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DM Guide (Moertus Supplement)
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The World of Moertus can be ran as a standard fantasy campaign setting, using little more then the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual, but if a DM wishes to use the story-arc this world was created for then the use of Heroes of Horror will be required as well. All references to Taint correspond with the rules presented in that supplement.
This section details the particulars of this story-arc as well as covering several “DM sensitive” subjects, so even DMs who don’t plan to use the story-arc should read this section. What follows is a set of sub-sections, starting with a general introduction of the story-arc followed by a breakdown of events and specific rule modifications or relevant stats. Beyond the story-arc information is a breakdown of several fundamental “secrets” of the universe.
Moertus as described in the Setting Section is a world that sees wars between the “good” races as a memory, one where unification may soon bring about a Golden Age. Unfortunately they are unaware of a centuries old evil that has been silently working against them, one that will turn their budding Golden Age into a unfathomable nightmare. This is the Moertus the Players find themselves in.
The “centuries old evil” is a Mummy Lord, called Aphasius, who has lured a cult of Vecna worshipers into helping him carry out a nefarious plan: The creation of a massive undead army from the population of every nation in Moertus. Unknown to the cultists Aphasius’ plans are far darker then that, and his true patron Orcus demands no less then the destruction of all life on Moertus.
Aphasius has brooded over and plotted the destruction of the world for centuries, but he found his golden opportunity with the formation of the Alliance. Aphasius has worked on his plot and has spent the past quarter century working with numerous dark cults and sects to place his unwitting Vecna worshipers in key positions throughout the civilized realms of the land. Aphasius has also drawn two outcasts, evil beings too twisted to be accepted by their evil brethren, a male Drow Thief and a male Duergar Warrior into his plot to destroy Moertus. These two depraved men utilize an ancient artifact from the time of the Athar to Taint the magic of Moertus. As all his most insidious plans come to be Aphasius simply waits as civilization falls.
Aphasius is a Mummy Lord (as described in the Monster Manual), with the following alterations:
|Mummy Lord, 10th-Level Cleric / 12th-Level Wizard|
|Hit Dice:||8d12 plus 10d8 plus 12d4 (148 hp)|
|Speed:||15 ft. in half-plate armor (3 squares); base speed 20 ft.|
|Armor Class:||30 (+1 Dex, +10 natural, +9 +2 half-plate armor),, touch 11, flat-footed 29|
|Attack:||Slam +20 melee (1d6+12/19–20 plus mummy rot)|
|Full Attack:||Slam +20 melee (1d6+12/19–20 plus mummy rot)|
|Space/Reach:||5 ft./5 ft.|
|Special Attacks:||Despair, mummy rot, rebuke undead, spells|
|Special Qualities:||Damage reduction 5/–, darkvision 60 ft., resistance to fire 10, undead traits, vulnerability to fire|
|Saves:||Fort +13, Ref +8, Will +20|
|Abilities:||Str 26, Dex 12, Con —, Int 18, Wis 20, Cha 17|
|Skills:||Concentration +8, Craft (alchemy) +18, Knowledge (religion) +5, Knowledge (biology) +18,Knowledge (arcana) +18, Hide +7, Intimidate +12, Listen +22, Move Silently +7, Search +6, Spellcraft +18, Spot +22|
|Feats:||Alertness, Brew Potion, Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item, Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (slam), Improved Initiative, Persuasive, Weapon Focus (slam)|
Despair (Su): At the mere sight of Aphasius, the viewer must succeed on a DC 19 Will save or be paralyzed with fear for 1d4 rounds. As well there is no limit to the number of times per day a creature may be affected by this despair. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Unlike normal diseases, Aphasius' mummy rot continues until the victim reaches Consitution 0 (and dies) or is cured as described below.
Mummy rot is a powerful curse, not a natural disease. A character attempting to cast any conjuration (healing) spell on a creature afflicted with mummy rot must succeed on a DC 20 caster level check, or the spell has no effect on the afflicted character.
To eliminate mummy rot, the curse must first be broken with break enchantment or remove curse (requiring a DC 20 caster level check for either spell), after which a caster level check is no longer necessary to cast healing spells on the victim, and the mummy rot can be magically cured as any normal disease.
An afflicted creature who dies of Aphasius' mummy rot shrivels into a desiccated corpse, that rises as a Standard Mummy within 1d4 rounds after death. These undead are completly under the control of Aphasius, and will always fight to the end defending him. Aphasius is only able to create and control 10 such Mummies at one time. If any are destroyed, Aphasius will create another as soon as possible. Any creature infected with Aphasius' Mummy Rot, while he has 10 slave Mummies, will shrivel away into sand and dust that blows away into nothing at the first wind when they die (as per standard Mummy Rot).
