Overview The truly powerful beings in the multiverse, deities and demon lords alike, are worshiped by many. When the most powerful of these worshipers wish to bring about their most fervent wishes in their patron’s name, they may be able to summon an aspect of their patron. While aspects usually are subservient to the summoner, what would happen if this were not the case?
Background Gandreyus was an Eladrin Lich of great power who wished to discover the secrets of the Archfey in the Feywild, so that he might gain more power. To this end, he performed a powerful ritual that he discovered after many years of research and searching that allowed him to conjure an aspect of the god Vecna into the world.
Whether the ritual was defective, Gandreyus missed a critical step, or something else is not known, but the aspect that was summoned hadn’t long been in the world before it decided that it wasn’t going to serve Gandreyus. The lich backed down, knowing that he couldn’t take on the powerful aspect and live. The aspect allowed Gandreyus to live, after the lich swore an oath the serve the aspect.
Over the many years of his existence, Gandreyus had built up a lot of contacts, both in the Feywild and in the Natural World. The aspect took control of these covertly, not wanting its presence to be known yet. Over the past century or so, this organization has grown, believing it is serving Gandreyus, when its true master is the aspect, which has since assumed the name “Anvec.” Anvec’s ultimate goal? To unseat Vecna, and replace him as a god.
Goals Most of the cultists in the Seekers search for any magic artifacts or rituals, and report their findings to their superiors. The upper echelons of the cult are extremely secretive, so lower level cultists don’t even realize the significance of some of their findings. Those who do are often tested: if they pass, they are allowed into the higher levels of the cult. Those who fail are never heard from again.
The true goal, known only to Anvec and his inner circle, is to discover a way to elevate him to godhood. Anvec is pursuing two options at the moment. The first is to rediscover the original ritual that allowed Vecna to become a god in the first place. The second is to locate the Eye of Vecna and the Hand of Vecna. Anvec believes with these two artifacts, he may be able to infuse himself with some of Vecna’s divine essence, enough to allow him to do battle with Vecna.
The Cult Leaders The master of the Seekers is without a doubt, Anvec. The rogue divine aspect has big plans, and has given promises of power to his most faithful followers, although he constantly keeps his eye on them, watching for betrayals. He doesn’t want to have another Kas in his midst.
The being that most of the cultists believe is the leader is the Eladrin Lich, Gandreyus. Although at first resentful of Anvec, Gandreyus has realized the perks of the number two to a god, and with Anvec’s backing, he could easily seize the power of the Archfey in the Feywild. In addition to Gandreyus, there are two more big powers in the cult, and they are collectively known as “the big three.”
The second of the big three is Corrarrgix, a Stoneborn Dracolich unearthed by Seeker cultists 50 years ago. Corrarrgix was persuaded to join the cult by Anvec, bribed with promises of wealth in treasure and knowledge. And thus Corrarrgix fights on Anvec’s behalf, although he doesn’t care one way or another about Anvec’s ultimate goal. As long as the gold keeps flowing into his hoard, he will continue to battle Anvec’s enemies.
The last is the Vampire Lord Larayna. She was a Vampire Lord, and the one who dug up Corrarrgix’s remains. As such, she was tested by Gandreyus and was allowed into the upper echelons of the Court. She continued to perform well, and is now counted as one of the most powerful cultists in the cult. Larayna is a noble in the burgeoning city-state of Shimut, but she sees herself as much more than that. She wishes to become ruler of the city, and from it start a mighty empire. She sees the personal backing of a god as conducive for her goals.
Organization Anvec is the unofficial head of the entire Seekers organization, known only to the upper echelons of the cult. Directly under him, the figurehead leader is the lich Gandreyus, whose lieutenant is Larayna. Those two, along with the Dracolich Corrarrgix, make up the big three leaders of the Seekers.
Below the big three are the archivists, the ones who report directly to the big three. They are the only cult members, other than the big three, that know that Anvec is the one running the show. Being promoted to an archivist is a big deal, as they are usually who provide orders to lower cult members. Archivists are usually, but not always, intelligent undead of some kind. Those who are not undead will usually become an undead themselves so that they can continue to serve Anvec’s interests, as most archivists wish to see the rise of new god, each for their own reasons. There are currently about 60 archivists, located in different cities across the planes.
Seekers are the lowest members of the cult. They’re usually initiated by other seekers, and usually believe that the cult is simply one dedicated to the seeking out and preserving of knowledge. Due to this, many worshipers of Ioun and Vecna populate this echelon. Those who show potential to join the archivists, or those who piece together the cult’s true intentions on their own are approached by an archivist and tested by them. Those who succeed become archivists themselves. Those who fail are never heard from again. There are currently between 700-2,000 Seekers at this time; the higher-level members of the cult don't really keep count.
Encounters (These encounters assume 5 PCs. The book and page number that the monsters are located on will be listed. The Book abbreviations are as follows: Monster Manual: MM Open Grave: OG Draconomicon I: D1)
The Treasure Hunters During the course of an adventure, the PCs find themselves in conflict with a group of Seekers, both going after the same prize. The prize in question is left up the DM.
