Stuart Renton, author of the Lords of the Night series, returns to Geek Native for a second contribution to May of the Dead. This is the Lesser Gloom Lich – a horror for your Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e adventures.
All throughout May blogs from the gaming world are contributing posts to the carnival. You can re-read Stuart’s first tribue blood magic from the Gloom Lich’s grimoire or check in with him at the Geekest Link.
Lesser Gloom Lich
When we first encountered – the creature – I call it that for I have no idea what it truly was, only that we felt as though we were trespassers in a forbidden realm as we explored the ruined tower in search of shelter from the storm that raged outside. As we moved through the crumbling under halls filled with dusty artefacts on age worn plinths, we felt as though we were walking on wicked, unholy ground. The sense of ancient decay hung heavy and gravid in the air and the ages weighed heavy upon us. There was a sense of wrongness about this place, although I later came to realise that it was not the place itself that was abhorrent to life, but something within it.
And there it was: lurking in the corner by an ancient throne: a mere scrap of clothing and shadow, a greater darkness against the paler gloom of the lesser shadows around it.
It looked into me and its eyes were darker than coal or oil or midnight.
There were no words to describe those twin pools of malignance and the wrongness that poured off them. They were ancient, beyond ages, beyond words, beyond even expression. They contained the unfathomable pallour of primordial time filled with a curious, mocking countenance.
We fought, or at least I have a dim recollection of battle. Events seem cloudy and unreal even now, although I can clearly recall the air of empty death that surrounded the encounter as though it had only happened this morning.
We could not have prevailed against such an alien and forbidding creature, forged, it seemed, from darkness itself. Perhaps our attempts at noble righteousness amused it, for it toyed with us, turning our blades and spells against us with a sort of curious demeanour. We were as insects before its power, unable to comprehend the vastness or complexity of its arcane prowess.
I do not have the insight or the wisdom to conjure the words to describe this menace. I can only say how I felt, which was that this – thing – was old; older than anything, older than the mortal races, older even perhaps than anything that walked, or had ever walked, the earth. I touched its mind and was torn asunder by the alien void of its thoughts. It was as though it were incapable of thinking as a human, if it had ever been alive in the sense that we comprehend as existence. Unimaginable in its solitude and entirely bereft of humanity, I shudder to think of the long aeons this creature had seen.
In the end, it gave us our lives and let us leave with body and mind, and more importantly, sanity intact, and for that I am thankful, but there was a price to pay for in return it stole something from me. Even though it let our party go unharmed, it stole – I fear – a fragment of my soul and now retains a shard of power over me. Even though I know it lurks in that decrepit tower so far away, it is always there, every time I close my eyes… Watching… Waiting… Scheming…
Gloom Lich (Lesser)
Medium-size Undead – Skeletal Lich
Hit Dice: 16d12 (104), (age: +50), + 20 (Theft of Vitae) = 174.
Initiative: +10 (+1 Dex, +5 Improved Initiative, +4 Skeletal Awareness)
Speed: 40 ft.
AC: 19 (+0 Size, +1 Dex, +8 Natural)
Attacks: 2 x claws, spellcasting
Damage: Claws +8 melee (3d4+9 dark damage)
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Chill touch, gaze of ages, nox miasma
Special Qualities: Damage reduction (15/magic bludgeoning), fast healing 3, hard bones, pure evil aura (1), nox miasma, turn resistance, undead traits
Saves: Fort: N/A, Ref: +8, Will +21
Abilities:Str: 14, Dex: 12, Con: -, Int: 28, Wis: 24, Cha: 20
Skills: Varies (magical / knowledge oriented)
Feats: Alertness, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility,
Challenge Rating: 20
Treasure: Always (cursed)
Alignment: Pure Evil
Shadowmancy Spells: Conjure Shadow Demon, Conjure Shadow Monsters, Dark Bolt, Endless Night, Invocation of the Nox Mortis, Nox Morose, Essence of the Noctoglyph, Shadow Puppetry, Shadow Font, Utterdark, Wall of Darkness
The gloom lich appears as little more than a few scraps of shadow-blackened bones and ragged clothing, and if they remain unmoving, a casual observer would see – and sense – little more than that. It is only when they bring their true power to bear that they are surrounded by a wash of swirling darkness (cloak of shadows) which makes them almost impossible to make out amid the gloom.
Chill Touch (Su): The gloom lich attacks with its claws dealing 3d4+ 9 damage per attack. In addition, the target must make a Will Save (DC17) to avoid being shaken for 1d3 rounds.
Cloak of Shadow (Su): The gloom lich can assume their battle form, surrounding their bones with an aura of sheer black energy. This makes their true form very hard to see and gives them a +6 bonus to their AC.