Arcane Spells: Aphasius' Spellbook can contain any spell listed in the Player's Handbook. DMs should determine his spells, and those he keeps memorized before Players actually interact with him. DMs should select spells that will add to the flavor of their story, and not be constrained with only spells listed in the PHB if they wish.
Possessions: +2 half-plate armor, cloak of resistance +2, ring of minor energy resistance (fire), brooch of shielding. DMs may wish to alter (or add additional) magic items to Aphasius. DMs may feel free to do so, being careful to modify any stats or abilties that might be altered by changing his items.
Nearly 500 years ago Aphasius lived as an Elven Wizard in the Feyois Forest. Never satisfied with the power he could obtain, he began worshiping Orcus while still living among his good natured people. When he was discovered, the Elves cast him out. Aphasius wandered into the north and vanished beneath the Rigsholm Mountains. When Aphasius next reappeared he convinced a group of Duergar Priests to perform a unique mummification ritual, the process of which came from Orcus himself. Aphasius was mummified while still being kept alive by dark magic, and as he rose completed he transformed into a Mummy Lord of extreme power.
At this point in his existence Aphasius came upon the realization that he could rule the world with his dark master’s help, and he set about that task without delay. Aphasius found it easy to control undead around him and at first took to the idea of raising an undead army, but Orcus whispered; “...why control just an army...when you could control all...if they where dead...”. Aphasius threw himself into the task, and soon determined that a highly contagious disease, that transformed the living into undead, would suit his purpose. As long as he could defeat two factors; the plan being discovered before the disease could be dispersed, and the use of magic to cure the disease before it could destroy the entire population. In time and with the aid of Orcus, Aphasius was able to create his hideous virus, one that would remain dormant until Aphasius triggered it.
As the years passed Aphasius made contact with various evil cults, never revealing his true nature or intent, and formed contacts within these groups. Eventually Aphasius was able to approach a rather extensive cult of Vecna worshipers that spread throughout nearly all nations, and with the help of these evil mages Aphasius set about using the Alliance against itself.
During this time Aphasius met the only other two mortals who know of his grand plan, and Orcus’ role in it. One is a Duergar named Wordun Hammersoul (Fighter 9th / Cleric 3rd), and the other is a Drow named Arvin Larnz (Rogue 10th / Cleric 2nd). Both of these men were cast out of their homelands for turning to Orcus for power, and in turn the Demon Lord lead them to Aphasius and they have served him since. As Aphasius spent his time forming alliances under various guises and plotting the steps of his master plan, Wordun and Arvin set out to recover an ancient Athar sword called Morsblade. Morsblade was said to have been cursed by Nicor himself, with this unholy item they planned to disrupt magical retaliation against the coming plague.
Once they returned Aphasius constructed an item that would use the cursed sword, and energy stolen from the deaths of innocents as the plague struck, to Taint the very fabric of magic in Moertus. Once all was in place Aphasius set into motion the events that will consume Moertus.
Aphasius has waited a long time to bring his plans to fruition, every year the Rulers of the various nations would met at Nidaros to strengthen their “Alliance”. The Elves had fabricated devices that allowed the Rulers to Teleport from their seats of power to the Great Meeting Hall in the center of the Free City. Each time these devices were used Aphasius would cast another small part of several spells he had prepared, and after a century the spells where in place and none had noticed his slight manipulations over the years.
Aphasius had manipulated the cult of Vecna into masquerading as pilgrims of a minor Patron God called Pelor. As these false pilgrims the cultists insinuated themselves into the various societies of Moertus by ministering to the poor, and needy, as well as suppling them with free meals. With the aid of several high placed cultists they were able to assume this role with little suspicion.
A few days before this year’s meeting is about to get underway, Aphasius orders the cultists to release his virus into the population, by tainting the free food and contaminating the water supplies. By the day of the gathering the dormant virus has been introduced in every major city and town within Moertus. As evening falls the Rulers, and the Nobility that came with them, sit for a banquet prepared by the pilgrims of Pelor. As they do Aphasius casts the spell that activates the Living Death virus. While much of the population of Moertus carries the disease they will not know it unless they die, except in the case of the very sick and extremely elderly. Many of them begin to sicken and die from the Living Death without any warning. While the virus comes to life the cultists begin openly attacking the populations of Moertus, many poison water supplies, and quietly set about murdering families or other small groups of people. In other locations they attack taverns, guard posts, inns, or other such buildings in straight forward combat. In all instances they make heavy use of magic, and summoned undead allies. Before long the streets are filling with Living Dead.
But still the worse was yet to come, for the cultists had tainted and poisoned, the meal they had prepared for the “Alliance”. As the swift toxin began to claim it’s victims, the cultists attacked all they could find with in the meeting hall. During this violent attack a group of cultists use the teleport devices to trigger Aphasius’ final spells.
