Kalraka Dzeik Â– The Lightning's Will
Kalraka Dzeik is a sentient lightning storm with a following of cultists. It has much in common with a natural disaster or a plague; it starts at a single point but spreads like wildfire if given the chance. It is capable of terrible destruction, and will take heroic effort to stop, if it can be stopped at all.
(Recommended listening*:Â www.youtube.com/watch?v=80XAJKqRU9kÂ )
Imagine, if you will, that you are there for the moment that The Lightning's Will is released:
You happen upon a cavern while strolling through the woods on a bright, sunny day. Purely by chance, a rusty clump of iron falls from the cliff above, and lands at the mouth of this cave. Suddenly, a sound echoes out of the cave, beginning as a low whine, but slowly growing in pitch and volume until it is a roaring buzz. The birds in the nearby trees take flight, and your hair stands on end, from more than fear, as you back away from the unearthly events of the cavern.
In the blink of an eye, there is a tremendous burst of a lightning bolt as wide as a tree erupting between the rusty iron and somewhere deep within the cave! In a flash, that iron is reduced to a white hot puddle, as bright as the sun. But the lightning doesn't wane; if anything the bolt grows brighter and wider as it channels raw energy seemingly without end. Before the first bolt even ceases, a second is fired, this time from the now boiling metal up toward a nearby tree. The tree is lit like a match and branches explode in every direction!
A third bolt arcs from the iron to a second tree, this time only missing you by a hair. You are assaulted by the strong, burning smell of ozone, and the thunderclap is deafening. A flurry of bolts cascade like a rushing river up into the trees. Some of the first trees to be stuck are now beginning to strike trees of their own, spreading the fire and the lightning. Before long, the entire forest is covered in a network of burning trees joined by tethers of lightning, like the web of some enormous, flickering spider.
You decide to flee before you are embroiled in the storm; the spread is slow, and you can outrun it as you sprint back to town to tell the others. Hopefully someone will know what to do. You barely make it halfway home before the sun above is outshone by an absolutely tremendous bolt of lightning! It arcs up from the forest behind you and passes miles over your head, only to strike down somewhere in front of you. Smoke rises from the direction you are headed, and you fear the worst.
When you finally arrive back home, you see that storm has beaten you there. The city is in flames, and hundreds if not thousands of lightning bolts dance back and forth between the metal weather veins and nails and various metal bits of the city. At least half a dozen people lie dead in the streets with their hair, faces and clothes horribly charred. The others are fleeing for their lives. The scent of smoke and ozone choke the air and animals bark and bray in fear and desperation.
A second, stupendous bolt descends from far away onto the town windmill. For a split second, you think you can make out a face in the blinding light, but that couldn't be... A woman nearby is keeled in supplication to some familiar god, when tiny sparks of electricity trickle down from the windmill and flicker across her skin, almost as if curious. The woman seems unharmed by the ordeal and if anything she seem relieved and comforted. She wipes the tears from her eyes and looks up and the crackling windmill with fear, but perhaps also with the beginnings of understanding.
What it is she might be understanding is lost to you, but there are two things you understand in excruciating clarity: this lightning is no simple act of nature, and it grows only more powerful by the minute; if not stopped, it could engulf the entire world in a wreath of scintillating destruction.
I'll leave Kalraka Dzeik's origin story ambiguous here so that it can fit in more universally with various settings, but just as a couple of examples: perhaps it was created recently by a rogue wizard experimenting with forbidden lightning magic; perhaps it is the offspring of a calamitous disaster on the plane of lightning that shunted raw energy into our world; or perhaps it had been waiting, biding it's time imprisoned deep underground until a recent earthquake freed it. Whatever the case it's loose now, and it will take a team of determined heroes to stop it.
So how does it work?
The idea of a living lightning storm might be a bit hard to understand, but I hope I can explain it all in a way that makes sense.
Kalraka Dzeik exists and expands itself by establishing loci of electrically charged objects (lets call each of them a 'Kal'), the same way we might build houses to make it easier to live in a new land. Metal objects are preferable, but wood, stone and a few other materials will also suffice, and the bigger the better. Kalraka Dzeik is made up of a network of these 'Kals' (lets call the network a 'Kalrak'), which remain in contact with each other by sending back and forth quick, small bolts of lightning. If a Kal is destroyed, any power stored in the Kal is forever lost (perhaps explosively if it was a large amount of power), and the object can no longer be used as part of the Kalrak. This can be a major problem with using wooden Kals, as they tend to burn down and destroy themselves quickly. The ground can't be made into a Kal, the power would just be wasted.
