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    How Cool is Kyuss? Too Cool to Kill!
    Posted on Wed, September 17, 2008 by Dongul
    gvdammerung writes "Kyuss, as in the Spawn of Kyuss undead type, was little more than a name until the Age of Worms Adventure Path in Dungeon Magazine transformed him into an epic villain. Then, they had to go ahead and kill him. Kill Kyuss? No way. Simply put, Kyuss is too cool to kill!

    How Cool is Kyuss? Too Cool To Kill!
    by Glenn Vincent Dammerung aka

    Kyuss. Undead Monstrousity. Worm God. Alien Menace. Harbringer of End Times. And cool. Way too cool to kill.

    The Life and Death of Kyuss

    Kyuss was a Flan, former cleric of Nerull, who lived in the ancient Flan nation of Sulm, where the Bight Desert is now, some 2000 years ago. Exiled from Sulm, he fled to the Amedio Jungle, where he founded the city of Kuluth-Mar. There he discovered metallic plates that contained knowledge of “alien gods” in the language of the six-armed Spellweavers, themselves distinctly alien. With the aid of a Spellweaver lich and a “tiny green worm” from a “distant reality,” Kyuss ascended to demi-godhood; his patron in ascending to the divine was, naturally enough, Nerull.

    As a deity, however, Kyuss found himself bound within a monolith he had raised as part of his ascension rite. This monolith was later transported to the Bandit Kingdoms in the Flanaess by the ancient red dragon Dragotha, then the living consort of Tiamat. The Age of Worms Adventure Path in Dungeon Nos. 124-135 tell the tale of what happened thereafter. The Adventure Path ends with the PCs ostensibly slaying Kyuss but as Kyuss dies it is noted that Kyuss’ “remaining taint” takes “root” in a new dungeon complex in the Bandit Kingdom of Redhand called “The Pit of Worms.” Of note, this is Kyuss’ second recorded defeat as 1500 years prior to the Age of Worms Adventure Path, Kyuss’ first attempted to escape the monolith but was defeated.

    During the course of the Adventure Path, the PCs also ostensibly slay Dragotha, as well. Of course, Dragotha is famed as the first draco-lich. Killed by Tiamat for betrayal, Dragotha was raised as a draco-lich by Kyuss. Dragotha thereafter served Kyuss as his chiefmost agent. When he is slain as a draco-lich, his phylactery already destroyed, it is noted that Dragotha’s skeletal form turns to dust and that the ghostly shape of the dragon arises from the dust cloud before disappearing.

    Un-Killing Kyuss

    With this preamble, the question is – are Kyuss and Dragotha now “dead” within canon. Certainly, there is more than enough evidence to reach this conclusion. There is also, as noted above, a solid basis to un-kill or reprise Kyuss, and Dragotha, as villains within the World of Greyhawk fantasy setting.

    Something of Kyuss survived his demise in the Age of Worms Adventure Path – his “taint” remains and has taken “root” with a dungeon complex – the Pit of Worms. Of note, the Pit of Worms is created as Kyuss’ monolith “melts away” in a wash of green worms that, burrowing into the earth, create the Pit of Worms. Kyuss’ cult also survives. When Kyuss was previously defeated 1500 years before, his cult also survived and continued to serve their god. Here then are two survivals that can form the basis for returning Kyuss to the setting as an active villain. Instead of his essence bound within his, now destroyed, monolith, Kyuss’ essence or taint, however much diminished, may reside within the Pit of Worms in the city of Alhaster, the capital of Redhand in the Bandit Kingdoms. His cult, also diminished, remains to work for Kyuss’ return.

    The same may be said for Dragotha. The ghostly shape that arose from the destruction of Dragotha’s lich-form may be just that – a ghost. Dragotha the draco-lich may have been transformed into Dragotha the ghost dragon or, worse, the ghost-lich. It could be that simple. Ghost dragons are an established monster type within D&D, so there is little difficulty there. That Dragotha survived his destruction as a lich, to include his phylactery, to rise as a ghost is a bit more problematic but not an insurmountable problem. Dragotha was no ordinary dragon. He was a consort of Tiamat, late a god. He was raised to undead status by a god. He was the first draco-lich. That he might not die as straightforwardly as other lich-types, should not come as any surprise.

