Domain of the Month
To coincide with the Zherisia report netbook launch, the domains of the month are now visiting the wonders of Paridon and the bleakness of Timor!
Second edition: Black Box (Realm of Terror), Red Box (RL Campaign Setting), Domains of Dread, Islands of Terror
Paridon: created in 551; Darklord: Sodo
Vengeance always returns
The "Workers Rights act" was quite simply the end result of a long series of political manipulations by a small group of aristocrats from three different families, utterly opposed to the power more and more merchants seemed to posses. The more politically minded members of several guilds all managed to foresee these manipulations, and attempted to counter them, but to no avail.
Just after the act was passed, Lucian Blackburn, a prominent member of the bookbinder's guild, went bankrupt, as he was deprived of the fee paid to him due to his membership. The man screamed in the middle of the street when he heard of the passing of the act. In revenge, he embraced the occult, devouring any scraps of lore he could find in Paridon, and then going of a decade long sabbatical.
When he returned, you could barely have recognized him. The man was exhausted beyond his years. He should have been 50 at the time but looked like he was 70, and on the brink of death. In fact, he died before the year was out.
On, his deathbed, he handed his nephew, Joseph Blackburn, a book obviously arcane in origin. With his last breath, he commanded his son to vengeance against those who ruined him.
After the man died, Joseph read through the strange book. Although he knew nothing of the arcane, even he could recognize that the book was evil. Unlike his uncle he had no desire for vengeance against anyone. He auctioned it along with the rest of his uncle's effects. It was bought by another merchant, who looked upon it as a curiosity. He then sold it to a traveler, when he went bankrupt. A few days later the traveller died. The chain continued in that manner ever since. Interestingly, it has never left Paridon.
As Joseph guessed, the book was a powerful item of arcana old Blackburn discovered on his travels. It was already imbued with an evil sentience that the bookbinder, turned magician was unable to identify. However, he managed to gain some degree of control over it, by binding a large part of his own soul to it. It merely waits for someone to activate the trigger. If it is triggered, it will grant the triggering party an incredible array of magical powers (However, see Librum), in return for the wielder accepting a Geas to utterly destroy the families who participated in the "Workers Rights" conspiracy (The book has Blackburn's memories, and can name them), remove them of their wealth, and then slaughtering the families to the last. Every man, woman and child…
The book's prospective owner must be consumed by a desire for vengeance.
The cover of this book is a simple black, with gold leaf embossing. The sole word on the cover is Librium, written in more gold leaf. The book feels surprisingly smooth to the touch in spite of the binding of the book appearing just a little larger then the norm. It is bound expertly with some black silky substance which defies your powers of identification. As you open it, you can see that the pages are made not from paper, nor parchment, but from very thin sheets of pure silver. The text and corresponding diagrams have been engraved with such precision, as to tell you that it was done by a skilled man, who spent many days on his work. Strangely, wherever the carvings are, there appears to be some slight tarnish, as if some liquid… but perhaps it is but a trick of the light.
The Librium is a very old item. It is quite probable that it predates the realm of Paridon, in which it now is located. The new binding is a legacy of its first known owner, Lucian Blackburn. It can currently be found in Folios and Compilations; a middle class bookshop located in Shadewell. The entity bound within as a pathetic amalgamation of Blackburn and its old persona. Blackburn is almost always dominant, but still has to battle for this. He is a wreck, and would not be recognizable by any who once knew him. The one thought that still gives him focus is his desire for revenge on three aristocratic families he holds responsible for his downfall. In the tradition of such pathetic, but wrathful people, he blames anyone but himself.
When someone with a strong desire for vengeance stands within 50 ft of this book, he will feel instinctively drawn to it and attempt to acquire it. When he has done so, the spirit of Lucian Blackburn offers a deal. In return for a geas to ruin the three noble families which contributed to his ruin (See, Vengeance always returns) they will learn all the secrets of arcana Blackburn knows. (He relates them telepathically but uses the book as a guide.) The Invoker immediately gains 5 levels of wizard.(If a PC invokes the book, grand just a single level) He has also just committed an act of ultimate darkness, with the result being the first stage of transpossesion with an Ultraloth (See MMIII, page 204) When he finishes preparing for his geas, he fails the second. Each time he carries out Blackburn's vengeance upon a family, they fail one of the remaining checks. As soon as he has failed the second, he gains all the spell like abilities of an Ultraloth(But no other abilities.) If the invoker is ever confronted with what he has done, or ends up in physical combat he immediately advances an additional stage, and will attempt to escape the situation.
