Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Carrion Mage

Here’s an undead ghoulie inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft that I posted in the Dragonsfoot ClassicD&D forums sometime ago; yes, I am Strange Vistor lurking there.  
"The nethermost caverns," wrote the mad Arab, "are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl."
 -- H.P. Lovecraft, The Festival

Carrion Mage*

Armor Class:         3                                  No. Appearing:     1
Hit Dice:                  11–14**                      Save As: Wizard: 11–14
Move:                        120’ (40’)                   Morale:                    11
Attacks:                    1 Touch or                 Treasure Type:     F 
                                   1 Spell
Damage:                  1–8 + paralysis         Alignment:             Chaotic 
                                     or by Spell or
                                     by engulfment

Carrion Mages are undead created when the specially prepared body of a dead Chaotic magic-user is devoured by scavengers, such as worms, beetles or other vermin.  The scavengers, dominated by the dead magic-user’s will, assume a human form made up of a swarm of the vermin that feasted on the spellcaster’s dead flesh.  Carrion Mages always return to their former lair or can be found wherever they are needed to further their nefarious schemes.  A carrion mage is still able to use spells as it did while alive, which makes it a formidable adversary.

Carrion Mages will always clothe themselves as though they were still alive, using gloves and a waxen mask of their former face to complete the illusion.  Carrion Mages can even speak, though their voice is the dry rattle of multitudinous insect parts rubbing together or the whisper of countless worms sliding over one another.  Once the carrion mage’s true nature is revealed, however, all characters must save vs. paralysis or flee in abject fear; those who make the save still suffer a –1 to all rolls while within the carrion mage’s presence.

A carrion mage may also shed it's human shape altogether to enable it to engulf characters as an Insect Swarm (B37) with increased Hit Dice.

Carrion Mages can only be damaged by fire, spells or magical weapons, all of which will only do half damage.  They are unaffected by charm person, hold and sleep spells.  Note that morale is given as 11, but if a carrion mage finds itself in actual danger, either from adventurers or some other threat, they may disperse the individual vermin that make up their gestalt form, which will scurry away into the darkness, disappear down tiny crevices or otherwise affect an escape.  A carrion mage can reform its horrid swarm body in a number of hours equal to its hit dice.

Supplemental/Supporting Information on Carrion Mages:

Cleric Turning Table

Cleric Level
Carrion Mage

This entry goes on the Cleric vs. Undead table (Expert Set, page X5), after the entry for Vampire.  As you see above carrion mages cannot be destroyed by a cleric, only turned.  If at higher levels (15–36), a ‘D’ result is possible the carrion is dispersed rather than destroyed.    In any case, if a cleric gains a T or D result when attempting to turn an undead spellcaster, like the Carrion Mage, the undead may make a saving throw vs. spells to avoid the effect entirely.


Carrion Reincarnation                                                                           Range: 0’
                                                                                                                            Duration: 24 hours
If a Chaotic magic-user is killed before the expiration of this spell, regardless of how his body is disposed of, he will rise from death as a carrion mage in one year and a day.  Only burning the body to ashes can prevent this gruesome resurrection.

Additional Comments:

Unlike Advanced D&D, the Vampire is the high-end of undead fiends in Basic/Expert D&D and I have always wished for something more, like AD&D's Lich, an undead magic user.  So the Carrion Mage was my answer, inspired by Lovecraft.  Carrion Mages are meant to be the scheming, plotting heart of terrible events in a campaign, always at the center of a complex and convoluted plan to bring local civilization to its knees and under the carrion mage's heel.

I've also toyed with a version called a 'Carrion Faithful' that's an undead cleric cursed (blessed?) by some eldritch horror for the cleric's dutiful service to a writhing eternity of service to its loathsome, inhuman master(s).  Swap out the origins and substitute Cleric spells for Magic User's and you're done.  Mix, match and dispatch; player characters, that is.

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