them.
After the fight, they part ways. The Necromancer is dead, but the item he was looking after remains unknown.
This is not a fight against the Celestial, because at this point, with only 2 levels in Shadowbane Inquisitor, Torquemada only starts to have a dubious behaviour. Torquemada having a Malconvoker in his squad allows him to fight alongwith summoned and called evil outsiders, and to begrudgingly recognise their combat abilities. Thus, he has "made peaceful contact with an evil outsider who was summoned by him or someone else". That rounds off the prerequisites for the Blackguard class, though the DM can easily wave away this kind of RP requirements when creating his own monsters.
Spoiler: Distant callback, CR 12
Hextor's church still appears to be the archnemesis of the campaign. The party knows that a secret altar is hidden in the basement of a house in a small thorp, in which the magical item is said to be contained, having been finally found by the Hextorites. Enter a warband of Heironeous. Their leader explains he is mandated by Torquemada himself to root out the cultists and seize the forbidden artifact. Fair enough, think the PCs. But before they have the chance to enter the hamlet and investigate the population, the leader orders his men to burn the whole place to the ground, to force the cultists to evacuate and thus reveal the item. At the very same moment, Torquemada falls, though no one knows yet, not even himself. His force of persuasion and his charisma have easily allowed him to convince his church to delegate him a sizable task force. Blinded by their leader's persuasiveness, the henchmen start to verge towards evil themselves.
Of course, the PCs won't allow that to happen. After a a battle against Rogues of Hextor that spring up to defend their temple, as well as Torquemada’s minions, of whom several have Shadowbane Inquisitor class levels, the PCs manage to save the village. But they can't prevent the artifact from being retrieved by one of Torquemada’s followers from a smoldering hole in the remnants of a house: two scrolls in a glass case.
The PCs still haven't found against the Archon, but they have experienced his style of fight, with Sneak Attacking frontline fighters. They have also understood that Torquemada, driven by his blind conviction, has become a threat and must be stopped as surely as the Hextorites he is facing.
Spoiler: Raising Awareness, CR 14
The party rushes to the closest of Heironeous' churches to explain what they saw. They are answered that they are making a very serious accusation towards one of the most devoted and effective members of their church, and have to prove their claim. The PCs are then flabbergasted to discover that Torquemada has managed to hide his corruption in the middle of a church of Paladins! The Celestial is to be found in the middle of a guerilla operation where a commando of Hextor has launched a raid on one of Heironeous' vault to take back the scroll. The PCs arrive in the middle of the fray. They can see an angel that hides and sneaks around, hitting his opponents in the back. The trick here is that they are supposed to face a CR 18 Torquemada, or at least be themselves significantly weaker than him. They succeed not if they defeat him, but if they find a way to show his corruption, in the middle of the battle. Here, they see that Detect Evil fails to reveal him, that his allies are bolstered by an aura of courage, that he heals his own wounds by a Lay on hands, that he casts spells and Smites opponents...The Celestial, recognises his courageous one-time allies, unaware of the fight they picked with his men. He asks for their help, in the name of Heironeus! The PCs thus realise that Torquemada is unaware of his own fall. During the battle, the glass case is shattered, and the PCs grab one of the scrolls. When they finally manage to make the Angel realise his change of heart, they flee with their prize. One of Heironeous' clerics, who was Scrying on the battlefield to witness the attempt of the party, confirms that Torquemada has gone astray and must be dealt with. The scrolls appears to be a political weapon with which Hextor's high priest wants to leverage his church into a position of influence throughout the country: a half-completed scroll of Apocalpypse from the Sky. The angel, severly shaken in his faith, is left reeling when they depart.
The PCs now have to directly confront the Celestial and fight with a crusade of Heironeous to bring down the fallen Paladin. They have experienced the extend of the stealth of his alignment rather than his power in battle
Spoiler: The Siege, CR 18, Sweet spot
The Archon is, of course, judged by his church. But he feels resentful to hear all of the good deeds he accomplished discarded because of his sole alignment. He decides that only Heroneous can judge, and needs his might if not his purity. By a combination of Diplomacy (+31) and Use Magic Device (+20) in order to use a hidden wand of Conceal Thoughts, he obtains to be put under surveillance as having a potential for redemption. He then quickly befriends his jailor and escapes, determined to resume working. So many adepts of Hextor around, how could one swiftly terminate them all?
