Deep Dive - The Xorn
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The Xorn. I know some of you are saying, “What the hell is a Xorn?” And that’s a fair question. It’s a poor forgotten creature that exists in the back of every Monster Manual, is underutilized, and not shown anywhere close the amount of love it deserves. It’s probably because it’s pretty ugly.
This elemental has three arms and three legs attached to what basically amounts to a giant bowling ball body that has a huge mouth on the top of it. But is the fact that they are ridiculous looking the reason we don’t see many of them in campaigns? Who can tell, but what we do know is that you better hand over all your gold, or you’re going to get an asswhoopin.
1e - Xorn
Frequency: Very rare
No. Appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: -2
Hit Dice: 7+7
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type: P, Q (X )
Damage/Attack: 1-3 (X 3),6-24
Special Attacks: Surprise on a 1-5
Special Defenses: See below
Magic Resistance: Standard
Size: M (5' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
The Xorn was released in the first Monster Manual in 1977 and is located on pg. 102. This same page page has the iconic Wraith and Wyvern, but despite having to compete against such awesome creatures, this guy stands out like a sore thumb. And how couldn’t it? Look at that picture. This thing makes ugly look pretty.
Being an Earth Elemental, the Xorn normally lives on the elemental earth plane, but they do travel to the material plane to feed on minerals that can only be found here. They are interested in any type of mineral and will demand to be fed any precious metals an adventuring party might have on them, as they can smell any minerals from 20’ away! Also… if denied, they’ll attack and try to take it by force. Mean little jerks.
The Xorn is a pretty powerful creature to tangle with. First, there could be up to four of these bad boys the party may have to fight. As we will, that could spell major trouble for even a mid-level party. They have an AC of -2, and in AD&D that is really, really good. To put it into perspective, Bahamut, King of the Good Dragons, only has a AC of -1 in AD&D. So they are hard to hit, which makes sense as they are made of earth. To make matters worse, all fire and cold spells have no effects on the Xorn, and all electrical attacks (ie. lightning bolts) only do half damage. Add to the the fact that they get 7[d8] + 7 Hit Dice and you have some tough rocks to tangle with.
Now, this isn’t to say they don’t have any weaknesses. Not that anyone ever takes these spells: move earth, stone to flesh or rock to mud; but they are very effective against the Xorn. The two later spells are especially potent, as they reduce the Xorn’s AC to 8, which is the same AC as the Zombie. With the Xorn’s defenses taken down for 1 round, your front line fighters can hack away and actually deal some damage. And on the very rare chance your magic user has taken the pass wall spell, it will do 11-20 points of damage. That’s a nasty chunk of damage for them as they have anywhere from 14 to 63 HP.
Now, if things are going poorly for the Xorn, they can attempt to flee from the battle by burrowing into the nearest stone object, like the floor. If your magic user is especially spiteful, or really wants all the XPs, they can cast Phase Door on the spot that the Xorn has phased through… this kills the Xorn immediately.
But while the Xorn is a big beast of defense, it’s attacks are pretty underwhelming. The Xorn gets 4 attacks - one with each of its arms followed by a bite attack. The arm attacks are pretty weak, only doing 1-3 points of damage per round. The mouth is its primary attack, dealing 6-24 [6d4] points of damage on a hit. But someone needs to explain to us how it exactly goes about biting someone as it has no knees. It’s a hilarious though to imagine it tipping itself over to its side and trying to bite someone while its third leg is shooting out behind it, wiggling free in the air.
Before we move onto the next edition, the Xorn is not alone. The Xaren appears in Monster Manual 2 (1983) and was a slightly weaker version of the Xorn. It was mostly interested in magical metals as it could gain a permanent bonus to its HP for every +1 modifier to the weapon. It could smell magical metal from 40’ away and demand that adventurer’s hand over any magic metal, and if they didn’t at least offer it non-magical iron, it would attack them and try to eat the weapons out of their hands. In the second monster manual, they look a bit nicer and are even given knees.
2e - Xorn
Frequency: Very rare
Activity Cycle: Any
Intelligence: Average (8- 10)
Treasure: OO, P, Q(x5), X, Y
No. Appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: -2
Hit Dice: 7+7
No. of Attacks: 4
Damage/Attack: 1-3(x3) 6-24
Special Attacks: Surprise
Special Defenses: Spell Immunities
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M(5’ Tall)
Morale: Champion (16)
XP Value: 4,000
Before we get into the juicy bits of the Xorn we have to mention one super important detail. They actually get uglier in 2e. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get into it.
This weird, Guillermo Del Toro fish reject was first introduced in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989) and have similar stats to the previous Xorn. They have great defenses, underwhelming attacks, though they do go into how it will angle itself at a 45° angle to use its mouth to bite at creatures, even though it has no interest in flesh. It only eats minerals.
