Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ar: Walking with the Wraiths


In the wake of the Twin Peaks Campaign, Ar annexed this stretch of land, but left borders open to merchants and bankers to help alleviate bad feelings among Amburian neighbors. Many among Amburian nobility and the military still consider what is now Ar’s Wraith District as rightfully theirs, having led their army to wrest this land from a rabble of ungrateful renegades. In view of their fiscal advantages, bankers and merchants have gradually forgotten the divisive issue and shared in the wealth from Ailpon. Once a fishing village, it grew as the result of the nearby cloudstone mine and became a boomtown, complete with a sprawling seedy quarter, daily tavern brawls among free miners and sailors, and restricted areas reserved for wealthy upstarts or the military. Amburian nobles now see these investors as greedy turncoats, adding fuel to their discontent.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Wraith Hex Map
Lower Wraith District -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex

To make matters worse, a strange and intimidating race of people moved into the area and made the district a haven for their kind. They are the ones who gave the district its name, and the real reason why this piece of land was separated from Wyvern. Aran Wraithlings are people who’d fallen victims to incorporeal undead but were returned to life. As a result of the magic used, their minds and bodies bear the stigmata of their ordeal. Their flesh is somewhat translucent, showing bones, muscles, sinew, and organs as shadows. Their facial traits, however diaphanous, remain gaunt and disturbingly morbid. With clothes and makeup, Wraithlings appear as normal people but, to put it simply, the similarity is skin-deep. Since their arrival, Wraithlings reproduced and formed a prominent caste of aristocrats. Their request to establish this land as their own district was quickly approved in Skyreach for two reasons. It was a good way to entice Wraithlings to leave other districts of Ar where they were often unwelcome. Another reason was to exploit the Wraithlings’ presence on the eastern shores of Crystal Lake as a deterrent for Amburian pretensions—another singularly unpopular decision across the border. The intimidation is purely psychological, based on common prejudice and irrational fears, because Wraithlings are neither monsters nor a threat to society. Their looks and the idea of what they once were is what causes most people to loathe them.


Mystara Alphatia Ar Heraldry
Since the land was settled, the original marshes were drained and turned into arable soil. The stirge menace has been entirely eradicated as well. Farmsteads dot the land. Aside from a few hamlets and the rowdy town of Ailpon, there are no villages in Wraith District. There only remains a thick forested wilderness to the northwest which serves as a reserve of fine timber for ship building. Upper and lower Wraith District covers an area close to 1,650 sq. miles (4.250Km2), with a population density of nearly 21 people per sq. mile (8 inhabitants per Km2). In total, a little over 34,000 people, called “Wraithers,” dwell in upper and lower Wraith District. Peasants make up nearly three quarters of the population, and the military nearly 5%, 1,440 of whom garrison Ailpon. About 1,100 of the latter are Royal Troops answering to a commander appointed directly by the monarchy. Their presence was deemed necessary and is largely financed by revenues generated by Ailpon. Such a heavy military force quartered locally is an expensive proposition for Wraithling aristocracy, but this was agreed upon as one of the conditions for creating the district.

Seven skyships are based in Ailpon, six small vessels and one large one. Their role is to patrol the land and the coasts, enforcing the law and watching for runaway serfs. This fleet includes the H.H.M.S. Sceadwen, Gæstanic, Skinean, Gheestere, Veshtar, Vortha, and the larger vessel, Spirit of Ailpon which acts as the Royal Commander’s flagship. Two other skyships hail from Graynest on Wraith Prime, the small vessel Arrachan and a larger one acting as the viceroy’s flagship, the Hunter in the Night.

Serfs living in lower Wraith are a terribly unhappy bunch. They revile the presence of the military, as their behavior often reaches beyond the pale when they patrol the land. Many of the serf families are descendants of those who’d once fled Ar, only to become oppressed once more decades later. Wraithling aristocracy ruling them is yet another source of discontent and fear. Over time, a small wraithling caste was born illegitimally from the peasant class. They are pariahs in a world of pariahs, and detested by all. Nonetheless, they remain a notch above the serf caste, usually renting small farms or running obscure shops in Ailpon’s port district. They’ve also cornered the funeral industry, drawing business from the town’s middle class.


