Howl-of-Death, Level Six Hyena Gravespeaker

   Like most of the other anthropomorphs, the Hyena tribe had been enslaved for generations. Like most of the other carnivorous types, Howl was poorly nourished (fed on far too much vegetable material), and trained as a slave-soldier of the empire.

   The slaves were not permitted to study the magical arts, although the occasional witch could not be prevented from arising. That was of little concern; the powers of a witch were minor enough that any “abuses” were easily enough dealt with. Howl, however, became more than a witch; surrounded by the dead, and all too often on the edge of death herself, she learned to use the forces of death.

   When she had mastered enough of that path, Gravespeaker Howl let the strength of the dead flow through her, passed through the stone of the underground slave-pits, and manifested the Armor of Death around herself to destroy the commander and his guards. She led those of her fellow tribesmen who had the courage to follow her into the wilds – and into life as a bandit gang.

   For generations, the nobles of the empire have grown soft and fat on the blood of slaves. Now Gravespeaker Howl-of-Death will feast upon their flesh and send the souls of their children screaming into darkness.

   Even for a hyena-morph, Gravespeaker Howl is not a nice person. She eats chunks of her victims and keeps other pieces to fuel her dark powers, feeds the remains to her pet Barghests to prevent any possibility of resurrection, constantly moves from place to place, and is engaging in a spree of murder, banditry, and stealthy assaults on the wealthy. When possible, she leaves no survivors – and removes any corpses of her followers – so as to leave no clues.

   Anthropomorphic Hyena Racial Package

  • Attribute Modifiers: +4 Str, +4 Dex, +4 Con. Self-Development, half cost in racial template (72 CP).
  • Natural Armor Bonus: +2. Defender, Specialized for Double Effect/does not increase with level and is blatantly obvious thick fur (6 CP).
  • Natural Weapons: Can inflict 1d6 damage with their teeth and claws. Martial Arts (6 CP).
  • Enhanced Senses: Scent and Low-Light Vision. Two instances of Occult Sense (12 CP).
  • Movement: +10′ Ground Movement. Celerity (6 CP).
  • Skill Bonus: +4 to Hide (4 CP).
  • Special Abilities: Evasive (not subject to Attacks of Opportunity when attempting a trip maneuver, 3 CP) and Specialist (+4 bonus to Trip attacks, 3 CP).

   With a total cost of 112 CP, that’s fairly expensive. Fortunately for anthropomorphs, the entire package is considered Specialized. Anthropomorphic Animals…

  • Are subject to powerful instincts and inherent social behaviors. Attempts to play on those instincts – such as trying to use “Suggestion” to get an outnumbered Anthropomorphic Animal to surrender and submit – enjoy a +10 bonus or a -6 penalty on the targets saving throw. In addition, the GM may request will checks for them to:
    • Resist fight-or-flight responses.
    • Break off combat.
    • Attempt to lie or bluff without giving themselves away with obvious signs.
    • Resist the urge to retreat from fire, venomous creatures, and other common dangers.
    • Avoid giving in to dominance-or-submission behaviors.
    • Resist seasonal behaviors, pheromones, and temptations.
    • Refrain from a variety of other awkwardnesses, such as territoriality and hunting/predatory behavior in carnivores.
  • Will require most gear to be especially fitted for them, at twice the normal cost – if they can find someone who is willing to make it for them at all.
  • Are readily described and recognized.
  • Are subject to spells and abilities that affect animals, as well as those that affect humanoids.
  • Usually have restricted diets, which will be awkward (and often expensive) to accommodate. Will always be small minorities in relationship to other, less dietarily-limited, races, and will generally be seen as dangerous and unwelcome. They are commonly subject to legal restrictions in civilized areas, and sometimes are required to have an owner – or at least someone who will guarantee their good behavior.

   That brings the cost down to 56 CP out of the 63 CP available to a +1 ECL race. Like most of the other anthropomorphs, Anthropomorphic Hyenas make fairly formidable combatants, but aren’t especially good at most other methods of making a living. Whenever something goes wrong in a civilized area, any anthropomorphs who happen to be about are likely to be blamed.

   “Why there are no mental attribute adjustments” was dealt with in the Genegrafting and Anthropomorphics article series (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV) – but it comes down to “those would depend on their origins; turning an animal into a sapient being requires completely rebuilding it’s brain anyway, so it’s mental attribute adjustments will depend on how that was done”. Since I’m not specifying an origin for the race here, it defaults to no mental attribute adjustments.