In 2e, the Xorn is a much more passive creature. They will not attack flesh creature since they cannot digest it. However, if the characters are carrying around a large amount of precious metals or minerals, which it can smell up to 20 ft away, the Xorn’s quiet nature is thrown aside as it become very, very hangry. The Xorn will give those pesky flesh creatures the opportunity to hand over a reasonable portion of their gold and gems, but if the characters refuse, it will attack them and even try to eat their weapons while it is at it (the weapons get a small bonus to not be hit). They are able to communicate somewhat, though they don’t share a common tongue with the inhabitants of the Material Plane. You can cast a spell to understand what they are saying, but I imagine it mostly just communicates by pointing at the gold purse the characters are wearing and then at its mouth.
Continuing it’s attack on the characters, the monster manual goes into some detail as to how it can adjust its attacks. It will move into the stone floor and come up at the character’s feet, granting it surprise when it surfaces; biting and tearing away at the adventurer. Though, if the Xorn is unlucky enough to fight a magic user with the phase door spell, it will die instantly if it is directed at it while the Xorn is passing through stone.
In 2e, we learn a bit more about the lore. The Xorn travel in small clans that will eat their way through veins of minerals, often leaving air pockets in the rock where there used to be veins of ore, monsters and other creatures then make those places their home. There is one line in the Monstrous Manual (1993), that might move your heart for these strange, strange creatures. They are often hunted down for sport by Dao, and even used as slaves for those very same Dao. Interestingly enough, the Xaren are also introduced in the Monstrous Manual and they point out that while Dao will still hunt them down, they don’t employ them as slaves. I can only assume this is because Xaren are extremely interested in eating magical materials and the Dao don’t want to babysit all their valuable magic items.
3.5e - Xorn
Medium Outsider (Extraplanar, Earth)
Hit Dice: 7d8+17 (48 hp) / Initiative: +0
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), burrow 20 ft.
Armor Class: 24 (+14 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 24
Attack: Bite +10 melee (4d6+3)
Full Attack: Bite +10 melee (4d6+3) and 3 claws +8 melee (1d4+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft. / Special Attacks: —
Special Qualities: All-around vision, earth glide, damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to cold and fire, resistance to electricity 10, tremorsense Saves: 60 ft. Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +5
Abilities: Str 17, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 10
Skills: Hide +10, Intimidate +10, Knowledge(dungeoneering) +10, Listen +10, Move Silently +10, Search +10, Spot +10, Survival+10 (+12 following tracks or underground)
Feats: Cleave, Multiattack, Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Multiattack, Power Attack, Toughness
Environment: Elemental Plane of Earth, Solitary, pair, or cluster (3–5)
Challenge Rating: 6
Alignment: Usually neutral
Advancement: 8–14 HD (Medium)
Sigh. The Xorn now have fully formed knees which is great given the knee issues in the previous two editions, but that is the only improvement. It’s green and has giant lips on its huge mouth. I’m not sure I understand why they made it green. It looks less like an earth elemental, and more like some deformed frog. I almost feel bad for it… as if it is telling me to just kill it and take it out of its misery.
And please… Don’t even get me started on the lips.
The 3/3.5e Xorn was introduced in the first Monster Manual (2000 / 2003) which is a small victory over 2e where it had to wait until the second monster manual. The Xorn is given very little in the way of description and the Xaren is completely removed in 3e and going forward. But it isn’t a complete wash for the Xorn as it is given three versions that your unfortunate adventurers could get attacked by. There is the Minor, Average (statted above) and Elder Xorn; each Xorn is pretty similar to each other with changes mostly in the size of the monster, hit points, and damage dealt.
One key feature that the Xorn now has is All-Around Vision. The Monster Manual goes on to explain that because of its symmetrical eye placement, it is able to look in any direction. This gives it a bonus to spot and search checks and that it can’t be flanked.
The tactics that the Xorn use are the same as it’s always been. It will attempt to demand food from adventurers, and when that doesn’t work it’ll just attack them for their stuff. The monster manual lists these creatures as neutral, but I’m pretty sure that if I just started demanding things, and when I didn’t get it, I just started attacking people; I’d be listed as an evil asshole. But, I suppose that when they are on their home plane they are far nicer as they have such a huge supply of food and aren’t attacking people.
Before, we mentioned there were three forms of the Xorn. While they mostly stay the same, the Elder Xorn is a CR 8 creature, making it a pretty fearsome threat to mid level characters. Adding to that, they sometimes travel in pairs or even packs of 6-11 at a time, and that makes them go from fearsome to downright deadly. They will send one xorn to ‘negotiate’ for food, while the rest of them position themselves under the characters and lie in wait for the adventurers to say no. They then attack.
