Tactics of Dragon Heist: Hlam

Topher
5 min readOct 25, 2019

This article contains major spoilers for the D&D 5e adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. If you are, or will be, a player in that adventure please don’t read further without your DM’s explicit permission.

Hlam is a hermit in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist who uses both unarmed fighting and divine magic. As a Lawful Good character, Hlam is unlikely to face the characters in combat; however, the adventure module specifically mentions using him as an ally. When Hlam is fighting alongside the PCs (or friendly NPCs), their safety is his top priority, and he will purposefully draw enemy fire to protect them.

Hlam has superhuman Dexterity and Wisdom, above average Intelligence and Charisma, and slightly more Strength and Constitution than a commoner. This ability score contour indicates that Hlam should be a shock attacker, jumping in and out of melee as quickly as possible to avoid damage. His 60 foot movement speed and quick step legendary action would really support this strategy. However, the harder Hlam is to hit, the more likely his enemies are to target his allies. Due to his high AC, evasion, and Deflect Missile reaction, Hlam is already extremely difficult to damage. He’ll stay relatively still in order to protect his friends.

When it comes to actions, Hlam has a lot to choose from. His best attack is Quivering Palm, which can take any enemy out of combat completely assuming they fail a Constitution save. However, he can use quivering palm only once every 6 rounds on average so he has to make sure to save it for a dangerous opponent that is likely to fail a Constitution save.

If he can’t use Quivering Palm, Hlam’s next best attack is his unarmed strikes. Hlam can make three unarmed strikes each round, and can choose one of three effects each time a strike hits. In general, he’ll use the same rubric to decide which effect to use as a martial arts adept from Volo’s: forcing opponents who are holding a spell focus or magic weapon to drop it, stunning anyone with a multiattack option, and possibly knocking targets prone on the first or second attack. (For more information on martial arts adepts and the unarmed strike effects, check out this article by themonstersknow.com)

Hlam can also attack with darts, and heal himself with his Wholeness of Body action. He’ll use darts when charging if he starts combat over 60 feet away from his nearest enemy, and use Wholeness of Body if he’s reduced to 54hp (40% of his hit point maximum).

Hlam also has 3 legendary actions each round, and three options for when to use them:

  • Quick Step lets Hlam move without provoking opportunity attacks, and will be used whenever he needs to chase down an opponent.
  • Unarmed Strike costs two legendary actions and lets Hlam make an attack. Hlam will use it if he’s right next to an enemy at the end of someone else’s turn
  • Invisibility uses all of Hlam’s legendary actions to make him invisible until the end of his next turn, or until he attacks or casts a spell. He won’t use it very often because he wants to draw attention from his allies, and its hard to attack an invisible target.

In addition to his attacks and legendary actions, Hlam has multiple spells he can use if the situation presents itself

  • Light, Detect Evil and Good, Prayer of Healing, Remove Curse and Sending are more useful in social interaction than they are in combat.
  • Guidance, Sacred Flame, and Protection from Energy have combat oriented uses, but aren’t quite good enough to be worth Hlam’s action.
  • Calm Emotions might be the most useful spell in Hlam’s list, because it can make enemies temporarily indifferent to him and his friends. Hlam prefers to avoid combat when possible, so he’ll cast this spell against any enemy that only needs to be neutralized temporarily (ex. the City Watch) Calm Emotions only lasts a minute, so Hlam and his allies need to get out of there as soon as possible once he casts it.
  • Shield of Faith can give Hlam, or more likely one of his allies, extra protection from enemy attacks. If he foresees combat coming, he’ll cast it on whichever front-line ally is most in need of an AC boost; however, it isn’t worth his action once the fighting actually starts.
  • Sanctuary is extremely useful if Hlam is traveling with noncombatants (such as the three urchins). He’ll cast it before combat if possible, but will cast it during combat if necessary to protect someone.
  • Silence is useful to shut down enemy spellcasters that Hlam can’t take out in one round. When Quivering Palm is available, he uses that instead in the hopes of taking the spellcaster out quickly. If Quivering Palm is recharging, Hlam needs to make a judgement about how quickly he can take them out with unarmed strikes. Hlam intelligence isn’t high enough to know a character’s HP just by observing them, so he bases his judgement off of the power level of their spells. If a spellcaster can cast 5th level spells, he assumes it will take at least two rounds to defeat them and uses Silence. If they can’t, he forgoes using this spell to attack immediately.
  • Healing Word is a bonus action that’s useful for helping wounded allies. Hlam uses it when an ally is seriously wounded (reduced to 40% hp or less) or knocked unconscious.
  • Spare the Dying is useful for stabilizing unconscious allies, but isn’t as effective as Healing Word. Hlam only uses it if two allies are unstable and unconscious at once, in which case he casts Healing Word as a bonus action to stabilize them both in one round.

Now that we’ve analyzed all of Hlam’s features, lets tie it all together. Since protecting allies is his top priority, Hlam uses Calm Emotions to avoid combat when possible, Sanctuary to protect non-combatants, and Shield of Faith to protect weaker front-line fighters.

In combat, he targets whichever opponent can deal the most damage to his allies. If the most dangerous opponent is a spellcaster who can cast 5th level spells, he uses Silence to neutralize them while he takes them out. He waits until the second round to use Quivering Palm to make sure he chooses the most dangerous target possible (If two targets seem equally dangerous, he chooses whichever one looks more frail). He uses his quick step legendary action when he needs to chase someone down and his unarmed strike action when he’s right next to someone to hit.

Hlam begins to organize a retreat when the majority of his allies are seriously wounded (reduced to 40% hp or less) or he’s reduced to 54hp and has already used Wholeness of Body. No matter how dire the situation is, Hlam doesn’t flee until he knows all his allies are safe.

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