Evil from the Dawn of Time: Some Inhuman Villains for Your Campaigns

The sixth installment of my series detailling some followers of the vaguely Lovecraftian cosmic entities known as the Outer Beings looks at a pair of worshippers of Rosheg-Kha, who is otherwise known as “She Who Provides” and “The Father of Lizards”. Readers interested in learning more about the Outer Beings are invited to visit Bruce Heard’s blog, where I wrote a cosmology for them (scroll to the bottom).

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)

SLIZZESH (SLEE-zesh), VOICE OF THE MOTHER

Background:
Slizzesh is a member of the Folkurat (“Shadow Hill”) tribe of lizard men, who live in the southern fringes of the Malpheggi Swamp, near Athenos. His tribe venerates Rosheg-Kha as a mother figure, and have given Her the name “Bringer-Forth of the Egg”. The Folkurat have always been an aggressive, expansionist tribe, but have historically been hemmed in by a loose coalition of rival tribes who tend to follow Ka or Protius. Slizzesh was steeped in the mythology of his tribe, and became a warrior once he reached adulthood. A hot-tempered representative of his species, he quickly acquired a reputation for being exceptionally brutal in combat. He became a celebrated warrior of the tribe, and earned the chieftain’s favour.

During the annual Festival of Renewal, during which the tribe’s eggs are laid and the tribal shaman performs auguries to determine fortunes for the coming year, Slizzesh was told that there were portents that indicated he was to undertake a great quest, and that he would have to venture into the deepest part of the swamp to learn what he must do. Naturally he could not refuse, and departed immediately. Slizzesh’s journey was arduous, and he was frequently beset by deadly foes – both living and dead. Finally, he reached a portion of the swamp where the mire was especially deep, but from which great carved stone blocks emerged. He immediately received a vision of himself meditating on one of these blocks.

Slizzesh sat for a week, constantly emptying his mind and imploring Rosheg-Kha to give him a sign. He received a vision of himself discovering a doorway in one of the blocks, which revealed a crumbling staircase leading down into a warren of half-flooded tunnels of dressed stone, which led him to a vaulted chamber whose walls were covered with fetid moss. A circular platform, on which rested a stone chest, rose from the muck. In that moment Slizzesh awoke to find himself in the chamber, on the verge of opening the chest. Knowing that he had been guided by Rosheg-Kha, he opened it, and was immediately attacked, and possessed, by the spirit that had been trapped within – Aron, the High Priest of Ardannon. A great mental battle ensued, but the fierce lizard man’s spirit was no match for a devious priest who had spent more than a thousand years plotting his revenge.

Slizzesh returned to his tribe weeks later, bearing a strange spear (the Royal Sceptre of Meruvar – see below) and proclaiming himself to be the Voice of the Mother. The shaman left the tribe immediately, and never returned. Since that time, Slizzesh has become chief in all but name, and has been guiding the tribe to become even more aggressive, to organise itself more, and become more settled.

Appearance: Slizzesh stands 6’5” (196 cm) tall and has a powerful build (270 lbs./122 kg). His body is covered with light green and dark yellow scales in a stripe pattern, and old scars cover his arms and back. His voice is sibilant, yet possesses a warmth and authoritativeness that compels most listeners to pay attention. When he speaks to others, his orange eyes hold their gaze with a penetrating stare. He walks with a stately, measured grace.

When he was still a warrior Slizzesh wore numerous pieces of jewellery taken from fallen foes, and he wore three necklaces of teeth (one tooth taken per kill) and took great umbrage if anyone threatened to touch his treasures. Now, however, he walks about undecorated.

Statistics:

Slizzesh (9th level shaman of Rosheg-Kha): STR 16, INT 16, WIS 14, DEX 15, CON 18, CHA 10. Hit Points: 62. Armour Class: 6. Alignment: Chaotic.

Skills: Alchemy (INT+1), Arcane Lore (INT), Ceremony – Rosheg-Kha (WIS), Ceremony – Yurrgh-Thal (WIS), Etiquette – Meruvar (CHA+1), Knowledge – Eraeda (INT), Knowledge – Meruvar (INT), Knowledge – Molharran (INT), Nature Lore (INT+1), Outer Being Lore (14), Survival – Jungle (INT), Survival – Swamp (INT+1). If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Slizzesh is “Expert” in the spear. Languages Known: Eraedan, Hemkalss, Nithian (see DM note).

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

Special Equipment:
Royal Sceptre of Meruvar (see below).

