The Forsaken all resemble corpses in varying stages of decay, from the freshly-dead who seem almost whole save for the grey hue of their skins to the battered, broken heaps of bone pitifully dragging themselves along, their bones slowly abrading away. All bear with them a palpable aura of despair, the manifest power of the gods who condemned them to remain upon the world until their very bones crumble to dust and oblivion takes their souls forever.
The Forsaken arise when a true atheist dies in a world of active gods; their rejection, even at the moment of death when even the most impious will grasp at the slender thread of hope that the divine offers, draws the wrath of the divine upon them, and their souls find themselves bound to their lifeless bodies. Their minds persist for a short time, fading as their brain starves, just long enough for them to realize that they've died, and yet not gone into the oblivion they expected. Panic, terror, and despair rapidly sweep over them, and soon all that is left of their mind is a dull awareness, not quite enough to even qualify as an animal, consumed by the despair that engulfed them in their final rational moments.
Soon - no more than a few weeks - the spirit, reduced to little more than a vague force permeating the body, learns to move the cooling flesh and lifeless bones, and senselessly drags itself up to look for a way to free itself from this despair. Often, the undead leaves a ruptured grave behind, having clawed itself free, and fears of graverobbers plague those left behind.
Generally harmless, the Forsaken only fight if attacked, and even then will stop and wander off if their attackers draw away and cease their assault. They wander without rest, ceaselessly searching for something they can no longer understand, consumed by a need to find an ending.
Perhaps, if the spirit within could be roused to true awareness and made to recognize the gods it could be freed, but few have cared enough to even try, simply diverting the pathetic creatures as they stumble and crawl on their ceaseless quest.
-A grave has been opened in the local graveyard, belonging to a notorious antireligious individual. Are there graverobbers, or does his corpse now wander as one of these sad creatures?
-A priest of the god of mercy is trying to free the Forsaken from their curse, and needs help tracking down the creatures and bringing them to awareness. The challenges of finding them, detaining them, and restoring their minds are troubling enough - but what of the priests of other gods? Do they find it an affront to have this priest of mercy seeking to thwart their gods' curse? Perhaps a holy war might break out over this single priest's quest - or perhaps a divine war, if the gods take note and are offended as well.
-A grieving widow seeks out the PCs, asking them to find the Forsaken who was her husband and destroy him, even if it means consigning him to oblivion, as she cannot bear to know that he wanders the world restlessly.
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? Responses (10)-10
This critter could be used in many ways I think. One idea would be for the spirit to feel other emotions other then dispair - perhaps anger that the Gods would slam the door on it in such a manner.
Neat. Reminds me of the Clochardshire Shambler and is a kindred spirit.
It's possible, but most of the time the Forsaken still don't recognize the gods even as they're 'fading' - the despair comes from a sudden realization that souls exist, and that they're trapped in their own corpse rather than slipping into oblivion like they expected.
On the other hand, one who realized that it was bound by divine will might well end up with an aura of furious anger, and I'd say it'd be a lot more dangerous than the despairing Forsaken - probably liable to attack priests and holy places on sight.
Given the circumstances required, IE a true atheist in a realm of living gods, I would expect the Forsaken to be rare things, more boogeymen used by the church to bring rebellious and doubters beck into the fold. Still, there would be some, very interesting Kassil.
Yeah, I doubt the Forsaken are anything less than very rare, but I'd expect they'd happen occasionally; more malevolent churches, if they found one, might trap it and use it as a proof that one should bow to their will, for defiance of the divinity/divinities they worship leads to such fates.
A challenging creature... not so much for the heroes' swords, but for their sense of decency. Me likes scary creatures that turn out to be different. I also like the second plot hook... no need for gods to intervene, when other priests can... and suddenly there is a religious conflict in the making.
They are worth considering, and using. Good work here.
I like that notion enough to update the second plot hook with it. Thank you for pointing out that it doesn't even have to involve the gods responsible for the curse in the first place, just mundane religious politics. A holy war!
Updated: Added something pointed out about a plot hook.
An undead that I can feel sorry for.
Thanks, Kassil: now I'm afraid that I'm gonna be some walking sack of bones when I die! Yes, I'm atheist. Very interesting. I like the idea that they won't attack unless first attacked themselves- it makes me think of how atheists usually aren't the ones who start all the wars, but end up dying in them anyways. Cool! Thanks for a peak into my own afterlife, mate!
Given that, protests of certain groups aside, there's no evidence of 'active gods' in our world - I think you're probably rather safe from becoming one of the Forsaken.
Me, I'm a Discordian. I'm half-agnostic, half-atheist, and forever harassed by wellsprings of chaos in my life. We've taken over Limbo, once the Catholic church dropped it, so you're welcome to drop by and stake a claim to a chunk of the infinite metaphysical real estate! Even atheism can use metaphysical real estate.