Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Vampire of Dolmenwood

I've decided to have an antagonist for my party to contend with in the coming campaign, a schemer who seeks to break the Summerstones (as in Wormskin 3) and return to the service of his dread master. Most of this was conjured up because I realized there was a lack of a solid antagonist for that sort of Summerstone campaign aside from agents of the Cold Prince, so I decided to make a named agent.

A few parts Sauron, a few parts Strahd, with a healthy dose of The Master. This is the Vampire of Dolmenwood.

The Vampire of Dolmenwood
HD: 11.
Alignment: Chaotic.
AC: 4.
Intelligence: Machiavellian.
Attacks: 1 (Touch, Weapon), or Spells.
Size: Medium (7’ Height).
Move: 120’ (40’) on foot. 180’ (60’) flight.
XP: 7,300.
Morale: 13.
Possessions: See Below.
No. Appearing: 1.
Hoard: XVII.

The Vampire of the Dolmenwood is an archaic threat from the time of the reign of the Cold Prince. Originally a kinslayer from Norfludd, he was crucified to a thunderstruck pine on a winter solstice, left for dead. Death did not find him, but the Elfs of Frigia did. They ripped him down from the wood and thought to take him as a man to carve for the joy of their master, the Cold Prince, but the kinslayer made a dark bargain with the Elfs instead.

They wrapped the kinslayer in winter’s cold and got him drunk on the white worm milk of a sunless Elfland Kingdom. For this boon he led them to his village on the eve of the solstice, and when the moon reached its apex the Elfs butchered the wosemen and stole away their children. From infant to waifish youth, they were chained through their ears and dragged weeping through the bitter wind to Frigia. The kinslayer whipped them as they marched, cruelly laughing and entertaining the Elfs with his bitterness.

The milk of the white worm changed the kinslayer, it stole from him his humanity. His eyes ran white with the larval spawn of the worm and his mind was overwhelmed with their song of the sunless Elfland Kingdom they originated in. The bitter winter winds ripped the hair from his head and gave him the unnatural pallor of a winter blizzard. In the company of the Cold Prince his fingers were carved into claws and his teeth to fangs. He served as a torturer, a butcher and cannibal of his fellow men, unkillable by mortal means so long as the worm’s milk ran through his bitter blackened heart. He reigned immortal in the frozen embassy of the Cold Prince, drunk on man’s flesh and the blood of waifish hearts.

And then the Alliance of Tolmenwode threw everything into chaos. The Vampire fought for his master against the Brackenwolders, the Church and the Drune; but in the end he watched as the realm of Frigia was cut off from the world. He was branded with liturgic banishments by the Church, carved with sigils for his crimes by the Drune, and chained to a dolmen stone that was toppled into the nearby fens of the River Hameth (Hex. 303).

Crushed beneath unbearable weight, drowned in mud, never to die or blight the world again. He would be a forgotten footnote of history, a ghost story of little remark in this modern era, if not for the fact that worm’s milk has leaked from his chained and battered body. And through a most unfortunate series of events, has lead to his return.

A burrowing winter frog ate a white little worm, and that frog was devoured in spring by a frog gigger in need of food. That frog gigger began to hear the whispers of the ancient kinslayer, and he was offered power and glory in exchange for his obedience. The frog gigger performed profane rituals, he buried his daughters in that muddy fen and they became riddled with white little worms. They gained new strength, devoured their father, and excavated the sunken stone. They broke the Vampire from his bondage and he absconded with them in the night.

In the shadow of the northern Dolmenwood he learns of what has transpired in his abscense. He plots against the Brackenwolders, the Drune, and the Church. He seeks to return the Cold Prince to the world, and for all to be cold and perfect again.

Art by Per Sjogren, used without permission.
But pretty much exactly how I see the Vampire.
The Vampire’s Character and Plots
The Vampire is patient, insane, and cruel. Over the generations he’s spent beneath the mud he has grown to be depressed and malaised by his own existence. If not for a lone frog that burrowed too deeply, he would have succumb to bestial madness and ego death; a fact he is very aware of and brings him no comfort.