The first spells teleport feral Vampires into the “palaces” of the 5 Rulers of the Alliance. These Drow Vampires had been captured over the past century, and kept in a state of near starvation by Aphasius, until now. This forced condition has driven these Vampires mad with bloodlust, giving them incredible strength and a wanton desire to kill. As they appear in the various throne rooms at night, while attentions are distracted, they each cause considerable damage with various degrees of success.
The final spells would drain the teleport devices, and still require more power then that to accomplish their goal. But Aphasius knew how to get that power. Aside from the 5 Rulers the Elves had also bestowed a device to the Valorous Order of the Invincible, as they were the defacto hosts for the Alliance while they gathered at Nidaros. When the cultists triggered the final spells a blast of unholy energy detonated within the “Eternal Spire”, the home of the Valorous Order since it’s formation, shattering the marble tower into dust and killing all inside. The tower itself stood very close to the palace of the Eminence of Rodull in Hervor, and it’s destruction caused more then physical damage.
Aphasius used the energy of the Paladins combined life forces to empower the device he had fashioned for his cursed relic, ripping a hole between Moertus and the Abyss. This foul creation channeled the evil energy into the very fabric of magic in Moertus, slowly rotting away at any who call upon magic. And as another horrible side effect the blast that destroyed the Spire fractured reality within a 50 mile radius around it. This fracturing has several effects: as the blast first occurs many of those with spell casting ability are driven mad, but after that the weakened walls between worlds allow all manner of dark creatures to appear, and neither arcane nor divine magic functions within the radius.
As the spells began their work, Aphasius took a more active role in his plans. Over the past few years Aphasius had made contact with several tribes of Barbarians, and Orcs within Norlund, posing as a disgruntled Human mercenary bent on raising a small army. As the events to the south unfold Aphasius orders those tribes to gather together and march into the Riddari Union. As well Aphasius had been manipulating dozens of Lizardfolk Shamans in the Muskeg Swamp through pseudo-prophetic visions he sent them during their meditations. Now he openly appeared before them telling them to gather their fellows and travel north to conquer. Before the night was half done it seemed Aphasius’ dream would become reality, if only Orcus had told Aphasius everything about the Living Death virus.
The Living Dead cannot be controlled by any spell, or spell-like ability (including Psionics), they are solely driven to spread their malady to all they encounter. The first to make this unfortunate discovery is the cultists, once they have caused a significant number of Living Dead to be created they attempt to control them, many are torn apart for their efforts. Once Aphasius realizes this fact he focuses on the tainting of the world’s magic, caring little about the fate of the lands to the south determining to deal with the situation in the future.
The cursed sword known as Morsblade was recovered by Wordun and Arvin from an undisclosed location within the Rigsholm. The device Aphasius created is designed to channel the tainting power that flows into Morsblade into the fabric of Moertus’ magical energies. This has the effect of potentially tainting anyone who uses magic on Moertus, as well causing some magical items to permanently acquire tainted properties. In order to help protect his secrecy, and the secrets of the virus and Taint, Aphasius added components that would focus additional energy toward spells of the Divination type. The device itself looks like a solid sphere crafted out of hundreds of precious gems held in place by platinum wire. The sphere completely encompasses the hilt of Morsblade, having been constructed around it. The sphere is extremely fragile, any attempt to damage it will cause the sphere to shatter into worthless dust severing the connection between Moertus’ magic and the Taint of Morsblade.
Taint and Spells
With the destruction of the Eternal Spire the sphere will begin to Taint the magic of the world. First any spell or spell-like ability may cause the caster to gain Taint (Depravity), anytime a spell is cast (or a spell-like ability is used) there is a cumulative chance of gaining Taint. A caster has a percent chance of gaining 1 point of Depravity, based on the level of the spell cast (or Character Level if using a spell-like ability). This chance increases by the spell level (or Character Level if using a spell-like ability), of each subsequent spell cast (or spell-like ability used) cumulatively until the roll is failed and the caster gains Depravity. At that point the chance drops to zero and starts over again. For example if Turbid the 8th Level Cleric casts Make Whole, Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Light Wounds, followed by a Turn Undead check, he would make the following checks: When casting Make Whole, a 2nd Level spell, he has a 2% chance, when he casts Cure Serious Wounds, a 3rd Level spell, he has a 5% chance of gaining Taint, he then casts Cure Light Wounds, a 1st Level Spell, and his chance rises to 6%, as he finally uses his Turn Undead ability, considered 8th Level, he drives the chance up to 14% (ie. 2 + 3 + 1 + 8 = 14). This would continue with each spell cast (or ability used), with a check being made after every casting, until the roll is failed, then as stated above the chance drops back to zero and the process repeats. Divination spells (or spell-like abilities) have their Level doubled concerning their effect on Depravity checks (ie. the fourth Level spell Scrying would add 8% instead of 4% to the check).
