Custom Deathlord – The Strider of the Ebon SarcophagusJuly 9, 2010
To finish out Necromancy-theme week, I have a custom Deathlord that I created, based off a seed planted by Orrin Grey (to whose blog I link on the side of my blog). He was running a game and needed the name of a Deathlord, so I conjured this fellow. He has a few custom Charms, some of which are re-tooled versions of Cecelyne Charms from the Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals, and some are Charms crafted whole cloth by the forum user The Free Man (whom I thank profusely for his assistance). Without further ado, behold: the Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus.
The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus
While little is known about any of the Deathlords, some little can be divined about the Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus. His magic bears more than a little resemblance to the powers of Cecelyne, enough that observant sages have hypothesized that, in life, the Strider (also called the Sepulchral Pharaoh amid Stygian Dunes) was an akuma of Cecelyne who somehow retained his strange powers upon becoming a Deathlord.
One of the only Deathlords who has not yet openly moved in Creation, the Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus has learned to move subtly, to act through intermediaries rather than directly, and to wait until all pieces are in place before striking. He currently rules a section of the Underworld to the south and east of the domain of Eye and Seven Despairs. His domain lies in the hills of an ancient civilization called the Valley of Kings, where he has erected the Theban Necropolis. His major fortification is a singular pyramid he calls simply the Monolith, an obsidian ziggurat borne on the backs of ten thousand zombie slaves.
The Strider himself is a massive individual, towering ten feet tall, his flesh entirely concealed by soulsteel armor. His head is adorned with a Nemes headdress, his flesh covered in jackal-like armor. What few bits of finger or face are exposed are wrapped in sand-stained bandages. He carries a massive staff and scepter, capped with a golden scarab. He decorates himself and his surroundings with jackal’s head motifs and ankhs, the symbols of life after death.
Currently, the Strider bides his time, gaining associates and lackeys in all the remote corners of Creation, sowing spies and allies even under the noses of his fellow Deathlords. He projects a mien of indifference and indolence, worshiped by the ghosts and mortals under his thumb, but his true power spreads through every one of those mortals and ghosts. For now, they are but grains of sand, but soon enough those grains will become a desert that will burn and starve all his competitors and leave Creation nothing but a searing, lifeless waste.
Motivation: Transform Creation into a single, lifeless desert.
Attributes: Strength 8, Dexterity 9, Stamina 10; Charisma 10, Manipulation 9, Appearance 10; Perception 7, Intelligence 7, Wits 6
Virtues: Compassion 2, Conviction 5, Temperance 5, Valor 4
Abilities: Archery 4, Athletics 7, Awareness 8, Bureaucracy 9, Craft 8 (Necrotech +3), Dodge 8, Integrity 9, Investigation 5, Larceny 5, Linguistics (Native: Old Realm; Others: Clawspeak, Flametongue, Forest-tongue, High Holy Speech, High Realm, Low Realm, Riverspeak, Seatongue, Skytongue) 9, Lore 9, Martial Arts 9, Medicine 7, Melee 7 (Scepter +3), Occult 9 (The Underworld +3), Performance 9, Presence 8, Resistance 8, Ride 6, Sail 6, Socialize 8, Stealth 6, Survival 9 (The South +2, The Underworld +1), Thrown 7, War 8 (Desert Warfare +2)
Backgrounds: Allies (Deathknights) 5, Artifact 5 (Measuring the Dead), Artifact (Scarab’s Shrieking Carapace) 3, Artifact (Scepter of Shifting Sands) 5, Cult 4, Followers 5, Manse 5, Resources 5, Spies 4, Whispers 5
Arcanoi: All known, whether he meets the Virtue requirements or not
Deathlord Powers: All Deathlords have these powers (see The Manual of Exalted Power – The Abyssals for further details).
Command the Dead: As a reflexive action, the Strider may take control of any walking dead in his presence that is not controlled by another Deathlord of higher Essence. This power costs five motes to use in Creation and 0 motes in the Underworld or a shadowland.
Eyes of Oblivion: With a glance, the Deathlord can slay any single mortal who lacks an enlightened Essence. This power costs two motes. The victim invariably becomes a ghost.
Feed on the Dead: At will, the Strider can drain one dot of permanent Essence from any single ghost he sees, gaining three motes from this process.
Mutable Form: As a miscellaneous action, the strider can assume any form, mortal or spiritual, between the size of a small dog and a large man. This power costs 10 motes and one Willpower. The Strider can impersonate anyone he has seen – at least in terms of appearance.