The district’s heights only include one island floating more than 9,000’ (2.740m) above sea level. Barren and hilly, it is the domain of Wraithling aristocracy. They reside in manor houses scattered about the island, all of which extend below ground. All abodes are pressurized or feature protective domes, including Graynest. Outside temperatures remain 33°F lower than conditions at sea level (19°C lower)—see Climate of Alphatia for more detail on local weather. District troops garrison this stronghold, which includes the viceroy’s palace. Ship crews and troops based at Graynest are issued from Wraithling commoners, save for their commanders.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Wraith Hex Map
Upper Wraith District -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex

Although called a tower, Graynest is a bit more than that. From a distance, it appears as a tall, rounded structure, but up close, it is a fairly large, dark gray, tube-shaped building. Turrets ring the opening at the top, featuring ballistae and squads of native boltmen. A mooring platform for skyships lies at the bottom of the inner courtyard. There are no outside doors at ground level, and a hemispherical dome between the turrets protects the top. The latter allows slow movement through it. The palace occupies the tower’s upper levels, while the remainder remains the domain of the military, about 200 troops including the two skyships’ crews.


One wizard of a past century, a ghost hunter by the name of Mordod the Gloomy once discovered a secret to reverse the damage of incorporeal undeath inflicted upon humanity. It was never quite mastered, and the result yielded a strange new race of people known as Wraithlings. No longer undead, they retained somewhat ghoulish traits and an unnerving translucence related to their former conditions. They all have in common a hatred of the living dead mixed with pity, the latter especially as regards incorporeal undead. They abhor all that is evil, for they have tasted it and they know to what ends it leads.

Art by "Akuma"
Wraithlings have an attraction for all that is alive, young, and healthy, which explains their propensity for seeking illicit romantic encounters outside their usual circles. One might wonder who among humankind would feel compelled to consort with such sinister-looking individuals. Yet, there is no coercion, magic, or trickery involved. It is true that when gazing deep into Wraithlings’ eyes, one contemplates poignant visions of pain stirring their souls across generations and beckoning them toward darkness. There are people who are genuinely attracted to the deathly and otherworldly. They are called the “children of the dark,” generally youngsters with black hair and pale skin who, if given any sort of wealth, would spend it all on flesh-piercing trinkets with which to adorn their faces and bodies, or cosmetics to darken their eyelids. Strange bunch as they are, they fit well with Wraithlings, sometimes becoming their servants. And many end up with child, Wraithlings in the making like their fathers. It isn’t exactly true that illegitimate progeny is despised—they can never be recognized due to their parents’ aristocratic background. Some money and a proof of emancipation might be left behind for mother and child, but no more. This prospect alone has tempted many a desperate serf.

As a race, Wraithlings are either Lawful or Neutral. One of their goals in life is to research true healing of their bodies and souls, in hopes of freeing themselves of their torment once and for all. Some become clerics specialized in the cycle of life and death, or the guidance of the dead toward peaceful rest. Others become undead-hunters. And indeed, some of the most famous in history are Wraithlings, although the fact is often covered up as the result of Aran society’s prejudice.

As a D&D Game class, Wraithlings are unusual folk. They use a fighter’s combat abilities, saving throws, and experience table. Their limitations regarding equipment and proficiencies are those of a thief. They have a thief’s ability to hide in shadows and move silently, as well as detect hidden and secret passages as an elf. Finally Wraithlings can cast magic-user spells if their Prime Requisite is Intelligence or clerical spells if their Prime Requisite is Wisdom (see table below). All Wraithlings can Turn Undead as clerics of the same level. Wraithlings benefit from a permanent protection from evil. They also receive a +1 to hit undead creatures, which qualifies when attacking undead creatures requiring a +1 magical weapon. This bonus comes in addition to any other magical bonuses their equipment may hold. Wraithlings receive a –2 penalty to Charisma as regards their relations with other races, including intelligent undead beings.

