It's been a long time coming, but due to popular demand, Canonfire has decided to revive the Postfests!
What is a Postfest? A Postfest is a shared design project where members of Canonfire (or anyone who wishes to participate) agree to write articles on the same topic. They are turned in by a deadline, then shared all at once. Reading and goodness ensues.
Inspired by this weekend and Lord Gosumba’s fundraiser topic, “Underdark Uprising”, this Postfest will focus on Greyhawk’s Underdark. We’ll use a broad definition of the Underdark that includes hollows within mountains (i.e. Slerotin’s tunnel), caverns below the earth (i.e. Vault of the Drow), the Rift Canyon, and ancient underground ruins upon which new cities have been built (i.e. Narwell). Topic ideas might include:
New or Existing Entrances to the Underdark
Mysterious Places in the Underdark
Underdark Races and Monsters
Ecology of the Underdark and Wilderness Survival
NPCs from the Underdark
Magical Items or Artifacts that focus on the Underdark
We’ve made a few changes to the traditional Postfest:
First, we won’t be voting on the submissions anymore. It's all in good fun, but if people want to give writers some feedback, I’m sure they’d love it.
Second, we’re going to post the submission to Canonfire as usual, but we also plan to compile all the submissions into a Greyhawk Underdark PDF that will be available for everyone to download. We are considering compiling some of the old Postfests, likewise.
Third, if you participate, we are thinking of giving back some suitable loot (perhaps a printed copy of the PDF) for some randomly selected participants, or everyone if we can swing it.
Original Greyhawk writings had a few references to beings called "The True Ghouls" who resided in the White Kingdom. They were led by a being called Doresaine, and that's really all that was ever known about them. In later D&D editions, Doresaine is a minion of Orcus, an undead Elven lord, and the White Kingdom is located on his abyssal plane. In my setting, I've heavily tweaked the True Ghouls and use them as the ultimate villains, and design them specifically for mythic content (level 30+). A few things to note about my setting will be included afterward. Now, please enjoy something I've been writing for several years:
All Drow know of a strange place, spoken of in hushed whispers and hidden deep within the Underdark. This place is The White Kingdom, a city with buildings made out of a white substance similar to bone and inhabited by powerful beings known only as "The True Ghouls", beings that must never be spoken of... For they may hear you.
Originally a powerful nation of mages, mightier and more ancient than even the Suel and Baklandish Empires, it's inhabitants were erased from the face of the world in a single night after a ritual created the True Ghouls. True Ghouls hate all of existence, seeing it as a perversion of the natural tendency of all that is, which is "To End". They worship "The Will of the End", a God of nothing that does not exist. They believe that existence gradually and naturally decays, always moving closer to The End, and that the Will of the End was born when the Gods interfered with this natural process by giving form and order to the cosmos, which they see as unnatural. This act, they believe, resulted in Undeath as a natural counter balance. They beleive that they were born as champions of The Will, and that it is their duty to remedy all of creation. They are immortal beings and do not fear death, instead they see mortal's view of death as a perverse insult to the oblivion that they emerged from, which they refer to as "the stillness" and see as the perfect state of existence. Their king is Doresaine, The First, and the mightiest of the True Ghouls.
Doresaine came into being with knowledge of the Prophecy of Worms, and the entity known as Kyuss. Kyuss's existence siphons the power from the Deities of the Cosmos, and upon his release the True Ghouls will allow him to be destroyed so that Doresaine can consume the grand existence from this being, and with it ascend to Godhood so that he can unmake all of Creation. The True Ghouls are not fools, however, and know that all of existence would move against them should their plan become known, thus they hide in the Lowerdark. Only a small number of enigmatic Demon Lords, mad wizards, and intelligent Undead are aware of their existence, while the Drow as a whole only vaguely know them as CandleJack, a bogeyman who makes Drow disappear if they dare to speak of the True Ghouls.