Unkillable: Any force or attack that would “kill” the Deathlord merely discorporates him. Over the course of the coming year, the Deathlord resumes his form in the Labyrinth.
Charms: All Abyssal Charms for which he meets the prerequisites, and all Solar Charms for which he meets the prerequisites that do not have Abyssal Mirrors.
Martial Arts: All Charms of Terrible Ascent-Driven Beast Style, Dark Messiah Style, Hungry Ghost Style, and Solar Hero Style.
Shadowlands Circle, Labyrinth Circle: All spells given in The Books of Sorcery, Vol. II – The Black Treatise, plus Sands Wet with Tears and more as the Storyteller desires.
Void Circle: Abyssal Aegis, The Barless Gate, Birth of Sanity’s Sorrow, Empty Night Future, Ever-Hungering Scarab Carpet, Forsaken Life Engine, Inauspicious Citadel, Lord of the Dead, Obsidian Countermagic, Poisoning the Well, Summon Hekatonkhire, Void Cocoon Warrior, others as the Storyteller desires.
Terrestrial Circle, Celestial Circle: All spells given in Exalted and The Books of Sorcery, Vol. II – The White Treatise, and more as the Storyteller desires.
Special Charms: The Strider has developed several high-Essence variations on Solar and Abyssal Charms that give him scene-long or permanent benefits. These are unique, panoply Charms.
Body of Onyx Grains: See below.
Calling the Black Sand: See below.
Commanding Whisper Mastery: As the Abyssal Charm Poisoning the Will, but it costs only five motes, and the target’s Dodge MDV is inapplicable.
Endless Ebon Horde: See below.
Endurance of the Sphinx: See below.
Ever-Expanding Scarab Sustenance: See below.
Flesh-Scouring Sandstorm: See below.
Foundation of the Monolith: See below.
Interred in the Black Pyramid: See below.
Nourishing Scarab Feast: See below.
Obsidian Lash: See below.
Overwhelming Presence Ineffability: At the end of any scene of interaction with the Strider, compare the Strider’s (Charisma + Essence) to the MDVs of all those involved. Those whose MDVs are lower gain a positive Intimacy toward the Strider as an Emotion effect. This is automatic, costs no Essence, and requires two Willpower to resist.
Perpetual Incubus Mastery: The Strider has the benefit of of the Abyssal Charm Irresistible Succubus Style whenever he wants, at no Essence cost.
Soul-Devouring Obsidian Coffin: See below.
Spreading the Black Sands: See below.
Striding the Lost Dunes: See below.
Supplications from the Duat: See below.
Trapped in the Hourglass: See below.
Wailing Canopic Mastery: See below.
Join Battle: 14
Punch: Speed 5, Accuracy 19, Damage 8B, Parry DV 10, Rate 3
Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy 18, Damage 11B, Parry DV 8, Rate 2
Clinch: Speed 6, Accuracy 18, 8B, Parry DV -, Rate 1, Tags C,N,P
Measuring the Dead: Speed 4, Accuracy 21, Damage 13L/2*, Parry DV 11, Rate 2, Tags O
Scepter of Shifting Sands: Speed 5, Accuracy 21, Damage 18B/2*, Parry DV 10, Rate 2, Tags O
*Anyone struck by the khopesh or scepter loses motes equal to the Essence rating of the wielder, to a maximum of the number of Health Levels of damage dealt in Step 10.
Soak: 22L/27B (Scarab’s Shrieking Carapace, soulsteel superheavy plate, +17l/+17B, Hardness 11L/11B)
Corpus Levels: -0x20/-1×10/-2×10/-4×5/Incap (dematerialized, not killed)
Dodge DV: 14
Personal Essence: 80
Peripheral Essence: 204 (225)
Committed Essence: 21
Other Notes: The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus is a subtle and canny foe, rarely expending resources unless absolutely necessary. His artifacts, Measuring the Dead and the Scepter of Shifting Sands are considered in-style weapons for all of his Martial Arts styles.
The following are Cecelyne Charms, adapted from The Manual of Exalted Power – Infernals. They cannot be learned through use of the Eclipse, Moonshadow, or Fiend animas, or similar effects. However, the Strider can function as a tutor for Infernals or Akuma of Cecelyne who are attempting to learn the equivalent Cecelyne Charms.