Despite some first impressions of Kalraka Dzeik as a disembodied storm, it is mortal and only truly inhabits a single, tangible 'body'. This body doesn't really resemble anything, to humanoid races it just looks like more lightning (although some people swear they can see a face). This body inhabits a single Kal, and if that Kal is destroyed then Kalraka Dzeik is (permanently?) destroyed as well. The trick is, it can move its body between any Kal that is in the Kalrak, and even to some objects not in the Kalrak. So even if you managed to destroy its current home, it would just scuttle away like a cockroach to the next one.
This central 'body' is also the source of all of Kalraka Dzeik's power. Kalraka Dzeik continually generates power, and uses its Kalrak to distribute that power where it decides is necessary. Kalraka Dzeik is limited by the amount of power it can generate in a day, but size is the only limit to the total amount of power a Kalrak can hold. Any given object can only hold so much power, and when that limit is reached, Kalraka Dzeik must expand the Kalrak to include more and bigger objects.
Kalraka Dzeik is aware of things that happens near any part of its Kalrak, not just the Kal that it inhabits. However it has very poor senses of sight and hearing. What to you and I would seem like the vivid colors and melodious sounds, Kalraka only senses fuzzy and crackling blurs and pops, as if watching a TV with poor satellite reception. It typically can't see or hear more than 250 feet away, from any of it's Kals, and even within this range it is still likely to miss subtle sights and sounds. It would even be a feasible, although risky, proposition to sneak through an entire city occupied by Kalraka Dzeik. It can feel what is happening to any Kal in the Kalrak, but it has no sense of smell or taste. Kalraka Dzeik doesn't sleep, and doesn't really drop its guard at any particular time, although it can be forced to drop its guard by cunning strategy.
If one part of the Kalrak becomes separated from the rest (see the section 'The devil in the details' below for what exactly that would mean), it can function autonomously indefinitely. In general, it will act in the way Kalraka Dzeik would have wanted it to, but it will be far less intelligent. And more importantly, it will be cut off from receiving power from Kalraka Dzeik; a Kal or even an entire Kalrak can run out of power and become inert if not reconnected. Likewise, Kalraka Dzeik itself is not aware of what happens to a separated Kalrak until they are reconnected, and even then Kalraka Dzeik does not know what happened while the link was out.
Water is the mortal enemy of Kalraka Dzeik. If any of Kals are wet, they will slowly bleed out power unless they are dried. If it is only a small amount of water, it can usually be countered by discharging electricity to heat up the affected Kal, boiling off the water. But a rainstorm can be a serious, or even life threatening problem for Kalraka Dzeik if it can't find shelter. Although if a storm is accompanied by enough lightning, Kalraka Dzeik could break even by 'eating' a few lightning bolts.
The key point to consider is that Kalraka Dzeik only gets a finite amount of power in a given time, and that never changes no matter how much he expands; although others can increase it's strength with lightning 'attacks'. If Kalraka Dzeik is allowed to get access to a powerful artifact of lighting, it could become unstoppable, but hopefully our heroes will stop it before that point. There is no hard limit to the amount by which it can expand, but like any general, Kalraka Dzeik can stretch its forces too thin or have it's supply lines cut. The further out it expands, the more vulnerable it becomes. And because long range transfers are inefficient, it takes Kalraka Dzeik longer to spread the further it is from 'home'. This makes Kalraka Dzeik unlikely to ever actually take over the whole world. But on the flip side, the fewer fronts on which is has to fight, the more powerful it becomes.
He's not evil, he's just misunderstood.
So hopefully I gave you a good idea of the 'lightning storm' part, but now lets talk about the 'sentient' part. Kalraka Dzeik has it's own, fairly relatable personality, characteristics, and idiosyncrasies. It is fairly new to this world, either because it was just born yesterday, or because it has been sealed away for so long it has forgotten what the modern world is like. In fact, at first it probably doesn't even understand that it has a lot in common with the little bags of flesh and water it is vaporizing. It doesn't speak any languages of its own, but it can be taught to speak and understand languages either by patience or by magic.
Kalraka Dzeik's primary motivation is self preservation; its Kals are its life, and without them it would die. Understandably, it wants as many 'extra lives' as it can get. Eventually, it may come to understand that peace and diplomacy would have offered it far more safety. But by then it will almost certainly have made far too many enemies, and it now it fights because it must to keep from being killed. Even still, it is entirely possible that Kalraka Dzeik could be persuaded to peacefully stop its expansion; although the people whose homes and loved ones have been destroyed would never just leave it alone, and the war will continue anyway.
