When the Keoish troops made way for Geoff in the brief conflict that would end at the Battle of Gorna, they expected a leisurely march that would end with a diplomatic resolution. The army of Geoff was no match for the might of Keoland, and both sides knew this, but what the Keoish didn't know is that Geoff's Ducal Mage, Vargalian, had foreseen the coming of the army, and made preparations.
Vargalian's plan was to create a horrible magical effect that would bring blight on the Keoish army, driving them back across the Stark Mounds and out of Geoff. To achieve this, he began work on the Censer. Collaborating with clerics of both Erythnul and Incabulos, he gathered the rare incenses and herbs needed to fuel the Censer's unholy power. As the final step in the process, the Keoish ambassador knight Dasco was kidnapped, poisoned and bled to death, his dried and powdered blood being the final ingredient in Vargalian's infernal recipe.
The sacrifice of Dasco caused an unexpected and immense surge in the Censer's power, and instead of merely inflicting famine and plague on the army of Keoland, it slowly and excruciatingly killed them, reanimating their desiccated corpses as Sword Wraiths, vile undead creatures given to the mindless pursuit of battle and slaughter.
The Censer is activated by gathering the ingredients (rare herbs and incenses worth at least 10,000 GP and the dried blood of a healthy, lawful human or demi-human) into it and setting them alight within the confines of despoiled holy ground (such as a church to a Lawful God that has been defiled, as was the case at the Battle of Gorna, where Vargalians minions ransacked and pillaged a shrine to Pelor outside Gorna to create a suitable location for the activation of the Censer). Once lit, the Censer's contents burn for 24 hours without need of further fuel.
After one hour of burning, the Censer begins spewing forth vile clouds of deadly gas that begin to fill an area 1/2 mile in diameter. All creatures, including the person activating the Censer in that area must make a saving throw versus poison every round (with a -2 cumulative penalty each round) or be afflicted by the Censer's blight. Upon contracting the blight, the creature permanently loses 1 point of constitution (restorable only by a wish or divine intervention) every turn until he dies or a remove curse spell is cast upon him by a cleric of name level or higher (that's 9th level to you 2nd & 3rd edition AD&D players). Removing the curse halts the loss of constitution temporarily, but if the creature is still within the Censer's area of effect, he is again subject to the saving throws to avoid contracting the blight again.
Once a creature's constitution reaches 0, he dies, rising again at the next sunset as a Sword Wraith. For a Classic D&D game, assume that monsters have a constitution score equal to 8 + their hit dice (ignoring plusses and *s), to a maximum of 18. Undead, Constructed creatures, and other beings that are not alive or have no need to breath are obviously not affected by the Censer's blight.
It is uncertain where the Censer was taken after the Battle of Gorna, and Vargalian's disappearance shortly thereafter prevented any questioning on the matter. Some rumors from the Aerdy east imply that a device matching the Censer's description is now in the possession of a temple of Hextor or Nerull in the fortress city of Rinloru, but the arrogant Lord of that city, Delglath, tolerates no investigations into the matter.
Using the Censer is an irredeemably chaotic and evil act, resulting in an immediate alignment shift to chaotic for any lawful creature that activates it. Nothing short of divine intervention can undo this change.
The Censer is considered an artifact, and may only be destroyed by filling it with Holy Water and having a Paladin of Pelor strike it with a Holy Sword. _________________ What would Raxivort do?<br />
Just a quiestion. When did the Battle of Gorna took place?
The battle of Gorna took place in cy450, and is described on page 48 of the LGG. Sadly, there's not much more canon information on it, but that has allowed me to take a little liberty and flesh things out.
The censer is tied nicely to the campaign setting, is an asset to the campaign and not just the character owning it, is well-described with a dark atmosphere, includes a special way to destroy it (always a nice plot hook), and best of all has NO 3E stats and even harkens to OD&D!
My only nit to pick is that it's still a little over-powered even with the curse on the activater. I would either limit it to saving throws every turn instead of every round, or have a HD limit - say, no more than 200 HD affected per hour. And -- you might be able to tell I'm intrigued and really thinking about this now -- what happens to animals in the area of effect? The description seems to imply that only humans, demi-humans, and monsters are affected, though it also says all creatures. If your horse is killed by the blight, does it rise as a sword wraith too?
I hadn't thought about animals and monsters in the area of effect, but I would probably rule that they either just die, or die and become a lesser form of undead, maybe Zombies or Ghouls. Ghoul horses attacking PCs to consume their flesh, that's an interesting image, and certainly something that hasn't really been done before.
As you guessed, the Censer was written for OD&D/Classic D&D (I use the Rules Cyclopedia version), and as an artifact is intended to be pretty powerful, but I can see where it might be overly so in some campaigns. An hourly HD limit might work, or a total HD cap based on the potency of the humanoid sacrifice used to activate it, say (100 x HD/Level of the victim) HD max? That means that Dasco, the Keoish knight sacrificed by Vargalian would've had to have been pretty high level, unless of course the sword wraiths in the stark mounds have multiplied somehow.
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