Long ago, seven powerful wizards making up the council of this long lost empire attempted to harness the power of the negative energy plane via a magic portal they created in the Middle layer of the Underdark. The weakened walls of reality caused their wards to fail and the greatest of the wizards was consumed by the nonexistence of the negative energy plane, which resulted in Doresain coming into being. He took control of the portal and used it to devour the other 6 wizards, which created the Five Graves and CandleJack. 1000 more True Ghouls came into being before the portal shattered, the knowledge of how to create it lost for eternity along with the civilization that built the White Kingdom, which fell to the True Ghouls in a single night. True Ghouls are immortal and do not reproduce, nor can they be created through any means. They have no way to increase their number, but are immune to the ravages of time, disease, most injury and even death. They are immune to magic spells below the 3rd level, cannot be harmed by weapons that are not at least +3, and are healed by Necrotic energy. They are resistant to Cold and Poison damage, and while using weapons that can harm them may temporarily put them down, they WILL ultimately regenerate. They can only truly be destroyed with Positive energy, their antithesis, thus they greatly loathe all who practice healing magic. Radiant energy overlaps with this, but is much weaker. Destroying them in this way casts them back to the oblivion of the Negative Energy Plane, an act which they believe strengthens The Will. True Ghouls have the unique ability to devour living beings by "emptying" them; swallowing their entire existence in one fell swoop. This utterly erases the victim from existence, body, spirit, soul and all. It can be done from a short distance of 20 feet, and only those of unyielding heart and fortitude may resist oblivion, and strengthens The Will. True Ghouls also have natural spell like abilities that can create zombies and skeletons, and they manufacture armies of undead to serve them. It is speculated by the few scholars that know of their existance that 1007 of them were created because there have been 1007 victims of the Void Card in the Deck of Many Things.
Doresain, the first and mightiest True Ghoul that was summoned to the prime material plane, is a Demigod as powerful as Orcus. When made aware of them, Orcus utterly loathes the True Ghouls, as they are undead completely free from his control and Doresain is a challenger to his rule.
True Ghouls have semi-omnisience in the Underdark, in so far as audibly refrencing them can make them "Know of you", and if you directly talk about them they straight up know where you are, what you're saying, and who you're with, even if the method of communication is Telepathy. The True Ghoul known as Candle Jack roams around the Middledark, making sure their city stays secret, and is feared by the Drow. Every so often, drow outposts are found completely empty, everyone is simply gone while all candles remain lit. There are never signs of struggle or bloodshed, or even that they packed up and left, rather that everyone vanished from where they were standing.
The Will itself is not a senitent God, but rather the pinnacle of unexistence; they see the Negative Energy Plane as a god itself, and desire to bring about the "End Of All Things", a time when all existence is consumed by negative energy and existence as it is known ceases to be. They are driven by an instinctual desire to consume all things with negative energy, bringing a true death to the universe, as they themselves are manifestations of the negative energy plane. They do not fear death, and instead see mortal's view of death as a perverse insult to the true state of unexistence that they emerged from, which they refer to as "the stillness" and see as the perfect state of existence.
There are exactly 1007 True Ghouls in existence. Their heirarchy is straightforward; Doresain stands atop all as the First, followed by The Five Graves. Each of the Graves commands a legion of 200 True Ghouls which are organized into smaller groups, but otherwise these 1000 True Ghouls are considered equal. Candle Jack, the second, is enigmatic. He is second in power only to Doresain himself, but has the lowliest of tasks. The Graves and their legions value actively furthering existence to The End Of All Things, yet Candle Jack simply roams passively, doing nothing more than waiting for mortals to garner his attention, or wander too close to discovering their secret. Waiting is a concept that utterly irks the entirety of the True Ghouls, for existence itself is quite unnatural to them. Candle Jack does not care, however, for he knows that the enemies of the Will are all things, and all things are many and strong. True Ghouls understand that all of existence will move to stop them, so they avoid notice as much as possible, Candle Jack simply takes this as his primary role. Occasionally Liches and other intelligent Undead may find themselves allied with True Ghouls, in which case they are considered below any and often meet their end along with their usefulness. Those who manage to escape with their unlives are, ironically enough, normally the ones who know the most about the White Kingdom and it's terrifying residents.