    Too Cool To Kill

    The question would then be, if Kyuss and Dragotha can be more or less reasonably returned to the active ranks of Greyhawk villains – should this be the case? The answer is obvious. Of course, they should be returned!



    The case for Dragotha is easier to make than that for Kyuss, at least on first inspection. Since he “appeared” in the classic S2 module, White Plume Mountain, Dragotha has been a presence in Greyhawk and a not inconsiderable one, considering he has been mostly a rumor. Dragotha’s story is a compelling one, involving as it does Tiamat, S2 and finally Kyuss. That Dragotha is a “first,” the first draco-lich, only makes him the more intriguing. It seems a shame to permanently loose an interesting and historic character after, really, only one substantive appearance – that in the Age of Worms Adventure Path. Having now come memorably on-stage after a long wait, Dragotha has more utility than to be declared dead-dead.

    Dragotha is Greyhawk’s only draconic villain of any real stature; in fact, no other dragon in the World of Greyhawk comes close to Dragotha’s notoriety within the setting. In this sense, Dragotha keeps dragons part of Greyhawk. If there is no Dragotha in Greyhawk, dragons as part of Greyhawk are, as a whole, diminished – reduced to entries in a monster manual and not much else – certainly no history, legend or personality, except what might be made up on the spot. If The World of Greyhawk wants or needs dragons to be other than a footnote or “trophy monster” in the setting, Greyhawk needs Dragotha.

    As a ghost dragon, Dragotha’s history will only be bettered, his legend enhanced. His menace as a ghost dragon would be obvious, and unusual as the ghost dragon monster type has never seen wide use within D&D. Dragotha would not be “just another villain” nor “just another dragon.” Dragotha, in sum, is too cool to kill. So is Kyuss.


    Kyuss was most famous, prior to the Age of Worms Adventure Path, as the creator of the Sons of Kyuss undead-type first appearing in the 1st Edition Fiend Folio. The Sons of Kyuss, of course, were basically skeletons but had the notably distinguishing feature of being infested with a nasty sort of necromantic worm . As such, Kyuss was little more than a name. This situation only really changed – to the point where Kyuss becomes too cool to kill – with the advent of the Age of Worms Adventure Path.

    To begin, Kyuss has Dragotha as his chief agent. Not too shabby.

    In the second rank, Kyuss also created and is served by the avolakia from the 3rd Edition Monster Manual II. Avolakia are 10ft beings likened to a cross between an octopus, a worm and an insect, perhaps a praying mantis. They have polymorph abilities and are experts at disguising themselves to infiltrate other societies.

    In the third rank, Kyuss is served by the undead Knights of Kyuss. Paladin-like and comparable to the Death Knights or Knights of Doom, the Knights of Kyuss are created from his elite human followers and are always few in number.

    In the fourth rank are found the undead Swords of Kyuss. Created from among the ranks of his human generals, the Swords of Kyuss are formidable fighter types.

    In the fifth rank, the Wormcallers are undead cleric-types. Like normal clerics, they serve in both support and leadership roles.

    In the sixth rank are Worm Nagas, undead naga-like creations. Worm Nagas tend to be few in number and are formed from Kyuss’ magicuser followers.

    In the seventh rank, of course, there are the Sons or Spawn of Kyuss. These undead serve as undead legionnaires or foot soldiers.

    Although unintelligent, it is probably best to mention here Kyuss Spawnlings. As their name suggests, these are early stage undead, little better than worms but not to be reckoned with overly lightly all the same.

    Looking at just the above hierarchy of servitors, Kyuss’ organization compares favorably with the Boneheart of Iuz or the monks, assassins and thieves of the Scarlet Brotherhood. A good organization can make a good villain better, as in the case of Iuz, or can itself substitute for a single, personified villain, as in the case of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Kyuss is also served by a variety of purely monster types, all unique.

    In order of power, the Overworms – 80ft long and 40,000 lbs at the least – are the greatest of Kyuss’ creations. They are said to embody some portion of the power of the god himself.

    Almost as powerful are the Ulgurstasta, which first appeared the 3rd Edition Fiend Folio. Creations of Kyuss the Ulgurstasta are formidable, worm-like opponents who are the more dangerous for their ability to spawn other undead.

    Wormdrakes, an unholy cross between dragons and worms, are also among Kyuss’ monstrous minions. They are, however, less common than other of his creations.

