D&D 5E Ideas for an evil force trapped in rock

Stormonu

Legend
Must it be something evil? To turn this on its head, it could be something good, sealed away from an evil entity that has been in pursuit of the creature or item. The undead and other negative effects have been the residual power of an evil entity driving away competition and raising minions to locate and retrieve the object while its primary attentions are focused elsewhere.

At the very least, if you are considering Ravenloft ...

[sblock]
It's an artifact powered by an onyx gem. The gem Strahd is looking for as one of the "Fortunes of Ravenloft".
[/sblock]

Perhaps it is the Black Tear of the Raven Queen - a solidified tear shed by the goddess of death when she was forced to take the life of a lover. It has a side effect of raising the nearby dead into a semblance of life (Thus why the miners pretend to go about their daily lives), but gives no control over said undead. It's true powers invoke healing and can prevent an individual touched by the stone from dying (as per Spare the Dying). It has a major power that once per owner (or up to 3 times if you're generous) to revive a recently deceased individual. It's final power is if someone has the skill to replace their heart with the stone, it grants them a form of immortality - which is what the bad guy wants it for.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Agglomérante

First Post
Shadowdweller00, thanks for the Christmas gifts! I can't unpack it all in one post, lol :D

dark-power-trapped-in-rock-as-skeleton.jpg

Wave Echo Cave: The spellforge in the cave is actually powered by magical energy syphoned off from a sentient evil artifact buried in the rock nearby. Beyond canon - the facility was formerly seized from a group of duergar who contructed the original artifact.

Yes! Origin for the artifact. Duergar are level-appropriate now, but I'd rather fire some imaginations with a vision of an artifact forged in Hell -- where I'd like to take the PCs when they're 13th-ish level (15th?). I'm super keen to track down Inferno from 1980, which I'm hoping is as excellent as this exciting review:

Ed Greenwood's version of the Nine Hells is the one I knew and loved as a teen. It took at least some inspiration from Dante, and the circles were fleshed out with nasty and compelling environments. But Geoff Dale's version, which I discovered long after my gaming years, is better -- and far more harrowing. In depicting the torture of souls, Dale gave us Hell not only in terms of the way most of us think about the place, he was able to align it with a supreme work of literature, just as Ravenloft was made out of Dracula. The Christian baggage isn't an obstacle to those (like Dale) who are willing to put some effort into the workarounds.

So let's see what kind of energy we can get with an idea mashup …

In the First Age, Nokhthwar the Pit Fiend rose to power on the Prime Material Plane as a sadistic tyrant until he was killed by a god who thrust him miles deep in the rock.

Just after he died, Nokhthwar's Iron Crown collected his soul into the haunting black sapphire gem at the centre of the crown. The Iron Crown casts a Soul Bind on command (1 time/day), and it collected its master's soul when he died.

The gem is an extradimension pocket that can only be perceived if the gem is viewed with Eyes of minute seeing, and there happens to be a pair in the minerals lab of Goudy Whyhelm Trifeelix (gnome wight, alchemist, gemologist and former wizard). Viewers gazing through the Eyes see a few acres of Hell, populated with six or so bored Spined Devils (CR 2) and a stewing Pit Fiend (CR 20). The hundreds of damned souls that once populated the landscape were "expended" in the fight against the god. To quote Inferno (from the review again):

The damned appear much as they did in life. They are reborn in the Nine Hells in a form of flesh and blood, although they are gaunt and frail. Through the tormenting of the damned, devils harvest the power inherent in the mortal soul -- power to fuel infernal rites, to animate infernal constructs, to strengthen archdevils, or to fortify defenses. Although most damned souls are imprisoned until expended, a scant few -- those who served the Nine Hells with particular ability in life -- are rewarded with transformation into lesser devils so that they may continue to serve the Nine Hells throughout eternity."

