Monday, January 30, 2012

Adventures Near Home #3

So we talked about why Israel is a very cool place to set modern fantasy adventures in, and we watched some pictures supporting this claim. Now it's time to no longer beat around the bush, but to stab it in the heart and find out who is hiding inside. There is no way this can end badly...

Specifically, we're going to take three locations, and see what adventures hide behind their normal (relatively, speaking) facades. Next post, we'll do it again, but with different locations.

Tel Aviv, or To Walk For an Hour
Let us begin by introducing a little known fact about Israel. Unlike most other places, the Israeli day is actually 25 hours long. That one extra hour, however, is quite exclusive and can only be accessed by very special people. And by special, we don't mean have-to-wear-a-helmet-in-restaurants special, but blast-you-with-a-gaze special.. Most of these people are Kings and Queens of emptied kingdoms, that is, the last people to claim rulership over a depopulated kingdom. The rule is simple - the power of a nation is a constant, the less people remain in a nation, the more powerful each remaining citizen is. When only one person remains -- you get a new King for the 25th hour. Hail!
Most of these people are worse than vampires. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The more kingdoms a King steals, the greater his power grows and the greater his greed for kingdoms becomes. Now imagine a simple man gets lost in the hot and steamy Tel Aviv night and finds himself brushing shoulders with old, power-hungry, barely-human monarchs who keep thinking of various way to get him involved in their plots and schemes. The text messages sent by this man can be really quite fascinating... provided he ever leaves this unreal hour of the night...

Embarking on yet another quest with a brave companion...

Ein Gedi, or The God of Little Things
As you probably know (if you paid attention in school) Lilith is the protector of arid places and nocturnal animals. As a rule, the lives of animals are not terribly exciting and mostly consist of searching things to eat while avoiding things that eat them (not unlike the lives of most D&D characters). However, when a grave crime is committed against a nearly extinct species, an animal might choose to go on a quest across oasis and desert in search of divine justice (again not unlike most D&D characters).
Why, animals are very religious and have a rich mythology, didn't you know? Why do you think dogs and wolves bay the moon, or lizards prostrate themselves before the rising sun every morning? Why do ibexes look so thoughtful all the time? You really ought to pay more attention in school...
I was lucky enough to learn of one such quest and translate it into the language of humans for your benefit. Trust me, many people and animals were hurt in the making of this documentary. However, we did find a date for a very lonely demon in the process, so give us some slack, will you?

Yes, this is the hero of one of my adventures. An excellent chap, by the way.

Qumran, or Cave Books
Ah, the mysterious Scrolls of the Dead Sea. A cult of wise men wiped out by fanatic brutes before they had a chance to finish their great work. Tens of thousands of unique scrolls, found by Arab nomads and sold to British archeologists-- seriously, do you think anyone is that dumb? Sure, the nomads sold the British some scrolls, like the one with revisions of the solar calendar in light of recent astronomical discoveries, or the theological treatise on the gematrical meaning of the names of angels. But what about the scrolls that told the true story of Noah and the true origins of Man? What about the Book of Many Curses, that eldritch tome that manipulates luck so that someone could find a brick of gold just lying there by the road, while someone else could fracture an arm in seven places by slipping in a sheepskin tent, or choke to death on ant?
Believe me -- the scrolls are still there. Some of them being translated into English for your pleasure and entertainment even as you're reading this post. And that god damn evil book, the one that inflicted the tribe that found it with so many disasters since the poor sods found the book and tried to tame it? It found its way into very demonic hands, if you know what I mean (which you don't because the story wasn't published yet). Now it's up to the reluctant hero Khalid, mystic champion of the Banu Safiru and captain in the Israeli Border Police to face the master of the book before it transforms the whole region into a hotbed of almost humorously ridiculous bad luck. Will he make it? Statistically highly unlikely...

Found these interesting? Be sure to take a look at Tales from an Israeli Storyteller and help me make this into a full-fledged fantasy setting!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Israel as a Campaign Setting

I think four factors make Israel an especially successful candidate for being fantasized. I might be a little biased, but please kind reader, hear me out:

Diversity: Israel is a country of dark contradictions – a land of ancient history of epic proportions and an all-too-fragile modern civilization. On the same sand where now ultramodern commandos practice techniques of assaulting the secret strongholds of darkness, millennia ago Roman legionaries made war on twisted desert demons and Jewish zealots armed with mystic wisdom and antediluvian weapons crossed blades with anyone who would threaten their religious hegemony. Even as Druzim Sheiks, Haridim Rabbis and Muslims Muftis practice ancient and esoteric ceremonies, young and vibrant subcultures develop their own brand of magic, conspiring to push the elders from their seats of power.

The War is Over
Yad Lesherion, Latroun

Religion: From the Church of the Sepulture to Al Aqsa Mosque, from the head of the Martyr Ali in Ashkelon to the Weeping Wall in Jerusalem; Israel is a land containing more sacred grounds and religious relics than any other country in the world. Heroes exploring religious themes in their games would not want to miss the opportunity to ally or exchange bullets with beings who were there when the Bible was written.

History: From Assyria to Britain, almost any major empire in history at one point or another strove to control Israel and her crucial trade routes. Fractions from these conquests still linger in the form of immortal vampires, mages who unnaturally prolonged their lives and other even less savory horrors. Crusades, Jihads, wars of conquest and other great events still resonate as loudly as on the day they occurred.

Geography: Compared to its size, Israel is one of the most diverse countries in the world, in less than 400 miles one can travel from the snowy peaks of the Golan to the coral reefs of the Red Sea. Same goes for the population that includes anything ranging from tribal desert nomads to scheming technocrats in glass skyscrapers. This means that a single day's adventure can take the hero from semi-medieval desert villages to modern cities and, finally, to mine-strewn mountains – all in a single day.

"Leading the Clouds"
Castle Nimrod

The setting “Tales from an Israeli Storyteller” draws upon the "mythology" of modern Israel as well as Jewish, Muslim and Christians traditions and, to a smaller degree, from African folk magic (with the new influx of Sudanese refugees and Ethiopian immigrants). Here are several examples of things you can find in Israel. To avoid spoilers, I won't say which ones made into the book and which one stayed on the gaming table:

Okay, that was pretty general. Next post will have specific examples. For example, did you know that a lost Roman legion still wonders the deserts of Judea? No? Then stay sure to check in with the next post!

All pictures were taken by my brother, an immensely talented photographer in my opinion. For more of his art, visit his dA page.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adventures Near Home #1

This week I've started an IndieGoGo fundraiser for my Tales From an Israeli Storyteller project, which is all about taking the landscapes you see every day as your drive to work, the people and animals you spot from the office window and those urban legends and old superstitions no one takes seriously, and transforming them into an awesome fantasy setting.

We will begin with some pictures. The next post will be about the fantasy they hide...

This city has been abandoned more than a thousand years ago. What made the citizens run? Why didn't they ever return? What did they leave behind in their haste to flee?

What a quaint village? Almost stone age... who lives there? There isn't a mosque or a church nearby, what do they worship?

This thing stands between a nomadic encampment and a power plant. Which one of these groups erected and worshiped it? How does the other group feel about it?

The toys study the Torah by Night, but what do they learn from it? What will they do once they find what they were looking for?

Taking photos in ancient crypts in the desert is very fun and educational. But is there anyone there who could be disturbed by our visit? And why is "vampire" scribbled in Hebrew on one of the tombs?

