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Old 06-28-2020, 10:01 PM   #31
khorboth
 
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

Have you considered a sentient magic item? Posses a new and desirable body whenever you feel like it. Maybe a small hierarchy of such entities? Reward top servants with that kind of immortality. Swords, amulets, etcetra.

Or... a "race" of such beings where the next generation is commissioned rather than born.
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Old 06-29-2020, 12:52 PM   #32
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

They're not strictly undead (with one exception), but the sorcerer-kings of Athas may qualify.
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Old 06-30-2020, 09:22 PM   #33
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

How about a sentient graveyard? Some kind of horrific conglomerate hivemind formed of the buried dead that stretches its tendrils out under the city that surrounds it.
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Old 06-30-2020, 09:45 PM   #34
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

How about a sentient mass grave from an ancient atrocity that seeks to replace its corpses as they gradually decay? For example, Bai Qi supposed had his army bury 450,000 captured Zhao soldiers alive after he defeated the Zhao in the Battle of Changping in 260 BC. They are still finding the bones, over 2,000 years after the battle, and I could imagine that such a site in a magical setting would result in something really bad evolving.
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Old 11-24-2020, 12:00 PM   #35
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Beryl Silvertress, Kraghaldra "The Barrener"

GURPS Character Sheet 1
GURPS Character Sheet 2

Meta:

In the Ravenloft setting, dwarven vampires are also termed hulzurdan and feature different powers from human vampires. Another departure from the human-centric world of vampires, Beryl Silvertress (Kraghaldra, "embracer of the earth") is a despoiler spirit, leaving a trail of ruined vegetation behind her as she drains the landscape of its vitality. Person to person, she is a potent combatant, and her ability to walk through stone makes her an evasive enemy. I designed her with an affinity for the earth, as a chthonic monster like the Greek giant Antaeus. True to her name, Kraghaldra cannot be truly killed as long as she is in contact with the ground - the only way to kill her is to isolate her in water or hold her aloft in the air.

Backstory:

Kraghaldra is an intermediary between the lich king's leadership, and the dwarf clans in the distant southeast of the realm. The dwarves who know her give her a wide berth, knowing that she patrols the wilderness and mountain caves. They leave her offerings of gems and ores as they work the mountain mines, although some provide her with intelligence reports.

Appearance:

Silvertress is a ruddy-skinned female dwarf with white braided hair and red eyes. She is just passable enough as a living dwarf, but if she goes for too long without feeding, she becomes pale and her appearance becomes more feral. Like most dwarves, she is shorter and stouter than a human of similar strength, making her surprisingly heavy.

Personality:

Her name, Kraghaldra, means "embracer of the earth" - although she has another nickname of "The Barrener". This comes from her draining effect on the earth around her: vegetation and grass tend to wither where she walks, leaving a barren landscape behind. More insidiously, Kraghaldra herself undergoes rapid healing when she stonewalks.

Kraghaldra's regeneration has made her bitterly reckless with regards to her own safety. She will occasionally provoke a fight, only to fade into the ground and then toy with her prey, reappearing and attacking from below or from behind. Alone among the Kargat leadership, she is not in awe of Siberyleus Magnus, since her underground mobility keeps her safe from his teleportation. This tension with the rest of the Kargat structure has resulted in her deployment far from the urban centers, with the closest other Capitus Kargat leader being Skeintwist - a much more alien being.

Telltale signs:

In addition to her pallor when unfed, and her withering of nearby plant life, Kraghaldra also takes direct damage from sunlight.

Invitation:

Kraghaldra does not need invitations to enter buildings, but she cannot cross any boundary described by worked metal - a circle of metal shavings is effective at keeping her at bay.

Sustenance:

Kraghaldra must drain the life force from victims to prevent rapid ageing. This can be through her Lifebane effect to plant life, although she personally prefers the taste of blood. (Her blood draining is not a healing ability, merely a hunger satiation measure.)

Sleep:

Kraghaldra must spend at least 6 hours per week resting in her crypt of hewn stone, far underground. The crypt could theoretically be destroyed, but the undertaking would be equal to dismantling a stone building.

Movement:

Kraghaldra can move freely through stone or earth as though it were not there. She can see through 2 yards' depth of stone, allowing her to lurk beneath unsuspecting victims on the surface of the stone, and surprising them with an attack from below.

Shapechanging:

Kraghaldra does not have any natural shapechanging ability.