He is scorned by the sun in all seasons but winter, and he has secret doubts concerning his master whom he fears may have sent him to die as though he were a worthless pawn rather than a worthwhile asset. He seeks to prove his worth by destroying the Summerstones (see The Summerstones and the Witching Ring in Wormskin 3 for more information on this plot), and in doing so earn his rightful place as chief torturer once again.

The Vampire has forgotten much of who he once was beyond his sins. He is haunted by visions and dreams brought about by the white worms which have devoured his memories over the thousand years he spent beneath the earth. He knows not why he sees these events, but they frighten him as he believes them to be grim portents of things to come rather than visions of the past. As such, his schemes are often erratic.

He employs mortal vagabonds and feeds the white worm to servants he requires the true loyalty of. He knows the danger of his mission and thus seeks to disrupt the already fragile alliance of the factions in Dolmenwood.

Supernatural Abilities
Spellcasting: The Vampire can cast spells as an 8th level magic-user, specializing primarily in vivimancy spells he learned under the tutelage of elf flesh-molders while serving as a torturer for the Cold Prince.  Twice per day he may cast Animate Undead as an 8th level spell caster, choosing primarily to animate zombies if at all possible.

Immunities: Technically not undead but in a prolonged horrible immortality, the Vampire is immune to charm and sleep spells, but not hold spells. The singing and whispers of the white worms in his mind prevent him from being charmed or sleeping.

Infest Wounds: If the Vampire has struck his enemy with a weapon, he will next attempt to infest their wounds with the white worms. This requires a Save vs Death roll by the victim, with a failure forcing them to take 1d10 points of damage and suffer the loss of attack abilities and saves as though the victim had lost two levels. If a victim dies to an Infested Wound they rise in the next round as a worm-infested puppet of the Vampire, functionally equivalent to the dead character before the level drain.

Fog of the Fens: The Vampire can vanish into the fog or mists of the swamp lands that imprisoned him, functionally enjoying the benefits of gaseous form and invisibility. The Vampire can sense every living thing walking through fog or mists in the northern fens around the stone that once bound him, though he cannot glean more than basic details. He cannot sense those who bear blessed items of the One True God’s faith.

Worms of the Earth: The Vampire can choose to bleed himself and spill worms into the ground, dealing at least 1d6 damage to himself. If he chooses to do this he can summon 1d10x10 frogs or rats when in the fens, or 3d6 wolves or 2d4 dire wolves when near the forest proper. These creatures will arrive in 2d6 rounds, possessed and filled by the white worms. Those killed by these infected beasts arise as zombies when the Vampire is present.

Strange Weaknesses
Daylight: The Vampire is scorned by the sunlight of all seasons but Winter, taking 1d6 damage per round directly exposed to sunlight. The Vampire cannot die due to sunlight exposure but rather enters into a state of torpor wherein he looks like a bog mummy with bulging veins of winding worms.

Holy Symbols: The liturgic branding upon the Vampire has made him weak to holy magics and blessed things. He cannot be Turned or Destroyed as an Undead, but he cannot approach any figure attempting to do this to him. Blessed waters or chanting the liturgic written upon his flesh inflict 1d6+1 hit points of damage to him.

Haunted Memories: The Vampire is filled with dread memories it takes as visions of things to come which will lead him down a path of further ruin. When struck by a spell or a holy weapon there is a 1-in-6 chance it will trigger a Haunted Memory which he will loudly scream about for 1d4 rounds rather than attempting to deal with any combatants. The Vampire may cast spells or swing wildly towards these memories, but there is only a 1-in-4 chance the memory will manifest in the same direction or melee distance as a combatant. The visions are made manifest in the effects of spells cast upon the Vampire, be it shapes in fire, or reflections in acid.

For specific Haunted Memories which may help spell out how to defeat the Vampire for good, see below.

Cold Iron and Silver Sickness: Due to being infested with creatures from the Elfland Kingdoms, the Vampire suffers from a weakness to damage by cold iron as well as suffering from silver sickness. The usual penalties for these weaknesses only apply when such items are stabbing or slashing the Vampire, as his flesh is still very mortal. The Vampire, as a torturer, is very proficient at using cold iron and silver weapons to torment his former quarry and he will brandish such weapons if confronted by fey in order to prevent them from discerning this weakness.

