Wednesday, April 16, 2014

B/X D&D Month XVI: The Great City Phantomax

Continuing an exploration of a distant western region across the Sullen Sea...

Phantomax, The Geat City – a vast urban sprawl of steel and steam and ancient works that stretch along the northern edge of the Burning Dust. Ruled by the Council of the Phoenix, a plutocracy of the city’s elite. The city has seen no threat strong enough to penetrate its immense walls, nor has it been subject to loss of territories for centuries. The city is sustained through the export and import of goods in its provincial holdings, which run along the length of the Seer’s River and out to the Sullen Coast, along the length of the Sea of Sorrows.

West of Phantomax are the lands of Precarion, a great untamed wilderness along the north stretch of the Silverflow Mountains. East across the sea are the Isles of Esmonar. Beyond Esmonar are the Wastelands of Sul and even stranger, including the primitive river kingdoms of Anansis.

Phantomax is the last of the old cities, the only “ruin” that remains fully operational and inhabited by humans. It is steeped in ancient history and the people of the vast city state still recall the old technologies, and have some familiarity with the mysterious conflict that led to the destruction of the primordial by the Enkanneth. Of key significance in this knowledge: the primordials are ancient, powerful beings but were not regarded as gods; when mankind arrived on Pergerron they were a minority, and subjected to the whims of the primordials’ many engineered races. It was the rebellion of the Enkanneth, the ancient word for the “first ones” that the rebellious humans rose up and cast off the control of the primordial. The ones now revered as gods were but men, and they stole the secrets of cosmic power from the ancient ones. Phantomax is the sole city that was not destroyed in this time of liberation, and it is in fact the home of the only enkanneth who still dwells in the so-called “principle realm.” Abia, the goddess of secrets, is the enkanneth who stayed behind, though it is said her mind projects through astral realms untold. The rest conquered the Outworld of the primordals and took it for themselves, leaving the knowledge they had liberated from the primordial and their servitor races behind to aid man in his rise to greatness.

In Phantomax, however, the font of all knowledge is carefully guarded in the temple-libraries to the priests of Abia, who has served directly for a thousand years in raising man’s consciousness, if not his sense of destiny. Thanks to her, the old ways were not lost and destroyed like they were across the rest of the world, and were instead absorbed and cultivated into a new way of living in the Great City.

Life in Phantomax: the city is a dense arcology of ancient dwellings heaped upon one another with only a semblance of humanity draped over the vast carcass in the last millennium. The founders of the city were monstrous and alien, and worshipped dark primordial beings which promised life in exchange for obedience. The priest kings of these primordial would dream dark magic and use their power to terrify their subjects. The city grew up as a great temple, mausoleum and pinnacle of the madness and terror that the primordial inspired.

When the city was taken by the human slaves under the leadership of the Enkanneth shortly after they found the cracks to the Outworld and stole the power of the old gods, it was with massacre and butchery in mind. There was to be no surrender of the beings which lurked in the dark corners of the city, only wild and barbaric madness. Still, the center of the city was a great hive-like pyramid in which the lore of the ages was kept. Abia, the young immortal Enkanneth of knowledge realized its value to all and stopped the destruction, seeking to make the temple her own. The human and demihuman cultists of the Enkanneth spent a century fully purging the temple of the primordial minions and influence. Even then in the deepest bowels of the pyramid it is said that there still lies a crack…a rift….to the Outworld and that Abia stands vigilant at the entrance to this day to insure no primordals return.

A few priests of Abia worry that her vigilant guardianship of the rift to Outworld has subjected her to dark, corrupting energies. They sense that she is not…the same…as she once was. But what does one do when your immortal divinity is charged with such an impossible task? So the priests carry on, hoping the stories of fallen Enkanneth are not true, administering to the poor and needy of the city while translating the millions of sacred texts in the pyramid and hoping that when all is done that Abia…and Phantomax…will be well.