And you thought we were kidding...

Sometimes, you have to literally walk into darkness so deep even a camera flash can do little to disturb it. The air is alive with humidity and the shrieks of bats. When will the darkness end? What lies on the far end?

Ah! What the hell is that thing?! And why did the bats started making different sounds after the flash?!

Destroyed by an earthquake a millenia ago. An accident, a divine punishment for unspeakable sins, or a magic ritual gone terribly wrong?

This is just beautiful. Not everything must have a hidden meaning.

When lizards that big start running about, you don't have to investigate to run into adventure... or rather, have adventure run into you...

Sodom. A land so evil God had to blast it utterly from the face of the earth. Not even hedges grow on this malevolent terrain. But was God really THAT thorough and did Genesis give us the WHOLE story?

 Euclidean geometry and the laws of physics work most of the time. MOST of the time...

Be careful when adventuring near your home. Sometimes, the price you have to pay for wisdom and enlightenment is bloody indeed...

Simply birds being birds, or the culmination of an epic love story with green feathers?

 A waterfall in the middle of a lifeless desert draws all kinds of lifeforms. ALL kinds...

The sign says you can't go into this cave. Now you know you have to! :)

For more photos you can visit my dA account or my FB album.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have decided to resurrect another post from my first and short-lived mythological blog. This one actually contains some real kabbalistic magic, use with care.

First you must know, my brothers, that Lilith, may her name and memory be wiped, is the worst of demons for she would not submit to her husband or any other man, as is the natural order of things and for that we call her the whore, the wicked woman, the foolish and the black one. And as knowledge is a virtue and a shield, read deeply and understand these secrets very much!

Lilith (pronounced Lay-LIT) was created along Adam on the last day of creation and was his equal in pride and superior in power. Immediately, conflicts arose between the couple regarding who should be on top during lovemaking. Since Adam couldn’t fight the mighty fiend, he prayed to the LORD to cast her away and create a more submissive woman for him; Eve, who paled in beauty compared to Lilth, but was obedient and meek. Later, when Adam and Eve were cast away from the Garden of Eden they chose to absent from sex for some years to atone for their sin. During that time, Lilth came to the bitter and lonely Adam and slept with him, giving birth to the first lilin. Eve, and later Cain, also had their unholy lovers, but that’s another tale…

Jewish tales are kinda hard to read...

After Adam and Eve reunited, Lilith chose to live among the demons of the Red Sea, where she mated with many demons and lilin and spawned a hundred monsters every day. Her promiscuity was not limited to demons; she often tried to seduce righteous men, and even their wives, heavens forefend! Sometimes, she would visit a man in his dreams and cause him to awake with unnatural lust for his wife. The offspring of the unions that followed these erotic dreams were usually dead babies with wings and tails. When not attending wild demonic orgies or seducing the righteous, Lilith protected her favorite animals – owls, hedgehogs, oryxi and black kites. She also tended for bushes and plants in arid areas.

Never forgetting her humiliation at the hands of Adam, Lilth started strangling little babies in their cradles* after her second exile. To protect mankind, three of God’s angels were sent to capture her and set before her a divine ultimatum; first, a hundred of her children will die every day, lest the lilin outnumber Man and befoul the world. Second, Lilith should never harm boys older than eight days and girls older than twelve days.
However, Rabbi Ben Sira discovered a way to fend off the vengeful demon; hanging a talisman baring the names Snoi, Snsnoi, Smenglef (the three aforementioned angels) above the sleeping baby scares away Lilith and casts her back crying into the night.

Presently, Lilith lives in the deserts of Africa and Asia and her voice can sometimes be heard late at night, mixed with the baying of the hyenas and the hooting of the owls. Those blessed with wisdom can learn great secrets from her laments, but God forefend they should do so, for this wisdom is mixed with ill seduction and dark urges and spoils the pure minds of righteous men.

This talisman will protect your children from Lilith's claws:

Talisman against Lilith - proven and tested
Taken from Book of Raziel the Angel

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Origin of Magic (according to Russians)

A girl once went to the forest to pick some mushrooms and gorge on sweet berries. Although it was a lovely summer day, the sky suddenly opened and a torrent came pouring down, forcing the girl to hide under a tree. An hour passed and the rain showed no intention of stopping, so she removed all her clothing, put them in one of her bags and resumed picking mushrooms. Once the rain ceased, she put back her dry clothes and went home.
As she was walking, a forest spirit called leshii saw her and begged her to tell him what kind of magic she used to stay dry during such a wet storm. The girl said that she will teach him her magic if he in turn taught her his magic. The leshii agreed and taught her the art of witchcraft. All he got in return was an old bag.

Respect the power of witches and warlocks, but even more so, be wary of their cunning.

Later that day...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Clean the Class or Bite the Bullet

Today we had to move to a different class because our regular place was full of some substance one of the boys is allergic to. The class we moved to was a girl class (it's a religious school).
Girl: No! You can't move here, you'll foul up this place. Boys always do.
Me: I promise we won't do that. I'll personally make sure they behave.
Girl: Are you willing to face execution if the class is dirty?
Boy: Yes, yes we do. Now do let us in.
Girl: All right, but if we find the class dirty tomorrow, we will execute you.

Sex war just got real!

Animals, Mutations and What's in Between

For some reason, kids hate animal mutations in Gamma World.

In fact, one kid threatened to leave the game if he wasn't allowed to re-roll his flaming bird swarm character (which I personally thought was very rad). On the other hand, kids are jubilant whenever they roll a mutation with any mind-effecting capabilities. It seems that them and I somewhat diverge on our aesthetics of mutation -- their mutations are basically the X-men with a touch of the grotesque, while my mutations are the sort of thing created when you take a boxful of body parts and pour out a dozen random parts and no, I'm not making this analogy out of personal experience.

Full spectrum of the mutant experience, from handsome women to killer bunnies.

I find the above discrepancy strange, because, as a rule, kids love animals and, in normal fantasy, go out of their way to play talking animals or animal-people. Among the most popular races are dragonborn (whose name in Hebrew sounds much cooler), minotaurs, gnolls and shifters (whom I describe as cat people and dog people, respectively). When kids do make up races, they usually describe them as part X, part Y, part Z plus an almost humorlessly overpowered special ability which has nothing to do with any of the above...

Lion paw, doppelganger foot, devil tail, squid arm, bat ear...
and an impenetrable energy field.

One of the most popular games I ever ran was an all animal adventure I ran in a convention once (described in this article, along with some more of my best kids games). And yet, as far as mutations go, animals are a big no-no.Coincidentally, this Choose Your Own Adventure game is the only article of mine that survived the great Wizards purge of '11 and if you fancy taking on the role of a young leopard leading a gang of ever-bickering wildebeests against a poacher with a surprising leader, you are more than welcome to do so here...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mavet Rav Revisited

I wrote this article for Dragon in 2008, but it was removed some years ago because it was third edition and the way Wizards view older editions (or writers) of D&D is not unlike the way medieval Christians viewed the Jews. I think it's the best setting I've written to date, so I'm re-posting it here with the excellent original art by Drew Baker. The gates of the city, my favorite piece, was my wallpaper for many, many years...

Burn, third edition, burn!
As far as I'm concerned, the article now belongs to the internet so feel free to link, re-post, use, abuse, or perform any other function upon this article. Credits, of course, would be appreciated.