Personality: Before becoming possessed by the departed spirit of Aron, the High Priest of Ardannon, Slizzesh was a crafty, but thuggish, lizard man. He delighted in demonstrating his physical prowess and his ferocity in battle, but was not above using trickery to gain an advantage over his enemies. However, his reputation all but assured that any criticisms directed against him were made very quietly, and behind his back. Slizzesh also took great delight in looting the corpses of his fallen foes for trophies, and displayed them proudly for all to see. He was especially fond of teeth.

Since his transformation, Slizzesh has become more subdued – at least on the surface. He no longer boasts about his abilities or challenges rivals (real or imagined) to feats of strength and skill to prove his dominance. He has also rid himself of all of his grisly trophies, and instead walks sedately about his tribe’s territory with no adornment whatsoever. He speaks calmly, and urges restraint when passions arise. In every sense Slizzesh has become the authoritative, yet nurturing, parental figure for his tribe – in short, Rosheg-Kha made flesh.

The calmer, gentler Slizzesh is but a guise. Inside, however, the spirit of Aron writhes with barely suppressed rage and impatience. He remembers clearly the power he once wielded, and the potential his lost realm once possessed. He had dreamed of being found by an ambitious, greedy human, whom he could twist to rebuild Meruvar under the glory of the Outer Beings. Instead, he is housed inside a brute of a lizard man whose tribe has no concept of civilisation. Focusing on the long view, Aron is quietly tutoring the tribe by showing them their potential and guiding them to become stronger by being more civilised. In so doing, Aron is slowly lifting the tribe out of savagery, and he dreams of one day using them to build Ardannon anew. It is a long-term goal, but Aron can convinced himself (with great difficulty) that he can bide his time for a few more years given how long he was imprisoned.

Aron has completely buried Slizzesh’s personality. Once he has determined that the tribe can acquit itself well in larger battles, he will drop all pretence of gentleness and drive the tribe mercilessly to overwhelm and enslave its neighbours in order to build his city. Once that is done, he will reign openly as himself, and turn that portion of the Malpheggi Swamp into a locus of power for the Outer Beings.

Roleplaying Notes: Slizzesh is the kind of villain that hearkens back to the action-packed pulp classics of the 1930s – the evil high priest in a savage land who possesses a dark secret. The player characters can be openly heroic in countering his plots, and while his strength is considerable a plot arc involving him can have a slightly lighter tone if the DM and players want it to.

Also, depending on the role lizard men play in the campaign (as a savage race or possibly as a degenerate remnant of a once-mighty civilisation), defeating Slizzesh could serve another purpose – eliminating a corrupting influence on lizard men.

DM NOTE:

By virtue of the fact that Slizzesh is possessed by Aron, he has considerable knowledge of people and places that have long since vanished. This is reflected in Slizzesh’s knowledge skills, which cover the vanished lands of Eraeda, Molharran, and Meruvar.

Eraeda covered the lands between the Streel River and the western edge of the Alfheim, from the region just south of what is now Corunglain to the lands near the town of Wrasseldown. Its people were fair-skinned folk of Neathar descent who organised themselves into largely self-sufficient petty city-states. These people formed the root stock of what would become the Darokinians – Ansel Darokin was an Eraedan chieftain.

Molharran lay to the west of Eraeda, and occupied a roughly triangular-shaped territory stretching from the Streel River to the shores of Lake Amsorak. It was a centralised kingdom ruled by the House of Kareth, whose capital city of Elstarath (Elstrich) was once one of the largest settlements on the entire Streel Plain. Although related to the people of Eraeda, the Molharraners had mixed with indigenous peoples thought to have been fey. They were known for being slight of build, with very pale skin and dark hair. Molharran collapsed before the rise of Thyatis, but a relic population still exists in the town of Elstrich, as well as the valleys to the north known as the Elstrich Vale.

Meruvar occupied the northern half of what is now the Malpheggi Swamp and lands immediately to the east, plus a stretch of hill country along the Molharraner frontier. Its people were closely related to the Molharraners, but had mixed with the folk of the city-state of Athenos. They were of a slightly darker complexion, and had embraced the Athenosian deity known as Yuranos (Yurrgh-Thal) as their own. Meruvar soon came into conflict with Molharran, and the former’s worship of the Outer Being was sufficient justification to mount a series of bloody crusades, which, although successful, bled Molharran dry (which ultimately hastened the kingdom’s demise). The Molharraners did, however, manage to raze the Meruvari capital of Ardannon, which soon faded from memory – until it was rediscovered many centuries later by Slizzesh.

