Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chaos and Horror in the World of Impius Malum

So last week I found myself assaulting the mortal world with three posts in which I described my ghastly idea of the World of Death starting with a post titled The Rays of Un-Life. Mostly what you can take away from those three posts is that the World of Death is unrelenting, all-destroying, and without the least bit of joy, or sorrow, fun, or in fact any emotion at all, with the sole exception being ... a horrible and insatiable hunger to devour all life. The World of Death Incarnate. There's nothing fun in that world at all. It is pure unadulterated horror. An infinite dried up dusty darkness centered and powered by the Remorseless Will-of-Death.

So, this week I want to make up for that bit of moroseness by discussing something much more fun! The Chaos and Horror of the World of Impius Malum. Of course I should probably preface this post with some sort of caveat about how this is Fantasy, and not a reflection at all of my views of reality in any way whatsoever, least my friends and neighbors begin to worry about about the state of my mind. But that should, naturally, go without saying, so I'll just breeze on down the road, and leave it at that.

Compared with the World of Death, the World of Impius Malum is sheer Wicked-Evil Joy. And horror. And perpetually entangling, agonizing, soul-shattering Chaos. But lots of fun... Depending, of course, on who you are. Unlike the World of Death where it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever at all, the World of Impius Malum as all about who you are.

If who you are happens to be Diabolically Evil, and you've gained status and power among the demons of the infernal World, why then you, too, can have lots of fun in the World of Impius Malum! Provided, of course, that your sanity lasts more than half a second, and you manage to maintain your (infinitely precarious) position of Power. And that you manage to avoid running into anyone who happens to be even the slightest bit more powerful than you. Which of course, isn't very likely at all... or even possible. Impius Malum just doesn't work that way, you see. Once there, it's almost a guarantee that while you can horrendously lord yourself over the Pathetic Miserables beneath your august and magnificent self, and as heinously as you can possibly imagine to the absolute nth degree, ... you will never be able to escape the same horrific fate from those monstrous devils above you. You'll see. It is the Wheel of Fortune Incarnate!

And of course, if you don't happen to be a Noteworthy Person of Power, and are merely one of the countless souls who dragged yourself through life as a poor miserable schlub, an ordinary human being who might be only modestly evil, or pretty damn evil, but not quite Exquisitely Horrendously Evil enough... well, then the World of Impius Malum really isn't ever so much fun for you at all. Such people are only the playthings of those wicked Powers that wildly dance, frolic, cavort, shrilly laughing, and gorging their bellies to bursting in riotous feasts, those who spend themselves indulging in every sensual pleasure imaginable... all while the Miserati loathsomely groan and suffer, endlessly humiliated, tricked, bedazzled, and terrified out of their wits Forever! Actually, for the vast majority of people, Impius Malum is a tremendous drag. A non-stop and wild-eyed game of deadly, horrifying, agonizing and humiliating tricks and traps, one after the other in a constant, incessant, ceaseless, and relentless progression. Every trick is unique, every trap shocking and disturbing, every combination mind-blistering in its terrifically ingenious terror! It's a World designed to entertain and delight those who are Truly Diabolically Evil via the mechanism of ceaseless torture and soul-searing terror. It is a Pandemonium of Evil Chaos. So fun! Well, compared with the World of Death, it definitely is. No seriously. Compared with that, it's a joy.

Welcome to the Wondrous World of Impius Malum!

The Wondrous World of Impius Malum

The Bosch painting above gives a wonderful depiction of a tiny little itty bitty speck of a spot within the greater World of Impius Malum... which happens to be just like this across its entire infinite domain, though every inch of it is completely, mind-warpingly, unique. No two horrors are the same, and every single nightmare is tailored specifically to accentuate and focus the mind on the specific and peculiar sins, fears, foibles, and once-upon-a-time hopes and dreams of the damned souls who happen to wind up trapped there. It is an incredibly personal place!  Very unlike the World of Death, it is. Indeed.  Let's take a quick jaunt through the insanity, shall we?