   Package Deal: Escaped Slave.

   Escaped slaves are generally considered something of a cross between “valuable properties” and “dangerous feral animals”. They are generally scarred, bitterly resentful of their ex-masters, and react very, VERY, poorly indeed to any hint of restraint or surrender, since it would usually mean a return to enslavement.  As a rule, a character taking this package should note how he or she became a slave, who owned him or her, and how he or she escaped. The benefits of this package deal include:

  • A +4 bonus to Survival (4 CP). Escaped slaves must avoid pursuit, and civilized territories, at least at first.
  • A +6 CP Bonus towards their first hit die. Slaves who escape and survive are invariably pretty tough.
  • Immunity to minor Enchantment Effects (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP). They’re unaffected by simple first-level enchantment effects like Charm Person, Hypnosis, and Sleep and get a +2 bonus on saves against higher-level enchantment effects. Slaves who can’t learn to resist effects like that generally never escape at all.

   Escaped Slaves are NOT necessarily sympathetic characters; they just didn’t have the chance for much overt villainy while they were enslaved.

   Howl-of-Death

   Available Character Points: 168 (level six base) +10 (disadvantages; outlawed, impulsive killer, and healing resistant) +12 (duties, must make regular offerings to a selection of unpleasant entities) +12 (Fast Learner, Specialized in Witchcraft for Double Effect) +18 (L1, L3, and L6 Bonus Feats) = 220 CP.

   Basic Attributes: Str 14 (18) (+4), Dex 12 (16) (+3), Con 12 (16) (+3), Int 12 (+1), Wis 12 (+1), and Cha 16 (17 at L4) (18) (+4). (32 Point Buy).

   Basic Abilities (96 CP):

  • Hit Points: 20 (L1d20, 10 CP + Package Deal Bonus) +30 (L2-6 d8, 20 CP) +18 (6 x Con Mod) = 68
  • BAB +6 (36 CP)
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +3 (Con) +1 (Res) = +8
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +3 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +6
    • Will: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +1 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +4
  • Proficient with Light and Medium Armor (9 CP), Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP).

   Combat Information:

  • Initiative: +3
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Natural) +3 (Dex) +5 (+1 Chain Mail Shirt) = 20. 28 when Mummy Armor is in use.
  • Basic Claws: +10/+10 (+6 BAB +4 Strength) Natural Weapons, 1d6+4, Crit 20/x2.
  • Claws with Mummy Armor: +15/+15 (+6 BAB +9 Strength), 1d6+12 plus Mummy Rot.
  • Heavy Crossbow: +9 (+6 BAB +3 Dex), 1d8, Crit 20/x3, 120′ range increment.

   If Martial Arts skills are in use, a basic martial art designed to enhance her HTH abilities should be added.

   Special Abilities (109 CP)

   Touch of the World Beyond (24 CP): Her constant dealing with the energies of the dead has awakened Howl-of-Death’s psychic potentials.

  • Witchcraft III (18 CP) with 3d6 extra Power (6 CP). Total Power 34, Save DC 17.
  • Basic Powers: The Adamant Will, Dreamfaring, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, The Inner Eye, Shadowweave, and Witchsight. Power 34 (a very good roll there).
  • Advanced Powers: Summoning (Specialized/astral and ethereal planes only, 3 CP), Nightforge (6 CP), Lure of Darkness (Corrupted for increased effect, must actually go out, locate, and recruit minions, 6 CP), and Leaping Fire (Specialized, self-hasting only, 3 CP).
  • Pacts: Taboos, Rituals, Souls, and Spirit (-24 CP). Howl-of-Death is a fairly formidable witch – but, like most witches, has achieved much of that power through pacts. She is subject to several strange taboos, must perform regular rituals in honor of the powers of darkness, must offer up occasional sapient sacrifices to those same powers – and her spirit will be claimed by them once it departs the material plane. Fortunately, she has plans to avoid that by becoming undead.

   Lure of Darkness provides Howl-of-Death with 1d4+1 (in her case, four) henchmen with ECL’s of up to two-thirds her own and (Cha Mod x 2) loyal minor minions with ECL’s of up to one-third her own. These include:

   Drinks-at-Dusk: Howl-of-Death’s chief lieutenant and consort. For simplicities sake, a Hyena-Morph Ranger IV. Favored enemy; Humans, Archery Combat Style.

