Hook of the Month
Toben the Many
Third edition info: VRGttWD
"Yes, I have met this greening fiend. He has claimed my brother's wife. We didn't know what happened. At first it seemed a common disease. However the illness seemed to rapidly draw on the vigour of the poor woman. She was dead within 4 days.
I was there. My brother needed me. Resata lied there, pale, with her mouth locked in an unnatural mockery of a grin, drooling. She was unconscious but her eyes were wide open. Near her bed, my brother, their two sons and their four years old daughter Silenta waited the inevitable in silence. The kids eyes were red but almost dry; their tears have been exhausted. Only Silenta sobbed silently in her father's arms.
Resata weakly murmured something; her final moments were imminent. Wanting to protect his children from the trial, my brother asked them to leave the room. Silenta looked her mother and started sobbing more violently saying with a child's innocence "Mommy? Mommy?" A few tears seemed to finally find their way to the girl's eyes as her older brothers hugged her and took her outside. I moved to the door to join them but my brother grabbed my hand. Stay, his eyes pleaded silently.
He moved next to his wife. Resata was burning with fever. "I love you" He whispered. "I love you too" she tried to answer through that swollen grin that I came to loathe that much. Then a seizure overtook her. She grabbed my brother's hand spasmodically gasping for air. "It is coming! It is taking me!" She tried to say through that hellish grin. I thought that she was talking about the Grim Reaper or Death. What a naive fool I have been! Her final words came hard and raspy. I think it was something like "My eyes, my eyes are so dry!" And then all was over. She fell limply to the bed, dead.
My brother let out a cry then; no, not a cry, a howl. A deep, sorrowful loud howl, an incomprehensive sound beyond words that captured his feeling of loss at this time. He was a good man, loving his wife. He fell on the limp body of his dead wife and sobbed uncontrollably. Hearing the howl the children outside burst in tears themselves. After a couple of minutes I touched my crying brother's shoulder and whispered to him "You have three children yet. The disease . . . " He understood.
The next day we would have the funeral. All the village has come to the house to pay respects to the dead woman, now fully covered by the seeds in her bed. The priest and the undertaker would come in a few minutes. We were there in the night, near her for the last time.
We heard the cleric and the undertaker coming. My brother pulled the seeds to kiss his dead wife goodbye one last time. As he approached the pale dead flesh of his beloved wife, with his eyes closed . . . she kissed him back!
Her arms suddenly moved to hug him as her head, her leering head, moved in for a perversion of a kiss. I jumped up and screamed, the children watched with bulging eyes at this defilement, frozen. In an instance my brother was screaming as the undead hands were holding him with unnatural strength, pushing the breath out of his body.
"I love you" The undead mocked. Then it suddenly push him back and landed him two solid blows breaking his neck and a few ribs. He was dead before he hit the floor. The creature jumped out of the bed leering with malice like a madwoman. The children closed their eyes and started running blindly through the room, bumbing on furniture in their mad fright. I was lost, paralyzed with fear.
The door crashed open and the undertaker appeared, shovel in hand. The priest was right behind him chanting. The effect of the priest's chant and the screams of the children gave me a purpose and I grabbed a firepoker to defend myself and the children. We attacked the monster with the undertaker, crushing the head and the spine of my sister's in law body. She fell to the floor. Then suddenly my brother, the one that protected me the years of our childhood from the elder boys, that used to share even his last bite with me, raised grinning behind us and with a powerful punched snuffed the life out of the undertaker that has just destroyed the other abomination.
Such dread and horror overtook me at the moment, that only the spell's power kept me from feinting right there. I cowered in the corner, the firepoker now seeming such a feeble weapon. The children have stopped screaming looking at their father's broken, greening face. "Papa?" Silenta asked fearfully. As if that was not enough, the undertaker's body raised, greening also. "I'm not your father" both undead said simultaneously, "I'm Toben the Many. And soon, you will be too." And he moved against us with both his bodies.
