I slunk away in terror as the mass of the Undead Knights of Knonii fell on us with their heartless rage. I watched as three fell to wounds that would have killed a man in moments, their legs and arms being hacked from their bodies. Yet my stomach failed me as I watched one sever the arm of a man he was facing and without preamble bent down, picking up the arm as the man screamed at him and replaced his own missing arm. Continuing on, leaving the man to die as his life’s blood poured from his wound.
— Anonymous soldier.
For centuries, the dreaded Knights of Knonii raged across the battlefields of the Middle Kingdoms. Hacking their way through their foes without any discernible pattern or reason, fiends on the field, never diminishing in number no matter the number of battles due to their ability to heal all wounds by replacing damaged organs with healthy ones. Terrifying in their distinctive mail hauberks and slitted helms. A score or more of them, sweeping out of nowhere every decade or so with no warning and no known way to defeat them.
It took the combined efforts of three armies to trap and finally overcome them. Each was beheaded in turn during the fray, at no mean cost in lives. The heads were pulled from the field where they could be burned and then buried. The bodies fought on for a time before toppling, no longer to rise. In fear, the armor was buried miles away from the helms.
Peace reigned for a time. But rumors of the knights have begun to surface again.
During the height of the Grandian State a mighty crusade against the Cruvelians was called by priests of the principal deity, Ugreid. The priests of Ugreid declared the Cruvelians to be heretics whose goddess Thuria had spurned the path of Right by using infants in sacrificial rituals. The Knights of Knonii, already famous for their valor and cunning on the field, were quick to take up arms. With Urgeid’s blessing and the backing of the Knights, Grandian was able to raise the necessary troops and march.
Fueled by righteous wrath, the invading army swept across the land, arrowing straight for the capital city and home to Thuria’s prime temple. But, before they reached it, a priestess snuck into the tent of the Lord Knight Commander. With a word, she bound him to his cot and put a spell of silence upon him. Expecting to die, he was surprised to find that she only wished to talk, to tell him of the Cruvelian side of the tale.
According to the priestess, infants were held in high regard and were never sacrificed. Ugreid, she claimed, was pursuing a grudge against Thuria simply because she had spurned his advances and refused to become his consort. She pled with him to turn back and to stop the senseless violence against her people.
The Lord Knight found himself conflicted. Could the tale be true? She could have easily slain him. And if she could do that to him, she could have taken out most of the knights and crippled the army single-handed. He could find no reason to doubt her. Anger began to replace the confusion.
The Knights quit the field to return home. Without their leadership, the rest of the army also returned. As one, the entire knighthood strode up the steps to Ugreid’s main temple and demanded to know the truth of the tale from the priests. With them they carried the body of one of their own, the youngest of the knights whose inexperience had cost him his life.
“Did this youth die in an unjust cause?” The Lord Knight Commander ground out through clenched teeth. “Did we slay innocents on the whim of a mad god?”
The priests did not respond. Instead, thunder rumbled through the sky and the face of Ugreid himself appeared, full of rage.
“Go!” he ordered. “Go and kill that whore’s sheep! If I can not have her, I want to see their blood!”
“We will not fight for you,” the knights declared. To a man, they threw down their swords and shed their armor.
“Cowards!” the god cried. “Hear me! Never again will you be cowards. You will fight until the world itself crumbles to dust.”
And with that the knights found themselves once again covered in armor and carrying their weapons. Unable to die and unable to remove their armor.
Over the centuries of their eternal curse their collective minds crumbled as did their bodies. Not able to eat or sleep. Not able to die or take their own lives, as their souls are held within the armor not their frail flesh. Their souls beating on the metal plate that is their invisible cage. They slowly began to slip into a rage, angry at the living and at being cursed unjustly.
The first to fall to that rage were the priests.
The Gods did this. They are not a better power, almost as petty as mankind. Perhaps more so.