1 - True Ghouls are designed for Mythic campains, and thus Doresaine is stronger than Orcus and Kyuss at CR28 (38 if you use the 5e Epic Boss Updates). True Ghouls are CR16-18 (21-23), the Graves CR20-22 (25-28), and Candle Jack CR25 (32). I have stat blocks for them saved in a hard drive I have lying around. I need to come up with a weaker version of the Will of the End for campaigns that stay closer to level 20, I've been converting a lot of this since 5e came out and WotC limited everything to 20 for some reason.
2 - I have written two potential outcomes for The Will Of The End. First, the will does not truly "exist", rather it is the negative energy plane's natural state of being revered by the True Ghouls. Once Doresaine is slain, the immense divinity he has claimed will give sentience to the plane itself, it will attempt consume the universe as a powerful CR 45 entity, this being Kerzit's ultimate plot to bring calamity to the greatest of all civilizations: Creation itself. In this case, the Will of the End will emerge from area of the Underdark known as the Darkness Beyond. The second option is that the True Ghouls mistakenly worship Tharizdun, the Will of the End being another of his hidden identities, or just their interpretation of him. In this case, Tharizdun's prison is deep within the Darkness Beyond, and Doresaine's destruction will release him (Tharizdun's most recent stats being in the 5e conversion).
3 - Positive energy ONLY comes from Healing Spells, which do double damage to True Ghouls. If the killing blow is from a healing spell, True Ghoul makes a DC save to try and resist being obliterated (base 15/20, +2 per spell level, max 25 for 9th level healing spells in 5e). Radiant damage works too, but the DC is always 10/15 and it's normal damage. Anyone killed by "Emptying" cannot be restored even via a wish spell, they are gone forever.
4 - The semi-omnisiance for the True Ghouls works if you reference them or talk about them regardless of where you are, but they only know who and where you are if you do it while you're in the Underdark, for ANY audible reference including telepathy. If you're hiding and one walks past you, and you wait till he walks into his house and lies in a bed 500 yards down the road and say "whew, glad he didn't see us", he'll sit right up, turn, and look right at you from 500 yards away. If you ask "Who could have done this" and three of them did it, those three will get a little tingle and might notice you, but if you say "This was done by the Nameless" because you directly referred to them they WILL notice you. Candle Jack always knows who and where you are, regardless of where you speak of him.
The Abyss is connected to the Underdark, and thus the walls between reality are weaker there, the deeper you go, the weaker they are. Some parts of the Abyss allow Fiends to tear through these walls onto Oerth. The Underdark itself is split into three main layers (that anyone knows of) those being the Upperdark (where the three Drow Kingdoms are located), the Middledark (several miles below the upper, rich with ore and gemstones, but home to many dangerous creatures) and finally the Lowerdark (about 10 miles below that, thought to be where the Mind Flayers, Beholders and Aboleths reside). Below the Underdark is the Darkness Beyond, from which no living creature has ever returned. It is known only as a gaping abyss of pure blackness where even the likes of Beholders and Mind Flayers dare not tread. Those who have gone near enough to peer into the Darkness Beyond appear to go mad with utter fright, flinging themselves screaming into the darkness, and the unlucky few dragged back from the edge were driven irrevocably insane, spinning tales of an unfathomable horror they knew was peering up at them from forbidden depths, so horrible that the only way is to go into the darkness, where it is.
The Prophecy of Worms is actually an arcane ritual known to Orcus, designed to siphon the divinity from the rest of the Gods and elevate him to being a God of Gods. The ritual was stolen by a wayward servant, a Coutle enslaved by Orcus after he slew it's original master, and given to a mortal priest king named Kyuss in a mad act of rebellion and vengeance. The ritual could only be performed once, costing Orcus his cosmic chance, and elevated Kyuss to Godhood. Kyuss's existence, thusly, siphons divinity from all of the Gods. Not one to be outdone, Orcus thrust a portion of the River Styx itself onto Kyuss, forming a great black obolisk to trap the newly created Deity, and keep it separated from the cosmos. Known as the Ritual of Worms, it now merely elevates mortals to Demigod status through an act of mass genocide. Orcus then hid the Obolisk away on Wormcrawl Island, where it is hidden from all those who seek it.
