Death and Destruction from the Deeps: More Followers of the Forbidden for your Campaign

The seventh, and final, installment of my series on memorable cultists to pit against your players will present a couple of worshippers of Ubbeth, the Outer Being whose domain is the watery deeps.  An overview of Ubbeth and His aims, 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.

As with the other parts of this series, everything written here is set in the campaign setting known as “Mystara” in the year AC 1000.  Readers are, of course, welcome to modify the material to suit their own campaigns.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

DEMETRIOS, APOSTLE OF DAGOS

Background:  Demetrios Sistovaris was born in the village of Klasomenai, on the fringes of Kastelian-controlled territory, in AC 946.  Most of the inhabitants of his village made their livelihoods from the sea, and his family was no exception.  He could swim before he could walk, and by the time he could run he was already helping his father bring in his catches.  Klasomenai had always been blessed with plentiful fish compared to its nearest neighbours, due (according to the faithful) to the reverence of most of its people for their chosen patron, Dagos (otherwise known as Ubbeth).  The other inhabitants of the region, although jealous of Klaomenai’s good fortune, shun its folk due to the prevalence of their strange deformities, which seem to grow progressively worse with age.

None of this had any meaning for Demetrios throughout his childhood, as neither he nor anyone he knew had any contact with outsiders, and thus the progressive changes that affected most of the locals seemed normal to him.  On his 18th birthday Demetrios, along with all the other youths born on the same day as he, was rowed to a reef offshore and instructed to watch the waves for one day and night.  This he did, and in the dark of night a massive, scaled, tentacled creature rose from the waves and descended upon the cluster of youths who cowered on the reef.  After regarding each one, it grabbed Demetrios and tossed him about like a rag doll before dropping him in the water, and then sank out of sight.  The surviving youths (several had died of fright) were rowed back to the village the next day, but everyone gaped in awe at the mass of barbed sucker marks that covered Demetrios’s body.  The village priest disrobed at the sight, revealing his own markings.  Demetrios became apprenticed to the priest, and replaced him when the man died the following year.

Demetrios, as the priest of Klasomenai, soon began instructing the people to expand the temple to Dagos, and to venture farther out to sea for greater catches and to attack lone vessels belonging to other communities (and to bring any surviving crew to him for sacrifice).  Fish catches have grown under his watch, and more children are now surviving infancy; although some of the deformities that used to strike villagers in their later years are now starting to show up among the very young.  The minority of villagers who venerate other Immortals, such as Protius, have come under increasing pressure to convert, or leave.  Even though Demetrios governs the village on all matters spiritual, he also has a great deal of influence over the village elders, and hardly anything happens here without his permission.

Appearance:  Demetrios is fairly short (5’4”/162 cm) and has a stocky build (150 lbs/68 kg).  Like most of the people from this part of Davania, he has a light olive complexion, but much of his skin has a rough, sand-papery look, and is marred by purplish, saucer-sized sucker marks.  Webbing is growing between his fingers and toes, and long, deep wrinkles on each side of his neck mark where gills will emerge when his transformation is complete.  His dark brown eyes seem to bulge from their sockets, and he rarely blinks.  He has lost much of his dark brown, curly hair, and his now-exposed scalp has a decidedly scaly texture.  Normally Demetrios wears the voluminous sea-green robes of his faith, but on religious festivals he has begun the practice of wading naked into the sea to perform his rites.

Statistics:

Demetrios Sistovaris (18th level cleric of Ubbeth):  STR 12, INT 15, WIS 16, DEX 15, CON 13, CHA 6.  Hit Points:  61.  Armour Class:  8.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Ceremony – Ubbeth (WIS+2), Leadership (CHA+2), Nature Lore – Jungle (INT), Navigation (INT+1), Persuasion (CHA), Sailing (INT+1), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (13).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Demetrios is “Master” in the trident.  Languages Known:  Milenian (Kastelian dialect) + 1 free slot.

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

Special Equipment:  Trident of Ubbeth (see below)

Personality:  Demetrios is an egotistical despot who views Klasomenai as his personal fiefdom, and his fellow villagers as his subjects.  The fact that word of his belligerent stance towards outsiders, and accounts of his less reputable acts (as told by people forced to leave the village), will eventually reach the nominal authorities in Kastelios does not cross his mind.  He is confident that Ubbeth will watch over him, just as the Outer Being has watched over the faithful of his village for centuries, and should any outsiders try to crush him, they will be destroyed.

Demetrios is convinced that his mission in life is to turn Klasomenai into a holy site dedicated to Ubbeth.  To that end, he takes great joy in crushing the other faiths, and in reciting the ancient rituals that are accelerating the transformation of the villagers into semi-aquatic hybrid beasts.  Thus, he sees himself as Ubbeth’s personal champion, and has given himself a grandiose title to match.  In fact, Demetrios is so taken by his own perceived importance that he has begun to refer to himself in the third person, and has demanded that others do the same.  Almost everyone else in Klasomenai is too cowed to dispute his claim, and many of those who have expressed discontent have disappeared.