Above you will find... a green suited monster with tree-twig hands fondling a despairing, yet beautiful naked blond women with some sort of black toad-like thing on her chest, reclining limply next to a grinning black mule. Above and behind her a Bird-headed man-thing wearing green jars on his feet and a large copper kettle on his head, sitting on a tall golden toilet while devouring a bird-and-fire farting Miserati whole, from the head down. Beneath this bizarre yet elegant and beautiful looking creature is a large blue bubble-droplet of toilet water into which a man is descending from the bum of the Bird-man, while another man, already trapped in the hideous droplet, is half immersed from the groin up and dangling over an open pit in the ground, into which a grey skinned nun is forcing one man to vomit brown turds while another person poops white blobs from the shadows. Meanwhile, the languishing woman is staring listlessly over at horn blowing, and rather adorable looking, sado-rabbit who happens to be carrying half a man upside-down on a pole-arm over his shoulder, while the woman next to him, another naked and beautiful blond, is furtively reaching for a weasel faced monster's sword with one hand while incongruously holding both a burning candle and a white vase in her other hand. By the contortions of her face you can see her mind has entirely snapped. Before her is a gambling table that has been overturned by a riot of hapless humans being violently mauled by a variety of animal and insect devils. AND SO ON! IT IS ENDLESS!

Such is the World of Impius Malus. A place of perpetual delights and terrors.

Fortunately for those Characters that dwell in the normal World of Elthos, the World of Impius Malum is very, very far away, and quite imaginary, like a dreadful bit of fairy tale designed to terrorize little children into behaving themselves when the adults aren't watching them. One quip about Impius Malum is enough to set most children of Elthos straight in an instant! In fact, actually, most Player Characters in Elthos really have no idea at all that there even is such a place as Impius Malum. Not the faintest idea. They never even heard of the place. This is because we usually breeze over their Character's childhood, and so I never go into what Elthosian Fairytales are like.  Ha ha... they have no clue.  Seriously. I have only once alluded to it in the 40+ years or so I've been playing the World of Elthos. Impius Malum a very far off land, indeed!

Which isn't to say that it isn't real. Oh it's definitely real alright. In fact, the Player Characters recently (well, not so recently anymore, but in the last major Elthos Campaign) brushed up against a distant reflection of Impius Malum when they came to the township of Whitewode. I describe that place in some detail (and very little of it, in fact!) in a previous post titled "The Overly Ambitious Campaign Design!", so I won't go into it again in this post. That one was long enough on that topic! But I will say that if you read that post, and get an inkling of the endless convolutions and intrigues among the Witches of Whitewode, you'll have some idea of what the World of Impius Malum is like. Now I should say that the Witches of Whitewode were absolute amateurs at the game of Impius Malum, though they believed with a dreadful certainty otherwise. Scarparelli, I'd like to mention, knew exactly what tremendous fools Sylvia, Jennifer, Johnathan, Muttmaw and the rest of their coven were, and he never let on for a single second, nor did his demonic minion Nicholas Blair. They strung the jolly bunch along for centuries before allowing them to haplessly fall into the Horrors of Doom that they had spent so long crafting for themselves. This is what the World of Impius Malum is like. Only, incredibly, far worse than that!

The World of Impius Malum is on the far side of the axis of Evil. Whereas Death is Lawful Evil, Impius Malum is Chaotic Evil. And as such they share that one trait in common ... they are really, seriously, Evil.

Who rules Impius Malum? Some say it's the Devil himself. But this is actually not correct. The Devil rules over Hell. And Impius Malum isn't actually Hell. It is its own place. So who? Some say it is The Elkron of War, Mars, or his Celestial Sire, Ares, the Lord of All Evil Chaos. And that would be correct. If you are aware of the Elthos Tarot Deck, then at this point you'd realize that Death is Ruled by Pluto, or his Celestial Sire, Scorpio. You can check that on the Elthos Tarot Deck Backface card here...

So the World of Death and the World of Impius Malum are the two extremes of Evil along the Metaphysical Axis of the Celestial Island Cosmological Map.  If you want to find the World of Death, head East, and veer slightly South, and keep going.  If you want to find the World of Impius Malum, head West, and veer slightly South, and keep going.  You'll find them.  They're there. Very, very far away ... but there.

Such is the backdrop of the World of Elthos.

Maybe at some point I'll chat a bit about other, lighter and happier realms of the Celestial Island.  Perhaps.

To learn more about my Elthos Project, please visit my site at Elthos.com. And if you're feeling generous, please make a contribution. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Rays of Un-Life III

In my previous two posts I talked about the concept of the Runic Undead with the Rays of Un-Life.

The Rays of Un-Life

The Rays of Un-Life - Part II

Some of my readers on MeWe have posted questions, which I've answered there, so this post is a continuation and elaboration on those thoughts. Let's go.

