That Which Must Not Be Named: Memorable Villains for Your Campaign

The fourth installment of my series on detailed character profiles of evil cultists will focus on a couple of followers of the Outer Being known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Seen, also known as “The One”.  More information on the One, as well as those of the other six major Outer Beings, can be found in a cosmology I wrote, which is available on Bruce Heard’s blog.

Although everything written here is set in the campaign setting known as “Mystara” in the year AC 1000, readers are welcome to modify the material to suit their own campaigns.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

MEGANE (meh-GAH-nee) THE DARK

Background:  Megane ferch (daughter of) Arwend was born on the Rock of Aberwynn (now known as Setonios’ Isle), which lay off the coast of the Thyatian Hinterlands, in AC 962.  At the time, the island, and the mainland just opposite, was home to a small number of Thratian clans who practised a pastoral existence (in contrast to the majority of the people, who kept to the jungles and lived closely in tune with its rhythms).  Her father was one of the clan head’s personal guards, while her mother enjoyed a position of some influence as a prophetess; although she was a sickly woman.  Megane was charged with looking after the household whenever her mother was unable to look after things – which was often.  Her father, who had wanted a son, did not know what to do with Megane and had very little to do with her; although he was not cruel.  For the most part, she was left to her own devices and, as she was considered odd by most of the other children, she had few playmates.  However, Megane was highly introverted anyway, and the absence of social contact bothered her little.  When Megane was nine her mother gave birth to a boy, and she was sidelined even more, and spent most of her time wandering the countryside.  Never having had much to do with other people, she let her own curiosity lead her wherever it would. She watched animals die because it seemed interesting, she jumped off of low cliffs to see what falling felt like, and she ate poisonous berries because she wondered whether she really would get sick.  Few people paid attention to her, but many of those who did began to grow concerned.  Some labelled her insane, and ostracised her.  Megane, who was already deep into her own world by this time, did not notice or care.

Megane’s life changed on the eve of adulthood, when the now-infamous warlord, Bran of Carrick, invaded Aberwynn to bring its peoples under his rule. Although the islanders resisted mightily, they could not long stand up to Bran’s seasoned warriors.  Megane fled to the wilderness in the middle of the island with a handful of refugees.  It soon became apparent that her family had not made it.  Megane, to the disbelief of her countrymen, walked deeper into the wilderness.  Years of guerrilla warfare ensued, during which Megane lived like a wild thing, foraging off of the land.  When times grew lean she wandered into the half-ruined villages to take what she needed, and killed countryman or invader alike if they stood in her way – and on occasion ate them if the need was dire.

By the time the first Thyatian ships arrived at the island in AC 985, as a prelude to colonising the mainland, Aberwynn had been reduced to a desolate, largely-depopulated land.  The surviving islanders were too dispirited to protest much when the empire claimed the territory for itself, and began sending settlers.  Megane by this time was wandering the island in a daze, but the stories of her deeds reached the Thyatians.  Many regarded her as a curiosity but one man, a former legionnaire, sought her out and coaxed out her story.  He then offered something no one else had in years – attention.  He told her about his deity, the One, and how He would sweep it all aside and replace with something new.  This notion aroused Megane’s curiosity, because it was the most interesting thing she had heard in years. She swore fealty to the One.

In the years since, Megane has travelled the Known World and lands beyond, charged with tracking down and destroying artifacts designed to prevent the return of the Outer Beings – and occasionally eliminating those who are interfering with her masters’ plans.  Over the years, she has acquired a following of her own and now commands what is, in effect, a small army.  Her band has no name, and marches under a solid black banner.

Appearance: Megane stands 5’10” (178 cm) tall, with an athletic build (150 lbs/68 kg), brown eyes, and long, straight auburn hair, which she often wears loose.  Like most Thratians she originally had a fair complexion, but years of service to the One, and of being exposed to His dark energies, have changed her physically.  Her skin now has an almost cadaverous cast, and is marked by what appear to be thin grey veins.  She makes no effort to hide a long, thin scar that runs from the corner of her left eye to her jawline – an injury acquired while taking out a party of adventurers.  Her voice, which was once quite melodious, has acquired a rasping undertone.  Suspended roughly a foot above her head is a smoky black fist-sized sphere, from which wispy tendrils extend downwards.  This is a physical manifestation of her connection to the One.

As Megane is almost always on the road, she is rarely seen without her armour – blackened, ridged plate that seems to resemble a living thing more than anything else.  She wields a halberd with a scythe-like head and a spike.

Statistics:

Megane the Dark (20th level cleric of the One):STR 17, INT 15, WIS 9, DEX 17, CON 16, CHA 7.  Hit Points:  80.  Armour Class:  -1.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:
Alertness (DEX), Artillery (INT), Ceremony – the One (WIS), Dancing (DEX), Danger Sense (WIS), Detect Deception (WIS), Intimidation (STR), Military Tactics (INT+1), Navigation (INT), Riding – Horse (DEX), Swimming (CON), Tracking (INT), Outer Being Lore (12).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Megane is a “Grand Master” in the halberd.  Languages Known:  Thyatian, Thratian.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Megane has access to the full list of cleric spells.

Special Equipment: Armour of the One, Gauntlets of Draining, Scythe of the Void (see below).

Personality: Before entering the One’s service, Megane was a highly introverted, borderline sociopath who could have gone either way, but whose environment pushed her into darkness.  She had great difficulty in interacting with others due to shyness, parental neglect and ostracism from her peers, yet she was aware of how a person ought to behave in society in order to be accepted.  She learned quickly how to put on a mask to appear “normal”, and to suppress her feelings – and in the process become distanced from them – in order to get what she wanted.  However, with no close social ties there was nothing to anchor her to her community.

Megane’s years of service to the One have burned away much of what little warmth and passion she once had, leaving behind a person wearing the guise of humanity, but whose soul is emptier and colder than the emptiness between the stars.  She knows full well that should the Outer Beings prevail, she and everything she ever knew would be destroyed forever, but she simply does not care – caring would require a zest for life that she hardly had beforehand, and definitely does not have now.  Megane does not actively think about the future, she has no fond memories of her homeland or any sense of camaraderie with her followers, and she feels no hatred towards her opponents.  All she feels is the vague compulsion to accomplish the tasks set before her by the One, which is often overshadowed by her sense of curiosity which draws her in random directions like a leaf blowing in the wind.  She sees her existence as a road without beginning or end.

When she does interact with other people, Megane rarely makes eye contact and often seems to be having a different conversation that the one the other person thought they were having – she changes the subject when she grows bored with it, but does not think to tell anyone.  On occasion, however, Megane does focus on the subject at hand, and in those moments she stares deeply into the other person’s eyes and invades their personal space.  Again, she does not notice she is doing this, nor does she care.

Megane is aware that the One views her as nothing more than a tool, and that He will sacrifice her for His own ends without a second thought.  She accepts that this will probably one day come to pass, and feels no fear or anxiety about it. Despite how her already warped soul has been twisted further, Megane still has a very independent streak and interprets her instructions from the One in a way that suits her preferences – whatever they happen to be at that moment.  The One, for His part, does not care; Megane is a useful tool.

She does occasionally “play” with her opponents before killing them. This is not done out of malice or a desire to inflict agony for its own sake, but simply because she is curious. She has, through extensive experimentation, learned how to keep a victim alive for days – simply because she wondered whether it was possible.  However, Megane tends to bore easily, and if her victim is no longer “fun” or “interesting” she might kill them on the spot, release them, or simply forget about them.