Have fun!

The Oligarchy of Mavet Rav
"Death is the thin line that separates the nobility from the common rabble."
-- Senator Ben Gufot

Sooner or later every adventurer has a brush with the authorities, whether they work for them to defeat some great evil, flee the law after being framed for a foul murder, or simply pay their taxes. In most cases we assume the government to be a benevolent monarchy or republic and the people to be normal and generally good folk. But what if interacting with the government and the people is the hardest part of the adventure? What if simply walking down the street is as challenging as surviving a trap-infested dungeon? This article explores such an unorthodox regime and presents four NPCs for inspiration or immediate usage in your campaign.

The Reign of the Dead: Building a Necrocracy
There are two types of necrocracies: direct and indirect. In direct necrocracy, high offices and positions of power are held by undead. This is most often found in evil, death-worshiping societies and frequently goes hand in hand with the worship of demon lords and evil gods. A more subtle form of necrocracy is when all important decisions are made after a consultation with the spirits of the dead. This type of government is most often seen in primitive tribal societies where the spirits of the ancestors are revered as gods. In rare and desperate occasions a good-aligned monarchy or democracy may seek the guidance of some legendary hero or ruler. Such consultations are a dangerous business, however, since death changes the mind of even the greatest heroes in deadly and unpredictable ways. . .

A necrocratic city is constructed much like a normal city (see page 107 in Dungeon Master's Guide II for more details) except for one major difference: the abundance of powerful supernatural beings, usually encountered only in the deadliest of dungeons, eliminates many basic needs such as food, resources, defensible positions, or even water. Why bother when you can simply conjure all these, or have your horde of mindless undead fetch them from anywhere in the region? Keeping this in mind, you can place a thriving metropolis in the middle of a lifeless desert; what nature lacks, the dead can provide with their magic and special abilities. In such a city, the living citizens are completely dependent on the undead elite. The undead ruling class not only provides magical guidance and protection, but also makes life possible in a hostile environment that would otherwise be uninhabitable. However, these boons often come at a terrible price . . .

Most necrocracies are normal cities that for some reason (usually faith or occupation) are ruled by undead and should abide by the rules presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide II. The status of the living inhabitants can range anywhere from little more than cattle to equal citizens, although usually they are closer to the former. Vampires need living people to guard them during the day and they need to feed on living inhabitants during the night. Other undead, lacking the vampires' many weaknesses, still need mortals for various purposes: Mummies feel that it is their duty to rule the living as intermediates between the gods and mortals; liches require mortals to aid them in their magical research, more-often-than-not as expendable test subjects; and death knights simply like to be surrounded by "fragile humanity" just to feel even more superior. In death-worshiping societies, the living consider it a great honor to serve, or even be sacrificed, to their undead masters, believing that the living are inferior and fragile and that undeath is the only true aim in life.

Cities ruled by undead against their will, on the other hand, are extremely oppressed and miserable, and they resemble huge prisons or labor camps more than towns. A resistance movement of brave paladins and priests aided by desperate citizens is as likely as a vicious secret police battling the popular resistance and keeping the populous in the dark. It's important to remember that although most undead are evil, they are also usually extremely powerful and inhumanly intelligent. They can prove a vital resource for any city willing to suffer the company of unholy walking corpses. An army of undead almost always defeats any living army of equal size (and uses the bodies of the slain to bolster its might). Politicians and diplomats who are likely to "live" for centuries can develop plans of such complexity and intricacy that few mortals could ever hope to grasp them, let alone foil them. Ageless wizards and priests can construct weapons and items of unspeakable potency, not caring for the decades and life-force invested in creating them.

With such great prizes, even nations who don't worship death gods could be tempted to live alongside (or rather under) sentient undead, even if it means putting their sanity and place in the next world at risk.

Lastly, it is important to note that different types of undead strive to create different societies and treat their living subjects in different ways:
  • Vampires, prone to decadence, like to view themselves as the "aristocracy of the night" and the living as "dumb sheep" to play with and later devour mercilessly.

  • Mummies see themselves as intermediates between the mortals and the gods and expect absolute obedience from their worshipers. The faithful receive great boons, while faithless suffer the tortures of the damned.

  • Liches usually delve into their magic studies and ignore their subjects while slowly sinking into madness. If something is required of them, it is as likely to be met with genuine aid as with a finger of death.

  • Ghosts rule from the shadows, using their malevolence ability freely and treating their subjects like simple "meat puppets." Spreading subtle fear and paranoia are likely to be their chief tools of oppression.

  • Death knight rulers, far rarer then other types of undead, are murderous tyrants who rule through violence and intimidation. They create extremely militaristic societies bent on conquest and destruction of all that is holy.
Below is an example of one of the most successful necrocracies in the world: the Oligarchy of Mavet Rav.

About Mavet Rav

In most societies, death is considered a natural part of the cycle of life. Not so in Mavet Rav, where it is considered simply vulgar and passé.

In Mavet Rav, there are two classes of citizens: the living Haim and the undead Almetim. The poor and underprivileged Haim are those who cannot afford or fear the transformation to undeath. They cannot vote or be elected to the Senate and can never receive public or military commissions. The best they can hope for is to excel in their simple craft and die moderately wealthy. The Almetim are the rich and powerful nobility that holds all positions of power and enjoy many legal privileges such as lower taxes and the right to own lands, study necromancy, and bear arms. The rationale behind this discrimination is simple: The living are too fragile and short-lived to make responsible decisions. How can you bravely command an army when a single stray arrow can end your existence? How can you lead a nation if you can't expect to live more than a mere century?

Instead of families or clans, the Almetim have political parties, each with its own representatives in the Senate and the army. New members are usually well-to-do and ambitious Haim who earned enough money and reputation to join the parties or are living relatives of current Almetim who came of age.

The state religion is the cult of Wee Jas but most people are indifferent worshipers at best. Other religions are permitted as long as they do not preach against undeath or necromancy. The church of Pelor is strictly outlawed and its members are a hunted and persecuted minority.

Mavet Rav (Metropolis): Necrocracy; AL LE; 100,000 gp limit, no asset limit*; population 120,000; Mixed (Almetim 17%, Haim 83% [96% human, 3% halfling, 1% other]).
*Under Mavet Rav laws, it is illegal to sell weapons, armor, or any noncurative magic items to living creatures.
Notable NPCs: The Living and the Dead
This section provides basic information about key NPCs in Mavet Rav, and the entries are limited to their names, alignments, genders, races, classes, levels, and positions or roles in the city. Other details are left for the DM to create so he can customize the NPCs as needed for his particular campaign. Note that some of these NPCs are discussed in greater detail below.

Prominent Senators
  • Lokh Shov (LE male lich human necromancer 17), chairman of the Senate, oldest undead in the city.

  • Gami Bekh (TN female ghost rogue 4/diviner 11), head of Crypt Corruption Investigation sub-committee.

  • Adon Nadiv (CN male mummified human sorcerer 3/cleric of Wee Jas 5/true necromancer 6), advocate of equal opportunity for undeath, leader of the opposition.

  • Col. (Ret.) Doker Believ (CE male death knight human fighter 12), deeply bigoted extremist who advocates a crusade against all nonnecrocracies, has a phobia of holy symbols.

