Thursday, September 20, 2012

H is for the Heresiarchy of the Twelve

Bartolommeo, the Many-angled
Magic in DARK•HERITAGE, as I've said many times before, is quite unlike magic in D&D.  It is very dangerous, for one thing, and it is much more rare.  Those who practice it are not kindly or wise wizards and scholars; they are heretics, insane, power-mad, psychotic, and if they survive long, they become inhuman.  Because they are also extremely jealous of their power and knowledge, they are also brutal, cunning, untrustworthy, and paranoid.  In fact, being psychotic and paranoid, as well as a genius of sorts, seems to be a prerequisite to becoming one of the real movers and shakers among the magi.  When you're that powerful (and that psychotic) it's pretty much a given that everyone who thinks that they can manage it will be gunning for you; either to remove you as a potential threat, or to take your power for themselves.  Or both.  Forget about Gandalf and Merlin, and think more of the Ten Who Were Taken.

Luckily for everyone else, that same sense of paranoia means that the most powerful students of the magic arts tend to keep a low profile.  That hasn't always been true, and in the past, powerful magi ruled great empires, and pitted them against each other to the ruination of all concerned.  Powerful evidence that the "Cold War" status that exists between major power brokers is the smartest approach after all.

Despite this mutual antipathy, the sorcerers of the world do know each other, or at least know of each other, and occasionally interact in a nominally non-hostile fashion with each other.  They even informally belong to a group, called the Heresiarchy of the Twelve, a somewhat pretentious name, probably not of their own fashioning.  This group is merely a convenience, given to indicate informal membership in a very exclusive club; those who have enough magical power to fear few if any mundane threats.  And because one of the first thing a sorcerer of sufficient power to be considered a member of the Heresiarchy does is prolong his or her life, and find ways to cling to it unnaturally following massive injury, turnover of the members of the group is not frequent.  The current detente and status quo has been in place in the Land of the Three Empires for over fifty years without any appreciable change.  Membership in this group hardly means that they are issued a card, have a clubhouse, and get together for board meetings, though--it's more an aknowledgement that they are operating on a different plane in terms of power and amorality than everyone else.

Few of these names are known to the common people, or even sages.  Fewer still of them are actually the names of these individuals, rather than nom de plumes chosen for convenience.  Some of them take modern names in various languages (including Terrasan) to appear less conspicuous, while others take names in the language of daemons, or even names made up wholly without any basis in any known language.  Only the most vile of scholars are familiar with the blasphemous works and studies that these incredibly powerful sorcerers have wrought, or otherwise are familiar with them in any fashion.  But some of them do in fact rule secretly, or at least are major movers and shakers in both magical as well as political fields.  The interests and desires of the Twelve are esoteric, varied, and inscrutable at the best of times.

Siggeir Sherihum the Sangremancer
The following are considered to be members of the Heresiarchy.  By tradition, they are often better known by their self-styled titles than by their names.  I've given their names, their self-styled titles, the prestige class or concept around which I based the idea of the character, the book in which I read that prestige class or concept, and a brief description of the character.  What?  Prestige class? you may ask.  Yes, indeed.  There are a lot of great concepts in D&D for powerful magic-users after all, many of them evil and unnatural to the core.  Of course, there really aren't any prestige classes in an E6 game, especially one that even further reduces magic by almost completely eliminating spell-casting classes except under the most generous of circumstances.  Simulationists may balk at the notion that my NPCs don't follow the same rules as the PCs have to (although I see no reason why they should need to myself.)  However, these characters can be created under the rules (whichever set you use) if you try hard enough. 

For an E6 game where spellcasting comes mostly through the use magic device skill plus incantations, I imagine that all of these powerful sorcerers do, in fact, know and use a bunch of incantations.  They have also used many to permanently alter themselves into something transhuman.  Consider them 6th level E6 classes that have had access to dozens, maybe even hundreds of additional feats added over the years.  Consider them having used the equivalent of permanency to give themselves fast healing, regeneration, every one of the ability augmentations, mage armor, natural armor, stone skin, etc.  Consider them having created phylacteries or horcruxes or something similar.  Some of these incantations don't yet exist in the sourcebooks (which are notoriously light on published incantations, actually) but the rules for creating them already exist, so knock yourself out if you really wish to stat these guys up.  Personally... I don't care to.  It's enough for me to have given a little bit of thought to how they became as they are, and that's it.