This curious history has led to a strange and unique culture in the city itself, which stands apart from all of the other cultures of man to arise in the world, including the River Kingdoms of Anansis, the people of Precarion, Vothrace, Esparta, Esmonar and beyond. Men who are not of Phantomax intrinsically distrust the dwellers of the Great City, for they can sense that the indelible taint of the ancient primordial architecture has rubbed off on them. They can feel that there is a soulful corruption of these men, and that they must keep their distance. The men of Phantomax don’t sense this, of course, and they chalk such accusations and suspicions up to the superstitions of the barbarians of the world who refuse to adapt to the ways of the Great City.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

B/X D&D Month XV: The Burning Dust

We go off the map and west of the Sullen Sea for the next couple of entries...

The Burning Dust – a terrible atmospheric effect that makes the Southern Wastes uninhabitable. On the great southern continent of Phelar there is only death and the choking madness caused by the Burning Dust. No one knows its origins, only that it is pervasive and delineates the habitable lands from the desolation of the south; even the hardiest explorers can penetrate no more than a hundred miles in before succumbing, for the dust poisons both the lungs and the flesh through mere contact. Still, some try, and a few have uncovered vast subterranean realms below the desert where chaoskin dwell in multitudes. The effort is worth it for many, for hidden in the vastness of the Burning Dust are completely intact, ancient cities full of lost magic and technology.

There is the Great Obelisk, around which rests a vast network of tiny structures that suggest a population of men no taller than a half-foot in height.

There is the Rusted Necropolis, a city as great as Phantomax itself, its streets patrolled by immense dragons which exude the Burning Dust with every breath and seem to thrive on it. The city streets are teaming with undead who carry on with their business as if the city had never perished.

There is the distant southern port of Fallen Grace, so named because it is said that the city was, like Phantomax, occupied by men and to be turned into a great bastion of human power, but the Enkanneth named Sartovas studied too deeply of the primordial secrets within and became mad, slaying all of his flock and then possibly casting the spell that coated the Southern Wastes in the Burning Dust.

North of the Burning Dust lies the great city of Phantomax…

Monday, April 14, 2014

B/X D&D Month XIV: Terragia, the Witch of Galitath

Terragia, the witch of Galitath

Some call her the Bramble Queen, for she is said to haunt the thick, spiny woods along the foothills of the Askofar Mountains. Others call her the Lady of Sar, for she seems to have an uncanny familiarity with the mechanical golems of the ancients, the so-called meks. Those men of the Barbarian Lands who claim to have met her in person say she is at once cunning and mad, and surrounded....always the hideous brambles that spring up wherever she walks.

On one occasion, the regional hero known as Arabast the Cleaver said he met Terragia on a dark night, under the harvest moon after a particularly gruesome battle against a horde of orcs. She was sifting through the hundreds of corpses that had piled high in the battle when she came upon Arabast, wounded and recovering from a rattling blow to the temple. She offered Arabast a choice: to suffer his wounds, but in so doing, if he healed, he would be stronger than he could imagine. Or she could heal him and insure his health, but in exchange he must give of her a portion of his spirit, his katra, as the Galitath call it, a concept similar to but not quite the same as a soul.

Arabast considered her offer and decided he would have none of her withccraft. She left him to his own means, as her hulking mechanical giants carried off dozens of corpses. A year later he found himself ruler of the entire Northrender clan, ten thousand warriors under his banner. "She knew my destiny," he once said to his young wife Ezeta, "and she let me choose it. I could have been fodder for her machines....I think she steals the katras of men, and that the meks she commands are powered by those fragments of our spirits."