Long-term or permanent spells that have been cast on items, people, or locations may be subject to Taint. At the DMs discretion any particular spell of this type may outright fail or become twisted in some fashion. DMs are encouraged to be inventive and chose results that promote their overall campaign story.
Taint and Magic Items
As the magic of Moertus becomes Tainted many items that are infused with magic also become Tainted themselves. How and/or if an item is affected depends upon the type of item it is:
- Scrolls: Spells contained on Scrolls are subject to the same conditions as standard spell casting.
- Potions: All existing Potions must make a Save (DC 13), failure means the Potion is Tainted and rendered useless or even potentially poisonous (DMs discretion). All Potions created while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 13) or the attempt fails and the Potion is Tainted.
- Armor and Shields: All existing magical Armor and Shields must make a Save (DC 13 + the item’s enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) or they become Tainted. Tainted Armor and Shields gain a Drawback as per Cursed Items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Any magical Armor or Shield constructed while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 13 + the item’s enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) or they lose their enchantments and become non-magical.
- Weapons: All existing magical Weapons must make a Save (DC 13 + the Weapon’s enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability), failure means the Weapon has become Tainted. Whenever a Tainted Weapon is used (either to attack or if an ability is activated) the wielder has to make Fortitude save (DC 10 + the Weapon’s enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) or gain 1 point of Corruption. Any magical Weapon constructed while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 13 + the Weapon’s enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) or they lose their enchantments and become non-magical.
- Rings: All existing Magical Rings must make a Save (DC 13 + any enhancement bonus + 2 per special ability), failure means the Ring has become Tainted. There are two types of magical Rings: Rings with persistent enhancements (ie. Protection, Climbing, Regeneration, etc.), and Rings with activated effects (ie. Shooting Stars, Telekinesis, Blinking, etc.). Tainted Rings with a persistent enhancement cause the bearer to make a Willpower save (DC 13 + any enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) every 24 hours the Ring is in their possession (even if not worn), failure means the bearer gains 1 point of Depravity. Tainted magical Rings with an activated effect cause the bearer to make a Fortitude save (DC 13 + any enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) every time one of it’s powers is used, failure means the bearer gains 1 point of Corruption. Magical Rings that have both persistent and activated effects require both saves against either Depravity or Corruption at the appropriate times. Any magical Ring constructed while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 13 + any enhancement bonus + 1 per special ability) or they lose their enchantment and become non-magical.
- Rods, Staves, and Wands: These three types of magical items are affected by the Taint in the same fashion. All existing magical Rods, Staves, and Wands must make a Save (DC 15 + 2 per ability and/or spell), failure means the item becomes Tainted and suffers from the Opposite Effect or Target curse from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Any magical Rod, Staff, or Wand created while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 15 + 2 per ability and/or spell) or they lose their enchantment and become non-magical.
- Wondrous Items: All existing magical items that fall within this large and varied category must make a Save (DC 15 + 2 per special ability), failure means the item becomes Tainted and suffers from the Intermittent Functioning curse from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Any magical Wondrous Item constructed while the Taint is in effect must make a Save (DC 13 + 2 per special ability) or they lose their enchantments and become non-magical.
Obviously DMs shouldn’t actually roll for all the items that exist in the entire world when the Taint strikes, but they should roll for Player owned magic items, and those of NPCs that are around them. As the Players continue to adventure the DM may roll randomly for magic items the PCs encounter, or they may decide if any particular item was affected depending upon the adventure.
Player Characters and Taint
The Taint mechanic presented above relies heavily upon the rules presented in both the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Chapter 4 of Heroes of Horror, but DMs should feel free to modify the conditions and/or effects of the Taint if they feel something is more appropriate to their Campaign or Characters.
In Chapter 4 of Heroes of Horror there are rules to govern Alignment and Taint. These rules should be applied to all NPCs, while PCs should not be forced to shift Alignments based on Taint alone. As long as PCs role-play the effects of their Taint well they should be allowed to try and stay within their Alignment (although all attempts at this might not succeed). While Players who need to be “forced” to play their Taint should have these rules applied to them as well in order to promote role-playing. Regardless of Alignment shifts any Character whose Corruption or Depravity scores exceed the Severe Taint threshold will transform into a Tainted Minion or Tainted Raver as per the standard rules.