Encounter Lv. 5 (1,225 XP) 1 Human Mage (LV. 4 Artillery, MM pg. 163) 4 Carcass Eaters (Lv.5 Minion, OG pg. 196) 1 Canserab, Seeker Archivist; Tiefling Heretic (Lv. 6 Artillery, MM pg. 250) 2 Crimson Acolytes (Lv. 7 Skirmisher, MM pg. 210)
Tactics: The creatures act as they do in the Tactics section of their respective entry. Canserab, however, has no compunctions about leaving his allies behind if things go South, and will flee using Cloak of Escape if bloodied.
Versus Larayna By this time, the PCs will have faced several Seeker groups already, and may have discovered some leads on who the cult leaders are. Alternatively, Larayna may have heard of the PC’s meddling and wishes to deal with them herself.
Encounter Lv. 10 (3,250 XP) 1 Larayna; Vampire Lord (Lv. 11 Elite Lurker, MM pg. 258) 6 Vampire Spawn Bloodhunters (Lv. 10 Minion, MM pg. 259) 1 Skull Lord (Lv. 10 Artillery, MM pg. 236) 2 Battle Wights (Lv. 9 Soldier, MM pg. 262)
Tactics: Larayna prefers to ambush her opponents, often preferring to land the first strike herself. In battle, she’ll attack enemies up close with her spawn, ordering the wights to stay back and protect the Skull Lord, which is her most favored minion. Larayna will only use mist form to escape if she sees no way for the battle to be won.
The Lair of Corrarrgix The PCs have infiltrated the lair of the Stoneborn Dracolich Corrarrgix, to learn more about the seekers. Fighting their way past traps and underlings, the PCs confront the dracolich in his treasure chamber.
Tactics: Corrarrgix and the golems fight as their creature entries dictate. Corrarrgix’s phylactery has been hidden by Gandreyus, so he cares not if he falls in this battle, although he will hunt the PCs down later if they raid his hoard.
The Leader of the Seekers The PCs have been fighting off Seekers for a while now, and chances are that they’ve defeated the other members of “The Big Three.” When they face down Gandreyus, chances are that Ancev has almost completed his goal of achieving Godhood. If the PCs don’t know that Gandreyus is the true leader of the Seekers, odds are that they’ll learn this shortly afterward.
Tactics: Gandreyus immediately orders his Siegewyrm into close combat with the PCs, and has the Specters make attacks from hiding to supplement the siegewyrm’s attacks. He himself attacks from a distance, not worrying about destruction, as he has hidden his phylactery in the safest place possible: with his lord.
The Final Confrontation After much hardship and hard work, the PCs stand before Ancev for one final showdown. The aspect’s apotheosis is already underway or has already been thwarted by the PCs, and he’s ready now the finish them off once and for all.
Encounter Lv. 27 (74,400 XP) 1 Ancev, Aspect of Vecna (Lv. 25 Elite Controller, OG pg. 213) 1 Death Knight, Dragonborn Paladin (Lv. 25 Elite Soldier, MM pg. 51) 1 Atropal (Lv. 28 Elite Brute, MM pg. 11) 4 Blackstar Knights (Lv. 23 Soldier, OG pg. 205)
Tactics: Ancev orders the Blackstar Knights and Atropal to destroy the PCs, and attacks them from afar. The Death Knight is Ancev’s personal bodyguard, and intercepts any PCs that get within 5 squares of Ancev. All the monsters fight until death.
Skill Checks History: DC 15: The Seekers are a group of treasure hunters who specialize the recovery of ancient magic items and artifacts. DC 20: The Seekers were officially started roughly 100 years ago by the Eladrin Wizard Gandreyus. He still runs it along with his lieutenant, a human noblewoman by the name of Larayna. Streetwise: DC 25: It is said that the upper echelons of the Seekers are populated with intelligent undead. DC 30: It is said that the Seekers unearthed a Dracolich some time ago. DC 35: There are rumors that Gandreyus isn’t the true leader of the Seekers, and that another is manipulating him from the shadows.
Optional Elements Used 1: 2 Heroic encounters, 1 Paragon encounter, and 2 Epic encounters have been detailed in the entry. 8: Only the big three and the archivists know that Ancev truly controls the Seekers. 10: One of Ancev's goals is to aquires the Eye of Vecna and the Hand of Vecna.
I have the sudden urge to do a cult devoted to the pursuit of sheer power, calling themselves the Kin of Moonsh, who dwell with the temple of Kharops, conducting their strange experiments. A meritocracy, they are constantly constructing and reconstructing the Handbooks of their faith, squabbling over the true paths to enlightenment through sheer firepower. Above all, they seek the bones of the Great One's Familiar, the small serpent who made possible the ascent of the greatest of all Optimancers who came before them, a being so powerful that he remade the world in a new image, so that none may achieve again the means by which he rose above the gods. In times of duress, these Moonsh Kins can channel a minor fragment of his infinite power, adjusting the probability of accomplishing any feat through Pun-Pun's Potential...
Note: I have been vague in a few areas only to give this entry more flexibility. All of the vital information is here.
The Children of The Rend
History/Beliefs: The Children of The Rend are a group of fanatics who believe that order has forced stagnation of the world and The Rend must be unleashed, freeing chaos to work on the world and cause severe change.
