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Skulks first appeared on the AD&D Fiend Folio. This is their 4e debut, with all-new lore.
Centuries ago, the human empire of Bael Turath fought a dreadful war against the dragonborn empire of Arkhosia. Bael Turath was never a nice place: its society was severely stratified, and its ruling nobles were slavers that spared little thought to those they enslaved. When it found itself losing the war against Arkhosia, those same ruling nobles did not hesitate to turn to Hell for help, and forged the diabolic pact that would see them and their descendants transformed into tieflings. We’ve seen all of this before, and we also know that the pact didn’t help them in the end. Bael Turath fell just the same, with the pact’s boon at most allowing them to take Arkhosia with them.
In this entry we see one of the reasons why it fell. The pact for infernal power excluded Bael Turath’s large enslaved population, even as it lowered the slavers’ guard. There was a huge rebellion where many of Bael Turath’s noble caste were murdered in their sleep. Some of the rebels did this to escape their bonds, but some did it because they were angry at being excluded from the infernal pact. The Demon Prince Graz’zt was impressed with the latter and reached out to them to offer his patronage. Those who accepted became the creatures known as skulks.
Skulks are sapient humanoids with a supernatural affinity for stealth. Ironically enough, they are much more indebted to their demon patron than modern-day tieflings are to whatever devil mutated their ancestors. This eternal debt is encoded in a document known as the Book of the Blinded Eye, and it bids even present-day skulks to follow the orders of Graz’zt’s servants. They’re often sent out as assassins to eliminate threats to the cult or their demon master.
The skulks’ hatred of tieflings is equally eternal, and probably also enforced by the demonic pact. Skulks live as if Bael Turath never fell, and as if they’re still infiltrated behind enemy lines. Left to their own devices, they will pursue their original mission of murdering all tieflings. They spread along with the tiefling diaspora as the latter fled their fallen empire. Any present-day settlement that contains a sizable tiefling population is also likely to contain a skulk population preying on them.
The book paints all skulks with this demonic brush, but it would be simple to say only a small percentage of them are this horrible, just like only a small percentage of tieflings are diabolists. As with most other humanoid entries, you can treat this one describing the form skulk villains usually take, and not as a species-wide portrayal.
I imagine non-evil skulks would simply be reclusive and wish to be left alone, either living in their own isolated communities or still “infiltrating” those of others but without trying to murder anyone.
Skulks are Medium Natural Humanoids with a ground speed of 6 and Low-Light Vision. Their signature trait is Stealthy Step, which exempts them from the Stealth penalty for moving more than 2 squares per turn or for running. All of the individual entries have additional stealth powers beyond that, appropriate to their role.
The entries here are appropriate threats for an early-to-mid-Heroic party. More powerful skulks up to epic tier certainly exist, but are left as an exercise to the GM.
A spellcaster specializing in charm and illusion magic. It’s a Level 3 Controller with 45 HP. Mesmerists fight with a short sword and have a couple of active attack powers. The first is Luring Charm, a non-damaging ranged attack that targets Will, slides the target 4 squares, and dazes then for a turn. The other is Mesmerize (recharge 5+) a ranged attack that targets Will, deals psychic damage, and makes the target unable to see any enemies other than the mesmerist themselves (save ends).
As a minor action, they can also use Deceptive Veil to look like any Medium or Small humanoid. Piercing the illusion requires a DC 26 Insight check, which is very hard even for a dedicated PC at this level. This is actually more powerful than the Changeling’s disguise ability, since it also allows the mesmerist to look like a Small humanoid.
Skulk Mesmerists like to kill two birds with one stone by murdering a target while looking like someone they want to frame for that murder. Their Veil also makes it possible for the GM to make an adventure where an innocent changeling is charged for a string of murders perpetrated by a skulk mesmerist.
This one does what it says on the tin. Over and over and over. It’s a Level 3 Lurker with 37 HP.
Aside from the standard Stealthy Step trait, the murderer also has Peerless Camouflage that allows it to hide while it only has partial cover or concealment, and to remain hidden if it still has cover or concealment at the end of a movement. It also has Unseen Strike, which lets it deal extra damage against targets that couldn’t see at the start of its turn.
The murderer fights with a Short sword and can thrown a Shuriken Volley once per encounter. This lets it make three ranged attacks, which deal a bit of damage and immobilize (save ends) on a hit. All of these can benefit from Unseen Strike.
When playing one of these, you want to start the fight hidden and open it with a Shuriken Volley. Then you alternate between re-establishing stealth and striking with the sword. A mesmerist in the same team as the murder makes it a lot more dangerous, because now the murderer doesn’t need to waste time hiding to benefit from Unseen Strike.
Another stealthy killer, but this one is a Level 5 Soldier with 61 HP. It fights with a longsword, and even its basic attack is funny: it’s called Baffling Blade, and it if hits it allows the hunter to stay hidden from the target. Its special attack is the Invisible Blade (recharge 5+), which targets someone who can’t see the hunter, deals double damage, and inflicts ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
Both attacks mark the target as an effect, and if an enemy marked by the hunter shifts the hunter gets to use Baffling Blade against them.
Hunters also go very well with mesmerists: the mesmerist can make them invisible to a PC while they set up as the traditional front line preventing the PC from reaching the mesmerist. They can use Invisible Blade against the afflicted victim without having to hide, and they can also hide without having to leave formation.
As I mentioned in the lore entry, I like this entry much better if I read it as describing the typical skulk villain instead of describing the typical skulk. Mechanically, I like how the three stat blocks synergize - they’re clearly meant to be used together.
Allied monsters might include Graz’zt cultists and minor demons. Anything that can make their monster buddies invisible also works really well with skulks.