The Vampire’s Magical Items
The magical items of the Vampire were originally created by the Cold Prince and his retainers, primarily for use in the torture of other fey and the flaying of men. The Vampire does not have them all on his possession, many were scattered in the hundreds of years since his imprisonment, but he has already begun sending servants to retrieve them. The Vampire begins with the Drune Chain, after which he will search for the Nails of a Woseman’s Crucifixion, the Chillrazor, and then the Lash of Child’s Hair.

Man-flaying razors are not unknown to the people of Dolmenwood, though they have fallen from a place of fear into merely being instruments of torture in old ghost stories on the cruelty of Elfs. The chillrazor was the favored tool of the Vampire when he served as torturer for the Cold Prince. It is a 1d6 damage-dealing short sword that steals warmth from its target. A critical strike with the chillrazor begin to suffer hypothermia and must make a Save vs Death or fall to the ground in freezing agony for 1d4 rounds, effectively stunned.

Nails of a Woseman’s Crucifixion
These two 8 inch nails of cold iron have stayed the test of time, and the Vampire wears them upon his neck as totems on a necklace. When these nails pierce the flesh of a living being they must make a Save vs Charms or being to proclaim their foulest desires and most murderous lusts for 1d6 hours as they froth at the mouth and act like savage animals.

Lash of Child’s Hair
A long whip made of ancient matted hairs of blond, red and brown that have been woven into a vicious scourge. A whip from this lash leaves a bleeding gash that is coated with frost at the edges, dealing only 1d4 damage but also reducing the age of any mortal struck with it by 1d6 years. Age reduction is a painful process as bones twist and buckle to be smaller and skin sloughs off allowing a raw-face to heal youthfully. If a character is reduced from an adult to a child they take 1d6 damage to their Dexterity, Constitution, and Strength attributes. The same damage is done if a child is reduced to an infant. If a score reaches 0 or an infant is struck with the lash, they die horribly and are unmade into ovum, sperm, and a puddle of blood.

The Drune Chain
The long chain that bound the Vampire to the fallen stone was forged by the Audrune, braiding together the torcs of powerful warlocks and Drune who had fallen to the Vampire’s predations. This chain acts as a Foe-Bound weapon against the Drune, dealing 1d6 damage when lashed or 2d4 damage per turn a Drune is strangulated with the chain.

Haunted Memories
Haunted Memory
Slaying his kin over a petty squabble. His brother clutches at his robe, his sister screams at him from ten feet away. Children sob.
The Vampire mutters “No. I wouldn’t. I’d never… I love you. You’re meant for me.”
An old man looks at him and demands he answer for his actions. He is called a rapist, a kinslayer, and a monster in the flesh of a man.
The Vampire begs “Teach me then why I am this way! I have never been any other!”
Elfs carve at his wrists and pour worms down his throat. He gags. A voice begs for mercy, to be killed, to stop the singing of these wretched worms.
The Vampire falls to his knees and begins vomiting worms, as Worms of the Earth.
Children scream in agony, elf songs are heard on the wind. They cry for their uncle, their thane, they are terrified and stolen away from the scent of a feast. A winter wind blows fiercely.
The Vampire lashes out violently, casting spells or whipping madly with the Lash if he has it.
The screams of elves and men, the horrible stench of blood permeates the air. Pleading for mercy, crying traitor and monster. Chill coats the ears of all listeners as a harsh voice speaks in Elfish that this is “Fate.”
The Vampire begins slashing wildly in a random direction, demanding “All worship the Cold! All praise his glory!”
Chains clang, Drunic mutter is heard, Liturgic prayer is chanted, flesh sizzles, the stench of mud fills the area. The buzzing of flies and the croak of toads are heard.
The Vampire flees in fear, screaming “Not the chain! Bastards, blaggards, witchmen and rogues!”