The priest thankfully broke in right then, splashing it with holy water, and shouting "Get out, NOW!" I grabbed Silenta and obliged, crushing through the back window. Both the bodies were destroyed in this fight, but at a terrible loss. As I was running like a madman, I heard the boys screaming. A minute later, the priest and a couple more villagers emerged from the house, pale, wounded and shaking. "It is done" The priest said. "The boys . . . won't come with you. Go to your village and take care of your niece". It was then that I discovered that my bowels were emptied sometime during these hellish moments.
Silenta has blocked out that moment thankfully. She didn't speak for a couple of weeks and we were afraid that she has become a lost one. I never returned to my brother's village. To the village I grew up. Another concern is that now that Silenta is ten years old, she asks what happened that night, as she has recently started seeing a leering madman in her nightmares.
I always see a grinning madman in my nightmares. Curse Toben the Many for the sorrow he has brought to me and to that child. Curse him as much as you can, because it is the only thing you can do."
I'm in many places at once. I'm Toben the Many. Each person I collect becomes a part of me, and I have collected many people. I have collected the young and the old, the healthy and the sick. Perhaps one day, I will collect you.
While the PCs are traveling to/from Darkon they have a chance encounter with 3 Toben Zombies (in another domain) that have finished their "prank" so now are (mostly) useless and attack the PCs on sight for fun. As they are butchered by the PCs, they laugh and taunt the PCs in unison ridiculing them and even mocking their fighting styles. The zombies don't seem to be really interested in killing the PCs or self preservation; while it is obvious that they are not obedient dead and also that they are a single entity. Toben doesn't give clues about his intelligence or even his name at the time. He showed that all his bodies are one to unsettle the PCs for fun.
While the PCs reside in an inn in Darkon, at night there is a loud knock at the door. The PCs find outside their room a scrollcase. Inside there is a letter from "His Majesty, Azalin Rex". Azalin in the letter informs the PCs that the creature they met was a menace named Toben the Many. In his letter he expresses "sincere" interest that this creature may infest Darkon when it has the power and as a king he must protect his people and his land from this fate etc. etc. In the letter it is written that Toben has a hive mind and he exists in all his bodies simultaneously and he can collect as many bodies as he wants for his perverted jokes.
Azalin asks the PCs to bring to Avernus a trapped Toben Zombie so that he can study the foul creature and find a way to protect Darkon from Toben. In fact Azalin wants to
Along with the letter are two magic items. The first is a scroll of the Legend Lore spell that Azalin instructs the PCs to use in order to learn more about Toben the Many. Since this is Darklord's intervertion, even a 1st level wizard will be able to succeed at the caster roll required to cast the spell (treat it as a natural 20) The casting time is also the least possible for the spell to be cast. The legend Lore spell will probably give to the PCs some clues about Toben and perhaps where they can find a large concentration of Toben Zombies (and hopefully prevent a tragedy). The second is a nail containing a specialized spell (like a combined halt undead, feeblemind, nondetection and command undead spell) that would "freeze" the consciousness of the trapped Toben Zombie to prevent Toben from understanding where he goes, under whose orders and why. When the coffin which will hold Toben is nailed with the coffin or when the nail is nailed on Toben's body, Toben's consciousness will be frozen.
After the PCs deliver Toben to Azalin, a vistana or a prophet will tell them to check the "Tower of Demise" This will end up to be a large, specially prepared building where 500 - 600 lowlives from the streets of Karg, Martira Bay and the other settlements are held. In the heart of the building there will be the original, frozen Toben Zombie partially immersed in water. This contaminated water is used by the inmates to drink. Also the specialy made magical tubes transport the contaminated air around Toben to the inmates.
Undead guard the Tower of Demise and use medicines and even divine magic to prolong the life of the first victims of the disease. Azalin knows that when the first 3 - 4 Toben Zombies are created, Toben will understand what's going on, and immediately try to increase his total number of bodies, so that 400 - 600 are not enough to control him. Azalin plans to have at least 300 of the 600 inmates die of the disease in a single day. If the undead doctors sense that an inmate is very close to dying and they cannot save him, they kill him on the spot and replace him with another unlucky convict.