The truth about Terragia remains a mystery, but there are a few other facts worth mentioning:

She is a friend to the efreet that dwell in subterranean cities beneath the silt deposits on the coastal plains

Terragia is visited once a year along the coast by a contingent of priests and nobles from the Great City Phantomax to the distant west, often bearing strange concotions and tomes of eldritch lore in exchange for some of her fabulous meks

Terragia is shunned by the orcs, and her mere presence at an engagement is enough to send them routing

At least a few priestesses of Suliversa in Tordalis claim that Terragia is the bastard daughter of their goddess, from a tryst with Tokandros

Armor Class: -2 (can only be hit by magic weapons and attacks)
Hit Dice: 12+12*** (M)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: staff or magic
Damage: 2D6+3 plus special
No. Appearing: unique, but usually has 1D4 Meks (RC pg. 192) with her
Save As: MU12
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: F (but see below)
Intelligence: 19
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 4,200
Creature Type: humanoid (enchanted, immortal)
Terrain: any area in the Barbarian Lands of Galitath

Staff Special: A +3 Staff of Power (8D6 damage fireball, lightning bolt, cone of cold, plus telekinesis, continual light; RC pg. 237)

Helm of Technomancy: Terragia's decorative helm contains ancient technomagical secrets which let her speak with and control the meks who serve her so willingly. Her helm also allows her to ethereally cut a portion of the katra of willing target away, and implant it in the ether engine of a mek to power it. An unwilling target of this effect (which she can do once per day) must make a save vs. petrification. The target loses 1 point of a mental attribute of choice but gains XP equal to their current level times 5,000. The experience diminishes the spirit but the immateial bond with the mek proves an enlightening experience. Once one's katra has been bonded to a mek that mek will always behave as a friend to the donor (so long as he/she lives).

Immortality: Like all demiurges, Terragia has a form of immortality, and can only be harmed by enchanted weapons and spells, and regenerates 2 hit points of damage per round. To slay her requires dismembering and burning her body. She will resurrect 1D6 months after being slain, appearing somewhere in the bramblewood of her homeland. The myths say that she can only be slain if one finds the exact crop of bramblewood and burns them down, then salts the earth.

Sorceress: Terragia is a gifted sorceress and commands all spells of 1st through 6th level as a 12th level magic user.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

B/X D&D Month XIII: The Barbarian Lands of Galitath

The Barbarian Lands of Galitath

The barbarians of Galitath are a proud, honorable and violent people. They are a cluster of tribes dwelling in one of the deadliest corners of the world of Pergerron, faced with the endless hordes of orcs and troglodytes from the Askofar Mountains, the supernatural evils of the countless ruins of Sar, especially the haunted walls of Rutana and Sagastor, and a vast, jagged coast where the Sullen Sea lies, which has only two states: violent and stormy or dead calm. The dead calm is the worst; those of Galitath who seek sustenance from the sea who get caught in the dead calms are often never seen again, as the burning sun tortures them while creatures from below the water rise to seize easy prey.

Travelers who come to Galitath realize that most of the locals live in small temporary tent cities. The Galitath are nomadic, but not by nature; they tend to settle in for weeks or even months, and pick up and move when things get too tough, or the local commodity of game or grain has been worn out. On occasion, when the vast hordes of the orcs, troglodytes or worse emerge from the mountains then they will move with great pace, sometimes abandoning their location with great haste, leaving only wicker frames and the occasional animal hide behind for the hordes to find.

Galitath is littered with the relics of he lost age. Ancient monuments will jut up from the dirt, suggesting a much larger structure or even an entire community buried beneath the earth. Evidence of catastrophicsm abounds; the seasonal storms off the Sullen Sea are devastating to the coast, in sharp contrast with the oddly calm waters the rest of the year, and tidal flooding can stretch deep inland at times. Earthquakes are frequent in this region, and can be felt for hundreds of miles. Often these earthquakes rock the coast and cause a violent tsunami, flooding for miles inland. The Galitath say it is the primordial Trigaril, chained beneath the sea, attempting to thrash about in his slumber induced by the Enkanneth to keep him from escaping.

The Galitath are a noble but exotic people. The women adorn themselves with heavy but flowing garb that remains comfortable year round. The men are obsessive in their dedication to their horses and the art of war, and there is no rule of law in the land other than the right of combat to resolve all disputes. The Galitath are the closest the region has to a truly egalitarian --if violent-- society.

