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    Orcus
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    GreySage

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    Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:34 pm  
    Orcus

    I am interested in the following information:

    1) I recall that Orcus (supposedly?) was utterly destroyed.
    a) Wondering if this is True or False.
    b) Wondering the cause, if True, and any supporting details. If you can tell me the written source, as well, great (I didn't recall reading anything in my books about this event). Orcus is distinctly absent in "Monster Mythology" even though other demon lords (such as Yeenoghu and Demogorgon) are noticeably present...

    2) Wondering if there was any written information (2e primarily, but 1e will suffice, too) regarding the clergy of Orcus, including permitted alignment, armor, weapons, spell spheres, etc. Thinking of using a cult of Orcus, but don't have any references for a priesthood of this vile demon, and could use some information on this score.

    thank you!

    -Lanthorn
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Fri Apr 11, 2014 6:31 pm  

    In the adventure, Return to the Tomb of Horrors it says Orcus was slain by Kiaransalee, drow goddess of vengeance. It doesn't give any other details besides that though, and it doesn't list the source of that information. I think it came from a Planescape product.

    For your second question, Orcus serves as the villain behind the scenes in the H1-H4 Bloodstone series of modules (although they are for The Forgotten Realms, not GH). It was fun going against him at the end of H2, but his stats are 1st Edition, so he's not as powerful as he is written later. His clerics are also in the stories, but it doesn't give a lot of info on their powers, spheres, etc.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Fri Apr 11, 2014 9:07 pm  

    The rest of it might be covered in Planescape material. If it is, rasgon will likely know the tale.

    See here for most of the info (though I wish the references were footnoted so that it was easy to tell what material came from which source): http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Orcus
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    GreySage

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    Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:25 am  

    xo42 wrote:
    In the adventure, Return to the Tomb of Horrors it says Orcus was slain by Kiaransalee, drow goddess of vengeance.


    Isn't she a Forgotten Realms deity (I thought so, but could be wrong on this account)? So does that mean Orcus' demise is confined only to Faerun and not the AD&D multiverse as a whole?

    Was any "timeline" offered as to when Orcus was destroyed?

    For those of you who can, please offer suggested Spheres for clerics, armor and weaponry permitted, and powers for specialty priests.

    obliged,

    Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:48 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Isn't she a Forgotten Realms deity


    No, Kiaransalee was first introduced in Monster Mythology, a generic source by Carl Sargent published at the same time as From the Ashes and intended to be used together with that source.

    She didn't appear in the earlier, Forgotten Realms-specific drow sourcebook, Drow of the Underdark, and had no significant interactions with the Forgotten Realms until 3rd edition (though she was included in Demihuman Deities, the Forgotten Realms sourcebook on demihuman deities).

    The Planescape adventure Dead Gods included a chapter set in Oerth's Vault of the Drow, and had many of the drow houses turn to the worship of Kiaransalee after the events of the GDQ modules. So Kiaransalee's first prominent use in a D&D adventure was firmly set on Oerth.

    Kiaransalee is native to neither world, however. Demihuman Deities says she was originally an elf queen on a world called Threnody, sometime before Lolth betrayed the Seldarine. After being cast out by her husband the king for forbidden necromantic experiments, she returned with an army of undead and destroyed her native world, rendering it into a lifeless husk before fleeing to the Abyss and becoming a demigoddess. My own theory, though this is just a theory, is that Threnody was an old name for Gnibile, the undead-haunted gas giant in Greyspace.

    Now, as to your question, Orcus's death was first alluded to in Planes of Chaos, which says that Kiaransalee rules over an Abyssal layer once ruled by an earlier demonic patron of the undead. The boxed set never used the name Orcus, and in fact said that Kiaransalee and somehow magically struck his name from all written records. Back in the day this blew my mind and I wrote a letter to Dragon Magazine asking if Orcus was dead (and it got printed! I was so proud).

    Dead Gods indicates in a few places that this happened centuries ago. Orcus is portrayed as a long-forgotten deity with only one remaining worshiper (the half-ogre Quah-Nomag). Because his name has been magically erased from all records, only immortals have detailed knowledge of his existence. The adventure also treats H4 Throne of Bloodstone as canon, even containing a short prose story from the point of view of one of Orcus's servants during the events of that module.

