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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