This post is a submission for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival for the good people at DungeonsMaster.com. Their site has been a valued resource of mine since I started getting into D&D a couple years ago, and I am more than a little excited to finally begin participating in this thing.
It didn’t take me long to decide on Edgar Allan Poe. He is one of the biggest names in American literature (maybe even a little overrated) and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that his works are some of the most well-known pieces of English literature of all time. His life was fraught with tragedy, but the fortunate side effect on his writing was an added degree of sadness and a depth of despair that can be hard to read, let alone replicate. These are the reasons I chose to make him into a necromancer, one of the darkest and misunderstood classes in Dungeons & Dragons. The character’s name, Rennet, comes from Henri Le Rennet, one of Poe’s pseudonyms.
Rennet was once a proud and decorated soldier. He spent most of his young adult life in the military in service of his kingdom. He was a good man and a devout follower of the Raven Queen. He was known to pray over the battlefield after each conflict to send the souls peacefully on to the next plane.
He settled down after getting out of the military to start work as a local grocer with his wife. It was years later when she finally became pregnant and they were overjoyed. However, Rennet’s wife was struck with an unknown illness when only months away from giving birth. No doctor in the land could find a cure, and it wasn’t long before she finally succumbed to the disease. Rennet was devastated.
He immediately sought the help of the Raven Queen at the local temple. He asked the clerics there to bring his wife and child back to him. They rejected his request and instead encouraged him to have faith that their deaths were a lesson in mortality. Rennet cursed the clerics and the name of the Raven Queen for their indifference. He vowed to bring his family back at any cost.
This led him to begin researching black magic, seeking rituals that had the power to draw a soul back into this plane from the next. This is when Orcus sent one of his emissaries to Rennet. The emissary promised to give Rennet the means to resurrect his wife and child at the cost of his eternal servitude, a small price in the mind of Rennet. He looked at this as a chance to stand in defiance of the Raven Queen who abandoned him in his time of need.
Orcus’s emissary presented Rennet with a staff fashioned from human vertebrae and topped with an onyx skull, a powerful artifact and symbol of Rennet’s new master. Rennet was overwhelmed by the power of the staff which imbued all who held it with a deep hatred for the living. It is said that he held it above his head and proclaimed, “With this, I shall punish all who worship the Raven Queen!”
This is when a projection of Orcus himself appeared before Rennet and gave him the dark blessing of immortality in exchange for his soul. Rennet’s physical form was changed, as well. His skin and hair lost all color and he grew large, black wings from his shoulders. Orcus dubbed Rennet the “Raven Prince” and promised Rennet would have his wife back after he wreaked enough havoc on the followers of the Raven Queen.
Many years have passed since he has been set with his dark task, and Rennet continues to wander the land killing all who follow the banner and cause of the Raven Queen to this day.
The Raven Prince, as he is now known, sits on his throne in a hidden fortress somewhere in the mountains. He has a number of guardians protecting his keep (gargoyles, skeletal beasts, etc.) but he never uses zombies. Perhaps what little of his humanity is left doesn’t like anything that resembles the living too much. His keep is also fraught with traps, the most deadly of which are in his main chamber where no creature, living or undead, is allowed to set foot or bony claw.
The location of his fortress is not necessarily a secret, but the number of people who know of it and can still be counted among the living is limited to the handful of mountain men and rangers who caught sight of it and were wise enough to turn the other way.
Reeling Them In
Legends of a demon who prays on those who are strong of will are plentiful in the area a hundred miles within Rennet’s fortress. Since no one has ever survived an attack, all the people have to go on is speculation, but some claim to have seen a great winged-beast whose piercing gaze can turn your heart to stone. Some say he keeps the still-beating hearts of fair maidens far away in his hidden fortress, a symbol of the greatness of his evil.
Rumors have it that whoever slays the demon will earn the blessing of the Raven Queen herself and will find an emperor’s ransom worth of treasure that the “Raven Prince” has pillaged from great temples and stolen from his victims. There are also stories that powerful magical artifacts crafted by the dwarven kings of lore were unearthed when the Raven Prince was building his great fortress, and that he is using them to create an army that will one day conquer the realm in the name of chaos.
I’ve written this up in a way so as to be easily inserted into any campaign setting. Rennet has a lot of roleplaying potential and should be played up as a tragic villain who the PCs will have some pity for before he starts trying to murder them. Gathering information on Rennet’s personal history, trying to discern rumors from truth, and ultimately finding a suitable guide up the mountain are all excellent potential roleplaying opportunities.
I would have at least one encounter in the mountains leading up to Rennet’s keep, then maybe one more without him in it followed by some very difficult navigation and trap disarming. Remember, Rennet can fly and might not even have bridges in some key areas. This should all lead up to an epic meet-and-greet at some point followed by hopefully a very challenging battle. Personally, I hate static encounters, so I designed Rennet with a great deal of mobility to keep the party on their toes. Although he’s a solo monster, I picture him having a lot of traps around his fortress at his disposal (pitfalls and pendulum scythes, anyone?).
As far as rewards go, it’s all up to the DM to decide which of the rumors to substantiate. Happy rolling, and I hope people enjoy using Rennet as much as I enjoyed putting him together!