When the Iron Crown is charged, it means that landscape is populated with souls being tortured. Under Nokhthwar the Pit Fiend's hand there was always a surplus, but the landscape is utterly void of souls at the moment. The six spined devils inside have themselves been tortured with 512 years of boredom and unending hunger punctuated by fits of rage and torment at the hands of Nokhthwar the Pit Fiend, vexed at the twist of fate that has him hoisted by his own petard.

The spined devils are desperate to play cat and mouse and poke at prisoners again. It's their purpose. Nokhthwar the Pit Fiend yearns for his skeleton to be retrieved from the rock so that he has a body (of sorts) to inhabit, once he's released from the Soul Bind. Nokhthwar must have his bones nearby to inhabit when the black sapphire gem is dissolved in the stomach acids of an ancient black dragon, or the gem is smashed on the Anvil of Angband in Hell.

If his skeleton is destroyed, Nokhthwar will not want the black sapphire gem destroyed, as Nokhthwar's soul would return to hell. Nokhthwar fears this. He fears harsh demotion upon returning to Hell, where his political alliances are antiquated. He has no leverage there. Without a body to inhabit, Nokhthwar will continue to make this pocket of Hell his small kingdom, and always press the owner of the Iron Crown to send him fresh souls to torment and devour.

The pit fiend's bones are being carefully excavated by the crews under the direct supervision of more intelligent undead (wights and deathlocks). They have already recovered the crown and at its command have stored it in the gem vault for now, the most secure vault in Wave Echo Cave (other vaults include the mithral ingots vault, the forge vault -- racks of unenchanted yet nonetheless mithral gear of all kinds -- and the Forge of Spells vault protected by a Spectator).
 
Last edited:

Mirtek

Hero
Every day three teams of 10 skeletons gear up with picks, hammers, chisels and shovels and put in an 8-hour shift under the supervision of some deathlocks and wights.
why only 8h shift? Isn't one of the advantages of undead workers that they work 24/7 without need for sleep or food or breaks?

Or is the mindless undead workers union to blame?
 

Agglomérante

First Post
why only 8h shift? Isn't one of the advantages of undead workers that they work 24/7 without need for sleep or food or breaks?

Or is the mindless undead workers union to blame?

Actually, in a way, yeah. I already answered that question on p.2. The skeletons behave as they did in life, all in an eerie miming.
 

Agglomérante

First Post
Must it be something evil? To turn this on its head, it could be something good, sealed away from an evil entity that has been in pursuit of the creature or item. The undead and other negative effects have been the residual power of an evil entity driving away competition and raising minions to locate and retrieve the object while its primary attentions are focused elsewhere.

The problem with a good artifact is the PCs will use it, and they'll only be 4th or 5th level.

It's true powers invoke healing and can prevent an individual touched by the stone from dying (as per Spare the Dying). It has a major power that once per owner (or up to 3 times if you're generous) to revive a recently deceased individual. It's final power is if someone has the skill to replace their heart with the stone, it grants them a form of immortality - which is what the bad guy wants it for.

Your artifact design is equivalent to a Periapt of Wound Closure (common) and a scroll of Raise Dead, but that immortality thing trumps combat powers with an elegant story power. Thanks! :)

Your good artifact scenario introduces the need for a new antagonist though, directing the skeletons for 500+ years of digging, whereas the Iron Crown has been beckoning like a homing beacon. And right now I'm kinda digging the evil artifact design with the extradimensional pocket in the gem.

At the very least, if you are considering Ravenloft ...

[sblock]
It's an artifact powered by an onyx gem. The gem Strahd is looking for as one of the "Fortunes of Ravenloft".
[/sblock]

Ai! Ai! Such a good idea! I'd swap onyx gem for black sapphire since that's the Soul Bind spell component.

Perhaps it is the Black Tear of the Raven Queen - a solidified tear shed by the goddess of death when she was forced to take the life of a lover. It has a side effect of raising the nearby dead into a semblance of life (Thus why the miners pretend to go about their daily lives), but gives no control over said undead.

