Portals of Thay
By By Robert Wiese
The Undeath Portal
Szass Tam commands huge legions of undead troops, which follow his vampire and lich generals. Undead serve him in various other administrative capacities as well. Where do they all come from? The answer to that chilling question is that most of his troops were slaves that died during their service. But slaves do not make the generals and the special operatives that he requires, so he turns to other sources.
One of these is to entrap adventurers and other visitors and send them to Thay. Since a great many Red Wizards support him, the creation of portals is easily accomplished. One such portal, a one-way creature-only death trap, is located in a popular tavern in the city of Nethjet in Lapendrar tharch. The portal is the doorway of an exclusive suite, and the owner of the tavern is a staunch supporter of Tam (because it is better to support him in life than in unlife). Tam has a special agent, the lich bard and sorcerer Culin Thark, working at the tavern as a performer (disguised as a human bard by a hat of disguise). Thark uses his talents to charm, entrance, and otherwise persuade adventurers and powerful merchants to go to the room with the portal doorway. Once through, victims arrive in a deep dungeon populated by undead and other fell creatures. Since the portal transports only creatures, and not their equipment, most victims have a near-impossible time escaping.
Culin Thark: Male human lich Sor 11/Brd 10; CR 21; Medium-size undead; HD 11d12 plus 10d12; hp 136; Init +3; Spd 30 ft.; AC 23, touch 14, flat-footed 20; Atk +13 melee touch (1d8+5 [Will DC 25 half] plus paralysis [Fort DC 25 negates], paralyzing touch); or +14/+9/+4 melee (1d6+2/15-20, +1 keen rapier), or +15 ranged (1d8/19-20, light crossbow); SA paralyzing touch; SQ bardic knowledge +12, bardic music (countersong, fascinate, inspire competence, inspire courage, inspire greatness, suggestion) 10/day, DR 15/+1, immunities , turn resistance +4, undead traits; AL CG; SV Fort +7, Ref +13, Will +17; Str 12, Dex 17, Con --, Int 15, Wis 16, Cha 23. Height: 5 ft. 7 in. Weight: 170 lbs.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +13, Concentration +20, Decipher Script +6, Diplomacy +13, Hide +16, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (arcana) +16, Knowledge (local-Thay) +6, Listen +17, Move Silently +16, Perform +32, Scry +16, Search +10, Sense Motive +15, Spellcraft +16, Spot +13; Alertness, Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item, Disguise Spell*, Persuasive*, Quicken Spell, Requiem*, Skill Focus (Perform), Subsonics*.
Paralyzing Touch (Su): Any living creature Culin touches must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 25) or be permanently paralyzed. Remove paralysis or any spell that can remove a curse can free the victim (see the bestow curse spell). The effect cannot be dispelled. Anyone paralyzed by Culin seems dead, though a successful Spot check (DC 20) or Heal check (DC 15) reveals that the victim is still alive. This ability works in conjunction with Culin's damaging touch.
Bardic Knowledge: Culin may make a bardic knowledge check with a +12 bonus to see whether he knows some relevant information about local notable people, legendary items, or noteworthy places.
Bardic Music: Culin can use his song or poetics to produce magical effects on those around him.
Countersong (Su): Culin can counter magical effects that depend on sound by making a Perform check for each round of countersong. Any creature within 30 ft. of him who is affected by a sonic or language-dependent magical attack may use Culin's Perform check result in place of his or her saving throw if desired. Countersong lasts for 10 rounds.
Fascinate (Sp): Culin can cause a single creature within 90 ft. that can see and hear him to become fascinated with him. His Perform check result is the DC for the opponent's Will save. Any obvious threat breaks the effect. Fascination lasts 10 rounds.
Inspire Competence (Su): An ally within 30 ft. who can see and hear Culin gets a +2 competence bonus on skill checks with a particular skill for as long as he or she can hear the music.
Inspire Courage (Su): Each ally who can hear Culin receive a +2 morale bonus to saves against charm and fear effects and a +1 morale bonus to attack and weapon damage rolls The effect lasts for 5 rounds after the ally can no longer hear him.
Inspire Greatness (Su): After hearing Culin sing for a full round, a creature within 30 feet gains +2 Hit Dice (d10s that grant temporary hit points), +2 competence bonus on attacks, and +1 competence bonus on Fortitude saves. The effect lasts until 5 rounds after the creature can no longer hear Culin.
Suggestion (Sp): Culin can make a suggestion (as the spell) to a creature he has already fascinated. A Will save (DC 19) negates the effect.
Immunities: Culin is immune to cold, electricity, polymorph, and mind-affecting effects.
Turn Resistance (Ex): Culin is treated as a 25-HD undead for the purpose of resolving turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempts.
Undead Traits: Culin is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-influencing effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals him, and he is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less. Culin has darkvision (60-foot range). He cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.
Bard Spells Known (3/5/5/3/1; save DC 16 + spell level; 15% chance of arcane spell failure): 0 -- daze, detect magic, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance; 1st -- charm person, cure light wounds, expeditious retreat, sleep; 2nd -- blindness/deafness, enthrall, hold person, suggestion; 3rd -- charm monster, greater magic weapon, haste, keen edge; 4th -- dominate person, hold monster.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/8/7/7/5; save DC 16 + spell level; 15% chance of arcane spell failure): 0 -- arcane mark, dancing lights, detect magic, flare, ghost sound, light, mending, open/close, ray of frost; 1st -- burning hands, change self, mage armor, magic missile, true strike; 2nd -- bull's strength, cat's grace, invisibility, knock, see invisibility; 3rd -- dispel magic, fireball, fly, slow; 4th -- improved invisibility, polymorph self, scrying; 5th -- cone of cold, teleport.
Possessions: Hat of disguise, keen rapier +1, studded leather armor +1, ring of protection +1, cloak of resistance +1, wand of charm person (50 charges), wand of color spray (50 charges).
*Feats from Song and Silence.
Once a bard and sorcerer full of confidence in his youth, Culin Thark planned to come to Thay and take on Szass Tam himself. When the fateful moment came, however, his abilities were less than his opinion of them, and he was captured. Tam found it amusing to make him into a lich, and thus Culin came to serve in death what he hated and fought in life. Now he performs at the taverns that Tam directs and uses his formidable powers to trap other victims for his master. Thark is still proud and a little arrogant now that he is a lich. He is quite the charmer, and when disguised as a human he can talk people into doing almost anything he wants. He has control of some undead (according to the average party level of the characters) that Tam has placed where he works, in case he is discovered and threatened, and he uses his bardic powers to augment them.
How to Incorporate the Undeath Portal Into Your Campaign
- The characters are marked for recruitment into Tam's legions and find themselves at the proper tavern one night.
- One of Tam's slaves has escaped with the secret of the portal trap, and the characters stumble across him or her somehow. Once they learn of the hideous trap, they can brave the lich and the dungeons beyond the trap, hoping to eliminate this path to unlife in the service of Szass Tam.
- The characters are staying at the tavern and meet a wealthy merchant one night. The next day, she is gone without a trace. The investigation into her fate leads them to Thark and possibly to the portal as well.