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Against the Shadow  |  Creatures  |  The Horsha
The Horsha
Izrador is evil but while that is as true as the sun is bright, he is not the source of all that is evil. In the depths of Asmadar an ancient evil has awakened, one that was not yet discovered, one that those in the island are still unprepared for.

Once, they were a proud race, glorious in their wake, now their glory is gone and all that is left is a corruption of their pride. From the depths of Asmadar white creatures, barely humanoid in its appearance, have come, what do they want or why they take those who approach them, is yet to be known.

The truth about the Horsha, as they are called by the inhabitants of the island, is yet to be discovered, but the people of Asmadarin have learned that they are tied to the very ruins of the island, especially those that are underground and that they are a mysterious and powerful lot. Through little study and possibly more rumors and tales than anything else, it is quickly spreading that they were cursed, death was for them denied, they would not die, and their soul would never rest, but yet, they would not live, for their body would not benefit from the warmth of a heart and blood.

Through centuries they have accepted their fate, for centuries they have lied restless in the ruins of their former glory. But with time came madness and as they watched the years pass by and felt nothing but cold hands and cruel fates they turned their own curses into a curse of the very world they dwell in.

They learned of powerful energies that could be wielded, the energy of magic, but their dead and frail bodies were not able to channel that energy with precision and safety, so they needed to channel it through something, it was centuries before they learned that they needed the lost warmth, and to store it, the power of the earth itself would help.

To the surface they came, the sunlight burnt their skins and blinded their eyes, too long they have been away from it, and too deep could it wound them now, so they stalk at night, searching for creatures that still live, that have the warmth they once lost. They take them to their ancient ruins, and through a bloody ritual marked by pain and sorrow to the source, the living creature, they take the beating heart out of it and fuse it inside a gem.

That gem is their source of power and the way to their knowledge, through it they want to rebuild their civilization, for they are now searching for a way to get rid of their curse by channeling the warmth to their own bodies and minds. Whatever the truth may be, they need blood and they want life.

Many among the Asmadarin lorekeepers have recently been abducted, and some wonder if the horsha would not be looking for a specific knowledge that would have escaped their grasp. Perhaps a way to end their curse, for surely such evil beings must be cursed, perhaps by Izrador himself?

Option: Adventure Background

All began three years ago, on a moonless night, as a black sailed ship discreetly disembarked three cloaked figures on a deserted beach of Asmadar. These were actually a band of human Legates of the Order of Fear (Basically, they are an unsanctioned power group of legates who work for their own ends just to promote themselves in the eyes of Izrador). They had come for a special purpose. They knew of the Asmadarin ruins secret.

They knew they were the tombs of the Last Ones, a long-forgotten race of elthedar. These ancient people had disappeared before the Sundering, and there was a good reason no one knew who they were: it was forbidden to make research or investigation on that topic. They quickly faded into history, then legend, then nothing more. All that remained were the tales of the horsha, "the whites", in ancient elthedar language.

Distant cousins of the Darguul, they had banned all worship of the Old Gods, and had become dark clerics of evil deities (including Izrador, though they called him a different name at that time, and he was only a deity amongst others). Unlike the priests of Ibon-Sul, who only summoned demons in order to study them and better destroy them, the Horsha were an order of evil incarnate, who ruled upon the island through the use of treachery, poison and necromancy. Their familiars were devils, and they used black magic every time they could, just to get a firmer grip on their enslaved servants.

Actually, just before the Sundering, their power was threatening all the elthedar kingdoms. Most of them had attained a form of immortality under a special guise, as their skin was translucent and pale, almost glowing in the dark. They would no more grow old, as in truth they were undead.

Then the Sundering came.

At the beginning, it was a titanic battle of light against darkness, reflecting the heavenly battle that took place between the Old Gods and Izrador's host. It lasted for two years, and at the end, when the Dark Veil descended upon the skies, nearly everything on Aryth was destroyed. At this time, the elthedar people were thinking that the Old Gods had punished them for their erratic behavior: all had taken to hiding, except the arrogant Horsha, who knew when the Sundering began, that their evil gods were fighting the Old Gods, and that they would eventually win. So they waited for their reward, as faithful servants. Instead, they were crushed in a rain of meteorites. (Izrador has such a grim sense of humor and does not like opportunistic sycophants).