DMs can allow Players to both Cleanse and/or Resist Taint. Totems for resisting Taint can be made from any Holy Symbol dedicated to Ormet, Ehlonna, or Obad-hai. A Cleric (or Druid) of the appropriate faith must cast Bless (7th Level or higher) on the Holy Symbol. Totems are not subject to the Magical Item rules above, but the Bless spell does add to the caster’s chance of contracting Taint as described above. Totems function the same as those described in Chapter 4 of Heroes of Horror. The rules for Cleansing Taint presented in Chapter 4 of Heroes of Horror can be used as a DM sees fit, how and when PCs discover these secrets (if ever) is up to him/her. Spells cast to remove Taint still add to the caster’s chance of contracting Taint as described above.
Dungeon Masters and Taint
As Moertus falls under the effect of the Taint DMs should turn their adventures and encounters toward a Horror motif. The rules and suggestions given in Heroes of Horror should be applied to any Moertus campaign.
While Characters will need to deal with the hordes of Living Dead that roam the world, DMs should be sure to include plenty of encounters and/or adventures that center around Tainted NPCs or Tainted items. As well the Tainting of the world increases the likelihood of other encounters besides the Living Dead. Adventures involving various Undead, Evil Outsiders, and Aberrations, should increasingly plague the Characters as time goes by.
The general climate, and atmosphere of the world will also begin to feel the effect of the Taint. DMs should stress the increasing length of night, and the near constant overcast skies filled with random storms that last for days. Winters grow longer and colder, disease and starvation will spread as time goes by. Before long it should feel as though nature itself is fighting a losing battle against decay.
Eventually Players should be able to destroy the sphere made by Aphasius ending the Taint effect on Moertus’ magic. When the sphere is destroyed several things happen: Casters no longer need to check for Taint when casting spells; Magic items that were Tainted by the curse remain Tainted, although newly created items need no longer save against Taint when being constructed; Everyone retains any Taint they received, and must still fear transformation if their Threshold exceeds Severe; Many locations remain Tainted, possibly forever, and Monsters that came into existence during the Taint remain in Moertus; Weather and climate return quickly to normal, but disease and starvation may still run rampant for years.
Although it may be difficult DMs should introduce the Moertus setting as a standard fantasy setting to their Players (in fact they may read any and all of the above information that is not covered in this DM section). Players should be allowed to pick and choose their Characters from all the available races and classes. Because Moertus leaves room for development, once Players have their Characters they should be encouraged to help the DM create a home village, town, or even city to base them out of. The Players can help weave the story of how they know each other, who the NPCs are in town, and how they ended up here together. This intimate knowledge and connection will help motivate the Players when things go bad, and offer the DM a valuable source of potential adventure hooks.
Once the campaign starts DMs should run it as though it was a regular game using the standard high-fantasy, low-horror, adventures the Players expect. When the Characters reach somewhere between 4th and 6th Level (preferably while the Players are on another adventure) Aphasius will launch his attack, hopefully catching the Players off-guard.
The DM can now lead the Players through a series of horror themed adventures as they uncover what has happened to their world (and perhaps help rebuild it or maybe grab a piece for themselves). Eventually the Players should discover the Vecna cult, and it’s connection to the Taint. As the Players reach between 10th and 12th Level they should encounter Wordun and Arvin and destroy the sphere ending the Taint.
At that point Players may learn of Aphasius’ existence, but not yet encounter him. DMs should save that encounter for the climax of their campaigns, once Characters reach around 20th Level.
All specific adventures and encounters in Moertus must be created by the DM. DMs should create adventures tailored to their Players and their Characters, DMs may also modify pre-written adventures to fit into their Moertus campaign if they find one they like. As well some DMs may wish to create Random Encounter Tables (both pre-Taint and post-Taint) for the regions their Players will travel in.
The most important consideration the DM will have is the extent of destruction the Living Dead will cause, and how will each region fare as events unfold. A general guide to the events that unfold in each region follows, but DMs should modify this as their Players influence events in the game. As well DMs may alter any fact or event in order to promote their own campaign storyline.
Although the Living Dead plague is covered in the guideline DMs should decide for themselves how severe it will be. If things go well for the living the Living Dead may become a minor problem in a few weeks, if things go poorly hordes of Living Dead could roam the land wiping out pockets of civilization as they find them. How this war against the Living Dead progresses is entirely up to each DM. It should also be noted that the Living Dead have no connection to the Taint, so the infection will continue even after the Taint has been ended.
- Athar Forest: The region of the Drow is spared the initial attack by the cultists, but still many will feel the effects of the magic Taint as time goes by. As well the Drow themselves will eventually wish to explore south to see what opportunities might await them, and to investigate the fate of their hated cousins. At some point the denizens of the forest will also have to deal with Living Dead that come up from Norlund, although this may start as a minor problem it will become worse as time goes by. Still this is one of the few safer areas on Moertus, at least from Living Dead.