Megane is equally indifferent towards her followers, most of whom are little more than bloodthirsty bandits.  She views them as useful tools who can help her accomplish her tasks, and insofar as they prevent her from being injured, so much the better.  She does not care that they follow her only for looting opportunities, that they brutalise their own victims in ways far more heinous than she could, or that they occasionally plot against each other in the vain hope of winning her favour.

Roleplaying Notes: Megane is a powerful opponent who can be used as a long-term villain in a campaign, to be encountered towards the end of a major plot arc as the player characters advance. Ideally, she should initially be the force behind the enemies that the characters face, but as they increase in strength she will take more notice of them, and eventually try to deal with them personally.  Defeating Megane should be a truly difficult task.

She also serves as a good example of how inhuman a person can be, and players who are into heavy roleplaying may enjoy interacting with someone who might have a disjointed chat with them or kill them, depending on what impulse is driving her at that moment.

FRATER ALEXIUS CORVUS

Background: Alexius Lyrion, born in AC 972, was the eldest of three children born into a family of bootmakers.  As soon as Alexius was able to work, his father had him in his workshop clicking cured hides from templates.  Alexius’s father had a well-earned reputation for producing quality goods, and he was a strict taskmaster.  By the time Alexius was 14 he was producing serviceable items of his own; however, his father would regularly force him to redo his work if the slightest flaw could be found.  Alexius’s challenge was that his heart was not in the work, and he begged his father to let him apprentice to someone else – his two younger brothers had already started to learn the craft, and they were far more interested.  His father, fearing the shame from losing his intended successor, refused.

Rather than grow despondent, Alexius quietly sought out a master in another craft. Before long he was taking lessons from a silversmith late at night, using money from his father’s purse.  His deception was uncovered before long, and Alexius was thrown out of the house after receiving a severe beating. Alexius wandered the streets for several months, working odd jobs, but he soon felt he would have to resort to theft if he wanted to climb out of his hole.  It was then that he ran into some off-duty legionnaires, who bought him a meal and regaled him with tales of their exploits.  In that moment Alexius realised that a stint in the legion would give him food, lodgings, basic pay, and some measure of social prestige – and since he had been thrown out his siblings had begun shunning him.  He enlisted.

After enduring months of gruelling training, Alexius was posted to West Portage, on the Isle of Dawn, where he patrolled the frontier with Alphatia. Life was quiet for the most part, but reports of bandits operating out of the Thothian Plateau saw him be redeployed to the sparsely-inhabited and mysterious Provincia Septentriona.  There, he and his fellow legionnaires frequently went deep into the forests to investigate reported sightings of columns of armed men marching about.  Many of these proved to be false, but on one occasion they marched into a trap.  The Thyatians fought bravely, but they were outnumbered.  Alexius was knocked unconscious in the battle, and when he awoke it was to discover that he was the only survivor.  Seeing the others – many of whom had become good friends – butchered at his feet drove him into shock.  He wandered back to camp in a daze, filed his report, and went to the infirmary.

After Alexius regained his senses days later, he sought an audience with his commanding officer and made an emotional appeal to mount a punitive expedition to wipe out the party that had massacred his companions. Although he was sympathetic, the commander informed Alexius that a deal had been made already with the enemy, and amnesty would be granted in exchange for strategic information.  Alexius walked away in shock, and completed his term of service in a haze.  He was discharged honourably and, while living off of his saved earnings he wandered the city while pondering why his friends’ deaths were left unavenged.  He sought consolation in philosophy and joined a club, and it was at one debate that he heard a passionate man argue that the Immortals regularly forsook their followers, so it should be of no surprise that men did the same.  Something in the man’s argument appealed to him, and afterwards Alexius introduced himself.  The other man was gruff, but engaging, and asked pointed questions about Alexius’s spiritual leanings.

The man then offered something no one else had in years – sympathy.  He told Alexius about his deity, the One, and how He would not forsake His faithful, as Alexius’s Immortals and commanding officer had abandoned his friends to die.  The man told Alexius about the injustice of the world and the cosmos, and how it was all a cruel joke designed to inflict misery on mortals.  The One, he said, would sweep it all aside and replace with something new.  Something just.  And in that moment of weakness Alexius swore fealty to the One.

Since that time Alexius has grown in power.  He now guards a temple of Rasthz hidden in the sewers of Thyatis city, although he does venture out frequently.  He revels in his power, and eagerly carries out any missions assigned to him.

Appearance:  Alexius stands 5’10” (178 cm) tall, with a heavy build (210 lbs/95 kg), brown eyes, and short, curly brown hair.  He used to have a tanned complexion, but since dedicating himself to the One he has become noticeably paler; although he attributes that to the many hours he spends in the underground temple.  Alexius has a deep, gravelly voice.  He walks with confidence – almost a swagger – but any experienced warrior who watches him will notice that he always maintains a posture that makes it possible for him to spring into a fighting stance if necessary.  Alexius is an extraordinarily quick and nimble fighter – but most of his opponents do not live to internalise that lesson. When he is on duty (which is most of the time), Alexius wears blackened plate mail armour and wields a bastard sword (which he can use one- or two-handed).

Statistics:

Alexius Corvus (5th level cleric of the One): STR 17, INT 12, WIS 14, DEX 18, CON 16, CHA 10.  Hit Points:  43.  Armour Class:  1.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills: Alertness (DEX), Ceremony – the One (WIS), Danger Sense (WIS), Intimidation (STR), Military Tactics (INT), Outer Being Lore (4).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Alexius is “Skilled” in the halberd.  Languages Known:  Thyatian. 

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Alexius has access to the full list of cleric spells. 

Special Equipment: Circlet of Draining (see below).

Personality: 
Before enduring the trauma of war and years of service to the Outer Beings, Alexius was a fairly kind, open-minded young man who was eager to contribute to the well-being of his family and community, and who was a firm believer in the Immortals and their powers.  The rejection by his family (or at least, his father), and the empire’s seemingly callous disregard for the deaths of his comrades, shook him to his core, and led him to question the morals of the Immortals themselves, if they could permit their faithful to suffer so. 

Alexius’s devotion to the One has burned away much of his warmth, leaving behind a cold shell of a human being.  His hatred of the world, its people, and the cosmos as a whole, as well as a burning desire to destroy it all, are what animate him now.  He knows full well that victory for the Outer Beings will mean the destruction of everything that he knows, but he sees that as a worthy sacrifice if the sense of bitter betrayal that lies at his core, which still causes him intense emotional pain, is finally extinguished.

Because there is so much anger at his core, Alexius can be extremely vindictive.  For example, if someone humiliates him, he would derive a great deal of satisfaction in having that person’s death be even more humiliating.  He also has a habit of studying long-time rivals to determine what their weaknesses and vices are, in order to exploit them later on.  For example, if he captures an opponent he knows is afraid of dirt and sickness he will main them, ensure their wounds get infected, and then gloat as they die.

Roleplaying Notes: Alexius could be an interesting encounter for the players because, if they ever learn his back story, they will come to understand how someone who started out as an ostensibly “good” person became evil.  Although Alexius went over to the One in a moment of weakness, he has made conscious decisions since then that have drawn him deeper into the Outer Being’s camp.  There is no possibility of redemption, and even a short encounter with him will reveal how much his soul has been corrupted.  Alexius is intended to be a challenging opponent for lower-level adventurers – perhaps used the first time they explore a temple dedicated to the Outer Beings.