Curse of the Artificer (Su): A gloom lich can curse an item with absolute craftsmanship. This curse is incredibly difficult to detect and will not show up under standard identification magic and instead requires a sage or artificer of a level equal to the gloom lich to be able to perceive an item is even cursed at all never mind discerning its secrets (which takes time and effort).
Gaze of Ages (Su): The gloom lich gazes into their attacker’s eyes and focuses their great will upon them. The target must make a Will Save (DC 20) or be dazed for 1 round. This is a free action for the lich and can be performed once per round.
Hard Bones (Su): The gloom lich has bones as hard as steel. They take half damage from slashing or piercing attacks and can fall any distance without suffering any form of harm.
Melt into Shadows (Su): The gloom lich can take a standard action to melt into shadows, transforming into an inky patch of formless darkness. While in this Shadow Form, the lich has a movement of 10 ft. but it cannot attack or be attacked by non-Holy or light-based spells and weapons.
Nox Miasma (Su): This acts exactly as the spell, nox morose, but is permanently in effect around the lich with a radius of 60 yards. It has the following effects:
- Attacks and Spell Failure Chance: 16% (spells simply fail and attacks miss wildly).
- All damage dealt to the lich is reduced by 1 point per die (min of 1).
- Innate positive energy healing effects (such as regeneration) are halted.
- Positive-energy spells have their effect, range and duration halved. In addition, the casting time for all such spells is doubled. All healing spells heal for 1 fewer points of healing per die (for a minimum of 1 per healing dice).
- All skill checks, attack scores, and saving throws are reduced by 2.
Gloom liches considerably older than fifty years will have a substantially more potent Nox Miasma around them. This ability stacks with the spell nox morose for a truly formidable combination.
Shadowmancer (Su): The gloom lich is a master of shadowmancy and has access to the Shadow Magic spell lists. Directly connected to the shadow plane, all DCs with these spells are increased by +4.
Spell Turning (Su): The gloom lich has unsurpassed knowledge of the ebbs and flows of magic and can turn a spell back on the caster. The gloom lich need but make a successful spellcraft check followed by an opposed skill check (against the caster) to take control of their spell (remember the caster suffers penalties to his checks while in the field of Nox Miasma). Once the gloom lich has control of the spell, they can choose to negate it harmlessly or cast it back at the caster, or at any other applicable target within range, as though they themselves had cast the spell.
Theft of Vitae (Su): The gloom lich’s most potent ability is to steal a fraction of a mortal’s life essence. The gloom lich must first vanquish an opponent (by reducing them to 0 hit points or unconsciousness) at which point it sucks forth a single hit point from its victim. This hit point then permanently belongs to the gloom lich, who can, at any time, regardless of plane or location, see through the victim’s eyes and hear his thoughts (this process is not entirely a one-way street and many perceptive victims can often sense the presence of the gloom lich among their thoughts).
The gloom lich can steal a total number of hit points equal to its level + Intelligence bonus, although it can purchase an additional 1 + Intelligence bonus points with a standard feat. These hit points add to the lich’s maximum hit point total (the gloom lich in the example above has currently stolen 20 points of vitae (and has 5 points potentially remaining for the players).
The gloom lich can cancel the Theft of Vitae from a target at any time as a free action, and the hit point returns to the subject at dawn and the link between them is forever severed.
Only exceptionally powerful magic can sever the connection and restore the stolen hit point. A gloom lich may steal the vitae of thousands of mortals during its life, but as it grows weary of one lifetime, it may sever the connection or grow obsessed with someone else in that target’s life, seeking an audience with them to obtain their vitae. It’s suggested that many high profile heroes in the mortal realms have had their vitae unknowingly touched by a gloom lich at some point in their careers.
Turn Resistance (Su): Skeletal Lich characters gain +8 Turn Resistance.
Creating a Gloom Lich:
The secrets of becoming a gloom lich are known only to Haferax (True Name: Anaferaxicorides) himself and are lost to the ancient mists of time. There are many books and tomes filled with secret knowledge that will give the user great power, but will set them on the unavoidable path of the gloom lich. Once the process has begun it is only a matter of time before the mortal passes under the thrall of the great lich Haferax and passed into his domain.
The gloom lich is almost impossible to kill for, like every lich, they have a phylactery which will restore them to unlife on the destruction of their physical body. Each lich’s phylactery is collected by Haferax himself (or one of his minions) and held in the vault of the Shadow Citadel on the Shadow Plane. Even a well-armed group of PCs approaching demi-god status has next to no chance of recovering a specific phylactery from the Nox Incarnum…
Unless, of course, that’s exactly what Haferax desires…