The town of Illyan has begun to see exponential growth with the opening of the new King’s Highway, an enormous road which links the capital and the port. Laying almost exactly halfway along this path, Illyan is the perfect midway point in the two-week journey from city to city. Now, hundreds, if not thousands, of travellers and merchants stop here every week in order to rest and restore their provisions. Unfortunately, these provisions must come from somewhere, and the citizens of Illyan have begun to cut the southern forests for lumber and for farmland. All of this would be well and good, the normal pattern of man exploiting his environment, except for one small factor.
The southern forests have, for nearly a century, been under the care of Roshok Wormwood, a half-elven druid of moderate power. Roshok deeply resents the deforestation of his lands, and has come up with a plan to not only drive away the town of Illyan, but to reclaim it for the forest in vengeance… as mulch. For, you see, Roshok has spent many decades studying death in the natural order of things. He has a deep, even disturbing, understanding of the manner in which worms and funguses break down dead flesh, returning it to nature, and in the lifecycles of those things. Using this knowledge and his divine power, he has created a terrible fungus to execute his plan. When the spores of this fungus are inhaled, they cross through the lungs into the blood, where they are distributed through the body, and there they begin to grow. The mind is the fastest effected, the victim’s intelligence and civilization quickly fading away. The victim is, in effect, rendered feral and violent within two days of infection. Meanwhile, the fungus has begun to grow within the muscles and on the underlayers of the skin, reinforcing them with their tendrils, making the victim stronger, tougher, and faster even as the failure of his mind renders him a monster. More, the fungus begins to use much of the rest of the body to reproduce spores, concentrating them in the lungs where they can be exhaled. Within four days of infection, the fungus-zombie is capable of producing more of its kind simply by breathing on other people. Worse, killing the creature does not stop the potential for infection from the corpse, especially if the lungs are punctured. Within two weeks of infection, he is truly dead and already half decomposed into soil.
The PCs have entered town two days after the druid has introduced his spore into the magical ceiling fans of a tavern: the first zombies have begun to appear. A plea from the town officials for all able bodied men and women to aid with this problem has gone out, as well as a promise of great reward. For the PCs, it is a race against time to find the meaning behind this horrid disease, and remove its source, before the town is destroyed, and perhaps to even attempt to save one of their own. Powerful forms of cure disease, greater in level than Roshok’s own magic, may halt the onset of the disease, however, once the mind is gone, it is gone, short of miraculous magics.
When confronted, it becomes clear that Roshok Wormwood has gone frothing mad with the destruction of one of his places of power, screaming about the decay of mankind and his rotten civilization. He will assault the PCs using the magical weapon he crafted during his descent into madness, the Sceptre of Worms, as well as various nature magics, concentrating on death and decay. Ravens, vultures, jackals, and other carrion creatures will be called to his aid. The Sceptre of Worms is a three foot long piece of gnarled, worm ridden wood, literally full of various carrion eating creepy-crawlies. Twice per day, Roshok may strike someone with the staff and plague them with said creepy-crawlies. Treat this as a natural disease which deals 10% of a human PCs health in damage per round as the maggots devour his flesh: This is independant of the normal HP factors. Characters with some form of immunity to natural diseases are immune to this power, and the disease can be halted with a simple cure disease spell or potion. More, since lighter characters have less flesh to devour, they die faster, and heavier characters die slower. Otherwise, the Sceptre functions as a club of moderate enchantment.
If Roshok is killed, the advancement of the disease will be halted, though damage to flesh and minds will remain, and infections that exist will not end. The Sceptre of Rot dies with Roshok, decaying to soil with extreme swiftness. A PC of high alchemical or druidic talents may be able to brew a potion from certain plants within Roshok’s heartgrove which will remove the spores from those infected: Constant exposure to him forced the living things nearest Roshok to develop an immunity to the rot that surrounded him.