— The Lord Knight Commander (name forgotten)
This inner conflict began to erode their sensibility of right and wrong, of good and evil and corroded away what remained of their mortal humanity. Their first campaign was against the priests of Ugreid to punish them for their trickery and their eternal prison. During this campaign is when they realized their need and ability, to replace their injured limbs with those of fresh able parts. They returned to fall upon the priests of Ugreid and bind them, tearing them apart while alive and forcing the others to watch as they replaced lost limbs with those of the fallen.
The sole exception was the head priest. Him they bound within the armor of their slain brother. The armor wrapped him up as it had the others. Ugreid abandoned his priest.
Ugreid bound the souls of the knights into their armor. Wounds may take their limbs and their bodies may rot away but they still live on within the metal links and plates of their armor, helms, and weapons. Over the years, their minds have deteriorated into blind hatred and madness. They kill to keep themselves whole by replacing lost parts with those found on the dead and the dying. The power of the armor seals each new limb to the body. When the body itself rots away, another body is found to replace it with. As the knights live within the armor, it does not matter who wears it.
Heads can be replaced, as long as it is done within a day. Otherwise, the body fails and topples over. The knight still lives in madness, trapped within the metal. Anyone donning the armor is taken over by the madness and becomes the knight.
Their weapons are never far from hand. No matter what happens, any weapon lost will reappear in the knight’s grasp before the next swing.
Even when whole, the bodies they take will slowly decay. At least once every decade, the knights must replace all flesh, otherwise the bodies decompose and they become trapped in immobile armor.
Someone has found the armor of the Lord Knight Commander. Perhaps a thief uncovered it and made a profit selling it to a warrior. No one is certain what happened. The poor soul has the armor but not the helmet. Swayed by the power of the old knight’s rage, he finds himself thinking strange thoughts and losing chunks of time. During those times, he searches for the missing helmet and the armor of his companions. He has unearthed a few of them and they have begun to kill again. The remnants of sanity will not hold for long.
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? Responses (26)-26
Added Mourngrymn as a co-author as he helped develop the concept and provided some of the narrative (the anonymous soldier bit, for example.) Thanks, Mourn.
Any absurdities are all mine. ;)
I don't think this is the first army of unbodied armor, but it's surely the most well explained. It's interesting how directly involved the gods are in this one too, gives it a very mythological flavor. Well done!
Never underestimate a being with phenomenal power and the temper of a 2-year-old. At least that's what I learned from reading about Greco-Roman mythology.
Echo likes, a lot. Especially the aspect of how they are not hollow armor, but rather armor that wears people... or pieces of them, at least. I can really imagine a bunch of Knights holding down a captured victim, and forcibly dressing him up in the armor, then letting him rise as a complete knight.
Just picking up a few spare parts....
Good imagery there.
Be careful when deciding if you want to wear the armour from that looted barrow; you might find that the armour wears you instead! 5/5
In Soviet Russia, armor wears you!
new link please? :)
Yikes, Cheka is right: this would be a ghastly thing to find in a barrow.
One heck of a sub.
Really good stuff. A great corner stone to a plot or a even better yet an unavoidable red herring where these to be worked into plot. The reason I suggest these would make great red herrings, is because for all their fluff, chrome and power, they are not villains, at best they are victims and worst they are forces of nature at this point (or slave to their nature). Ultimately, unless you were develop the roles of the gods or the lost priests order, these are not roleplaying tools. These knights are tactical challenges or puzzles, but their is nothing innately character driving or developing in this for the PCs that will interact with them.
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.
You bring up some good points that I would like to address:
They were not originally villains, no. But years of being cursed have driven them mad. Are they victims? Certainly. But for all intents and purposes, they act like villains. They kill to keep themselves whole with no differentiation between innocence or guilt. They kill because they are insane and hate the living. For me, that defines a villain no matter how it happened. Tragic, yes, which I think makes the tale more pressing.