Bite:

Her bite allows her to stave off "natural" death, by draining blood, but is not otherwise unusually strong as a combat weapon. She therefore needs to first immobilize her enemy before employing this attack. Her bite does allow her to mentally dominate those she injures by it.

Equipment:

Kraghaldra's stonewalking ability also extends to any carried equipment, allowing her to carry it beyond the immediate reach of enemies. This has been used on occasion to obtain a valuable or key magical item for the Kargat.

Combat:

Kraghaldra possesses numerous axes, both melee and throwing (several of which return to her hand after being thrown). She has been known to carry a shield, as well as various enchanted gems with various magical effects. If an enemy begins to get the better of her, Kraghaldra can sink below the surface of the ground if she is standing on stone or earth. She regenerates health quickly underground (1 HP per minute) and can regroup for another attack, often from a surprise direction. She cannot throw her axes while underground - once they leave her hand, they would become blocked normally by the stone - so she must occasionally make herself vulnerable overground in order to initiate her attack.

Death:

Kraghaldra is unable to heal if she is prevented from returning to the stone. This can be accomplished in a few ways: she can be trapped aboveground by metal, either on a metal floor or if blocked by metal shavings (they prevent her from stonewalking through them). She can also be trapped in water (despite her stocky build, she still floats, and would need to reach the shore in order to return to the earth). She can also be held aloft, during which time she is unable to heal and could be killed by more conventional means.

For PCs:

Kraghaldra is a devious combatant, and her stonewalking ability makes her an effective operative for heists or kidnappings.
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Old 11-27-2020, 05:32 PM   #36
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Tenebraevorax, Nosferatu Undercity Oracle

GURPS Character Sheet 1
GURPS Character Sheet 2
GURPS Character Sheet 3

Meta:

This vampire is intended to be a closer stylistic design to a nosferatu, the feral ghoul-like plague vampire from older European lore and made famous by Count Orlok in the movie Nosferatu. Its clearly monstrous appearance makes it less suitable as an active interloper in the world of the living, so I designed it functionally to act as a static brooding evil observer, closely tied to the territory of Il Aluk and keeping a constant vigil over the city's underworld. Its thematic affinities are swarms of insects and rats, the scourge of devouring vermin, and the ability to gain a creature's knowledge by consuming it - although the weight of centuries of collected knowledge are weighing down its weary consciousness.

Backstory:

Tenebraevorax ("The Dark Eater") is closely tied to the capital city of and predates the current king's own regime. During the lich king's own campaign to assume rulership, his forces discovered the nosferatu in the long-buried catacombs beneath the city, resting in a dungeon complex that was possibly an ancient royal fortress. Tenebraevorax may be the oldest continuous consciousness in the realm. Despite this, Tenebraevorax's sphere of interest and its powerful perception is strictly limited to the capital city. Several theories circulate about its supernatural origin - the current fashion assumes that Tenebraevorax was some sort of quasi-deified forgotten king, buried where he ruled, and dedicated to protect the city in a ritual gone wrong.
Intrigued by the vampire's ability to gain the memories directly through eating living creatures, the lich king set up a Kargat branch to provide it with a steady diet of prisoners, as well as to coordinate Kargat operations in the vast capital. Although technically a Capitus (General) in the secret police, Tenebraevorax is perhaps better classified as an oracular source - the high Kargat rank is more a courtesy title, imposing a line of command for the numerous lesser Kargat who rely on its knowledge to police the capital area.

Appearance:

Tenebraevorax is a wizened, hairless humanoid with two sharp incisor teeth, disproportionately large ears, and elongated claws on its hands and feet. It has no external gender characteristics and appears to be completely neuter. Its skin is deathly pale from centuries spent underground, and a scent of rot and decay surrounds it. The current Kargat minders keep it swaddled in funeral robes, though bloodied by frequent feedings. On the rare occasions that Tenebraevorax is roused from slumber, it habitually tears away its robes to stalk the tunnels as an emaciated, sexless pale corpse.

It spends most of its time sleeping, occasionally uttering mysterious prophecies, which its Kargat attendants immediately transcribe and cross-reference. Often, the Kargat agents bring significant captives to feed it (sometimes shapechanged into vermin for easy consumption), adding their living memories to its already-impressive collection.

The nosferatu's reposing body is periodically visited by swarms of vermin, ranging in animal size from tiny midges and gnats to sewer rats, which share their combined senses and memories with their master. Thus Tenebraevorax has a constant citywide dream state of awareness about the city's dealings.