It is notable that a Necromancer in possession of a Skull that emits the Rays of Un-Life has a very powerful artifact which can "see" things that normal mortals can not see by pointing its Rays of Un-Life in a given direction. This is because the Rays reflect the "Reality of Death" and show what it is that the Undead with Rays of Un-Life actually see. I elaborate on that in Post II, but suffice it to say they reveal the lies that people tell themselves, and the "true nature" of the individuals upon whom the "Dark Light" is cast. This, in the right hands, if used safely and with the right controls, could be of great value to extremely careful necromancers, evil wizards, anti-clerics or anti-paladins. For example, imagine the effectiveness of this device during Interrogation & Torture sessions? I'm sure exquisitely evil people could find many uses for such a thing. Many.

Emmett O'Brian Question: If I chop the head off does the skull still shoot out rays?

Yes. The Rune of Un-Life can only be destroyed by Remove Curse. Please don't blurt that out to your players, btw. Read the previous post on my blog for the Part I section on this if you haven't already. Also note, a silver mirror can be used to deflect the Rays of Un-Life.

Emmett O'Brian Question: So could I use a silver mirrored ball with a little hole in it to make an unlife laser? That's all I really want.

This is the kind of artifact that the Necromancer of Note will think up. Making the thing, however, would take a great deal of effort, and require not only a large amount of silver, but the appropriate safeguards. Necromancers, after all, are not necessarily all that keen on being destroyed by the Ray of Un-Life either. See additional notes below.

Jon Salway Question: For games with ‘Save vs x, y & z’, what are characters saving against if ‘struck’ by such beams?

I'd go with Death Ray.

Additional Notes

Remember, not all animated Skeletons have the Rays of Un-Life. Only those that a Necromancer performs the Ceremony on, and inscribes the Rune of Un-Life upon. You could also, btw, have Zombies, Ghouls, Vampires or Mummies with the Rays of Un-Life, potentially as well.

I would make Runic Un-Life Skeletons Rare. A Necromancer would almost always animate undead Skeletons of the "normal" variety. Those that patrol the dungeon corridors, attack intruders, guard treasures, and/or obey commands. Only one in a hundred encounters with Skeletons might entail meeting an Un-Life Runic Skeleton. And when this does happen, ideally, it should come as a Big Huge Frikkin Surprise to the players!

In any event, I recommend playing up the horror aspect for these creatures. They should be intensely purposeful, highly intelligent and deeply insightful. Their goal is to create Despair-Unto-Death...

Since the Ray of Un-Life emits from the eyes of the Skeleton whatever it gazes at should reflect their Un-Life vision ... so as GM you really want to be very well tuned into your Player Character's deepest flaws and creatively represent them as the "Ray of Un-Life" would reveal them (see post II for more detail). For example, the greedy thief, when gazed upon, reflects an eery dark light and beneath it appears to the other PCs as a worm-in-cloths (or worm enshrouded) with long spindly arms ending in wriggling bony fingers ... the Character's sins should be represented in whatever form they see ... and as the other PCs see this, he of course is rolling Saves vs the Un-Life Rays and losing Mystic Power (in Elthos that equates to Mystic Points, though in other systems you could use Hit Points, or whatever may seem appropriate). When the gaze passes over to another Character, they see the next entirely other-world and horrible reflection (be as cold and brutal with this as possible - spare no punches - this is the Vision of the Dark World of Death!) ... and there is the thief, laying on the ground fibrillating with fear, or paralysis, or insanity, or dying ... (provided he missed his save).... GM Discretion advised. Salt to taste.

On the other hand, the Runic Skeletons should not be invincible, though they certainly will definitely portray themselves as such, and with good reason. Their view is that of Death itself. They have no individual personality, goals, hopes or dreams at all. Zero. So they have every reason to project their Cause as omnivorous unstoppable Reality. One has a greater chance of stopping Cthulhu than the Black Dimension of Death Itself. And that is exactly who all Runic Undead represent. BUT! That said, they should be played as slow movers, and despite great strength and/or near-invulnerability physically (such as the Stone Skeleton), they simply are quite poor physical combatants. In fact, they far prefer to rely on their mental attacks to gain victory as their goal is to drink in (and extinguish) the Life Energy of the Ultimately Defeated. From this death there is no resurrection, no reincarnation, and no hope. It is ultimate and permanent death, and worse - the victim becomes one of the Ultimate Dead and joins them as an undead creature.

