Excerpts 11/10/2006

Cityscape Excerpt
By Ari Marmell and C. A. Suleiman

Even as urban areas can have a much different set of challenges than frigid plains or arid deserts, each city (and even area of a city) can have its own special qualities and atmosphere. Find out a bit of what you have in store in these excerpts from Cityscape, which includes information about Blackwall, various districts, new spells, the villain called the Symbol, and the siege golem. If you're curious about the topics covered in this book, please take a look at the Table of Contents we provided earlier!

The Symbol

Only the most ignorant or newly arrived resident fails to shudder at the mere mention of this, the city's greatest nemesis. What began as a series of isolated incidents has grown into a dark age, the grip of which has held fast the nightmares of city residents for years on end. At the center of this web of rumors and fear sits an enigmatic figure known only as the Symbol.

So named for the inscrutable signs left at the site of various crimes, and more recently, at the close of dreadful letters found by city officials, the Symbol is a threat to every living being who calls the city home. Nobody knows what the Symbol wants, or what he or she (or possibly it) truly is. They only know what the Symbol means to them and their city: death. The few who agreed to track the being down have all come back dead -- but mobile. In every case, their rotting corpses, often without a visible trace of physical harm, shambled mindlessly back to the city. Once inside, they would return to their own homes, where they would casually murder their own children, one by one; then, with the deed done, they would collapse to the floor in a heap, truly dead for once and for all. Needless to say, few locals are willing to seek out the Symbol anymore.

The truth behind the horror is almost as tragic as the horror itself. The entity calling itself the Symbol is a human being, or at least used to be. Decades ago, its mother was one of the city's wealthy elite, born into fortune and favored by providence. One thoughtless evening's dalliance with a handsome stranger, however, threatened to ruin the family name, because it resulted in a most unexpected pregnancy. The noblewoman contrived to keep the baby, by means of passing it off as her husband's child, but when the infant was born with no sex organs and with eyes that were neither her own nor her husband's, she knew the plan would fail. The only way out was to smother the child and report the "stillbirth" to her husband and to society. But though she knew this to be the proper course of action, she could not bring herself to do it, and so she chose to f lee the city with her newborn child cradled to her bosom.

On their way to a new life, the fleeing duo's carriage was attacked by a raiding party led by two bickering ettins. Everyone but the child was killed in the attack, and when the ettins couldn't agree on what should be done with the infant, they trundled off, leaving it in the arms of its dead mother. Soon after, a tribe of orcs came upon the scene and brought the infant to their witch doctor. He immediately proclaimed the freakish babe a "gift" from the gods, and then branded the symbol of their tribe -- an ancient orc pictogram denoting the concept of the birth-death-rebirth cycle -- onto the screaming child's forehead.

Today, nothing but rotting corpses remains of the tribe within which the devil-child was raised. The baby's freakish lineage surfaced more and more with age, and it grew stronger by the day. By age 13, the child was leading the tribe; by age 19, half the tribe was dead, but no less under the child's command for it. In the present day, the adult that was once a careless noblewoman's last mistake is a true force of nature, possessed of arcane secrets most unnatural and a veritable army of the rotting dead, waiting to be unleashed on the careless world of the living.

It is said that no human has ever seen the true face of the Symbol and lived to tell of it. When it is seen at all, which is an occurrence rare in the extreme, the Symbol's tall frame appears covered from the neck down in a suit of form-fitting black leather engraved with numerous unidentifiable sigils, icons, and other eldritch characters. Its face is obscured by a thick white hood, which is attached to a white cape that trails from the shoulders to just above the ankles. The bottom of the cape flutters gently, irrespective of the presence or absence of any prevailing wind. One gloved hand holds a rune-covered longsword with a blade of blackest steel.

The Symbol CR 20
Genderless unholy scion* (augmented human) dread necromancer* 17
*Detailed in Heroes of Horror
LE Medium outsider (evil, native)
Init +3; Senses Listen +10, Spot +10; Alertness, darkvision 60 ft.
Languages Common, Abyssal, Draconic, Giant, Goblin, Infernal, Orc

AC 24, touch 19, flat-footed 20; Dodge
hp 63 (17 HD); fast healing 4; DR 8/bludgeoning and magic or DR 10/good and magic
Resist acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5, fire 5; +4 on saves against negative energy, mental bastion; SR 27
Immune light fortification 50%, poison, mind-affecting spells and abilities
Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +12