  • Bartolommeo the Many-angled -- Alienist (Tome and Blood, and Complete Arcane).  Bartolommeo is a disturbingly post-human creature, made up as much of hissing, whirring metallic parts as flesh and blood.  He appears vaguely as a Gigeresque grafting of an ancient, withered man bolted to a golem-like frame.  Bartolommeo is completely insane, but luckily spends most of his time in a torpor-like slumber.
  • Esmeraude, She Who Ushers In the Apocalypse -- Elemental Savant (fire) (Tome and Blood).  Esmeraude, despite her Terrasan name, appears to be from al-Qazmir.  She claims, even, to frequently visit the mythical City of Brass, from which the jann claim their inhuman heritage comes.  Whether this is true or not, she clearly is obsessed with fire, and has an unnatural control over it.  There is still a city, located in the Golden Triangle, that is nothing more than blackened ruins and molten stone, supposedly the target of her ire many years ago.  Esmeraude is a girlish, exotic beauty in appearance, but fickle and short-tempered.
  • Sébastien, He of the Beast Aspect -- Acolyte of the Skin (Tome and Blood, and Complete Arcane.)  A oily-skinned, slippery post-human demon, Sébastien is a predator, who loves eating his victims, and in doing so, retains his immortality. 
  • Kefte Taraan, Mistress of Forgotten Secrets -- Pale Master (Tome and Blood and Liber Mortis). A beautiful young woman, at least to appearances, this vile necromancer has an unnatural affinity for--and some say, perverse attraction to--the dead.  Her association with the long dead and restless spirits has, however, granted her access to a wealth of knowledge that her collegues can only dream about.
  • Kadashman, He Who Peers Into the Void -- Alienist (Tome and Blood and Complete Arcane).  Much more contemplative and outward looking than Bartolommeo, Kadashman rarely acts in this world.  His efforts and energy are spent peering into the Spaces Between, and he claims to frequently travel the Realms Beyond.  Accompanied by a variety of mind-blasting servitors, Kadashman is the most disquieting and bizarre of the major sorcerers.
  • Djemaa Mennefer, the Gnomic -- Fate Spinner (Tome and Blood, Complete Arcane.) A cautious sorceress who spends her time plotting massive webs of conspiracy that stretch for centuries.  Her apparent lack of overt action has caused many to underestimate her power.  She is the most driven by fear; fear of death, fear of loss of control.
  • Jairan Neferirkare, the Soulless
  • Amrruk the Ancient -- Oozemaster (Masters of the Wild).  His actual race and culture are unknown.  Amrruk may be the oldest of all sorcerers, a primal magician who existed before any of the modern nations even had their roots planted.  Some even believe him to predate the existance of humanity altogether; either as a Neanderthal or even some older, more primal being.  His involvement in affairs is rare, but his strange and bizarre tastes and appearance make him, along with Kadashman, the most disturbing to behold.
  • Jairan Neferirkare, the Soulless -- Infernalist (No Quarter #14).  An alabaster woman of unearthly, unbelievable beauty, Jairan is most known for her long and fertile association with daemons of various kinds.  Fickle and vain, Jairan can also be among the most charismatic and charming of the Heresiarchy, when she so pleases.  In the past, she ruled a kingdom on Cannibal Isle, and the inhabitants thereof still bear the curse that she left upon that island.
  • Arzana, Clad in Black -- Blighter (Masters of the Wild).  Arzana appears as a girl, little more than 12 or 13 years old, running naked and filthy through the wild places of the world, or clad in shadow and a black cloak, and her long, matted black hair.  She rarely speaks in words that anyone else can understand.  Nobody knows the source of her fury and paranoia relative to the forest, but she seems especially keen to destroy it whenever possible.  She makes no home, that anyone knows about anyway, but is most frequently spotted in the desert, or high in the mountains above the treeline.
  • Siggeir Sherihum the Sangremancer -- Blood Magus (Tome and Blood, Complete Arcane).  This barbaric sorcerer hides his ruinous disfigurements behind armor, robes and clothing.  Siggeir is rumored to have battled another major sorcerer while still young in his career, a powerful figure equivalent to a member of today's Heresiarchy.  Although he remains broken and maimed by the encounter, his power and reputation are undimmed.
    Shimut the Flesheater
  • Shimut the Flesheater -- Flesheater (Dragon Magazine #300).  This savage beast was once consort to Jairan Neferirkare.  When he was freed of her domination, he hid until he was able to amass sufficient power to challenge her.  Their battle ruined and cursed the Cannibal Isle to this day, but Jairan was overthrown from her throne.  Despite this, the two remain somewhat fond of each other.  They don't trust each other, certainly, but they remain uneasy allies in many things.  Shimut also seems to suffer from the curse of ghoulism, but rather than wilt under the appalling things he is made to do by the curse, he embraces them as the source of much of his power.  Shimut's flesh is cracked and bronzed, and his hair and eyes are solid white.
  • The Master of Vermin -- Vermin Lord (Book of Vile Darkness). Surrounded by filth, insects, spiders, and rats, the nameless Master of Vermin is another disquieting and disgusting member of the Heresiarchy, who rarely appears in his natural form.  What exactly his concerns are, or what his intentions, plots and conspiracies may be geared towards, are anyone's guess.  Like Amrruk the Ancient, he seems almost beyond (or beneath) concerning himself with the world of mortals, and lives a more primal existance.

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