lunedì 9 luglio 2018

The Finger of the Leveller and The Incarnation of Death

A cursed artefact and a nightmarish creature, both powerful and incredibly dangerous, bound together in an endless circle of death: the first is obtained by defeating the second, the second is created by overusing the first.

The Finger of the Leveller

A plain skeletal finger, freezing to the touch and with finely carved runes and symbols all over it so thin they are nearly impossible to see with bare eyes.
Among them, the only clearly visible symbol is the ominous Dead Sign of Duvan'Ku, as it is the result of their experiments with life, death, and the Power of the Beyond to take someone's soul and destroy it forever.
The only clue of the Finger of the Leveller true power is the sensation, noticeable within 10' from the Finger and increasing when moving closer, of one's own soul getting sucked out from the body but never leaving it, and a mild nausea.
After 10 minutes one gets accustomed to the Finger effects and the nausea goes away.

The Finger of the Leveller works as a magical wand with infinite charges of the Power Word Kill spell.
Taking a life with the Finger of the Leveller power destroys the soul of the victim, making any form of Resurrection impossible.

As soon as the Finger of the Leveller is used, the caster becomes its master. From that moment no one else can use its power.
The only way to gain its ownership from its master is to willingly kill her and spill her blood over the Finger of the Leveller. The Finger must then be used to take someone else's life.
If the master of the Finger dies for natural causes, accident, or by hand of someone whose intention wasn't to intentionally take her life, the Finger of the Leveller becomes masterless.

Using the Finger of the Leveller is not without consequences.
Every time its master kills another creature with the Finger, the caster's soul gets sucked away by it causing a very strong but brief surge of nausea.
Mechanically, this means that the character loses as many Experience Points as the targets' Levels or Hit Dice x 1d6 x 100.
The Referee must never tell about this loss to the player, and must keep track of the character's lost Experience Points by themselves. The character will still level up as per their nominal XPs.

Subtle descriptions of the character's shift in appearance, loss of strength and resistance is encouraged as if to give clues that the use of the wand is not without consequences for its master. It is by the master's own will that her extreme consequences should be reached.

The Dead Sign, Laura Jalo

If the master of the Finger reaches 0 Experience Points with the use of its powers, the character effectively becomes the Incarnation of Death.
As her soul gets completely sucked by the Finger of the Leveller , her body will wither as if one thousands years have passed in an instant, leaving only a thin and mummified membrane of a skin over her bones.
All of the belongings, equipment and weapons worn, carried or hold will rot and rust and become dust, leaving only the bare shreds of the character's clothes as a cover.
The Finger will become part of the late caster's hand and can only be retrieved by defeating the Incarnation of Death, which now is actually a creature controlled by the Referee.


The Incarnation of Death

Armor Class 12 (unarmored) - it may wear additional armor
Hit Dice 10 -or- as the Finger master's Level plus 5
Hit Points 45 -or- as the Finger master's plus 5d8
Movement 120'
Morale 8
Alignment is Legal
- One attack with Soul-sucking Claws for 1d6 damage; with a 6 it strangles the victim causing 1d8 damage and draining her soul and 100 x Damage XP every round. Heals for the same amount.
- Can be harmed only by silver or blessed weapons.
- Visible and dangerous only to characters with 3HP or less.
- Has regular undead immunities.

Jez Gordon

This dark and deathly creature has no other motivation or goal but the mad and incessant desire to have a soul once again.
For this reason its only purpose is to kill, and to suck another creature's soul to replace the one it has lost. However, this will not help as its empty shell of a body is too twisted by the Powers of the Beyond to be able to keep any soul.
The Incarnation of Death will therefore roam incessantly in search of a new soul after another to take and to try to hold, forever failing in its only task.