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee nine lives stealer (7 lives remain) +10/+5 (1d8+2 plus 2d6 to good, plus chance of death/19-20) or
Melee charnel touch +11 (1d8+4 plus 2d6 to good, plus enervating or scabrous touch)
Base Atk +8; Grp +8
Atk Options enervating touch, fear aura, negative energy burst 3/day, scabrous touch 3/day, unholy strike
Special Options rebuke undead 8/day (+7, 2d6+22, 17th), undead mastery
Combat Gear nine lives stealer, 221 HD worth of animated undead (usually 51 human/orc skeletons, 50 human/orc zombies, and 7 ettin zombies), though typically only found with 2 ettin zombies
Dread Necromancer Spells Favored (CL 17th; Spell Focus (necromancy); 1d20+19 to overcome SR):
8th (4/day) -- create greater undead, horrid wilting (DC 24), mass inflict critical wounds, symbol of death
7th (6/day) -- control undead, finger of death (DC 23), greater harm*, mass inflict serious wounds, vile death*
6th (6/day) -- create undead, eyebite (DC 22), harm, mass inflict moderate wounds, symbol of fear[A]
5th (7/day) -- fire in the blood*, greater dispel magic, mass inflict light wounds, oath of blood[A], slay living (DC 21), summon undead V*
4th (7/day) -- animate dead, dispel magic, Evard's black tentacles (DC 19), inflict critical wounds, phantasmal killer (DC 20)
3rd (7/day) -- crushing despair (DC 19), death ward, ray of exhaustion (DC 19), speak with dead, summon undead III*
2nd (7/day) -- command undead, darkness, desecrate[A], false life, spectral hand, summon swarm, summon undead II*
1st (8/day) -- bane, bestow wound*, detect magic, doom (DC 17), ray of enfeeblement, undetectable alignment**
*Detailed in Heroes of Horror
A: gained from advanced learning ability
** Already cast
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 17th):
3/day -- charm person, major image, poison, protection from good, true seeing, unholy aura
1/day -- animate dead (68 HD worth, stacks with others), baleful polymorph, desecrate, dominate person, enervation, gate (to the Nine Hells), harm, unhallow

Abilities Str 10, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 22, Wis 14, Cha 20
Feats Alertness[B], Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Dodge, Empower Spell, Spell Focus (necromancy), Scribe Scroll, Spell Penetration, Weapon Finesse
Skills Appraise +10, Concentration +10, Craft (armorsmith) +13, Craft (weaponsmith) +13, Decipher Script +14, Disguise +7, Forgery +9, Gather Information +9, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (arcana) +16, Knowledge (local) +16, Knowledge (religion) +16, Listen +10, Spellcraft +16, Spot +10, Sense Motive +11
Possessions nine lives stealer, bracers of armor +5, belt of ogre power, hat of disguise, ring of invisibility, rod of withering

Charnel Touch (Su) Once per round, the Symbol can make a melee touch attack that deals 1d8+4 points of damage to a living creature, or heals 5 points of damage to one undead.
Enervating Touch (Su) The Symbol can bestow negative levels when using its charnel touch attack. Each day, up to 17 negative levels can be bestowed, but no more than 2 negative levels per attack. The Fortitude DC to remove a negative level is 21.
Fear Aura (Su) As a free action, the Symbol can radiate a 5-foot radius aura of fear. DC 21 Will save or become shaken.
Mental Bastion The Symbol receives a +4 bonus on saves against sleep, stunning, paralysis, poison, and disease.
Negative Energy Burst (Su) The Symbol can radiate a 5-foot radius burst of energy that deals 17d4 points of damage to living foes. DC 21 Will save reduces damage by half. Undead within range are healed of the same amount.
Scabrous Touch (Su) The Symbol can inflict disease on a creature when using charnel touch; as contagion spell, but with no incubation period. DC 21 Fort save to resist.
Undead Mastery All undead created or animated by the Symbol gain a +4 enhancement bonus on Str and Dex, plus 2 extra hit points per die. The Symbol can create 119 HD of undead (7 HD per dread necromancer level) using animate dead, and can control 85 HD of undead (5 HD per dread necromancer level) using control undead.
Unholy Strike (Su) Any weapon the Symbol wields is treated as evil-aligned for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. In addition, the Symbol's melee attacks deal an extra 2d6 points of damage against good opponents.

Roleplaying Hook "I don't expect you to understand. I expect you to die."

"Mother," Ghostly Visage Familiar CR --
LE Tiny undead (incorporeal, symbiont)
Init +2; Senses Listen +5, Spot +5; Alertness, darkvision 60 ft.
Languages empathic link

AC 19, touch 19, flat-footed 17
hp 31 (17 HD)
Resist improved evasion; SR 23
Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +12

Speed fly 10 ft. (2 squares) perfect
Melee incorporeal touch +8/+3
Base Atk +8; Grp --
Atk Options deliver touch spells, gaze of terror, meld, visage
Special Options speak with master, scry on familiar

Abilities Str --, Dex 14, Con --, Int 14, Wis 9, Cha 16, Ego 10
SQ incorporeal traits, symbiont traits*, undead traits
*The ghostly visage symbiont is described in Fiend Folio.
Feats Alertness[B], Iron Will
Skills Bluff +7, Hide +10, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (arcana) +6, Knowledge (religion) +6, Listen +5, Search +5, Spot +5

Gaze of Terror (Su) When the Symbol manifests the visage's face, anyone within 30 feet who meets its gaze must make a DC 13 Will save or be paralyzed with fear for 1d4 rounds. The Symbol and its familiar are immune to this ability.
Meld (Su) Once per round, "Mother" can merge its body with that of any corporeal creature (usually its master, who knows when it seeks to do so). If the target is unwilling, it must first succeed on an incorporeal touch attack.
Visage (Ex) At will, "Mother" can manifest a ghastly face anywhere on the Symbol's body (typically over the face, which doesn't affect the host's vision). When manifested, "Mother" is susceptible to attacks separate from its host.

Roleplaying Hook The Symbol believes its ghostly visage familiar to be the remnants of its mother's tortured spirit.

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