Legion of Entropic Gloom – A Dastardly Undead Cult

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“You’re just in time for our weekly Necronomicon Study! Sit down, have a glass of kool-aid.”

The concept of death inspires some of the oldest fears known to civilization. The end of life, the end of all we have worked for. The finality to our existence. While many fear death, the idea of undeath proves to be far more horrifying to many. The idea of losing ones self, the very essence, coming a shriveled shell that exists as a mockery of its former self. These are the fears of the undead. For that reason and more, they are a menace to civilization on the average.

Why are the undead are considered a menace to the living? For a variety of reasons, of course. Many of these reasons derive from ethics over necromancy, while others are because of their often destructive ways. None embody the latter more than a secretive cabal known simply as “the entropic gloom”. This quasi-religious order is dedicated to eradication of the living, assimilating them into the ranks of the dead. The reasons for this? Cloaked in shadow, much like themselves. It could be out of contempt for the living, some utopian ideal of unity or perhaps even a penchant for heinous acts of violence. While much of the ranks of this cult are typical undead, some have been transformed into truly incredible servants of dread forces.

Author’s Note: I loving making undead nasty nasties! This is no surprise, for those who know me well enough… So with that, here’s an assortment of living dead monsters to torture your players with. After reading up on monstrous synergy via Tome of Foes, I’ve plucked a few ideas to boot! Also, priest characters, you’re gonna have a bad day.

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Forgotten Souls: A Tomb of Annihilation + Dark Souls mashup

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The so-called Death Curse seemed like a contradiction at first… we were robbed of our ability to die! Oh, how wrong we were! – A tattered letter from Camp Righteous

A dark shroud has enveloped fair Toril, it is not of this world. A powerful force of raw necrotic energy has made its way into this world. What was once a mere Lich is slowly becoming something more, in part from his Death Curse. Worse yet, a powerful artifact is making the effects of this hex far greater and far more widespread too. But, for what purpose? Perhaps to empower him or possibly provide an endless font to create feats of magic locked away from even the gods! Adventurers are needed, as always. Many have fallen to the madness of the curse, becoming little more than empty husks who attack anything with a semblance of life force left. Go forth and bring life back to this world and don’t you dare go hollow on me!

The world of Abeir-Toril is fairing poorly against a strange incursion by a powerful entity known as “Acererak”. Stories travel around other prime material planes. These stories tell of foul magic, undeath and annihilation. Not long after the monster’s arrival, people found themselves somehow alive when they should have been dead. At first, people rejoiced! But soon, they caught on. Their hearts had stopped, their complexion faded, they began to look more like walking corpses. Many lost their mind, aimlessly attacking those who still show some signs of life. Some fear that this Acererak is not alone, aided by a far more malevolent force.

Author’s Note: Sure, the new adventure is coming soon or whatever. That said, here’s an idea I’ve been bouncing around for a while! What if, instead of merely wasting away from the Death Curse, victims would lose themselves to a slowly spreading and corrupting undeath. Then it hit me, this is Dark Souls! So, I mashed the two together in a sense. Below are a retooling of my Curse of Undeath as well as how to mesh it with Tomb of Annihilation. View the original here. Also, find more content for Chult here.

One final thing. This article contains major spoilers for much of the module. Do not read on if you plan on playing this module!

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Spawn of Death – Creatures born and reborn from the dead

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You are a creature created from the impossible, either unnatural life given back to a body or from a birth most foul.  In either case, the death infused are considered abominations by many.  In some cases, they were created from revival rituals and necromatic magic gone awry.  In other cases, merely the results of trying to achieve immortality… with horrific results.  Arcane experiments in general are the source of the half-undead, either to crossbreed horrors or to create a new form of unlife entirely.

While the Death-Spawn are tainted by different forms of negative energies and dark power, they tend to share similar aspects in traits.  They convey a sense of lifelessness or at least an uncanny sense of life.  They typically lack the warmth of a living body, feeling clammy and/or cold to the touch.  Some are lucky enough to have bodies perfectly intact, looking indistinguishable from other average humanoids.  The unlucky look akin to shambling corpses and disheveled zombies.

Author’s Note: I wanted to take a crack at races again.  So, here’s a new race of undead-touched creatures inspired by a handful of resources: The Raven Queen, The Crow, Pathfinder’s Dhampir, the Half-Undead from Dragon Magazine and so on and so forth.  Just a heads up, this is a rough draft and none of these have been tested yet.  I am likely to revisit this at a later time though.

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Curse of Undeath – A Dark Souls-inspired mechanic

EDIT April 2018:

Check out my updated take on this alongside some neat ways to change up Tomb of Annihilation (again) here!

“Yooou who reeeekindle the Flaaaame, embraaaaccceee deeaatttthhhh!”

Sometimes, the sweet embrace of death is all but impossible for countless damned souls.  They are forced to continue to walk a dark path.  For them, they seek to regain an essence of life and restore their shattered minds, lest they be lost to an abyss of emptiness and madness.  Such a curse can be from a variety of sources; an exploitation of a life source at a deific level, exposure to/using evil magics for too long, a hex brought upon by a powerful caster or even a destructive force bent on draining life from all reality.

The Curse of Undeath is a vile magical power that breaks the soul and leaves the body as little more than a husk.  These drained husks share little with their once living counterparts.  They are merely corpses controlled and warped by dread energy.  Any remnants of mind left in these creatures are stretched to madness and driven to violence.  While many of them retain enough knowledge to fight as though could in life, it is impossible for them to engage in rational dialogue let alone interact peacefully.

Author’s Note:  Dark Souls III is out and I love it!  With that, here’s an optional rule for handling a curse similar to the Undead of the Dark Souls universe.  If you don’t want to literally be running Dark Souls, it shouldn’t be too hard to reflavor this into a different dread curse of sorts.  If you’ve ever played Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Anthony’s chapter certainly comes to mind.  One last disclaimer, these are mostly random ideas in my head, in an attempt to make a Dark Souls inspired mechanic.  As such, it’s more than likely that this idea is a bit clunky.  It will probably receive a revision in the future, if reader interest is there.

An Affliction of Body, Mind and Soul

As the last of life’s flames extinguish, you become less and less human.  For every time you die, a piece of you is lost when you’re brought back.  Only through restoring your humanity can you truly become whole.  Even before the curse has truly taken hold of you, its dark power has tainted you indefinitely.  You may currently look like one of the living, but heinous power seeks to transform you into one of many mindless and angry dead.

The source of the curse can be from one of several horrible events.  Perhaps the Gods attempted to prolong the life of themselves and their followers by draining life essence from the planes.  Perhaps an entire area was desecrated by overuse of necromancy.  No matter the cause, the results will turn apocalyptic in the long run as people without souls begin to wither into deranged husks.  Even before before truly becoming one of the Undead, the cursed already suffer greatly.  Upon being afflicted by the Curse of Undeath, you automatically fail death saving throws when brought to 0 HP.  You must still roll a Death save.  Upon failure, you receive two failed saves instead.  Getting a natural 1 causes three failed saves instead of two.

Image Source: Revenant – oevrlord

Based off of Dark Souls, which belongs to From Software.  Made by Doctor Necrotic, for Doctor Necrotic Media.