The Incarnation of Death cannot take one creature's soul if this is not already approaching death by its own. The inner power of the soul, together with the strength of the body, is enough to keep the fiendish horror at bay and even to hide it to the eyes of the living.
Only a weakened soul, already to the edge of the eternal sleep, will not be strong enough to repel the Incarnation, and even at that point the fiend's power will not be sufficient to take the soul of the victim without a willing consent.
There is an exception: if the victim got to the verge of death thrice, and if thrice she refused the Incarnation of Death's embrace, this will try to slain the victim no matter what as her soul and body would have finally lost the strength to repel the creature at all.

The Incarnation of Death will only be visible and dangerous to those who are dying, that is characters who have 3 Hit Points or less.
Once seen the Incarnation of Death will slowly walk towards the dying character with open arms and quietly ask, with a soft and sad voice, "Dost thou want eternal rest?".
Every character that sees the creature suffers from extreme sadness, and all the Saving Throws are performed with a penalty of -2.

  • If there are more characters that can see the Incarnation of Death it will approach the character with less Hit Points. If two or more characters have the same amount of Hit Points, the Incarnation of Death will choose randomly.
  • If the character willingly embraces the Incarnation of Death this will walk towards the character, grasp her throat whit its Soul-sucking Claws and will slowly strangle her draining her life and soul. It will then disappear.
  • If the character refuses the embrace the Incarnation of Death disappears, repelled, unless there are more characters that are dying. In this case it will make them the same question.
  • If the same character refuses the embrace for the third time the Incarnation of Death will attack her with its Claws, as the body and soul of the victim would be weak enough to not be able to repel the horror.
  • If the Incarnation of Death is attacked it will defend itself with its Claws. If its Hit Points drop to less than a third, it will disappear until someone else will be dying again.

The Incarnation of Death, by Jennel Jaquays
from The Caverns of Thracia (1979)

The Incarnation of Death attacks with Soul-sucking Claws causing 1d6 damage; with a damage of 6 it also strangles the victim for 1d8 damage every round and will drain the victim's soul and Experience Points of the damage result x 100.
Sucking the victims' soul also heals the horror for the same amount of the inflicted damage.
While strangled, the victim can free herself with a successful Save vs Paralysis (with a cumulative penalty of -1 every round) or attack with a -4 penalty.

Once 0 Experience Points are reached, the character -if still alive- will fall in a catatonic state for 4d6 days. she will not remember anything of what happened, but will now from now on refuse to
Whenever the Incarnation of Death kills a character or creature, her soul will be completely taken away making any kind of Resurrection impossible. Also, the Incarnation of Death's Hit Dice will be increased by the same number of the victim's own, and its Hit Points will also be increased accordingly to the new Hit Dice value.

This creature's alignment is Legal, as death is a law of the Cosmos and but a few are outside its boundaries. Everything ends with death, sooner or later, as no one can escape it forever.

The Incarnation of Death cannot be harmed by mundane weapons unless made of silver or blessed.


Where to place them

This artefact is a powerful one, dangerous both to its holder and her enemies.
If no research is made over its true powers, its master will probably discover too late the price she will pay.
Given these premises, careful thought should be made when placing this artefact into anyone's campaign.
The same stands for the Incarnation of Death, if the Referee decides to have an encounter with the horror instead.

by noistromo

I would place both Finger or the Incarnation in a dark, obscure, forgotten death cult temple or outpost.
If you're playing with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or you're using part of the lore present in its modules the obvious location would be a Duvan'Ku related place.
The Finger of the Leveller could otherwise be in possession of a collector of occult items, unaware or uncaring of its true powers. Maybe the characters will stumble over it during a theft or a heist. Maybe the collector himself will be killed by the Finger (or be consumed by its use) and the characters will need to discover who and how did that -or who did the killings.

Personally, since I've been heavily inspired by the creature of the same name that can be encountered in the old Judges Guild module The Caverns of Thracia, and I've clearly expanded over it, I will place it in the sealed and forgotten death cult temple present in the first level of the dungeon. In my own version of the Caverns, it is actually a Duvan'Ku temple.

Étienne-Louis Boullée

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