With an average of 130 hp, four attacks and some added feats, players may learn to give up some of their riches than be attacked by those hideous lips and mouth again. The Feats, for those with little experience with 3.5e, are as follows:
Awesome Blow - Send smaller opponents flying away from you
Cleave - If you knock a creature to 0 hp, you can make an attack against another creature near you
Improved Bull Rush - You can rush at an enemy and push them back without taking Attacks of Opportunity
Power Attack - Take a minus to your hit and deal more damage.
Toughness - Gain extra hit points
4e - Xorn
Xorn - Level 9 Skirmisher
Medium elemental magical beast (earth), XP 400
Initiative +8 / Senses Perception +7; all-around vision darkvision
HP 102; Bloodied 51
AC 23; Fortitude 24, Reflex 19, Will 20
Speed 5, burrow 5; see also earth glide
> Claw (standard; at-will) • +14vs.AC; 1d6 + 5 damage.
> Triple Strike (standard; at-will) - The xorn makes three claw attacks, each against a different target.
> Earthy Maw (standard;at-will) • +14 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage.
Earth Glide: A xorn can burrow through solid stone as if it were loose earth.
Retreat (immediate reaction, when the xorn is missed by a melee attack; at-will) The xorn burrows its speed.
Submerge (minor; at-will) The xorn sinks partially under the ground and gains a +2 bonus to AC until it moves.
Alignment Unaligned / Languages Common, Primordial
Str 20 (+9) | Con 22 (+10) | Dex 15 (+6) | Int 12 (+5) | Wis 17 (+7) | Cha 12 (+5)
Finally… I can actually get behind this picture of the Xorn. Fearsome. Mighty. And it may even make your players crap their pants when it comes for their treasure.
But unfortunately, 4e keeps the love away from the Xorn until it is released in Monster Manual 2 (2009) and they give it two forms to ruin your party’s day. The Xorn, and the Diamondhide Xorn. The Xorn is pretty similar to the 3e version while the Diamondhide Xorn is pretty close to the Elder Xorn.
One thing of note: The Xorn is no longer just a solitary or clan only creature, spending its time on the material plane hunting for food. They now will bargain their services across the planes in exchange for precious metals and gemstones. Why fight hapless adventurers when you can get your food as payment for something you do naturally? They can be found aiding the mining or smelting operations of duergar and fire giants, and even allied with galeb duhrs or other creatures of elemental earth.
This is a great flavor addition, and the DM now has more chances to bring in these hulking beasts; instead of just when the adventurers are walking through a dungeon.
5e - Xorn
Xorn / Medium elemental, neutral
Armor Class 19 (natural armor) / Hit Points 73 (7d8 + 42) / Speed 20 ft., burrow 20ft.
STR 17 (+3) | DEX 10 (+0) | CON 22 (+6) | INT 11 (+0) | WIS 10 (+0) | CHA 11 (+0)
Skills Perception +6, Stealth +3 / Damage Resistances piercing and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren't adamantine
Senses darkvision 60ft., tremorsense 60ft., Passive Perception 16 / Languages Terran
Challenge 5 (1 ,800 XP)
Earth Glide. The xorn can burrow through non magical, unworked earth and stone. While doing so, the xorn doesn’t disturb the material it moves through.
Stone Camouflage. The xorn has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in rocky terrain.
Treasure Sense. The xorn can pinpoint, by scent, the location ofprecious metals and stones, such as coins and gems, within 60feet of it.
Multiattack. The xorn makes three claw attacks and one bite attack.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.Hit: l3 (3d6 + 3) piercing damage.
At last, we get to the latest incarnation of the Xorn. Our poor, unloved creature looks even better in 5e, and appears in the first Monster Manual (2014).
Unfortunately for the Xorn, this is one of the weakest incarnations for it. The Xorn, compared to its beginnings, is nerfed pretty hard. While it’s AC is 19, making it difficult for low level adventurers to hit it, its HP has been reduced to an average of 73. No new skills or abilities have been added and it is back to being primarily a solitary creature lost on the Material Plane.
To make them even sadder; Xorns are now described as beggars and thieves:
Because a xorn isn't evil, it pleads or bargains in the hope of convincing owners to give up their treasure, offering up information it has learned from its travels in exchange. A xorn whose requests are ignored might resort to threats and bullying. If starving or angered, it resorts to force.
Our once proud and mighty Xorn is reduced to begging from adventurers, as it doesn’t have much chance unless it is attacking low level parties. The Xorn should only be bargaining for its food, as that has been a common thread throughout the past editions. Groveling is a bit low.
So there we have it. The Xorn, an unloved, under-utilized monster that used to be a huge powerhouse and has now been reduced to a lowly CR 5 creature. We demand that the once proud Xorn be reworked by WotC to its former glory and rightful status as a creature to be feared. So we went ahead and made our own CR 13 Xorn. We hope you enjoy.