The Headsman appears as a huge, muscular human wearing a hideous boarhead-like leather helmet. Around his waist is a thick belt with numerous freshly-severed human heads hanging from it. The heads move and moan in pain and despair. In his hands he carries a great single-headed axe, wickedly curved and dead black.
The Headsman is a figure within Kayeed legend as a bringer of swift, cold justice. In the legends he has only appeared infrequently, and only after events that the Gods themselves have found repugnant have occurred.
His origin lies far in the past, but the accepted theory is that he once was a warrior of the light but was irreversibly corrupted by a terrible tragedy.
The axe (which bears no name apart from The Headsman's axe) has the power of Judgement. If the axe kills a victim, it invariably is by decapitation. Upon death, the being struck is immediately judged. If they would descend to the underworld for their actions, their spirit instead is locked into the severed skull. The decapitated corpse will then immediately rise as a corporeal undead appropriate to their station in life. They are subject to the commands of the Headsman, but bear him no love - they will not assist him unless ordered.
Those not deserving of eternal torment are simply slain. No additional effects apply to body or head.
Belt of Heads
The belt carries the heads of those unworthies trapped by the axe. Each head is still conscious and aware of their surrounds, and is in excruciating pain. If a head is destroyed in melee, then the spirit is released as an incorporeal undead.
The heads can be thrown by the wearer and upon impact will shatter, causing minor damage to the target (if any) and releasing an incorporeal undead.
The wailing heads serve as a powerful fear effect to even the stout of heart.
The Headsman uses no magic apart from his axe and belt. He also is highly resistent to magical effects and is very difficult to kill. The elements will affect him, but his infernal nature means that the effects are minimized.
The Headsman has limitless endurance - he can walk forever without rest.
If the Headsman is slain, all heads are immediately freed (generating more undead), and the Headsmans corpse, axe and belt fade away.
1 week later, the Headsman will return, but with no special vendetta against those who killed it. It will simply resume where it left off.
The Headsman is drawn to areas where great injustices have occurred. He will appear about 10 miles away from the site and walk there. Any encountered en route are subject to judgement by this being.
He is absolutely cold and emotionless. The only mercy he knows is swift death.
He is not interested very much in the living apart as fodder for his axe, but he can be impressed by actions which serve to address injustices which drew him in the first place. Such redemption would have to be very powerful, direct and uncontestable.
Should the PC's bring into being a great injustice, then they themselves may find themselves the target of the Headsman's efforts.
The PC's are contracted by a powerful personage who is being pursued by the Headsman. He does not tell the PCs who is after him, just that a Demon is out to get him. If the PCs do their research (perhaps after a PC or two has their head handed to them .. :) ) they may be asking their patron a few questions on why he has attracted such attention.
As unlikely as it sounds, a target of the Headsman has managed to obtain a defence against this being. So long as the Headsman is thwarted, the longer he roams the region, judging all he meets. The PC's need to find out why this is happening, and then remove the defences from the target.
Alternately, perhaps the PCs are contacted by the Headsman himself to clear his obstacle. Especially if they have an unblemished devotion to justice.
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? Responses (13)-13
I know this fellow is a little one dimensional, but I had to get him out of my head and into a submission.
Glad you did. He's a bit sparse and cliched, but not at all bad. I somehow find myself perversely liking the fellow.
Any suggestions to improve?
Cliched but well done. Are the undead slaves or shambling headless bodies or what? Also a great lord or evil sorceror who was killed might rise as a wight or even a litch.
Your choice on the power level of the corporeal undead - and yes, they are headless.
They will not attack the Headsmen himself - they cannot _see_ him in any case.
As far as I understood it, the captured ones are in effect slaves - imprisoned in their drying heads (decomposing would be too unpleasant ;) ), suffering in torment until they are thrown at something and break... becoming incorporeal, at which point I would assume they would be quite angry, and attack anything at hand (except for the Headsman, who they greatly fear). What happens to the ghosts, when they serve their immediate purpose? Will they descend into the underworld, or just be left behind, roaming and being a danger to the Living? Or will they be allowed into normal afterlife, after this torment?
While I am not sure I would use The Headsman as an NPC, it has that distinct boogeyman quality, that makes for a thrilling dark tale at the fire, and a moral as well - the worst of the worst will be met by the Headsman.
On improving him, perhaps he remembers his former service with sadness, and may stop for a moment at an altar of his religion (just find out which it is!), or may be partial to exchange a word or two with people carrying a certain symbol. Of course this does not prevent him from judging, he will never give up, and continue until his terrible work is done.
A question, though, on the nature of his judging, while he is on the way to the guilty: does he simply cut down anyone he meets, or does he choose, and leaves some alive (or only the truly innocent... which would be very few)?
What happens to the ghosts once released is debatable. They may be bound to the point of death, or they may decend to their preordained fates. Atheists probably will simply dissappear into the void.
In truth, he does not judge. The rightious should have no fear of death - they will go to abetter place. Those who are not, get what they deserve.
His motto could be 'Kill them all, let the Gods sort them out...'
Since there is still a small spark of humanity, someone totally innocent _may_ be spared his tender mercy.
This guy reads like a minor villian out of a high powered Hell comic, one dimensional, but very visually appealing. The wailing heads on his belt and the cadre of shambling undead who arise when he comes and dispences his own form of judgement is neat. I would personally use him as a demon that sorcerers could summon and use as an attack dog, or one that is drawn to great evils that have been done when loose on the mortal plane.
I'm not being terribly subtle these days :)
I like him as the supernatural manifestation of Justice/ Vengence. He is cliche, but he is a well written cliche. A couple more details might of improved things, either in description or as additional aspects of the legend.
I think I'll give this fellow a makeover as well.
I really like the fact that if he is killed, he will _not_ have a grudge against those who killed him. He'll simply resume his duty.
About summoning him: it should be possible, but those who do so can very easily end up being judged.