- Mercenary Companies
- Psionic Organizations
- Underdark Organizations
- Minor Valorous Organizations
- Organizations of Waterdeep
- Organizations of the East
- Demon-led Organizations
- Cult of the Dragon
- Druids of the Tall Trees
- The Emerald Enclave
- Fellowship of the Purple Staff
- Fire Knives
- Guardian of the Weave
- Hand of Vengeance
- Marshals and Heralds in the Realms
- Knights of the Flying Hunt
- Knights of Imphras II
- Knights of the North
- The Lords' Alliance
- Order of the Grand Snakemaster
- People of the Black Blood
- Red Wizards of Thay
- The Seven Sisters
- The Soft Claws
- The Xanathar's Guild
- The Zhentarim
The Order of the Grand Snakemaster
The Lord of Evil (Set) was not satisfied with simply seizing and subverting Sseth's worship, as Sseth had done to lesser serpent gods before him. No, Set had far greater ambitions, and the increased range of his influence gave him the means to begin realizing them.
Sseth's chaotic schemes for power had always failed, but Set was more meticulous. He began to bring order to the serpent folk of the Realms, first by enlightening the elder serpents of Sseth and then by empowering more of his own. By 1368 DR, most elder serpents had accepted Set's ascendance, and many had actively begun recruiting other serpents to his service, believing that only snakes could know the true glory of Set and the nature of his plans. The slyest and most prominent followers of Set joined to form the Order of the Grand Snakemaster, a secretive cabal dedicated to the spread of Set's faith and the realization of his plans for betrayal, murder, and destruction. By working through these intelligent snakes, Set has - at least thus far - avoided the attention of other gods.
Size and Resources
This elite order is relatively small, numbering only sixty-seven members. Its membership consists entirely of intelligent snakes, most of whom are elder serpents of Set. They have spread themselves across Faerûn, traveling and communicating through whatever magical and mundane means are at their disposal - including the extensive portal network of the Winding Serpent. The order's members have access to powerful magic and significant resources through the service of others, including the former clergy of Sseth, the faithful of Set, and their numerous thralls. The cabal has a 25,000-gp limit on purchases and funding for hirelings.
Alignment and Leadership
Traditionally, the largest of the elder serpents becomes the Grand Snakemaster, and legend has it that he or she gains immortality upon ascendance to this position. Rumor holds that the skin that a Grand Snakemaster discards upon shedding possesses healing powers and confers great wisdom upon anyone who eats it. But since no humanoid has ever seen the Grand Snakemaster, the truth of these rumors remains in question.
Cabal members act relatively independently and secretly. Despite the wide dispersion of its members, however, the order has a fairly rigid hierarchy, which is administered by the current Grand Snakemaster - Ssisthlerine, the Forked Tongue of Varae (female Huge elder serpent viper Clr10, NE). Its members, while generally neutral in outlook, have been brought ever closer to a philosophy of which the Lord of Evil approves. Nevertheless, while Ssisthlerine might give direction to the cabal, each member is allowed much latitude in setting up a cell of servants and followers. As long as Ssisthlerine agrees that the goals of a particular cell further the Lord of Evil's ends, she allows it to exist unhindered.
The leaders of the order typically advance Set's agenda from the background, never revealing their true status to creatures outside the order. In the Serpent Hills, for example, rumors correctly place an enormous dark naga named Ebarnaje on the throne of the Kingdom of Snakes. Few such tales, however, name the chief vizier of Ebarnale (and several of her predecessors) as Ssisthlerine, elder serpent and high cleric of Varae. Likewise, in the Serpents' Holding, the elder serpent Ashassae works to subvert the nagas of the nearby Nagawater, providing them with valuable but corrupt counsel. And in the Plains of Purple Dust, Vasrass, one of the church of Set's most capable assassins, sends ever more clerics of Horus-Re and Osiris to their deaths.
Ssisthlerine, the Forked Tongue of Varae
Ssisthlerine does not remember a time prior to the dawn of her awareness, a time before the awesome black light of Varae called her to lead the Kingdom of Snakes to her god. The ruling dark nagas of the kingdom (known as the nagara) were at first skeptical of Ssisthlerine, but her wisdom and power won them over, and she quickly rose to the position of vizier. Over the next several decades, as Ssisthlerine outlived one ruler after another, she came to understand the heart of the Kingdom of Snakes in a way that no other could. She also founded the Order of the Grand Snakemaster to ensure that her deity's plans could come to fruition. And today, even though it is Ebarnaje who rules the Kingdom of Snakes, it is Ssisthlerine's faith that rules its soul.