The Prophecy of Worms was foretold by an ancient Demon Lord known as Kerzit- the Auspix of Calamety and He Who Brings Ruin To Civiliation. Kerzit himself is not powerful, but his prophetic abilities are able to foresee the downfall of even Gods, thus he is greatly feared by even Greater Gods. Kerzit only tells the amount of knowledge neccesary, and is very cryptic in nature. He delivers his prophecies to the dreams of mortals to further his own goals, is both feared and worshipped by sooth sayers and diviners, and was worshipped by the ancient mage kingdom that once inhabited the White Kingdom to who he gave the Tome of the Dark Heart to chronicle their existence and summon him. Kerzit possesses Cosmic Awareness as long as he is within his realm, and cares nothing for the various goals and activities of other powers in the Cosmos. Kerzit will answer the questions of those who seek him out, though he loathes the time spent outside his Realm, and his summoning requires a powerful artifact known as the Tome of the Dark Heart, the sacrifice of an intelligent creature as well as intense preperation, and can only be performed alone by a Demigod or greater being. Those who do not take the proper preperation find themselves quickly destroyed, so that he may return to his divinations. He sends prophetic visions to Heroes so that they may slay the greater minions of his enemies, to Kings and generals to drive them into war, and to his own minions to fortell of their own demise, all to bring calamety and ruin to nations. Sometimes known as the Changer of Ways, Kerzit focuses less on direct confrontation, but rather manipulating the very players of the chess board. Kerzit is the one who gave Orcus the Ritual of Worms, and foretold the Prophecy of Worms, though only he knows the entire prophecy...
The Lords of Undeath are three Deities who battle each other for the title of God of Undeath. I use Vecna, Orcus and Kyuss for these deities, with Orcus being responsible for the others imprisonment in the Demiplane of Dread and the Obolesk on Wormcrawl Island. Each of these three select an individual mortal as their "Chosen" and grant them unimaginable power and artifacts (Hand and Eye of Vecna, and the Sword of Kas), effectively making them Demigods. Under those are Champions; the most powerful minions of each Lord, with each god gaining more or less influence over the forces of Undeath by slaying the Champions and Chosen of the others. I use the 3.5 Exemplars of Evil characters Edwin, Edgar and Katarina Tolstoff for this, having Edwin seeking to release Kyuss. To accomplish this, he summons the Herald of Kyuss by a profane ritual that gestates the foul creature inside Edgar's gut, and once the Herald is summoned Kyuss gains an anchor for his power to begin taking effect, initially siphoning only from Orcus, which weakens the Demon Prince enough for Vecna to escape the Demiplane of Dread and return to Oerth. Once Vecna arrives, he chooses an Orc Lord of the Pomarj to become his Chosen, while Orcus chooses Overking Grendel the First, and Edwin Tolstoff being the Chosen of Kyuss. Kyuss's island prison is unable to be found whilst Orcus still lives, thus the party will be forced to battle and slay him. I also include several of my own characters as The Brotherhood of Worms, a small group of individuals that Edwin gathered and convinced to aid him, convincing them that they can achieve Demigod status by helping bring about the Prophecy of Worms. These individuals are a Drow General seeking vengeance against Lolth's own Chosen, a powerful Human Wizard who seeks to cheat death, and a nihilistic human Cleric who wants the world to burn, all of which trying to gather the items normally used in the original Age of Worms module to free Kyuss (Well of many worlds, talisman of the sphere, and Sphere of annihilation). These characters, and the Tolstoff Twins, are introduced by the party finding an Icon of Kyuss on a dead body, and at least in my most recent campaign, slaying the Drow General's pet black dragon in Kundrakkar and uncovering a note from Katarina Tolstoff to the Dreugar.
