Postfest IV: Censer of Undying Strife
Date: Mon, April 04, 2005
Topic: Spells of Oerth
The power to slay armies. A goal many a deviant mage dreams of attaining, but thankfully few achieve. In the Flanaess however, those few are infamous, their names spoken in fearful whispers even centuries after their deaths. Vargalian of Gorna was one such evil mage. Learn the secrets of his defeat of the army of Keoland, if you dare.
Censer of Undying Strife
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
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.