Sunday, August 30, 2015

What The Star Whispered

Athor Appears In A Vision
Athor, The Star That Speaks

Whereas most stars capable of communication seem ambivalent or casually destructive toward humanity, there exists a small (and yet, numberless) set of malicious stars that seem very, very interested in destroying humanity, your planet, and everything on it.

You can't really talk to stars with low-level spells, but they can talk to you. One of the most outspoken stars is named Athor.

Athor despises the writhing organics that infest the surface of your planet, and of any planet. It finds life to be a dignity-destroying debasement of the universe's natural chaos and beauty, and a departure from the sacred plan devised by the Creator. To Athor, the creation of life was an accident, and also the original sin. Fortunately, the sin can be expiated. Just get rid of all these crude carbon-based patterns that are infesting everything.

The Debased Adherents

It takes a special kind of crazy to even hear a star like Athor. It can only communicate effectively on moonless, cloudless nights, when there isn't much wind, and the sky seems so huge and empty that you could fall up into it. So you have some hapless crazy guy out in the middle of nowhere who notices that a star is whispering to him about how life is a terrible mistake and should be destroyed. If the guy seems into it, the star will start teaching him spells.

To be honest, a lot of the guys Athor gets to work for him aren't the cream of the crop. He has no idea if any of his plans are going to work, but empowering the kind of people willing to listen to obviously malicious dots of light in the sky is probably not going to help life on this planet thrive. So what the hell, Athor will give it a shot.

Their Abhorrent Inspirations

The cultists don't just want to end organic life. They want to eliminate the possibility of life. Some goals:
  • A cultist might devise and enact convoluted rituals to redirect meteor swarms toward your players' game world. Thus far, humans haven't achieved the mastery of spellcraft necessary to provoke an extinction-level event. The snake-men that used to live on this planet were much better at magic, and Athor regrets not getting them to do something a little more permanent. He thought the meteor would finish the job, but marsupial worms evolved into people and he's back in the same boat.
  • Maybe there's some deity that is in charge of ensuring the survival of the planet. Athor's cultists will spend a lot of time trying to sabotage their temples and kill their priests. Athor doesn't pay attention to anthropomorphic deities or their creation myths. He's been around a long time. The snake-men had snake-man deities, too, and look where that got them. Still, killing priests of the Sun God has proven a satisfactory diversion for Athor.
  • Athor tries to explain quantum entanglement to his cultists, but they only kind of get it. They build little reactor-shrines to try and simultaneously reverse the spin of every atom on the planet. So far, no luck. One has figured out how to entangle some of the atoms of an iron bell with the skeletal system of a sun priest, though. The cultist has some of his acolytes wailing on the bell on the regular. Bones break, blood gets everywhere, and the poor guy has no idea what's wrong and or why clerical magic can't seem to help.
  • Some of Athor's cultists are preoccupied with the idea of triggering a grey goo scenario. They set up weird laboratories full of things like black puddings and other, weirder oozes. The goal is to get them to absorb inorganic matter and reproduce so quickly that nobody can stop them from destroying the planet. So far, they've figured out how to induce fission and have at least one black pudding with volume equal to an olympic swimming pool. Athor hates oozes as much as any form of life, though, so this would only be a marginal improvement.
Donning Star-Flesh

The star has a lot of trouble imparting power to it's followers. They can't channel much magical energy at all! Anything more than a droplet of cosmic power causes immediate immolation. Which is fine, but Athor would prefer it if they could immolate some other stuff, first.

Here are some ways that Athor modifies his followers:

  • Their fire or electricity spells are changed to plasma. Whenever a creature suffers plasma damage, it is considered either fire or electricity, whichever would inflict more damage.
  • Heart Of Star-Stuff: When this cultist dies, they burst into a wash of plasma that scorches anything within 2 spaces. Creatures within that area suffer 5d6 plasma damage, Reflex half.
  • Athor's Eye: Instead of a face, this cultist has a hole full of plasma. It suffices perfectly well for most normal face functions, like seeing or eating (the cultist just shoves stuff into the crackling field of energy). It also allows them to fire a blast of otherworldly energy like that guy in the Hot Chip music video. They can use it on a target within close range, who suffers 4d6 plasma damage, Fort half. On a failed save, they are blind for the rest of the day.
  • Twinkling Body: Strange patches of twinkling black matter cover wide swath of the cultist's body. They have +20 to their maximum hit points and suffer half damage from ranged or AOE attacks, portions of which are absorbed harmlessly into the weird star-tumors.
Hey Johnny Adventure, how you even gonna
 try messing with the yellowcake-priests?
The Cult Notorious

There are several groups of cultists that warrant interest:

The Yellowcake-Priests of the Vapid Desert dwell in a hovering, inverted pyramid and are probably the most scientifically advanced organization on the planet. They mine preternatural coal (uranium-infused dinosaur bones) and refine them in undead-powered centrifuges over hundreds of years. They are building a time rattleback that they are confident will cause an entire geographical region to reverse its direction of travel in time, instead heading backwards. Their experiments are so successful that they are starting to attract negative attention from beings charged with maintaining reality in good working order.

Meschiane is a wandering prophet. His schtick is pretending to be priests of other deities (Athor keeps those deities from noticing), publicly foretelling the end of the world, and then committing vile crimes. His face changes every 7 days, uncontrollably.

The Esdras Cabal is chiefly concerned with processes that reduce the stability of the fabric of reality and space. They've gotten reasonably good at allowing dreams to superimpose themselves over reality, Lathe Of Heaven style. The city they live in is becoming more horrible and otherworldly, each night. Every member of this cabal can cast dimension door at will, which makes them a total pain in the ass to catch or fight.

The Ekiq Brethren are building a "gravity engine" that will either pull the moon down into the planet or else push it off into space. They aren't having much luck even with Athor's help.

What The Star Whispered: Spells From On High

Cosmometry (1st)
You briefly perceive the relative speed, mass, and positioning of every object in your solar system. If this does not drive you insane (unlikely) and you can retain any of the information (still less likely) it is a pretty good way to find esoteric spell components.

Energon Walk (1st)
You transform into a being of pure energy (appearing as a silhouette of St. Elmo's fire) and haunt a location (a town, a dungeon, et ceteras) every night for 3d20 days. When done, you have a reasonably complete map of the place. You are completely invulnerable and tamper-proof to anything less than 7th level spells during this spell's effects. People just have to deal with one or more weird energy ghosts wandering around their hallways for a few weeks.

His Malevolent Breath (2nd)
You exhale a blast of strange energy in your immediate vicinity. Nameless NPCs within close range (or just those with 3 hit dice or less) have their bone marrow cells killed, becoming "walking ghosts" and eventually dying. Creatures with more hit dice just suffer 1d6 poison damage, no save.

Pluck From Orbit  (4th)
This spell is exactly like minute meteors except that the range is 1 mile and it can only be cast under the open sky. If your players learn this, please convey my sincere hope they enjoy its use.

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