Kalraka Dzeik hates fire and water, both of which will disrupt it's Kalrak if given the chance. It can naturally relate to, and even become friends with other lightning-based creatures. Kalraka Dzeik can even become altruistic, offering to surrender or aid its enemies if one of its friends is threatened. Kalraka Dzeik is naturally curious, and will harmlessly probe various object to find out more about them. It dreams (not literally of course) of one day finding a material that has no limit to the amount of power that can be held. With just a couple such objects, it could achieve near immortality and retire peacefully. No such material exists, of course.
Kalraka Dzeik if frustrated by its own inability to manipulate the world; it can get incredibly jealous of humans and our fingers, as well as our ability to not light a house on fire every time we walk through the door. It can appreciate art, but the subtleties of visual art and music are lost on it. Rather, it prefers sculptures, and some of its favorite Kals are unique statues it has found throughout the world; it prefers to keep its 'body' in its favorite statue unless war demands otherwise.
For fun, Kalraka Dzeik loves to play with magnets; it collects them wherever it goes. However it usually keeps the magnets far from each other; if they get stuck together it has no way of getting them apart again, which is about as fun as playing with a deflated kickball. It can get downright obsessive about making sure that its Kalrak is as 'efficient' as possible, although that has as much to do with Kalraka Dzeik's own subjective aesthetic as it does tactical value.
Kalraka Dzeik is a moderately good tactician, and can compete with an average general in a war or battle. But it is far from perfect, and for someone with a firm grasp of tactics and enough manpower, Kalraka Dzeik would not be hard to outmaneuver. If Kalraka Dzeik's 'body' is confronted and identified, mind-affecting effects work on it normally, but they have no effect 'uninhabited' Kals.
The cult of Kalraka Dzeik
Whenever something powerful and dangerous appears out of no where, cultists are bound to follow, and Kalraka Dzeik is no exception. If, in a particular setting, Kalraka Dzeik has been around for long enough to establish a reputation, it should probably be joined by various humanoid followers. Weather they have a grudge against a common enemy, they think Kalraka Dzeik will restore some kind of balance to the world, or they're just electromaniacs, there will be people who will fight to the death to defend Kalraka Dzeik.
It is not a one sided relationship either, Kalraka Dzeik can make a powerful ally to those it trusts. Aside from the electrical smiting of various enemies, it has the ability to empower weapons and artifacts with motes of it's own lightning. For details, see the 'Abilities' section below. Suffice it to say, it can grant power, and that will be a draw to heroes and villains alike.
The goals of this cult should be fairly obvious: to protect their benefactor/deity by any means possible. To this end, the cult will direct it's efforts toward constructing huge metallic spires that can serve as the perfect Kals, and erecting fortresses to defend these power nodes from both enemies and rain. The cult will also try to fight the fires that are started when a Kal is made out of wood. If Kalraka Dzeik is aggressive in its expansion in a particular area, more than half the cult can be dedicated to just fighting fires, which would make them vulnerable to an ambush.
Those with the ability to generate electricity, weather magical or otherwise, are typically dedicated full-time to using that power to enrich the reserves of Kalraka Dzeik. If a wizard of the cult were to be ambushed, it is likely that he would have nothing but lightning spells prepared. Weapons that surge their targets with electricity can be used 24/7 to empower a Kalrak, typically by a rotation of medium ranking cultists taking shifts.
High ranking members of the cult include lightning elementals, and other mortals with permanent resistance to electricity. These creatures volunteers themselves as Kals; to be a Kal in the Kalrak of Kalraka Dzeik is the highest honor that can be awarded. Tactical value is also gained; fighting a lieutenant means fighting a tenacious, thinking moving Kal in addition to fighting the create itself. Perhaps hypocritically, this is also how the cult prefers to execute criminals and prisoners who are not quite as lightning-proof.
Even with lightning resistance, the initial 'Galvanization' (see below) includes searing heat, and even lightning-resistant cultists bear the burns and scars of becoming a Kal. Likewise, almost all cultists are dappled with lightning scars (I recommend you Google this; lightning scars actually look really cool). Cultists wear these scars as signs of pride, to have more is to be considered more devout.
Meditation in this cult consists of sitting before a Kal and being repeatedly 'Scintillated' (see below) by tiny, harmless sparks. Cultists feel 'at one' with Kalraka Dzeik during this process, but over days of meditation, strange, subtle changes can be seen in the minds of participants.
Some sects of the cult also see it as their duty to cater to Kalraka Dzeik's most childish whims, unsticking its magnets and bringing it various exotic metals to 'taste.' If the cult has the luxury, they may spend time carving or forging elaborate sculptures for Kalraka Dzeik to inhabit.
All of these abilities can be used from any Kal in the Kalrak, not just the one that Kalraka Dzeik inhabits.