Ssisthlerine: Female elder serpent advanced Huge viper Cleric to; CR 12; Huge magical beast; HD 11d10+22 plus 10d8+20; hp 147; Init +7; Spd 20 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.; AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 17; Base Atk +18; Grp +30; Atk +22 melee (1d6+6 plus virulent poison, bite); Full Atk +22 melee (1d6+6 plus virulent poison, bite); Space/Reach 15 ft./10 ft.; SA command serpents, mesmerizing sway, rebuke undead (3/day), virulent poison; SQ blindsense 70 ft., low-light vision, scent, speak with serpents; AL NE; SV Fort +15, Ref +13, Will +16; Str 18, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 13, Wis 24, Cha 11.
Skills and Feats: Balance +11, Bluff +9, Climb +12, Concentration +12, Diplomacy +4, Hide +4, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (arcana) +6, Knowledge (religion) +6, Listen +17, Search +5, Sense Motive +16, Spellcraft +13, Spot +17, Swim +12; Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Craft Wand, Empower Spell, Improved Initiative, Run, Spit Venom, Weapon Focus (bite).
Command Serpents (Sp): Ssisthlerine can use command (as the spell, DC 11) against other serpents with fewer Hit Dice than herself. This ability is usable 5 times per day.
Mesmerizing Sway (Su): Ssisthlerine can paralyze other creatures by swaying slowly and steadily while staring at them. Every creature within 30 feet of her that can see her swaying must make a successful DC 15 Will save to avoid the effect. Failure means the creature is paralyzed for as long as Ssisthlerine concentrates and for 1d6 rounds thereafter. Mesmerizing sway is a mind-affecting effect.
Virulent Poison (Ex): Injury; bite; Fortitude DC 19; initial and secondary damage 1d6 Str + 1d6 Con.
Speak with Serpents (Su): Ssisthlerine can communicate with other snakelike creatures as though using a common language. This communication is limited by the Intelligence scores of the conversing creatures.
Languages: Common, Draconic, Yuan-Ti.
Cleric Spells Prepared (6/7/7/6/5/4; save DC 17 + spell level): 0 - cure minor wounds, detect magic, mending, read magic, resistance, virtue; 1st - bane, cure light wounds, divine favor, endure energy, magic fang*, magic weapon, sanctuary; 2nd - animal messenger, bear's endurance, bull's strength, cure moderate wounds, desecrate, hold person, scare*; 3rd - bestow curse*, blindness/deafness, create food and water, cure serious wounds, dispel magic, prayer; 4th - cure critical wounds, divination, fear*, freedom of movement, poison; 5th - animal growth* (serpents and reptilians), commune, greater command, slay living, true seeing. *Domain spell.
Deity: Varae (Set). Domains: Hatred (+2 profane bonus on attacks, saves, and AC for 1 minute against one opponent, 1/day), Scalykind (command or rebuke reptiles 3/day).
Possessions: Ring of protection +3, wand of unholy blight (caster level 8th; 10 charges), wand of greater magic fang (caster level 8th; 10 charges), 2 potions of barkskin (+3), silver holy symbol of Varae (Set).
Ashassae is firmly dedicated to the faith of Set, whom she saw drive her previous deity into the darkness. She lives in the Serpents' Holding, where she breeds and trains the spitting vipers and other snakes that live on the plains. Although a constrictor herself, Ashassae has an affinity for her poisonous kin, and she always surrounds herself with them.
Ashassae answers directly to Ssisthlerine, using her ring of teleportation to report to her mistress and to travel across the Realms doing her lord's will. Ashassae also serves as an advisor to the water and guardian nagas of nearby Nagawater. In fact, she is the proverbial "snake in the grass," working patiently to corrupt the nagas and turn them to the worship of Set.
Ashassae: Female elder serpent giant constrictor Expert 12, CR 13; Huge magical beast (augmented animal); HD 13d10+26 plus 12d6+24; hp 163; Init +4; Spd 20 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.; AC 20, touch 12, flatfooted 16; Base Atk +22; Grp +39; Atk +29 melee (1d8+13, bite); Full Atk +29 melee (1d8+13, bite); Space/Reach 15 ft./10 ft.; SA command serpents, constrict 1d8+13, improved grab, mesmerizing sway; SQ blindsense 70 ft., low-light vision, scent, speak with serpents; AL NE; SV Fort +14, Ref +16, Will +18; Str 28, Dex 19, Con 15, Int 14, Wis 22, Cha 12.
