A road weary traveler, his tunic is rumpled and filthy, and his boots are tattered and threadbare. The only things about him that are not long ridden are his eyes, which burn with an almost manic intensity, and the bundle of cloth he carries over his shoulder.
Horlord is a swarthy man with dark olivine complected skin, long black hair and green eyes. As a foreigner, his accent has a decided slurry sound to it. Many believe due to his accent and his mangled choice or words that he is a madman, or touched in the head. It is rather the opposite, Horlord has learned the local language during his time walking on the road and listening. He is quite intelligent and cunning.
Horlord would have lived a very mundane and likely happy life if it wasn't for the violent and sudden intrusion of the Asdas into it. He would have farmed a patch of land, married a short plump woman and had quite a few children. Instead, he carries the Asdas, forever moving.
A single star, bright as a jewel, fell from the sky. It was glowing red when it landed, but the voices inside it whispered and sang, called out strange languages and cried in alien tongues. When it was cooled enough to move the priest Kik carried it to the temple to be purified. There were many screams and Kik slew himself with a dagger after he did slay ten and three worshippers before him. There was much confusion on what to do. It was agreed that the Fellstar, the Asdas, should be carried away from the village, and never be returned. But they knew, whomever touched the Asdas was stricken with madness. Whoever took the wyrmgod steel would be forever lost. It was to be determined by lottery.
It was so that Horlord, until then a lucky man, was sentenced to a long slow death. Never one to defy the gods or the elders, young Horlord took up the mass of the Asdas, binding it in blessed canvas and lashes of serpent leather. Without a word, he took to his task and took the fellstar away from the village he would never see again.
The Asdas is a 22kg piece of heat warped metallic stone. The surface is rough and pitted, but also has large smooth sections of bright silvery metal. A suitable smithy or smelter could reduce the Asdas to roughly half as much Starmetal, also known as adamant. This metal is highly sought after for the crafting of instruments of augury and scrying, as well as amulets of protection and wicked daggers for assassins and magi. The Asdas, for the sheer amount of metal it contains, is worth a Kingdom's ransom in gold.
But the Asdas is a cursed piece of metal. Having spent uncounted ages drifting in the void, it has absorbed much of the inchoate darkness and madness there. now cold, only those who directly touch or are near the Asdas for a long amount of time are subjected to the blasphemous mutterings and whispers that come from the stone. When it was still glowing, those who were close enough to see it could hear its insane litanies. Fire and heat make these voices stronger. In theory, should the Asdas ever be smelted and reduced to starmetal and slag, the various fragmented unclean spirits and things trapped in the matrix would be released into creation.
Voices and Madness
A pious man, Horlord has resisted the terrors that leak from the burden he carries. But he is not unaffected. He suffers waking nightmares, regular nightmares, paranoia, and hallucinations. He has since learned how to tell what is hallucination and what is real, but he errs on the side of caution. The Asdas calls out, and the insane can hear it talking in their ears. Sometimes this has saved Horlord as the lunatics will try and protect the Asdas as in their minds they see it as a god to be worshipped. The fellstar also calls out to magi who can feel it's other worldly power and the secrets of the void it contains.
The Asdas - very obviously, Horlord has this on him at all times. The canvas wrapping around the stone is blessed and marked with holy symbols of protection, as are the leather thongs that hold the canvas tied. The Asdas, while not entirely sentient and self aware, very much hates the blessed wrappings.
Amulet of the Pariah - Normally a punishment doled out by the foreign priesthood, this amulet marks Horlord as a pariah, an outcast and untouchable. In his homeland he was almost completely ignored, by good folk and bandits alike. In other lands, this might make him the target of zealous guards, thieves, or the like.
Boar-Hair Shirt - A minor relic, this rough shirt woven of boar hair grants the wearer a bonus to their constitution/stamina. A man in a boar-hair shirt can carry no heavier load than he could without it, but he can carry it a much greater time.
Horlord is eroding. His life has degenerated into keeping the Asdas moving. The longer it sits in one place, the more ill fortune it attracts to itself, the more it's subtle radiation poisons the minds around it. For a while he sought wise men to see about the stone's destruction, but in the years he has been carrying the stone he has accepted that it cannot be destroyed, not without releasing all the evil within it. He doesn't trust anyone because many times supposedly good people have tried to kill him or tried to steal the Asdas. It is worth a fortune for what it is made of, and it's power in the wrong hands is simply unimaginable.
There is also alot of information about the Asdas, more so than about Horlord. Some readers will wonder why this submission is not an item rather than a NPC. The Asdas is a plot device, and not something that should easily or even likely fall into the PCs hands. Touching it is one of the quickest ways to be infected by it's madness.
Dealing with the Asdas
Rather than turning the Asdas into a generational burden, PCs can find a way to deal with the problem, a few are listed below:
- Vault of Inequity - The PCs, most likely working with the Faith could work to find a vault, lined with lead, gold, or some other assorted resistant materials and bury the Asdas in an eternal tomb. This would eventually require protecting, either through a series of endless clues and mysteries ala National Treasure, or a... dungeon filled with traps and magical guardians.
- Blast Off - The PCs, likely of a more magical mindset might be inclined to send the Asdas back into the void from which it came. This could range from a Lovecraftian ritual sending the stone hurtling back into space, or finding a suitable magic portal to drop it into. A bottomless pit might also work well, assuming it is really bottomless.