  • Escaped Slave package deal. Disadvantages: Outlaw, Uncivilized, and Unluck. Disadvantage points and bonus Feats used for: Companion (a hawk familiar) with the Spirit Fetch template, Spirit Sight, and Mindspeech (specialized in spirits only).
  • Equipped with Chain Shirt (100 GP), Composite Longbow (100 GP), Silk Rope (10 GP), 3x Alchemists Fire (60 GP), 3x Antitoxin (150 GP), Smokestick x2 (40 GP), Tanglefoot Bag x2 (100 GP), Climber’s Kit (80 GP), Healers Kit (50 GP), Silver (Un-)Holy Symbol (25 GP), Thieves Tools (30 GP), Light Warhorse (150 GP), Military Saddle (20 GP), Dust of Tracelessness (250 GP), Wands of Entangle, Pass Without Trace, and Cure Light Wounds (20 charges each, 900 GP total), Potion of Cure Light Wounds (50 GP), Potion of Invisibility (300 GP), Miscellany (Arrows, Pack, Blanket, Rations, Caltrops, Oil, Etc, 35 GP), 850 GP cash or other potions and such.
  • Since their flight from captivity, Drinks-at-Dusk has developed his latent shamanic talents. He usually uses his familiar to scout out potential targets and uses Spirit Favors to locate safe places for the band to hide and to get the spirits to confuse attempts to locate them through divination or tracking.

   Withered Moon Heart: Howl-of-Death’s second lieutenant and consort. Again, for simplicity’s sake, using standard classes. A Hyena-Morph Ranger I, Druid III. Wolf animal companion. Usually Entangle, Goodberry, Cure Light Wounds, Heat Metal, and Summon Swarm.

  • Escaped Slave package deal (provides a larger hit die at level one). Disadvantages: Outlaw, Uncivilized, and Inept/Int-Based Skills. Disadvantage points and bonus Feats used for: Shapeshift, Reflex Training (three actions per day variant), and Grant of Aid with +2 Bonus Uses.
  • Equipped with Leathers (10 GP), Silk Rope (10 GP), 3x Alchemists Fire (60 GP), 3x Antitoxin (150 GP), Smokestick x2 (40 GP), Tanglefoot Bag x2 (100 GP), Climbers Kit (80 GP), Healers Kit (50 GP), Light Warhorse (150 GP), Military Saddle (20 GP), Dust of Tracelessness (250 GP), Wands of Entangle, Pass Without Trace, and Cure Light Wounds (Caster level one, 20 charges each, 900 GP total), Wand of Heat Metal (caster level three, three charges, 270 GP) and Tree Shape (caster level three, two charges, 180 GP), 2x Potion of Cure Light Wounds (100 GP), Potion of Invisibility (300 GP), Miscellany (Holly and Mistletoe, Sling and Bullets, Pack, Blanket, Rations, Caltrops, Oil, Etc, 40 GP), 500 GP cash or other potions and such.
  • Withered Moon Heart is somewhat older than Howl-at-Death, but is more than willing to follow her leadership. Their escape into the wilderness has allowed him to develop his druidical talents, and he sees nothing at all wrong with a little vengeance upon the humans who have exploited his people for generations. He’s aware that this will doubtless result in all their deaths eventually, but better that than a return to captivity or simply fleeing uselessly.

   Bloodrage and Grimfang. Her two Barghests stretch the definition of “allies”, not to mention the fact that Challenge Rating doesn’t really convert to ECL. Fortunately for Howl-of-Death, she has demonic favors – and has used a couple of them to get this pair assigned to her service. It’s not like she doesn’t feed them plentifully anyway. At CR 4 or 6 HD and no gear, they’re a fairly close fit to her available minion slots anyway.

   Bloodrage and Grimfang are quite enjoying themselves. They had doubts about being assigned to the service of a mortal, but they’ve gotten to eat rather a lot of people and to cause a great deal of general anguish; if they need to support and protect Howl-of-Death until she’s powerful enough to take on foes powerful enough to fuel their growth into Greater Barghests, that will be well worthwhile!

   Her six secondary allies are also Hyena-Morphs, and can generally be assumed to be first level rangers or fighters. The bandit gang has a few more members and hangers-on, but they have no great personal loyalty to Howl-of-Death – although they are generally afraid of her.

   Ward of the Dead (6 CP): Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only for saving throws (6 CP).

   Spectral Stride (6 CP): Howl-of-Death may briefly abandon her hold on the material plane to become a free spirit. Shapeshift with the Shape of Death and Incorporeal Forms enhancements, Specialized and Corrupted/only to take Incorporeal Form, and the Incorporeal Form can only be safely maintained for (Wisdom) rounds, after that, resisting the dark call of the afterworlds to return to the material realm requires a Will check at a DC equal to the number of rounds you are already past your limit. If the user fails three such checks in a row, he or she will depart for the afterworlds.