The Un-Life Rune is known as The Eye of Death. Its meaning is literal. It is the literal eye of the God of Death. And the mind within the Skeleton (or any Undead with the Rune) is that of the Death God itself. Therefore, the Runic Undead does not have any will of its own at all, but is an avatar of Death - the eyes, ears and mouth of the God of Death. So unlike ordinary undead which will obey the Necromancer, the Runic Undead will definitely not. In fact, it is very likely that the Necromancer will be destroyed upon creating the monster unless very serious precautions are taken.

You would think that the Necromancer ought to be an ally of such creatures, since it is the Necromancer who creates them. However, to Death, the Necromancer is an insignificant tool, a ridiculous creature under the same illusions of life as every other living thing... the Skeleton will have zero sympathy for the Necromancer, and will seek to slake its infinite thirst on whatever closest living thing appears before it - especially the Necromancer. So Necromancers beware... this is NOT a toy! It is an absolute abomination, and menace to all Life - including, and especially, yours!

It should also be noted that 1 in 100 Runic Skeletons will ALSO come with some form of mystic transformation. 

Two Examples of Runic Skeletons

The Burnt Bones, or Burning Skeleton

A skeleton with bones blackened with ash and engulfed in darkly smoking red and orange flames.  These Skeletons want to set things on fire. Buildings, townships, people, forests... whatever will cause destruction, mayhem, sorrow and death. They are immune to all fire attacks, and any air attacks only fuel their energy and cause them to burst into fiery rage.  Acid does double damage to them, and water attacks do full damage.  Silver Weapons do half damage to them, while Magical Weapons do full damage.  Sunlight causes them disadvantage with -1 AL and -2 AC, and slows their movement by 1 Movement Point per Melee.  Blunt wooden weapons will burst into flames and be destroyed on contact, doing 2pts of damage to the wielder.  Wooden doors stand no chance against them and will burst into flames and be destroyed in one melee.  Metal doors can hold them at bay, as will stone barriers, which they can not cross.  However, these creatures are able to move with any fire, and can even be transported by sparks flying through the air, or a burning oil slick over water. These creatures are products of necromancer's engraving the Rune of Un-Life on the Skeleton's forehead.  The Rune can not be removed, but three successful Invocations of Remove Curse will destroy the creature.  The Rays of Un-Life cause multiple harrowing effects on the living. 

The Stone Skeleton

A large skeleton with black or dark gray bones, made of granite or diorite.  As such they blend with stone walls and can make them very hard to see without adequate light. When facing an opponent directly their eyes shine with a dark light. They are slow moving but utterly relentless.  Stone Skeletons want to destroy things by crushing them. Buildings, farmland, people... whatever will cause destruction, mayhem, sorrow and death. They are immune to all earth based attacks, nor can they be harmed by lightening.  Acid attacks do double damage to them, and water attacks do normal damage.  Blunt wooden weapons shatter when hitting them causing the wielder 1pt of damage.  Silver Weapons do half damage, while magical weapons do full damage.  Direct sunlight causes them disadvantage with -1 AL and -2 AC and slows their movement by 1 Movement Point per melee.  They also have the ability to Pass Through Stone at 1' per minute.  Wooden doors stand no chance against them, while iron doors will be battered down by them in 2d6 melees. These creatures are products of necromancer's engraving the Rune of Un-Life on the Skeleton's forehead.  The Rune can not be removed, but three successful Invocations of Remove Curse will destroy the creature.  The Rays of Un-Life cause multiple harrowing effects on the living.  

Skeletons of Brass, Iron, Steel, Emerald, Diamond, and many more, are all possible and the GM should carefully consider what Power (and vulnerability) comes with each. These are Lord Runic Undead, and are the Rulers of the other Runic Undead. And so, once created, and after slaking their thirst the other Runic Undead will seek out the closest Lord Runic Skeleton to follow. They will know unerringly what direction their Lord is, and immediately begin their slow inexorable march towards it, devouring any and every living thing in their path. This includes animals, insects, and plants... Any spark of life within 20 feet of the creature will be devoured as it moves. If there are no Lord Runic Undead in the World when it is created, the Runic Undead will perform as one would expect... it will wander aimlessly, randomly destroy any life in its path.

Lord Runic Skeletons are Major Curses of the World. They are extremely rare, and usually only one will exist at a time. They are the equivalent of a Lich, but not the same. They do not cast spells, but do have powers related to their form. They will never ally with a lich, but will seek to control them, draining the Lich's last remaining vestiges of Life Energy, which are embodied in its personality and will. Therefore even Liches greatly fear the Lord Runic Undead. No one wants to be sucked into its Abyss of Ultimate Finality.