'The Rend'--Can be either an actual landmark where random, chaotic things happen or a known source of chaotic magic.
The Cultists are fanatics, believing that the change the chaos brings will better them or their position. Many cases work merely for the betterment of all, despite the horrors caused by chaos magic when used. The cult tends to appear in times of cultural stagnation, as people believe that a large enough kick in the rear will get society moving again.
Cultists of The Rend call themselves 'The Children of The Rend'. This is never shortened, not even to the obvious 'The Children' (though I occasionally call them the Rend Cultists for ease of presentation). The reasoning given to this is The Rend will assault those who try to rename its creations. The level of proof of this varies depending on the campaign and the wishes of the DM.
Leadership/Organization: If there is an overall leadership to the Rend Cultists, there is no indication of such by cult members. (DMs are free to give the cult an overall leadership, mine does not) The Children are loosely organized (they are a chaos cult after all). Outsiders are generally confused by the seemingly random organization of the group, and the fact that the leader of a band seems to change from moment to moment.
The Children of the Rend are populated by most humanoid races. PC (read: in PHB) races are by far the most common leaders, but PC and non-PC Races (e.g. Gobliniods, Gnomes) make up the cultists ranks. Some Cultists bands are entirely made up of non-PC races (like a kobold band) the majority having been 'converted' by a believing leader.
Societal Interaction: The Children of the Rend are not a 'protected' cult by any means. They are not generally a persecuted one either. Among most a general policy of 'If you treat them well, The Rend ignores you' exists. Like the name, Actual evidence of The Rend interfering in people's lives depends on the DM and the campaign. This could all be superstition. Rend Cultists tend not to fall to gang/mob intimidation (using the fear of others to empower themselves) because they believe that the Imminent Release of The Rend will empower them and they have no need of such barbaric tactics (It is always Imminent, despite any evidence to the contrary).
Marking: Rend cultists mark their faces with a special magical dye. The cult mark is memorable despite never being the same on any two people. It is always changing color, and seems to change shape whenever you blink your eye.
Mutation: The Rend occasionally 'blesses' one of its followers, transforming him/her/it, ploymorphing said followers into a variety of different forms. Normally, a follower will remain humanoid, sometimes only being disfigured (Though they do not consider it disfigurement). Occasionally it goes beyond even normal polymorph capabilities, turning them into different forms altogether. Any intelligent non-human creature can assumed to be a former humanoid follower. (See Mutation Table Below) Children Of the Rend Mutation Type Table (roll %) 01-50-no mutation 51-75-Disfigurement, see disfigurement table. 76-90-Humanoid Race Change, see race modifier table 91-95 Elemental 96-00 Dragon
Disfigurement Table 01-20-Limb Replaced by Tentacle 21-38-Eye-based Mutation (see Table) 39-56-No Mouth, covered with flesh 57-74-Nose Based Mutation (See Table) 75-94-flesh appears melted 95-00-Blank Face, Eyes and mouth are flesh covered, face flat where nose should be
Eye-Based Mutation (note: does not necessarily harm vision, could be granted magical sight) 01-30-One Empty Socket 31-50-Two Empty Sockets 51-80-One Flesh Covered Socket 81-00Two Flesh Covered Sockets
Nose Based Mutation 00-25-Nose gone, gaping hole left 26-50-Nose gone, flesh covered 51-70-Pig nose 71-90-Snake-like slit nose (see pictures of Voldemort from Harry Potter if you don't know what I mean) 91-00-Face becomes wolf-like in shape
Race Change Table (roll a d10, re roll if the race is the same as the current character race) (note, DMs are encouraged to modify this to include other humanoid races if they desire) 1-Human 2-Dragonborn 3-Dwarf 4-Elf 5-Eladrin 6-Half-elf 7-Halfling 8-Teifling 9-Gnoll 10-Ogre
Knowledge: Anything Listed so far (except the specifics of the mutation tables) could be known with a DC 15 History check if the PC is from an area that they exist in significant numbers, or similar DC Streetwise check in same area. The Rend Cultists are not secretive. If the area lacks general knowledge of the Rend Cultists, a DC 20 or 25 check may be more appropriate.
Encounters: The Rend Cultists will often Frequent Taverns and can regularly be seen 'street preaching' in the town square. How you introduce the Cult depends on how you want to portray them. If they are the villains in a campaign, Consider having a drunk cultist drop a little to much detail on why the opening of the rend is nigh. If the PCs investigate, it leads them into the plot to open the rend. If they don't, the drunk cultist could start a bar brawl and have a message on him for the PCs to investigate. IF the Cultists are to be Allies/Neutral, then consider having the rend Cultist preaching in the town square and the PCs are asked to see if they can get him to quiet down. While they attempt this, the Cultist attempts to convert them.