   Opening the Great Gates (18 CP): Channeling: 1(2 CP) +3x (Cha Mod) (10 CP) uses per day, Conversion, Specialized for double effect/requires the use of bones, bits of flesh, and other bits of old bodies which the user must constantly scrounge for and must wear or display openly. The user should expect occasional spiritual harassment and requests. This is generally seen as black magic (whether or not it is), and so attracts paladins, hostile clergy, and witch hunters. Only produces effects related to the talismans the user possesses. A set of four third (effectively sixth due to Specialization) level spells (6 CP). Select either the Negative or Positive Energy Options – although a character can get Dualism and buy the second set of abilities if they so desire. The entire package is Corrupted for reduced cost/the character has an unsettling aura of death, frightens normal animals (and so cannot normally use mounts and such), is a magnet for ghosts and haunts, and tends to cause strange events in the area when using his or her powers. She is using the Negative Energy Option, and so focuses on the universal presence of death in the world, and on using the power of death to raise and control the malicious specters of the fallen, who enviously wait for the living to join them in their wretched state.

  • Armor of the Dead: This terrible power summons up a hungry spirit from the shadow worlds of the afterlife, granting it a taste of the material world again – and brief surcease from it’s endless hunger – in exchange for it manifesting around the caster as a sort of (quite horrific) “armor”. Summon Undead IV (in general, this covers undead creatures with challenge ratings of up to five) with an extended duration (one minute per caster level, +1 level) and the Possession modifier (+1 level).
  • Chain the Dead: Unused magic echoes in the minds of the slain, and it’s traces remain in their relics, to be called forth by those versed in the dark lore. Greater Invocation/Produces any arcane magical effect of level three or less for which the user possesses an appropriate talisman – the skull or brain of a spellcaster or creature which was capable of using that spell (had it memorized or otherwise available) at it’s time of death.
    • Optionally, if the game master is willing to put up with the bookkeeping and wishes to restrict the user even more stringently, each effect that remained unused at the time of death can only be called forth once. Otherwise, it’s assumed that the user is calling forth the spirit of the creature involved (which is entitled to put in the occasional appearance as a haunt) and drawing on its powers. At the moment, she likely has the skull of a low-level sorcerer or mage or two – so she might well have access to a Fireball or two if she really needs to use them.
  • Dust of Ages. The world of the living is built upon the bones of the dead. For every creature that lives, a billion have died. Few realize it, but the world is a vast graveyard – and it’s dust can be summoned to take form once again by those who are intimate with death. As per Animate Dead – but no gems or bodies are required. Unfortunately, their lack of solid structure means that they will return to the dust from which they were summoned after 1d4+1 hours.
  • Grim Servant of Death: The forces of death linger in graveyards, in dark corners of the world, and in the bodies of the slain. A relic of a sapient being violently slain is a potent link, allowing the user to call forth dreadful powers if he or she knows how to tap into that connection. Greater Invocation/produces any death-related effect of level four or less. In general, this includes most negative energy effects – darkness, curses, negation of other forces, and destructive necromancy.

   The Limbs of Bone and Spirit (12 CP): The spirits bound to a Gravespeaker can sometimes act on their own to aid him or her. As long as they have Armor of the Dead or Intercession of the Totems active (Corrupted), they can employ:

  • Reflex Action/Combat Reflexes Variant (4 CP).
  • Reflex Action/Three extra actions per day variant with +4 Bonus Uses (8 CP).

   Spiritual Infusion (24 CP): The negative energy flowing within Howl-of-Death renders her flesh far less perishable than that of a normal mortal.

  • Immunity to Diseases and Poisons (Common, Major, Minor; reduce attribute damage from such sources by six points) (6 CP).
  • Immunity to Undead Attacks (Very Common, Major, Minor, Specialized/the total resistance must be divided between damage, attribute damage, and level drain at the usual 1 to 1, 1 to 2, and 1 to 5 ratios. Provides DR 3/not being undead, 2 points of resistance to attribute damage, and resistance to one negative level. Other undead attack effects, such as paralysis, are saved against at +4) (7 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with +3 Bonus Uses (11 CP).