NEW ITEMS:

Armour of the One: This suit of armour is crafted of marh-vhol, a substance originating in the prison dimensions of the Outer Beings.  It resembles plate armour in terms of structure, being composed of large, solid segments connected by what appears to be mail, but close inspection by someone skilled in smithing will reveal that the armour was not shaped by hand tools. In truth, the armour is “grown” into shape with magic.  It confers an Armour Class of 1, and it weighs 30 lbs. (300 cn).  Anyone wearing this armour will be immune to hold, sleep and charm spells, as well as all forms of scrying (including ESP spells and the use of crystal balls. Furthermore, the otherdimensional origin of this armour creates a weak anti-magic field around the wearer – all spells directed at them have a 15% chance of failure.  This does not affect magic cast by followers of the Outer Beings. 

As with all things crafted of marh-vhol, this armour is always cold to the touch, and it is attuned to the Outer Beings.  Furthermore, because of the armour’s alien composition any damage sustained by the wearer is reduced (in game terms, each damage roll against the wearer is reduced by 1).  Anyone who wears it has a 20% chance per day of becoming known to them (the DM should choose which one notices them) – a discovery that will probably make life difficult, and short.

Circlet of Draining:  This item is a plain, ring-shaped crown of marh-vhol whose only adornment is a circular, egg-sized polished piece of obsidian set in the brow.  When worn, the circlet allows its wearer to tap into, and drain, any magical energy sources within 30 feet – including weapons, rings, potions, scrolls, wands/staves/rods/, and spellcasters themselves.  Only one source can be targeted at a time, and an attempt to drain it counts as an attack.  The target must save vs. Death Ray (if the target is an item, use the saving throw score of its owner), and if the save fails the magic is drained from the target and absorbed by the circlet as one or more spell levels.  If the target was a weapon or piece of armour, it loses one “plus”, and if the target was a spellcaster they lose one spell (chosen by the DM), and the level value of the spell lost is converted into units of magic (e.g., a 9th level spell becomes nine spell levels, or units of magic).

Magical energy is stored in the circlet until tapped by the wearer, who knows at all times how much magical energy is available.  The circlet is capable of storing up to 100 levels of magical energy, which can be tapped at will by the wearer to cast spells.  Thus, if the circlet is full the wearer could cast 100 1st level clerical spells, 20 5th level spells, or any other combination.  If the circlet is destroyed, the magical energy that it contains will be released in one massive explosion, inflicting 1d6 damage per spell level contained, affecting an area measuring 10 cubic feet per spell level contained.

The circlet, as an item crafted from marh-vhol, is always cold to the touch and is attuned to the Outer Beings. Anyone who wears it has a 5% (non-cumulative) chance per day of becoming known to them.

Gauntlets of Draining: These gauntlets are crafted of marh-vhol, and are infused with the One’s power.  When worn, the gauntlets provide the wearer with an additional +1 to hit and damage, on top of any other bonuses they might have.  Their other property is that they allow the wearer, three times per day, to drain the life forces of everyone within 20′ – victims may make a save vs. Death Ray to avoid the effects.  Anyone who fails their save loses 1d10 hit points, which are then conferred to the wearer of the gauntlets.  If a victim dies as a result of this draining, their soul is consumed by the One and they may not be resurrected.  Any hit points gained by the wearer in excess of their normal maximum are lost – these are also consumed by the One.

In addition the wearer may, once per day, grab someone and drain half of their remaining hit points instantly (no save) – this counts as an attack.  All of these stolen hit points are conferred to the wearer of the gauntlets immediately, including any in excess of their normal maximum.  These additional hit points remain for one hour, and any subsequent damage sustained by the wearer is subtracted from these extra hit points, first.

In other respects, these gauntlets are like the Armour of the One in that they are cold to the touch, and have a chance of attracting the attention of the Outer Beings if worn (10% chance per day). 

The Scythe of the Void:  This halberd +3 is heavily imbued with the magic of the Outer Beings – so much so that it very visibly bears their taint.  Thorny, leprous growths sprout along the length of its shaft, and its scythe-like axe head bears serpentine, rust-coloured runes that move about when one is not looking at them directly.  The weapon is tipped with a twelve inch spike.  All told, the weapon measures seven feet in length, but if wielded by another it would lengthen or shorten to accommodate them. When wielded for the first time, the Scythe’s thorny growths will inflict 2d4 damage to the owner – the “safe” spots to hold it are discovered soon enough.

Whenever the Scythe inflicts damage, the resulting wound becomes infected with the taint of the Outer Beings.  Such injuries will not heal fully without the aid of magic (only half of the lost hit points can be regained through regular rest and medical attention), and each one sustained will cause constant pain (-1 to Constitution per injury) until fully healed.  Should a person’s Constitution be reduced to 0, they will die and their soul will be consumed by the One (no resurrection is possible).  The Scythe also has the ability to haste and teleport the wielder, as per the magic user spells, three times per day (for each ability).

In addition, the thorny growths along the shaft can be commanded to release a cloud of black gas measuring 20 feet cubed three times per day (which does not affect Megane).  For each round a person is caught in this cloud, they must save vs. Poison at a -2 penalty.  Anyone who fails their save will take 1d8 damage per round until they leave the area of effect, and if they die as a result their corpse rises the next round as a zombie under Megane’s control.

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Absolute Corruption: More Villains for Your Campaign

The third installment of my series on detailed character profiles of evil cultists will focus on a couple of followers of the Outer Being known as Yurrgh-Thal, also known as “The Corruptor”. More information on Yurrgh-Thal and his plots, as well as those of the other six major Outer Beings, can be found in a cosmology I wrote, which is available on Bruce Heard’s blog.

Although everything written here is set in the campaign setting known as “Mystara” in the year AC 1000, readers are welcome to modify the material to suit their own campaigns.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

HELENA TRISMEGISTUS

Background: Helena was born in Thyatis City in AC 961 to a wealthy, politically connected family. Her father (Cassius) was an influential Senator and staunch supporter of imperial expansion, while her mother (Julia) was a well-known socialite who was frequently seen in the Empress’s extended social circle. Although Helena was the eldest child, she was not male and therefore it was expected in her conservative social circles that she would one day marry and bring about a political alliance of benefit to her family. Helena’s mother took pains to educate her in courtly manners, as well as in other social skills that would benefit a woman in the often deadly world of Thyatian high society – such as detecting deception, determining a person’s weaknesses, knowing when to use blackmail, and how to get an opponent to divulge their secrets without them realising it. Her father, an emotionally distant man, did not concern himself with his daughter’s upbringing or the goings-on in his family; he focused on his career, and his mistresses.

Her mother’s instruction bore fruit, and by the time Helena was 16 she had acquired her own social circle at court, and her inherent grace, wit, and charm began to eclipse those of her mother, who pretended not to notice. However, Julia vented her bitterness in other ways – particularly at her own family behind closed doors. She succeeded in driving Helena and her younger brother, Theodorus, away from her, and her husband soon left his family for his mistress, whom he began to make very public plans to marry. Julia went mad upon hearing the news, and arranged for her soon-to-be-former husband’s demise. Helena learned of her mother’s involvement in her father’s death, and threatened to expose her plot unless she ceded control of the family’s finances (the one thing she cared about most). Julia balked, and strongly hinted that she would murder her own daughter rather than give in.