In terms of religious practice the Galitath are formidable in their indifference. Only women tend to become priestesses, for the men as a culture feel that attending to matters greater than the flesh is a valueless cause. Men who worship other gods or seek out the practice of magic are branded heretics and exiled or killed. Women however are usually the community leaders and given much leeway to attend to more practical and spiritual matters. The high priestess of a large community is known as the Cha'nirka and her proclamations and visions often drive the direction and focus of the tribe.

Vosgathar and Zul'sin

Threats in the region are numerous, but the two greatest are the orcs of Vosgathar, where the demiurge Palagor Harad is believed to rule. The orcs of Vosgathar are the most organized and dangerous of all the orc kingdoms in the region (and there are many), and they regularly ride to war in the dead of night against the Galitath; it is regarded as a mark of honor and a passage to adulthood in the eyes of the Vosgathari orcs to slay a Galitath warrior in battle.

The other great threat is one which causes problems for orc and barbarian alike. The troglodytes of Zul'sin are a teeming horde which has grown so vast that the immensity of the underworld where they rule is severely overpopulated and the ecology of the underworld caverns cannot hope to sustain the fast-breeding beasts anymore. The troglodyte king, called Rapask, has decreed that their multitudinous numbers is a sign that they are destined for conquest, and he has been sending waves of his horde against all adjacent enemies, but most especially Vosgathar territory and the Galithath lands.

Other Encounters

Efreet appear randomly in this region and no one know why. A few hardy tribes of lupin and wood elves make the region their home. The elves call themselves the Kinaeth, and live in a horse-rider culture similar to the Galitath, though they worship the Enkanneth more vigorously and avoid combat when possible. The Galitath call them the "fair folk." The lupin however try to avoid everyone and keep to themselves.

Plot Ideas:

The Blanket Merchant: The merchant lord Kalithus of Samoskar has heard that the woven blankets of Galitath are of impressive quality. He needs mercenaries willing to travel with him to the harsh land to aid in securing a large haul for sale back home. However Kallithus is a poor planner and picks the worst time to travel to the Barbarian Lands: during the storm season, and during a new rise in raids from Zul'sin.

The Sullen Voyage: The adventurers are on a ship that has just sailed through the southern straights of Sydaren to the south into the Sullen Sea on the way to the distant Great City of Phantomax when the ship is caught in one of the notoriously unnerving deadly calms. The ship suddenly falls under attack of opportunistic shark-kin led by a trio of devious kopru.

The Secrets of Vodros: An elven scholar and antiquarian of Samoskar named Moden Raes has learned of the site of a hitherto unknown city buried beneath great silt deposits off the coast of the Barbarian Lands. He hires the adventurers to escort him there, to seek out the landmarks of great statues jutting haphazardly from the earth. On arrival, it turns out the statues are dormant meks still protecting the city beneath the silt, readily awoken once dug free of the earth. The city itself still has vast tunnelworks in a subterranean realm called Vodros, where a colony of efreet dwell. Unknown to everyone, Moden Raes is older than he looks, and remembers when Vodros was still an elven city in the lost empire of Sar...and he knows ancient, powerful magic items that could help him seek to restore that empire may yet exist.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

B/X D&D Month XII: The Mad Monk Astrahun, a crazed desert dervish with a deadly flock

To mix up the medley of gazetteer entries, monster entries and magic item stuff I've done so far I am going to include occasional one-shot random encounter ideas. First up: The Mad Monk Astrahun, a crazed desert dervish with a deadly flock...

Astrahun and his Flock

The mad monk was human, once. When Astrahun was a young servant of the enkanneth he wandered the streets of Samoskar preaching for the pious way and begging those who listened to seek forgiveness in the eyes of the Enkanneth for their failure to live up to the gifts the gods had stolen for man from the primordials. Astrahun was in his mid-twenties when he fell in with a rough crowd of flagellants who also partook of the seductively powerful and sometimes deadly hallucinogenic properties of the blue lotus, which grows along the length of the River Anansis. It was shortly after this that the monk began to hear the voices. It was these voices which commanded him to leave the safety of Samoskar, to begin a daring pilgrimage.

