Eberron Expanded02/20/2006

Libris Mortis, Part Two

The first part of this article examined groups and religions that be could used as sources for the sinister aspects of Libris Mortis. This section looks at the groups that fight the undead along with a few additional aspects of the book.

Fighting the Darkness

Libris Mortis presents a host of tools and techniques for fighting the undead: feats, spells, prestige classes, and more weapons against the restless dead. Like the rest of the material in the book, these elements could be made available to all characters at once. However, it can be more interesting to limit these techniques to specific religions or groups as described in the first part of this article.

The following organizations are at the forefront of the war against the undead.

The Deathguard

The Undying Court teaches that negative undead are conduits to Mabar and that merely by existing, these creatures slowly drain away the life-force of Eberron itself. For the most part, the Aereni prefer to avoid contact with the outside world, but the war against undead is a danger that bypasses all borders. The soldiers engaged in this conflict are known as the Deathguard, an elite unit dedicated to the Undying Court and to eradicating the taint of undeath from the world.

The Deathguard is largely comprised of clerics, paladins, and fighters who have access to the Sacred Purifier prestige class, the Hunter of the Dead PrC from Complete Warrior, and the Sacred Exorcist PrC from Complete Divine. The order also includes a small corps of cleric/rogues with levels in the Shadowbane Stalker PrC from Complete Adventurer -- these agents are often equipped with ghost strike weapons, allowing them to make sneak attacks against incorporeal undead. In a world where most NPCs possess NPC class levels, the Deathguard are among the best at what they do, chosen from the most gifted soldiers and priests of Aerenal. But they are few in number, and the loss of any Deathguard is a blow to the Undying Court.

Clerics of the Deathguard can use the spells from Libris Mortis designed to fight undead (ghost trap, ghost touch armor, protection from negative energy, spawn screen, undead bane weapon, and similar effects) and should have access to many of the new feats. Aerenal is known for its manifest zones linked to Irian, and rituals performed in these regions infuse the Deathguard with positive energy. This in turn allows them to take feats such as Enduring Life, Empower Turning, Sacred Vitality, and Unquenchable Flame of Life. Participation in such a ritual could easily be a prerequisite for PCs who wish to take these feats. If a character can earn the respect of the Deathguard, she may be initiated into these mysteries.

The servants of the Deathguard are proud folk who believe that their calling places them above mortal laws. Others, however, do not share this view. The elves are generally required to act covertly. While they may strike at any undead creature or any necromancer that creates negative undead, they seek to battle the most significant targets -- powerful vampire lords, leaders of the Blood of Vol, and the like. Meanwhile, Erandis d'Vol despises the Deathguard and always takes any opportunity to eliminate a Deathguard unit. Because of this, Deathguard warriors may be unexpected allies in any battle against the Blood of Vol ... or they could show up unexpectedly as adventurers engaged in a delicate undercover operation!

Finally, the elves of Aerenal are the obvious source for positoxins. The jungles of Aerenal contain a host of unusual plants, many of which have been altered by exposure to the energies of Irian and Mabar. Between their long studies of the energies of these planes and their hatred of negative undead, the Aereni are the logical force to have developed these unusual tools.

The Silver Flame

The templars of the Silver Flame fight supernatural evil in all forms, and most creatures that prey on the blood and lifeforce of mortals qualify. There is one area in which the clerics of the Silver Flame stand supreme -- exorcism. Any Silver Flame priest with the Exorcism domain should gain the following benefits:

  • Access to the ghost trap spell (assuming he is of sufficient level to cast it).

  • +4 to Knowledge (religion) checks made to force a haunting presence to manifest.

As a rule, the soldiers of the Silver Flame do not have the focus or knowledge of undead possessed by the Deathguard and rarely possess the specialized feats, spells, and PrCs of Libris Mortis. In the long struggle with the undead armies of Karrnath, however, the clerics of Thrane learned to hone their skills at turning lesser undead. Honored clerics are brought before the Fountain of Flame at the heart of Flamekeep, where they are blessed in a ritual performed by the Keeper of the Flame herself. Those who receive this blessing can choose to take the Empower Turning, Heighten Turning, and Quicken Turning feats (when they are able to acquire new feats).

In general, followers of the Silver Flame consider obvious undead creatures to be dangerous and unnatural, and they will have a hostile reaction toward those who traffic with the undead.

The Sovereign Host

Within the Sovereign Host, persecution of the undead is the dominion of Dol Arrah, the Sovereign of Sun and Sacrifice. When the Shadow and the Keeper unleash their horrors against the living, it is the light of Dol Arrah that drives them back. Because the Sovereign Host is a pantheistic religion, most clerics of the Host are invoking Dol Arrah when they turn undead; those with the Sun domain have studied her rituals more closely and are thus able to perform greater turnings.

Generalist priests of the Sovereign Host are not expected to battle undead on a regular basis, so they have no access to the specialized abilities of Libris Mortis. There are, however, a number of orders dedicated to Dol Arrah that draw on these specialized tools. The Blades of the Sun is a line of paladins -- when properly sanctified, its members may take the Divine Accuracy or Sacred Vengeance feats and gain access to the undead bane weapon spell. A number of Dol Arrah's priests have formed ties with the Deathguard and learned their techniques; these priests often offer shelter and support to elves operating far from Aerenal.

Followers of Dol Arrah may take the Radiant Servant of Pelor prestige class presented in Complete Divine. A few have learned the path of the Sacred Purifier from the Deathguard, but this has yet to come into common use. A player character who wishes to take Purifier levels will most likely need to turn to Aerenal.