Helena withdrew and severed all ties with her mother, and immediately began campaigning to take over her late father’s position in the Senate. Although it was very rare for a young woman to do such a thing, many of her father’s colleagues, as well as more than a few citizens, admired her spirit. After a hard-fought battle, she won. This did not go unnoticed by the cult of Yurrgh-Thal, which had been trying to make inroads into the Thyatian government and was having limited success. The naturally charismatic Helena was seen as an ideal pawn. A representative approached her, offering money in exchange for certain political favours. Understanding that this was how business was done, Helena accepted and soon badgered her fellow Senators to support greater religious freedom within the empire – and to accord recognition to the Temple of Celestial Wisdom, which claimed to be a new, but persecuted, faith. The Temple won recognition, and Helena, already deeply enmeshed in Yurrgh-Thal’s web, was formally inducted as a worshipper.

Appearance: Helena is of classic Thyatian stock – she is of average height (5’6”/167 cm) and build (135 lbs./61 kg), with hazel eyes, curly dark brown shoulder-length hair, and a light olive complexion. Her natural, finely-sculpted features (many artists in the city have claimed that a marble bust of Helena would merely repeat what Nature had created) have been subtly enhanced by the power of Yurrgh-Thal (specifically, the Rings of Yuranos) to make her even more alluring. She walks with a natural grace, with just a hint of sultriness, that turns heads as soon as she enters a room, and her naturally melodious voice can disarm the most vocal opponent – and in fact it has done so. She wears the most tasteful, luxurious court attire, and after she makes a public appearance scores of women seek to imitate her.

Statistics:

Helena Trismegistus (11th level cleric of Yurrgh-Thal): STR 12, INT 13, WIS 14, DEX 10, CON 9, CHA 17 (19). Hit Points: 38. Armour Class: 7. Alignment: Chaotic.

Skills: Ceremony – Yurrgh-Thal (WIS), Allure (CHA), Bargaining (CHA), Detect Deception (WIS), Diplomacy (INT), History – Thyatis (INT), Intimidation (INT), Law and Justice – Thyatis (WIS), Persuasion (CHA), Outer Being Lore (7). If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Helena is “Expert” in the dagger. Languages Known: Thyatian, Alphatian.

Special Abilities: Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’. Helena can cast clerical spells as a cleric of her level.

Special Equipment: Dagger +2, energy drain, Rings of Yuranos (see below)

Personality: Helena is an engaging woman who is perfectly at ease with being the centre of attention in any social situation. When she speaks to someone, she makes direct eye contact and makes the other person feel like they are the only person who matters at that moment. The friendly image she projects makes her seem approachable, despite her illustrious background. Helena makes a point of learning one or two facts about every person she meets, now matter how humble, so that she will have something to discuss with them later. In short, Helena is a consummate politician. Publicly at least, Helena is quick to proclaim her support for the empire and its expansion.

However, underneath the veneer is a woman who spent her childhood learning to be wary of everything and everyone, and to question everything she saw and heard. In truth, Helena divides the people of the world into two camps: those who are knowledgeable and dangerous, and those who are ignorant and potentially deadly. This suspicion is so deeply rooted into her psyche that she has a network of spies who investigate everyone in her social circle regularly, in the hopes of finding evidence that they are plotting against her, or of finding information that can be used against them if necessary. However, Helena has been so thoroughly schooled in court etiquette, and in the need to maintain appearances, that she keeps this side of her personality buried whenever she is in a public place.

The only certainty in her life at the moment is provided by Yurrgh-Thal, and she follows His instructions unquestioningly.

Roleplaying Notes: Helena could have a number of important roles to play in a campaign, depending on the DM’s interest. As a shrewd political operator she is well placed to act as an unexpected benefactor for the player characters, who could give them potentially lucrative missions that are ostensibly in the interest of the imperial government, but in reality serve her own aims – or those of Yurrgh-Thal. As a result, the player characters’ actions could inadvertently cause great harm in the medium- to long-term, which could result in a great deal of personal anguish if they ever learn how they had been used. Such a revelation could set the stage for a very dramatic encounter with Helena, at which time she would unleash her abilities to their fullest extent.

She is also an excellent example of a follower of a dark entity who operates as a sort of “covert agent”. To all appearances Helena has a normal life and does nothing that would indicate where her allegiances truly lie. In fact, uncovering her true nature, and the extent to which she and her supporters have infiltrated the Thyatian government, could be a campaign arc of its own. However, uncovering the rot and destroying the visible parts may only be the beginning of the player character’s problems, because Yurrgh-Thal takes an active interest in His followers, and has been known to seek vengeance when His plots are foiled.

GEORG HOLLWEG

Background:  Georg was born to a family of farmers just outside the village of Pflenzen, in the Heldannic Territories, in AC 975. As the youngest of four boys, it was understood from the beginning that Georg was unlikely to inherit anything of note from his parents. As a result, he turned his mind to other pursuits – including, at various times, rock collecting, local history, and music – whenever he was not helping out on the farm. Although these interests kept Georg out of his parents’ hair, they were at odds with what most of the other boys did whenever they had spare time (fighting, games of skill, harassing girls, and small-scale vandalism). Consequently, Georg had few friends, and spent increasing amounts of time by himself in the countryside.

As Georg neared adulthood, his parents decided to send him into the village in the hopes that he would pick up a trade. Unfortunately the young man lacked the interest in, and aptitude for, most of the available work in Pflenzen. As a last-ditch effort, Georg’s parents sent him to the town of Thurgau where, they hoped, the Heldannic Order might find a use for him as a common soldier. It would be a hard life, they told him, but at least he would be paid and there was prestige in serving the nation. Georg presented himself there, and was promptly enlisted. Although he lacked the religious zeal necessary to begin the long, arduous process to become a Heldannic Knight, Georg was commended for his discipline and focus, and his officers thought he would make a fine foot soldier – perhaps even a cavalry sergeant, someday. The young man found that soldiering, at least, was one thing he was good at.

While on a field exercise in the Mengul Mountains on the fringes of Denagothian territory, Georg and his unit came across a ruined shrine that seemed to be attached to some catacombs. The sergeant, who was familiar with the region, had never seen the ruins before and ordered his troops to investigate. Although the shrine had been ransacked long ago, there were fragments of idols that seemed to depict a man with branches or ropes coming out of his head. The catacombs had also been ransacked long ago, and the bones smashed beyond recognition, but Georg followed a sudden hunch and discovered a secret room that had escaped detection. There, they found skeletons of creatures that were obviously not human. While many of the soldiers fled, Georg felt drawn to one of the skeletons, and found an old pendant bearing the image of the idol. He pocketed his find and returned to camp.

Following that strange discovery Georg dreamed of a commanding man radiating wisdom and kindness, who offered to guide him to true greatness. Georg accepted and the man, who called himself Yuranos, began to instruct him in his dreams. The young man soon noticed his power and influence growing, and he began to use his new abilities to improve his lot. Yuranos discouraged him from helping his family – they didn’t help him, after all. Georg is now fully under Yurrgh-Thal’s influence, and is using his growing clerical abilities to further his master’s influence in the Heldannic Order, and by extension Heldann itself.