Astrahun traveled  nearly 600 miles with hsi enclave of lotus-addicted followers. He visited the ruined necropolis of Rutana, on a pilgrimage to follow the will of the sultry voice which bade him enter the wastelands of Sar, where he would receive true enlightenment. The story, as it goes, is that this spectral woman who would appear in dreams and whisper in his ear claimed to be the lost empress of the old empire of Sar, and Astrahun in his states of delusion would believe her, despite the fact that the oldest records of that time suggest Sar was ruled by a monstrous female gorgon called Euramiskas.

When Astrahun arrived in Rutana something terrible happened. His flock was destroyed or transformed and he gained a new flock as a result. He was scarred horribly, but gained a terrible new power that made him almost immortal. His eyes were opened to hidden truths within the ruins of Rutana, and now the voice commanded him toward a new direction: to wander the lands of Pergerron bringing the truth to its people.

Astrahun's flock has been visiting towns, villages and sometimes even cities for decades now. When they appear, assuming a large brawl does not ensue they will make themselves unwelcome guests as they proselytize while at the same time tearing up the town. His most benign cult followers are simple acolytes, while his more monstrous dedicates wait at the edge of civilization for the call to assault the place once the monk finds it unworthy of his preachings.

So who, then, does Astrahun preach of and pray to now? He calls her the Mistress of Queriaule, a mystical place said to be a dominion in the elemental Outworld where the Enkanneth and the Primordials struggled in their great war. Queriaule is mentioned on occasion as a great city of obelisks, in which rest the ghosts of all mages and witches who would seek magical knowledge and die unfulfilled in their quest. The Mistress of Queriaule is believed by those who have taken an interest in the monk to be one such vengeful spirit, perhaps a lich queen of some sort who for reasons unknown gains great benefit by sending the mad monk on his rampages.

Astrahun, the Mad Monk
Human Cleric level 11, Chaotic
ST 16 DX 12 CN 15 IN 14 WS 18 CH 18 (but -4 for appearance related checks)
HP 72, AC 6 (toughened skin)
Attacks: Heavy Mace+2 of confusion (1D8+3) plus special-anyone hit by Astrahun's mace or touch must make a save vs. spells or become subject to the effects of a Confusion Spell for 12 rounds
Spells Prepared:
1st Level: cause fear X2, cause light wounds, protection from good
2nd Level: hold person X2, know alignment, silence 15' radius
3rd Level: cause disease, speak with dead, striking
4th Level: animate dead X2, cause serious wonds
5th Level: insect plague X2
Special Trait: Astrahun has the touch of the Mistress of Queriaule upon him. Whenever he perishes he will regenerate 1D12 days later in the streets of the Outworld Necropolis of Queriaule, near the portal which opens in the heart of the ruins of Rutana.
Magic Items: heavy mace +2 of confusion, 2 potions of ethereality, 1 potion of undead control, ring of regeneration, ring of survival
XP Value: 3,875

The Flock: 

Astrahun's flock consists of several unusual creatures, the number of which can vary at any given time:
4D12 cultists (Level 1 clerics)
3D4 acolytes (level 2 clerics)
1D6 elder monks (level 1D4+2 clerics)
Saragon the Thoul bodyguard - this hideous mixture of hobgoblin, ghoul and troll was one of the denizens of Rutana compelled by he Mistress of Queriaule to serve and protect Astrahun. He does so with a +2 flaming longsword  (a tougher than normal thoul with HP 56, RC pg. 210)
4D12 goblins (loyal camp followers)
4D6 hobgoblins (servants and soldiers serving under Saragon)
2D4 lesser thouls
1D6 bargda who are just mercenaries looking to raid and loot

Plot Ideas:

Astrahun is terrorizing the local village with his zealotry....the town is treating him with kid's gloves because they know his monstrous followers lurk nearby, but need someone to kick him out of town...

The PCs encounter him while roving the land with his followers; he takes a keen interest in converting them to the way of his dark mistress.