    Hounds of Kyuss, or eviscerater beetles, obey the commands of Kyuss’ intelligent servitors. In this, they serve much as a hound. Earth cancer (undead) centipedes and mindkiller (undead) scorpions may also be classed as Hounds of Kyuss as the term may be used specifically or generally.

    Finally, there is the Boneyard of Kyuss and the Worm Swarm. Both of these creature types are composed on myriad individuals. In this, they resemble certain types of oozes or less known elemental types.

    Kyuss’ organization and minions, described above in brief, give Kyuss a power and flexibility as a villain easily equal to that and arguably superior to that associated with Iuz or the Scarlet Brotherhood and all together more atmospheric. Kyuss is undead, but his affiliation with worms adds an entirely unique air of “otherness,” “alienness” or just plain creepiness. In this, Kyuss “feels” unlike any other Greyhawk villain; he is singularly atmospheric in a unique way. At the same time, while like Iuz, Kyuss is a demi-god born of Oerth, his origin includes a unique alien aspect in the role of the Spellweavers. In short, Kyuss is the total, villainous package plus more. There is every reason to think that Kyuss offers more to Greyhawk games returned to villainous action rather than dead after the Age of Worms Adventure Path.

    Kyuss Returned

    Utilizing a revivified Kyuss should prove no problem for any DM. Kyuss’ person, cult and servitors, as outlined above, comprise a DM’s toybox. A DM has a plethora of options from which to choose. One may, however, ask how a revived Kyuss functions within a campaign that adheres more or less to Greyhawk canon.

    Isn’t Kyuss’ base of operations in the Bandit Kingdoms uncomfortably close to that of Iuz, virtually next door to the west? Aren’t Kyuss the demi-god and Iuz the demi-god, allowing for their very different natures, still too much taken together and side-by-side? Well. Yes. But there is a very obvious and natural solution to this difficulty. As Kyuss is moved on-stage, Iuz should be moved off-stage.

    Iuz is an iconic figure in Greyhawk. He has, however, been over-exposed and, in the process, he has been depicted as a villain who can accomplish little other than finding himself tricked and imprisoned. Iuz, then, is both over-exposed and ineffectual – hardly the stuff epic villainy or even petty villainy. Iuz needs a break, to vanish for a time and in that time reacquire some of his lost mystique – absence making the heart grow fonder, so to speak. Into the breach can step Kyuss most neatly, filling the same imaginative space but with an entirely fresh and unique brand of villainy.

    It is beyond the scope of this article to fully chronicle how Iuz has become a clownish, omnipresent caricature of a villain more than the epic threat he once was but it is instructive to note that 1) Iuz has twice been shown to be ineffectual in confrontations with Vecna, 2) Iuz has twice been proven gullible enough to be physically imprisoned, 3) Iuz has twice set in motion plots to destabilize his nearest enemy Furyondy only to see his plans unravel around him, and 4) Iuz has briefly conquered an “empire” only to ineptly and unaccountably lose almost all of it shortly thereafter. Iuz has been on Greyhawk’s stage for a long time and in that time he has spent himself as a villain and as an NPC until he has little credibility and no cachet left.

    Kyuss and his villainy are fresh and unsullied in any comparison. Kyuss also has a cachet with current players Iuz lacks. Thanks to the Age of Worms Adventure Path, Kyuss is familiar to a huge number of present day gamers, who have seen just how formidable a villain Kyuss is. By comparison, Iuz is known as an “old” villain who, in his most recent appearance in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, managed only to get himself imprisoned (again) by nothing more formidable than a _simulacrum_ of his _mother_. Iuz was used in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk not as an epic villain but as a convenient excuse to set up the real villain and then as a red herring, gullible enough to get imprisoned in Castle Greyhawk just as he had previously been imprisoned in the very _same_ Castle! Just how dumb is Iuz? That one can legitimately ask that question is demonstration enough of how degraded Iuz has become as a villain and NPC, except perhaps to the oldest of old time Greyhawkers who can’t let go of their lost gaming youth. Iuz is passť.

    Kyuss can more than easily and very effectively become the new villain threatening the northern portions of the Flanaess, and beyond. His person, cult and monstrous minions have been used _once_ and then in epic fashion, sufficient to intrigue a new generation of Greyhawkers. Kyuss can move any Greyhawk campaign forward, usefully and effectively. How cool is Kyuss? Simply put, Kyuss is too cool to kill.

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