The Horsha were severely weakened with the coming of the Veil, as their magic was a divine one and they could no more communicate with other evil gods but Izrador. And this last one needed every bit of power in order to recover from his celestial fall. So he cut their power supply and left them to their sorrow. Soon, their former slaves rebelled and tried to destroy them. They were killed, and their bodies buried in their palaces' ruins, which were then blocked with boulders, and guarded with traps and arcane glyphs. Inside their tombs, they came back to life, for such was the power of their enchantments. But they were trapped inside, with eternity to scream their anger.

Thousands of years passed, and the horror of night stories was such that none dared explore their ruins. Those few who tried were killed by the traps. All this would change three years ago.

The Order of Fear somehow happened to know about the horsha, and decided to claim these creatures for their own ends. They explored the ruins and disarmed the traps. They erased the magical glyphs. Then they would free the horsha.

Their plan is simple: in their captivity, the horsha figured a way to restore their former power without having to pray to Izrador (which they are now a bit reluctant to do). They just need to absorb a living human soul, which they stock inside a diamond. The stone is used as a magical battery with which they fuel their spells. Soon, rumors would fly of pale night creatures that would abduct people for unknown purposes, thus sowing terror in the hearts of the Asmadarin.

And this serves the Order of Fear's plans: soon, the population will be begging for help against those creatures. And they will kill a few a the creatures, just to show they have this power. They will tell people that Izrador loves them, and sent his emissaries to help them. All they have to do in return is pray to him in gratefulness. And thus their sub-order will gain more power and influence. Of course, they will keep a few horsha, if only to justify the need for their presence.

In twenty years, they think, the island's population will be on their side. Then they will show them the true face of Izrador.

Technical Notes

Just learning the truth will be the scope of a campaign. The PCs will quickly learn that they alone cannot defeat such powerful and influential foes as the Order of Fear. But they will eventually discover that the continent's legates do not know of this "secret operation". And if they knew, they would strongly disapprove, for two reasons:
  1. Horsha are undead and Sunulael does not want anyone other than himself to be granted the right to experiment on a new from of unlife;
  2. This operation was led without concertation and disrupts Jahzir's plans, as it does not take into account his agenda of operations in the conquest of the southern lands. Jahzir hates when an invasion is made without him being informed of it, and with no coordination with his own troops.
All the PCs need to do is identify the Three, gather evidence against them, and denounce them to the Order of Shadow and/or Jahzir. They will be executed, and the Asmadarin will have a short delay before being invaded.

Playing the Horsha

It would be interesting to provide ways for PCs to actually "talk" with the horsha,, perhaps they are captured and explained the creature's origins and agenda before it steals their soul. This would make them not just another monster, but rather underline the fact that they are sentient clever beings. Maybe have them tell the PCs that they are compelled to steal their souls and that the process won't be painful for them... or that it's really not personal, but they can't do otherwise in order to "feed" on the PC's warmth. It is only even scarier to be confronted by a villain who shows compassion and is sad to commit evil acts...

A horsha "NPC" would really love to talk to a knowledgeable character (maybe one from the Chandrahaal) about his "curse"; the point being to make the horsha ambiguous villains.

Such suggestions aim to make them memorable encounters and not "just another monster to be slain".

Mechanics

Heart of the living [Item Creation]
You are capable of using the living’s and earth essences to store and channel magical energies
Prerequisites: Knowledge of at least one spell, must be one of the Horsha and perform a ritual involving a living humanoid and one gem of high value.
Benefit: Since the casting of their curse the Horsha have been denied two of the greatest gifts a god could bestow, the gift of life, which made time turn the Horsha minds into corrupted and twisted complexes of moral and reason, and the gift of magic.

To cast spells a Horsha must perform a ritual where he bonds his own soul to his denied gifts, this requires the realization of a ritual during a night of full moon or any unique event like an eclipse or planetary alignment. During the ritual the Horsha must sacrifice a living humanoid capable of reasoning and moral choice by drawing the heart of the creature out of its chest and placing it into a pure and perfect gem of value equal to at least 500 gp. The drawing of the heart is a coup de grace on the subject, due to the energies and powers drawn to the ritual the Fortitude save made to resist the coup de grace has its DC increased by 5+1 for every previous attempt made, if the subject fails the save the Horsha draws its heart out of the body while it is still conscious, if it passes the save the Horsha must retry the attempt until the victim fails it. If the victim ever dies due to the damage sustained without failing the save the ritual is lost and the Horsha suffer 4 points of ability damage to all his ability scores, the damage is recovered at the rate of 1 point per day.