The effect of the Librium is slightly different from standard transpossesion, It creates no physical effects until the 4th failure. The invoker's body has been transformed, (not replaced) into an ultraloth's form and is possessed, not by the spirit of an Ultraloth, but by Blackburn.
If the Invoker does carry out their grim task, Blackburn will be utterly taken by surprise. He had thought that the ruin of those families would lay him to rest. It will not take him long to decide that he must remove all of the nobility from its perch. Although he will not admit it, even to himself, that was the man's goal all along, in his heart of hearts. He is the personification of what the conspirators feared. If the deranged bookbinder somehow succeeds in his goal, the entire domain will be thrown into Chaos (But it will grant Blackburn his rest, albeit the kind you find in hell)
Here's some stats on the fungus referred to as Anisophilae in the Zherisia report.
This fungus requires specific, moist conditions in order to grow. It naturally grows in the soil that lies underneath the Southshore District, where the sea continuously wets the earth. Anisophilae does not naturally grow anywhere else, and requires a herbalist check of DC 35, as well as 250gp worth of supplies, in order to create the proper conditions for it's germination. Even so, on a successful attempt there is still a 50% chance of failure. Anisophilae comes in the form of pewter bulbs about the size of a fist. Each plant grows 2d4 of these bulbs, with each bulb only taking one day to fully mature once sprouted. The remainder of it's body is a small taproot that embeds the fungus into the ground. Finding this taproot without destroying it requires a profession herbalist check DC20. After doing this, the taproot can survive in air for one hour. Anisophilae grows independently of gravity so it's commonly found on ceilings and walls. Anisophilae fungi are all genetic clones of each other, and only take four days to triple their numbers (provided the proper conditions for their growth are met). Anisophilae use their spores to multiply in areas of moisture and nutrition: an aspect that has allowed the Timor Remnants to use Anisophilae as a weapon against Marikiths.
Touching an Anisophilae bulb, even lightly, causes it to burst. When it bursts, its spores are shot out at a radius of 10ft in all directions. These spores make their way through even the smallest of cracks. Upon contact with a Marikith, these spores instantly diffuse into it, and begin to germinate within it's cranium. Unlike in soil, Anisophilae takes only 1d4 minutes to mature within a Marikith body. Once matured, the Marikith must make a primary fortitude save of DC 25, or immediately die from its head bursting, releasing another 10ft radius of spores to infect any Marikiths in the area. It then must make a secondary fortitude save of the same DC one minute afterwords, or take 3d6 intelligence damage. In this case if the Marikith reaches an intelligence of zero, it dies in the same manor as the first save. Marikiths cannot avoid being hit by Anisophilae when a bulb bursts once they are in its range. The Marikith Queen is immune to the effects of Anisophilae.
Otherwise, Anisophilae spores are completely harmless to all other species. Bulbs that are grown in soil burst every two days, immediately budding another bulb. It is impossible to remove an Anisophilae bulb without bursting it. Anisophilae spores are too small to see, and have a life span of 1d6 hours, after which the plant either begins to grow or dies. If a Marikith comes within 5ft of a grounded Anisophilae spore, the spore automatically shoots towards the Marikith.
As per Llana's request, here's my submission on the Outreach of the Divinity of Mankind. It was cut due to space considerations and overall relevance (it's not directly related to Paridon, so didn't really fit; I expected it to be cut before I'd even finished writing it, which was fine because, by the time I'd finished it, I decided a one-page entry wasn't sufficient for where I wanted to go anyway).
Outreach of the Divinity of Mankind
Only recently has the Divinity of Mankind expanded beyond Paridon's borders. While outreach attempts are recorded as far back as the days of the Barovian cluster, their frosty reception dissuaded the Celebrants from future attempts. However, with the loss of the Zherisian countryside, many Paridonites have emigrated across the Northern and Western Core, and the faith has spread.