- Feyois Forest: The kingdom of the Elves is one of the primary targets of the cultists, and Aphasius. Over the past few years Cultists managed to release the Living Dead virus into the population through tainted wine sold in the Elven city of Sokska, as well they have spent this time forging alliances with the local Trolls. On the night of the attack cultists release several gangs of summoned Ghouls into the city, as attention is turned to these attacks a small army (nearly 200) of Trolls attacks with magical support from the cultists. The Drow Vampire that appears in the Elven throne room will cause a quite a bit of damage but he is destroyed in short order. Eventually as the chaos subsides the Elves will regain control of much of the forest, but they will decide to ban any non-native (ie. non-Elf) from entering the region. The Elves again begin to distrust outsiders, and attempt to segregate themselves from the world. The magical Taint will hit this area hard, many creatures of the Feyois are innately magical (including many Elves) as well as those that study it’s secrets. This region could easily become a source of trouble from would be villains for centuries to come.
- Gnomvale: The fairies and Gnomes of this region are spared direct attacks by the cultists and the Living Dead virus. Although Living Dead from the Feyois will find the valley in due time and the Gnomes will need to deal with this. Like the Feyois this region will feel the effects of the magic Taint rather hard. The Gnomes proclivity toward magic will see many of them affected by the Taint.
- Hillshires: Although this region is not directly attacked, refugees and Living Dead from Rodull soon drive many of the Halflings out of the Hillshires and into the Rigsholm. There they seek protection from the Dwarves against what is happening. After a time many Halflings will want to reclaim the Hillshires and return, and with the help of the Dwarves this may be possible. The effects of the magical Taint among the Halflings will be minor, although many Tainted Humans will come to the region from Rodull.
- Lysandra: Most cities in The Kingdom of Lysandra have been visited by the cultists, under the guise of Pelor followers, when the attack begins undead of all types (including the Living Dead) appear across the land. The cultists begin causing as much death as they can, and every Duchy feels their touch. Because of the widespread military training among the populace most of the Duchies fair well as the attacks progress, still a few Duchies are overran and engulfed by the Living Dead. In the capitol city of Boden the Drow Vampire that arrives in Lysandor Castle manages to slay most of the royal family and many of the guards stationed there. After a long battle it is destroyed but as the slain begin to rise as new Vampires, coupled with the Living Dead attacks, the city eventually falls and must be abandoned by the living. With the loss of Boden and the royal family many will try to seize power (or even just food and supplies) for themselves, how much depends on how well they fair against the Living Dead. As the effects of the magical Taint progresses this situation will become worse, and open warfare between Duchies is quite possible. Even some Earls will attempt to grab more for themselves if the opportunity arises. The Ogres that live in Lysandra will take full advantage of the chaos, and attacks from them will rise all over the nation. Even though many Ogres will become infected with Living Death, their greed and evil will continue to drive them to loot Human towns and villages if they think they may get something. Things will continue to worsen as the situation degrades in the lands surrounding Lysandra, and events there begin to affect the region.
- Norlund: The Human and Orc tribes of Norlund are not effected by the cultists, at first. Although the many tribes that have banded together under Aphasius are given supplies that have been tainted by the Living Dead plague, so those that die once joining his “army” will rise as Living Dead. Within a week of the cult attack this barbaric force will march into the Riddari Union. Over the course of several months they will successfully raid deep into the region but without any true leadership, and the superstition that the invasion has given them the Living Dead plague (in a way it has), the army will break up and return to Norlund. Of course these tribes bring the plague back with them. The magical Taint will have a very minor effect here. The few in Norlund that practice magic (Divine or Arcane), will react superstitiously fearful of the Taint and limit their own exposure to it by casting far fewer spells.
- Riddari: Politically the Riddari Union is one of the best suited to survive these apocalyptic events, but events unfold that conspire to turn that advantage into a coup. As with the other Human nations the Riddari have had most of their indigent population infected with the Living Dead plague. When the attacks begin the cultists once more mix open and clandestine attacks all across the nation to spawn Living Dead and to add various other undead allies to the attack. The attacks are highly successful in Riddari and many towns, villages, and cities fall to the mass of Living Dead. Many Counts and Barons fall back to fortified locations offering protection only to their immediate friends and family, or those that may help protect them. The Drow Vampire that appears in the council chamber of the Riddari is swiftly struck down, and even as the city of Fenia falls the commander of the military attempts to form a base of operations within the council building itself. As these “fortresses” are forming the attacks from the Norlund army begins. Although they avoid the coastal cities, the army tears a path into the central and western areas of the region. For several months the situation will grow increasingly severe as the attacks destroy defenses and cause a huge rise in Living Dead. Once the invaders break and return to Norlund, the starvation and disease will make the survivors very open to any respite. As soon as possible an emergency session of Parliament is called, less then half the Counts are able to attend, but during this session the highest ranking military officer is elected “Peregrine” an honorific title granting him temporary absolute control of both civil and military matters. This man is also a member of the Hextor cult, given time he will parlay this new position into that of Emperor of Riddari by using their forces to create a more stable and safe region. Before long the cult of Hextor will become a major influence in the life and politics of the Riddari, and in the regions around them.