Astrahun recently suffered a setback, and he is encountered while alone and traveling across the Wastelands of Sar in an effort to rebuild his flock.

Astrahun gained a potent convert: the orcish warlord Faragosh of the Dreshani Woods. He suddenly has a loyal army at his command, and Eskallin and Tordalis are so close....ready for conversion by sword and fire!

Friday, April 11, 2014

B/X D&D Month XI: Burning Men

Burning Men
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6+3** (M)
Move: 60' (40')
Attacks: claw attack or weapon plus special
Damage: 1D6 by claw or per weapon plus 1D6 fire
No. Appearing: 1D8 (2D12)
Save As: F6
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: E (but see below)
Intelligence: 13
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 950
Creature Type: undead (enchanted)
Terrain: any desert, arid or area with risk of natural fires

The burning men are among the worst sort of undead: not unlight wights, these cunning creatures are formed through an unholy combination of elemental fire and necromancy, imbuing the dead with evil intelligence and a perpetually burning body.

Because they are so destructive, necromancers who create burning men usually keep them in stony enclaves, held fast with thick wrought-iron gates or stone drops to insure they are not able to cause destruction until released. Burning men do occasionally escape...and some are even formed naturally, if the right combination of vile murderer put to death by fiery means intercedes with the right elements then a burning man can appear spontaneously. Such burning men, either escaped or natural, often cause great amounts of damage before disappearing, some believe consumed by their own fire, others believe pulled into the elemental plane of fire until a future time when they are once more released.

When in combat with a burning man they deal 1D6 additional fire damage with their claw and weapon attacks, and anyone who touches one will take the fire damage as well. A burning man can spontaneously explode as well; this explosion functions like a fireball centered on the undead, dealing 6D6 fire damage to everyone in a 20 foot radius around the burning man. Burning men are, themselves, immune to fire damage from all sources except when they explode; after the explosion there is nothing left of the immolated and detonated corpse.

Burning men are known to carry treasure left upon their person from their death, but flammable items are usually burned away and metallic items such as coins and weapons are usually dangerously hot to the touch (dealing the fire damage when wielded) until roughly 3D10 minutes after the burning man is destroyed, unless some other means of cooling is presented.

The Elder Scrolls Online - I don't know why I ever doubted you, Bethesda

Maybe the whole Zenimax Studios thing made me nervous (but seeing my wife in the beta suggests otherwise)...maybe I've been on hiatus from MMORPGs long enough to have gotten away from the doldrums of playing this style of game (that's not it)...all I know is I had planned not to delve into The Elder Scrolls Online for a while, maybe wait until it went F2P or something (despite my dislike of the F2P model). Today I picked up a copy on a lark, and the desperate need for sleep is the only reason I pulled myself away long enough to make this comment and hit the sack.

Bottom Line first night review: it's got all the best stuff I like from a Bethesda RPG, wrapped up in an MMO veneer; I've been playing for several hours now, and it really feels like a Bethesda RPG. It's refreshingly good, and I am deleting all my other MMOs now on the PC except for Final Fantasy XIV (because I still have two more months on my sub there). I don't know why I would play any other MMO now that TESO is out.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pergerron in Magic World...

Nothing like one game system to distract me from another....I am thinking about adapting the Pergerron stuff to MW now. Hmmm. Must decide if I should just edit the prior posts with MW extras, or repost entire new entries specifically customized for MW.....decisions, decisions...

(Secret fact: my original draft for Pergerron had RQ or MW in mind, so this is not much of a stretch)

Advanced Sorcery for Magic World is in the Wild

With no particular announcement (yet), Magic World's first sourcebook Advanced Sorcery has arrived on scene. You can find it in print here and in PDF at a nice discount here. I just ordered the physical book (along with a bunch of other stuff from Chaosium....hoping they have gotten their order turn-around times and customer service problems I was subjected to last year straightened out) and nabbed the PDF as well for good measure. First impressions: it doesn't look like a lot of retooled older content (though if you're in the "I don't like old Chaosium art" this book will live up to your expectations), but based on the front page credits most of this comes from other older sources, some as far back as Runequest 3rd edition's Vikings (Runes), The Bronze Grimorie, and others.