   The Lure of the Darkness: Major Favors with the inhabitants of the Lower Planes with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized/requires that she continue to make human sacrifices (4 CP). Howl-of-Death’s constant stream of offerings has found favor with the powers of the lower planes, allowing her to call on them for a favor every so often – most commonly, for magical cover for an escape, to prevent divination effects from revealing her groups involvement in an attack, or to replace one of her Barghests.

   Track (Wilderness) (3 CP). Sorry, but there’s no thematic name for this one. It really doesn’t need one.

   Rites of the Midnight Sun: Channeling/Hatred’s Weal Path: Dark Awakening and Shadow Casting. Both Specialized/they require an elaborate ritual and at least one sapient sacrifice (6 CP). Note that she usually sends out her incorporeal shadow-duplicates to possess kids and other level zero types, who can then just come in to be sacrificed under their own power…

   Fast Learner, Specialized in Witchcraft for +2 CP/Level for Witchcraft (6 CP). Technically, she’s had this since level zero – paying for it with her disadvantage points.

   Skills:

   Skill Points: 15 (CP Spent) +9 (Intelligence) = 24. 16 have been spent as follows, eight remain to buy a martial art skill or for other customization.

  • Gather Information +18 (8 SP +4 Cha +6 for her usual trio of Shadow-Spies)
  • Hide +10 (3 SP +4 Race +3 Dex)
  • Survival +10 (5 SP +4 Package +1 Wis)

   Equipment (5600 GP):

   Heavy Crossbow (50 GP), Silk Rope (10 GP), 3x Alchemists Fire (60 GP), 3x Antitoxin (150 GP), Smokestick x2 (40 GP), Tanglefoot Bag x2 (100 GP), Silver (Un-)Holy Symbol (25 GP), Light Warhorse (150 GP), Military Saddle (20 GP), Miscellany (Quarrels, Pack, Blanket, Rations, Caltrops, Oil, Etc, 35 GP), 6x Potions of Cure Light Wounds (300 GP), Potion of Invisibility (300 GP), Pin of Charisma +1 (1000 GP), Cloak of Resistance +1 (1000), +1 Chainmail Shirt (1250 GP), Dust of Tracelessness (250 GP), Quaals Feather Token / Swan Boat (450 GP). Roughly 400 GP in cash or other minor items.

   Combat Tactics:

   In general, you can count on Howl-of-Death to have an agent or two in nearby towns (usually children or common folk possessed by her Shadow-Casting power), and to have her minions use their animal companions to spy on a group or location before making any move to attack it. If it seems too formidable, or is obviously full of powerful adventurers, she won’t even make a close approach. 

   In combat, Howl-of-Death prefers to summon up a Mummy-based Armor of Death (gaining +23 hit points, +8 natural armor, +10 Strength, Damage Reduction 5/-, and the various other qualities of a Mummy) in advance, and then use Dust of Ages to send in an Advanced Megaraptor Skeleton or two while her followers let loose with Entangle and/or Heat Metal and bows. She’ll sacrifice the Megaraptors first, since they’re temporary anyway. She tends to close to hand-to-hand (relying on her natural weapons and the boost that immense strength provides) using the Barghests to cover her and the normal skeletons and zombies to hit trouble spots. Her living followers will mostly hang back and fire missiles.

   If things are going badly, she’ll leave the undead to cover the retreat – she can always make more later after all – and call for a demonic mist or some such if she feels it necessary. Secondarily, she’ll have Drinks-at-Dusk get the local nature spirits to provide directionsand a bit of trail-covering while everyone gets out.

   If she has to sacrifice living followers, the general bandits go first, then her low-level minions, then her lieutenants. Her own survival is of paramount importance. She can’t take her vengeance if she’s dead.

   If she wins, then it’s time for a demonic favor again – this time to make sure that no simple divination will reveal what happened or who was involved.

   Further Advancement:

   Howl-of-Death needs more negative-energy channeling powers, and – once she’s high enough level to justify it – to upgrade her necromantic powers to higher-level versions. Outside of that? More combat abilities, more escape abilities, and more minions. If she’s going to pull down an empire, she’ll need them.

   Of course, it’s far more likely that a bunch of player characters will manage to kill her off – but hopefully they’ll have a pretty rough time doing it.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Howl-of-Death, Level Six Hyena Gravespeaker. A Bandit Queen, Demonologist and Necromancer, and all-around unpleasant person. […]

  2. […] Howl-of-Death channels negative energy to draw on the powers of the dead – pure necromancy. Given that all of her effects are non-standard, if you want to look at them you’ll need to follow the link. […]

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