Cleric Power: The Rend is both Arcane and Divine in nature. By tapping into the Divine energies, a cleric gains access to a Channel Divinity feat Channel Divinity: Rend Roulette Feat Power The power of the Rend flows through you, but its power is not entirely at your control Encounter | Divine Standard Action Burst 10 Target: Randomly select one creature in burst. Effect: Target is either damaged 2d6 or healed 1d6
'Ritual': The Children of the Rend are researching a 'doomsday' ritual. The Cultists of the Rend are trying to understand how to reopen the rend. If you want your campaign to stop the cultists, the discovery of this ritual could be a plot point. Also, this could be used to over-come that tricky 3.5 to 4e transition, and the heroes could help them. In most cases the rend opening is a bad thing however. While it is true that chaos insights change, the amount of chaos this causes could very well reshape the world itself. Open The Rend--Level 30 Category: Doomsday Time: 15 hours Duration: Special Component Cost: See Below Market Price: N/A Key Skill: Arcane/Divine
(DMs are encouraged to create their own relic list) The ritual needs a golem made of the following parts: The eye of one who is veiled in lies, for it can see into new dimensions (in my usage, I will use the Eye of Veccna) A flawless faceted gem, to scatter the sight to all dimensions (Standard diamond but refined to exacting standards) The feet are to be old and strong, to lay down roots and stand firm against the opening (2 tree trunks in my campaign) The body is is to be made emulate the indestructible, as it must survive the change (The body is to be made from Terrasque Plate, from the Adventurers Vault) The Hand are to be those of one with the strength of a titan, to break down the dimensional wall.
Description: This ritual requires both a Divine and Arcane Caster working together. If the ritual completes, it is up to the DM what happens. Remember that the Rend is now a Portal to ALL dimensions, and decide accordingly.
Few institutions, or even fellow cults, are as mysterious and misunderstood as the one created by events in the tiny villiage of Channon centuries ago. Agents of death or defenders of Life? Necromancers or exterminators of undead? Champions of the mortal world or its greatest threat? Even their name is enigmatic, for while members refer to themselves as the Fellowship of the Noose, in the nervous whispers of common folk they are called only the Hanged Men.
Centuries ago in the villiage of Channon, a man named Horace Zahn was publicly speaking about how mortals should not be subservient to the gods and their whims, that the deities have retarded mortals’ own evolution into higher beings out of fear and jealousy. He was hanged for heresy and blasphemy and his body thrown into a criminal’s crypt.
Despite this seeming end, a few days afterward he once again appeared in Channon, bearing the scars of his hanging upon his neck and claiming that through the gallows he found the means for mortals to find the fulfillment of their potential without the need for gods. As his word spread, more and more people began following his ideals, even to the point of hanging themselves to more closely follow Zahn’s path.
In old age upon his deathbed, he claimed he was in fact traveling to the future, where the world will be free of the taint of gods, and mortals will have no masters except themselves. His final promise was that the members of the cult will both create this future as well as live there, gaining perfect new bodies after their final death. His body was re-interred into the crypt he was first buried after his hanging and is now considered the most sacred site of the cult he created.
The Hanged Men devote themselves to a singular guiding principle: mortal beings are enslaved by the gods and those who worship them, and all religions must be expunged from the world to allow mortalkind freedom to find the greatness within them. As such, they view all forms of worship to deities or immortal beings, good, evil, or otherwise, as a disease upon the world and work diligently to disrupt or destroy theological influence upon the general population. Methods used can be as overt as burning down a temple, or as subtle as framing a respected cleric to discredit him before a powerful noble, whatever is deemed most effective for the circumstance.
Hanged Men view the body as a reflection of the spirit, and strive for physical and mental excellence. Conversely, the cult considers undead to be soulless abominations of the mortal form and will attempt to eradicate them anytime the cult is aware of their presence. They will do so themselves if necessary, bit if it can also be accomplished by manipulating the clerics of a local church to combat the menace and possibly destroy each other, so much the better.
Cult members have no fear of death, for they believe that when they die (again), their soul moves on to a new body in the future world free of deific dominion promised by Horace Zahn. While they do not actively seek to harm other people or to die themselves, they are willing to sacrifice themselves or risk the death of innocents if the opportunity to shatter a religious influence is great enough, or a danger so overwhelming that there is no alternative.
The pedestrian title of Hanged Men is a misnomer, for the cult openly welcomes both sexes as well as any sentient humanoid (even among the savage races) capable of following the tenats and undergoing the Freedom of the Noose Ritual (see below).
Hanged Men for the most part lead reclusive lives. Their garb is simple, normally hooded cloaks tied in the middle with their ever-present noose. They keep their whereabouts and activities as secret as possible to better execute their goals and to avoid retaliations from other cults, major churches, intelligent undead or whoever else might want revenge against them for their deeds. They often guard their places of residence with simple traps and constructs, mostly various homunculi, but larger and more permanent refuges may be protected with elaborate traps and numerous golems.
Cult members exist in separate groups (called Knots) that may have as few as a dozen members in sparsely populated areas to as many as a hundred or more in a major city. While Horace Zahn is always considered the head and heart of the Hanged Men, there is no leadership system outside of individual Knots except for the founder’s guiding principles. Hanged Men are always aware of Knots near their own, and different Knots will often work together on important or wide-ranging schemes.
Despite the cult’s deleterious initiation, austere lifestyle and fearful reputation, the Knots usually have little trouble increasing their numbers, attracting people from all walks of life who feel they have been unfairly treated or ignored by the gods or their clerics. Lands stricken by natural disasters such as plague, flood or famine make fertile recruiting ground among those who attribute such events to a displeased deity.
