When I ran my Symbaroum session at the weekend, the players had a chance to learn a little of the history behind the surge of refugees into Ambria and the cause of their woes. The people of Alberetor had lost their land to black magic and lost good people to the necromancy of the enemy. Soldiers who fought on either side and fell would rise once more; focused in their purpose, no longer hampered by concerns of mortality and corruption.
What about wizards, one player asked, do they come back as well?
Sure, of course they do…
Few could say they hadn’t known Old Wendle since birth. He’d delivered whelps into the world for as long as any could remember. He’d comforted them through ailment, illness and weeping wounds, bound their bones and pulled their teeth. In spite of his distant gaze and wandering mind, he’d always had something to say, a keen observation to offer or some sage word of advice for this wise.
That hadn’t stopped them burning him when the blight swept through the fields, killed off the cattle and infected half the village. When the children wailed and the mothers lay cold in their beds, few gave his fate a second thought. Old Wendle worked magic – and the enemy’s magic now threatened the livelihood of all the people of Alberetor. The soiled clothes and weathered books went with him, crackling in the flames as his skin blackened and curled off the flesh.
It didn’t help. The plague killed everyone in the end, leaving behind a gray stain of blighted grass and rotting wood. When a unit of the Queen’s soldiers passed through, they found the corpses of the village laid out in neat lines and rows, their wounds cleaned and dressed, their pus soiled clothing stripped off and set in a pile for burning. The care and attention given to the dead heartened those of the faith, even as a creeping sense of fear needled at the back of their necks.
And when the motion drained from their muscles and a chill settled over their souls, Old Wendle came forth to care for them with the manner of a healer and the precision of a surgeon; they would enter the next world with wounds washed and cares comforted. A little early, perhaps, but well cared for…
Resistance Challenging (150) *
Traits Gravely Cold (III/60), Terrify (I/10) **, Undead (II/20)
Accurate 5 (+5), Cunning 11 (−1), Discreet 13 (−3), Persuasive 9 (+1), Quick 10 (0), Resolute 15 (−5), Strong 7 (+3), Vigilant 10 (0)
Abilities Entangling Vines (adept/20), Larvae Boils (novice/10), Unholy Aura (novice/10), Witchcraft (adept/20)
Weapons Claws 2
Armor Mantle of Decay 2 (flexible); half damage from physical and elemental attacks (p201)
Defense −3 (0 without Mantle)
Toughness 10 Pain Threshold —
Shadow Black streaked and swirled with crimson like old blood and the dull flicker of dying embers (thoroughly corrupt)
Tactics Seared never fight alone. They always hold back while the minions they muster to their cause meet head-on with those who would put an end to their cause. From this position, they exercise the same keen perception and singularity of purpose, identifying the weak and strong so as to command their forces appropriately. They enmesh the quick with gore-slicked vines, drain the mighty of their potential, and batter all opposition with bolts of putrescent shadow.
Seared always fight with a pack of mooks to serve as interference to their attacks – use Dragoul, Gnarls, Cultists or similar. Indeed, Cultists will often congregate around a Seared, feeling that the greater purpose the monstrosity pursues might somehow mesh with their own malign causes.
Appearance Seared manifest as twisted and blackened forms, wizened and broken by flame and torture but distinctly human. They exude a sweet smell of cooked meat and scented herbs; in close proximity, the odor becomes cloying and unpleasant, likely to render the weak of stomach [Resolute] nauseous.
Environs Most often, travelers will stumble across the Seared in their home settlement, still committed to the care and tend for their neighbors. Once within their domain, the Seared consider those very travelers wards that warrant their attention and protection – even though their undeath might set their vision of care at odds with the sane and the living.
Predation and Treasure Matters like food and comfort no longer concern the Seared. Like all undead, they seek sustenance from their living – which tends to mean they create their own waiting list of potential patients for their attention.
Without fail, the Seared will have at least one mystic treasure in their possession and possibly an artifact – and, in either case, they will use those items in combat against any who would seek to end their existence. Aside from mystic items, travelers who defeat one of the Seared will find ordered piles of personal items, weapons, possessions, and money, some of which might still have value – others showing age, decay or otherwise worthless.
* Note on Resistance: Seared have a Resistance slightly higher than the standard Challenging rating – which would equate to 100XP rather than 150XP. Several creatures in the core book and supplements have similar offsets in their Experience because sometimes a creature has to feel right rather than come out balanced to a specific target number!
Given the Seared never fight without some form of mook pack, it would be unsuitable as a toe-to-toe fight until a 6-pack of adventurers has a few successful ventures under their belt!
** Note on Terrify: As the current version of this Trait in the core book identifies the need to possess Spirit Form as a pre-requisite, I could create a new Trait to cover this facet of the Seared. However, it seems far simply to run a little fast and loose, accepting that sometimes non-spirit Undead (or indeed any monsters) might have comparable Traits and Abilities without necessarily needing something brand new created just for them.
Mantle of Decay
A cloak of tattered material, fine as silk and black as soot. The material feels slightly greasy and having touched it [Resolute] an individual will feel the compulsion to scrub themselves raw. Only with complete corruption does wearing of the mantle become ‘comfortable’. When the wearer moves, the artifact shifts and blurs, as if nothing more than some insubstantial shadow. Provides armor as Blessed Robe, with Flexible quality.
Fleeting Shade: While worn, the Mantle makes the wearer shift and shimmer with the insubstantial nature of a shadow. The wearer can choose to base Defense on Discreet for a turn. Any additional armor beneath the mantle has no impeding effect. Action: Reactive; Corruption: 1 ***
Befoul: While bound to the Mantle, the wearer can draw upon insubstantial filaments of decay, imbuing any attack – physical or magical – with the taint of corruption. A victim that suffers at least 1 point of damage from an attack dealt by the wearer also suffers an additional d4 temporary Corruption. Action: Passive; Corruption: 1
Unravel: Each use of the Mantle tugs on the threads of the artifact, threatening destruction. Each use of the artifacts abilities drags and pulls on the fabric – such that a roll of 20 on 1D20 results in the cloak crumbling.
*** Note on Corruption and Unravel: Rather than layer Corruption on the corrupted, I decided that it made more sense for this artifact to simply fall apart if used too often (or at all if the first roll comes up 20!). In principle, you could change the Corruption: 1 values to 1D4 instead and remove the Unravel, but I like the flavor of this option.
Feature image by Dan Harding. Used with permission.