  • Hiroah Tazor (LE female vampire half-elf ex-paladin 6/blackguard 6), chief justice.

  • Ben Gufot (CE male vampire human bard 7/dirgesinger 4), national poet and rising flamboyant politician.

  • Dr. Anikhma Odim (TN female vampire human wizard 1/cleric of Boccob 7), pacifist and advocate of equal rights for the Haim, married to Overseer Gamor Odim.

  • Prof. Tamid Rakhok (NE male ghost elf expert 7), in charge of budget distribution.
Prominent Overseers
  • Borlan Eviscus (LG male elf bard 5/ranger 4), chairman of the Overseers and liaison to the Senate, oldest Haim in the city.

  • Naval Afel (CE male human fighter 7), secretly hates Haim and wants to become Almetim by finding out which of the Overseers smuggles in refugees.

  • Gamor Odim (NG male human expert 7), pacifist and advocate of equal rights for the Haim, married to Senator Dr. Anikhma Odim.

  • Seraphina Widehill (CG female halfling cleric of Yondalla 6), uses her position to illegally smuggle halfling (and other) refugees into the city.
The Vigilant
  • Commissioner Akhen Zaduk (LN male human fighter 6/rogue 6), commander and brilliant investigator.

  • Capt. Devar Nil-Kham (TN male half-orc fighter 11), commander of the Night Watch, ex-con.

  • Dr. Kosem Ragil (NE male lich human wizard 9), head of Special Investigations Unit, reports on his commander to the Crypt and vice-versa.

  • Capt. Khoker Boker (NG male half-elf rogue 10), head of Criminal Investigations Unit, always competes against Kosem's unit.

  • Capt. Yom Balman (LG male human fighter 9), commander of the Day Watch.

  • Tatvev Kurbadion (LE male gnome expert 7), in charge of hiring outside help for the Vigilant and conducting "unofficial investigations," corrupted and treacherous but gets the job done.

  • Zomofil Sobon (LN male half-orc warrior 6), chief warden.
The Crypt
  • Lt. Gen. Yodekh Kola (CE male ghost human rogue 3/cleric of Nerull 3/master of shrouds 10), commander, secret cultist of Nerull.

  • Col. Oosa Gadvar (LE male mummified fighter 6/blackguard 6), head of Almetim Crimes Investigation department, often hires outside help.

  • Faceless (NE female human vampire rogue 5/Master of Masks 5), head of Counterintelligence department, controls a vast network of agents both in the city and abroad.

  • Maj. Gen. Rosh Kaatan (LN male human vampire fighter 10), unambitious but loyal second-in-command.
  • Matriarch Galeena Kugel (LE female lich human cleric of Wee Jas 14), high priestess of Wee Jas.

  • Golger Ze'el (LE male lich cleric of Hextor 10), high priest of Hextor, brother of Bar Ze'el.

  • Alina Littlebush (NG female halfling cleric of Yondalla 11), high priestess of the halfling community, known for her lavish charity events that attract merchants, politicians, and Almetim alike.

  • The Scythe (NE male ghost cleric of Nerull 8), an insane prophet despised by Haim and Almetim alike.
Pelor's Shadow Guard
  • Father Abon (LG male human cleric of Pelor 13), high priest of Pelor and head of the Shadowguard.

  • Gibor Gadol (LG male half-orc paladin 9/shadowspy of Pelor 6), the Shadow Guard's chief executioner.

  • Nakhima Patan (NG female half-elf paladin 7), Shadow Guard's chief recruiter and agitator.
Other Notable Citizens
  • Prof. Aben Lahud (NE male ghost elf diviner 15), rector of the Mavet Rav Arcane Institute, a famous scholar and patron of adventurers.

  • Lt. Gen. Bar Ze'el (LE male death knight half-orc fighter 6/blackguard 6), commander of the Mavet Rav Army, brother of Golger Ze'el.

  • Korin the Hammer (LG dwarf expert 13), legendry weaponsmith, one of the wealthiest and most respectable Haim in Mavet Rav.

  • Shoalina Gr'destina (CE female drow cleric of Lolth 13), drow ambassador.

  • Madam Agony (CE female banshee), heads an elite brothel offering any kind of unnatural entertainment, rumored to be a Crypt agent and assassin.

  • Gurdum Shield-Biter (CE male orc barbarian 9), orc ambassador.

Life and Death in Mavet Rav
Although the past of this strange city-state is intentionally shrouded in mystery by its undead rulers, most sages believe it to have started as a small community formed away from civilization by a cabal of undead scholars wishing to escape persecution at the hands of their paladin enemies. In time, the cabal's wealth and power began to attract local savages; some came because they viewed the newcomers as gods to be worshiped, others were curious to taste the fruits of civilization, and still others came searching for an easy, albeit shackled, life.

Rumors of this safe haven began to spread across the world, whispered by madmen in dark street corners or dreamed by lunatics in nightmarish temples until it became a beacon of darkness for all those who wished to practice necromancy in peace. Many of the newcomers brought with them vast treasures and loyal henchmen, who, in turn, brought their families or married the local "savages" who, by now, were quite civilized. By the time the adjacent nations learned of this abomination it was too late -- what began as a simple experiment by a group of undead was now a political and military force with which to be reckoned.

Today, Mavet Rav is a somber city of gigantic marble mausoleums and narrow streets paved with old, moldy tombstones. A slight smell of decay always hangs in the disturbingly still air and even the living that crowd the streets look somewhat pale and lifeless, as is dictated by the latest Almetim fashion. Because time is not an issue for its undead rulers, Mavet Rav boasts some of the world's most breathtaking architectural monuments (notably the various political parties' headquarters, the temples of Wee Jas and Hextor, and the Senate, which is constructed from the bones of slain patriots). Despite its moribund appearance, Mavet Rav is a vibrant and thriving society that attracts many specialists and adventurers from far-away lands in search of quick wealth or simple sight-seeing. This success is partly the result of the abundance of powerful wizards and clerics in the city, but mainly of the high level of discipline and organization of its living citizens, most of whom consider living under the reign of undead a blessing rather than a curse.

Although the absolute majority of Mavet Rav's population is a pale, dark-haired human race descended from the savages that once lived around the city, there are two notable minorities: a small but audible halfling community calling itself Flower-on-the-Grave and about a thousand half-orcs, mostly employed in the city's military and police forces. The government and law enforcement agencies of Mavet Rav are described in Exploring Mavet Rav.

The Laws of Corruption
Mavet Rav has a highly developed judicial system that, in theory, guarantees a fair trial for any citizen, no matter how poor or underprivileged. In reality the Almetim judges tend to favor their own and almost always rule in favor of their political or business allies. Two laws, however, are considered sacred and are upheld without exceptions:
Creation of Undead: Undeath must never be granted for free. Only Mavet Rav citizens can gain it, and those so gifted must have reached puberty at least.
The Right to Retain Sentience: Unintelligent undead must never be created from Mavet Rav citizens. Breaking these rules guarantees destruction, no matter how powerful or influential the offender is.
Punishments include fines, jail, forced labor (often abused by rural Almetim to gain free workers), symbolic scarification, execution, and, in rare cases, forced resurrection for Almetim (humorously called "Haination").
Exploring Mavet Rav
The remainder of this article explores Mavet Rav in great detail. You can use it as described, or you can pick and choose locations, NPCs, and adventure hooks for use in other cities, whether they are necrocratic or more conventional.