After drawing the heart of the subject of the ritual out of its chest the Horsha places it inside the gem by merely touching the gem with the beating heart, after this is done the ritual is complete and the gem, now called heart of the living, can now be used for casting and storing arcane energies.

The heart of the living gem is a vessel of arcane energy, in result, every spell cast upon a Horsha who carries one such gem must overcome a spell resistance equal to 10 + the horsha’s HD or be drawn into the gem, spells that fail grant to the gem a spell point reserve equal to the amount spent by the caster or the modified spell level used to cast it, in case of legates. A single gem can store a number of spell points equal to 5 times the sacrificed creature’s HD and loose points at the rate of 1 point per week until empty, upon creation a gem has half its maximum amount of spell energy, any spell energy in excess to the amo8nt the gem can store is immediately lost without any other effect.

An empty heart of the living gem has forever lost its power and is utterly useless, being unable to be reused for another ritual. The gem still retains its intrinsic value and some people might see them as rare commodities, further increasing its value. In any case, a Horsha can have only one active heart of the living gem at a time, although some are known to carry the wasted gems as trophies to their own dedication to the breaking of the curse.

Another method of granting the gem spell points is the sacrifice of additional living beings that would qualify for the creation process of the gem. This can be performed by using the same procedure described above and grants the gem a number of spell points equal to half the creatures HD.

The spells cast through the gem are those known by the Horsha and it must still qualify for that, that is, the Horsha Wis score must be equal to 10+ the spell level and its HD must be equal to twice the spell level minus one. A Heart of the living gem has hardness equal to 5 +1 for every 100 gp value of the gem and a number of hit points equal to its maximum spell energy capacity, any damage sustained by the gem also lowers the maximum spell energy capacity of it.

Normal: The Horsha, although able to learn spells are unable to cast them due to the lack of spell energy they have.

The Horsha

The Horsha is a race of cursed creatures that date to the times before the Sundering, they are mysterious and unique, their minds were twisted by the many years they have endured their curse. Horshas usually are of the channeler class, although fighters and Rogues are not unheard of, in any case the Horsha’s feats must be either any spellcasting, metamagic or item creation feats, this does not apply to feats that must be drawn from a specific list, although if any of the above mentioned is included in the list it must be taken before any other feat.

The Horsha Racial Traits
  • +4 Wisdom, +2 Intelligence, -2 Strength, -2 Constitution: Horshas are wise and cunning but their curse has turned their bodies into decaying vessels of their own spirits.
  • Medium: As Medium creatures, horshas have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Horsha base land speed is 30 feet.
  • Darkvision: Horshas can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and horshas can function just fine with no light at all.
  • Magecraft feat: a horsha gains the magecraft feat for free at first level, it does not gain any spell energy despite of its ability score.
  • Vulnerability to Sunlight: A horsha takes 1 point of Constitution damage for every hour it is exposed to sunlight, and it dies if its Constitution score reaches 0. Lost Constitution points are recovered at the rate of 1 per every 24-hour period spent underground or otherwise sheltered from the sun.
  • Light sensitivity: horshas suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
  • Lost Spark of Magic: Horshas gain no spell points or ability to cast spell regardless of their class though they still learn spells. They cannot gain spell points or spells per level by any means other than taking the Heart of the living feat and performing the ritual described in it.
  • Lost spark of life: although they are not exactly undead, a horsha is considered so for all spells and effects, this means that a Horsha suffers damage from cure spells and heals damage from inflict spells, in addition, a horsha is unaffected by spells that restore life to the subject and can be turned as an undead, although it cannot be destroyed or rebuked.
  • Death in Life: Immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) and to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects. In addition, a horsha needs not to breathe, eat, or sleep and is immune to fatigue and exhaustion effects. The curse of the horsha has given them some of the undead traits while denying them the spark of life.
  • Turn resistance: a horsha is less easily affected by the turn special ability, as result, when resolving a turn, rebuke or bolster attempt, add half the Horsha HD to determine whether it is affected or not by the attempt, round fractions up. Note that horshas cannot be command or destroyed as a result of the turn undead special ability, regardless of their HD.

- General writing and Mechanics by Nifelhein.
- Playing the Horsha and Adventure Background by smeagol.

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