Roleplaying Notes: Although Demetrios is in many ways a small fish, he is in a rather tiny pond, so his influence in the region is actually considerable.  He could easily become a problem for local shipping if he becomes more organised, and as his followers venture farther from Klasomenai in search of sacrificial victims his shadow will grow.  Eventually the authorities in the city-state of Kastelios, which claims the region for itself, will need to step in and do something about Demetrios.  The player characters would be natural candidates for such a mission.

Should the player characters wish to purge Klasomenai of Ubbeth’s influence, they will have a long, but possibly highly rewarding, quest ahead of them.  They will have to learn about Ubbeth, His methods, and how He came to influence the village.  They will also need to learn how to neutralise Demetrios and eliminate him before Ubbeth realises that one of His champions is being attacked.

NICOLA THE RED-HANDED

Background:  Nicola Robbards was born in Minrothad in AC 968, to a merchant sailing family that had been living on both sides of the law for generations.  When times were good the Robbards family was reputed to be canny in business, but when their fortunes fell they turned their talents towards piracy.  The family avoided trouble for the most part by attacking foreign shipping, but Nicola’s father was the youngest of four, and knew he would never inherit.  He made piracy his vocation, and his only child learned from one of the best.  By the time Nicola was 16, she was commanding her own small sailing ship and raiding smaller cargo vessels.  She acquired her nickname from a particularly nasty duel with a ship captain.

Nicola’s first big score happened when she was 18.  Her ship, a two-masted schooner named the Zephyr, attacked two cargo ships en route to Thyatis from the southern continent of Davania.  She had the element of surprise and managed to cripple both ships before any serious manoeuvring could take place.  She and her crew pillaged both vessels and left their surviving crews to fend for themselves on the high seas.  The Thyatians had been transporting spices and other choice commodities (such as coffee) that would fetch high prices in Minrothad and Darokin, but one crate contained strange gold jewellery decorated with marine motifs that did not seem to have been made for humans to wear.  Her crew wanted to sell the jewellery to the first merchant they came across for some quick cash, but Nicola overruled them.  She had occasionally visited the more reputable, mercantile branch of the family as a child (the Robbards family sticks together), and knew enough about art to realise that the cargo they held would be worth far more to a collector.

Using her connections, Nicola tracked down a collector in Athenos, who paid a handsome sum.  Nicola was ambushed by a band of robed assailants that night, and taken to a swampy island in the Malpheggi Swamp.  There, her captors interrogated her about how she obtained the jewellery (which their cult used for religious purposes).  Since she had proven her usefulness in retrieving something of value to them, the cultists offered her a choice:  death, or eternal service to Ubbeth, their master.  Thinking the whole thing was a farce, Nicola pledged her allegiance to the Outer Being, but after a portion of His essence was implanted in her she realised what she had done.  Now she is bound to Him, and is compelled through dream messages to do His bidding.  However, she did not bend fully to Ubbeth’s will, and always looks for ways in which to reinterpret His wishes in ways that benefit her, or which actually harm the Outer Being’s plans.

Nicola plies the Sea of Dread and the Western Sea of Dawn on her ship, the Presumptuous, and regularly attacks Thyatian and Minrothaddan shipping – although she will not attack any vessels flying the banners of the Robbards family (in fact, she occasionally escorts her cousins on particularly risky runs).  Although she has a hideout in the Thanegioth Archipelago where she keeps her second ship (the Audacious), Nicola can often be found in the rougher parts of the Minrothaddan capital, Harbortown.

Appearance:  Nicola stands 5’8” tall (172 cm) and has a solid, muscular build (160 lbs./72 kg).  She has a tanned and weathered complexion from a life at sea, and her arms are a mass of black tattoos that resemble tangled squiggles interspersed with marine life.  She keeps her hair (dyed bluish-black with squid ink) short in the back, but long enough in front to conceal her eye patch (Ubbeth’s transformative influence had begun with her eye, which she plucked out – it seems to have stopped for now).  Her remaining eye is a deep emerald green.  Nicola is a practical woman; she wears a linen shirt and trousers, low boots, and a leather vest – finery would just get in the way.  Her one concession to piratical stereotypes are her rings – each finger has at least one

Statistics:

Nicola Robbards (10th level cleric of Ubbeth):  STR 17, INT 14, WIS 11, DEX 16, CON 15, CHA 12.  Hit Points:  54.  Armour Class:  5.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Bargaining (INT), Ceremony – Ubbeth (WIS), Drinking (CON), Intimidation (STR), Navigation (INT+1), Persuasion (CHA), Sailing (INT+1), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (2).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Nicola is “Expert” in the short sword.  Languages Known:  Thyatian (Minrothad dialect), Makai.

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

Special Equipment:  Short sword +1, +3 versus servitors of the Outer Beings.