Level
hp
Experience
Spells/Level
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
1d6
0
2
2d6
2,000
3
3d6
4,000
1
4
4d6
8,000
1
1
5
5d6
16,000
2
1
6
6d6
32,000
2
2
1
7
7d6
64,000
3
2
1
8
8d6
120,000
3
2
2
9
9d6
240,000
3
2
2
1
10
+1
360,000
3
3
2
1
11
+2
480,000
3
3
2
2
12
+3
600,000
3
3
2
2
1
13
+4
720,000
4
3
3
2
1
14
+5
840,000
4
3
3
2
2
15
+6
960,000
4
3
3
2
2
1
16
+7
1,080,000
4
4
3
2
2
1
17
+8
1,200,000
4
4
3
3
2
1
18
+9
1,320,000
4
4
3
3
2
2
19
+10
1,440,000
4
4
3
3
2
2
1
20
+11
1,560,000
5
4
3
3
2
2
1
21
+12
1,680,000
5
4
4
3
2
2
1
22
+13
1,800,000
5
5
4
3
2
2
1
23
+14
1,920,000
5
5
4
4
3
2
1
24
+15
2,040,000
5
5
4
4
3
2
2
25
+16
2,160,000
6
5
4
4
3
2
2
26
+17
2,280,000
6
5
5
4
3
2
2
27
+18
2,400,000
6
6
5
4
3
2
2
28
+19
2,520,000
6
6
5
4
3
3
2
29
+20
2,640,000
6
6
5
4
4
3
2
30
+21
2,760,000
6
6
5
5
4
3
2
31
+22
2,880,000
6
6
5
5
4
3
3
32
+23
3,000,000
7
6
5
5
4
3
3
33
+24
3,120,000
7
6
6
5
4
3
3
34
+25
3,240,000
7
6
6
5
4
4
3
35
+26
3,360,000
7
6
6
5
5
4
3
36
+27
3,480,000
7
6
6
5
5
4
4

Hereditary Influence: all Wraithlings are related to a dominant ancestor who’d been rescued from undeath. To whom they relate determines to which clan they belong. The spouses’ relative experience levels determine their progeny’s ancestry, if parents were from different clans. Marriages between a female Wraithling and a male outsider always engender Wraithlings. The opposite leads to a Wraithling’s birth only half the time.

Heredity is important because Wraithlings retain an affinity to undeath in general but more so to the type of undead their ancestors had become, (2) a wraith, (3-5) a spectre, (6-8) an apparition, (9-11) a ghost, or (12) an odic. Against creatures related to their ancestry, Wraithlings receive a +2 bonus to saving throws and Turning attempts, and an Undead Lore skill.

Vulnerabilities: Although their ancestors were rescued from undeath and brought back to humanity, Wraithlings’ distant relation with death never quite lets go. The dark world keeps beckoning them to return and accept their rightful fates. This is the source of their enduring torment. Powerful undead use this vulnerability to regain control over the “stolen ones” (see mechanics on Undead Lieges and Pawns, RC pg. 217). A Wraithling must save vs. spell to resist falling under an undead liege’s will. If the unthinkable happens, the undead may not reveal the fact immediately, but instead only observe through the victim’s own senses until such time it feels it should assert its control for good. This hold can only be broken if the undead is destroyed. As regards an undead liege’s ability to overpower a Wraithling, use the following equivalents:

Wraithling Level
Corresponding Undead
1
Skeleton
2-3
Zombie
4-5
Ghoul
6-7
Wight
8-9
Wraith
10-12
Mummy
13-15
Spectre
16-18
Vampire (a)
19-21
Vampire (b)
22-25
Phantom
26-29
Haunt
30+
Spirit

Faith & Magic:  Wraithers typically are followers of immortals from the spheres of energy or time, especially Pflarr, Ixion, Tarastia, and Petra.  It is expected that a Wraithling will one day rise to attain immortality.  All Wraithlings have access to the following spells (always understood as part of their training at the appropriate level) in addition to clerical or magic-user spells:

Detect Undead, Level 1
Range: 0
Duration: 2 Turns
Effect: all undead within 60’

The spell is similar to the clerical detect magic.  The spell does not identify the type of undead.  From the size of the glow, the caster may surmise either the number or the size of the undead, but this judgement remains subjective at best.  Undead within the area of effect do not receive a saving throw.  The spell is potent enough to detect undead hidden in an area of continual darkness or in the ethereal.  The area of effect is reduced to 40’ if any organic material separates the undead from the caster, such as a wooden door, and to 20’ through inorganic material, such as stone.  Lead and gold thicker than a inch block the spell.

Examine Corpse, Level 2
Range: 30'
Duration: instantaneous
Effect: one undead type within 60’

The spell enables the caster to examine remains of a fallen prey and determine what undead killed it—provided it was an undead creature.  The exact type of undead is revealed only if it has as the same number or fewer Hit Dice than the caster.  If it has more, the spell only reveals whether the creature is corporal or incorporeal.

Invisibility to Undead, Level 3
Range: 240’
Duration: permanent until broken
Effect: one creature or object

The spell is similar to the magic-user’s 2
nd level spell, except it affects only the undead.  The spell is potent enough to suppress basic evidence of presence, such as smell, faint noises, and heat radiation coming from the recipient.

Appeasement*, Level 4
Range: 180’
Duration: permanent until disturbed
Effect: sends one undead creature to its grave

The spell compels a hostile undead to return to its grave and rest in peace. The undead may save vs. spell, with a modifier equal to its own HD minus 12 (a sphinx’s spellcasting level.) If the saving throw fails, the undead must return to its grave at full speed and remain there until disturbed once more. It is one way to determine which tomb an undead came from, provided its flight can be followed. If the saving throw fails, the undead singles out the caster, intent on destroying the source of the offense. The reversed version of the spell, rouse, is forbidden and punishable under Wraither law. Rouse summons a spirit from its tomb, to guard it against anyone approaching. Aroused spirits are always angry but remain within 150’ of their grave until someone comes within the area of effect.

Aura of Exaltation, Level 5
Range: 60’
Duration: 6 Turns
Effect: all within a 20’ square area

The spell protects the caster and companions from all fear effects generated by undead creatures.  It also confers the caster’s party with the ability to hit undead that normally would require +1 or better magical weapons, although they might be wielding non-enchanted weapons.  Ranged weapons can be affected as long as projectiles remains within the area of effect.  Any undead within the area of effect suffers a -2 penalty to saving throws.


Undo Undead Affliction, Level 6
Range: touch
Duration: permanent
Effect: negates a loss of level or ability

The spell negates the effect of one undead attack provided the caster has at least 50% more levels (HD) than the original undead.  If so, such effects as paralysis, poison, aging, and loss of level, strength, or constitution (etc.) are undone.  The spell is, however, limited as to how long ago the damage was inflicted, at the rate of 1 Turn per experience level.  If cast on a dead body, the spell puts the victim's soul to rest, and the corpse will not rise as an undead.

Reclaim Lost Soul, Level 7
Range: touch
Duration: permanent
Effect: reincarnates the fallen

This is Mordod's old spell.  It allows the caster to reclaim a soul that has risen as an incorporeal undead.  The original corpse must be available, at least its bones or ashes for the spell to function.  It differs from the clerical spell raise dead fully in that it turns the recipient into a first level Wraithling, preserving all past memories.  If the recipient was a cleric or a magic-user, the original experience level is preserved, at least as regards the new character class.  Wraithlings do not have access to either raise dead or raise dead fully as a result of their very nature.  Their duty is to promote their own kind.  The belief is that one day the undead will rise and the Wraithlings will stand alone before them.    