Note that each of the four NPCs presented below can serve as a master villain or patron (depending on the PC's alignment) regardless of whether the Mavet Rav setting is used or not.

1-4. The Wall and the Gates
The famed walls of Mavet Rav boast some of the most artful and intricate bas-reliefs in the world, although most would find the motifs of death and undeath somewhat disturbing and gloomy.

There are four entrances to the city, and each one is named after each of the major undead factions and suitably decorated. Many retired generals demand that a fifth, death knight, gate be opened somewhere in the wall. However, since priceless art adorns every inch of the ancient walls and there are fewer than a hundred death knights in the city, the chances for their demands to be met are slim.

5. The Senate
Forty senators control Mavet Rav, and they are elected from the Almetim elite once every twenty-five years. Only those who have been undead for a century or more and have a spotless past can be candidates for this prestigious position. The Senate passes laws, heads the state, and appoints all military and public officials.
Adventure Hook: A living necromancer from a foreign land animates people as intelligent undead under his command and uses them to spread his influence among the Almetim. A senator who suspects something is wrong with the new party hires the PCs to investigate its origins and possibly uncover the necromancer.

Senator (Vampire) Ben Gufot CR 13
MM 250, LM 43
hp 77 (11 HD); fast healing 5; DR 10/silver and magic
Male vampire human bard 7/dirgesinger 4
CE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +8, Spot +8
Languages Common
AC 26, touch 14, flat-footed 22; Dodge (+4 Dex, +5 armor, +1 shield, +6 natural)
Immune ability damage (Str, Dex, Con), ability drain, critical hits, death effects, disease, energy drain, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning, any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless), death from massive damage
Resist cold 10, electricity 10, turn +4
Fort +3, Ref +10, Will +9
Weakness vampire weakness
Speed 30 ft. (10 squares)
Melee +1 rapier of wounding +13/+8 (1d6+5/18-20 plus wounding) or
slam +12 (1d6+4 plus energy drain)
Base Atk +8; Grp +12
Atk Options Combat Reflexes, Improved Feint
Special Actions bardic music 9/day (countersong, fascinate 3 creatures, inspire competence, inspire courage +1, suggestion [DC 17]), blood drain, children of the night, create spawn, dirgesong 9/day (song of sorrow [DC 22], song of bolstering, song of grief [DC 22], song of horror [DC 22]), dominate (DC 20)
Bard Spells Known (CL 7th):
3rd (1/day) -- deep slumber (DC 18), haste
2nd (3/day) -- alter self, darkness, hold person (DC 17), mirror image
1st (5/day) -- charm person (DC 16), expeditious retreat, Tasha's hideous laughter (DC 16), undetectable alignment
0 (3/day) -- dancing lights, daze (DC 15), detect magic, ghost sound, lullaby (DC 15), mage hand
Abilities Str 18, Dex 19, Con --, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 20
SQ alternate form, bardic knowledge, gaseous form, spider climb
Feats Alertness[B], Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes[B], Dodge[B], Improved Feint, Improved Initiative[B], Lightning Reflexes[B], Requiem, Run, Quick Draw
Skills Bluff +27, Concentration +14, Disguise +15, Hide +22, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (religion) +10, Listen +8, Move Silently +22, Perform (recital) +19, Search +8, Sense Motive +12, Spot +8
Possessions +2 studded leather armor, masterwork buckler, +1 rapier of wounding
Fast Healing (Ex) Ben heals 5 points of damage each round so long as it has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, it automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. It must reach its coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (It can travel up to nine miles in 2 hours.) Any additional damage dealt to a vampire forced into gaseous form has no effect. Once at rest in its coffin, Ben is helpless. It regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

Damage Reduction (Su) Ben has damage reduction 10/silver and magic. Ben's natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Energy Drain (Su) Living creatures hit by Ben's slam attack gain two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed, Ben gains 5 temporary hit points. Ben can use its energy drain ability once per round.

Blood Drain (Ex) Ben can suck blood from a living victim with its fangs by making a successful grapple check. If it pins the foe, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such successful attack, Ben gains 5 temporary hit points.

Children of the Night (Su) Vampires command the lesser creatures of the world and once per day can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might summon other creatures of similar power.) These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.

Create Spawn (Su) A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by a vampire's energy drain rises as a vampire spawn (see the Vampire Spawn entry, page 253) 1d4 days after burial. If Ben instead drains the victim's Constitution to 0 or lower, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or less HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of the vampire that created it and remains enslaved until its master's destruction. At any given time Ben may have enslaved spawn totaling no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit are created as free-willed vampires or vampire spawn. A vampire that is enslaved may create and enslave spawn of its own, so a master vampire can control a number of lesser vampires in this fashion. Ben may voluntarily free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again.

Song of Sorrow (Su) Ben can evoke sorrow and lament in his enemies. To be affected, an enemy must be able to hear Ben perform. The effect lasts for as long as the enemy hears Ben and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected enemy takes -2 penalty on Will saving throws and a -2 penalty on attack rolls and weapon damage rolls. A successful DC 24 Will save negates the effect and makes the character immune to Ben's song of sorrow ability for 24 hours. Song of sorrow is a mind-affecting ability.

Song of Bolstering (Su) All undead within 30 feet of Ben gain a +11 bonus on their turn resistance. The bolstering lasts for as long as Ben performs and for 10 rounds thereafter. Ben can bolster himself in this manner.

Song of Grief (Su) Ben can inspire maddening grief in a living creature. The creature must be within 60 feet of Ben and able to hear him. Unless the target succeeds on a DC 24 Will save he becomes confused for as long as Ben perform and for 5 rounds thereafter. Song of grief is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting ability.

Song of Horror (Su) Ben can strike a horrifying chord in the hearts of his enemies. Any enemy within 60 feet who can hear Ben must succeed on a DC 24 Will save or take 1d6 points of Strength damage and 1d6 points of Dexterity damage. A creature that is affected by Ben's song of horror or a creature that successfully saves against this effect cannot be affected by Ben's song of horror for 24 hours.

Dominate (Su) Ben can crush an opponent's will just by looking onto his or her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack, except that Ben must use a standard action, and those merely looking at it are not affected. Anyone Ben targets must succeed on a Will save or fall instantly under Ben's influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Alternate Form (Su) Ben can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. While in its alternate form, Ben loses its natural slam attack and dominate ability, but it gains the natural weapons and extraordinary special attacks of its new form. It can remain in that form until it assumes another or until the next sunrise. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might allow other forms.)

Gaseous Form (Su) As a standard action, Ben can assume gaseous form at will as the spell (caster level 5th), but it can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Spider Climb (Ex) Ben can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Skills Vampires have a +8 racial bonus on Bluff, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks.
Notes: Ben Gufot first became famous after writing an award-winning epic poem praising undeath and cursing the cowardice and wretchedness of those who choose to die and rot. After the immense success of his poem, Ben's life has been a meteoritic ascent from a humble tavern bard, to a respected member of the Crimson Society, vampirehood, and, finally, the Senate.
Few know that the delicate and melancholic poet, whose works are widely read by Almetim and Haim alike, is a sadist and a psychopath who enjoys terrorizing poor and defenseless citizens with a gang of like-minded vampire spawn thugs. Since it is obvious that the crimes are being committed by Almetim and the victims so far were only homeless and prostitutes, neither the Vigilant (which isn't supposed to meddle in undead affairs) nor the Crypt (where Ben has many friends) investigates these terrible crimes.