Personality:

When awake, Tenebraevorax is extremely powerful, and might be a potent threat to the Kargat... if it weren't halfway gone into senescence already. Now concerned only with its dreams of a million eyes on the city, Tenebraevorax is ill-tempered and loth to be disturbed. Usually, the Kargat feed Tenebraevorax at dawn, allowing it the day's slumber to digest the memories of its victims, with any utterances analyzed in the mid-afternoon, and the Kargat adjusting their operations accordingly by the dusk dispatch.

Tenebraevorax no longer understands any current language, speaking only in a distant early dynasty's forgotten dialect. The Kargat officers in its supporting crypt must rely heavily on magical assistance to decode its statements. Tenebraevorax can absorb knowledge from consumed victims through its Mind Probe and Mind Reading abilities without needing any intervening linguistic medium.

Invitation:

Tenebraevorax rarely moves, except to control its swarms of vermin. Neither the nosferatu nor its swarms need any invitation to enter buildings in and around the city center of the modern capital city above (roughly corresponding to the historical limits of the old city when Tenebraevorax walked the earth). Evidence suggests that the nosferatu and its swarms cannot venture outside of the city.

Sustenance:

Tenebraevorax feeds on the flesh and blood of living animals, although it can go for long periods of hibernation without feeding. It can also absorb the memories of creatures it devours, with simple beasts absorbed instantaneously (thus making rats, bats, insects, etc. a good source of up-to-date intel of things all around the city) but more sophisticated memories typically requiring several hours of digestion and dreamwork to properly analyze.

Sleep:

Tenebraevorax requires sleep in its Ancient Royal Crypt several levels below the surface of the capital city, and it will lose HP at a rate of 1/10 minutes spent away from the crypt. The natural vermin swarms under its mind control have no such limitation, but the personal vermin swarm constituting the nosferatu's shapeshifted form is subject to this limitation.

Tenebraevorax's requirements for sleep have steadily increased in recent years, as the strain of consciousness (and the increasing burden of the accumulated memories in its psyche) is taking its toll. The lich king initially prioritized research into Tenebraevorax's strange mnemophagic abilities, but discontinued it after witnessing the limitations on Tenebraevorax's mental functions.

Movement and Shapechanging:

Tenebraevorax has preternatural speed when it is active, both from its innate Basic Speed and its Altered Time Rate. If forced to a dead end, Tenebraevorax can shapeshift into a swarm of rats to swamp and attack its assailants, or it can shapeshift into a swarm of flying insects and slip through any permeable surface (including clothes after 2 seconds and metal armor after 5 seconds).

Bite:

Tenebraevorax's bite attack restores 1 HP healed per 3 HP drained, and it can drain up to 9 HP per second.

Combat:

With Altered Time Rate, Tenebraevorax can mentally react twice as fast as most mortals in combat situations, potentially taking monster hunters by surprise even when they have it cornered in its Royal Crypt. The nosferatu can also cause heavy damage with its hand and feet claws, and can overwhelm an isolated living foe by drinking its blood. Even if a combat goes against Tenebraevorax, the nosferatu typically assumes swarm form and retreats to regroup and strike again.

Death:

It is suspected that Tenebraevorax can be permanently destroyed by despoiling its Royal Crypt or otherwise making it impossible for Tenebraevorax to heal while inside it - one potential plan by the lich king involves flooding the crypt with water channeled through a series of blessing sluices to sanctify it.

Less terminally, the Kargat has dealt with several of Tenebraevorax's destructive rampages using powerful sleep magicks. The police have also built a containment mechanism: upon trigger, two main access tunnels (underneath one of the large manmade shipping canals of Il Aluk) will flood with riverwater. This may not kill Tenebraevorax but it is likely to delay it, even in gnat swarm Diffuse Form, at least long enough for more permanent countermeasures.

For PCs:

Tenebraevorax is a largely immobile enemy, more a genius loci than an evil genius. Even when active, Tenebraevorax is limited in its range to the Old City limits - meaning that PCs could conceivably escape it by a mad dash out of the dungeon and back across into the modern city streets. Its unmoving nature makes it highly suitable for the culmination of a more traditional dungeon delve adventure. Early encounters can introduce its vermin servitors, and possibly Kargat shapechangers of fitting species - wererats and werebats would be especially appropriate. (PCs may also potentially encounter Tenebraevorax after reacting to a series of spying vermin, perhaps incorrectly believing them to be wizards' familiars or other minor servitors. Attempting to mind-control the vermin swarms, or otherwise interact with them magically, will suddenly reveal that a profound and massively powerful intellect is controlling these swarms.)