Darkon was first exposed to the Celebration in the early 590s. Panicked by the recent loss of their southern neighbor, Arak, racial tensions ran high as anarchy loomed. Seized upon by Darkonese humans as justification for prejudicial violence, the Divinity of Mankind's name was tainted before their message was ever heard. Present relations are still colored by those events, and as yet the faith has made no foothold.
Buffered by Barovia from Arak's demise, the Mordentish calmly listened to the Celebrants' message. The mention of alchemy, while well received by the Blackburn-Bruces, sat poorly with the commoners. The idea of reincarnation was also poorly received, as it required invalidation of centuries of ghost stories. Simply uninterested in the Celebrants' faith, their rejection was firm but polite. While accepted in Mordent, the faith has made no inroads, even in the present.
Lamordians first encountered the faith in the late 740s. Having long valued Zherisian goods, Lamordians welcomed the immigrants, but not their faith. Talk of spiritual realities seemed too fanciful for the educated man. The destruction of Il Aluk, however, made talk of spiritual realms much less theoretical; as such the Celebrants' scientific analysis of things spiritual has won them acceptance that the Church of Ezra will likely never see. Conversion to the faith is slow, but the next generation may see the first organized lay Celebrations in Lamordia.
In contrast, the faith is losing ground in Dementlieu. Familiar with the class structure of Paridon, the rich accepted the Celebration, initially seeing no threat. The poor, however, knew nothing of Paridon and removed the Celebration from its cultural context. As Celebrant teachings focus on the perfection of the human form, which both poor and rich alike share, Celebrant Tomas Douleur was inspired to pen On Human Rights. Fearing that the notion of "human rights" might foment dissent, the Council of Brilliance banned public Celebrations in 756. While this has made the faith even more popular among the underground, it is uncertain whether Celebrations will ever gain public acceptance again.
The true success of the Celebrants' outreach has been in Richemulot. With Richemulot's ready acceptance of immigrants and focus on improvement of the self, the majority of Paridonite emigrants unsurprisingly settled there. Lay Celebrations spread quickly as the Richemuloise found a philosophy well-suited their culture. In 749, the Mortigny Celebration met the alchemical tradition there and together founded the first Lodge outside of Paridon. Member Remy Dufour traveled to the Temple of the Divine Form and, after five years of debate, became the first foreign Clerical Celebrant. In 757, Remy led Mortigny in the first Clerical Celebration outside of Paridon. Currently the clergy grows slowly, as ordination requires traveling to Paridon to study at the Temple. But as the monks debate Brother Remy's proposed Temple of the Higher Self in Mortigny, the future of the Divinity of Mankind's outreach becomes far more interesting than its history.
Things I plan to add in a future expansion:
When writing up the section on the Flora and Fauna, I also whipped up a bit specifically on the type of monsters one finds in Paridon. Unfortunately, it didn't really fit with the section I tied it to, and was taken out due to space issues.
Monsters in Paridon
And finally, we address the horrors one will find inside the Zherisian Capital. Paridon is not a place one can find wild monsters such as Lycanthropes or Shadow Fey roaming about. Undead (with the exception of Vampires) are even more uncommon. Creatures of more restraint suit the realm much better. If a something is to survive in this city, it must be able to hide itself. Humanoid creatures such as Vampyrs and Dopplegangers live among us, and do a very good job at fitting in. Monster Hunters that go looking for their prey in the same fashion that one might in more feral realms such as Barovia or Darkon will find themselves in a fruitless chase, perhaps even one day being dealt with by a common 'accident'. Hunting creatures in Paridon takes wit, cunning, and skills of detection. No target in the right mind is going to reveal itself in such a dense population. And even after the chase, one must be able to prove that your target was indeed a vile creature of the night, lest the Paridon Police arrest you for murder. One could argue that Paridon is not so much a realm for 'Monster Hunters' as it is a realm for sleuths and detectives.