Part of this setting is the idea that the PC's can become Demigods, which is how they surpass level 20. I originally had planned for the party to roll an unmodified d20 on a table from level 10 onwards, with the chance to "Ascend" becoming easier each time they level up, until level 15 at which point they need a 16. I allow the party to also ascend to Intermediate and Greater Demigod status, though that requires them to slay beings of semi-divine nature, aka Demigods and particularly powerful enemies, which is really just a plot hook so they'll go after things like Orcus. Eventually though, I made a change to have the party uncover the Ritual of Worms and stop a lich who was trying to use it to ascend to Godhood. I found that this works very well with the 5e book "Tales from the Yawning Portal" where I started the party going to Kundrakkar to find an Icon of Kyuss, then go to Tamaochan to uncover informaton about Dead Gods (I made the Vampire Spawn there more powerful, and had him complete the Ritual of Worms in ages past), from there going to White Plum Mountain to investigate the Tolstoffs who were sponsoring adventurers to go in and recover "Their" stolen magic items (they wanted to sacrifice the items to free Edwin), and finally to the Doomvault where Zamm Tsas was attempting to use the ritual to ascend to godhood, where the party managed to mostly stop the ritual, and in the process completed it, and became Demigods.
I wrote this originally to occur in the year 590, with Mordekainen disappearing in 588 and the Citadel of 8 fallen apart after the Battle of Emridy Meadows, and the events of Vecna Lives! having already occured. I originally based it in Maldin's Greyhawk. It's come quite a long way from the original idea, but as a campaign idea, I really like what I've done with the True Ghouls, which always interested me but I could literally find nothing about them.
EDIT: For references, this concept draws heavily from Wolfgang Baur's "White Kingdom" AD&D writings, which were featured originally in Dungeon #70 "Kingdom of the Ghouls", Dungeon #129 "A Gathering of Winds.", and Dungeon 252 "The Ecology of the Ghoul.". This concept was later loosly adapted by Bruce Cordell and Chris Tulach into a 4th edition adventure module for 24th to 26th level PC's titled 'Kingdom of the Ghouls".
I don't think that was clear. There is the submit article link on the left, but I'm rusty and don't know if thats what they had in mind. I'll ask Smedger about it next time I talk to him. In the meantime, it couldn't hurt to post it in this thread.
I submitted my AD&D/1e events for the North Texas RPG Con in June, and they're drowic in nature :D
Treachery in Erelehi-Cinlu!
The drowic sage Erastoriűl Ka’arndrik has betrayed your masters, Lyme,
Lord Mage of House Eilservs, and Lady Eclavdra, self-styled Queen of
the Vault. Eclavdra and Lyme have sentenced the sage to vengeance and
unholy death, and you are to be the instruments of their vendetta!
Invade the sage's home, slay him, and return with baubles, secrets,
and magics that will enrich the coffers and standing of your masters
Bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage!
5th-7th level pregen drowic PCs will be provided. Please note: in
grodog's version of the World of Greyhawk drow are chaotic evil,
demon-worshipping villains, including the pregen PCs and their
Here's a brief teaser from my entry to the Postfest sent on to submission box.
After my ancestors were trapped within Slerotin’s Passage, they struggled against all odds to survive the endless darkness, learning to cultivate and hunt what grew in the depths. In time, before they discovered se-Murma, the Lerara encountered the dark elves of Erelhei-Cinlu at the bottom of the Black Chute. The heirs of the Suel Imperium began trading with the spider-kissers out of desperation, but this arrangement did little to relieve the desperation of their imprisonment. The drow bring no light to the eternal darkness, leaving the Lerara to embrace the despair of the Mother.
-- Elayne Mystica, Archmage of Irongate
Aelinthaer-Cinluel, the City of Plunging Waters, lies deep beneath the Crystalmist Mountains (N5-137), in little known caverns located north of the Vault of the Drow. As its moniker suggests, Aelinthaer-Cinluel lies along the banks of the Pitchy Flow, some twenty miles upstream from Erelhei-Cinlu.
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