Galvanize - This ability is the bread of butter of Kalraka Dzeik, and makes it what it is. By using this ability, Kalraka Dzeik can transfer power from one Kal to another object, including creatures or other Kals. If the object is a Kal, then this is a simple power transfer between the network. If the object is not already a Kal, then it gains energy from this ability and becomes a Kal, and joins the Kalrak. The targeted object will always become searingly hot, weather Kalraka Dzeik wants it to or not. The rate that power can be transferred by this ability is limited; for example if a Kal with moderate amount of power is about to be destroyed, Kalraka Dzeik can't just pull all the power out at the last second.
This ability can be used on creatures, living or otherwise, and there aren't really any special rules for doing so. A creature can be struck by Galvanize, have power transferred to it (causing it to heat up rapidly in addition to minor lightning damage), and the function as a Kal in the Kalrak. It can even strike other nearby creatures (causing damage to both of them) or transfer power to another Kal. Being a part of the Kalrak doesn't grant any special insight to the creature (unless it didn't know that being struck by lightning is bad), but creatures that can be damaged by lightning continuously take damage based on how much power is stored in them. If a creature is doused in water, it can be 'cured' of this affliction harmlessly. If the creature is made mostly of water (trees don't count), then this effect has a limited duration as a result of power being leaked constantly.
This is also the ability Kalraka Dzeik can use to empower the weapons of his allies. When this ability is used on a weapon, that weapon does additional lightning damage. This effect consumes power with each attack, and once the weapon ceases to be a Kal it looses this enhancement. Kalraka Dzeik can choose to continuously supply the weapon with power as long as it is within the Kalrak, using the same rules as supplying power to a Kal.
Desperate Discharge - This is Kalraka Dzeik's primary method of attacking its enemies, and is basically exactly what you would expect from a lightning storm- a big lightning bolt. While this is Kalraka Dzeik's most effecting method of attacking, it still does have some drawbacks. For one, it takes power, and it is very possible for a given Kal to run out of juice before killing its target. Furthermore, a given Kal can only fire this bolt once every few of seconds, although if adventurers find themselves in the middle of a nest of Kals things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Finally, it is inaccurate due to the unruly nature of lightning and Kalraka Dzeik's limited perception. The best Kalraka Dzeik can do it hit the biggest metal (or other conductive) object within 15 feet of its target. Fortunately for Kalraka Dzeik, that is usually good enough, as this will usually cause metal to become super heated, and even melt if it's not magical, cooking anyone near it (and especially anyone wearing it). Cunning adventurers can avoid the brunt of this attack by carrying disposable lightning rods, which will effectively take the hit for them.
Colonizing ArcÂ - Kalraka Dzeik's equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, this bolt is long, inaccurate, and incredibly powerful. It takes a huge amount of power, but, like with Galvanize, some of that power is transferred to the point of impact. The end result is the instant creation of a highly charged Kal from long distance away. Kalraka Dzeik usually uses this ability to send power to 'colonize' a new, faraway area, hence the name. This is also the only method by which Kalraka Dzeik can move its 'body' to a new Kal, and if it somehow doesn't have enough energy for this massive jump, it is trapped until the energy can be generated. This ability has a very limiting minimum range; if used against a nearby object it would probably strike the ground by mistake and the energy would be wasted. Furthermore, Kalraka Dzeik can't precisely control the location the bolt lands, although it will always land at some tall object suitable for becoming Kal, and it can be used to consistently hit the same place twice. Kalraka Dzeik doesn't usually use this as an attack because it can see what it's hitting, although this ability could be used to siege a castle for example. The minimum range is also much shorter against airborne targets, so this is Kalraka Dzeik's preferred method of combating large opponents who fly high overhead.
Scintillate - These are the tiny lightning bolts that Kalraka Dzeik uses for keeping in touch with all the Kals in a Kalrak. The more power a given Kal stores, the longer the range of this ability for that Kal. If two Kals or groups of Kals are prevented from Scintillating with each other, they are effectively cut off and no longer part of the same Kalrak. This ability does no damage, and can usually be ignored and taken for granted unless someone is specifically trying to cut of Kalraka Dzeik from some part of its Kalrak. Details on how this ability works can be found in the section below. This is also Kalraka Dzeik's only initial method of communication, and it isn't a very good one. When used on humanoids and most other creatures, only a vague, empathetic bonds is shared briefly, and no sharing of concepts or information is possible. If used on a lightning based creature, full communication is possible in just a spit second, although both parties can still choose which information to share and which to withhold.