6. The Crypt
The crypt is the secret police and intelligence agency designed to deal with crimes involving Almetim or "national interests." This shadowy and powerful organization is commanded by the equally mysterious Lieutenant General Yodekh Kola (see below) and its operatives are all Almetim (mostly ghosts and vampires). Unlike the Vigilant, the Crypt is a secret organization acting above the law and often in the interests of its leadership rather than that of the state. While dealing with matters of "national importance," its officers don't flinch from torture, framing innocents, illegal imprisonment, and sometimes even outright murder disguised as an accident or a crime of passion.
The Crypt is as much a tool of political oppression as it is an efficient police force dealing mainly with political or supernatural crimes. Rumors of terrible deeds and unspeakable rituals taking place in this imposing building's basements have spread, but all investigations into these claims ended with the investigator's unexplainable disappearance.

Adventure Hook: The Crypt arrests the PCs for an imaginary crime, and they find themselves locked in a cell with a Haim political activist. The warden hints that the PCs are supposed to murder him in "self-defense" during the night or be tried next morning. Will the PCs choose to murder an innocent man, risk their lives in an attempt to escape from the well-guarded Crypt headquarters, or try to prove their innocence before the Mavet Rav court?
Lt. Gen. Yodekh Kola CR 18
MM 116, LM 46
hp 109 (16 HD)
Male ghost human rogue 3/cleric 3/master of shrouds 10
CE Medium undead (augmented human)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +20, Spot +20
Languages Common
AC 24, touch 15, flat-footed 24 (manifested) (+9 armor, +5 deflection) or
AC 19, touch 10, flat-footed 19 (incorporeal) (+9 armor)
Immune ability damage (Str, Dex, Con), ability drain, critical hits, death effects, disease, energy drain, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning, any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless), death from massive damage
Resist evasion, turn +4; SR 15
Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +23
Speed fly 30 ft. (6 squares, perfect)
Melee +2 keen scythe of ghost touch +14/+9/+4 (2d4+4/19-20/x4) or
draining touch +12/+7/+2 (1d4 points from any ability, +5 hp to self)
Base Atk +11; Grp +12
Atk Options sneak attack +2d6
Special Actions death touch (3d6), draining touch, malevolence, manifestation, rebuke undead 9/day (+4, 2d6+18, 13th), spontaneous casting (inflict spells), trapfinding
Combat Gear 2 divine scrolls of implosion, 3 divine scrolls of finger of death, divine scroll of blasphemy
Cleric Spells Prepared (CL 12th):
6th -- greater dispel magic, harm (DC 26), mislead[D], word of recall (Crypt office)
5th -- commune, flame strike (DC 23), slay living (DC 27)[D], spell resistance, true seeing
4th -- confusion (DC 22)[D], discern lies, divine power, sending, spell immunity, tongues
3rd -- animate dead (2), bestow curse (DC 25), blindness/deafness (2) (DC 25), nondetection[D], speak with dead
2nd -- bull's strength, death knell[D](DC 22), desecrate, hold person (3) (DC 20), owl's wisdom
1st -- command (2) (DC 19), deathwatch, disguise self[D], divine favor, obscuring mist, protection from good, shield of faith
0 -- detect magic (3), detect poison, read magic (2)
D: Domain Spell. Domains: Death, Trickery
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 12th):
8/day -- summon undead (see below)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 10, Con --, Int 10, Wis 26, Cha 21
SQ horrific appearance, improved summoning, incorporeal traits, rejuvenation (see below), trap sense
Feats Augment Summoning, Combat Casting, Ghostly Grasp*, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Improved Initiative[B], Spell Focus (conjuration), Spell Focus (necromancy)
Skills Bluff +13, Concentration +15, Diplomacy +7, Hide +3, Gather Information +13, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (local) +7, Knowledge (religion) +15, Listen +20, Search +8, Spellcraft +15, Spot +20
Possessions combat gear plus +1 ghost touch full plate of spell resistance 15, +2 keen scythe of ghost touch, cloak of resistance +4, periapt of Wisdom +4
* Feat from Libris Mortis
Draining Touch (Su) A ghost that hits a living target with its incorporeal touch attack drains 1d4 points from any one ability score it selects. On each such successful attack, Yodekh heals 5 points of damage to itself. Against ethereal opponents, it adds its Strength modifier to attack rolls only. Against nonethereal opponents, it adds its Dexterity modifier to attack rolls only.

Malevolence (Su) Once per round, an ethereal ghost can merge its body with a creature on the Material Plane. This ability is similar to a magic jar spell (caster level 16th), except that it does not require a receptacle. To use this ability, Yodekh must be manifested and it must try move into the target's space; moving into the target's space to use the malevolence ability does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save (DC 20). A creature that successfully saves is immune to Yodekh's malevolence for 24 hours, and Yodekh cannot enter the target's space. If the save fails, Yodekh vanishes into the target's body.

Manifestation (Su) Every ghost has this ability. Yodekh dwells on the Ethereal Plane and, as an ethereal creature, it cannot affect or be affected by anything in the material world. When Yodekh manifests, it partly enters the Material Plane and becomes visible but incorporeal on the Material Plane. A manifested ghost can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons, or spells, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. A manifested ghost can pass through solid objects at will, and its own attacks pass through armor. A manifested ghost always moves silently. A manifested ghost can strike with its touch attack or with a ghost touch weapon (see Ghostly Equipment, below). A manifested ghost remains partially on the Ethereal Plane, where is it not incorporeal. A manifested ghost can be attacked by opponents on either the Material Plane or the Ethereal Plane. The ghost's incorporeality helps protect it from foes on the Material Plane, but not from foes on the Ethereal Plane. When a spellcasting ghost is not manifested and is on the Ethereal Plane, its spells cannot affect targets on the Material Plane, but they work normally against ethereal targets. When a spellcasting ghost manifests, its spells continue to affect ethereal targets and can affect targets on the Material Plane normally unless the spells rely on touch. A manifested ghost's touch spells don't work on nonethereal targets. A ghost has two home planes, the Material Plane and the Ethereal Plane. It is not considered extraplanar when on either of these planes.

Summon Undead (Sp) One dead wraith, two greater shadows, four specters, four wraiths, or four shadows. Duration is 15 rounds.

Horrific Appearance (Su) Any living creature within 60 feet that views Yodekh must succeed on a Fortitude save or immediately take 1d4 points of Strength damage, 1d4 points of Dexterity damage, and 1d4 points of Constitution damage. A creature that successfully saves against this effect cannot be affected by Yodekh's horrific appearance for 24 hours.

Improved Summoning (Ex) Summoned undead gain +2 enhancement bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls.

Rejuvenation (Su) Yodekh became a ghost because of his undying desire to gain strength through blackmail and manipulation. In order to permanently destroy Yodekh, the PCs must make his myriad dark and terrible secrets known to the wide public.
Notes: Yodekh Kola has been the commander of the dreaded Crypt for longer than anyone, living or undead, can remember. His network of incorporeal spies and agents is so vast that many wonder if he serves the state or the state serves him. Such speculations are never voiced, however, because just about anyone -- be it a poor fish monger or a respected senator -- can be his informant . . . or victim. No one, however, not even his loyal and patriotic second-in-command Rosh Kaatan (LN male human vampire fighter 10) knows the true scope of his ambitions and foul treachery. For the glory of his true master, Nerull, Yodekh is planning to overthrow the oligarchy and become a tyrant over a desecrated land of mindless undead. To further this purpose, he has been secretly acting to weaken the Oligarchy and sow restlessness among the Haim for decades, all the while strengthening the cult of Nerull in the countryside.