- TPK - The PCs could suicidally decide that the best way to deal with the Asdas is to smelt it and destroy the things that come out of it with sword, spell, and harsh language. The stone is quite large and ancient beyond imagination, it's spiritual payload has a variety of possibilities. The worst would simply be a massive explosion of negative chaotic energy that mutates, warps, kills, or destroys everything around it like an atom bomb. My preferred variation is a containment breach ala Ghostbusters, where spectral monsters and strange creatures come pouring out. Either way, it should be a horrific task, one with a poor chance of survival, but not impossible
Those Without Sin... - The PCs encounter Horlord in a very religious/intolerant community. He begs them for their help, he has to get away as quickly as possible, he has nothing to offer them in exchange. He says that if the village priest gets what he wants, it will be the end of the village. Behind him, some distance back a mob has gathered to pursue the man and 'purify him'
In the Name of Progress... - The PCs are contacted by one of their benefactors, or a potential new benefactor. The magus in question is interested in securing the Asdas from the rumors he's heard about it. The PCs are tasked with finding Horlord and taking the Asdas away from him. Then they have to deal with the stone, return it, and survive when the magic user's plan fails and the horrors inside are released.
An Offer you can't Refuse... - So this Asdas thing is valuable eh? Why don't youse guys go get it and bring it back. The guild will cut you in on the profits, maybe up your rank, whaddaya say eh?
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? Responses (11)-11
Noo, I just made a long thoughty comment and it was lost in the abyss of the web.
This is good stuff Scras. I miss more on the NPC himself, there are many options on him. As he is now he has a certain one sidedness to him. But as a whole this submission is most exceptional. Very nice format and orginazation and most importantly it is usable and well written.
5.0, and a ::Stamp of Greatness::
5/5 from me too for this cursed treasure.
Superb; love the hooks!
Glad I don't have to lug a 45 pound chunk of rough metal in a bag over my shoulder!
I'm sorry, but this is a 5, if you disagree you can bite my toe. I can't really think of anything else it needs. This is very inspirational and, most importantly, usable. Very easy to bring into a campaign world. I just feel like there must be some good that can come from this thing. In the end, with all the plot hooks, the PCs get nothing except burdened. I still love it, it's several great ideas rolled up into one superb submission.
I'd suggest to re-make this into an Item submission, with Horlord attached as an NPC.
Some of the imagery is delightful: a stone, hurtling through the Void, collecting evil spirits? Wow. A curse upon all who come near? Neat. Madden ing voices coming from an object of immeasurable value? That's the stuff.
This is great for a campaign about morality: while the Asdas is pure evil, many shades of grey will swirl about it as people try to use it, profit from it, or fall to hubris thinking that they are the ones to purify it.
There is a similar submission to this somewhere on this site in which an NPC has ring (that he can't remove) which attracts monsters/evil and his traveling from town to town like a plague. At least I think it is on this site somewhere, at any rate I used it twice as a GM.
Other possible hooks:
A chance for the PCs to proactive instead of reactive....
The PC are following Asdas and Horlord not specifcly but were tasked by the sovergin to find out what was causing this series of crimes along the frontier. They would move through a couple of towns and find stories of tragedies which correlate with the arrival of Horlord. I used this basic premise as a GM a couple of times, both times my PCs were stumped as to what to do with a passive threat.
Saving Private Horlord...
Horlord's brother (or close relative) is the blacksheep of the family, and has become wealthy and powerful by unethical means. He hires the PCs to free his brother of this item and return Horlord to home community whether Horlord wants it or not. (any harm that befalls Horlord will be 5 time revisited upon the PCs and all that) In this case you may get more into Horlord as a character. Perhaps while he doesn't enjoy his task the weight of the burden may have warped his psyche. His whole self-image may be wrapped up in being the barer of the Asdas and he refuses to give it up and can't believe there is a solution to the problem. Or the PC may find only a temp. fix for the problem, something Horlord will be opposed to, even though he is only a temp. fix.
A bigger threat...
A powerful wiseman (priest or leader) knows that the Asdas is moving through his kingdoms. He hires or commands the PCs to make sure it gets through the Kingdom okay. Thus they have to travel with Horlord and protect him. The adventure could fold into a few of the other plot hooks. At any rate the PCs learn the nature of the Asdas and Horlord. Little do they know that the Asdas is only half of an item that got seperated in the void. The other half landed in this country and wants to rejoin. The other half has the greater intellect while the half Horlord carries has the great power. The PCs are finally confronted by being (perhaps the wiseman) in control of the other half who promises if it is given to him he will destroy it. The joining of the two items would be a much greater threat than either alone. Thus what had been a roving minor threat is now a direct threat on a much greater scale.
I so look forward to giving this an HOH.
What Echo said, but with more exclamation points. Nice hooks by axlerowes too! Kudos
Hmm, good stuff!
I'm just wondering, how come the Asdas hasn't fallen into wrong hands already? It isn't exactly inconspicuous, Horlord doesn't seem to have the best defenses out there, and rumours about it are all around. Is there a higher power (a la Ravenloftian Dark Powers) keeping it bound to it's keeper? Which makes me think this would fit perfectly into a Ravenloft-like system!
BUMP and HoH.
I am not one to disagree with the popular opinion on this one. This is an excellent sub with lots of possibilities.
I might add a little more to keep him safe, perhaps a secret order - secret even to Horlord - keeps an eye on him in his travels.