Lightning Healing - Kalraka Dzeik doesn't have hit points in the traditional sense. Instead, you wound it by destroying its Kals, which, even when empowered with lightning, are still basically inanimate objects. That being said, causing lightning 'damage' to one of it's Kals increases the amount of power stored by that Kal, and that helps Kalraka Dzeik expand its territory and fight off intruders. Tazering Kalraka Dzeik is actually one of the quickest ways to get on its good side.
Depending on the setting, Kalraka Dzeik should probably also have access to an assortment of other lighting based magic or abilities. For example, in dungeons and dragons I would let Kalraka Dzeik use most spells with the 'electricity' descriptor by spending power related to the spell level.
Kalraka Dzeik in Campaigns
Kalraka Dzeik is presented here as an antagonist, but not the type of bad guy you just walk up to and smash. To fight The Lightning's will has more in common with a war than an assassination. Supply lines of power must be cut, and forces must be diverted by tactics and distractions before the final assault can be mounted. In theory, Kalraka Dzeik could be used for anywhere from a single session encounter to an entire campaign, but I think it is most appropriately used as a single campaign arc.
Kalraka Dzeik can seem like a one-trick pony at times since all it does is shoot lightning bolts, but if the players think that can avoid all damage from him with a little lightning resistance, remember that another huge chunk of its damage comes from the heat generated. Additionally, don't forget about the cult of Kalraka Dzeik, which are just as versatile as any humanoids and will attack and defend for Kalraka Dzeik in various ways.
When it comes to introducing Kalraka Dzeik to the PCs, there are several options: The simplest is just a man running into the building where the PCS are, and reporting that he saw a horrendous lightning storm that needs killing. The local militia and army should become involved eventually as well. Or perhaps the PCs don't even know about Kalraka Dzeik at first. They only hear disturbing rumors of cloaked men with strange scars stealing all the metal of a town and they decide to investigate.
An alternative method of introducing Kalraka Dzeik to the party would be first as a friend: Perhaps they discover it trapped in a cave and manage to communicate with it. It tells them that it can empower their weapons if they will set it free, and the PCs are given a great boon as long as they are allies with Kalraka Dzeik. But when they get back to the surface, Kalraka Dzeik begins it's expansion, and the PCs are forced to choose between slaying the ally that had been so helpful to them, and that still means them no harm, or becoming the cult of Kalraka Dzeik themselves.
I feel that Kalraka Dzeik is unique in that the only way to smash it is by destroying the objects it uses. Only the object that contains Kalraka Dzeik's 'body' counts as a 'person,' the rest just count as inanimate objects. This changes the dynamic of combat and makes power more important than accuracy, and spells that specifically targets objects are incredibly valuable. This also forces the players to consider the unique resistances and weakness of objects.
I mostly imagine Kalraka Dzeik in fantasy settings, but it would also make a good character in a modern or science fiction setting. Instead of elementals, Kalraka Dzeik could have an affinity with machines or robots. Instead of magic, it could be fed by huge power plants. And I don't think I need to go into the details of why an unlimited energy source would be hax in a modern or sci-fi setting- if you can keep it on your side.
The devil in the details
In this section I will go into the specifics of the mechanics that make Kalraka Dzeik an appropriate and confrontable adversary, as opposed to a dicorporeated and unfightable disaster. So if you came here just for some interesting reading, but you have no plans to actually add Kalraka Dzeik to your setting, you might want to skip this section, it could get kinda boring. On the other hand, if you want a detailed mechanical description of how a sentient lightning storm can actually be implemented, fought, and maybe even beaten, this section is the place to find it.
To start with, lets establish a unit of 'charge.' Kalraka Dzeik gets a constant number of charges per time. These numbers are arbitrary, but the ratios of charges given here shouldn't be tweaked too much or Kalraka Dzeik might become too imbalanced (of course, I don't claim that this implementation is perfectly balanced either). These numbers are purely for mechanics and balance and have no relation to real-world physics.
For now, lets say Kalraka Dzeik gets 1 charge per second. With this number, the abilities listed above should have approximately the following costs and stats:
Galvanize: Variable cost, transfers all the charges used to a new object. Medium range (~100 feet) against objects or creatures that are not Kals. When used to transfer power between two existing Kals, the range is the same as Scintillate given below. Low damage, but inflicts damage over time proportional to the charge stored in a creature (most objects are not damaged by having charge stored in them). It takes the an object 10 minutes to be charged from empty to full, or from full to empty: an object cannot gain more than 10% of its maximum charge in 1 minute, or more than 1% in 6 seconds, even if multiple different Kals are Galvanizing the same object. Conversely, a single Kal cannot transfer more than 10% of its own maximum charge per minute, no matter how many different objects it is transferring to.
