March of Madness: Graz’zt

Graz’zt is a hedonist. While Baphomet pushes his followers to succumb to their savage inner nature, Graz’zt appeals to a different inner nature, one that satisfies itself via whatever means possible. His limitless lust extends to all things, and his goal is to subjugate all of existence, reorienting it until its sole purpose is giving him the love he demands.

(An aside: the 5E version of Graz’zt is really, really into eroticism. Everything I can find on him is full of thinly-veiled references to “urges” and “desire”, except for the parts that lift the veil entirely. If that’s what you want, great, go for it. But this blog is a little more family-friendly than that, so we’ll be focusing on his epicurean nature, the one that seeks pleasure through finery and sensory experiences.)

Graz’zt isn’t constantly on the hunt for new followers or forcing his plans through the machinations of his fellow demon lords. He’s quiet and patient, more likely to lay some seeds and wait for them to grow than spend his time nurturing them. His weapon of choice is slow, insidious corruption, and if it wasn’t for his ambition he’d probably be fine with letting those who reject him live their quiet, boring lives. His cults stay out of the way most of the time, enticing new members when opportunities arise and acting only when something gets in the way of their pursuit of indulgence.

Typical Followers: Unsurprisingly, Graz’zt counts several common monster types among his servants. Lamias and jackalweres are specifically his creations, he claims responsibility for many cambions, and succubi and incubi follow him more than they do other demon lords. Given his predilection for the finer things, nobles and the wealthy are more likely to turn to him than others, and sects of Graz’zt may be open secrets among the higher classes.

Atypical Followers: “Pleasure” is highly subjective. The connection between Graz’zt and creatures like orcs or goblins isn’t obvious, but consider the sensation of hurling oneself into the heat of battle or seeing the last gasp escape a dying victim, and you can think of a creature who wants nothing more. Harpies and troglodytes live for moments like this, and they may build their cults or lairs around their interpretation of the demon lord’s designs.

Plots: Graz’zt is about the act more than the result. His followers are the type to pay for a casting of raise dead just so they know what it’s like to die, or steal a priceless work of art and throw it away because they’ve already had the thrill of executing the heist. They’ll also go beyond the pale for what they want, whether it’s a taste of a dish made from some exotic creature or a trip to a plane known for its inhospitable environment. A lone worshipper may put themselves in situation after ridiculous situation for the sake of an experience, and depending on whether a party becomes aware of the cultist before, during, or after the act, they may be tasked with preventing it, get caught up in it, or be left managing the results.

A full-fledged cult has more power on its side and the dedication to grow. Its members may give an initiate a taste of what Graz’zt has to offer, then cajole, blackmail, or outright force them into accepting more. There may well be members who know they’ve gone too far and want out, but to truly be free they need somebody to help them destroy all evidence of their sins. And since anybody can brush with hedonism, a cult need not solely meet in the lavishly-appointed den of a local lord. It could be in a barn just outside a small town, in the basement of a bardic college, or in the middle of a swamp where lizardfolk gather to taste the results of the day’s hunt.

From the Vault: This one’s a bit strange, because I want to talk about shadar-kai, who do exist in 5E. But they’ve been around for a while, and their older iterations are more interesting. In the 4E Monster Manual they were much like their 5E versions: darkened by their association with death, they live to serve the Raven Queen, dispassionately carrying out her will. But the 4E Monster Manual 2 version was exactly the opposite: because the void tugs at their souls, they live every moment to the fullest, partaking in as much depravity as necessary to forget their situation. Mechanically they’re exactly the same, but instead of quiet and emotionless, they’re the living embodiment of sensory excess because any moment not spent in hedonism is a moment of devastating ennui.

For a much weirder Grazz’t-adjacent concept look to the illithid savant, a prestige class in 3E’s Savage Species. It’s intended for mind flayers, and it lets them gain proficiencies, feats, and class features from creatures whose brains they eat. Give an ability like that to a creature who can steal an experience out of someone’s mind, and you have a justification for giving almost any ability to that creature as long as it exists on a monster it can touch:

Acquire Experience. This creature can perform a ritual to steal experience from another creature’s mind. The ritual takes one hour. At the end of the ritual, the creature makes a DC 12 Intelligence saving throw. On a failed save it loses one special trait or attack of this creature’s choice, and this creature gains the special trait or attack. This creature uses its own ability scores and statistics for the special trait or attack.

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