Skills and Feats: Balance +12, Bluff +15, Climb +19, Decipher Script +13, Diplomacy +5, Gather Information +12, Handle Animal +12, Hide +8, Intimidate +13, Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (geography) +13, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (nature) +13, Knowledge (religion) +13, Listen +16, Ride +6, Search +8, Sense Motive +16, Spot +16, Swim +17, Use Magic Device +12, Skill Focus (Decipher Script), Skill Focus (Gather Information), Skill Focus (Handle Animal), Skill Focus (Knowledge [arcana]), Skill Focus (Knowledge [geography]), Skill Focus (Knowledge [history]), Skill Focus (Knowledge [nature]), Skill Focus (Knowledge [religion]), Skill Focus (Use Magic Device).
Command Serpents (Sp): Ashassae can use command (as the spell, DC 12) against other serpents with fewer Hit Dice than herself. This ability is usable 6 times per day.
Constrict (Ex): On a successful grapple check, Ashassae deals 1d8+13 points of bludgeoning damage to a grappled opponent.
Improved Grab (Ex): If Ashassae hits with her bite attack, she can attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If she wins the grapple check, she establishes a hold and can constrict.
Mesmerizing Sway (Su): Ashassae can paralyze other creatures by swaying slowly and steadily while staring at them. Every creature within 30 feet of her that can see her swaying must make a successful DC 17 Will save to avoid the effect. Failure means the creature is paralyzed for as long as Ashassae concentrates and for 1d6 rounds thereafter. Mesmerizing sway is a mind-affecting effect.
Speak with Serpents (Su): Ashassae can communicate with other snakelike creatures as though using a common language. This communication is limited by the Intelligence scores of the conversing creatures.
Languages: Chondathan, Common, Draconic, Shaaran.
Possessions: Ring of teleportation (as helm of teleportation), wand of magic missile (caster level 1st; 5 charges), band of armor +3 (treat as bracers), Quaal's feather token (whip), hourglass.
Vasrass is a treasured servant of Set. Unlike most of his elder serpent kin, he is neither a cleric nor an expert, but an assassin. Vasrass is perhaps the cruelest member of the cabal, as well as one of the most powerful. He delights in the slaughter of mammals (especially humans who lack the decency to fear him) and hires himself out to anyone who will allow him to experience this pleasure.
For hundreds of years, Vasrass crawled among the mammals that dominate the surface world, slaying and devouring them with impunity. Then by chance some fifty years ago, Vasrass encountered a human who offered to venerate him and bring him great power Agreeing to become the object of the mammal's adoration, Vasrass entered the church of Set and eventually the Order of the Grand Snakemaster. There he learned to kill with greater efficiency in service to his new lord.
Countless mammals serve Vasrass, all of which know to fear his venomous fangs. Ssisthlerine keeps a close eye on him, primarily to ensure that the assassin carries out the wishes of the Lord of Evil before pursuing his own interests.
Vasrass: Male elder serpent Large viper Rogue 2/Assassin 5; CR 11; Large magical beast (augmented animal); HD 5d10+5 plus 2d6+2 plus 5d6+5; hp 63; Init +8; Spd 20 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.; AC 18, touch 13, flat-footed 18; Base Atk +9; Grap +14; Atk +13 melee (1d4+1 plus virulent poison, bite); Full Atk +13 melee (1d4+1 plus virulent poison, bite); Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft.; SA command serpents, death attack, mesmerizing sway, sneak attack +3d6, virulent poison SQ +2 save against poison, blindsense 60 ft., evasion, improved uncanny dodge, low-light vision, poison use, scent, speak with serpents, trapfinding, uncanny dodge; AL NE; SV Fort +6, Ref +15, Will +9; Str 12, Dex 19, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 21, Cha 11.
Skills and Feats: Balance +15, Bluff +9, Climb +12, Disguise +6, Hide +18, Intimidate +14, Listen +16, Move Silently +19, Search +6, Sense Motive +17, Spot +17, Swim +9; Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (bite).
Command Serpents (Sp): Vasrass can use command (as the spell, DC 11) against other serpents with fewer Hit Dice than himself. This ability is usable twice per day.
Death Attack (Ex): With a successful sneak attack after 3 rounds of study, Vasrass can choose to paralyze his opponent for 1d6 rounds or slay it outright. A successful DC 17 Fortitude save makes the attack a normal sneak attack.
Mesmerizing Sway (Su): Vasrass can paralyze other creatures by swaying slowly and steadily while staring at them. Every creature within 30 feet of him that can see him swaying must make a successful DC 12 Will save to avoid the effect. Failure means the creature is paralyzed for as long as Vasrass concentrates and for 1d6 rounds thereafter. Mesmerizing sway is a mind-affecting effect.
Virulent Poison (Ex): Injury; bite; Fortitude DC 15; initial and secondary damage 1d6 Str + 1d6 Con.