    The explanation for this is that the Bloodstone series was given an arbitrary set of generic dates that were assumed to be the Forgotten Realms DaleReckoning calendar when the modules were incorporated into that setting. If taken literally, this sets the events of the modules centuries past.

    However, TSR later retconned this as referring to a different calendar and set the Bloodstone series in 1357 DR, making it them the only 1st edition modules to be set after the Time of Troubles/Avatar Crisis that otherwise separates 1st edition to 2nd edition. If this is carried over to Greyhawk, Orcus's death and resurrection becomes much more recent. Dead Gods is still playable, but in my opinion if Orcus is only gone a year or so it loses a little bit of its grandeur.

    On the other hand, if Orcus died only recently then any adventures you might have run featuring the demon lord or his cult fit much better into the timeline.

    The point of the Dead Gods adventure is that Orcus has somehow returned, not fully alive, but as an undead god. The reasons for this are complex, but include the prayers of his last worshiper and the energies released by Acererak's attempts to merge with the Negative Energy Plane in Return to the Tomb of Horrors (which is closely intertwined with Dead Gods).

    Orcus (calling himself Tenebrous in order to conceal his return from his enemies) is searching the planes for his wand, which had been hidden away by Kiaransalee. His time is limited, because an ancient magic called the Last Word, a force that can kill the gods themselves that Orcus wrested from a tomb beneath the sands of Pelion on the plane of Olympus, is too powerful for his semi-mortal body and is eating him away inside. Without the power hidden away in his wand he will die again. The PCs are trying to keep the wand away from him, because a fully-divine Orcus with the power of the Last Word is too terrifying to contemplate. This sends them across the planes from the Demonweb Pits to the Vault of the Drow to the Negative Energy Plane to the dead world of Moil to the deepest plane of Pandemonium, where the wand is hidden.

    One difficulty with using the more recent timeline is that Orcus's wand was destroyed at the end of H4, and it was supposed that it would take at least a century for him to make a new one. If this happened only a few years ago, there shouldn't be any wand in Pandemonium for him to find. This isn't a problem if you aren't playing through H4, though.

    But if Orcus doesn't get his wand, Quah-Namog has access to another ritual to bring him back to life yet again, so there's a climactic battle on Orcus's bloated, titanic stone corpse to prevent Quah-Namog from succeeding.

    It was assumed that the PCs somehow succeeded, though, and Orcus was treated as dead for the remainder of 2nd edition.

    However, when 3rd edition came around, one of the design goals was to fully bring back the demons and devils who vanished in 2nd edition's great demon purge, so Orcus was back again. Somehow Quah-Nomag resurrects his patron behind the scenes and is rewarded with a fiefdom on Orcus's Abyssal layer, which is once again in Orcus's hands. Kiaransalee was forced to flee, taking refuge in Lolth's Demonweb Pits. Fred Weining's article on the Vault of the Drow in the Living Greyhawk Journal (in Dragon #298) recounted that Kiaransalee was forced to ceremonially drink of Lolth's venom, change the final glyph of her name, and swear fealty to Lolth in order to apologize for the civil war against the followers of Lolth that her followers led in the Vault of the Drow. She's most recently been seen, according to Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, on the world of Guldor, where the Dwarven Kingdom of Maldev (from Q1) is located. There, she makes the fortress of Kandelspire her home and plots her vengeance.

    Orcus no longer has access to the full power of the Last Word, so the pantheons needn't fear being decimated by a vengeful lord of the undead, but he's definitely back, and hasn't been dead since.

    To summarize:

    1. Yes, Orcus was dead.
    2. He's not anymore.
    3. Yes, this happened on Oerth as well as Toril. The events of Dead Gods are a major part of drow history in the 3rd edition era, responsible for the banishment of House Kilsek to Western Oerik, the end of Lolth's occupation of Geoff and Sterich, and all sorts of things, as recounted in the Living Greyhawk Journal. It's been firmly woven into Greyhawk history.