Dalvarna, Innkeeper

The Dead Velya, a tavern near Ailpon’s docks, is a favorite of many sailors. It is a boisterous place where ale is cheap, the singing merry, and fights as common as mangy rats in the town’s port. Occasional freeborn miners descend upon the establishment, and when they do, trouble soon follows. Dalvarna is the daughter of a Wraithling aristocrat who went missing a few years ago after a foray into northern Kerothar Mountains. As it were, Wraither law enables bastard issue to claim property in the absence of any other legitimate claimant. The only information extent to this day that would identify the aristocrat’s daughter is a birthmark in shape of a scythe on the top of her thigh, a mere shadow on the Wraithling’s nearly transparent flesh. Since she doesn’t know who her father was, none of this is of any concern to her.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Heraldry
Dalvarna is a tough and clever character, trained in the arts of magical-spellcasting. The inn happens to be a front for her real business. Aside from revenues from her establishment, she leads a smuggling network. In fact, a select few free miners do visit the Dead Velya, bringing back from the pits fragments of cloudstones and rough, uncut gems. Dalvarna provided her associates with invisible pouches in which they can conceal whatever they glean. Fights between miners and sailors are (mostly) staged to divert attention while carriers discreetly drop off their pouches and recover empty ones at the bar. Later at night, during curfew hours, the goods are taken to the smugglers’ vessel at the port. The Drunken Sea Hag then sets sail shortly at dawn, heading straight for Starpoint, Ambur’s capital city, or Stonerim in the Marches of Ogresfell where their hidden goods will fetch a good price. On occasion, Dalvarna has been a party to arranging passage for a fugitive aboard the Drunken Sea Hag, dealing with renegades or members of the Grünfold Connection.

Appearance & Personality: Dalvarna retained her late human mother’s grace which, thanks to cosmetics skillfully applied, enables her to exude an oddly charming demeanor, even though she appears somewhat gaunt. She wears blue-tinted ocularia to mask her nearly translucent eyes. Dalvarna rarely entertains romantic liaisons beyond a tantalizing flirt. Her guests tend to think of her as a beautiful ghost, especially since she seems to glide rather than walk. Her gestures are slow and elongated, which enhance her phantomlike demeanor. Dalvarna tends to wear long robes that whisper along the floorboards, hiding her slippered feet. Narrow sleeves drop to the knuckles of her hands. She also often wears a hood that shadows her eyes behind the ocularia, and hides most of her long black hair. Also unusual is her husky well-modulated alto voice. When she speaks, guests lean toward her, as if imbibing her dulcet tones along with their beverage.
The only power that I can see at present, mademoiselle, is the power of your beauty."
-- "Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Dear Sir."
"This beholder is enchanted.”

Dalvarna: WL6, AC8, hp 21, MV 120’(40’), AT 1 mallet, Dmg 1d4+1 or by spell, Save F6, ML8, AL N; St12, In16, Wi13, Dx15, Co 11, Ch14(16). Special Abilities: as described for Wraithlings; her ancestor was a ghost. Magical Items: ring of invisibility, Haven’s marvelous makeup, Haven’s praiseworthy pigmentation, and potion of gaseous form.

Haven’s Marvelous Makeup: these creamy contents lie in a porcelain jar, amounting to 3d6 applications. The compound gives someone’s skin a healthy, natural complexion, hiding any diseases, scars, birthmarks, and blemishes of age. The fragrance is discreet but pleasant, overcoming any other body scents. Each application lasts until washed off or dispelled.

Haven’s Praiseworthy Pigmentation: a silver container holds up to 3d6 applications of a glittery black powder. When sprinkled, it provides a fine luster of the darkest black, and thick, supple body to the hair, masking any damage due to age, disease, or neglect. Each application lasts until washed off or dispelled.