Appearance:  Georg stands 5’9” (175 cm) tall and weighs 180 lbs (81 kg). He keeps his light brown hair cut short and is meticulously clean-shaven (Yurrgh-Thal is savouring the notion that a veritable poster-boy for the Heldannic Order should be one of his tools in eventually subverting it). Georg always had a penetrating stare, but now his green eyes have a cold, calculating light in them – his superiors see this as the inner light of ambition. His chain mail armour is always immaculate, his sword is always razor-sharp and shining, and the tunic of the Heldannic Order that he wears over top is always crisp and white. So perfect is his appearance that he has been sent to remote villages and other gathering-places to act as a “living billboard” for the Heldannic Order. His deep, penetrating voice has an undertone that seems to attract people’s attention.

Statistics:

Georg Hollweg (3rd level cleric of Yurrgh-Thal): STR 15, INT 11, WIS 15, DEX 12, CON 14, CHA 15. Hit Points: 17. Armour Class: 4. Alignment: Chaotic.

Skills: Ceremony – Yurrgh-Thal (WIS), Intimidation (INT), Military Tactics (INT), Persuasion (CHA), Outer Being Lore (2). If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Georg is “Basic” in the normal sword. Languages Known: Hattian.

Special Abilities: Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’. Georg can cast clerical spells as per a cleric of his level.

Special Equipment: Pendant of Yuranos (see below).

Personality:  Before falling under Yurrgh-Thal’s influence, Georg was a quiet, serious young man who had a habit of being overlooked. Ever since falling in with Yurrgh-Thal, however, he has acquired a level of confidence never before demonstrated. Although he still has a serious demeanour, he is now an active, engaging conversationalist who asks many questions. He takes pains to hide his clerical abilities, knowing that he would be severely punished if he was discovered, but is not above using those powers to advance himself within the Heldannic Order. When he is more confident and the time is right, he will try to pass himself off as a loyal follower of Vanya who has suddenly found enough favour with Her to be granted spells, and then conspire to become a Heldannic Knight. Should that happen, he will worm his way into the inner circles, and corrupt the Order further

Georg feels absolutely no guilt about what he is doing. Yurrgh-Thal has quietly reinforced the young man’s belief that he never truly fit in (while increasing his dependence on his new patron), and as a result does not owe his country or family anything. Now, Georg believes he is simply taking his due, and if others should suffer in the process it is no fault of his own.

Roleplaying Notes:  Georg is a minor player in Yurrgh-Thal’s plots right now, but he has the potential to become quite important if he continues to work behind the scenes to spread his master’s influence. Guided by Yurrgh-Thal, Georg has located people out in the country who might be open to private sermons on his secret patron. At the same time, his position on the frontier gives him access to ruins and other sites that are generally off-limits to his countrymen. He could easily cross paths with the player characters; however, as Georg is a cautious man his true allegiance will not be apparent.

What Georg does not know is that Yurrgh-Thal has not yet decided whether He will have a use for the young soldier – His plot to corrupt the Heldannic Order is new, and He has also become aware of Thanatos’ own efforts to twist the Order toward nefarious purposes. The Outer Being may decide to let Thanatos do the dirty work and attract the attention, and then sweep the Hierarch of Entropy aside and take over when the time is right. Or He may simply walk away from the whole thing and abandon Georg – which could be fatal if he manages to masquerade as a Heldannic Knight. Either way, Yurrgh-Thal sees Georg as an amusing, but ultimately disposable, toy – and He is happy to grant the young man spells as long as he remains amusing.

NEW MAGIC ITEMS:

Pendant of Yuranos: Centuries ago, when Yurrgh-Thal was able to operate relatively openly under the guise of Yuranos, He instructed His priests to craft special pendants that would permit communication across dimensions. These pendants also became, for lack of a better term, the “holy symbols” of Yurrgh-Thal, and were worn by the faithful in those regions in which He was worshipped. Eventually, however, the Immortals soon learned of Yurrgh-Thal’s plots and sent champions to dispatch His most powerful priests and raze His temples. Although many of the pendants were destroyed, some have managed to avoid detection and can now be found in forgotten ruins and other remote places.

For all intents and purposes, a pendant of Yuranos should be treated as an unholy symbol. If worn by a follower of Yurrgh-Thal, it acts as a magical focus and allows them to speak with Him in their dreams or when meditating. If worn by someone who is not a worshipper, there is a 30% chance per week that Yurrgh-Thal will find out. If He decides that the wearer is not worth His time, or could pose a threat to His plots, He will send a lesser servitor to deal with them. The creature materialises 1d100 feet away from the intended victim, and attacks. If the target flees, the creature will pursue tirelessly.

The Rings of Yuranos: This is a two-piece magic item comprised of two rings – one gold band featuring a small smiling face with ruby eyes, and a silver band with a frowning face with onyx eyes. Each ring possesses powers on its own, but when combined the wearer receives additional abilities. These abilities are outlined below.

Gold Ring: This ring increases the morale of all of the wearer’s henchmen by 2, up to a maximum of 12, as long as they are within 100 feet. Anyone within 50 feet of the wearer also becomes more well-disposed towards them (in game terms, this effect allows up to three reaction rolls to be re-rolled per day; the player accepts the better of the two rolls). When worn in conjunction with its companion, the wearer’s Charisma increases by 2 (up to a maximum of 20).

Silver Ring: This ring can create an aura of fear (as per the spell cause fear) around the wearer with a 25′ radius five times per day, and the morale of anything hostile to the wearer (regardless of alignment) is reduced by 2 if they are within 50 feet. When worn in conjunction with its companion, this ring also renders the wearer immune to all charm spells.

If the two rings are worn together, there is a 10% chance per week that Yurrgh-Thal will take notice, and begin observing the wearer. If He decides that the wearer is worth corrupting, He will send a portion of Himself to the Prime Plane as Yuranos to speak with them. If the wearer is deemed useless, of if they refuse His invitation to worship Him, He will send a lesser servitor to destroy them.

If Your Players Hunger for a New Challenge….

My series on introducing evil cultists with more personality and depth, so as to provide your players with more interesting and memorable opponents, continues – this time I will share a couple of devotees of Rasthz, a rather charming Outer Being otherwise known as “the Devourer”.  More information on Rasthz and his aims can be found on Bruce Heard’s blog, where I outlined a basic cosmology of the Outer Beings.  You should also check out his other posts while you’re at it, once you’re finished here.

Before continuing, I would note that everything written in this post, and all the others to follow in this series, is set in the campaign setting known as “Mystara” in the “modern” period – that is, AC 1000.

And now it’s time to meet some new friends…

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(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

HALVARD AUDUNSSEN

Background:  Halvard was born in Zeaburg in AC 956 to a young prostitute named Gudrun.  His father, who was one of the king’s personal bodyguards, did not acknowledge Halvard as his own.  However, he paid Gudrun enough money to get her off the streets and ensure that Halvard would at least not starve to death.  Although Halvard’s material needs were met, he was a constant reminder to his mother of her dependence on charity.  She became emotionally distant towards her son, and grew to resent him.  At the same time, Halvard’s illegitimate status won him few friends.  By the time Halvard reached adulthood he had become an outcast, yet he hungered for acceptance.