More information is available from the following timeline, written by Aaron Nowack with my input.

“Eraedan” was spoken by the people of Molharran, Meruvar, and Eraeda. This was Aron’s native language; although he spoke the Meruvari dialect. Eraedan has long since been replaced by Thyatian as the common language of the region, and very little remains of it in the modern era, beyond a few relic words spoken by countryfolk.

Likewise, although the Nithian Empire had been recently erased by the Immortals, in Aron’s time there were still a few scholars who retained some knowledge of that nation and its language. Aron was one of those.

CONSTANTIN PETRIU

Background: Constantin Petriu, the youngest of three boys, was born in the hamlet of Stregoicavar in AC 967. Stregoicavar is located on the fringes of the Blight Swamp, just outside the Black Eagle Barony, and its inhabitants make their living through woodcutting and subsistence agriculture. Never a particularly sturdy or athletic child, Constantin was tormented by his peers and spent much of his time sulking in the woods or on the fringes of the swamp. He developed a deep appreciation for nature – especially the frogs, salamanders, and snakes he discovered on the murky margins of the Blight Swamp. They fascinated him because they lacked the combativeness and frenetic natures that people – and all mammals by extension – seemed to exhibit, and which he found unappealing by associating such behaviour with the actions of his peers. As time passed, Constantin sought out reptiles more and more, and soon developed a deep knowledge of their habits.

Constantin was well on his way to becoming a social outcast when, at the age of 20, he was attacked during a raid staged by bandits employed by the Black Eagle, Baron Ludwig von Hendriks. Although many residents of Stregoicavar were injured, Constantin’s lack of physical prowess made him especially vulnerable. The lion’s share of the few resources available to heal the injured were given to those who fought hardest against the enemy; Constantin received nothing, and was told that the people could not help those who would not help them. He did not see how his self-imposed isolation (merited or not) had effectively resulted in his own exile. Constantin left Stregoicavar as soon as he was able, and moved to the capital city of Specularum, where, he hoped, he could start over.

During his time in Specularum he worked in a succession of jobs – his antisocial nature did not ingratiate him to his employers. He returned home thoroughly disenchanted with humanity, and the frosty reception he received drove him back to the swamp, where he set up a rude hut for himself. Strange insights began coming to him then as he studied his beloved reptiles – that they were in many ways a simpler, but better, form of life in his view. He yearned to be more like them, to find fellowship at last with other living things. That yearning, unknowingly to him, drew Rosheg-Kha’s attention, and He saw the young man as a potentially useful (albeit mammalian) tool. Constantin discovered his magical abilities, and the transformation began soon afterwards. He attributed this change to his devotion and love for reptiles, and as a result his territory has become a sanctuary of sorts for all scaled creatures.

Appearance: Constantin is a fairly small (5’3”/160 cm) man with a slight build (120 lbs./54 kg). Before his transformation he had brown eyes, long, wavy brown hair and a ruddy complexion. Now, however, extensive patches of mottled green and brown scales are present on his limbs, back, and chest, and clumps of his hair have fallen out, revealing even more scaly flesh. His nose has flattened and broadened to resemble a reptile’s snout, and his eyes have enlarged noticeably. His once whiny voice has acquired a rumbling undertone. He sometimes wears a simple robe of coarse wool, which covers most of his body, but often he wears nothing; the powers granted to him by Rosheg-Kha have also made his territory warm and humid year-round, and it will remain so as long as Constantin remains there.

Due to his affinity towards reptiles, and the love they have for him (see Personality – below), Constantin always has 2d10 mundane snakes (DM chooses the variety) present on his body at any time. These snakes love their protector, and will sacrifice themselves if necessary to shield him. In game terms, this “living armour” gives Constantin an effective Armour Class of 7.

Statistics:

Constantin Petriu (7th level shaman of Rosheg-Kha): STR 8, INT 12, WIS 13, DEX 12, CON 10, CHA 6. Hit Points: 30. Armour Class: 7. Alignment: Neutral.

Skills: Ceremony – Rosheg-Kha (WIS), Knowledge – Blight Swamp (INT), Nature Lore (INT), Stealth – Swamp (DEX), Survival – Swamp (INT). Constantin has no expertise in any weapon; his reptilian charges will defend him should anyone threaten his safety. The DM should stock Constantin’s sanctuary with a variety of snakes and other reptiles. Languages Known: Traladaran.

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

Special Equipment: None.