Baron Grimdod, Usurper

This aristocrat of petty Wraithling origins inherited the title and fortune of one Baron Ghaladod residing on Wraith Prime. He’d been the companion and close friend of the original baron during an expedition to the northern Kerothar Mountains, in search of some obscure spectre haunting a ruined tower. It wasn’t remotely what they had expected to find. Instead, they confronted a Lich King, possibly connected with Shadow Dwarves living in Frisland’s underworld. The undead imprisoned the baron and overwhelmed petty, little Grimdod, forcing him under his control. The victim was thereafter sent back to Ar. Under the influence of the undead, Grimdod intrigued to inherit the baron’s assets. This involved the falsification of magical paperwork and bribes. Since then, the usurper quietly arranged for other Wraithlings to go after his liege, setting them up for an equally unfortunate fate. Some returned to their abodes, quietly remaining at the Lich King’s beck and call, like Grimdod.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Heraldry
The usurper learned from his companion about his daughter and her unusual birthmark. In the absence of any other heir, Ghaladod had mentioned his hesitation to reveal her existence and his scandalous liaison with a lowborn human, so that she could claim the barony when his time came. Grimdod’s liege now forces his pawn to search for this mysterious offspring—Dalvarna—and deliver her to him with all due diligence. Her father was able to resist the Lich King’s willpower, but the undead believes he could force Ghaladod into submission if he held his daughter as well. For this purpose, Grimdod hired various shady characters to locate adequate females in Lower Wraith.

When one is found, Grimdod pays her a visit under an appropriate guise, hoping for a glimpse of any birthmark. If his charms fail to unveil the information he seeks, the suspect is abducted soon thereafter, only to be found gruesomely slain a few days later. The Ailpon guard has been hunting for a serial murderer ever since this affair started, occasionally hiring skilled adventurers for this purpose. So far, nobody is aware of the fact Grimdod accompanied Ghaladod on the ill-fated expedition. If questioned about it, the usurper will lie about his whereabouts at that time. A forgotten clue remains in an adventuring equipment shop in Ailpon where Grimdod had made some purchases against a letter of credit noted in the shop owner’s ledger. It shows a date, amount, items purchased, buyer’s name, and a line about an “expedition to Kerothar.”

Appearance & Personality: As with other Wraithlings, Grimdod has translucent skin, very pale eyes, and shoulder-length white hair, which he wears brushed straight back from a widow’s peak. His features have an odd ethereal quality, and are quite handsome at least among his kind. Female Wraithlings can’t help discussing him when he enters a room. Even though his smile seems genuinely warm, there’s a faint quality of distance to it. Grimdod’s personality is forceful, but he keeps that hidden so he can better manipulate chosen subjects. He saves the full aura of his power for coercing those wanted by the Lich King. Grimdod wears shiny black shoes with buckles, white stockings, fawn-colored knee britches, a satin waistcoat with a heavy gold watch and chain, a tailored jacket of deep pink and silver brocade, and a froth of white lace as a cravat.
I take it, sir, that you do not approve of our new society.
-- Approval, sir, in my opinion, demands the attainment of perfection. And in that sense, you rather overrate the charms of your society. I'faith, for one thing, it does seem monstrous ill-dressed for any society, even a new one.”

Grimdod: WL12, AC4, hp 44, MV 120’(40’), AT 1 sword, Dmg 1d8+2/+4 or by spell, Save F12+2, ML6, AL L (C while under control); St13, In16, Wi11, Dx14, Co 15, Ch15(17). Special Abilities: as described for Wraithlings; his ancestor was a spectre. Magical Items: sword +1/+3 vs. spectres, +1 leather armor, amulet of the Lich King, and ring of human control.

Amulet of the Lich King: this mummified piece of human flesh enables Grimdod to teleport back to his liege’s lair should he ever be reduced to less than 1 hit point. If such is detected, the amulet radiates a strong aura of evil. Anyone touching it experiences a strong vision of the Lich King’s eyes staring back, and his beckoning whispers. The amulet provides a magical +2 protection bonus, and +3 hp regeneration per Turn. The owner cannot be killed while wearing the amulet, unless damage comes from fire- or acid-based attacks.

Special thanks to Janet Deaver-Pack for character appearances and editorial contributions. And for all of you who hit the G+ button, thank you so much, but please quit hitting it multiple times as this simply negates your previous attempt to be nice to me!