Desperate Discharge: 60 charges. Does moderate damage at medium range (~1000 feet). Can only be used once per 'round'. Kalraka Dzeik normally cannot see 1000 feet away, and may need assistance to hit a distant target. This assistance gain be gained in the form of a spotter who willingly communicates the target's location via Scintillate, and such spotters should be assassinated ASAP.
Colonizing Arc: At least 1800 charges, no maximum; at least 10800 charges are necessary to transfer Kalraka Dzeik's 'body.' Massive damage and very long range (~3 miles). ~1/2 mile minimum range against grounded targets, ~1000 foot minimum range against airborne targets. Only half of the charges used are transferred to the new object, the other half are lost. Up to 5 nearby Kals in a single Kalrak can contribute charges to this ability, which still only originates from 1 Kal.
Scintillate: No cost, but has a maximum range of ~1ft per charge, up to a maximum of 3 miles. For example, a Kal with 100 charges could not Scintillate with another Kal 101 feet away (unless the other Kal had more charge, in which case the maximum range would be determined by that Kal). Two Kalraks are considered separate if neither of them has a Kal that can Scintillate with any Kal in the other Kalrak.
With regards to the maximum charges that can be stored: Metal objects can hold up to 25 charges per pound, give or take a little based on the metal. Wooden objects and trees can hold up to 1 charge per pound, but large objects typically burn at a rate of ~1% of the maximum weight per minute if unattended; smaller or dryer objects burn faster. Stone objects can hold up to 1 charge per pound if they are not well grounded, but stone structures are usually too grounded to be used as Kals. Objects soaked or covered in water loose 10% of their current charge per minute, becoming effectively inert after at most 45 minutes. Rain uses different rules, and takes a flat 30 charges per minute from each exposed Kal, less if the Kal is partially sheltered.
Humanoids and fleshy creatures can store a maximum of 10 charges per pound, including their gear. They loose 1 charge per second, unless they are resistant to lightning damage, which keeps them insulated and they do not loose charge unless doused with water. Lightning based creatures can store up to 100 charges per pound. It is up to the DM's discretion when something like a house should be considered 1 object or a series of connected objects.
So what do all these numbers really mean?
For starters, Kalraka Dzeik generates 1 attack every 60 seconds, that's not a lot. It is a perfectly viable strategy to wage a war of attrition and force Kalraka Dzeik to burn up all its energy in a given area, though it will almost always keep some in reserve somewhere else. Kalraka Dzeik also has a 'blind spot' into which it can't attack: between 1000 and 2500 feet, although this blind spot doesn't exist for flying creatures.
Galvanize is the ability Kalraka Dzeik uses to advance and retreat in the field of battle. If it doesn't have enough charged Kals at the front, it can't attack enough times and will be overwhelmed. If all of its forces are at the front, it will take longer to retreat if things go south. Kalraka Dzeik has an incentive to balance its forces forward if its winning, or backwards if it is loosing, creating a snowball effect.
Furthermore, if the main forces of Kalraka Dzeik are engaged against an an army at the front, it will keep very few Kals between the front lines and its 'home.' This would allow a crack team of adventurers to sneak into the middle and cut off the supply lines by destroying just one or 2 Kals. Even if Kalraka Dzeik saw it coming, it wouldn't be able to retreat in time to avoid it. After that, some well placed buckets of water can be used to mop up the remaining, severed Kalrak. When things go dark for Kalraka Dzeik, it will be forced to choose between abandoning the remaining charges, or blinding sending a Colonizing Arc into what could well be a trap (since the location a Colonizing Arc will land is consistent and therefore relatively predictable).
Note that it is entirely possible for a Colonizing Arc to be sent beyond the range of Scintillate if a Kal uses all its charges on that one ability. If that Arc didn't include Kalraka Dzeik itself, it will be effectively mindless, just zapping enemies and forming a Kalrak of its own until it is reunited. Colonizing Arc represents 30 minutes of charge buildup, and Kalraka Dzeik is unlikely to use it unless it will pay off. Even worse, for Kalraka Dzeik to move itself takes 3 hours of charge buildup (forgive me if I made it seem faster in the opening story), 1.5 of which are completely wasted by the transfer. If Kalraka Dzeik becomes cornered, it might be forced to flee taking as little as 5400 charges, giving its enemies at least an hour and a half to hunt it down over 3 miles before it can jump again, and it would still encounter the same problem after the second jump.
The range of Scintillate ensures that Kalraka Dzeik always has an incentive to keep many of its eggs in one basket, rather than just spreading out indefinitely. I imagine that in some places Kalraka Dzeik will only have one giant metal antenna (built, maintained and protected by the cult) that it uses for relaying power over long distances. The mechanics of Scintillate also mean that Kalraka Dzeik may be forced to choose to use up the power of an important Kal, reducing its range so it is not longer part of the same Kalrak.