The Red Watchers

Magic of Eberron introduces a new organization dedicated to fighting the undead -- the Red Watchers, who seek to cleanse the land of Karrnath. The Red Watchers have developed their own unique prestige class, the Deadgrim. Characters who follow this path walk a line between life and death. The Tomb-Tainted Soul feats are an excellent way to further develop this ambiguity. The Ghost Scarred feat is also highly appropriate for Red Watchers. Beyond this, the Red Watchers are not a religion in their own right. Most members of the organization come from a background with the Silver Flame or the Sovereign Host, as outlined above.

Deathless and Libris Mortis

The Eberron Campaign Setting includes a new creature type that has considerable overlap with the undead: the deathless, the best known of which are the Undying of Aerenal. The deathless are being sustained after death by positive energy and the devotion of the descendants.How do the deathless interact with Libris Mortis?

One simple answer is to allow the deathless to take appropriate feats as if they were of the undead type. For example, deathless can be turned or destroyed by an evil cleric, making Improved Turn Resistance an excellent choice for a powerful Undying councilor. Positive Energy Resistance could be converted to Negative Energy Resistance for the deathless. Lifebond can be used to represent the strength a deathless gains from a particularly faithful follower (most likely a descendant), while Lifesense reflects its ability to perceive the positive energy that flows through living things.

The Tomb Warden prestige class is appropriate for the deathless, especially the Undying Soldiers who guard the City of the Dead. The Death's Chosen prestige class could be modified to become the Chosen of the Deathless. Remove the alignment restriction (as most deathless are good), but leave the Unnatural Aura. Even though they are animated by positive energy, the deathless are still unnatural beings.

The Vampires of the Blood of Vol

The faith of the Blood of Vol is based on the idea that the undead are champions of the church. Worshippers willingly give their blood to vampires to strengthen them in battle. Libris Mortis introduces new systems for undead sustenance.

According to Libris Mortis, the greatest force driving a vampire is its inescapable craving for life energy -- a hunger far more lethal to the victim than a little gift of blood. This is a considerable sacrifice on the part of the faithful, and one that would quickly decimate Blood of Vol sects. Because of this, vampires associated with the Blood of Vol should have a lesser craving for life energy. While they still require it to survive, the satiation period is seven days, the Will DC save is 15, and damage is reduced to 1d4 Wisdom. The simplest solution is to apply this to all vampires in the setting, but at the DM's discretion there could be another strain of vampirism -- undead whose roots can be traced back to the Qabalrin have this lesser craving, while those created by Katashka have an unquenchable thirst.

Undead as Characters

Libris Mortis provides class breakdowns for many of the common undead. An undead character can provide many interesting opportunities for roleplaying: once a Silver Flame paladin, you were slain only to rise as a ghoul; you have managed to overcome your bestial instincts, but what do you do now? Alternatively, you may be one of the champions of the Blood of Vol, granted the powers of undeath to defend the living. You have been disheartened to discover the corruption within your own church, but you still believe in your cause.

Undead characters will have a difficult time in the Five Nations unless they are able to conceal their condition. Not surprisingly, most people consider the undead to be dangerous monsters, and any of the groups mentioned in this article might attempt to destroy an undead character. Even those who don't fight or flee will generally be unfriendly at best, with the notable exceptions of followers or the Blood of Vol or the people of Droaam, who are surprisingly cosmopolitan in their views.

To make matters worse, the undead have no rights under the Code of Galifar. If you're a ghoul, a priest of Dol Arrah can destroy you with no legal consequences. It's a hard path to follow, but it can certainly make for an interesting journey.

The Monsters of Libris Mortis

Libris Mortis presents dozens of new monsters, and examining them all would take an article in its own right. Here are suggestions for how a few of these creatures could be placed in Eberron.

  • The Dream Vestige is supposedly formed from the death of an entire city. It is a perfect match for the Mournland, where hundreds of thousands were killed. Powerful quori may possess the ability to control dream vestiges, which would add a deadly weapon to the arsenal of the Dreaming Dark. The vestige's dream travel ability lets it strike anywhere in the world without warning!

  • The Boneyard is another creature that could be found in the Mournland or elsewhere in the Five Nations, especially on battlefields where large armies of Karrnathi undead were defeated.

  • The Evolved Undead template can be an interesting way to make ancient powers such as Erandis d'Vol and the vampire lords of the Qabalrin even deadlier than expected. After forty thousand years of evolution, a Qabalrin vampire might possess +12 turn resistance, fast healing 18, and a half-dozen spell-like abilities!

  • The city of Sharaat was destroyed by the death curses of a group of mighty aberrant lords, including the infamous Lady of the Plague. The city of Sharn was built over the ruins of Sharaat, and many say that her curse still lingers in the depths. As a result, the Bloodmote Cloud, Bone Rat Swarm, Corpse Rat Swarm, or Dire Maggot could all be found beneath the city. Perhaps some part of the Lady of the Plague survived her death -- this would be an excellent opportunity to place a powerful Swarm Shifter deep below Sharn. It may have taken her centuries to take this form, but now that she is back she releases disease and a wave of undead vermin on the world above to gain vengeance on the dragonmarked houses that destroyed her!

About the Author

Keith Baker has been an avid fan of the Dungeons & Dragons game since grade school. His life took a dramatic turn in 2002 when he submitted the World of Eberron to the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search. In addition to developing the Eberron Campaign Setting and Shadows of the Last War for Wizards of the Coast, Inc., he has produced material for Atlas Games, Goodman Games, and Green Ronin.

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