Morbid himself usually appears as fully mobile skeleton, stripped of all flesh and bone. If he were to stand still, the only thing that would separate him from another skeleton is a bright red light shining from each eye socket. His clothing is, to say the least, highly variable, because Morbid delights in every new fashion he comes upon. He has been seen wearing everything from black trenchcoats, to berets, to blue robes with striped pants. He doesn’t like to wear anything twice, but he will do so on occasion simply to throw people off. Whatever he’s dressed in is always very carefully arranged and very expensive-looking.
Morbid has lived quite a long time, indeed, he is probably one of the older liches by general fantasy standards. Though he is a master sculptor, painter, flutist, and many other things, he has had millennia to perfect theses talents, and his best abilities have always been his skill with magic. In person, Morbid will exaggerate the tales of his past, but if players go to any large store of knowledge, they will likely find a fairly accurate version of his personal history.
Morbid began his life as a wizard, but historians doubt his personal claim that he started to practice magic
when magic began, because it is fairly well supported that he learned from a master. Morbid never saw eye to eye with his master, who was not as skilled of a magic-user as Morbid was, but still attempted to restrain Morbid’s practice whenever he could. One such disagreement was over the use of magic as an everyday tool. While Morbid’s master employed servants, Morbid himself created brooms that swept automatically, and dishes that washed themselves. The use of these objects was always a point of contention between the two, and today, Morbid makes extensive use of golems and other magical constructs in the place of living labor.
Morbid also actively pursued other interests outside the practice of magic, becoming an amateur jouster in his early teens. When his master told him he needed to stop, Morbid flat-out refused. This defiance of his master’s will was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back, and Morbid was cast out on his own before he was eighteen. This didn’t seem to bother him very much, though, because he joined an adventuring party shortly afterwards in search of adolescent glory.
Morbid’s days with his adventuring party are the most hazy, mostly because he likes to tell the most intricate lies surrounding it. However, what historians are sure of is that during one of his adventures, his entire party was killed by a cave-in after a long dungeon. Surviving the collapse by pure chance, Morbid was left with a substantial amount of treasure and nothing to do.
At this point, Morbid describes himself as being
struck by the frailness of human existence. As a result, he delved into the field of necromancy, studying the appropriate rituals to make himself immortal. Since he would not need to employ his wealth until the final stages of his ascension, he had time to examine his bounty, which was a warlord’s art exhibit of great beauty. In this way, his study of lichedom encouraged his appreciation of the arts. By the time he was ready to implement the final rituals, he desperately did not want to part with his collection, but consoled himself by thinking that he would regain them all eventually. After all, it was only a matter of time.
Once Morbid had ascended to lichedom, he was again at a loss for something to do, but decided that there was nothing wrong with amassing some money for future investments. In a method not usually employed by todays liches, Morbid decided to invest in the shipping industry that was beginning to organize itself out of family businesses. At this point in history, stigma against liches was not nearly as bad as it is now, so Morbid had no trouble putting the rest of his adventuring money into the new firms. He was fairly lucky, and as a result of his investments, made a fortune that would ensure his future for as long as he saw fit. All this time, Morbid had been visiting art museums, talking to artists, and even experimenting with various forms of art himself, so there seemed no more natural course of action than to become a patron of the arts.
Immediately following his entry into the artistic world, Morbid gained an reputation as an extremely eccentric patron with widely varying tastes, but with strong artistic loyalty and deep pockets. Morbid delighted in relating his personal history to each artist that he financed, but each one came out with a different tale, many featuring places and people that had never existed.
Fascinated by the width and breath of expression that humanity utilized, he set out to master each one in turn. From tattooing to sculpture to playing the harp, and even dancing, Morbid has spent countless hours on it, reveling in every moment of it. All of the art he creates, however, has some reference to death or inevitability within it, possibly creating the adjective
morbid. Unfortunately for Morbid, once he got around to singing, his vocal cords had completely decayed, leaving him unable to sing without the aid of magic. To mend this, Morbid created a magical voice box that is considered by many to make him sing beautifully, but leaves him unsatisfied and frustrated. As a result, he is always trying to find a new way to create magical sounds, and holds anyone who can sing in high regard. (He will always offer any support the character in any way, shape, or form)
While he has created a number of art exhibits, his latest is his most famous and controversial. Called
Struggle, it depicts the dead in various positions and environments associated with intense human emotion, such as a battlefield or a negotiation. The only problem is that the dead are really corpses, which Morbid preserved and moved to his exhibit with the aid of his magic. The most famous one piece is one that has been carved out of the side of a mountain with two people climbing up the side, in mid-gesture to one another. Critics of his work accuse him of killing the climbers at a suitably dramatic point, which Morbid vehemently denies.
Even for a lich, Morbid is strangely unafraid of death, and has been quoted as saying
My work will survive, even when my body has perished. Whether this is a reference to his storage of his soul in one or more of his creations or whether he means that his artistic creations have validated his existence regardless of his continued physical existence, no one knows. Many people believe that his arrogance stems from the location of his soul, which is rumored to be housed in a particularly macabre statue of the sun god Hythus. The Church of Hythus has no official comment on the possibility of Morbid’s soul being present inside the statue, but since it is inside one of their main churches, they have doubled its already formidable defenses, making resolution of the matter highly unlikely.
Morbid makes absolutely no attempt to hide his lichedom from anyone, be it visitors to his various art exhibits or artists that he sponsors. While conventional wisdom would dictate him a common target for anti-undead crusaders or treasure hunters, he has proved himself more than capable of handling any intrusions on his time. If the offenders do not damage any of artwork in their attempt to attack or rob him, he is generally lenient, requiring a task of them, or even just releasing them with a slap on the wrist. Woe to the unfortunate attacker or thief that damages any artwork, for that person generally suffers a horrible fate, such as having their soul trapped in a can of paint for Morbid’s next art project. (He already has a Thieves exhibition, and is reportedly creating a Crusaders exhibition as well) More than one thief has been able to sway his decisions by finding a previously unknown ability to sing, but I would hope that the PCs don’t rely on that when attempting to plunder his treasure.
Morbid frequently hosts his own exhibitions, so he is not difficult to contact. Having had millennia to learn new words, Morbid speaks with an expansive vocabulary in almost every language imaginable. He treats almost everyone enthusiastically, but he is difficult to get a straight answer out of, due to his tendency towards compulsive lying. If one of the PCs has artistic talent, however, Morbid changes tack immediately, inquiring about the nature of the PC’s work, and becoming much more forthright and helpful.
If you present Morbid with a new form of expression, he will be instantly enamored with you and it, ensuring his friendship with you for as long as you live, and quite possibly after you die. This is much more difficult than it sounds though, because of Morbid’s advanced age and strong creativity, he has invented more arts than many people can conceive of.
Note For GMs
Morbid fits best into a high magic campaign, but can also be used as a personal art consultant for the gods in a lower magic world.
-If one of the PCs has artistic talent, then it is a distinct possibility that Morbid will come looking for him/her, and if the PC’s talent is famous in any way, it is almost certain to be investigated by Morbid. However, Morbid does not finance every artist he meets, and he may ask the artist to do several tasks before he deems him worthy of patronage.
-Morbid may not have recovered all of the pieces from his original collection, and would prefer to send a band of adventurers to retrieve an item rather than collect it himself.
-In search of more material for his
Struggle exhibit, Morbid sends the adventurers on a strange quest that puts the party in widely varying stressful situations. If the party gets unlucky, he might make one of their scenes part of his exhibit.
-In a variation of
Evil lich turns out to be Good, the adventurers storm Morbid’s lair to find him painting a picture. Hopefully they know how to sing.