Initiates to the order are made to wear a hangman’s noose on a length of rope tight around their neck for the duration of their atonement from a life given to deific control. During this period (by a method very close to brainwashing), the suppliant is purged of any lingering fears and loyalties to higher beings and made to believe in the superiority of their own body and spirit. Once deemed worthy, the initiate is subjected to the Freedom of the Noose ritual, after which he becomes a full acolyte. He will keep the same noose for the rest of his life, normally tied around his waist as a belt, but now also endowed with properties that make it a formidable weapon.
Freedom of the Noose
Level: 8 (requires 13 casters that have already been subjected to this ritual) Component Cost: 1000 GP Category: Restoration Market Price: N/A Time: 4 Hours Key Skill: Heal (no check) Duration: Permament
When an initiate is deemed worthy of becoming a full brother of the cult, he is brought with thirteen acolytes to a gallows specially constructed and sanctified for the ritual. The suppliant is then hanged until dead with the noose carried throughout his initiation, his soul contained within the rope rather than moving on to another plane. The rope is passed through the hands of the thirteen cultists, after which the soul is returned to the intitiate’s body, reviving him and healing him of any injuries suffered during the hanging except for the ligiature scars around the neck and a raspy voice. The new acolyte’s life force is now bonded to the noose. If he is ever out of physical contact with it, the Hanged Man suffers from the Dazed and Weakened conditions until it is returned. If it is burned or otherwise destroyed, he lapses into a coma without hope for recovery.
A character knows the following information with a successful Streetwise check.
DC 15: The Hanged Men are a mysterious cult that exists hidden on the outskirts of small settlements or inside of larger towns and cities. They can be recognized by the hangman’s noose they carry with them as well as their scarred throats and raspy voices.
DC 20: Initiation into the cult requires that a new member hang themselves by the neck until dead, after which they are brought back to life by an unknown ritual. Hanged Men are seen more often during outbreaks of the undead or turmoil in local temples.
DC 25: While common folk believe the Hanged Men are necromancers or grave robbers, there has never been any proof of this. In fact, there are many accounts of cultists actually fighting such creatures. Evidence does exist however that they have been involved in the destruction of many churches and other religious groups, both good and evil ones.
DC 30: The noose carried by Hanged Men is connected to their life force. If a member loses physical contact with the rope they are severely weakened and disoriented until it is returned, and falls into a death-trance if it is destroyed. The PC also discovers where to find the hidden refuge of the nearest Knot and is given an idea of how well defended it is.
A character knows the information in the Origin section with a succesful DC 25 History check.
A character knows the information in the Dogma section with a successful DC 25 Religion check.
The following are the two most commonly encountered members of the Hanged Men. While more powerful members are believed to exist, they have yet to be seen.
Hanged Initiate Level 5 Soldier Medium Natural Humanoid XP 200 Initiative +5 Senses Perception +6 HP 64; Bloodied 32 AC 21; Fortitude 18, Reflex 16, Will 17 Speed 6
Strangle (Standard; Sustain Standard;At Will) Requires combat advantage; +8 vs. Reflex; 1d8+4 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). A target trying to escape the grab takes a -4 penalty to the check. The hanged initiate can sustain this power as a standard action, dealing 1d8+4 damage and maintaining the grab.
Heretical The hanged initiate gains a +2 bonus to all defenses against foes with the Divine power source while adjacent to at least one hanged ally.
Alignment: Unaligned Languages: Common Skills: Endurance +5, Religion +5 Str 17 (+5) Dex 12 (+3) Wis 12 (+3) Con 16 (+5) Int 10 (+2) Cha 14 (+4)
Binding Lash (standard; at-will) * Weapon Ranged 5; +12 vs Reflex 2d6 + 5 damage and the target is immobilized until the start of the hanged acolyte's next turn.
Unyielding Noose (standard; recharge 6) * Weapon Ranged 5; +12 vs Reflex 3d10 + 5 damage and the target is restrained (until escape). Escaping from the unyielding noose requires a successful DC 22 Acrobatics check or DC 24 Athletics check.
Heretical The hanged acolyte receives a +2 bonus to all defenses against opponents with the Divine power source while adjacent to a hanged ally
Alignment: Unaligned Languages: Common Skills: Endurance +10, Stealth +10, Religion +10 Str 17 (+7) Dex 20 (+9) Wis 14 (+6) Con 16 (+7) Int 14 (+6) Cha 16 (+7)
Equipment: leather armor, mace, lasso
Hanged Acolyte Tactics A hanged acolyte normally strikes repeatedly with binding lash against meele-oriented enemies to stay out of reach of their attacks. He uses unyielding noose when bloodied against the opponent that damaged him, and will thereafter use it immediately upon recharge against the nearest enemy.
Hanged Men will naturally react very negatively to characters with the Divine power source, and knowingly work with them only under the most extreme circumstances. They tolerate Warlocks, but view them as weak and pathetic fools who surrender their souls for undeserved and unearned powers. On the other hand, Hanged Men have a high regard for Wizards and classes with the Martial power source (even Rogues), viewing them as examples of the unlimited potential that mortals can achieve on their own terms without aid from Dieific beings, and work well with such characters towards a common goal.