    As for the timeline, assuming we use the retconned, official Forgotten Realms timeline and sync its events to Oerth's calendar, it looks like this:

    579 CY Kiaransalee kills Orcus. Zuggtmoy freed from the Temple of Elemental Evil.

    587 CY Orcus resurrected as undead god Tenebrous. The Great Modron March begins. The Factol's Manifesto published. Harbinger House. Fires of Dis. The events of Planescape: Torment take place.

    589 CY The Great Modron March ends. Dead Gods begins. Orcus dies a second time..

    591 CY Orcus is resurrected again as a non-divine demon lord. Kiaransalee flees Thanatos, pledges fealty to Lolth, and makes a new lair for herself in the Dwarven Kingdom of Maldev on Guldor.

    If you use the longer timeline, Orcus originally died circa 375 CY.


    Last edited by rasgon on Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:56 am; edited 2 times in total
    GreySage

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    Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:53 am  
    Re: Orcus

    Lanthorn wrote:
    2) Wondering if there was any written information (2e primarily, but 1e will suffice, too) regarding the clergy of Orcus, including permitted alignment, armor, weapons, spell spheres, etc. Thinking of using a cult of Orcus, but don't have any references for a priesthood of this vile demon, and could use some information on this score.


    Oh, to answer this part of the question, the only priest of Orcus who appeared in 2e was Quah-Nomag, who was statted in Dead Gods.

    There's a lot of information on Orcus's priesthood in 3rd edition (Book of Vile Darkness, Libris Mortis, Ghostwalk, etc.), but not really for 2e or 1e. Considering he was dead during the 2nd edition era (and arguably during the 1st edition era), this isn't too surprising.

    The Complete Necromancer's Handbook for 2nd edition would be a great inspirational source, though.
    GreySage

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    Sat Apr 12, 2014 11:01 am  

    Rasgon, Cebrion was right to invoke your name on this one!

    THANK YOU!

    I guess Orcus doesn't make sense for what I was planning given all the facts, but I very much appreciate the time and effort you offered on this post.

    much appreciated,

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:08 pm  

    What year does your campaign take place?

    1. You could have Orcus die later on.

    2. You could decide Orcus doesn't die at all in your campaign and the drow civil war, if it occurs, occurs differently.

    3. You could use a cult of Kiaransalee instead. She's mostly worshiped by drow, but could have worshipers of other races who think of her as a member of their race. She's not actually a drow, since her apotheosis preceded the elf-drow split by millennia.

    4. Even if he's dead, you could use a cult of Orcus who gain their powers from magic items, arcane magic, or another source instead of Orcus granting their spells. Maybe Kiaransalee, Nerull, or another demon prince continues to grant spells in Orcus's name. Maybe they worship one of Orcus's former servants, like Hacamuli, Eldanoth, the King of Ghouls, or Khuul the Witch-Ghoul.

    5. A cult of Khuul the Witch-Ghoul would be really cool, don't you think?
    GreySage

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    Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:06 am  

    My current, on-going campaign takes place at the end of 582. All of your ideas have potential and merit, but I am typically of the type to follow given timelines for events for continuity in the game world.

    I happened to peruse Monster Mythology and glance at this little drow demigoddess and am somewhat shocked that she was able to slay Orcus. He was no slouch, after all (at least what I recall in 1e materials), and she doesn't seem all that powerful in comparison.

    thank you again,

    Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:44 am  

    The official explanation was that Orcus had grown complacent. From Dead Gods (page 6):

    "Over the eons, however, the realm grew as fat and inattentive as the Abyssal lord himself. No one had ever challenged the mighty Orcus, and he began to lose the dark edge that'd helped him rise to a position of power in the first place. His actions were careless, and his realm became a place of cold, quiet, undead languor.

    "That's when Kiaransalee, a drow goddess of vengeance, made her move. She'd somehow been slighted by the tanar'ri lord. To this day, no one really knows the nature of the offense, or even if it was grievous or minor... She conspired against Orcus and eventually slew him through treachery and surprise, quickly usurping his realm and position."


    The fact that treachery was involved makes me think that Kiaransalee must have become Orcus's servant at some point, perhaps even his lover, and had time to build up a base of power on Thanatos, gained the alliance of some of Orcus's more treacherous servants such as Rotting Jack and perhaps Eldanoth. There was both a conspiracy and a betrayal.