Because of his immense network of living and undead minions, nigh indestructibility, and the epic scope of his vile machinations, Yodekh Kola is the ideal recurring villain for a campaign set in Mavet Rav.

7. The Vigilant
The Vigilant is the official state police force of the Oligarchy of Mavet Rav. It is headed by the brilliant Commissioner Akhen Zaduk (LN male human fighter 6/rogue 6) and its members include about 3,000 Haim veterans and a few dozens of Almetim wizards or sorcerers who aid in especially difficult cases.

The Vigilant's tasks are to keep the peace inside the city and countryside, be the first line of defense in case of a sudden attack on Mavet Rav, and to investigate crimes perpetrated by or against the living. Arresting or questioning any Almetim is outside of the Vigilant's jurisdiction as it is argued that a Haim, no matter how talented or educated, can never fully grasp the complexity of even the least of the Almetim's actions. As soon as it becomes clear that Almetim are involved in a case, the hated Crypt comes into the picture, which often brings the two organizations into conflict.
Adventure Hook: A corrupt Vigilant investigator is bribed by Ben Gufot to frame the PCs for his latest murder spree. Now, hunted by both mortal Haim warriors and mystical Crypt agents, the PCs must prove their innocence and, hopefully, bring the real murderer to justice in a case that will truly shake the nation.

8. Overseer Offices
Haim interests are represented by ten Overseers elected annually in democratic elections in which every Haim has the right to vote and be elected. In theory, the Overseers have equal administrative powers to the Senate, but in reality their legal rights are sometimes trampled by oppressive senators when it concerns their political or economical interests. Nevertheless, the Overseers are a powerful force in Mavet Rav politics and their views are usually taken into account. Most Overseers are successful artisans or decorated veterans.

Adventure Hook: Mavet Rav suffers from a rain of holy water that leaves dozens of weaker undead destroyed and hundreds damaged. This brings a wave of brutal repressions and riots against all the legal good religions in the city, chief of which is the pacifistic cult of Yondalla. Fearing for her people, Overseer Seraphina Widehill hires the PCs to investigate the case and discover the truth before it is too late. The true perpetrator of the attack is Yodekh Kola who wishes to weaken the Almetim elite and draw the state into anarchy before starting his overt revolution.

9. White Shroud Society Headquarters
Adon Nadiv is the founder and leader of the small but very provocative "White Shroud Society." The White Shroud believes that undeath is the basic right of any humanoid and should not be deprived from anyone, no matter how base or strange his origins might be. The organization includes primarily necromancers who wander the land, granting free undeath to any adult for the symbolic cost of a burial shroud. The White Shroud's political power grows quickly, since every new Almetim it animates becomes a loyal supporter and a sure voter in the next elections. The organization has powerful enemies, too, in the form of conservative Almetim who are loathe to share their privileges with the "unwashed masses." They argue that Adon's activates will eventually drag the nation into a civil war between the "false" and "true" Almetim. It is not rare for a White Shroud necromancer to mysteriously disappear or for a regional base to suddenly catch on fire.

Unlike most Almetim, undeath has not deprived Adon of his vigor and enthusiasm, nor made him haughty or decadent. Adon lives in a modest but heavily guarded mansion that also serves as the organization's headquarters.

Adventure Hook: Because he is not wholly evil, Adon may serve as a perfect patron for a group of undead PCs who do not wish to play evil characters.

Senator Adon Nadiv CR 18
LM 51, 110
hp 96 (13 HD); DR 5/--
Male mummified human sorcerer 3/cleric 5/true necromancer 6
CN Medium undead (augmented human)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +5, Spot +5
Aura zone of desecration
Languages Common, Infernal
AC 21, touch 11, flat-footed 21 (+2 deflection, +10 natural)
Immune ability damage (Str, Dex, Con), ability drain, critical hits, death effects, disease, energy drain, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning, any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless), death from massive damage
Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +17
Weakness vulnerability to fire
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares)
Melee +1 heavy mace of disruption +11/+6 (1d8+7 plus disruption) or
slam +10 (1d8+4 plus disease)
Base Atk +7; Grp +11
Atk Options despair, mummy rot
Special Actions rebuke undead 13/day (+6, 2d6+12, 12th)
Combat Gear 3 potions of cause moderate wounds
Cleric Spells Prepared (CL 8th; effective caster level 10th for necromancy spells):
4th -- divine power, imbue with spell ability[D], inflict critical wounds (2) (DC 20)
3rd -- animate dead[D], dispel magic (2), magic vestment, protection from energy
2nd -- bull's strength, death knell[D] (DC 18), hold person (2) (DC 17), spiritual weapon
1st -- cause fear[D] (2) (DC 17), detect undead, divine favor, magic weapon, protection from good, shield of faith
0 -- detect magic (2), guidance, mending, read magic, resistance
D: Domain Spell. Domains: Death, Magic
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 6th; effective caster level 8th for necromancy spells):
3rd (4/day) -- deep slumber (DC 19)
2nd (7/day) -- command undead (DC 19), resist energy
1st (8/day) -- charm person (DC 17), mage armor, magic missile, shield
0 (6/day) -- acid splash (DC 16), daze (DC 16), detect magic, disrupt undead (DC 17), light, mage hand, read magic
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 14th):
2/day -- create undead
Abilities Str 19, Dex 9, Con -, Int 8, Wis 20, Cha 23
SQ necromantic prowess +2
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Turning, Improved Initiative, Improved Turning, Negotiator[B], Spell Focus (necromancy)
Skills Concentration +9, Diplomacy +8, Knowledge (arcana) +7, Knowledge (religion) +7, Listen +5, Spellcraft +0, Spot +5
Possessions combat gear plus +1 heavy mace of disruption, ring of protection +2, rod of splendor
Despair (Su) At the mere sight of Adon, the viewer must succeed on a DC 22 Will save or be paralyzed with fear for 1d4 rounds. Whether or not the save is successful, that creature cannot be affected again by Adon's despair ability for 24 hours.

Mummy Rot (Su) Supernatural disease -- slam, Fortitude DC 22, incubation period 1 minute; damage 1d6 Con and 1d6 Cha.

Necromantic Prowess +2 When Adon rebukes undead, casts a necromancy spell, or uses a spell-like ability that mimics a necromancy spell, her effective caster level increases by 2.

Zone of Desecration (Su) Adon is continuously surrounded by a 20-foot-radius aura of negative energy identical to the desecrate spell.
10. Church of Pelor Hideout
Pelor's Shadow Guard in Mavet Rav is a secret organization dedicated to the utter destruction of all undead in Mavet Rav and the establishment of a benevolent theocracy. The Shadow Guard numbers a few dozens of clerics, paladins, and elite shadowspies whose activities include assassinating necromancers and death clerics, preaching for Haim revolution, and gathering intelligence for the enemies of Mavet Rav in hope of a successful invasion by one of the neighboring states. Since desperate times require desperate measures, the organization is often ready to sacrifice innocent lives to hurt the Almetim oligarchy. Most Haim view Pelor's Shadow Guard as a dangerous terrorist organization that has strayed from its lofty principles too far to bring the long-awaited salvation.