With regard to how much charge should be gained from lightning damage, that all depends on the system being used and the relative importance of the cult. If a dozen cultists can generate as much power as Kalraka Dzeik, the killing them is just as crucial to winning as killing Kalraka Dzeik. On the other hand, if theÂ entireÂ cult can only generate a 10th as much power as Kalraka Dzeik, they could be skirted and ignored while the real push combats Kalraka Dzeik.
Do be careful about giving Kalraka Dzeik too much metal; with 1000 pounds of adamantine Kalraka Dzeik could store 25000 charges (enough to jump twice in sucession) and be almost unbreakable. Likewise, time is a factor with Kalraka Dzeik; if it has been spreading and raising a cult for years, it could take decades to truly defeat. But if it only has a days worth of power, it should be able to be beaten in less than a week.
All in all, a direct assault against Kalraka Dzeik is not advisable, although it would certainly be possible if the help of a powerful dragon or something was enlisted. If I were Kalraka Dzeik, I would always keep half a dozen Kals near my 'home' for self defense. So even after it has been driven back, a cornered Kalraka Dzeik can still be fatal; it may need to be sieged for hours before the final assault can be made, buying time for cultists to intervene.
Thanks for Reading
Wow, this turned out a lot longer that I thought it would, sorry if you had to sit through all of it :P . This is also my first submission to Strolen's Citadel, and because of both of those factors, I'm sure there are plenty of mistakes and oversights in the article. I'd be very grateful if you wouldn't mind point out a few so I can correct them. I'd also like to thank Forganthus for his inspiration in the form of a sentient forest fire he inflicted upon me as his player, and more importantly for telling me about this website in the first place. I hope you all enjoyed this submission, and please let me know what you think.
*I am of the opinion that everything goes better with music, and so I've picked out a song from my collection that I think compliments the experience of Kalraka Dzeik. I hope you would enjoy playing it while reading this submission and/or while unleashing Kalraka Dzeik upon your world. Of course opinions vary, and if this song doesn't appeal to you feel free to ignore it.
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? Responses (11)
Wow. For a first submission this is impressive. It is well conceived, the idea has that spark of originality that makes it shine, and it is very clear that you've put a great deal of thought into this submission.
If I were to include this into my campaign (Disclaimer: I run GURPS), I would likely emulate his abilities using a different system, but I find the explanation of charges and how they affect his abilities useful for creating him within the system, if I were inclined.
I'm also interested in more non-antagonistic uses for this character, as well of the possibility of other elementally-aligned entities who function along similar lines.
I tried to keep this article fairly rules-system-neutral, from what I see that seems to be the trend around here. So I'd be honored if you included Kalraka Dzeik in a GURPS campaign.
I also kinda wish I had made Kalraka Dzeik less of a bad guy. Just off the top of my head: maybe sometime during the battle against it, an even bigger, badder guy shows up who just happens to be weak to lightning. In exchange for a promise of peace, Kalraka Dzeik helps the PCs defeat the new foe. Or shoot, maybe Kalraka Dzeik was never a bad guy to begin with. Maybe its first contact with humans was peaceful, and and entire nation is inhabited by a friendly Kalraka Dzeik who protects them and supplies free power.
I've never been a fan of the 'one of each element' cliche, but I do have to admit, your suggestion of making some similar creature is tempting...
Hoo hah! A very impressive first post, sir! Welcome to the citadel, and by the looks of this sub, we will definitely benefit from having you around! :) If you feel inclined, you can introduce yourself in the forums: http://strolen.com/guild/index.php/board,19.0.html
There is a chat room which sometimes has a person or two in it, and there's plenty of sections in the forums where you can ask for help, take up a challenge, join a guild, participate in a forum roleplay or just let out whatever insane ramblings are happening in your mind.
ANYWAY! The Sub!
I love it - Kalraka Dziek is a very imposing, dangerous encounter and should not be taken lightly. You've included a great depth of detail and have definitely thought this though. I also like that you've tried to give a psuedo-scientific explanation behind the effects and abilities of the organism.
I can foresee one tactic to destroying Kalraka Dzeik, and it will take a lot of manpower; Razing the area some kilometers around so it is isolated, too far away from anything that even a colonizing arc could strike, and then systematically removing all the Kal within the radius. This sounds like a long, drawn out process and will definitely require the equivalent of an army, especially if the fellow has grown to massive proportions.