Whether Horace Zahn was a simple madman that somehow survived his hanging, a doppelganger that took advantage of the situation for it’s own reasons, truly rose from the dead by his own strength of spirit to champion the cause of mortals, or has some other hidden truth is up to the DM to best fit his intended campaign. If it is a truth kept hidden by the highest-ranking cultists from their bretheren, the party should only be able to discover this information themselves through committed research and dangerous adventure.
It is unlikely that an individual PC would join the Hanged Men, but with sufficient interest an entire party may decide to join together as their own Knot, either to start at 1st level or anytime afterward. A PC would retain all of her normal class and racial abilities in addition to the more flavorful aspects of the cult’s strengths and weaknesses as decided by the DM to properly fit the campaign. The party would likely be considered an “elite” formation of the Hanged Men who do not have as many of the same restrictions as their more common bretheren.
Possible adventure hooks for a standard party:
-The PCs are petitioned by a church to aid them in defeating a cult bent on their destruction. This can either be the Hanged Men themselves, or the Hanged Men also happen to be targeting the church’s enemy and may be persuaded to work together if approached properly.
-The PCs face an undead scourge that the Hanged Men are actively combating. They may either join them to defeat the menace, or confuse them as the cause of the scourge and seek to destroy them.
-The Hanged Men know information that the PCs require, and may be persuaded or threatened to reveal it by performing a certain task.
Optional Elements: 3. Cultists have a permanent feature (neck scars from their hanging) 5. The cult can be an ally or an enemy to the party, depending on the context. 7. The cult knows a unique ritual described in the entry.
The list is updated. I'm leaving for vacation for a week, so one of the other judges will announce the end of the contest. I'm afraid I won't be able to update the entry list as quickly as I normally do. My internet access will be spotty, at best.
Crows, unlike humans, are very pragmatic about religion. They not care about justice or fairness. They do not care about kindness. They care about survival. They care about food. They care about raising the young.
That is why their gods number in the few and except for Mother of all feathered, Father of all beaked, and Aris-who-guided-the-flocks- through-the-long-winter-when-the-great-rock-fell-to-earth. Most deities of Corvidkind are local, worshiped only by a few flocks as ancestors. Ravens have a special queen of course. But Crows are another matter.
All the crows of the city of Cartis as well as the crowkin who walk the streets as humans worship the Cult of Karley of Cartis. He is the ancestor and patron who brought about the great feast of garbage and offal that the Crows of Cartis feed upon to this very day. His names are food bringer, human herder, and the clever one.
Once many years ago, Karley was a familiar of a human wizard. In those days Cartis was a small backwater of no importance. It was however a crossroads and river crossing. Here the wizard built his place of study. Pretty soon an inn was founded, as was a black smithy. All of them looked to the wizard to give advice and guidance. The wizard had no interest in these things and was annoyed at the constant interruptions. After some discussion Karley and the wizard came upon a novel solution.
Karley disguised as a human began to manage the town as the wizard’s nephew.
Given a magic bauble so he could change back and forth, Karley at first resented his new job. But over time he began to see the possibilities. For example, if a horse died he could make sure that it was dumped in a place where he and his flock could conveniently feast upon it latter. He could collect tolls and therefore collect more shiny coins for his nest. He could make sure that the sewers were open and could be dominated by the crows rather then rats and other haired pests.
Given a free hand by his uncaring master, Karley started to work to actively attract humans, particularly humans that left a lot of waste for Karley and his flock to eat. Karley continued in his role, herding the humans so that his flock could grow and feed. He continued in this role even after his wizard died. Under the crows care, the ignorant humans prospered, creating great piles of trash for the crows.
In time he passed the Shiny Bauble of Leadership to his hatchlings. In time Cartis grew into one of the great trading city. Karley was honored as the great ancestor of the many crows of the city. All the crows and crowkin honor him as their ancestor. In addition, several of his decedents are honored. Among them: Canar Cleverkin: After the plague of ghouls began the custom requiring open air burials outside the city. This prevented the rise of more walking dead things and gave the crows an additional source of food. Among the humans who knew him as a magistrate, he remembered for his defeat of the undead. Among the crows, he is remembered for creating the feasting plain, where the humans leave their dead.
This has also made the crows great foes of the undead. After all, who wants their meals to be animate, bad tasting things that could potentially kill you?
Kit Beggargirl and Donar: Kit was a small beggar child abandoned by her parents in the city. Normally she would have starved and the crows would have eaten her. Instead, she learned the language of Corvids and traded baubles for a take at the food scraps. Donar was a crow at the time that became her friend. Somehow they bonded as mates and Donar learned a great magic: how to change into a human. From them many crowkin are descended (though a few others have mastered this trick). One line, the Corin family took over as hereditary lord mayor of the city, the guiding the humans when the Shiny Bauble of Leadership was lost.
Mugin Misnamed: He is called misnamed because of his infamous deed. He forgot where the Shiny Bauble of Leadership was placed in the great heap of Karley. Since then leadership of the city has been in the hands of the crowkin. Still he is prayed to whenever something is lost. After all, who better to sympathize with a petitioner?
