by Mike Shea on 5 June 2017
Note: This article contains numerous spoilers for Storm King's Thunder. Turn away now if you are planning to play in this campaign.
There are a number of villains in the published adventure Storm King's Thunder but few are as interesting and as as central to the storyline as the ancient blue dragon, Iymrith, the Doom of the Desert.
Today we're going to dig deep into this powerful villain, both in her background and story as well as her unique powers and ways to ensure she is as dangerous a foe as she should be. Much in the way we looked at running Strahd von Zarovich we're going to look at her tactics and enhance her powers to ensure that even the most well optimized party of adventurers will remember they've been in a fight when they face her.
Though this article focuses on Iymrith as a central villain in Storm King's Thunder, you can place Iymrith in your own homebrew campaign if you prefer or use this article as a wrapper for a blue dragon sorcerer of your own choosing in your own stories. You don't need to run Storm King's Thunder to get a great villain out of this draconic blue horror.
Fifteen years ago, Ed Greenwood wrote an article for the D&D website entitled Iymrith, "The Dragon of the Statues". This 4,000 word article covers Iymrith's vast history and outlines her unique powers, her motivations, her tactics, and her vast lair in Anauroch known as the Nameless City. This article gives us tons of material we can use in our own game. We could run a huge adventure as our characters explore the Nameless City and face the defenses she has put into place before they dive into her hidden shrines and laboratories beneath the blowing sands.
Just like Strahd, we can foreshadow Iymrith's presence in a bunch of different ways. For example, we can drop a powerful magic item into the hands of the characters early on, a wand of lightning for example. Her connection to the wand lets Iymrith scry on the characters her own enjoyment. The characters can get all sorts of premonitions that they're being watched, seeing themselves within the orb of a crystal ball with a draconic claw swirling over the top of it. They might feel the spectral presence of a dragon flowing over them when they use the item and hearing the words "I see you" in draconic.
For some great fun, Iymrith might show up at other inopportune times, perhaps as a high class gambler on the Grand Dame, secretly meeting with Lord Drylund in order to pass messages to Slarkrethel, the Kraken. If there's ever a potential chance Iymrith might show up, it's always worth considering dropping her in.
As always, a good villain needs a strong motivation. Here's one example motivation we can use for Iymrith that expands on her background in Storm King's Thunder.
Though she didn't directly partake in the Rise of Tiamat, Iyrmith took the Dragon Queen's defeat poorly. She sought vengeance against the smallfolk who broke the plan and saw the breaking of the Ordening of the giants as a way to bring chaos to the Sword Coast and the North. Iymrith herself is descended from a powerful dragon sorcerer who battled the giants during the Thousand Year War. Like her bloodline, Iymrith always seeks to disrupt the kingdom of giants in all forms.
Iymrith is the orchestrator of the shattering of the Ordening, planting poisoned seeds into the minds of the leaders of the Storm Giants and ultimately leading to the kidnapping of King Hekaton and the assassination of his wife. Iymrith allied with the ancient kraken Slarkrethel, a being even she fears, to complete this plot.
Iymrith is quite pleased with how things are going and, after the fall of Tiamat to a band of adventurers, she worries that meddlesome heroes might break her plot as well. Once the characters learn of the truth of the Ordening at the Eye of the All Father, they cease to be an amusement to her and she treats them as a threat, sending assassins both from her personal band of dragon cultists and members of the Kraken Society after them. She may face them herself from time to time as well if she can find them in time.
Iymrith, however, has one great fear. Klauth. The two dragons, both powerful spellcasters on top of their draconic heritage, are nearly evenly matched and both dragons know it. Both prefer to watch their plots unfold from afar and neither seeks to confront the other. For this reason, Iymrith is not likely to directly attack the characters if she feels that Klauth might protect them.
When we challenge a powerful party with Iymrith, we want to consider carefully how she might defend herself. Against a powerful group of characters run by skilled players, we DMs are always at a disadvantage and it isn't impossible that we see a mighty villain like Iymrith fall much more quickly than the story should allow.
The following suggestions are intended to make Iymrith the powerful foe she deserves to be and are intended to challenge five or six strong high level characters run by smart and skilled players. Against smaller parties of characters who might not be quite as powerful run by players who are not as tactically minded, this could quickly be a total party kill. Keep in mind that this version of Iymrith isn't "balanced" at all. There's no applicable CR.
Iymrith uses the optional rules in the Monster Manual for draconic spellcasters with one difference. Though her challenge rating as a default dragon does not give her access to ninth level spells, she does, in fact, have them. Her vast intellect as a dragon gives her nearly unlimited access to spells so don't be afraid to give her whatever spell you think she needs at the moment. In fairness, we can keep an eye on what spell slots she uses but we shouldn't worry too much about what spells she has prepared and just use what works for the moment. This gives her the impression of being incredibly well prepared with a nearly bottomless depth of magical experience.
Iymrith has carefully scribed her scales with arcane power giving her the equivalent of robes of the archmagi. This gives her +2 to her spell DCs, spell attacks, and saving throws as well as advantage on any save versus magical effects. She also wears a ring of mind shielding primarily to let her deal with Slarkrethal and his psionic powers.
Arcane Feedback: Iymirth has a particularly nasty version of counterspell that acts like counterspell but also inflicts 21 (7d6) psychic damage against the spellcaster. Like any legendary spellcaster, Iymirth must make the choice for whether to use shield or arcane feedback using her reaction. This decision mostly comes down to the threat she faces, either a tricky spellcaster or a powerful melee or ranged attacker. Like counterspell, this can be cast at higher levels, inflicting an extra 3 (1d6) psychic damage for every level above 4th.
Force Burn: (Recharge 5,6) Iymirth has spent centuries perfecting this incredibly powerful attack, one that opens up the weave of arcane magic into beams of raw magical energy. Iymrith can fire three beams up to 100 feet and may choose a single creature for all three or split the beams up among up to three creatures. She makes a spell attack against each creature and, on a hit, each beam inflicts 70 (20d6) force damage and the target loses 1d4 spell slots beginning with lower level spell slots and working up.
Quick Casting: Iymrith can use a legendary action to cast a cantrip or first level spell. She can use two legendary actions to cast a second or third level spell. Iymrith is capable of casting multiple spells in a single round without restriction.
In her lair, Iymrith has a pair of stone golems that include the bound ability of the shield guardian and thus can transfer half the damage done to her to one of the stone golems if the golem is within 50 feet. These golems are shaped like huge gargoyles, can fly 60 feet, and have the maximum hit points for a stone golem (255).
Iymrith has lairs everywhere but her primary lair is within a lost Netherese city on the north-western edge of Anauroch. Greenwood's article on Iymrith has some fantastic ideas we can use to build a vast lair for the dragon, one the characters can dive into and explore for many sessions of we so choose. Here are some highlights:
We can combine many of these features into a city filled with ancient ruins and dark secrets that must be uncovered before a group of powerful adventurers can face Iymrith herself in her lair.
When we're running a long campaign like Storm King's Thunder, it helps both us and our players when there's a clear villain working against the characters. While she might not be notable to a party of local adventurers saving the villagers of Night Stone from goblins, heroes of note will soon come to her attention and their attention might soon focus on her. The earlier we can bring Iymrith into the story, the sooner our party can enjoy this great threat to the North.