When the time is right and about 100 inmates are to be risen as Toben Zombies (which means that 300 will die the same day as a corpse is risen 1d3 days later), Azalin will command the newly created Toben Zombies to kill the rest 300 sick prisoners. That will deliver Azalin 350 - 400 Toben zombies in a single day and another 100 the next day. From the time Toben will understand the plan, he will have about 24 - 36 hours to increase his number above 1000. Since he is afraid of nothing else than Azalin's control Toben will abandon the games and attack and collect as many as he can in this time.
Azalin has predicted that. He has armed 70 - 100 Kargat members and had them hire mercenaries throughout the Core. Using his powerful magic and those of his subordinates, Azalin has located many of Toben's bodies and has his "Toben extermination squads" ready. When Toben will move to nearby settlements, they will kill those he collects. Of course this will only cause a circle. Within these 24 dark hours, Toben will kill hundreds who will be destroyed in turn only for him to collect others etc. So the PCs must: Act on time before Toben, afraid for once in his long life, panicked starts a murder-spree collecting hundreds of innocents in a single day while many of Azalin agents along with mercenary bands start destroying them, only to increase Toben's murders.
New Magical Item:
Toben extermination Bullets: These are bullets that cast the remove disease spell when they hit a target. Of course a healing bullet is something of an oximoron, but in the case of Toben the Many, a Toben Zombie immediately drops dead if it fails a Fortitude save DC 15. Caster level 5th. Prerequisites: Craft magic weapons and armor, cure disease. Market Price 200 gp each. 10000gp for 50 bullets. 5000 gold and 400 XP to create.
A farmstead in Verbek (an extended family 9 men, 12 women, 8 children) is under pressure by werewolves. They are howling near the farm at night, they kill a sheep now and then, they leave a mauled animal at the doorstep, they paint threatening images in blood for a few weeks now. When somebody travels a few minutes away, he/she can spot wolves watching him/her from a distance.
The family is really desperate and thinks to relocate, but they are afraid that they will not manage to leave with werewolves in their heels. The werewolves seem content to make life difficult for the family for the moment, but they become a bit more bold with each passing week. The family food supplies start run low and the water is sparse since the werewolves don't let anyone make many trips to the well. The family manages to ask for help a nearby thorp who in turn inform others and word travels to the PCs in a nearby domain. When the PCs manage to get to the farmstead, all inhabitants are Toben Zombies. When they destroy them, they discover that Toben has also collected the werewolf tribe that made life difficult for the family. While the PCs were prepared to face a few (about a dozen) werewolves, they have to face 20 Toben Zombies and about a dozen Toben werewolf zombies.
PS. It seems I'm the only one posting here. A shame. I would like so much to see the ideas/opinions of a few others too in here.
ScS of the Fraternity
Toben is known for his army of bodies, yet in his interview he hinted at his true calling - a merry prankster. Here's just a few ideas for Toben's repertoire.
Putting the Fun in Funeral:
Infect a villager and wait for her to sicken and die - then lie dormant while preparations are made for the funeral. After the wake, Toben slips out of the casket and infects the priest who is scheduled to perform the ceremony, and then slips back into the coffin. Then, when the body is lowered into the ground, Toben can cheer up the mourners.
Man's Best Friend
Toben infects a boy and his dog. He then tears off one arm and plays fetch with the limb. Eventually they lose the arm and go up to passers by, asking if they can borrow their's.
Toben infects a group of boys and plays soccer with one of their heads. Eventually they kick in into the window of a house and have to ask the owner if they can have their ball back.
Some fava Beans and a nice keyanti
Toben infects the kitchen staff of an estate, and prepares his own body parts for dinner. As a finishing touch, he puts his head under the desert steamtray. Each time someone takes a bite, Toben shouts "Ouch!"