His loss has also created the contest. Each Crow and each Crowkin are allowed to reach into the great pile of baubles, hoping to recover the Shiny Bauble of Leadership. So far none have succeeded.
Hugin Sewerslayer:Once a great Wererat engineer convinced the people to build an underground sewer. This would have been a catastrophe had it succeeded for the sewers would be a great lair for walking dead things and wererats. In addition, the open drainage aqueducts would have been inaccessible to the crows. Hugin rallied the crows to drop so many stones in to the first section. This was abandoned after flooding and no more sections were built.
To this day the great sewers are open air, flowing into the river, allowing the crows plenty of time to get any shiny baubles they care to or eat any tasty morsel dropped into the drains. The Cult Today:
All the Crows and crowkin worship Karley as their great patron and ancestor. It is he who brought the humans together to provide an unending feast for the crows in Cartis. Even the humans are on somewhat aware this for outside the town there is a Great Piles of Shiny Baubles. There are several other piles lined up beside the largest one.
The crows sit upon the pile. The largest pile is dedicated to Karley while the rest are the dedicated to his famous descendants. Crows or crowkin who ask a boon drop a bauble upon pile. Outsiders are free to look upon the great piles but should anyone take a bauble (other then a crowkin making their attempt to find the Shiny Bauble of Leadership) they are attacked by a great swarm of crows.
Most are pecked to death in minutes, if not seconds. The hereditary mayors have put up signs pointing out the danger. However, the city fathers have been unwilling to move against the crows. The mayor wrings his hands at the potential casualties if the crows were removed. He also sights budget shortfalls if pressed. Now one who has pressed further has lived.
Needless to say, the natives have lost their curiosity. An occasional outsider is eaten.
The Kin of Karley's Tenants are as follows:
Herd the humans so that the Crows may feast: This can be many take the form of managing the sewers or the burial customs of the humans. There is another, more sinister side to it; it can mean killing beggars who compete for food. It can mean starting a riot that creates corpses so that the crows may eat. The one exception are the crowkin. They are human but also honorary crows. They are needed to manage the other humans.
Leave Nothing for Haired Competitors: This usually means rodents or dogs but it can also mean human beggars. Needless to say there are no non-crowkin beggars any more.
Anything that doesn’t smell or taste right should be eliminated: This means aberrations, undead and many other nasty things. This has meant that the city is generally safer. Detection is a job for proper crows. Killing they leave to others. They are called adventurers. These are stupid humans or elves and others who can be bribed with the right kind of shiny bauble to risk their lives and get killed on our behalf. When possible, leave the killing to them.
Jeffrey Corin, Lord Mayor Cartis: He is a crowkin as is his family. He is a caring mayor looking out for his people. Him and his family guard their secret, making sure the humans are busy, employed and well educated. He has set up schools and businesses.
While he genuinely cares for his people there is a double purpose in his actions. For example, schools keep children under the eye of schoolmasters and away from things they should not see. The curious or rebellious can be spotted early, and can be neutralized. Those working industriously create more waste and if they die from overwork, dinner is served. He regularly converses with Carrow.
Carrow (20th level Crow Cleric of Karley):
Carrow is a very old crow that resides over the great pile of baubles. As such he is in a position to guide young crows and young crowkin. He listens and he watches, looking for threats to crowkind. Sometimes, he will use his Kin of Karley form power to hire adventurers to deal with threats to health of the crows or of their human herd. Only he has the right to take from the pile of baubles and use the resources for the community. This he does grudgingly and only after consulting with the fellows who are involved.
He tends to look at crowkin as lesser beings. This is starting create a rift between the crows and their kin.
Kar and Karra Jougle (Kar 12th level Crow Ranger, Karra, 3rd level Human Sorceress): Note: I named Karra as a Sorceress in anticipation of PH2. If this isn't out, use Warlock with a feypact.
Kar is nine-year-old Karra’s “pet” crow. The truth is Karra is a crowkin who has a deep bond with Kar. This pairing has created an unusual empathy between human and crow. Slowly Kar and Karra others with close bond between human and crow are gathering around the young girl and bird. While too small to be a counter faction per se to Carrow’s following, they are growing. They look back on the close friendship between Karley and his wizard, and with Karra’s budding magical power, wonder if they can be true partners. This isn’t exactly heresy per se but it is a change in attitude from the way the cult has been going and could be a long term threat to Carrow's power. What’s worse is that Tom Jougle; Karra’s father is an assistant to the Lord Mayor and not a Crowkin (Karra inherited the trait from her deceased mother). This means the situation is being watched.
New Creature: Crows of Cartis:
Ability Scores: Strength 10, Constitution 12, Dexterity 18, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 12, Charisma 10 Size: Small Speed: 2 squares, fly 7 squares Defenses: AC: 14+level, Fortitude:10+Class level, Reflex 16+ Class Level, Will 12+Class level Hit Points: 12 or by class Attack Bonus: Level+4 Damage: 1d4 Melee Basic Attack: Claw; Level+4 vs AC; 1d4+Dex mod damage Trained Skills: Bluff, Perception Alignment:Unaligned
The Crows of Cartis are the primary members of the Kin of Karley. They have fooled most of the humans into believing they control the city. In truth the crows are manipulating the humans into creating more garbage. These crows are just pretending to be normal animals and are generally eat whatever garbage is availible. They are aided by their human kin, who have planted legends among the humans that the crows keep the streets clean and warn against threats like the undead. If facing a threat they tend to form great flocks of angry birds that are treated as swarms. Use the rules in the DMG to create swarms of any size.
