Creature Feature (5e): Whirling Painter

The Astral Plane is close to both the divine and the most foul. Its silvery sea and whirling pools of color hide secrets the likes of which mortals were never intended to see. Accessing the guarded secrets of the Astral Plane and all it touches is a dangerous and difficult process, one few dare to begin. Not the Whirling Painters. They see the beauty behind the veil and breach it not for power nor gain, but for art. At any cost, they capture the most beautiful and horrific of the seen and unseen, believing nothing should be hidden from the world. This is regardless of the enormous price they and all who view their works must pay.

Whirling Painter

Medium aberration, chaotic neutral

Armor Class 19
Hit Points 68 (17d8)
Speed 40 ft., fly 60 ft.

12 (+1) 20 (+5) 10 (+0) 12(+1) 18 (+4) 14 (+2)

Saving Throws Dexterity +9, Wisdom +8
Skills Arcana +5, Deception +6, Perception +8
Tools Painter’s Supplies
Senses truesight 30 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages Common, any other three
Challenge 9 (5000 XP)

Special Traits

  • Veilbreaker. A Whirling Painter has advantage on saving throws against being frightened but disadvantage on saving throws against being charmed.
  • Piercing Sockets. A Whirling Painter’s truesight and immunity from blindness comes from a dark ritual their order performs that ends with the gouging out of the painter’s eyes. Should their eyes ever be healed, a Whirling Painter gains normal sight but loses their truesight and immunity to blindness.


  • Astral BrushMelee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 19 (3d8+5) radiant damage. On a successful hit, the target is simultaneously charmed for 1d4 rounds and stunned for 1 round unless they succeed on a DC 18 Charisma saving throw.
  • Star PaintRanged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 30 ft., one creature. Hit: 6 (3d10) necrotic damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 19 Charisma save or be frightened. The target may roll a save each round, a successful save ends the condition.
  • Unknowable Reveal. All creatures within 40 feet who can see the Whirling Painter must make a DC 20 Wisdom save as the Whirling Painter reveals an image of impossible qualities. Failure indicates a target’s mind cannot comprehend the image, rejecting it and rendering them permanently Blind until healed with Lesser Restoration or similar magic. Success indicates a target’s mind accepts the image, dealing 2d8 psychic damage and rendering them permanently immune to further uses of this ability. A Whirling Painter’s image dulls in power upon their death, leaving behind a haunting but (generally) harmless work of great value and interesting magic (detailed below).
  • Spellcasting. The Whirling Painter is a 12th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 18, +8 to hit with spell attacks). The Whirling Painter has the following spells prepared:


The Whirling Painters come in many forms, although most commonly it is humans who join their ranks, a species notorious for hubris. They are universally one part artist, one part thief, and one part mad. They are easily recognized, when not in hiding, as they dress in vibrant hues that might sometimes seem to shift slightly in the light. The Painters universally have faces that are distorted, as if made of melting paint. They gouge out their eyes via a magic ritual that allows them to see things others cannot; whether their madness leads them to the ritual or the ritual to the madness is not entirely clear. Through magics both known and unknown, their kind spy into forbidden realms, painting the glimpses they manage to steal into the most beautiful or nightmarish of images. It is not entirely clear how the Painters protect themselves from the deities and fiends they anger. While indeed many a Painter meets their end at the hand of an angel or similar creature’s blade, there are always more to replace them. Some say they hide in a labyrinthian fortress, painted into existence upon the astral plane, but surely such magic would be impossible for any mortal order to ever master. 

Hint of the Unknowable

Wondrous Item, very rare

These bizarre works depict ever-shifting swirls of color that are both fascinating yet equally eye straining just to look upon (an experience some describe as looking into a dull multicolored sun). Measuring only about one foot by one foot and weighing approximately 1.5 pounds, these paintings are often called “Hints of the Unknowable” by scholars. These images created by Whirling Painters may be astronomically less threatening upon their creator’s death but they still hold power, beauty, and alien danger in their depths. The real power of the image is revealed to those who can see its entirety. A creature with Truesight who looks upon such a painting must make a DC 20 Wisdom save as they are exposed to sights mortal minds are not built to understand. Failure indicates a target’s mind rejects the image, instantly forgetting it and rendering them permanently blind until healed with lesser restoration or similar magic. Success indicates a target’s mind accepts the image, dealing 2d8 psychic damage and rendering them permanently immune to needing to make further saves against the Hint’s power. The true image makes one feel not unlike they are staring into the soul of the universe: it completely overwhelms the senses while one is looking upon it, containing colors and shapes mortal men should not see nor can even truly comprehend. Anyone with Truesight, save for deities and similarly powerful entities, who are not blinded by such an image can take no other action while looking directly at it besides turn away their gaze or attempt to destroy the image.

Such art has AC 12, DR 2, and completely melts, canvas and all, into nonmagical paint if dealt more than 10 points of damage. Collectors are often willing to pay upwards of 5000 gold for a single undamaged Hint due to their alien nature and haunting beauty, with the danger they pose to those with Truesight being totally irrelevant to most buyers. 

About Quin Callahan

Quin Callahan is a freelance writer and college level English and economics tutor of over four years experience. He has written for a variety of gaming, technology, and economics publications. His favorite animal might be the squid but he is rarely certain.

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