    Dead Gods doesn't go into any more detail about exactly why Orcus had grown complacent, except that he had lived a long time without any serious threats to his existence. Consider the context, though (assuming the shorter timeline).

    1. One of Orcus's greatest rivals, Graz'zt, had recently taken a big hit in power when Iggwilv imprisoned him and then banished him to his layer for 100 years. In the meantime, Graz'zt had suffered a rebellion, with Raxivort absconding with half his treasure. So Graz'zt was too busy putting his life back together to be a real threat. He wouldn't be freed from his banishment until 583 CY.

    2. Orcus had recently defeated Baphomet and imprisoned him (according to H4). It was a time to be cocky.

    3. Orcus might not have been aware, but Demogorgon was busy fighting a secret war against his own other head (Bastion of Broken Souls). So he was likely less of a threat too, with his strikes against other layers of the Abyss slowing as Aameul became more intent on dominating Hethradiah.

    Now, against this context, suddenly Gareth Dragonsbane and his allies break into Orcus's layer and steal his wand (H4 Throne of Bloodstone) and the very same year Zuggtmoy is freed from beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil and begins stirring up trouble in the Abyss again. Maybe Zuggtmoy even decided to ally with Kiaransalee for reasons of her own. Or maybe Orcus barely notices, since Zuggtmoy is more concerned with renewing her alliance with Iuz and Iggwilv.

    So Orcus, who had spent the better part of a century with no significant threats to his reign, suddenly loses a significant amount of his power thanks to a group of meddling adventurers. And then, when he's at his weakest and trying to figure out what the return of Zuggtmoy means, Kiaransalee and maybe some other trusted lieutenants ambush and betray him.

    Whatever happened, you can be sure it wasn't a fair fight.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:29 pm  

    Rasgon,

    Thanks for all the info on Orcus, especially since I don't have the adventure Dead Gods. I'm not a huge Planescape fan so I never got a copy and haven't picked up one on eBay because the few I've seen have been close to $100. From how you described it though, I may have just changed my mind. I do have the entire Bloodstone series, however my group never made it past H3. I'll have to pull out H4 and read it again.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:30 pm  

    I know this is the 2e forum, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Slayer's Guide to Undead which details Orcus' mythology extensively. It also has the strongest Greyhawk pedigree of any source on Orcus, written by Gary Gygax and Jon Creffield with multiple references to Zagig The Mad Archmage and He of Eternal Darkness.

    The material meshes easily with Orcus' official TSR history, but I especially like how the Slayer's Guide handles priests of Orcus:

    Those honoring Orcus usually do so in conjunction with homage paid to certain black gods of darkness and death. The names of these terrible deities vary from world to world but all are malign haters of mankind. Alone, Orcus lacks the power to spread the curse of undeath to every world and so he receives power from the wicked gods with which he is allied. Thus he could be viewed as either their agent in this evil enterprise or as an equal (5).
    -The Slayer's Guide to Undead


    Voilà - lack of rules for 2e specially priests of Orcus solved! It's also the perfect answer to why a priest of Incalbulos is dwelling in a shine of Orcus beneath Greyhawk (GotF p93, which happens to be Orcus' only named appearance in an official 2e Greyhawk product).
    GreySage

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    Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:18 pm  

    Yeah, Vestcoat, I noticed that little odd twist, too, about Agaran dwelling in a hidden shrine of Orcus.

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:26 pm  

    I am animating (pun intended!) this thread rather than creating a new one b/c it does pertain to Orcus in a 2e venue.

    Firstly, I want to give much thanks and appreciation to DMPrata, specifically, for his work on the Deitybase that he posted for our joint perusal. His work therein provides the basis from which my own interpretations have been derived, and I now will "pay it forward" for others as well.

    Secondly, thanks to everyone who posted his/her comments on my 1e thread about the cultists found in the service of Sakatha, the dreaded Lizard King vampiric Lizard King. I had been vacillating extensively which demon to use as the Power behind the cult. After much deliberation (and considering Iuz...overused in my opinion...Graz'zt, and Demogorgon), I settled on Orcus as outlined in the other thread.