Trapped in the Hourglass
Cost: 5m; Mins: Essence 2; Type: Simple
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious, Sorcerous
Duration: One scene
The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus does not willingly allow others to be less vulnerable than himself. This Charm targets an incorporeal being, as the Strider gestures and glittering grains of black sand spread out from his fingertips. These grains are caught up in the being’s discorporate Essence, forming an ephemeral image of the being. While the target remains incorporeal (and therefore unable to strike material things), the lacerating sands embedded in its corpus allow materialized beings to attack it as though it were material. Each such attack drains one mote from an Essence-using attacker, or one temporary Willpower from a non-Essence user.
Supplications through the Duat
Cost: 5m; Mins: Essence 3; Type: Simple
The Strider has many who pray to him, either to grant them boons or to spare them from his attentions. Either way, the Strider can hear their supplications, if he so chooses. This Charm allows the Strider to hear prayers made to him from places of physical desolation as though he were a spirit. Actually listening to all prayers imposes a -3 internal penalty to all non-reflexivce actions; if he tunes them out, the Strider only hears the most fervent or oft-repeated prayers.
Supplicants who pray from within a blight created by the Strider’s Charm Spreading the Black Sands (see below) may be answered by causing a random object in the supplicant’s presence to rot and change into the Strider’s incarnate image as an Obvious Shaping effect for three motes. The enchanted object delivers whatever spoken response the Strider sends through it (which may encompass one Social attack) and then returns to normal.
Interred in the Obsidian Pyramid
Cost: – (+1wp); Mins: Cult 1, Essence 3; Type: Permanent
Keywords: Emotion, Messianic
The Strider has honed his spiritual Essence matrix to more efficiently and effectively harvest the prayers of the fearful and desperate. He doubles all mote and Willpower awards provided by his Cult Background and may choose to heal in lieu of receiving any or all Willpower at the appropriate interval (two Bashing or one Lethal Corpus Level per one Willpower). Additionally, whenever anyone of equal or lesser Essence prays to the character with a standard prayer roll, they must reflexively pay one Willpower to resist unnatural mental influence or instantly develop an Intimacy of terrified reverence toward the Strider. If he preys on this Intimacy with a Social attack, he benefits from a full +3 Appearance modifier regardless of relative Appearance.
Endurance of the Sphinx
Cost: None; Mins: Essence 2; Type: Permanent
The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus is as at home in the desert as any scorpion or serpent. He gains the following powers as permanent enhancements to his competence:
-He suffers no negative effects from exposure to a place of physical desolation, including penalties, environmental damage, and even visual impairment.
-All foraging rolls that would normally have a difficulty of 4+ have a difficulty of 1 instead (see Exalted p. 139). This does not make impossible rolls possible in a place where the Storyteller determines absolutely nothing edible can be found.
-All mundane attempts to track the Strider automatically fail with zero successes unless he allows himself to be tracked. Magically assisted tracking efforts suffer an external penalty of the Strider’s Essence rating instead.
-He adds his Essence rating to the difficulty of all efforts to notice him with an Awareness roll in a place of physical desolation. This benefit may be turned on and off at will.
Striding the Lost Dunes
Cost: None; Mins: Essence 2; Type: Permanent
Keywords: Obvious, Shaping
The Strider has made sand itself his home, and there he can move as swiftly as the wind on the dunes. The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus doubles his movement speed after all other modifiers when moving across a place of physical desolation. He also doubles the speed he can travel over long distances as a subtle, non-Obvious effect, provided he employs some form of natural locomotion or rides a steed that is native to a place of physical desolation. He is also immune to Knockdown and Knockback effects while in a place of physical desolation unless the effect has a magical source. This defense manifests by Shaping his legs (and sometimes lower torso) into pillars of black sand that merge and flow into the ground, only to change back after the force passes.
Body of Onyx Grains
Cost: 8m; Mins: Essence 2; Type: Reflexive (Step 2)
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious
The Strider can slip the chains of the material world as he sees fit. This Charm is a perfect dodge against physical attacks. It can evade undodgeable but not unexpected attacks. As the attack should connect, it merely knocks a random spray of black sand from the Strider’s body as he dematerializes and rematerializes around it. Accordingly, attacks that can strike incorporeal beings may not be dodged this way. It is possible for the Strider to use this Charm even in realms that do not normally permit dematerializing. Attacks that are capable of affecting dematerialized creatures must still contend with the Strider’s dispersed sand-body, subtracting one die from their post-soak damage (minimum one die). This Charm has one of the Four Flaws of Abyssal Invulnerability (Conviction, in the Strider’s case), and attacks that exploit this Flaw do not have their minimum damage reduced.