Eventually he left Zeaburg for the open sea, hoping to find camaraderie among a ship’s crew.  He sailed the Western Sea of Dawn for months, trading and occasionally raiding, until his ship foundered in a storm near the Thyatian territory of Provincia Septentriona.  He was among the few who managed to swim ashore, to a wilderness region known as the Shadow Coast.  The first mate knew of an imperial naval port nearby, and so the survivors struck out through the untamed forest to find it.  They soon ran afoul of the Comghairas, a reclusive people distantly related to the folk of Caerdwicca who had a reputation for being hostile to outsiders.  Unfortunately for the crew, the Comghairas found them on the eve of an important religious festival, in a stretch of forest considered holy.  The Ostlanders were brought before the clan’s priest one by one, and sacrificed.  When Halvard’s turn came, the priest (who was a follower of Rasthz)  was commanded by his patron to keep him alive.  Rasthz then spoke through the priest to Halvard, asking him about his life and what he wished to do with it.  When Halvard expressed his anger over events in his life and his strong desire to belong to something, the Outer Being offered help in exchange for murdering the priest in front of him.  The young man, already unhinged from watching his companions die before his eyes, throttled the priest, and was immediately invaded by a portion of Rasthz’s essence.

The Comghairas, recognising Halvard’s transformation, revered him as their new priest.  However, Rasthz soon directed his new follower to return to his homeland in order to further his aims.  Halvard made his way back to Zeaburg, where he established a small temple to Rasthz.

Appearance: Years of devoted service to Rasthz have transformed Halvard into a horrific caricature of his former self.  He is nearly skeletal, standing 6’9” (205 cm) tall and weighing 159 lbs (72 kg), and his grey, mottled skin is stretched taut over his frame.  Most of his long brown hair has has fallen out, and his formerly clear blue eyes have turned a dull yellow with horizontally-slitted pupils.  His formerly clear, resonant voice has degenerated into a scratchy growl.  As with many long-time devotees of Rasthz, each of Halvard’s palms sports a sphinctered, toothy maw, which he only conceals when he is outside the temple.

Statistics:

Halvard Audunssen (9th level cleric of Rasthz):  STR 16, INT 13, WIS 13, DEX 9, CON 13, CHA 6.  Hit Points:  43.  Armour Class:  3.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Ceremony – Rasthz (WIS+1), Drinking (CON), History – Ostland (INT), Navigation (INT), Sailing (INT), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (8).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Halvard is “Expert” in the hand axe.  Languages Known:  Antalian, Thyatian.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Halvard can cast spells as a cleric.

Special Equipment:  Hand axe+2.

Personality:  Although he is now filled with the power of Rasthz, Halvard’s psyche is still burdened by his insecurities.  This has produced a tormented soul that still craves connection with others, but which is also driven by the urge to feed his master.  As a result he constantly wars with himself.  When his human side dominates he abstains from sacrifices and allows Rasthz to feed off of his own body (which is one reason for his appearance).  However, Halvard’s bestial side often gains the upper hand, and during those times he indulges all of his appetites.

If encountered in his rational state of mind, Halvard comes across as being aloof and bitter – even towards his own followers.  He holds himself apart from everyone around him, but if approached diplomatically and with respect he could be persuaded to spare someone’s life, for example.  However, there is no reasoning with him in his bestial state.  When he is in that frame of mind he seethes with aggressive energy and takes and does what he wishes.  All impulses, no matter how trivial, are indulged with gusto.

Due to his appearance, Halvard rarely leaves his temple.  Much of his time is either spent wrestling with his bestial side, or feasting on the unfortunate victims his acolytes have managed to abduct.

Roleplaying Notes:  Rasthz’s strong emphasis on gruesome sacrifices sets up his cult as an ideal opponent for a heroic adventuring party.  Player characters could encounter Halvard and his acolytes while investigating the disappearance of an important local figure, which could set the stage for a classic rescue scenario.

Halvard’s conflicted nature can also provide player characters with a moral dilemma:  While he does commit evil acts, there is a portion of his psyche that remains uncorrupted.  Is justice better served by killing Halvard outright, or by trying to rescue his soul, or otherwise provide him with a means of redeeming himself?

ERROL LINFORD

Background:  Errol was born in AC 983 in the solidly working-class neighbourhood of Westgate, in the city of Corunglain.  He was the eldest of three sons and his father, a glassblower of considerable skill, began teaching him the family trade as soon as he showed the slightest trace of manual dexterity.  He worked in his father’s shop whenever he wasn’t receiving his lessons in reading and writing from one of the ladies down the lane.  Although Errol showed signs of bring a bright boy early on, his father saw the potential for him to become a true master of the craft.  By the time he was 10, he was working full-time.  At first he resented being unable to play with his friends, but his father encouraged him to be creative.  By the age of 15, Errol had become so skilled that his creations began to fetch high prices in the boutiques of the wealthy Corun Hill district of the city.

Errol’s rise was not celebrated by everyone.  His father had a number of apprentices, some of whom had been working in his studio for years.  While these other young men admired the boy’s skill, they resented the fact that he seemed destined to surpass them in talent.  They also resented the fact that wealthy customers were beginning to commission Errol to produce custom works of art for them, when none of their own works had received such attention.  The apprentices decided to humble Errol by inviting him to have a few drinks with them at a pub, and then taking back to the studio while his father was away to beat him up.

Everything went according to plan, but one of the apprentices got carried away and splashed Errol with molten glass.  Although he managed to avoid the worst of it, the attack ruined the lower half of his face, such that he could no longer produce any works of art.  Errol healed and the apprentices were imprisoned or fined for their crimes, but his disfigurement and the inability to use his gift weighed heavily on him.  Magical healing was unaffordable, and Errol was unwilling to trust that the neighbourhood chirurgeons would be able to restore his mouth.  He sank further into depression.

It was during this dark period that Errol began taking opium.  During one drug-induced sleep Errol dreamed of having the power to restore his face and create truly legendary works of art.  He woke with that desire burning deep inside him and, never having been pious but willing to try anything, he prayed to any force that was listening to help him.  He felt an urge to visit the city’s docks, where he encountered a rotund, jovial man with bandaged hands who greeted him warmly.  Surprised by the warm reception, Errol was told that greater powers do listen to those truly in need, and that one such force had decided that he was truly deserving of help.  Errol was escorted to a small warehouse, which had been turned into a shrine.  There, the man uttered a guttural incantation and the young man’s injuries healed within moments.  At that moment, Errol became a fervent believer in the power of the one who had healed him – Rasthz, the Many-Mouthed.

Appearance:  Errol is a handsome young man with a wiry build – he stands 5’9” (175 cm) tall and weighs 155 lbs. (70 kg) – and a very fair complexion.  His medium-length, curly brown hair frames a rectangular face with a strong jaw, and his dark blue eyes frequently have a mischievous light in them.  He dresses in clean working-class clothes (a wool or cotton shirt, trousers, and shoes, with a dark green wool coat), and walks with a confident stride.  Although nearly a grown man, Errol’s voice still sounds youthful and clear.

Statistics:

Errol Linford (1st level cleric of Rasthz):  STR 13, INT 12, WIS 14, DEX 17, CON 12, CHA 13.  Hit Points:  5.  Armour Class:  7.  Alignment:  Neutral.

Skills:  Ceremony – Rasthz (WIS), Craft – Glassblowing (DEX), Drinking (CON), Music – Flute (CHA), Outer Being Lore (2).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Errol is “Basic” in the dagger.  Languages Known:  Thyatian.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Errol does not yet have access to spells.

Special Equipment:  None.