Personality: Constantin is a highly introverted man who has little love or empathy for his fellow human beings, in large part because of the events surrounding the raid by the Black Eagle Barony. He found solace in the quiet study of reptiles because it relieved him of the burden of interacting with other people while occupying his inquisitive mind, and he enjoys the solitude of his sanctuary now because it allows him to commune with his reptilian charges. His years of voluntary isolation from other human beings have only accentuated his antisocial tendencies – to the point where he finds casual conversation incredibly difficult.

The progressive physical transformations Constantin has experienced, and their perceived benefits, has simply reinforced his view that reptiles are superior in every sense of the word, and that mammalian life is nothing more than an evolutionary aberration that will one day be corrected. He does not even consider himself human anymore. Despite the joy he derives from his altered state, as well as the kinship he has found with reptiles in all their forms, Constantin loathes his vestigial humanity and yearns to excise it entirely. This self-hatred manifests itself in occasional violent outbursts and attempts at self-mutilation. Most of the time, however, he exhibits the eerie silence and stillness that only reptiles can manage.

Constantin will be very cold towards any sentient mammal he encounters, and very little will provoke him to attack. An adventuring party whose membership includes a lizard man or similar creature will be treated more hospitably, but Constantin will focus almost entirely on the reptilian.

Roleplaying Notes: Constantin could be an interesting, if highly disturbing, encounter for an adventuring party because not only has he turned his back on his own kind; he has also willingly and enthusiastically transferred his affections to cold-blooded creatures that should not care at all for him, but in fact do – enthusiastically. His numerous reptilian pets flock around him constantly, crawling and slithering all over him while seeking his caresses and seeming to listen attentively to his gentle murmurs, but are also very visibly primed to attack at the slightest provocation or threat to their loving master. His visibly altered appearance emphasises the abnormality of the situation.

Constantin presents an interesting roleplaying challenge as well because anyone dealing with him for any length of time will soon realise that, while he has no love for his former people and would destroy them if given a chance, he does not actively seek the destruction of humanity and his desire to protect reptilian life is genuine. It is possible that Constantin could be sheltering rare species of reptiles in his domain, or providing sanctuary to a lizard man (who may not be evil). Thus, killing him and destroying his sanctuary may actually do more harm than good, over the long term.

The other complication is the fact that Constantin has no idea that he is actually a follower of Rosheg-Kha, and knows nothing about the Outer Beings; he honestly believes that his powers are a manifestation of his love of reptiles, and he sees himself as their protector.

NEW ITEMS:

Royal Sceptre of Meruvar: Although Meruvar did not long endure as a nation, it did exist long enough for its people to develop the trappings of nationhood that many take for granted – including crowns, sceptres, and other adornments of state. This sceptre measures six feet in length, and is made from polished ebony shod with silver and inlaid with mother-of-pearl cabuchons. Its decorative tip bears what appears to be an overly ornate spear head inset with a single, thumb-sized ruby. The sceptre weighs 40 cn (four pounds).

Slizzesh uses the sceptre as a spear, and as such it works like a spear +2. However, the sceptre contains a number of magical powers, all of which are also known to Slizzesh. The sceptre can cast every 1st- and 2nd-level magic user spell once per day, and renders the wielder immune to all scrying attempts. The sceptre can also cast summon lesser servitor three times per day. Any class can use this weapon.

NEW SPELL: SUMMON LESSER SERVITOR

Level: 3
Range: 0′ (caster only)
Duration: 1 turn/level of caster
Effect: Summons one lesser servitor for the duration of the spell.

This spell, when cast, summons a lesser servitor of the DM’s choice to the plane currently occupied by the caster. The servitor will, for the duration of the spell, obey the commands of the caster, as though it was under a geas. Any command may be given except for those that might endanger the life of the servitor, in which case the caster’s control is broken. Examples include ordering the servitor to kill itself, to attack anything whose hit dice or levels exceed its own (i.e.,: anything larger or visibly more powerful than itself), or to go somewhere that is obviously extremely dangerous. This is up to the DM. The servitor will also take commands literally, even if its Intelligence is high enough to make this normally impossible, just to spite the caster. As a result, the caster must word his or her orders very carefully. The caster also has no control over what kind of lesser servitor is summoned, and will not know until the servitor arrives. It should be noted that if a type of servitor is summoned, which cannot normally survive in the environment to which it is summoned, it will suffer the full effects of that exposure. Finally, if an intelligent servitor is summoned, it will likely remember its summoner, and take vengeance upon that person at some later date if it feels it was misused.

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