The miners go about their daily lives because that's what skeletons do. Have you read the delicious description of the skeleton in the MM?

Habitual Behaviours. Independent skeletons temporarily or permanenetly free of a master's control sometimes pantomime actions from their past lives, their bones echoing the rote behaviours of their former selves. The skeleton of a miner might lift a pick and start chipping away at stone walls. ...
 

The miners go about their daily lives because that's what skeletons do. Have you read the delicious description of the skeleton in the MM?

Indeed they do that until they detect the living upon which they try to kill them.

This kind of makes the Wights pointless. The Skeletons should attack the Pcs without their orders and if the Wights can order the Skeletons around they should just have all of them work on digging with out stop.

A better scenario is that the Wights can't order the skeletons around and have to wait for them to finally finish digging to the area they want, but are annoyed at the fact they can't just get all of the skeletons to work and instead have to watch them pointlessly mime and stuff while waiting for them to finish. This allows for the Wights to be around as well as tougher enemies then the Skeletons.
 

I'm having a hard time deciding on something engaging and interesting for the dark power. The PCs will only be 4th or 5th level when they encounter an evil power capable of raising dozens of undead from miles away. Options so far:

  • it's an evil artifact
  • the PCs stop the skeletons before they reach the power, so it remains mysterious
  • it's a power of some kind but most of its body is still trapped in rock. It can be killed while it conjures aid, which is about all it can do.

I need to think outta the box. Please sprinkle some imaginative sugar.

It's a Forkrul Assail and a bunch of T'lan Imass! If you let them out they will resume their battle (the Assail will probably crush the Imass) and then inflict "peace" and "justice" on everybody else in the vicinity. :)
 

Agglomérante

First Post
An alternate idea - feel free to use or modify as you see fit:

Shadowdweller00, fyi, your post was so rich with good ideas I thought I'd highlight the new stuff I'm keeping. Thanks so much, your post really moved my project forward. All this juicy stuff is on the front burner:

  • the artifact needs an origin
  • the artifact is an iron crown, set with a gem
  • the soul of a fiery, demonic [diabloic] entity is bound to the iron crown, specifically to the gem
  • the name of the devil is Nokhthwar
  • the crown is mostly unornamented, but twisted dwarven [infernal] runes wind in spirals around the circlet
  • the crown needs side effects
  • the crown, even without the gem, can control undead
  • Nokhthwar is presently starved for power but has the ability to feed off the souls of sentient creatures that are slain by the wearer
  • The demonic entity powering the crown wishes primarily to escape
  • he bindings which hold the entity [the gem and spell] can only be destroyed if the crown is ingested by a legendary [black] dragon
  • Nokhthwar considers itself to be vastly superior to mortals
  • The creature enjoys and feeds off death and destruction

Wave Echo Cave: a seam is now discernible somewhere in the cave where picks have unearthed a different type of rock. This area should be visible to exploring PCs, and radiate an eerie phosphorescence and warmth to clue in the PCs as to something being there. A faint spot should detect as very strongly magical somewhere beyond the rock.

What I'd imagined is the evil force being encased in the motherlode of mithral, radiating out of which in a cone-like pattern are numerous individual lodes of mithral. So the lodes of mithral all point to the evil force -- the Iron Crown. But only the Heavy-Metal-scale-fantasy lode that extends for dozens of miles actually reaches the motherlode. When the PCs arrive at the excavation of the bones of Nokhthwar the Pit Fiend, they've cleared a larger area, say 30' in diameter, to encompass the expanded wings of the Pit Fiend skeleton. The bones protrude from the mithral and are being painstakingly freed with mithral tools.

Powers: Anyone attuned to the crown who wears it gains resistance to fire.