Personality:  Errol seems like a fundamentally contented, polite young man.  He takes obvious pride in his considerable accomplishments, yet does not often rub his achievements in the faces of others.  While he is ambitious and wants to improve his skill in his craft, he does not seem to be overly competitive.  Yet, to those who know him well, Errol has changed.  Increasingly, he has been heard to dismiss the skills of other craftsmen, and has shown anger when he thinks someone has not given him his due.  He is also spending more time away from home.  In truth, Errol is falling more deeply under the influence of the cult, and its leader is planning to formally initiate him soon – by having him partake in an act of ritualised cannibalism.  If Errol participates in this rite, he will advance to 2nd level and begin receiving spells.  His soul will also be bound more closely to Rasthz and his alignment will shift to chaotic.

Although he does find much of the cult’s imagery disconcerting, Errol genuinely believes that Rasthz is a benevolent entity for having healed him.  He is interpreting what little doctrine he has heard in a very positive light, and believes the cult leader’s propaganda that Rasthz’s promise of destruction is actually a euphemism for a joyous rebirth of everything in existence.  He does not know that the cult leader’s bandages conceal mouths in his palms, and he has not yet witnessed the cult’s sacred rituals in the inner temple, and so does not know what is really going on.

Roleplaying Notes:  As far as cultists go, Errol is quite unconventional because his devotion arises from a very real sense of gratitude for what the Outer Being has done for him – namely, restored his livelihood, and by extension his sense of self.  He is also not an evil person – yet.  Thus, should his full story ever become known to the player characters, they could face a moral dilemma:  Should they kill a follower of a being whose interests are obviously detrimental to all that exists before he can commit evil, or should they try to draw him out of the cult, possibly at great cost to themselves and other people, before he becomes completely corrupted?  And even if they succeed in accomplishing the latter, it is entirely possible that Errol will not appreciate the party’s interference in the plans of a being that he could very well still see as benign.  There is also the possibility that Rasthz will take revenge on Errol for leaving the fold – which could very well cost him his life.

No More Cardboard Cultists!

Regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, cults are an interesting addition to any roleplaying game.

I have been collaborating with Bruce Heard, who some may know as having been the architect of the Mystara campaign setting, in fleshing out the cosmology of the Outer Beings – a pantheon of cosmic entities roughly analogous to the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.  That work concluded with a brief cosmology of the seven major Outer Beings, which identified their goals and how they interact with their followers.  That piece also provided rough outlines of how the various Outer Being cults differed in terms of their activities and what sorts of “gifts” the faithful received.

I have decided to expand on what I began on Bruce’s blog.  Over the near term, I will provide detailled character summaries of sample followers of each Outer Being.  With the information I provide, game masters will be able to inject opponents with real personality and depth into their campaigns – all the better to up the cosmic horror quotient in their games!

So, without further ado, let’s start with a couple of devotees of Akh’All the Unmentionable, also popularly known as “the Festering Infamy”, or “the Black Source”.

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(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

RHEA THE BLACK

Background:  Rhea Comnenos was born in AC 971 in the port city of Athenos.  She was the second of five children, and the eldest daughter, of a shipbuilder of modest skill.  A dreamy, un-athletic child, Rhea was regularly beaten up by her siblings and the other children in her neighbourhood, and later by her parents when she failed to display what they considered to be industriousness.  To protect herself, Rhea withdrew deeper into her imagination and invented creative stories with her dolls to help her deal with the violence around her.

When Rhea neared adulthood her parents tried to find her a husband, but her eccentricity, and lack of skills (aside from dollmaking) drove the young men away.  Her siblings moved away and began building their own lives, while her parents grew ever more resentful.  Rhea was given a handful of money and sent to a temple of Asterius when her father died, but the clerics found her too unfocused and turned her away.  It was while she was wandering the streets that Rhea encountered a wild-eyed vagrant who ranted about the injustice of the world, and the promise of a better one.  She listened, and when the man saw her interest he conjured up food and water (the man was a follower of Akh’All).  Many meetings followed, and Rhea soon grew to appreciate the power of the man’s patron, and his message that nothing in the current world really mattered.  Rhea took the vows of service and became a cultist herself.  The crazed man was killed by a party of adventurers soon afterwards, and Rhea decided to become a wandering follower of Akh’All out of gratitude.

Appearance:  Rhea is of average height (5’6”/167 cm) and weight (137 lbs./62 kg), with shoulder-length, wavy dark brown hair and piercing chestnut-coloured eyes.  Her light olive complexion and accent mark her as a native of the port city of Athenos.  Her voice has a husky undertone, and she speaks slowly.  When at ease, Rhea moves at a languid pace and saunters rather than walks.  When in battle or on the road, Rhea wears an unadorned black tunic and cloak over chain mail armour, a steel pot helm with a face plate, and carries a normal sword and shield.  The right sleeve of her armour ends at the elbow – her right forearm is encased in what appear to be dark green ropy strands, from which pale blue tendrils project and enter her flesh.  Her skin has a mottled greyish cast at the entry points.  The thick strands converge at the palm of her right hand, where they form a structure resembling a barnacle.  Rhea normally keeps her right arm concealed under her cloak (see below) whenever she is around other people, or covers it with her shield (she is left-handed).

Statistics:

Rhea Comnenos (5th level cleric of Akh’All):  STR 8, INT 12, WIS 15, DEX 10, CON 16, CHA 9.  Hit Points:  30.  Armour Class:  0.  Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Ceremony – Akh’All (WIS), Craft – Dollmaking (INT), Endurance (CON), Storytelling (CHA), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (6).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Rhea is “Skilled” in the normal sword.  Languages Known:  Thyatian.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Rhea has access to the full list of cleric spells.  As with most followers of Akh’All, she cannot turn undead.

Special Equipment:  Ring of protection +1, Cloak of Outer Darkness, Bracer of Flame (see below).

Personality:  Rhea is somewhat disconnected from the world.  When left to her own devices she wanders about, looking blankly at her surroundings and humming to herself, or she spends hours working intently on her dolls.  She does not look at people when she talks to them (and in fact becomes agitated when people try to enter her field of vision), and is unable to carry a conversation for more than a few minutes before going off on a tangent.  When Rhea does speak with people, she is exceptionally polite and self-effacing, and avoids questions about herself.  She cares little about events, makes no special effort to learn any details about the people she meets, and shows little interest in most facets of everyday life beyond what is absolutely necessary for survival.  She eats when she is hungry, sleeps when she is tired, and buys what she needs when she needs it – or takes it when she lacks the money.

Having had a miserable childhood, Rhea has a soft spot for downtrodden children and will not hesitate to intervene to protect a child she feels is being abused (whether or not the child is being mistreated is another matter entirely) – up to and including killing the aggressor.  She behaves in an almost motherly manner towards young children.  Rhea also feels very strongly about honesty – she always keeps her word, especially to children.  If she feels she has been lied to, she grows very angry and will likely attack.

The depths of Rhea’s madness come to light whenever she defeats an opponent.  After performing a rite to Akh’All in which the victim’s soul is consumed, she will carve out random body parts she thinks her otherworldly patron would particularly enjoy, and place small portions in one of the many dolls (made to resemble her) she always has on the go.  Once the doll is completed, she has a one-sided conversations with them, in which she admonishes them for opposing her and expresses her hope that they will perform better as sustenance for Akh’All.  Rhea carries such dolls with her until she feels that they have “learned their lessons” and are ready to be nice again, at which time she gives them to children she feels need a friend.

