Monday, October 20, 2008

The Sixth Table part II

Continuing the Sixth Table theme, here's 41-44 The Skull Staff of Zaln. I don't see any wordplay device involved with Zaln. This one's off the cuff.

The Skull Staff of Zaln

Disclaimer: The entire series of ‘Supreme Artifacts’ is based upon handwritten notes by Rob Kuntz. I take no credit for the table, title or names of any of these ‘Supreme Artifacts’. Mr. Kuntz’s creation, Table 6 Supreme Artifacts, serves as inspirational material and nothing more. The theme is indeed 'Supreme Artifacts', but individual Referees should feel free to adjust the relative power of any of the items presented here to fit their own campaign's needs.

In the years before The Vast Discord, in the time lost land of Ayr-Avad, the Almighty Zaln ruled from his Tower Indomitable high on Mount Al-Armagt. As far as Zaln could see, and even beyond the horizon and across the Stirring Sands, were the lands of Ayr-Avad, Zaln’s Empire. Time itself was Zaln’s last enemy, the final foe with whom he now struggled with each day and every night, for Zaln was nearing the end of his mortal life. After countless scholars, wizards, oracles and prophets had been put to the spear for their empty promises of turning back the ravages of Time, Zaln had finally found his answer in a sorcerer named Balophaer. Giving over every ounce of his confidence in his nigh desperate state, Zaln entered into Balophaer’s long and arduous arcane rites. Life Everlasting had been the promise, and Life Everlasting had been delivered; but as one might guess, the end only justified the means as far as Balophaer was concerned.

Awakening from his horrific, drug induced nightmarish slumber, Zaln found that the rites had indeed been enacted, but his headless corpse was before him in a pool of darkening blood, prostrate and encompassed by a still smoldering rune-circle of magical power. Zaln’s Regal Sentinels, ready to impale Balophaer at the first sign of treachery, were now bedazzled and unaware of the potent sorcerer’s deviousness. Zaln was certainly immortal and timeless, but his head was mounted atop a carven blood-soaked staff of oak, a staff in the clutches of the vile and contemptuous Balophaer. Balophaer now took on the guise of Zaln, and ruled Ayr-Avad successfully for three score years, until Zaln exacted his revenge in a most cold blooded manner; only befitting given the injustice enacted upon the once mighty Emperor. Ayr-Avad and Mount Al-Armagt are but dim, distant memories now. The Legend of Zaln has been retold and handed down through the generations, and is a somewhat famous fable across the land. Pure mythology, as far as the scholars are concerned.

The Skull Staff of Zaln is an intricately carved, 4’ length of thick, old dark oak, topped by an ancient chipped, cracked and now jawless human skull. This is indeed the age-old skull of the Almighty Zaln. The skull has been covered in layers of pine tar and odd scribbling through the ages, as it’s previous owners have tried to preserve the skull, and also unlock its secrets. The staff will only reveal its minor powers to a Magic User who possesses it, these are listed below:

Charm Person, Charm Monster, Confusion, Guise, Hold Person, Hold Monster. Each minor spell-like power drains one charge from the staff. The staff generates three charges per day, and will never hold more than six charges.

Guise: This power allows the staff holder to magically transform to take on the appearance, mannerisms and vocabulary of a single target whose name is known to the caster. The Guise will be permanent until dispelled by the wielder, or until a new Guise is assumed.

The staff can also be used to invoke the following major powers as the campaign unfolds, with this knowledge unlocked by the player in a method determined by the Referee:

Death Spell, Disintegrate, Geas. Each major spell-like power drains three charges from the staff.

The wielder of The Skull Staff of Zaln is also protected with powerful enchantments which confer a protective magical power called Avoid Harm. Avoid Harm translates in game terms to: AC 4, +2 on all Saving Throws, minus four from all physical damage sustained, minus ten from all magical and elemental damage sustained, and immunity to poison.

The staff becomes powerless and drained of all charges when within sixty feet of Zaln’s remains.

The Almighty Zaln will slowly begin to gain lucidity from beyond the wall of sleep with each passing day once the staff has a new owner. Slowly, his spirit will begin to communicate with the staff wielder. First with dreaming whispers, then waking mental impressions, and finally with actual telepathic messages. Zaln is still, after all, ‘alive’, his spirit shackled to this world by Balophaer’s hoary rites of sorcery. Ultimately, Zaln seeks to join his psyche with his spirit to put an end to the accursed prison into which he was cast so many centuries ago. The mystical curse under which he now lives on may only be broken by joining his skull with his headless skeletal remains through some long forgotten ritual. As soon as Zaln begins to gain lucidity, his headless remains stir and begin to seek out the skull’s location. Eventually, Zaln’s remains will find the skull, and at that time Zaln will attempt to enact the same murderous revenge experienced by Balophaer high atop Mount Al-Armagt, in the Tower Indomitable, all those long, tormented decades ago.

The series of nightmarish events which might culminate in the strangulation or beheading of the staff wielder are to be played out as the Referee sees fit. If the staff wielder is slain, Zaln will make off with the staff, and hide it somewhere away from the light of day, sadly falling into his silent dreaming state once more before he can successfully break the age-old enchantment.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

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