Yesterday we focused on developing a villain for the world of Phaedrus using Insta-NPCs #3: Scum and Villainy, Inc.. We got as far as working through the worksheet and deciding on a few broad concepts for our villainess.
- Origin: Unmatched intelligence
- Goal: Achieve justice
- Methodology: Faith
- Role: Hidden threat
- Core Emotion: Love
First, we’ll need a name. To do so, I took her patron god’s name – Lamnus – and randomized the letters. I ended up with Uman. And to make it more feminine, we’ll add an “i” to the end for Umani.
We know that she’s a priestess of Lamnus – God of the Underworld whose goal is to balance the amounts of light and darkness in the mortal world. And we know that she seeks justice for some perceived wrong. If she’s been around since the fall of Bede, that would give her all sorts of perceived injustices to fight. It could be as grand as being angry at Lamnus parents – the All Father An and the All Mother Enni – for tossing him out of the heavens. Or she may feel wronged by the greed and corruption that caused the civil war in Bede and its eventual fall into the Land of the Dead.
And to clarify – no, the Underworld and the Land of the Dead are not the same. The Underworld in this case is occupied by some of the souls of the dead on their way to wherever they are bound… When a spirit leaves the living, the light and darkness in that spirit is weighed. Depending on the balance, some go to the Beginning of Time to start anew. Others go to the End of Time for their eternal rest. And the remainder either do their penance in the Underworld until a determination can be made or return to the world of the living in spirit form to finish whatever they need to do.
The Land of the Dead, beyond No-Man’s Land in what used to be Bede, is haunted by souls wronged during the civil war and held back from the Underworld by the King of the Dead. It is a horrific place of ruined lives and a haven for all manner of undead and unfriendly creatures. (For a glimpse of that realm, check out “The Audience.”)
As such, we’re going to put Umani, dedicated priestess of Lamnus, in direct contention with the King of the Dead in Bede. It is her goal to eventually release all the tormented souls to their final destinations, wherever they may be bound.
Unfortunately, her sphere of influence and her power are both small enough that she’s only an annoyance to Bede. Any creatures from the Land of the Dead who enter her domain are dealt with decisively. Her eye is always to the horizon, watching No-Man’s Land with a resolve only found in those invested in a holy mission.
You’d think that this would make her an ally to the PCs if they seek to stop the King of the Dead from unleashing his powers on the rest of the world. Instead, her focus has given her a severe set of blinders. Anything distracting her from her holy mission is considered evil. So should the PCs enter her domain on their way to Bede… Bad things may occur.
She is ancient. And powerful. But also weak because of her age. So she has gathered a cadre of guardians to help her execute her holy mission. Animals in the area have been changed over time by Lamnus and his trusted advisor Sabin (a demi-god raised by Lamnus after discovering some divine truth in arcane magic). Sabin also sees the King of the Dead as the ultimate enemy and has created powerful beasts to protect Umani in her domain.
The bear, Agrios, has been raised as a were-beast to act as her companion and main protector. She has a giant eagle, Roccan, and a giant owl, Caillea, who serve as her eyes in the skies to keep a watch for intruders. And a pack of were-wolves, led by the alpha Hatti, patrol constantly. At no time is the balance between prey and predator out of alignment. Umani makes sure that her protectors are well cared for, healthy, and have full bellies out of the goodness of Lamnus’ power.
How will the PCs interact with Umani and her flock? I would introduce her in a few phases…
- The PCs hear of a vicious pack of wolves who have occasionally killed nomads. But the nomads have not sought to stop this particular pack.
- The PCs hear of small cairns of stones placed purposefully on the plains to mark strange bodies. Some have been rumored to have been undead in origin when unearthed.
- The PCs get word that a group of undead has left No-Man’s Land and are able to track it to the point where the tracks simply vanish (at the edge of Umani’s territory).
- If the PCs stumble into her territory, they may see Roccan (daytime) or hear Caillea (nighttime) before being attacked by a large band of wolves. The wolves will do what they can to drive the party out of the territory and only do serious damage if they choose to stay.
- If Umani hears of good deeds the party is doing against the forces of the King of the Dead, she may reach out with a message (delivered by bird) and arrange a meeting. But only if they are deemed worthy of Lamnus’ attention.
Is she truly a villain? She might come across as one at first. But ultimately she may come to be a powerful ally for the PCs if they play their cards right.
And all of this comes from a few die rolls and a bit of context!
Today’s details (same as yesterday):
- Today’s Context: “I need a villain for a new series of adventures!”
- Today’s Recipe calls for Insta-NPCs #3: Scum and Villainy, Inc.
- Today’s Ingredients: Unmatched intelligence, Achieve justice, Faith, Hidden threat, and Love
- Today’s Setting: Traditional fantasy, plus some bits from the world of Phaedrus