Crowkin Prerequisites: Human, Int 12, Can only be taken at first level, Must worship Karley Benefit: This feats grants low light vision and bluff as a class skill. In addition, they can speak the language of Corvids. This includes Ravens, Magpies, and Jays as well as crows. The Crows of Cartis will generally view you as a friendly. All others view you neutrally or potentially hostilely, having generally never encountered two legged mammals that can speak to them.
All crowkin have black hair that has a delicate, almost feathered appearance. So far, while most citizens have made the connection that the great majority of the local officials seem to have these traits. They take it simply as an unusual heritage trait of the upper class and a few lower class bastards. A few suspect that there is a deeper connection between the rulers and the crows. A few know how deep but fear to act or are in on the joke (usually through marriage and children).
It is notable that those humans who forget Karley loose all benefits of this feat. He tends to forget those who forget him.
Form of the Karley Prerequisites: Channel Divinity class feature, Crowkin or Crow, Must worship Karley Benefit: Can invoke form of Karley as detailed below. Daily*Divine*Polymorph
The cleric of Karley gains a spark of the power Karley wielded when he carried the Shiny Bauble of Leadership. They can take the form of a Crow (if human) or a Crowkin Human (if a Crow). Equipment is unaffected and generally cannot be carried in Crow form. In either case, the cleric gains the size, movement, attacks, and general appearance of a their respective other form. This effect lasts one hour.
Donar’s Great Magic
Level 6 Component Cost: 140 gp Category: Exploration Market Price: Not for Sale Time: Ten Minutes Key Skill: Nature Duration: Special
Occasionally a Crow gains a fascination with a particular human. Occasionally, this is returned and the two are devoted to each other, even bonding as mates do. Donar found a way to overcome this difficulty by changing into the member of the same species. Up until this time it has only been used on humans.
This ritual is considered a marriage ceremony and creates a permanent link between the mated pair and must be entered into willingly. The “Crow” changes into a member of the same species as its mate. This cannot be reversed by any means known. They also gain the crowkin feat, which is universally passed on to any children they might have (though not necessarily future generations).
It also creates a permanent bond with the following effects:
1) Both targets literally cannot betray the other and for all purposes is considered to be under a charm effect. 2) If one dies the other dies in 1d6 months. Birds’ mate for life and die without their mates.
Any Crow who wishes to undergo this ritual must search for this ritual. For after each use it is hidden by the priests of Karley and must be found again.
DC 15: Cartis has always been noted for its large number of Crows. They are seen as good luck sign. They keep the street so clean in fact no sewers have eve been built.
DC 20: Crows have been involved in key events in the city. In fact it seems strange.
DC 25: Most of the nobles, including the Lord Mayors family, seem to be unconcerned by the many Crows. Those who have expressed concern have disappeared. Also most of the nobles have long black hair, almost like feathers. There are even legends of Humans changing into crows.
DC 30: There is a definite link between the Crows and the growth of the city; it’s almost as if humans have been herded.
DC 25: Other creatures sometimes seem to engage in ritual activity. For example the Crows of Cartis build great piles of Shiny Baubles and defend them fanatically. There are even legends that the Crows are relatives of many of the towns many citizens.
DC 30: The Crows Practice a religion. The upper classes are in on it too. It has to do with a figure known as Karley.
DC 40: What do you wish to know about Avian Religion?
DC 25: The birds are always watching. Those are not normal birds. They’re way too smart.
DC 30: See the hair on that one. He’s one of them, a bird. There are werecrows among us I tell you. See that one. She has black hair. She’s one of them.
Using the Kin of Karley:
1) The Kin of Karley, in disguise, hire the party to face a threat to the city of Cartis.
2) The party finds out about the Kin. The Kin make an offer to keep their secret. Marry in or be eaten. One of the crows has recovered Donar’s Great Magic and has had an eye on a party member for a long time.
3) A body in the graveyard of Cartis needs to be recovered for resurrection before it is eaten. It’s a race against time.
4) The Shiny Bauble of Leadership has been found, either by the party or by someone else. Kin want the bauble and will do anything for it.
The Kin of Karley meet the following requirements:
2) Cultic worship causes a physical transformation in some of its members. A few crows have changed into humans and given rise to the Crowkin. 3) Cultists all have a permanent feature (tattoo, aura, haircut, etc.) that lets people who know the secret identify members of the cult. All members are crows or are crowkin and are marked with a featherlike hair. 4) If a player character cleric joins the cult, they will gain access to a unique Channel Divinity feat detailed in the entry. Form of the Karley. 5) The cult can be an ally or an enemy to the party, depending on the context. 7) The cult knows a unique ritual described in the entry. Donar’s Great Magic 9) The cult leader is an influential member of the nobility or traditional clergy. Jeffrey Corin, Lord Mayor Cartis. 10) The cult seeks an artifact. Shiny Bauble of Leadership.