Perilous Gateways
Dwarven Portals
By Robert Wiese

The Spirit Portal

Some use portals for good, and some for evil ends. One necromancer in particular, a human named Flemish Bloggid, has been experimenting with different kinds of portals to affect and empower the undead as they passed through. His first experiment, the Spirit Portal, is perhaps his most heinous.

Flemish desired a portal that would create undead beings out of those who passed through, and to some extent he succeeded in this aim. He created, at great effort, a portal that transports a creature's body (and any gear) to one location, and their soul (or spirit) to a different location. The result is that someone passing through the portal is separated from their body and cast into the portal's destination without any way of finding or returning to their body. The bodies are all transported to a location in the Whalebones, while the spirits are sent to a cavern deep in the earth. The cavern has one entrance, but the whole cavern and the entrance are lined with wall of force spells made permanent, and thus the spirits are trapped in the cavern. Flemish planned to turn the disembodied spirits from mere spirits into real undead at his leisure.

Creating a Disembodied Spirit

"Disembodied spirit" is an acquired template that can be added to any aberration, animal, dragon, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, or plant. The creature (referred to hereafter as the base creature) must have a Charisma score of at least 6. A disembodied spirit uses all the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

Size and Type: It gains the incorporeal subtype. Do not recalculate the creature's base attack bonus, saves, or skill points. Size is unchanged.

Hit Dice: The creature's hit points are equal to the victim's hit points at the time the separation occurred.

Speed: Disembodied spirits have a fly speed equal to the victim's base land speed, unless the base creature has a higher fly speed, with perfect maneuverability.

Armor Class: Its natural armor bonus is +0, though it gains a deflection bonus equal to its Charisma modifier or +1, whichever is higher.

Attack: A disembodied spirit has no attacks and can make only a single move action each turn.

Rejuvenation (Su): In most cases, it's difficult to destroy a disembodied spirit through simple combat: The "destroyed" disembodied spirit will often restore itself in 2d4 days. Even the most powerful spells are usually only temporary solutions. A disembodied spirit that would otherwise be destroyed returns to its old haunts with a successful level check (1d20 + disembodied spirit's HD) against DC 16. As a rule, the only way to get rid of a disembodied spirit for sure is to determine the reason for its existence and set right whatever prevents it from resting in peace. The exact means varies with each spirit and may require a good deal of research. Also, a resurrection or true resurrection spell would restore a disembodied spirit to life -- provided all the conditions of the spells are met.

Abilities: Same as the base creature, except that the ghost has no Strength and Constitution score.

Skills: Same as the base creature, except it cannot speak. It still has a mind, and creatures with telepathy can communicate with it.

Environment: Any, often as base creature.

Organization: Solitary, gang (2-4), or mob (7-12).

Challenge Rating: 0.

Treasure: None.

Alignment: Any.

Level Adjustment: Same as the base creature.

This monstrosity was foisted on a group of unsuspecting dwarves. [The exact location of this dwarven enclave, and the portal, is left to you to best fit your campaign, though the map depicts the North as a default.] This clan of dwarves had been separated from the main clans during the humanoid wars on the dwarves way back, and they had developed in relative isolation. Though shield dwarves, they had diverged a little from the typical shield dwarf (same game mechanics apply, though), especially in their belief systems. Flemish saw them as the perfect "testers" for his first Spirit Portal. He arranged for their cleric to be killed and then replaced with a shapechanger so that the dwarves did not suspect anything. Over the next several years, while Flemish was perfecting the portal, the false priest changed what the dwarves believed about where their spirits go after they die. He still led them to believe that they went to Moradin, but the way to Moradin was through a special arch that they must construct. He persuaded the dwarves to create the arch for the Spirit Portal without knowing they were doing so. Then, after Flemish created the portal, he and Flemish faked a magic ritual complete with visual effects to "sanctify" the portal and cause it to activate and reach toward the plane where Moradin waited for the spirits of the dwarves.

As dwarves neared death, the fake priest persuaded them that just before death they must pass through the portal, because they must meet Moradin on their own feet. By these lies, he persuaded the older dwarves to pass through the portal and be separated from their spirits while still alive. Thus, over the last couple of hundred years, a dwarf body has appeared on the beaches of the Whalebones from time, and a dwarven spirit has been added to the cavern population. Some sea or island creature generally eats the body and scatters the bones and any possessions across the landscape. Scavengers come and collect the discarded possessions.

Flemish had one problem with his scheme. He never perfected how to turn the spirits into real undead. Thus, he has created a cavern of dwarven spirits that never die and never go to Moradin. He stopped visiting the cavern years ago, and then, after achieving lichdom, lost interest in the first Spirit Portal. In later attempts he created portals that cast create undead on their users, but these were of limited success as well. He found that he needed to be at the portal destination to take control of the new undead, and since the portals were used at random intervals, he usually missed the timing. He never thought of creating portals that were keyed to activate only at certain times, but that is because such a portal would not be an undead-creating trap such as he wanted.

The clan of dwarves still sends their nearly dead to the portal, which is located some distance from the main community. Worship of Moradin is still held at the archway that supposedly leads to his home. The fake priest left long ago, but he trained his acolytes in these beliefs so that they would be perpetuated. When Flemish remembers the horror that he has inflicted on the unknowing dwarves, he laughs.

How to Incorporate the Spirit Portal Into Your Campaign:

  • A dwarven body appears on the Whalebones while the PCs are there, either shipwrecked or exploring. The bodies are not dead when they arrive, but die quickly. All attempts to revive or save the dwarf fail. The PCs find a message on him to be read to Moradin -- a poem or song. A second body arrives some time later. The PCs find a clue to the homeland of these bodies and travel there to return them for burial (or whatever). There, they learn of the belief system the dwarves hold and have to convince them that the beliefs are false.

  • The PCs are exploring in the Underdark and come across a cave blocked by a wall of force. Inside, they find the ghosts of at least 100 dwarves. The PCs must enter the cave somehow to find out from the dwarves what they are doing there. The dwarves say that they were vilely tricked and separated from their bodies, and that they need the PCs' help to end their current existence. You can allow the PCs to accomplish this in one of several ways. Perhaps the PCs need only lead the spirit to within 30 feet of any part of its body. You could also choose to allow the PCs to bring the spirit to the Fugue Plane or to the realm of their patron deity. If using the first method, the dwarves don't know where their remains are, so the PCs must find out about the portal and its destination.

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