I can see a cool scenario and location, where an entire city is abandoned to the Kalraka Dzeik; the city folk had to abandon the place as it got too big to control, so they had to cut away all things around the city which could let it spread. Thus, the city sits alone on the top of a hill, no trees or anything surrounding it, and Kalraka Dzeik sits in wait, jumping from Kal to Kal, unable to expand. The city could be there for years, gaining reputation as a cursed city. PC's could be asked to sneak in and find an item lost, or perhaps as a rescue party for some people who decided to brave it. This way, Kalraka Dzeik becomes less of an organism, and more of a location; 'the forbidden city'. This will take some modifying of your current sub, I know, as I think you mentioned that it cannot survive in the one place for long because it burns away at the Kals, but it can still be worked in :p
Can people use armour out of poor conductors of electricity to reduce the damage or even completely thwart the lightning attacks of Kalraka Dzeik? Glass, Ceramic and Wood, for example. or Rubber/plastics in a more modern environment. Additionally, I would think that Wooden Kals, such as trees, would make a poor host for the creature, and it would need to relocate from these things quickly, or at least not be able to have much of a charge in them.
All in all, a very nice first post with much useful information for a GM to include in their game.
Also, you're right; lightning scars DO look cool! :o
I'm glad you like it. I honestly hadn't thought of either of those two scenarios you mentioned, but I like both of them at least as much as my own. Just don't forget that the cult (if they exists) might still try some shenanigans to set Kalraka Dzeik free.
Using unorthodox armor and weapons would be a perfectly viable strategy, and so might wearing no armor at all since Kalraka Dzeik doesn't really do melee attacks. I've enjoyed encounters that ask players to think outside the box. It's true that wooden objects can only make temporary Kals at best, unless someone puts out the fire every time Galvanize is used.
Thanks for the suggestion of checking out the forums, I'll probably introduce myself there soon.
Great creature! The detail is overwhelming (in a good way!). I like its personality too, in so far as it reminds me of a petulant child. There are so may ways to go with this in any given campaign, from the creature itself to the cult, to all the other concepts and ideas within. Superb!
Oh and I'd like to know something about that sentient forest fire. That sounds rich. A cleansing, cyclical force of nature? The druids revere it? Does it spread itself when it so chooses? Inquiring minds want to know.
I'm glad you finally made it onto the Citadel! Welcome, welcome, hello.
I like this a lot, because it has the two things that I value most in submissions. (1) It has clever nuances, like how it enjoys playing with magnets. And although it can blow up oak trees, it still has to call on cultists to get them unstuck. And (2) it has emergent complexity. The basic idea of a lightning-dude-that-jumps-from-item-to-item is so brilliant that it naturally blossoms into neat scenario ideas, such as your idea of cutting off the front Kalraks, or Shadoweagle's idea to raze an entire area around an occupied city. Actually, upon reflection, these could be two sides to the same idea.
Good seeds bloom with lots of tasty fruit. You can't stop them.
On an unrelated note, I know exactly why you made this. Story time: Alavandrion is my PC. When it came time for the party to fight the sentient forest fire, I sort of wussed out and turned the encounter into a short dungeon with a relatively straight forward boss fight at the end. I explained my choice to Alavandrion, telling him that I couldn't think of any way to make fighting a forest fire interesting (i.e. without building firebreaks and clearing brush, etc). I think this is his way to turn the sentient-force-of-nature thing into something that is fightable in a novel, tactical way. And he has succeeded brilliantly.
@Murometz: My sentient forest fire was a refugee from the Plane of Fire, where he had been serving in the Brass Palace as a decoration (of all things). He's made himself into something of an anti-druid bent on recreating a little slice of home on the Material Plane. He also branched out into a forest creating a linked network of fire that he moved within, like the nucleus of a growing amoeba. He summons tornadoes, gouts of subterranean flame, and treants that serve him (unwillingly) as they burn to death.
Thanks for the input. If anything, I'm worried there will be too much emergent complexity. I can just tell that one day someone is going to point out an oversight that will make the whole thing trivial.
And don't be so hard on yourself, the sentient forest fire was a good idea, so good it deserved more than a garden variety smashing. If there is one thing that I hope people take away from this article it is the idea that a good bad guy doesn't need to be limited by HP.
'@Murometz: My sentient forest fire was a refugee from the Plane of Fire, where he had been serving in the Brass Palace as a decoration (of all things). He's made himself into something of an anti-druid bent on recreating a little slice of home on the Material Plane. He also branched out into a forest creating a linked network of fire that he moved within, like the nucleus of a growing amoeba. He summons tornadoes, gouts of subterranean flame, and treants that serve him (unwillingly) as they burn to death.'
I look forward to giving this an HOH.