Class Chronicles05/09/2007


Archivists and Dread Necromancers



The 20-level classes presented in books other than the Player's Handbook have become popular choices for players and DMs. Earlier articles in this series discussed how to import the classes from Player's Handbook 2 and the warlock class into the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. This installment focuses on two classes from the Miniatures Handbook -- the Warmage and the Favored Soul. At the end of each entry are alternatives for how to include the ideas written here but without requiring the introduction of these classes into your game.

Archivists

Archivist The origin of archivists in Faerûn is shrouded in mystery. This is for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that these enigmatic spellcasters don't like to share their knowledge. Each group, order, and individual member of this class has a different origin or explanation for how they came into existence. Most are specialized members of religious orders in a manner similar to members of the healer class. They occupy a small niche in certain faiths that focuses entirely on the accumulation of divine knowledge from as many sources as possible. In many cases, clerics become archivists when their minds are awakened by a special vision from their god.

The most expansive group of archivists in the world is a group known as the Benign Order of the Third Eye. This group of divine practitioners in service to Savras is uncommonly secretive for a faith typically associated with honesty and truth. It is quite new, having been founded in 1371 during the Feast of the Moon. On that day, a handful of worshippers in a substantial number of major churches experienced uncharacteristically candid visions. The vision took the form of a calm, breezy vineyard before violent purple lightning became visible in the distance. In place of grapes, the vines were weighed down by millions of tiny, white or purple crystal balls. Savras spoke almost candidly, expressing the need to accumulate knowledge and magic for an upcoming battle with Cyric, the Prince of Lies. Since that vision, the members of the order have traveled around Faerun, accumulating divine knowledge from as many sources as possible. Officially, they are supposed to be respectful of the sacred places, tombs, and sanctified grounds of other religions, but in their religious zeal, they often overstep these boundaries.

The Brotherhood of the Secret Quill is an order of Oghman archivists with members in many temples of significant size in Faerûn. Most members work by day as record keepers, managing bureaucratic affairs such as temple finances, library loans, and similar jobs. While performing these duties, the brothers make extra copies of texts and secrets away the most important lore of the Binder in a hidden safehold. This mammoth, extradimensional library is known as "the Vault of the Bound." It can be opened only by members who have memorized key passages from sacred texts in a certain order. To gain entrance, one must have a keyed item -- usually a quill or token -- and recite the text properly in a specified location in each temple. Members are usually invited after demonstrating proper devotion and respect for knowledge (minimum of 5th level). They are inducted inside the Vault of the Bound, in a ceremony that involves the sharing and receiving of previously unknown knowledge. Inductees must present a thesis on a unique subject, impressing the order with their thoroughness and creativity. Accepted recruits become members. Rejected recruits have their memories altered to erase all knowledge of the order, the vault, and the rest of their ordeal. It is common for members of the Brotherhood to take levels in the loremaster prestige class.

The Order of Ibis is probably the most mysterious archivist order in Faerûn. It is a secret order of Thoth operating out of the University in Gheldaneth in Mulhorand. Thus far, the order has remained completely hidden from the rest of the church and Mulhorand. It was founded when a group of cleric/wizards of the Lord of Magic excavated a forgotten complex buried beneath the university. During the excavation, they accidentally activated an ancient magic rune which transported them to another place. They found themselves in desert oasis dominated by an immense pyramid. The structure was topped with a large, golden ankh. Ibises and baboons were abundant -- sunning themselves, lounging in the trees, and drinking from the cool pool. Despite the beauty of the scene, the oasis seemed neither idyllic nor peaceful. A herd of rushing ibexes came bounding down the steps of the pyramid, nearly trampling them. When they reclaimed their footing, they saw a mammoth humanoid avatar of their deity slowly walking down toward them on the air. The avatar stopped halfway, whereupon it opened its mouth to let out a sound that mortals clearly were not meant to hear. All of the worshippers were knocked unconscious, later awakening on the floor of the excavation bleeding from the eyes, ears, and noses. All had become archivists, merging their wizardly and priestly powers together into a single, more flexible form of spellcasting. None had heard the deity speak but all understood is meaning. They were to ruthlessly monitor and control the import, export, and transmission of knowledge throughout Mulhorand and its trading partners, making sure that Mulhorand's best interests were always kept foremost.

Other groups of archivists exist among most of the knowledge-oriented churches, including those of Mystra, Azuth, and others with the Knowledge, Magic, Rune, and Spell domains. For those wishing to use the ideas presented above but without adding the archivist class into their games, here is an alternative. Characters with levels in wizard and cleric, or in the mystic theurge prestige class, can achieve spellcasting versatility similar to archivists. The visions received by the practitioners can change their outlooks without changing their classes.