Since Pit Fiends are immune to fire, this wouldn't be a property of his crown. Otherwise the fire stuff dovetails nicely with Hell. I'm thinking it could simply be a Pit Fiend's innate spellcasting abillities, but just without the insane "at will" frequency for fireball:

3/day each: hold monster, wall of fire, detect magic, fireball
1/day: soul bind

Too much, even for an artifact I suspect. But nobody will use it because I'll make the detrimental properties a serious drag.

However - the crown also has some side effects which cannot be discerned by normal identification due to interference by the animating entity, Nokhthwar. The crown emits a subtle call that cannot be perceived by the living but is magnetic to undead.

Since I've now personalized the crown as a Pit Fiend with motives, it doesn't make sense that Nokhthwar would still be beckoning undead. But he can do it, on command word.

The Iron Crown does need side effects. Seven devils are not-so-metaphorically sitting on the wearer's shoulders.

The entity, Nokhthwar, is presently starved for power but has the ability to feed off the souls of sentient creatures that are slain by the wearer. As Nokhthwar feeds, it becomes increasingly able to exert its will on undead within a 30 foot radius as well as its wearer...manifesting first as a suggestion-like ability that places the victim into a trance-like state as it carries out said suggestion for a short-ish period of time. If the crown gains enough power, it can control one victim like a puppet (as per Dominate Person). Neither of these abilities can be used more than once per 24 hour period. The crown does not wish to reveal itself and so tries to be subtle about its attempts at manipulation

I shied away from this since I don't see Dominate Person as subtle, and the whole cryptic messaging and manipulation you described in the next paragraph seems a bit hard to maintain (but a cool idea nonetheless). I wish I were a poet. My D&D games would be so much better.

Thanks so much for the feedback folks. My game isn't until Jan 17th, and I'm still open to ideas.

gustave-dore-farinata-1.jpg
 
Last edited:



Zaruthustran

The tingling means it’s working!
Quick anecdote: I once ran a game based on the notion of an evil contained within rock. It was a one-shot Halloween adventure at a lonely abbey. The quick summary is that some of its stone was quarried from rock that contained a vampire. So: vampiric abbey.

The not so quick story was that the vampire was challenged long ago by a magic user who had hunted and destroyed it many times, but the vampire kept reforming. So the hunter nailed it with Flesh to Stone, and then Stone to Mud. Since it wasn't reduced to zero HP it never turned to mist/couldn't reform. Ages later, that mud became rock, rock that was part of a sandstone quarry, and that specific stone was used as flooring in a store room at a small keep. That keep eventually became an abbey, and that store room eventually became a slaughterhouse for the abbey's sheep. Eventually, enough blood was spilled on the stone that it awakened some semblance of the vampire entity, and it mindlessly began spreading its presence throughout the castle (causing monks to slip and fall to their deaths, dropping chunks on pilgrims, etc.).

By the time of the adventure, all the unexplained injuries and deaths caused the abbey to develop a reputation for being haunted. It was mostly abandoned. The PCs were trapped there by a storm and learned of possible lycanthrope attacks (the Red Herring). Through investigation and interviews, they discovered the cast of characters: a monk who was essentially the vampiric abbey's Renfield, the suspicious and slowly-being-corrupted head abbot, a family of very vulnerable innocents also trapped by the storm (and possible werewolves pulling the Sheep's Clothing trick to get inside the abbey), and a ghost hunter who came close to discovering the truth (but was murdered after dinner, with the PCs under suspicion as the culprits). Renfield's plan was to somehow get lycanthrope blood into the former slaughterhouse; his notion was that a generous dose of shapeshifter blood would let his master escape. So, the Red Herring had a bit of truth. Eventually they managed to extract the vampire via deduction and a precise application of Stone to Flesh and destroy it. And of course, that just sent the vamp whirling away in mist form to who-knows-where. Hurray for campaign villain!

Anyway. Long story long: you can have a lot of fun with D&D's weird spells and geology. Have you read the description for the 3E spell Imprisonment?