Adventure Hook: The PCs protect a harmless-looking merchant from a bunch of thugs only to find out that the "harmless" merchant is a vampire and the "thugs" were Pelor's paladins. Suddenly, the group finds itself hunted by Pelor's shadowspies, who consider them treacherous collaborators that must be destroyed. Ending the hunt includes somehow arranging a meeting with the father of the church and possibly performing some quest to atone for this misunderstanding.

Gibor Gadol CR 15
CC 75, 105
hp 90 (15 HD)
Male half-orc paladin 9/shadowspy of Pelor 6
LG Medium humanoid
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +2, Spot +8
Aura anonymity, courage, good
Languages Common
AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 16 (+3 Dex, +6 armor)
Immune blindness, disease, fear
Fort +10, Ref +12, Will +11
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +1 warhammer of undead bane +18/+13/+8 (1d8+5/x3) or
+1 warhammer of undead bane +20/+15/+10 (1d8+7/x3) against undead
Base Atk +13; Grp +17
Atk Options Cleave, Power Attack, Strength Devotion, Sun Devotion, smite evil 2/day (+1 attack, +9 damage)
Special Actions lay on hands (9 hp), radiance of Pelor 2/day, turn undead 4/day (+1, 2d6+7, 6th)
Combat Gear divine scroll of prayer, 3 potions of cure moderate wounds
Paladin Spells Prepared (CL 7th):
3rd -- cure moderate wounds
2nd -- bull's strength, resist energy
1st -- detect undead, protection from evil
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th):
At will -- detect evil, undetectable alignment
6/day -- zone of truth
2/day -- remove disease
1/day -- greater invisibility
Abilities Str 19, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 12
SQ personal eclipse
Feats Cleave, Deceitful, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Disguise), Stealthy[B], Strength Devotion*, Sun Devotion*
Skills Balance +5, Diplomacy +3, Disguise +9, Forgery +3, Gather Information +13, Hide +17 (+20 when light is present), Listen +2, Move Silently +17, Sense Motive +8, Spot +8, Tumble +9
Possessions combat gear plus +1 glamered elven chain, +1 warhammer of undead bane (disguised as a walking cane), gloves of Dexterity +2, periapt of Wisdom +2
Aura of Courage (Su) Beginning at 3rd level, Gibor is immune to fear (magical or otherwise). Each ally within 10 feet of him gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects. This ability functions while the paladin is conscious, but not if he is unconscious or dead.

Aura of Good (Ex) The power of a Gibor's aura of good (see the detect good spell) is equal to his paladin level, just like the aura of a cleric of a good deity.

Shadow Apostle Gibor has attained the rank of Shadow Apostle within the Pelor's Shadow Guard. He gains a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks against evil foes and a +2 circumstance bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy checks when interacting with clerics and paladins of Heironeous and Pelor. Also, his effective caster level for spells from the Good, Healing, Law, Strength, Sun, and War domains is 8. He also gains the ability to use greater invisibility once per day (noted above).

Radiance of Pelor (Su) Twice per day as a swift action, Gibor can augment any or all light sources within 60 feet (including torches, lamps, lanterns, and campfires, as well as objects that are the target of a light spell and magic weapons that glow). The range of any light source so affected doubles, and the effect lasts for 6 hours, or until the light source is extinguished, whichever occurs first.

Aura of Anonymity (Su) When Gibor is walking in a crowd of ten or more individuals, he gains a divine bonus equal to his shadowspy level on Disguise and Hide checks.

Personal Eclipse (Su) Beginning at 4th level, Gibor can manipulate the direction and intensity of light. By redirecting and dimming ambient illumination, Gibor can cast shadows around his body to better conceal his presence. Doing so grants him a circumstance bonus equal to one-half his shadowspy level on Hide checks. This ability can be used at will but is effective only in areas where light is present.

* Feat from Complete Champion
Notes: Gibor Gadol is the Shadow Guard's chief executioner, a tired and bitter man who has seen so much death and destruction that he no longer cares about his church's high ideals or noble aspirations. Killing the dead is all he knows. Lately, however, his conscience awoke when he was ordered by his superiors to slay Adon Nadiv, the most prolific creator of undead in Mavet Rav. Although Adon is obviously nongood and has deprived hundreds of people of blessed afterlife in Pelor's heaven, Gibor feels some strange respect and kinship to the energetic mummy whom he has been stalking for years. Perhaps he can be talked into going through a voluntarily resurrection. After all, Adon is not evil, only misguided. Maybe creating undead is not really as evil as the church teaches. Meanwhile, Gibor watches and abides, slowly drifting away from Pelor and his high ideals and into the realm of corruption and madness.

11. Army Staff
The Mavet Rav army is considered by many to be among the deadliest forces in the world. What it lacks in size, it makes up with dark sorcery and extremely well-trained and well-equipped warriors (usually Haim wishing to join the Almetim or start political careers). When advancing, the army often animates enemy noncombatants to serve as cannon-fodder and demoralize the enemy. This, more than anything else, is the reason few nations dare to challenge the reign of the dead over the land.
The abundance of priests and wizards in the army guarantees that all those slain in the line of duty will be either raised from the dead or animated as intelligent undead (depending on the deceased's will), which considerably raises the troops' morale by removing the fear of death.
When fully mobilized, the Mavet Rav army includes more than 25,000 mortal soldiers and about 4,000 undead officers and specialists, most of whom have at least limited casting abilities. Hordes of mindless undead and monsters are usually summoned before major campaigns or during sieges.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 XP

So, how was 2011? I have made the transition from a hobby gamer to a professional gamer, working full time in the field as a freelance writer and afterschool instructor.

As a writer, I had the exciting, but challenging task of writing two books in a field I was not experienced in, an endeavor I feel I have learned a lot from. The first book, Traveller Core 9: Robot has already been published to good reviews. The second one, Traveller Supplement 9: Campaign Guide, will be published next month. I consider it as my greatest works in the sci-fi gaming field ever.

My job has the strangest dress code...

The second experience, DNDkids, was more ambiguous. Writing for Wizards of the Coast about my day job has brought me levels of attention I was not used for. This included many flattering or enlightening communications, but also the ire of self-righteous, social justice coach crusaders. I have also met some excellent people during the scandal and learned a lot about the way the internet works. Finally, I saw karma at work, as someone screamed all over the net I'm a danger to society because of my views turned out to be a rapist. Hence – ambivalence.

Concurrently, I worked on three large projects of my own; two of which came into fruition this month and another one is sort of creatively stuck. The first project is Tales from an Israeli Storyteller, a story cycle transforming my native Israel to a modern fantasy setting. The second is RATS, the greatest RPG ever! The third one is still a secret.

Great pizza for great gamers

In the personal field, I have made a lot of new friends in the LARP circles, neglecting my saner companions in favor of obscene amounts of gaming and geeky discussions into the sunrise. However, as a worm about to explode might say, I regret nothing!

In non-gaming news, I found myself cast in the role of the Other Man in a brief, but rather intense relationship, something I'd never think a good mama's boy like me would ever be involved in. It ended as abruptly as it began, but left many fond memories and new experiences. And in the end – this is what counts.