Torquemada is found again in a frontal city hosting a rather minor branch of the church of Heironeous. His ability to use Teleport at-will makes him extremely mobile. Why did he come here? Few know that this unremarkable parish actually holds deep down a sacred artifact of the church: the Tear of the Chalice. A vial containing the tears of the daughter of Heironeous that Hextor sent to his half-brother to taunt him after he had kidnapped her. Indeed, the Chalice is actually the name of the long-abducted daughter of the God of Chivalry. It does not take long for the PCs to remember that to complete the casting of the dreaded Apocalypse from the Sky, an artifact of the powers of good is needed as a material component. But when they enter the city, they discover that Torquemada has Disguised his way (+24) past the guards who know his now outcast figure. And he has promptly turned the population against them: who would not believe the words of a shining champion of the God of Honor, an Angel in armor whose mere presence warms the heart? He is still in the process of persuading the local clergy to hand him overthe artifact. The PCs and the crusade they lead have to struggle to a citywide uprising against them, while knowing that by every moment, Torquemada could Teleport away, the artifact in his possession. After having mowed through the city and the exalted Paladins and Clerics in the temple, they face. An allied Wizard drops a well-placed Dimensional Anchor that will force the Archon to fight for a few minutes. He will, helped by a few Paladins and Cleric turned Diplomcy-fanatic.
Showtime. Torquemada has, at this point, embraced his darkness to the fullest, for the greater good. He has realised that he has become a Blackguard, and he won't pull his punches with all the added power and flexibility he gets. What can a CR 18 Torquemada do, apart Disguise, Teleport and Diplomacy?
He is very mobile, thanks to his Ex flight of 40ft per round (reduced from 60ft because of heavy armor). Pouncing each round with Travel Devotion, he can do a solid full-round attack. A high Str and the use of Aid, Divine Sacrifice and Smite deal some good damage. Awesome Smite can trip a grounded opponent, or cancel a miss chance so as to make the 5d6 worth of Sneak Attack valid again. A particularly nasty thing would be to actually Sunder a player's weapon (only for him to retrieve the exact same in the vaults of the church, of course). Power Attack combined with a Dive attack and a Smite (anyone) can deal some damage. Also, the higher power of the Catalogs of Enlightenment allows to cast up to 3 times in total any spell of (Wisdom - 10) level or lower of the chosen domain: for Courage, it means a very solid buff like Valiant Fury and Heroism at levels 5 and 4. The Celestial has also gained the Aura of Despair, which makes it even harder to save against the Aura of Menace, which will in turn lower the saves again. -4 to saves, and -2 to attack rolls and AC. He also has Poison Use, and according to the power level of the party, you can put a poison of varying potency on his blades. It's for an NPC, so basically it's free!
Torquemada can begin already buffed with Investiture of the Bearded Devil which grants an additional attack (so more Sneak Attack), Divine Sacrifice, Investiture of the Chain Devil, etc. Plus, those Investiture spell really give off a vibe of "the end justifies the means, I treat with Devils"
This opponent is actually rather weak without support: he has, for example, no way to natively render an opponent liable to a Sneak Attack. But with allies, he can set up flanks, buff them with his aura of courage, Magic Circle against Evil and at-will Aid, use Staggering Strike and the Aura of Menace of his Archon subtype (save DC 26) to significantly debuff opponents. Something amusing: in case a PC uses a very potent magic weapon with a rider effect like Marrowcrushing, the Justice Strike ability of the Justice Archon punishes him for this.
Defensively, the Justice Archon nabs a protection against mind control with the permanent Magic Circle against Evil, has high saves thanks to Divine Grace. The DR 10/Evil will help a little with the OK HPs, but the low AC and touch AC make the Justice Archon liable to shameless Power Attacks or Enervations.