    Besides referencing DMPrata's work, I have used Monster Mythology, and all pertinent sourcebooks specific to Greyhawk, such as From the Ashes and the original boxed set, to draw forth my own conclusions about the faith of Orcus, particularly as it pertains to clerics.

    However, this is NOT to claim that I am fully 'done' with this interpretation, and as you might expect from me, I am asking for more input from you, the reader, particularly as it pertains to-

    1) specialty priest powers (I am leaning towards mage spells of the Necromantic sphere like Chill Touch, Enervation, Vampiric Touch, etc.)
    2) any adjustments to spell spheres
    3) weapon/armor choice
    4) general comments welcome

    OK, here goes:

    ORCUS
    Demon Prince of the Undead
    CE Lessor God of Undeath, Destruction
    SYMBOL: Horned skull
    WOR. ALIGN: Any evil
    Requirements: AB standard; AL CE, WP any (mace 1st); AR any; SP All, Astral, Chaos*, Charm*, Combat, Divination, Guardian, Healing (rev), Necromantic (rev), Protection*, Summoning, Sun* (rev); TURN Command

    Initially I had Wards down as a minor sphere, but removed it, yet I am still open to keeping it. I had thought to remove Chaos (minor access only), but decided to keep it.

    Most of these Spheres were picked after analyzing DMPrata's Deitybase spell list for Orcus. I removed any that pertained to control over the elements, as that did not seem in congruence with Orcus' portfolio. DMPrata had his clergy wielding only the traditional bludgeoning weapons of the 1e cleric, yet I have broadened it to include ALL weapons at the moment (with proficiency in the mace as an initial mandate), barring reasonable/logical reasons to limit it.

    OK, your turn. Post away!

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:11 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Besides referencing DMPrata's work, I have used Monster Mythology, and all pertinent sourcebooks specific to Greyhawk, such as From the Ashes and the original boxed set, to draw forth my own conclusions about the faith of Orcus, particularly as it pertains to clerics.
    You might also reference the duergar clerics in H2 Mines of Bloodstone, whence I drew much of the information on spells, weapons, and vestments for the Orcus entry in the Deitybase™.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:23 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    ...I am asking for more input from you, the reader, particularly as it pertains to-

    1) specialty priest powers (I am leaning towards mage spells of the Necromantic sphere like Chill Touch, Enervation, Vampiric Touch, etc.)

    As the necromantic sphere is such garbage compared to others, and because it doesn't much represent evil necromancy in a major way, I would instead add nearly all mage spells of the school of necromancy to their Added Spells list. In way of special powers, I would add some more unique stuff in there. Ideas:

    * +2 on saves vs. spells of the school/sphere of necromancy, death magic, and similar.

    * The priest doubles his level when determining how many undead he can animate.

    * One humanoid creature within 100' may be cursed by the priest of Orcus. The target must save vs. death. On a failed save, the creature is subject to immediately being animated as a zombie if it is killed within a Turn.

    * May save vs. death magic to ignore undead special attacks (i.e. level drain, ghoul/lich paralysis, banshee wail, etc.) and any spells with similar effects.

    Lanthorn wrote:
    2) any adjustments to spell spheres

    That's what the "Added Spells" section is for. If you don't think a sphere wholly applies, but some of the spells in it do, include just the appropriate spells as Added Spells. Adding mage spells is fine too, though don't include any duplicates of priest spells. Spells of the necromantic school are obviously appropriate, and I would add many of them.

    Lanthorn wrote:
    3) weapon/armor choice

    Armor: All; shields.
    Weapons: As cleric (footman's mace*), plus dagger and scimitar.

    I also recommend looking through the Bloodstone series for further inspiration as well as the 3E books Book of Vile Darkness and Libris Mortis.

    Visual inspiration:

    Mines of Bloodstone Cover
    Bloodstone Lands cover

    Cool Happy
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    GreySage

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    Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:20 am  

    Cebrion, I appreciate your suggestions. I do own a copy of The Complete Guide to Necromancers and therein are numerous spells of true malevolence! Evil Grin

    Much obliged,

    Lanthorn
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:50 am  

    Don't forget the three volumes of the Priest's Spell Compendium.
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    GreySage

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    Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:17 am  

    I still need to get my hands on those!

    -Lanthorn
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