- Rigsholm: The 3 regions of the Rigsholm are each effected differently when the attacks begin. The central region feels no direct assault from the cultists, although events in nearby regions may well spill over into the area or entice the Bugbears and Trolls to prey on them. The magical Taint however may well cause creatures from far below the ground to surface, perhaps even the fabled Svirfneblin. The northern region again feels no direct assault, but many evil subterranean races make their homes beneath this portion of the Rigsholm and their attention will be drawn by the magical Taint that sweeps the world. The Duergar find themselves dealing with ever increasing numbers of Mummified dead rising and causing problems. As time passes the Duergar will also send groups to determine if conditions are ripe for an attack on their southern cousins or not. If the situation seems right the Duergar will march on the Dwarves. The southern region itself is a target of the cultists, although their ability to infiltrate the Dwarves and spread the Living Dead plague was not nearly as successful here as it was elsewhere on Moertus. The Citadel is the main focus of the cultists attack. The Drow Vampire that appears there manages to cause some damage as it is forced to flee into the caverns beneath the Citadel and Rigsmount, but the majority of deaths come from the cultists open attacks within the Citadel and the appearance of the Living Dead. The battle is long, taking weeks, but eventually the Dwarves reclaim the Citadel. The Dwarves loose many good people and this attack makes them decide to close their borders to non-Dwarves. Although the Dwarves do welcome the Halfling refugees who flee from the Hillshires, and in time will help them to return to their homeland. Unfortunately the Dwarves will feel the full effects of the magical Taint. As the Taint affects both Divine and Arcane magic (as well as magical items), the Dwarves are not spared and in fact many Clerics will become Tainted and try to provoke war with nearby races (the Elves in particular).
- Rodull: As the most “advanced” nation on Moertus, Rodull had the furthest to fall when the attacks began. With a much smaller then average indigent population, the cultists found it more difficult to insure the spread of the Living Dead virus via tainted foodstuffs. So over the years the cult secretly employed several Thieve’s Guilds in Rodull to help disperse the virus into the food supply of the population. As the pay was sufficiently high enough the guilds asked no questions about the tasks they were payed to do, and kept their actions secret. The guilds themselves believed their employers to be attached to a cult of Hextor, and never knew the true evil face behind their tasks. The Free City of Nidaros is where the horror begins. The 5 rulers and their entourages, as well as most of the Paladins present, are slain outright and raised as Living Dead. The rest of the city shares a similar fate as the cultists prepared a massive festival celebrating the 100th year of the Alliance, the poisoned and tainted food in the celebration claims a large portion of the city. The remainder of the city falls as it is overwhelmed by the cultist’s attacks and the Living Dead. It is also here that the cultists first discover both Aphasius’ treachery, and the fact they cannot control the Living Dead. The cultists are still able to secure the Great Meeting Hall and turn it into a base of operations. Once secured they rely on the hordes of Living Dead to keep potential attackers away. While they themselves use their abilities to come and go with little danger. From here the cultists will attempt to reorganize themselves and try to use this situation to their advantage. The capitol city of Hervor also suffers incredibly from the attacks. Agents from many of the Thieve’s Guilds that had been working for the cultists over the years began carrying out assassinations of entire families throughout the city as the attacks started. These well placed strikes along with the other more open attacks soon caused chaos in the city. As the forces of the city turned their attention to these attacks the second attack occurs and the Drow Vampire appears within the palace. The place is suffused with holy energy and the Vampire is unable to bear the additional pain. Raging in an attempt to escape, the Vampire would stand little chance against the Clerics and Paladins within the palace; except Aphasius wasn’t finished yet, he launched his final attack and the sacrificial blast struck the Eternal Spire. The initial explosion killed many people, causing a sudden rise in Living Dead, as well the sacrifice itself tears open the fabric of reality just enough to flood a 50 mile radius with Taint. Anyone with magical (or spell-like) abilities, within that radius, gain 2 points of Depravity and many are stunned for some time after. Also all magical items within that radius become Tainted (no save allowed). Finally, the area remains damaged for years to come spells, spell-like abilities, and magical items, will not function within that radius. Once the Taint has been lifted magic will return to the area slowly, with the radius shrinking by 1 mile every year, until it vanishes. Still any spells cast in that area will carry the chance of Tainting the caster forever. That wound will never fully heal. With the destruction of the Spire the Vampire found his opportunity to escape. Tearing through stunned Paladins and Clerics he flees into the city and makes his home in the sewers below. After this the city quickly falls and the few remaining survivors flee. The Living Dead and the magical Taint cause severe damage to Rodull. The large number of Clerics and Paladins that become Tainted as time passes only makes matters worse. Before long Rodull tears itself into numerous small Kingdoms each fighting the other for resources.