The party gets a rehearsal before the final battle. Torquemada has no qualms being evil as long as he thinks he still serves Heironeous as the best of his abilities. That would include setting of the scroll to eradicate as many Hexorites as possible; innocents who die in the blast would just end up on one of the upper planes anyway, nothing to complain about. He quickly teleports out of harm's way when the Dimensional Anchor expires, the artififact in his Bag of Holding.
Spoiler: Twenty-Four, CR 20
Apocalypse from the Sky has a 24-hour long casting time. That says it all.
The battle occurs in the air, a few dozen meters above the country's capital. There are only 5 Dragon Ball-time minutes left before the end of the casting time. Heironeous churchs loyal servants try as hard as they can to evacuate the place. A Rope Trick connects the extradimensional space to the tip of Heironeous church's bell tower. Inside, the Malconvoker is incanting, the consumed Tear of the Chalice in one hand, the second, completed scroll in the other. Outside, CR 20 Torquemada and his minions face the party. What did he gain? Two things. First, Torquemada has also discovered he could summon a Fiendish Servant, the bat Lago. Though possessing very few HPs, it is not meant to attack but just to stand in the square next to the Archon, benefit from all his buffs with Share spells since he is within 5 feet, and flank anyone before them thanks to the Island of Blades stance. By RAW, this works even though Lago has no reach and no attack. So, easy flanking for Torquemada. And then, 5d6 dice of Sneak Attack with Staggering Strike (and a very high save because of the two debuffing auras).
Second, the Archon now gets Fangs of the Vampire King for another attack to add to his routine, as well as Investiture of the Steel Devil for a solid combat buff. As well as one extra 1st and 2nd level spell slot. Now that the Wisdom is 16, the greater power of the Catalogues of Enlightenment gives Heroes' feast for another buff.
Even until the very last moment, Torquemada will not recognise his mistakes nor recant his faith to the God of Courage. Despite the church of Heironeous and the party's best efforts, his legacy will remain largely a lie. The masses of peasant that were impressed by this charismatic and driven beacon of honor won't readily accept that what he did does not matter as much as how he did it.
Spoiler: Setting the power level right
When devising an encounter with Torquemada, you can tweak his threat level through different means.
- As said above, the use of poison. Thematically appropriate since the Archon boasts Poison Use. Combined with the two debuffing auras of the villain and the Increase Virulence spell, the save DC can be altered by a factor of 6, which is not insignificant. Poisons can range from their non-use to scary things like Megapede venom, save DC 44 -> 50, 2d6 Con + 1d4 Dex.
- The Fiendish servant. The bat Lago used above, if buffed up through Share Spells to make it more resilient and using Island of blades, can give an automatic flanking to Torquemada. Combined with the ease to deliver full-round actions thanks to Travel Devotion, this flanking can make a certain difference. Taking a rat or a cat instead will weaken Torquemada.
- The buff spells. Between the various good buffs on the Blackguard spell list and the buffs on the Courage domain available through the greater power of the planar touchstone, the Blackguard can heavily alter his combat performances. Beginning the fight with or without those will alter his power, though since all those spells have a very low caster level, there are very prone to Dispel Magic.
- Equipment. Sneak attack guys' damage output relies heavily on what they can get their hands on. Torquemada would kill for a pair of Gloves of the Balanced Hand, Bracers of the Hunter, Rogue's Vest, etc. Not to speak about a pair of Shadow gloves to get a 1/encounter Greater Invisibility, etc. On the defensive side, AC needs to be shored up, etc. If there is one permanent item to pick: any Con or Cha enhancer. Since his Use Magic Device skill is cranked up, Torquemada will happily grab a bunch of wands of Greater Invisibility, Wraithstrike, Glibness etc. just as any Rogue does. Moreover, he can let them behind him when he flees for the PCs to loot them. For utility, a Hat of Disguise would do wonders, those wings are rather difficult to hide otherwise. In fact, as any non-caster, the Archon's power level is very closely linked to the items he gets.
- Allies. The Blackguard is a team players, what with his auras buffing teammates and debuffing foes. Plus, he needs flanking buddies. With a couple other Justice Archon and a spellcaster, things add up quickly. Plus, his Diplomacy score makes having a team logical and not out of place from the viewpoint of the players.