Warning: There is some nasty stuff in this post. Necromancers are scary, their stuff is scary, they are horrible people/monsters, and… okay, if you get in here and find that it’s a bit much… well, they are the bad guys. Really bad guys. The system stuff here still works if you strip the fluff/description–it’s mostly to provide legendry and plot motivation.
Runic Necromancy Magic Items
Necrodwarves become more terrifying when they are armed and armored with runic equipment that is designed to amplify their natural powers. This gear is not common, and it is not easy to make. However, those wielding it relish the cost and celebrate the gruesome result.
- Gear with runic necromantic power will only respond as magic when worn or wielded by a necrodwarf connected to the Empty Rune through a tattooed rune on their flesh.
- Weapons only grant their effect if held in a hand. Armor only grants its effect if it is worn. Rings, amulets, and belt buckles only grant their effects if worn.
- Gear printed with runic necromantic power allows a necrodwarf to use the runes in question as though they were tattooed on. Unless otherwise noted, the runic gear grants no other advantage.
- If a necrodwarf knows the history of a runic weapon, the necrodwarf gets a +1 to hit and +1 damage morale bonus while using it.
- If a necrodwarf knows the history of runic armor, the necrodwarf gets a -1 Armor Class morale bonus while wearing it.
- If a necrodwarf knows the history of runic objects, the necrodwarf gets +2 level adjustment using it, or adjusts a roll by 2.
CREATING GEAR WITH RUNIC NECROMATIC POWER
The Empty Rune is willing to share its power with a non-meat weapon only when a Lord (printed with one or more Master Runes) sacks the stronghold of a hated enemy, or ritually sacrifices a major enemy.
In the case of sacking a stronghold, at least 100 prisoners must be taken, and at least 150 hit dice of sacrifices must be represented. A pit is then constructed, with bellows (made of sacrifices) and a forge at the bottom of the pit. It must have sloping sides, generally about 45 degrees.
Then at least three necrodwarves man the forge, and as they work on the weapon tirelessly night and day for a full week, their minions ritualistically sacrifice the prisoners, spraying their blood over the forge scene, the blood gushing down into the pit (which often gets knee deep or waist deep during the sacrifices and forging—the pits are built with that expectation.) The smiths chant ancient chilling dirges and praises to death, ceaseless as they work.
The new weapon is cooled in the blood of sacrifices, and one of the necrodwarves gives up a rune. That rune then sears into the weapon as it hisses in gore, cooling suddenly in connecting to the depths of space.
In the case of a sacrifice, only a dwarf of name level who opposes the necrodwarves will do, unless an oracle borne by the Fund of Secrets identifies another target to the deadly Lord. In the case of a sacrifice, the ritual takes 12 days of torture, degradation, and brutality in a refined ritual that ends with the target’s irrevocable death, slain by the weapon that was forged during the torture, and interlaced with it—hot metal, flaying, tearing out teeth and bone to decorate the weapon or embed within it, etc.
The weapon becomes a symbol of the potent lordship of death and cold. The site of its creation, or the sacrifice it celebrates, is stitched deep in the blade. This history is only visible when a necrodwarf holds it and gives up 1 hit point per century since it was created—then the runic history glows to life in the depths of the weapon. If the necrodwarf can piece together the entire history from when the weapon was created to when it came into the dwarf’s possession, everafter the dwarf is +1 to hit and +1 damage using it, for morale purposes.
The weapon counts as magic in the hands of a necrodwarf, for purposes of hitting creatures immune to non-magic weapons.
Available runes: Death Armor, Impart Undeath, Resist Death, Restore Undead, Share Death, Slay.
The Empty Rune is willing to share its power with non-meat armor only when a Lord (printed with one or more Master Runes) builds a foul forge in the tomb of a name level dwarf, desecrating it for all time. Celebrating the desecrating forge, the Lord can forge an article of armor with a lesser rune to commemorate the occasion. Only metal armor can be forged in this way, not leather (though the straps and such on the armor are most decidedly… necromantic.)
Rarely, the Fund of Secrets will bear an oracle to a Lord, identifying a potential alternative site to host a desecrating tomb.
At least 100 sacrifices, and at least 150 hit dice of sacrifices, must be offered to thoroughly desecrate the site. The methods of sacrifice often involve gladiatorial combat with the dead, driving sacrifices insane so they mewl and beg for death and are given puny weapons to slowly kill themselves, poisoning sacrifices so they have horrific hallucinations as they slip away through a coma, and other vile practices outlined in the lore books of the necrodwarves. This period of desecration may not be rushed faster than six months.
The forge is then built out of sacred statues and stones of the tomb, the bellows from the remains of the victims, and again it is crucial to quench the forged armor in sacrificial gore. Ancient powerful chants of the chill emptiness must resound through the entire process, deepening the chill that penetrates into the living earth.
One piece of armor is forged, and it bears the rune and the power. Often other pieces that match will be created, and approximations of the rune scattered over the armor. The single piece carries the power. This is often a helm, or a breastplate, occasionally a gauntlet or greave. When full armor is worn, the rune stitches it all together mystically and invisibly in a glittering frigid net of death.
The armor becomes a symbol of the potent lordship of death and cold. The site of its creation is stitched deep in the metal. This history is only visible when a necrodwarf wears it and gives up 1 hit point per century since it was created—then the runic history glows to life in the depths of the armor. If the necrodwarf can piece together the entire history from when the armor was created to when it came into the dwarf’s possession, everafter the dwarf is -1 armor class using it, for morale purposes.
The armor counts as magic when strapped onto a necrodwarf.
Available runes: Breathless, Charm Undeath, Chill, Death Armor, Impart Undeath, Resist Death, Untorn Essence.
The Empty Rune is willing to share its power with non-meat objects only when a Lord (printed with one or more Master Runes) completes a quest set by the Fund of Secrets, personally delivered to the Lord. Upon completion of the quest, the Lord may choose to lose 1,000 experience to set one of the Lord’s runes into an object that has sentimental value to the Lord, or was instrumental in the quest.
Objects are typically beard clasps, finger rings, bracelets, masks, belt buckles, prosthetics, or gems.
Five Lords must gather to celebrate the achievement of the sixth Lord, and each one must be willing to give up 500 experience (except for the 1,000 of the quester.) While the travel, obeisance, and loss of vitality are irksome to the powerful Lords, they are also keenly aware that they may someday require the same, and that their refusal to recognize a peer may displease their chilly master. Also, the Thane over them may be watching, pondering who may receive further runes.
Over the course of one week, the six Lords must sacrifice a minimum of 100 people, minimum 150 hit dice. They read sonorously from the dark tomes of their hideous faith as the crunch and gurgles of death, or the slow drip of dissolution, or the shrieks of emotion punctuate their prayers to the outer darkness. (Generally, each participating Lord is expected to bring a share of the sacrifices.)
The object becomes a symbol of the inexorable will of death and cold. The site of its creation is stitched deep in the metal, as is a cryptic summary of the quest. This history is only visible when a necrodwarf wears it and gives up 1 hit point per century since it was created—then the runic history glows to life in the depths of the object.
These objects are the most cryptic and difficult to research. If the necrodwarf can piece together the quest that inspired the object, and entire history from when the object was created to when it came into the dwarf’s possession, then the necrodwarf counts as +2 levels for purposes of using the rune in the object, or is +2 on a roll if that’s more appropriate.
Available runes: Charm Undeath (levels), Drink Life (+2 to total), Impart Undeath (levels), Question the Dead (to roll), Resist Death (to Constitution).
This enchantment is extraordinarily rare, and desperately coveted by Thanes because of the prestige and power it imparts to its owners. Greater Runes can be printed on weapons, armor, and objects. Armor must be a breastplate or crown helm, objects must be scepters, scythes, or belts. The Master Rune may be printed on any kind of hand weapon or two handed weapon. The only smaller weapon that may accept a Greater Rune is a superbly crafted gauntlet.
Master Runes may be planted in objects when one Thane ritualistically sacrifices another Thane. The reasons are not important, but often involve competition for assignments from the Empty Rune, concluding a schism war within a cult, or punishing betrayal.
Over the course of the two week sacrificial period, the sacrificer tears a Greater Rune from the sacrifice, so the dark energies of the Empty Rune will live on past the destruction of their host, celebrating the conclusion of what was likely a bitter struggle.
The object becomes a symbol of the ruthless, pragmatic justice of death and cold. The site of its creation is stitched deep in the metal, as is a cryptic summary of the motive, and the names of the Thanes involved. This history is only visible when a necrodwarf wears it and gives up 1 hit point per century since it was created—then the runic history glows to life in the depths of the object.
These objects are cryptic, and bear within them the malice of suffering beyond death. If the necrodwarf can piece together the story that led to the object’s creation, and entire history from when the object was created to when it came into the dwarf’s possession, then the necrodwarf will receive a quest from the Empty Rune soon after the necrodwarf becomes eligible.
Available runes: Accept Sacrifice, Deadly Focus, Death Shriek, Defy Gods, Touch of Death, Undead Vitality.
Objects printed with a Master Rune cannot be created by mortals. Legend among the necrodwarves is that one of each exists at any given time, and if they are all brought together, a gate to the Empty Rune opens and the world is flooded with death energy. Whether these objects exist or not, all Thanes will eagerly pursue rumor of one.
Possession of an object printed with a Master Rune is enough legitimacy to propel a Thane of the necrodwarves to become Lord Thane, rightful recipient of the fealty of the other Thanes. This is not only something the Thanes are ambivalent about, it is an absolutely horrifying prospect for those that oppose them. If the clans were to unite, they would be capable of breathtaking military and religious conquest.