More one-shot pranks to introduce Toben in a campaign before having the PCs face him.
Toben infects the Butcher of a small village and a few of his animals. Once the PCs (or someone else) get's in the smiling butcher starts taunting them and then the skinned merchandise start to reply. The butcher is a 2nd level commoner.
JoŽl of the Fraternity
In my campaign, I introduced Toben the Many and the Glutton (both from VRGttWD) at the same time, having Toben's zombies asking the players if they saw the Glutton. Toben wishes to add this famous zombie to his rooster.
Arrest the party on charges (trumphed up or not) of murder and send them to trial.
The judge asks the spokesman of the jury, "Do you have a verdict?"
The entire jury replies as one, "I do your honour."
Unamused, the judge asks pointedly: "Mr. Spokesman, and Mr. Spokesman alone, what is it?"
Jury as one cries: "The accused are guilty of being foreigners! And they are very, very dull. And they are dressed horribly! I mean, I wouldn't be caught dead in those threads. What did Vlad Drakov give his wardrobe away to charity again? Wasn't once enough!"
Judge growls: "Forget the clothes. Forget Drakov!"
Jury as one interrupts: "Easy for you to say, I bet you have never been impaled!"
Judge screams: "Shut up and listen, all of you. Their clothing is irrelevent. And they were not charged with being foreigners! Do you or do you not believe that they committed the murder? And stop all answering at once!"
Jury as one: "Ok."
Judge screams: "I said stop that!"
Jury as one: "How is justice to be heard if the jury isn't to speak?"
Judge: "One of you, and only one of you, is to speak. Otherwise I will find every last one of you to be in contempt and I will jail the lot of you indefinitely. Do I make myself understood?"
Jury as one nods.
Judge: "Do you find the accused guilty of murder?"
Jury says and does nothing.
Judge, nearly beside himself, repeats the question.
Jury says and does nothing.
Judge screams: "What are you all mute now?"
Jury as one nods.
Judge: "You, the Spokesman, answer the question or I will name you the murderer and string you up forthwith in this very courtroom!"
Jury as one: "The man was mine, the accused stole him from me, I demand restitution, I demand that the accused be surrendered forthwith to me."
Judge: "Guards! Get a rope!"
Guards rummage about for a rope.
Jury as one grins fiendishly and says: "Well I am waiting. Will you satisfy my demand."
Judge turns very white.
Jury as one turns to the accused, grins broadly, and declares: "I find you guilty of stealing a life from Tolben the Many. The man you killed, or perhaps not, was one that I wish to collect, and in restitution, I condemn you to take his place, it is you that I will collect. Any last words? Make them memorable. And no pressure. Remember you only get one chance. And would you mind very much slipping out of those rags first, you know I have a reputation to keep up."
Any group activity is perfect for Tolben. At first everything seems normal, then perhaps slightly remarkable for the high degree of coordination, then uncannily well coordinated, then frighteningly well coordinated, whereupon the party realises how out numbered it is as Tolben gets to the punchlines. Choirs and theatre companies seem like naturals to me. Imagine Tolben butchering MacBeth and, eventually, the audience.
How about using Toben to take over a caravan slowly and insidiously as the PC's go about "guarding" it until he makes himself known? Or not sure how I would work this in but what if he infected both sides of a conflict and kept them fighting each other until the PC's joined a side and then surprised them with suddenly having all of them attack the PC's? Some ideas anyway.
Toben is taken to Darkon and his greatest fear is realised, Azalin takes control of him. However, as Azalin has to concentrate to manipulate the undead in his domain, Toben hatches a plan. Using one of his zombies, he orchestrates the kidnap of a close friend of the PCs, then under Azalin's nose (Azalin, in his arrogance, wouldn't think that Toben is plotting), Toben contacts the PCs and tells them that if they do not help him get his bodies over the border, he will kill their friend.