I should mention that Life Energy comes in two forms in my game of Elthos. One is measured in Life Points, which are physical and akin to Hit Points, and the other are measured in Mystic Points, which reflect the Character's spiritual force. While the Runic Undead will certainly physically kill living things by brute force whenever the need arises, their preference is to drain the creature's Mystic Energies, thereby extinguishing them, and thereby reducing the amount of life in the Universe.

In this regard, it should be remembered that the primary attack of the Runic Undead is against the Will of the Living. As such it will seek to use its Vision and its words to cause Despair. In the eyes of Death, life is temporary, futile, and agonizingly, infuriatingly absurd. In Death's eyes, Life itself is the disease. Death, the god, as a Truly Lawful Entity, wants the universe cleansed completely of Life itself.

Of course one might ask, why haven't such dread creatures destroyed the living already? What's up with that? These sound like practically omnipotent monsters! Read on.

There is a counterpoint to the Vision of Death, of course, otherwise life would never have survived to begin with. And that is the Vision of Life! These are two diametrically opposing viewpoints on what the Reality of the Universe really is. Is Life the Illusion, or Death?

Somehow it will be in each player's hands to either succumb to the arguments of Death (aka Vision or Words of Death), or overcome them. As they say, "Hope springs eternal". It is up to the Players to battle the Despair of Death's words in the realm of the Mind and Spirit.

Whenever they fiercely counter Death's Words or Vision with the Words of Life, they should get high bonuses on their Saves, or in the Elthos System, their Mystic Armor Class is Augmented considerably. Such decisions must be made via Adjudication by the GM. Listen to the words that the Player speaks in response. Add bonuses if the Words are Anti-Death, and more if they are delivered with conviction (spirit)!

For an example of a Paladin failing this check, read the end of Part II of this series.

Finally ... The Runic Undead are not actually invulnerable, nor all that powerful in a physical sense. They have one power which is the Ray of Un-Life, formidable, but not unstoppable. The Runic Undead, however, can be destroyed by a successful Remove Curse, While Lord Runic Undead require 3 successful Remove Curses to be destroyed. Their Un-Life Rays can be thwarted by silver mirrors, and their Vision of Death can be countered by Words of Life.

Important Note:  Once the Players "get the trick" on fighting the Words of Death with Words of Life, the gig will be up for the Runic Undead.  Most of their punch relies on their victims falling for the "inexorable logic of Death".  This is why you want to keep this close to your chest, and hopefully your players have never run into these particular blog posts.  That said, once the gig is up, that does not mean the fight is over at all.  Should their primary attack fail, the Runic Undead, and in particular the Lords of the Runic Undead, will resort to blunt force violence to achieve their goals. They will summon any "normal" undead to help them do so, if possible.  They may even keep a ridiculous and wretched Necromancer or Lich on hand for such occasions.  Remember they are highly intelligent creatures... but they do not cast spells, and so they can not create undead. 

I advise GMs to play such creatures close to the chest. Have fun with it. These are Dire Monsters, but with vulnerabilities that should make them interesting, and not necessarily overwhelming to Player Characters who keep their wits about them, and show some courage in the face of Horror.

For myself I would start a campaign based on this with a slow rollout in mind. A foolish Necromancer creating undead to fulfill his evil purposes ... one day goes too far...

Your job, Adventurers, is to find the thing, undo the damage and stop the Horror before it's too late! Good luck!!

The God of Death, or Pluto, in classical mythology, also happens to be known as the God of Wealth. The dead dwell under the earth in their graves (gravity), and under the earth is where all such minerals and elements of great wealth are found ... gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds... all known to the God of Wealth, Death. One can see the connection here in regards to my Runic Undead in so far as Death values what? Those things that are both not alive, and also those things that last for very, very long periods of time. Like diamonds, gold, iron, and so on. These are the treasures of Death, to whom they have intrinsic value. Not only that, but these elements also possess amazing powers, when assembled correctly. As it happens the human race has become adept at such assemblies... and in our modern era we have innovated all kinds of technological "miracles" because of our knowledge. But imagine a world in which Death is real, and the world of Dark Energy and Matter are real ... in such a world non-living, but sentient beings might exist, and also be able to mold the elements into machines. Machines of the Dark Dimension! Perhaps some day Death will get fed up with the tit-for-tat war he has waged against Life, and come from the Black Depths with his Dark-Matter Robot Army wielding their Dark-Energy Cannons. Perhaps.