Personality:  Although Nicola is an unpredictable, dangerous pirate who occasionally consorts with outer powers for personal gain, she has not (yet) descended into inhumanity.  Her crew is her surrogate family, and although she is indisputably the captain and will not tolerate any insubordination, she will go to the wall for those who serve her well.  She also follows a code of honour, of sorts:  She always keeps her word (unless the other person has ever wronged her), she will not (unless provoked or instructed otherwise) abuse a prisoner, and she will give quarter to a vanquished opponent who fought with courage.

Nicola is someone who thrives on living life on the edge.  The greater the risk, or the greater the chance of being caught, the better.  She does not believe in laws or structures of any kind, and resents attempts by other people to constrain her activities; although she will accept offers of help – so long as the help is given on her terms.  Nicola is also very impulsive, and will set sail anywhere if the promise of loot and glory is great enough.

Nicola’s feelings about serving Ubbeth are complicated.  She knows that He is a very unpleasant, very powerful being who would destroy most of the world if He could.  She also knows that He would sacrifice her to advance His plans without a second thought.  The few times Nicola communicated with Ubbeth left her feeling disgusted afterwards – so much so that she chooses to interpret His dream messages in a way that suits her interests best.  At times, she has even hindered Ubbeth’s plans.  Yet she also revels in the power that He provides her.  To Nicola, playing Ubbeth’s game while using His power for her own purposes is living life on the ultimate knife edge.  Her crew has no idea where she gets her strange powers, and so long as the loot continues to pour in and she treats them well they will not care.  Thus, every additional day of life is something to be celebrated with wild abandon.

Whenever Nicola is in a port, she spends the bulk of her money on her ship and what is left on personal entertainment.  She is as aggressive and impulsive in her personal life as she is on the high seas, and does not care at all what other people think.  She does not believe in saving or planning – she always seems to hear a rumour about a juicy cargo vessel at just the right time (she chooses not to speculate as to whether Ubbeth is behind that or not).  Focusing on the fun aspects of life also distracts her from the unpleasantness that lies at its core.

Roleplaying Notes:  Player characters may run into her at a bar, spend half the night gambling and drinking with her, and walk away with emptier pockets and a smile.  Or they might wake up on the deck of her ship, sailing to parts unknown, not knowing that she had drugged their drinks because she needed a few tough-looking individuals for a job, and no one was volunteering.

Because Nicola’s ultimate loyalty is to herself, she can be an ally or a foe depending on how the player characters react to her.  It is unlikely that the source of her magical power will be immediately apparent, so if and when it does become revealed the party could have a difficult decision to make if they have come to know her.  Do they confront Nicola as a follower of the Outer Beings because Ubbeth provides her with spells, or do they consider that she has only used those powers for personal gain, and not to further her master’s goals?  Regardless of their views on the matter, Ubbeth will eventually become aware of Nicola’s activities and He will not be pleased.

NEW ITEMS

Trident of Ubbeth:  This trident is encrusted with barnacles, dried seaweed, and coral-like growths which sprout tiny white fronds that constantly wave about – even when there is no breeze.  No matter how long it is out of the water, it is always damp to the touch and none of the living creatures that have colonised its length ever die.  Anyone who wields the trident instantly becomes known to Ubbeth if they are within sight of a body of water – even a river is sufficient.  This weapon also always smells strongly of the sea, no matter how much one tries to clean it.

If used as a weapon, the trident functions as a trident +3; however, anyone stabbed with it in combat must make a save vs. Poison.  If the save fails the victim not only takes damage, they are also “injected” with polyps from the coral-like growths on the trident.  These polyps react with the victim’s bloodstream and begin growing.  The victim will begin to feel listless six hours after being injected (-3 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution), and after another 12 hours will become so weak that they will be unable to move.  Coral growths begin erupting from the victim’s flesh soon afterwards, inflicting 1d6 damage per turn until death.  Not long afterwards the victim’s corpse is transformed into a vaguely person-shaped coral formation.  The disease can be halted by a cure disease spell.

The trident also grants the wielder the following abilities:

  • The ability to speak with marine animals (as per the spell speak with animals) five times per day.
  • The ability to breathe underwater (as per a ring of waterbreathing).
  • A reaction bonus of +3 when dealing with any of Ubbeth’s followers.

NOT QUITE A FINAL WORD

Although this series has run its course, I will be revisiting the Outer Beings and their interactions with Mystara over the coming months.  I will flesh out the magic used by the cultists I have been describing, and I will expand on what Bruce Heard and I developed on his blog – including providing more detail on the accursed city of Orzafeth.  I will also (because one can never have too many villains in their campaign) flesh out more followers of the Outer Beings.  The sky is really the limit, but I would be very interested in hearing what you would like to see.

So in closing (for now), I would like to send special thanks to Bruce Heard, Nicole Lavigne, and Megan Fulton for their unique roles in making this series happen.  You know what you did.  I owe you all.

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