Advanced Sorcery has sections on:

Advanced Sorcery - more new spells for the core sorcery system from Magic World.

Deep Magic - this looks like a freeform sort of "combine elements to create spells" magic system...must read more on it to see what it is and how it works.

The Summoner's Arts - lots of new stuff on summoning demons.  Lots and lots of content on summoning the weirdest randomly generated demons you could ever hope for, as well as elementals.

Rune Magic - using magical transcriptions to create spell effects. A familiar concept handled a tiny bit differently here than in other BRP systems. A typo? The summary calls them glyphs, but the ToC and chapter label them runes. Hmmm.

Necromancy - my favorite topic, and a look at the nitty gritty of making the undead, as well as details on the undead themselves. This will get a lot of attention in my games.

Arete - a convergence of mystical superhumanism and incredible skill scores; when you get 100 or better in skills, your arete lets you do fantastical things. A really interesting idea and alternative to what has only been touched on in Legend's legendary abilities, previously.

Herbalism - a system for adding herbal concoctions to the game.

I just got this book, so what is above is based on a quick once-through. A formal review to come! I can safely say that it's time to pull out Magic World for a new campaign...just in time, too, since I've got some serious burnout going on in my Wednesday Pathfinder games. Pathfinder is a hard game to play when other, better systems like Magic World and 13th Age beckon....

B/X D&D Month X: The Heart of Sarpoxas, an Evil Artifact

The Heart of Sarpoxas
(Greater artifact, entropy, evil/chaos)

History: Located in the depths of the catacombs beneath the blastered temple of Sarpoxas in the center of the ruins of Shatan is an ancient, evil artifact. The heart was created in the pre-cataclysmic era when the Enkanneth descended from the heavens, using their power stolen from the primordials which they had defeated to rain death upon their monstrous and aberrant followers, destroying the ancient cities and empires of that era. It was then that mankind was created, or so the myths of the River Kingdoms say. In this era it is said that the god Katas descended upon the temple of Sarpoxas in the city of Shatan and handed it over to the last living high priest of the primordial, with the missive that he must keep it safe, and never let any mortal look upon or touch it. With that he geased the high priest Karinthos, turning him in to a sphinx.

Description: The Heart of Sarpoxas looks like a soul jar in which a heart is suspended in a deep, blue solution that glows with an evanescent light. The jar's contents pulse with a rhythmic beating.

Powers: The Heart of Sarpoxas can grant terrible powers to the wielder with the power of a 40th level caster:
Defenses - Wearer is immune to death effects, poison, petrification and turning effects
Polymorph Any Object - this may be cast at will
Travel - at will, through any plane of existence; if the user does not specify a plane, it will go immediately to the blasted Plane of Chaos where Sarpoxas's vast corpse rests
Maze - the bearer may cast maze at will
Shapechange - the bearer may cast shapechange on himself at will
Weather Control - the bearer may cast the druid spell at will

Handicap: the bearer of the Heart of Sarpoxas becomes a vessel for the god's evil presence, and whenever a power is invoked the bearer must make a Save vs. Death Ray to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the primordial's spirit. When this happens the bearer's own mind is momentarily displaced in the jar and Sarpoxas is in control.

Penalty: Each time one of the spells granted by the artifact is used the bearer loses 1 Constitution for one hour. Each day that the body of the bearer is under possession of Sarpoxas's spirit it takes 1 permant Constitution damage. If the body reaches zero Con it perishes, rising again as a greater undead 1D4 days later, but unable to use (or be used by) the Heart anymore. When a host dies, Sarpoxas's soul immediately returns to the jar.

Notes: the jar radiates as both evil and chaotic. It cannot be used by undead; living beings alone serve as potential vessels for Sarpoxas's soul-projections.