Evasion (Ex): If exposed to any effect that normally allows a character to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, Vasrass takes no damage with a successful saving throw.
Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Vasrass can no longer be flanked, since he can react to opponents on opposite sides of him as easily as he can react to a single attacker. This defense denies rogues below 11th level the ability to use flank attacks to sneak attack him. The exception to this defense is that a rogue of 11th level or higher can flank Vasrass.
Poison Use (Ex): Vasrass never risks accidentally poisoning himself, regardless of the venom used.
Speak with Serpents (Su): Vasrass can communicate with other snakelike creatures as though using a common language. This communication is limited by the Intelligence scores of the conversing creatures.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Vasrass retains his Dexterity bonus (if any) to AC regardless of being caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. (He still loses any Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.)
Languages: Common, Draconic, Mulhorandi, Shaaran.
Assassin Spells Known (4/3; save DC 12 + spell level): 1st - disguise self, ghost sound, obscuring mist, sleep; 2nd - darkness, pass without trace, spider climb.
Possessions: Amulet of mighty fists +1, band of armor +1 (as bracers), air elemental gem.
Membership and Demographics
The order's secretive and elitist nature limits its membership to those snakes that have heard the call of Set. Some 37% are clerics of their foul lord, and their leader is the wicked Ssisthlerine of Najara, the Kingdom of Snakes. Her second-in-command is Circelice (female elder serpent Huge viper Clr5, NE) who spends much of her time wandering through Imaskari ruins across Raurin, the Dust Desert. From these positions of power, they ensure that the order adheres to the will of Set. Other clerics within the cabal include two 2nd-level clerics and twenty 1st-level clerics. A small portion (10%) of the order consists of faithful adepts, including one 2nd-level adept and five 1st-level adepts.
Another 20% of the cabal's members are experts, who have a proclivity for taking in the knowledge of the ages, both mundane and magical. Of these, few can compete with the sagacity of Ashassae (female elder serpent giant constrictor Exp12, NE) of the Serpents Holding, north of the Lake of Steam. The other sages of note in the cabal are Hasszol (male elder serpent Large viper Exp6, NE) from Hlondeth, Eesabo (female elder serpent Huge viper Exp3, NE) from Zhentil Keep, and Zasszauw (male elder serpent giant constrictor Exp4, NE) from the Forest of Amtar, who is dedicated not so much to Set as to the tenets of his wicked faith. Eleven 1st-level experts make up the remainder of this segment of the membership.
Arcane spellcasters make up 18% of the cabal. Chief among these is Quesserann (male awakened Tiny viper Wiz4, LE), a former animal companion whose abusive and powerful master underestimated the independence of his traitorous servant. Quesserann has two traits that Set finds particularly endearing: a wicked sense of ambition and a keen understanding of betrayal. As the smallest member of the cabal and the only one who is not an elder serpent, Quesserann feels the need to prove himself and is constantly looking for opportunities to do so. His ambition has not escaped Ssisthlerine, who monitors her chief wizard carefully. For his part, Quesserann is well aware that Ssisthlerine has thralls with greater spellcasting ability in her service, and that any overly ambitious scheme could easily be his last. One 2nd-level sorcerer and ten 1st-level sorcerers are also members of the order.
When it requires extra subtlety coupled with some well-placed poison, the order can call upon its rogue and bard members, chief among whom is Vasrass (male elder serpent Large viper Rog2/Asns). The cabal also has access to the forked tongues and fangs of one 2nd-level rogue, four 1st-level rogues, one 2nd-level bard, and three 1st-level bards.
Joining the Order of the Grand Snakemaster
Joining the order is difficult. Membership is by invitation only, and invitations are usually extended only after Ssisthlerine receives one of her Set-given visions. Each new member must not only take an oath of faith to Set in whatever alias he has chosen to reveal himself, but also understand that this guise and all his others are aspects of the one true god of serpents. Members must also swear to maintain secrecy about the cabal and its plans, even when among serpent people, such as the yuan-ti and naga, or the faithful of Sseth or Varae. They believe themselves anointed and chosen by the Lord of Evil to carry out his great plans of conquest.
In the Campaign
The Order of the Grand Snakemaster is a tool that the Dungeon Master can use to gather the various snake worshipers and snakelike creatures of the Realms into a more regulated whole. Their use of portals allows the cabal's members to subtly or overtly influence PCs in just about any portion of the Realms. The order also allows the DM to create complex power plays within power plays, as its members try to manipulate other powerful serpent beings, such as nagas and yuan-ti, into battling the characters on their behalf while they orchestrate an endless wave of attacks from behind the scenes.