Toben's plan is simple. He will get the PCs to kill all but one of his hosts, then he will get them to cross the border with it, saving him from Azalin. Toben's plan is not without it's flaws, however. If the PCs kill his last body, he is completely destroyed. To stop this, Toben has placed human guards with the PCs friend with orders to kill them if he doesn't return in a month. The PCs face a dilemma, help one of the most dangerous entities in the mists and face Azalin's wrath*, or destroy him and loose a close friend.
*Haven't heard that in a while.
ScS of the Fraternity
Toben must DIE!!!
In all the realms there is but one creature who truly loaths Toben beyond all others - Death. As an incarnate disease, Toben often feels lonely and yearns for an audience capable of understanding the genius of his macabre art. Surely, thought he, the dead themselves could appreciate his work. Toben sent a lone zombie to bring cheer to the lifeless city. Surprisingly, Necropolis is a less than sunny city. Toben tried juggling limbs, rearranging heads, even a parade of burning kittens - all to no avail. After an unfortunate misunderstanding involving a vat of acid, Toben was dragged before Death. Toben decided that death was far too serious and decided to do what ever was necessary to reveal the creature's sense of humour - despite Death's adamant protests.
Every so often, Toben sends a lone zombie into the Necropolis to play some tasteless prank on Death. Over the last few years, Death's nerves have been badly worn by the random attacks. Rather than wait for the next irritation, the Lord of the Necropolis has raised a small wing of the Unholy Order of the Grave to hunt down and exterminate all Toben zombies. These deathless Reavers are ruthlessly efficient. Where ever they encounter a Toben zombie they begin the remorseless slaughter of all potential carriers of the Toben plauge - which includes every man, woman and child.
For now, Toben enjoys this new game. Rather than actually collect bodies, he prefers to lead the Reavers on a merry chase around the Core, leaving a trail of incinerated hamlets in his wake. The PCs come in when they find Toben holed up in a village, cheerfully waiting for the Reavers to arrive before he runs off and begins the chase anew. Fortunately for the PCs, Toben knows the weaknesses of the Reavers. Unfortunatly, he wants to play a game with them. Will it be: 20 Questions? Spin the Bottle? Hide and go Shriek? Winner gets the knowledge to defeat the reavers. Loser joins Toben.
A story overheard in a non-descript dockside dive:
Why don't I like churches you ask? I once had a rather unpleasant night in one a while back...no, I don't want to tell you...well if you insist, buy another round and I'll give you the tale... I was traveling alone through Borca during the winter. I'd just helped some lunatic named Whyton do away with some monster, and I wanted to get as far away from the town the monster had been haunting AND that madman of hunter as I could. The winds were really starting to pick up, and nightfall was coming fast so I started to realize that I needed shelter if I wanted to see the next sunrise. I'd heard that a small village was not far down that road, and sure enough, there it was, coming in to view not a moment to soon.
I made for there as fast as the runt of a horse I had could take me, but even at the of the village I could tell something wasn't right. Place looked like no one had been there for months. Buildings in disrepair, windows broken, and not a sign of life anywhere. Couldn't tell what was wrong though...no signs battle, no houses burned to stop a plague, it was like everyone who lived there had just walked away one day and never looked back.
Yes, I know, it was a stupid thing to do, not leaving then and there, but what can I say? When the winds howling, your horse is hour from freezing to death, and you not far behind, you take what shelter you can. And in this case, the only piece of shelter that seemed more or less intact was the old stone church. Lead my horse in, let him in the main hall, and broke in to the priestís quarters. What? Yes I know it was likely not a very nice thing to do, but what can I say? You do what you have to. Started up the small woodstove in there, got some blankets together, even found a little servicable brandy in a riquety old desk in the corner, and made a fairly warm place to stay for the night.