Cost: 1m or 3m; Mins: Cult 1, Essence 2; Type: Simple (Speed 4, DV -0)
Keywords: Combo-OK, Messianic, Obvious, Shaping, Sorcerous
The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus does not take kindly to insults, and he expresses his displeasure aggressively. Activating this Charm requires a rude or vulgar gesture in the direction of a targeted adversary within (Essence x50) yards. The Strider rolls (Charisma + Occult) as a ranged attack; the explosion of black sand that follows can’t be blocked without a stunt or Charm and bypasses all forms of cover. If it hits, the attack inflicts a base damage of (Essence + Cult) lethal piercing damage (Overwhelming 3), and the target loses one Willpower due to psychic shock. While the Willpower loss is a Shaping effect, the attack itself is not. This Charm costs three motes normally, but only one mote against a target in a place of physical desolation.
Cost: None (+2m); Mins: Cult 2, Essence 3; Type: Permanent
Keywords: Messianic, Obvious
The Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus controls the sands around him utterly. When using Obsidian Lash, the Strider may dispense with an attack roll entirely at no additional charge. Instead, he selects any location within range to be the epicenter of a wider burst. The eruption of black sand fills a radius of (Essence x2) yards around the epicenter, acting as a one-time environmental hazard with (Essence + Cult) Lethal piercing Damage and (Essence) Trauma. Characters damaged by the burst lose Willpower from Shaping as normal. The Strider himself is immune to this Charm, should he catch himself in the area. He may also initiate such a burst centered on him when he activates Body of Onyx Grains by paying an additional two motes. Following any burst, the area remains choked with sand as from a violent sandstorm, limiting visibility like fog for the next ten minutes (see Exalted, p. 135).
Spreading the Black Sands
Cost: 15m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 3; Type: Simple
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious, Shaping, Sorcerous
Duration: Until stopped
The Strider sprinkles black sand from his fingertips, each imbued with the necrotic power of the Neverborn, covering an area of 10 square yards. Ground touched by this Charm is not simply covered in a fine layer of black sand; the soil itself transmutes down to the bedrock and loses all fertility. Non-magical vegetation withers and dies after a day spent rooted in this terrain, with all biomass supernaturally decaying into more black sand after a second day. All natural animals leave and shun the place unless specifically adapted for life in the desert. Structures remain intact, though heavy buildings may eventually sink into the sands. An uncapped demesne may eventually shrink, grow, or shift aspects with enough time as normal for such a radical shift in geography.
An area marked by this Charm is a place of physical desolation, but more than that, it is a black desert tied inextricably to the power of Oblivion. This area is a shadowland in all respects. More importantly, the blight has the potential for growth if the supplicant ritually executes a god or Exalt as an offering in this way, with Dragon-Blooded/Terrestrial deities adding (the victim’s Essence rating x100) square yards or (Essence x 500) square yards for Celestial gods and Exalted. Gods killed as sacrifices this way die forever and cannot reform. The sacrifice’s spilled blood and shredded flesh convert into fountains of choking black sand. The blight also grows in response to any resident social units actively worshiping the Neverborn or the Strider within its borders, adding 10 square yards per dot of the unit’s Magnitude per day so long as all members spend at least five hours a day in prayer there.
If the blight intersects another area desecrated by this Charm, the two zones merge into one. Once any blight reaches 10 square miles, the area becomes a persistent Blasphemy effect, and Heaven will respond. The countermagic required to stop the spread is based on the Strider’s Essence, not the Charm’s minimum Essence of 3, and must be cast from the exact center of the blight. However, countermagic only turns the area back into mundane desert. The spell Benediction of Archgenesis (see The Books of Sorcery, Vol. II – The White Treatise, p. 88) completely counters and reverses all traces of this Charm’s use within its area of effect.
Foundation of the Monolith
Cost: 10m, 1wp; Mins: Cult 2, Essence 4; Type: Simple
Keywords: Messianic, Shaping
Duration: Until complete
The Strider basks in the worship of his followers, harvesting and focusing the Essence from their symphony of obscene chants and mad rites into a perversion of geomantic power. This Charm can only be activated within an area the Strider has blighted with Spreading the Black Sands. For as long as the area remains marked as a Foundation of the Monolith site, worshipers can “build” a level one Abyssal demesne using the same overall rules as building a manse (see Exalted, p. 133).