I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with them being treated only as tactical challenges. But I also don't think that that is all they are good for. Understanding their history might make characters sympathetic to their plight; working to release the knights' souls would make for a far different campaign than just defeating them and making sure the armor is good and buried once again.
First, I agree with there is nothing inherently wrong with treating them as tactical challenges and I was not suggesting that there was. These are great combat villains, particularly because they can't be beaten with dice alone.
But the releasing of the knights souls, the separation of the knights' souls from their former intellects and personalities, these are not things explored in this post. They are hinted at, which for role-players this is often good enough, but they aren't discussed or fleshed out. If there is something more than a killing machine in these beings currently what is it? Does the Lord Knight Commander still exist, does he have free will, if somehow freed from their prison and restored to their minds, and given the choice now after lifetimes of torment would the knights still lay down their swords and refuse to serve the god?
I should not try and argue what a villain is or isn't. Anything that opposes the hero or any wicked scoundrel is by definition a villain. But as they are written now they would not be anymore a obstacle for the players than a swarm of flesh eating ants. Neat, fun and interesting problem to solve-perhaps-but without an intellectual process to their actions and the ability to adapt to the players actions, I would say these knight are more obstacles than opponents. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but much of the information you provide here is not relevant to dealing with the problem, so it is just window dressing-again nothing wrong with window dressing. You have written up a great troupe of monster here, and the back story could be a launching point of a wider exploration of morality or personal honor for your players but that would be another act.
Care to explore some of these questions in an idea scroll? :)
I don't think these knight really need anything else, they are zombies with a lot of flash and chrome (very good flash and chrome, but not really any new content that necessitates a change the PC interaction). As for how to defeat them: 'killing' the undead has often been a problem resolved by finding the weak spot or the right ritual -in this case its the armor. The only think I might add if I were run with these zombies would adding more stories about all the destruction they have caused with a focus on they have been like a force nature constant and unrelenting for generations. This would just be to give some more romantic build up.
Random thoughts: Wonder why the god didn't come back and save his loyal priests or put some kind of order against their killing. But it could always be said that the god was in a juvenile temper and made his curse in haste...but then that is not a very worthy god if he didn't try to correct his mistakes. Followers dying might not be the greatest propaganda.
As for getting new bodies for their armor, would think they might want to shed the body once it started getting hard to manage (falling apart). It would make sense, if they are intelligent, that they would place themselves (armor) somewhere they will be picked up and utilized in a rather quick manner. So was thinking that they would have some means to throw off the body away from the armor. Finding empty armor might be more appealing to some than one with random body parts in it....maybe. :) Otherwise I would work the buddy system. Need a new body, go get one and have a friend help put you on it.
I would chalk Ugreid's actions up to capriciousness. Mortals are fools to live and die by his whim. I imagined he laughed as the once-noble knights turned upon the priests they once swore allegiance to. And then he would foment outrage against the knights for their cruelty, placing them even further from their noble beginnings.
As far as replacing armor, I would go with the buddy system (I like Echo's description.)
The possibilities are endless with this one, the basic "item/monster/zombie" is wonderful. Good job.
Good one! I remember when you thought this one up in chat. All the good commnets have been taken, but this is a fun read, and these guys are quite usable.
I like the idea of undead armor running around slaughtering armies. What I would like to know is the numbers involved. How much armor is out there? If there's a lot, it would take a while for that thief who put on the armor to put it all together.
That's one of those details I think are better left up to the GM and how this is being adapted to the particular game. You could make it a sizable army, putting a clock on things; the longer they take to be stopped from amassing, the more powerful they become. Want something on a smaller scale to fit into some other storyline? Make it a few dozen or less. Maybe they can only find a few and the rest are too well hidden.
Bump. Guild of Disability challenge was accepted by Mystic and merged with Monty Python :)
I misread this as the Undead Knights of Kawaii which would make a great manga title.
Not the first cursed army, but this is an excellent take on the idea. Great stuff!