Dread Necromancers

Dread NecromancerDread necromancy is not a field of magic that is normally possible for a Faerûnian mortal to learn. In order to take up this dark art, a mortal must be exposed to a dark ritual or aura of death powerful enough to corrupt her soul. In the Year of the Coven (595), a group of four mages specializing in necromancy performed just such a ritual. These wizards were a macabre human aristocrat from Alaghôn in Turmish known as Levanst Karlbach, a beautifully wicked half-elven sorceress called Shedylain Leifenair from the Chondalwood, a renegade drow wizard-assassin known as Prin'Thal Flith'Krysthin from Undraeth, and a mysterious half-orc tribal shaman known as Yubaaren Whitehands from the Orsraun Mountains. Beseeching their dark patrons -- Bhaal, Talona, Kiaransalee, and Yurtrus respectively -- they performed a ritual known as "the deadening." This took place in a network of magically hidden underdark tunnels somewhere between present-day Westgate and Teziir. It is unknown if the deities had to cooperate to make the ritual successful, but after it was completed, the four mages became dread necromancers.

After completing the ritual, the four necromancers began to escape the mortal bonds that had restricted them in life. They opened a small academy known as Darkbrantch in the tunnels, where they passed on the secret of their magic to brilliant young spellcasters. They discovered that subsequent generations did not need to undergo the ritual. As long as they were taught by one who had undergone the ritual or one who had achieved lichdom by reaching the pinnacle of the class, they could study dread necromancy. After some time, all four of the founders reached the pinnacle of their abilities, soon to undergo the transformation to become liches.

The Deadening is a ritual that requires the sacrifice of three virgins who have dedicated their lives to a god of good such as Lathander, Mielikki, or Lurue. The virgins are killed in an elaborate ceremony involving numerous ritual implements and highly complex incantations. In the end, the bodies of the virgins are sprinkled with the blood of a freshly slain unicorn. They are taken to a cemetery dedicated to a god of light and interred, desecrating the burial grounds. Each participant must expend 1,000 XP and loses one hit point permanently.

In the Year of the Kindly Lich (606), Levanst Karlbach had second thoughts about his transformation. During his time teaching at the school, he became disillusioned with the faith of Bhaal and the notion of eternal undeath. He found the religions of the other founders equally loathsome and began to distance himself from the affairs of the school. In Myrtul of 606, he attempted to leave the school, bringing with him the brightest students who were of like mind. Having sensed his doubts, Levanst's colleagues were prepared for what they considered his betrayal. Fearing that he would expose their school or disseminate their secrets, they attempted to destroy him and his followers. In a devastating battle that shook the earth above, the four necromancers threw every spell they knew at each other, inflicting plague, summoning undead, releasing catastrophic necromantic energies, and worse. Realizing that this was a battle that could not be won, Levanst ordered his undead giant centipedes to bring down the tunnels, killing all who remained. Before the school was destroyed, however, a number of supporters from each of the four factions escaped into the world above.

In the centuries that have passed since the destruction of Darkbrantch, the survivors of the school have spread across Faerûn. They have selected pupils to learn the secrets of dread necromancy, happy to retreat into their crypts, graveyards, and mausoleums, contemplating death and lichdom. One recent student, however, has not been content to contemplate and retreat. Ahrdaun Vensestra is obsessed with the legacies of the four founders. He sought out their magical heirlooms and even searched for lost Darkbrantch. Eventually, he found the school and uncovered the secrets within. It is unclear what he plans to do with the knowledge and power accumulated in the long-abandoned tunnels in the Dragon Coast, but it is unlikely to please the Draeven (folk of the Dragon Coast).

Other, similar rituals have been performed, allowing their practitioners to become dread necromancers. It's likely that other methods exist. Worshippers of the gods of death and decay continually work to expand their macabre powers. For those wishing to use the lore without importing the class into their game, here is a simple alternative. Necromancy specialists and sorcerers with a penchant for death magic can easily replace dread necromancers in Darkbrantch or any similar order. The ritual they perform could give them the knowledge necessary to become liches or vampires or to achieve some other dark magic.

About the Author

Eytan Bernstein hails from exotic Long Island and spends his days writing and editing projects for numerous game companies. In addition to his work on Dragons of Faerûn, the Magic Item Compendium, and numerous other projects, Eytan serves as a partner and PR & Marketing Manager for Silven Publishing. Eytan enjoys hunting for gems and minerals in rock quarries, studying religion and theology, composing music, and playing with his many pets. For more information about Eytan, check out www.eytanbernstein.com. Send questions and comments for Eytan here.

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