Traits: Roll 1d6 when encountering the Vampire, as his status is often in flux.
  1. The Vampire wears a frost-hardened robe of Woseman’s make, though the style if highly antiquated. His face is hidden beneath a heavy hood, but the rattle of chains can be heard as he moves with unnatural stiffness.
  2. The Vampire hovers a few inches above the ground, his pale flesh drip heavy mud. Leeches and maggots fall from his flesh, unable to pierce below it. He moves with disturbing grace.
  3. The long clawed hands of the Vampire are coated with blood and his mouth is red as though it had sucked down a jar of red jelly. Man’s flesh in blubbery gib chunks are held in a small frog-hide purse, and it feasts on them noisily; hunched over.
  4. Dressed in fey finery befitting an elf knight of Frigia, though its style is notably antiquated even for elf garbs. Frost clings to his flesh and he moves with swift but stiff movements, like a thawed corpse with unnatural speed.
  5. With an open wound that is bubbling over with finger-long white worms. He sings a woseman lullaby to them to coax them back inside his flesh. His expression is notably tired and sad, as though aware this is not what he was meant to be.
  6. Hulking in posture, like a northern barbarian, his flesh tight over the muscle and worms notably rippling and squirming against the underside of the taut skin. His teeth seem almost extended, as though his jaw is trying to escape his skull.
  1. In the reliquary or library of an abandoned structure, a tall figure lingers at a rotting bookshelf. He will make quiet conversation in a thick northern accent, asking for information and news on the state of the world; but unwilling to speak of himself. He will flee if attacked, unaccustomed to the barbarism of common strangers.
  2. In the shade, the Vampire is accosting a scrabey with a cold iron pipe, demanding information on the location of one of his magical items. He will describe the item only in broad terms and if the party does not try to stop him, he will offer them good money (2d4x5 gp) in exchange for any information they might have on such items.
  3. In a roadside inn with 2d4 pale waifish maidens with muddy red hair. The maidens move with strange stiffness and the Vampire seems bothered by them, having them go lay with strangers or bring him things when they get too handsy with him. He is seeking knowledge on the state of the church and will ask anyone who speaks with him what they think of the Drune and the One True Faith, reacting only with violence if spoken to in Liturgic.
  4. Smoking a pipe and sitting on a stump at the edge of the road, hood up to withstand any sunlight. He will ask for information on the Goatmen in the south, as he thought they were allies of the Drune. He will be grateful for any information on gifts or enemies the Goatmen possess.

The Vampire has not yet learned the embassy to the Cold Prince still exists, and as such he has become something of a vagant and begun setting up lairs across the Dolmenwood as he searches for his items, information on the world as it is now, and seeks to cause strife between the factions.
  1. A collapsed old barn with an extensive root cellar. During the day his worm-thralled maidens (2d4 red-haired pale-fleshed maidens) work the fields and collect mushrooms, they will attempt to lure lone travellers to the cellar to be devoured by their master. The Vampire sits in the cellar trying to piece together why the Cold Prince has yet to return. He can be overheard asking his thralled maidens as to what they know about the Cold Prince, but none of them know anything and this fills him with rage and sorrow.
  2. The ruins of an old watch tower, half-sunken into the fens. The Vampire practices his vivimancy on frogs, frog giggers, and fish; occasionally worm-thralling the ones that scream too much. He seems bored but all too aware of what is going on around him. There is a 1-in-6 chance he will have a woodgrue or grimalkin as prisoner whom he is torturing to death just to see if he still has it in him.
  3. An ancient forgotten ossuary of the Drune, the Vampire and his maidens examine skulls and occasionally the Vampire raises them as skeletal servants simply so he might mock them or choke them with his Drune Chain. There is a 1-in-6 chance that he will be able to force a spirit to inform him of what has occured in the past few hundred years, which will grant him ambition enough to begin his campaign against the Summerstones.
  4. A fallen manse on the edge of the fens, the family which once inhabited it now raised in undeath as zombies and disguised by his worm-thralled maidens to look still alive. The maidens wander the nearby wilds inviting folk to dine at the manner, meanwhile the Vampire performs profane ritual tortures in an attempt to contact the Elfland Kingdoms and former allies of the Cold Prince. There is a 5% chance that any given night he might succeed and have his efforts to release his lord redoubled, either to put an Elf he considers a traitor to his master in its place, or because he has become aware of and disgusted by the change in the balance of power within the Otherwold.

How to Kill the Vampire?
I'd let you know, but my players might read it here. It involves all the magical items he seeks to collect, a child, a yearly event, and getting the Church and the Drune to cooperate for five friggin' minutes to deal with him once you have all those things.

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