For campaigns set around the capital city, Tenebraevorax's dungeon can be a focal point for a plot arc aimed at destabilizing the Kargat. The dungeon was once a military installation above-ground in a forgotten dead dynasty, and it became an archeological buried site in the intervening centuries. The most recent king before the current lich king repurposed the dungeon as an emergency underground command and supply network, in case other rulers attacked the city (and a few points of secure access to the overworld still exist - including access shafts for sending and receiving messenger birds and other logistics).
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Old 11-27-2020, 07:16 PM   #37
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

The Atoner: This is not really compatible with the concept of a vampire kingdom. Well not quite though, the Undead Warriors that answer the summons of Isildur's heir show a way to handle an army of Atoners.

This undead is in a sort of purgatorial state awaiting the completion of some task. This can take two forms.

The straight atoner. This is simply a good guy.

The Knight Templar atoner. Is so desperate to fulfill his task that he might as well have turned to the evil side. Probably has Delusion disadvantage.
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Old 12-22-2020, 12:43 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I would add a human necromancer who gains energy from corrupting her sexual conquests and uses it to fuel her magic.
Great idea! One build I posted above is very close to this (Kazandra, Cosmopolitan Temptress). It's not explicitly sexual though could easily be modded to be - in my build, she just gains energy by wassailing and carousing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedKagouti View Post
centuries old scholarly wizard who became a lich just so they had enough time to finish their lenghty experiments for the benefit of the lands they live in. [...] the citizens have accepted the lich's role first as a trusted advisor and later as the stable and "benevolent" ruler
This is incidentally my mind's eye of the entire realm, as envisioned. The king is the first of his kind, having united several squabbling city-states, and now remains mostly aloof and distant. The populace is either indifferent to him or faintly supportive, as his rule has created a long-lasting peace (as well as things like standardized units, infrastructure, etc.). The king is indeed a lich, and controls the wild roaming undead in the countryside, which is at the heart of much of the society's terror about death, so he has to keep this part of his personality very secret.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollonian View Post
How about a sentient graveyard? Some kind of horrific conglomerate hivemind formed of the buried dead that stretches its tendrils out under the city that surrounds it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
How about a sentient mass grave from an ancient atrocity that seeks to replace its corpses as they gradually decay?
Both of these ideas are great - I feel like they would be less a statted character, and more likely a terrain feature or dungeon feature. I have one fairly important location in my dungeon that does feature an archeological battlefield with hundreds of unburied corpses, so a restless mass spirit will animate the bones and attack trespassers unless they carry a relevant ward. The dungeon's servitors carry these, but the PCs likely do not, unless they can get a sufficient number from waylaying the dungeon grunts.
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Old 12-23-2020, 11:13 AM   #39
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

How about a council of living ancestors? A society in which the ruling caste consists of undead who are selected on merit from the living or at least a cadre of the mummified remains of its greatest individuals serve as a ruling council?

China Miellville had something along these lines in the Thanatocracy of High Cromlech.
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Old 12-23-2020, 07:30 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
a human necromancer who gains energy from corrupting her sexual conquests and uses it to fuel her magic.

In effect, she uses a modified form of Leech to transfer her Corruption to her lovers during sex,

allowing her to practice magic without any cost to herself.
A point of corruption can stand in for a point of FP when casting magic, so if you're being leeched it doesn't sound like the worst option to allow a player to say "I want to keep my FP so I take Corruption instead" but maybe that option should be a perk?

Corruption doesn't go away as easily as HP/FP or other scores so being able to inflict that sort of damage on someone seems like a lot more useful.

10 points of corruption is a -1 disadvantage after all.

Steal Youth enhancement on P96 might be closer to this. We could call a variant of this "Steal Purity" where you lose corruption in response to a foe gaining it, instead of losing age in response to a foe gaining it.

Where we have seen old age represented as a disadvantage is under Fright Checks, B361 "(for this purpose, each year of age counts as -3 points)."

If one year is -3 then 4 months should be -1.

The effect of Steal Youth is level months per second, so it takes 4 seconds to inflict a permanent (and cumulative) quirk on your target.

That sounds like it should work out to 2.5 corruption-transfer per second (4 seconds = 10 corruption = quirk)
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