Roleplaying Notes:  As a travelling worshipper of the Outer Beings, Rhea is an ideal person for an adventuring party to encounter while on the road, as a character who can introduce the concept of the Outer Beings.  However, due to the fact that she does not proselytise, nor does she run around massacring people, she is seen by most people who meet her as a wandering cleric of one of the more obscure Immortals (she calls Akh’All “the Silent One”).  Depending on the circumstances, it is possible that Rhea might even accompany unsuspecting player characters on a short adventure.

Rhea’s true nature only comes to light if she encounters someone who openly opposes the Outer Beings, or who is known to associate with such people.  In either of those cases, she will attack suddenly, give no quarter, and use the remains of the fallen for her grisly dollmaking.

RUDGARD THE PATIENT

Background:  Rudgard Marendon was born in AC 962 in the town of Ansimont, to a family of wool merchants.  The youngest of four sons, Rudgard showed little interest in the family business and retreated to the library whenever he could in order to read tales of bravery and heroism.  He was sent by his father to the (affordable) Corunglain Magical Academy, in the hopes that the boy’s affinity for books would, in the older man’s words, “make something marketable out of him”.  While the Academy’s admissions committee judged Rudgard to be intelligent enough to succeed, one magician was concerned about his reclusiveness, and expressed concern that he might not withstand the rigours of intense study.  In the end, not wishing a promising young mind to go to waste, the committee offered Rudgard a position in the library.  Having already fallen in love with the books, the young man accepted.

Rudgard worked diligently for months, developing new cataloguing systems and helping with research, while being snubbed by the students (who found out about his status).  One day, while the librarian was in Glantri on business, he came across a copy of the Precepts of Akh’All, which was normally kept under lock and key in the librarian’s office (which was off-limits to him).  Intrigued, Rudgard read the convoluted book, and as a mental exercise tried to reorganise its sections.  In so doing, he experimented with a few of the rituals contained in the book.  The strength of his desire to learn, combined with his mentally restless spirit, actually attracted the attention of Akh’All briefly.  Rudgard heard a deep voice intone, “Give thanks to Me”.  He did, and was granted the ability to cast clerical spells.  He kept his discovery secret, while occasionally communing with his new master, until such time as he felt powerful enough to exact revenge on the students who tormented him.  He fled before their dessicated corpses were discovered.

Overcome with joy, he returned to Ansimont and murdered his family.  Akh’All took mild interest in him, then, and directed him to go to Darokin City and establish a temple there in his glory.  Rudgard did so, and now a small temple of Akh’All operates in the sewers beneath the capital city, tended by Rudgard and a half-dozen acolytes.

Appearance:  Rudgard is tall (6’3”/190.5 cm) and lean (157 lbs./71 kg), with long brown matted hair and an unkempt beard that extends to his waist, and ice-blue eyes.  His pale skin is greasy and covered with ash smudges (from the smoke produced by the dozens of candles in the temple).  Whenever he smiles, which is rare, one sees a mouth filled with yellowed, rotting teeth.  He wears a filthy black cowled robe most of the time, but if stirred to fight he will don rusted plate mail armour +1 and a shield.  Two fingers from his right hand are missing – a dog bite that had become infected.  He walks with an ambling gait; although if motivated to fight he can move quickly.  His deep voice is often raspy, thanks to the ambient smoke in the temple.

Statistics:

Rudgard Marendon (13th level cleric of Akh’All):  STR 14, INT 16, WIS 13, DEX 17, CON 14, CHA 8.  Hit Points:  47.  Armour Class:  -1.  Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Appraisal (INT), Arcane Lore (INT+1), Bargaining (INT), Ceremony – Akh’All (WIS+2), Drinking (CON), History – Ancient (INT+1), History – Darokin (INT), History – Thyatis (INT), Outer Being Lore (8).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rulers, Rudgard is “Expert” in the mace.  Languages Known:  Thyatian, Elvish (Alfheim dialect), Carnifex.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Rudgard has access to the full list of cleric spells.  As with most followers of Akh’All, he cannot turn undead.

Special Equipment:  Necklace of Nullification (see below).

Personality:  Rudgard has been communing with Akh’All long enough that his personality has come to approximate that of his otherworldly patron – this has been exaggerated by the necklace of nullification (see below).  Most of the time he rarely stirs from his bed in a state of emotional numbness, waited-on by his acolytes.  He rarely speaks to his followers, who tend to treat his pronouncements as though they came directly from Akh’All (some do).  When Akh’All chooses to ignore Rudgard, the cultist enjoys a few days of relative vigour and experiences some degree of passion in his life.  At those times, he occasionally feels the urge to bathe, or venture to the surface and wander the streets in search of food, drink and whores.  Eventually, however, Akh’All pays attention to Rudgard again, and he returns to his lair to brood idly and direct his acolytes to expand their master’s influence.

Roleplaying Notes:  Rudgard would be a very good villain to pit against an adventuring party about to mount an assault against a temple of the Outer Beings for the first time.  The nature of his activities, particularly the focus on skulduggery, also lends itself well to investigation-themed adventures.  Rudgard is also a very graphic example of how the influence of the Outer Beings can corrupt an individual.

NEW MAGIC ITEMS:

Bracer of Flame:  This living, symbiotic weapon was created by the Zhochal, and modified for use by their human allies.  As such, it feeds off of its host’s blood to sustain itself, rather than Zhochal-made serum.  The bracer’s rudimentary brain is slaved to its host’s, such that it can be activated by a mental command.  Up to three times per day, it can be commanded to shoot a five-foot-long jet of fluid that ignites when it comes into contact with the air.  A successful hit inflicts 2d6 damage, plus an additional 1d6 damage per round.  Anything flammable within five feet has a 50% chance of bursting into flame.  Because the fire is produced with a flammable liquid, water merely spreads the fire; the flame must be suffocated.

Bracers of flame are grown specifically for a single individual; any attempt to transplant one to another person will kill the device.  Only one such device can be worn.  Furthermore, due to the symbiotic link between the bracer and its host, removing the device (which requires ripping it out of the host’s arm) will inflict 2d10 damage to the owner.

Cloak of Outer Shadows:  This cloak is made of a black fabric that seems to absorb nearby light, such that a dim, chill aura surrounds the garment.  The effect is vaguely disquieting (all morale checks made by people within 20’ are penalised by 1).  The cloak is, in fact, imbued with a tiny amount of the very material that comprises the otherdimensional prisons of the Outer Beings themselves, and it repels the ambient reality of the Prime Plan in such a way that the wearer’s armour class is reduced by 3.  The cloak also allows the wearer to enter, and travel through, shadows, as per the passwall spell.  However, if worn by anyone other than a follower of the Outer Beings, there is a 2% chance per use, cumulatively, that travelling through the shadows in this manner will teleport the wearer to one of the prison dimensions of the Outer Beings themselves.

Necklace of Nullification:  This plain silver chain with a single, thumb-sized pendant of onyx gives its wearer the ability to ignore the effects of mundane diseases and poisons (no save required), and even to withstand injuries that would incapacitate normal individuals.  For combat purposes, the wearer’s hit points can be reduced to double his or her Constitution score below zero before dying.  The drawback to this necklace, aside from being impossible to remove unless the wearer dies, or remove curse is cast by a lawfully-aligned cleric of 20th level or higher, is that the wearer becomes profoundly apathetic towards most facets of life.  The wearer’s initiative is penalised by 2 at all times, a morale check must be made before the wearer can fight (failure means they are simply not motivated) and he or she ignores such basic things as personal hygiene (Charisma is reduced by 3).