Another type of creature (far less popular, however perhaps to more variety) that is found in this city are those that man creates: constructs. In result of the privacy, resources, and arrogance of numerous land holders in the Shadewell District, Golems are at times accidently (or sometimes not quite so accidently) created. These machinations are despised by Zherisians, particularly those in Blackchapel who see them as 'replacements of humanity'. Golems have a harder time being discrete, and usually when one finds them one will have the help of the angry masses to bring them down. The only place a Golem could possibly hide is by pretending to be the property of a rich gentlemen, and even in that case it is still subject to the raids of the Zherisian Brothers of the Land.
Jester of the FoS
After spending so much time with it I'm fond of Timor so want to offer a few ideas.
Rotipher of the FoS
Here's the Dread Possibility for Shuttleby's that never made it in, due to space and my not knowing that Timor's corruption-effect was now keyed to intimidation and causing fear:
Dread Possibility: Vaults of Creeping Terror
Staffed by a team of crack security-guards and warded against theft by every mechanism known to Zherisian engineering, alchemy or magic, the subterranean storage-vaults of Shuttleby's auction-house are as unbreachable as well-paid, expert consultants could make them. This is no mere stage-set for a dungeon-crawl: the vaults' defenses are built to take everything adventurers or monsters can throw at them.
Unfortunately, these protective measures were designed to keep external threats out, not to curtail a menace created within. Shuttleby's underground vault-complex is carved into solid rock, with no visible access to either the sewers or Timor. But the deepest of its chambers - used to store the most valuable, arcane, or controversial items on docket - lies exactly on the Paridon/Timor boundary: it remains accessible from the surface even during a border-closure, yet a person inside "Omega Bloc" is potentially susceptible to the vile, transforming impact of Timor's malignant 'web of evil'.
That the web's corrupting effect hasn't already changed any Shuttleby's personnel into marikith is a tribute to how rigorously the auction-house's management screens its new employees: to date, none of the staff have committed Powers-check-worthy offenses in Omega Bloc. Unfortunately, one of the six clerks working for the auction-house, Trevor Norris, recently betrayed his firm's confidences, revealing the names of several anonymous bidders to a bribe-waving client. Norris's duties don't require him to visit the lowest storage-chamber for long enough at a stretch to transform entirely; however, his own gloating thoughts as he crosses the vault's threshold are allowing the Hive Queen's influence to gradually worm its way into his psyche. Neither Norris nor the marikith darklord are conscious of the other, but the clerk feels increasingly driven to verbally provoke the vault's guards, tempt his co-workers to filch from the company, or otherwise manipulate fellow employees into betraying Shuttleby's trust or turning on one another. It's only a matter of time before this compulsive meddling causes the vaults' overseers to transform into monstrous predators in the Hive Queen's service.
For now, Trevor Norris virtually lives in the vaults, having developed a marikith's fear of sunlight and discomfort under the open sky. His co-workers are increasingly spooked by his demeanor, yet suspect no supernatural hand in the man's progressive slide into erratic and disruptive behavior. Frankly, they think he's losing his marbles, and are half-inclined to turn on him rather than each other (which will suffice to turn them into monsters, just as well). One way or the other, if Norris isn't stopped soon, he'll succeed in adding his co-workers to the ranks of the marikith, thus giving the Hive Queen an unsuspected, nigh-impenetrable stronghold in the heart of Paridon … and perhaps, an arsenal of whatever magic items happen to be held in Shuttleby's vaults at the time, too!
I've only recently got access to the files on my old PC; this is en entry that wasn't able to be included in the Survey. It was submitted by doctor_evil.
Will-O'-Wisp, Dead, Will-O'-Sea
"The installation of brightly coloured buoys along the channel considerably reduced the number of vessels claimed each year by the Maiden's Rock. And the addition to the buoys of lamps, effective in all but the thickest mist, spared many more lives. But our good work has come to naught in the last year. Ships, in all but the clearest weather, are again frequently impaling themselves upon that foul black spear. Worse, not so much as a single man has escaped the wrecks and reached the docks alive. When we find the bloated corpses terror is invariably etched upon their faces. And we know to row out in search of bodies the day after hearing thunder in the fog." -Milton
Hargrove, Assistant Harbour Master of Paridon
Conversation overheard at Paridon Police Headquarters
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