- Other Regions: This section covers the areas not given specific entries above. The Great Wyrms of Moertus may or may not be disturbed by what happens among the other creatures of Moertus, this is up to the DM. Although attacks from these monsters could severely unbalance a situation that will already be difficult for the Players. While the wastelands and seas have little humanoid life (unless DMs include aquatic races), the sudden appearance of new and horrific monsters in these areas should become increasingly more common as time passes under the magical Taint. The Lizardfolk of the Muskeg Swamp follow the lead of their Shamans and spend several months raiding and attacking ever deeper into Rodull. But either the Taint or a superstitious fear of the Living Dead sends them back to their swamp before long. If a DM wishes to populate any of these regions or possibly regions not covered in this setting they may do so, keeping in mind that while the Living Dead plague may not occur in every region of Moertus; the magical Taint effects the entire world.
Secrets of the Universe
This section covers information about Moertus that may be useful when designing adventures.
The section covering the Deities of Moertus presents the information concerning them as it is known and understood by the general population of the world. The Patron Gods, the Gods of Monsters, and the Demon and Devils that are also found in other campaign settings are believed (many times) to have been created by the Greater Gods of Moertus. The truth or untruth of this is really up to the DM. You may wish to have the pantheon be exactly as described above, or those Gods may have found their way to Moertus and merely allow their followers (and others) to believe those stories in order to help facilitate their worship. No matter which approach a DM chooses it results in the fact that any Power may or may not be included at your discretion, and a DM should never feel constrained to include or exclude any particular Power.
When Astrild first made the world the sudden burst of life drew the attention of Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, he brought the first races of good Dragons to Moertus and created a paradise for them. Upon seeing this Astrild created the first Athar, and they lived among the good Dragons in peace and prosperity. Pleased with what he had created Bahamut left Moertus and returned to the cosmos, and all was well for ten thousand years. But the world is not static and the continent the Dragons and the Athar called home was besieged by volcanic eruptions and violent earthquakes that caused most of the land to sink beneath the ocean. The Athar fled east to make a new home, while the remaining Dragons decided to stay behind. The evil Dragons came to Moertus in a slightly different way. When Nicor attacked and his creatures killed the immortal Athar by the thousands, he used that energy to summon the evil Dragon Queen Tiamat to him and forced her to seed the world with evil Dragons. Once she had hatched her brood she fled back to the Abyss and has never returned. The evil Dragons of Moertus all venerate Tiamat and await her return so that they may destroy the entire world and travel to the Abyss with her. DMs may feel free to include any of the other Draconic Gods if they wish to expand the Dragon pantheon in Moertus. Dragons in this campaign setting should be used very sparingly, they should be a force that any sane person fears and few would ever willingly face. While other Dragons do exist on Moertus, only the exact locations of the 5 chromatic Great Wyrms are mentioned in the above texts. DMs may place other Dragons in locations where they see fit, and/or need. Regardless any Dragon encounter should be something no Player will soon forget, and in particular Moertus Dragons are not to be used as casual encounters. Moertus Dragons are asexual never needing to mate. Every few centuries a Dragon may choose to lay a clutch of eggs, and these eggs may or may not contain baby Dragons. Young Dragons are raised for a few years by their parent before being tossed out into the world on their own. Once sent from their parents lair the young Dragon must leave and never return. As a Dragon ages they spend more and more time in a deep hibernation-like slumber. They awake only to inspect their horde and to feed. The Great Wyrms may slumber for centuries only to awaken and ravage the surrounding area for several months before again sleeping for centuries. Younger Dragons will sleep for months or years at a time as they grow older. Dragons can awake instantly from this deep sleep, and will if any disturb them or if they sense something of interest in the outside world. Unfortunately they tend to be even more vicious when their sleep is disturbed. Dragons also tend to take advantage of the creatures that live around them and they will often use them as guards for their lairs, as well as being their eyes and ears in the outside world.
As a general rule Psionics do not exist on Moertus, but DMs or Players may wish to include them in their campaign. If allowed be sure to include all Psionic abilities granted to naturally Psionic races. Psionics are not affected by the Taint, but they do act as a beacon to spectral undead. While the world is Tainted anytime a Psionic power is used a check should be made to see if anything is drawn to source (4% X Character Level = percent chance). If the roll is successful a Spectral Undead (or possibly a group) will be drawn to the Psionicist, arriving within an hour of the powers use. If a Psionic power is used within a location that has spectral undead they are immediately drawn to the source, although they may wait until a good opportunity arises to attack.