So anyway, I'm getting a rather unpleasent bit of sleep, when I start hearing some noise coming from the main hall. I grab my ax and try and stay quiet, as I go to find out just what it is. Just as I peek my head through the door, I work out just what the noise is; it's singing! From the door I can see ten, maybe eleven people standing in the choir box, and a man in priestís robe leading them in some hymn, I think it was "Lady in the mists, we thank thee" or something. Now, I'm still half-asleep at this point, and that brady's hit me harder than I expected, so as soon as I see this I'm sure I'm dreaming. It's why I don't question who these people are, how I didn't find them earlier, or even why my horse is gone. I think it's just a rather strange dream, and I sit down on a bench to enjoy. And it was rather enjoyable, let me tell you. Perfect harmony, not a voice out of sync.
Then I start actually listening to the words of the song. Yeah, the tune is the same as the song I thought it was, but the words...I don't think I've heard a bawdier peice of song of my life. Yeah it talking about Ezra, but in manner blasphomous enough to strike a Bishop dead from shock. Then they start filing out of the box and moving my way, and as soon as they get enough light on them, I can see every last one of 'em grinning wider than that loon Whyton did after we'd killed the monster, and not a hint of sanity in their eyes.
What'd I do? What do you bloody think I did you idiot?! I made for the door, only when I turned that way, some more grinning loons were already there. Didn't have much of anywhere else to go, so I headed back to the preist quarters. Knocked over a few benches to try and trip 'em up, slammed the door shut. Too bad I'd already broke the lock on it...anyway I jam a chair against the door and start looking for a way out. Only exit is a window that looks much to small for me to fit through with my winter clothes on. So I started to strip down, and broke the window. I'd only squeezed halfway out by the time they were through the door. Could feel they hands brushing against my boots as I made that final push.
I ran as fast as I could, moving like only someone scared to the heart can. I saw what'd happened to my horse on the way out. From the looks of things, they'd all piled on top of it until it's legs gave out. I kept going, knowing the cold would likely kill me anyway, but I just didn't want to go back and face them. After a while I pass out, and when I come to I'm in some cave, with a handful of people around me. They were rangers, said they'd been picking off those things in the village one by one for a few months, and had just about finished them off. They asked if I wanted to help, I said not a chance, so as soon as I was in a condition to do so, I headed off with directions for the nearest safe village.
And that, my friend, I why I don't like churches. Now, what was that proposition you wanted to talk about...
David of the Frat
The heroes pursue and escaped fugitive or old villain to a local inn. The innkeeper is fearful of the night but speaks with a heavy Barovian accent so this is understandable. After the sun sets the doors are barred and locked, and the windows are barred. However, he believes the land is cursed. Anything that dies nearby comes back to life. They live in the nearby woods and only come out at night. This becomes problematic when the fugitive is apprehended in his room and tries to take his companion hostage. Someone almost inevitably dies and quickly rises as soon as backs are turned. It knows that a Toben zombie was buried in the cellar and it wants to let the others in. Limited room to move, and nowhere to go; the players are unknowingly trapped with the creature while it hunts them.
One of the Toben Zombies is separated by a domain border and trapped in an Island of Terror, but managed to survive for an extended period. It manages to develop an alternate personality due to the new experiences and decides every other Toben is a copy and fraud; it alone is Toben the Many. But of course, it needs allies if it is to destroy the restÖ
I've come up with an idea for Toben the Many. What if he can possess the living?
The template is attached as normal, but the host remains alive. It still gains the undead type, because for all intents and purposes it is undead, but if a cleric spends one of their daily turning attempts on the still living host, Toben has to make a will save at the DC set by the turn check or abandon the body. The host retains no memory of what happened whilst possessed by Toben and is in the same physical state as they where when Toben left them (same hp, ability loss, exp. loss and similar).
ScS of the Fraternity: I like it - it creates an Evil Dead theme. Plus it reduces Toben's power to a reasonable level. I never liked the idea that he could kill so many people without having to actually do anything.
Drinnik Shoehorn: I didn't like the disease thing. I've ruled he can possess undead and they can spread it via their bite. He possess people by forcing his personality
Charney: It's a good idea since it gives an exorcist twist to the priest.
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