For this ritual to work, the Strider must design a catechism for the project as per blueprint construction, using Linguistics in place of Craft (Lore and Occult requirements remain as is). Only another Deathlord or Abyssal can check the accuracy of the rites. the cost of raw materials is the same as for slave labor, representing consumed ritual implements and carefully planned offerings. All members of the workforce must belong to the Strider’s Cult, though the Strider himself only has to personally witness the rite begin and remain observant for its final five days. If the constant worship follows the catechism to success, the area desecrates and exudes the necrotic energy of the Neverborn as it comes into existence attuned to the Strider.
Terminating this Charm prior to completion spoils the effort, requiring a completely new catechism. The ritual also spoils if the blight reverts to mundane desert around the demesne, perhaps as a result of countermagic. Destroying the blight after the demesne fully forms does not harm or weaken the place of power. This Charm may be repeatedly applied to increase the power of a demesne it has created, but each dot of increase requires a new catechism and the same effort as if building a manse of the new rating from scratch. Moreover, the process of upgrading cannot take less than a year per dot.
Nourishing Scarab Feast
Cost: 15m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 3; Type: Simple
Keywords: Desecration, Shaping, Sorcerous
Duration: One day
The Sepulchral Pharaoh amid Obsidian Dunes understands that the living need nourishment to worship him. He has made sacrament and sustenance the same. When he activates this Charm (which requires that he be in a place of physical desolation), a swarm of Underworld scarabs crawls out of the ground around him. The teeming millions are dull black, seeming to consume the light. Having crawled from the desolation that gave them life, the creatures quiver for a moment as though hoping for greater purpose before they spasm and die. The scarab corpses fill a radius of (Essence x 15) yards around the Strider and provide nourishment to feed a unit of mortals no greater in Magnitude than his Essence.
Underworld scarabs smell and taste delectable to all palettes, faintly sweet and spicy and strangely familiar, like an old family recipe the character hasn’t sampled in years. They stay fresh for a week before they dry up and crumble to black sand. They cannot be preserved beyond this time.
A single meal of these creatures provides complete and balanced nourishment for a whole day, including water. However, the meal also counts as one scene spent building an Intimacy of loyalty to the Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus and a scene toward a second Intimacy of fascination toward Oblivion. Characters who have conflicting Intimacies that would interfere with this process find those feelings weakened by their meals until nothing stands in the way of forming their new attachments.
For one full day following the meal, any Intimacy built or attacked by the Charm can’t be lessened or rebuilt, respectively. After a day, the Intimacies may be affected normally. Once a character eats nothing but Underworld scarabs for a full week, she develops the Creature of Darkness mutation as a Desecration effect along with the cosmetic side effect of faintly blackened eyes, which requires a threshold 4+ to notice with a (Perception + Awareness) roll. After a decade of eating more scarabs than other food combined, these mutations become hereditary and breed true. Mating with normal humans only has a 10 percent chance of yielding mutated offspring.
Natural, unintelligent animals who eat Underworld scarabs gain all the standard effects from doing so, apart from fascination with Oblivion, which they do not understand. Such beasts still become reverently grateful to the Strider, though. If the Strider eats his own food, the Intimacy he gains toward himself is one of smug self-satisfaction.
Ever-Expanding Scarab Sustenance
Cost: 20m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 5; Type: Simple
Keywords: Obvious, Shaping, Sorcerous
Duration: One century
The Strider provides for his faithful. This Charm can only be activated in a place of physical desolation. The ground cracks and crumbles into itself for five yards around the Strider, tearing slabs of rock to pebbles and then the finest black sand over the course of an hour. The vortex of torn earth shreds everything on or above this radius to a height of one hundred yards like a severe sandstorm (see Exalted, p. 131) that ignores the soak of non-magical objects and structures but cannot harm the Strider. When this destruction subsides, the sands of the radius dip inward like a bowl to a depth of five yards. Normal senses cannot feel the obscene necrotic Essence pooling in this pit, though Essence sight sees it for what it is.
Underworld scarabs constantly swarm out of the pit and die in glittering multitudes around it, enough to feed a populace of any size with appropriate distribution, as with Nourishing Scarab Feast. A pit can provide for a population center of any size for 100 years before its magic dies, but it cannot feed the surrounding countryside or be preserved in any way to provide a valuable export.
The following Charms are creations of The Free Man: