The Golden Rune: Runeguard

In the wake of the horror of Tcholiark’s fall, the Thane of the Living Dead authorized and pursued research for a more stable form of runic power for those who had once been the Thaneguard and were now to be the Runeguard. Only one main rune and it supporting rune sets were considered safe to develop and use.

Gaining the Golden Rune

First, the dwarf must become a trusted agent of a Thane who has one of the three Living Runesmiths at his disposal. This generally takes at least a century of continuous service.

Once chosen (volunteers are not selected, and only the Living Runesmith may choose candidates) the potential Runeguard is given a quest. Upon completing the quest and returning, the potential Runeguard is considered carefully by the Living Runesmith for a year.

If the Living Runesmith decides the potential Runeguard is worth the risk, the candidate’s beard is shaved, and the candidate is given a week of meditation, prayer, fasting, and physical punishment to purify and prepare for a commitment that can never be shirked.

On the Day of Branding, the candidate is brought to the sacred forge of the Living Runesmith. Instead of the more free-form tattoo forms of the necrodwarves, the Golden Rune is not a tattoo at all but instead an elaborate burn scar—a brand. A cauldron is heated, with scented oils, secret unguents, and blood—some from the Living Runesmith, and some from the potential Runeguard. The cauldron reaches a boiling point, and molten silver is poured into it. As the cauldron grows red hot, the potential Runeguard grips it to his chest, lifting it from its resting place and placing it on the ground.

The Golden Rune is on the side of the cauldron, with connecting runes on the “handles” where the wrists help lift the pot. The Runeguard is branded on the chest, and the wrists. The Runeguard loses 1 point from each physical attribute (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution [and 1 permanent hit point per level]) and gains the Golden Rune. It takes a week to properly heal and cure the golden rune. Then, the Runeguard begins service.

Upon gripping the cauldron, the potential Rune Guard must save vs. petrification. Upon failing, the ritual goes wrong, the Runeguard failed student still takes the ability damage (but the Golden Rune is not clear enough to be used) and the dwarf takes 3d6 x 10 hit points of damage from the boiling cauldron contents. Survivors tend to be badly scarred.

Golden Rune Morale Effects

The Runeguard is immune to level drain, as well as Sleep, Fear, and Charm spells.

Any undead damaged by the Golden Rune effects must test morale at -2, even if normally immune to morale tests. Those that fail, flee.

 Golden Rune Damage Effects

The Runeguard can focus for a single round and send out a scintillating burst of half-visible energy in a 21 foot radius. All undead within that radius take damage based on their hit dice.

Runeguard Level

Damage to undead per undead’s hit die

2

1

4

1d4

6

1d6

8

1d8

10

1d10

12

1d12

Undead take 1 automatic damage per * and 2 automatic damage per +1 on their hit dice.

Activating this power costs the Runeguard 1 hit point per hit die of undead affected. There is no limit to how often the Runeguard can use the Golden Rune.

The Runeguard can also channel this attack through a Runeguard weapon or through a touch attack. In that case, the damage only affects a single undead, but the damage from the life rune is doubled. The Runeguard still takes 1 hit point of damage per hit die affected. There is no limit to how many times per day the Runeguard can use this ability.

Runeguard Weapon

Weapons may be forged by runesmiths that have a detail from the living Golden Rune emblem seared into a Runeguard. These weapons allow the life energy attack to be channeled through them as though they were a touch attack (but also doing weapon damage) and they also count as magic weapons when used by a Runeguard.

This weapon is usually forged by the Living Runesmith while evaluating a potential Runeguard, presented upon the completion of the Branding Ritual.

Grim Control

Each Runeguard created with a Branding Cauldron has his name inscribed on it. If the Living Runesmith (and only the Living Runesmith) obliterates that name, the Runeguard immediately dies.

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