Fun twist: the "big evil" is actually a big good (like a Chosen One sort of thing, or somesuch) who used Imprisonment on self as a way to hide from world (even Wish can't extract) until time is right. Over time, a legend grew up about it an important and powerful figure trapped under the earth, and since it was so mysterious that figure over the years took on an evil reputation.
 
Last edited:

Agglomérante

First Post
Quick anecdote: I once ran a game based on the notion of an evil contained within rock. It was a one-shot Halloween adventure at a lonely abbey. The quick summary is that some of its stone was quarried from rock that contained a vampire. So: vampiric abbey.
(snip)
Anyway. Long story long: you can have a lot of fun with D&D's weird spells and geology.

Hah, nice story. That stone was some well-aged cheese! It reminds me of a back story of one the PCs at my table, whose wicked witch stepmother insisted on a cottage made from particular, black stones from a particular river. Turns out they were the disassembled remains of a nefarious dark tower from ancient times. Re-assembling it broke a binding treaty with ancient fey, requiring a sacrifice and a human envoy for 10 years. She'd intended to sacrifice her hated stephchild, but while she slept the child turned the tables on her. Evil step mom taken by the fey. Child spends 10 years in the Feywild and returns to the Prime Material Plane 200 years later as a first-level Warlock, lost to his time, in the service of the dark power that took him as a child.

Have you read the description for the 3E spell Imprisonment?

LOL, no, and I probably wouldn't have by game night if you hadn't pointed it out. Woah! Right there in the PHB! And for Christ's sake, the material component is mithral! I love it! Nokhthwar is encased in mithral! :D

Phew. I love it when stuff like that happens.

Turns out the "godlike" spell I'd imagined is just 9th level. Almost identical otherwise, except that what I'd imagined was lethal. In the PHB, it's like temporal stasis.
 

Quartz

Hero
Twisting on [MENTION=1457]Zaruthustran[/MENTION]'s final idea, the skeletons are not undead but animated objects. The animated objects just happen to be ordinary skeletons. Intelligent PCs might realise that this is a clue that what or who is trapped is not evil.
 

Agglomérante

First Post
The last session ended with the party 6 miles underground at the earth's mantle, where skeletons have almost finished excavating the Pit Fiend skeleton and his iron crown.

I still have time to incorporate the Enworld braintrust and improve this hell-forged crown. I'm not happy with the finished product. It must be responsible for raising undead at a distance of miles (skeletons, deathlocks and wights, maybe ghouls) and it must be capable of communicating with the Spectator also at a distance of miles.

It should be too dangerous to be allowed to exist, and will lead the characters eventually to melt it down on its forge, located on the inner rim of the Eighth Circle of Hell. I rolled the Minor/Major properties.

Is this thing a sufficient threat to civilization that it must be destroyed?

Powers
  • Cause fear
  • Animate dead but with a range of 10 miles
  • Create undead at 9th level slot with a range of 10 miles
  • Telepathy
  • Trap the soul on any soul of a creature killed by the owner, range 60'
Minor Beneficial Properties
  • While attuned, casts a 2nd level spell (1-5 on d6, can't cast again till dawn)
  • While attuned, proficient in a skill
Major Beneficial Properties
  • While attuned, casts a 4th level spell (1-5 on d6, can't cast again till dawn)
  • While attuned, can't be blinded, deafened, petrified or stunned
Minor Detrimental Properties
  • While attuned, emit a sour stench noticeable from up to 10 feet away
  • White attuned, other creatures can't take short or long rests while within 300 feet of you
Major Detrimental Properties
  • When you become attuned to the artifact, one of your ability scores is reduced by 2 at random. A greater restoration spell restores the ability to normal.
  • While you are attuned to the artifact, your body rots over the course of four days, after which the rotting stops. You lose your hair by the end of day 2, lips and nose by the end of day 3, and ears by the end of day 4. A regenerate spell restores lost body parts.
 
Last edited:


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top