Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva and the Crown of Pluto

Started working on a bit more world-building for our family's D&D Next game and for the next Sneakatara Boatman story.  The story concept has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now, but it was only last night that I finally started to realize what was missing.  I think this is it.

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva
The black dwarves of Ruskva live in the great caverns beneath Iron Mountain, the highest part of the Kaukasian mountain range, which runs along the eastern border of the Empire of Holy Sentralia.  A race of underground smiths, the dwarves hold two gods sacred--Vulcan, the Sentralian god of the forge, and Pluto, the god of the underworld, patron of their subterranean lair.  Since the time of Badden Sentra, the legendary founder of the Legion of the Red Lord and unifier of the Empire that today bears his name, the black dwarves have also sworn fealty to the Emperor’s personal deity Mars, the Red Lord, and to the Emperor himself.  Indeed, it was Badden Sentra himself who established the dwarves’ Praetorian Precedent, by which the dwarves provide a company from amongst their number to serve as the Emperor’s personal bodyguard.  The members of this bodyguard are consecrated to Mars as an elite unit amongst the larger body that is today the Legion.

As warriors, the black dwarves of Ruskva are renowned for being both stout and fearsome in battle.  Their cohorts are generally organized as heavy infantry companies, outfitted with the black iron plate mail that is their namesake, along with heavy black iron shields.  However, where other units from the Legion--and from the Sentralian military in general--tend to favor the spear[1], the dwarves are typically equipped with war hammers, in homage to Vulcan, or occasionally with sickles or scythes, in honor of Pluto.
The Crown of Pluto
Legendary (unique) Wondrous Item
The Crown of Pluto is the most holy relic of the black dwarves.  Held in the dwarves’ main temple at the heart of Iron Mountain, the crown occupies a place of honor among the clans’ many saintly, historic relics.  The temple itself is unusual in that it’s consecrated to all of the Dii Consentes but has Pluto added as a thirteenth member of the traditional holy Twelve.  Indeed, the altar to Pluto is arranged at the temple’s center, with the other twelve altars radiating outward like spokes.  The Crown hangs above the altar by a spell that is said to protect it from those who might seek to take it from the dwarves, in whose care it was given by the very god of the Underworld himself.
The Crown of Pluto appears to have been forged from the same simple black iron that is the foundation metal of all of the dwarves’ weapons and armor.  It is simple and unadorned, save for a pair of tiny wings carved into the sides like inscriptions.  The wings are said to be in honor of Mercury, the messenger of the gods and taker of souls to the Underworld.
The wearer of the Crown of Pluto gains a connection to shadow magic, the magic of the Underworld.  Once the item is attuned, the wearer gains limited control over shadows.  
  • As an Action, the wearer can wrap shadows around him (or her)self.  This leaves the wearer heavily obscured and gives him a +5 bonus to Stealth checks.  
  • When the wearer is in an area of shadow or darkness, whether natural or created by the Crown itself, he can teleport as a Move action into another area of shadow or darkness that is within 30’.  In order to use this power, the wearer must be able to make move as normal, since the action itself is literally a step through the Underworld, to a location that is back in the Known World.  Once the wearer has used this power, he cannot use it again until he has taken either a long or a short rest.
  • As an Action, a wearer can change the Crown of Pluto to appear as any other solid metal crown, cap, circlet, or helmet.  Doing so requires a DC 14 Arcana check.
A DC 15 Charisma check is required to attune the Crown of Pluto.  Moreover, the Crown itself has limited sentience and will resist certain wearers while embracing others.  The Crown tends to favor travellers, rogues, and thieves while eschewing priests, paladins, and homebodies of all kinds.  Rogues and bards gain +2 to their attunement checks while clerics, druids, and paladins take -2 to theirs.
The longer one holds the Crown of Pluto, the deeper one’s connection with it becomes.  Once a wearer has gained two levels while maintaining possession of the Crown, he will begin to realize its full power.  
The Crown is actually a key and will admit entrance to the Underworld for its wearer and a limited number of fellow travelers, up to eight.  One crosses over to the Underworld in the same way that one teleports across distances in the Known World, save that where one normally crosses through the Underworld and back out again, once one has attained mastery of the Crown’s powers, he can use it to cross over stay.  However, this power is limited.  Once one has crossed between worlds and stayed, one cannot cross back--andstay--until after completing a long rest.

A sculpture of Brennus from a French naval ship, by unknown 19th or 18th century
French artist, showcased at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia,
photographed by
DO'Neil.  The sculpture is wearing Mercury's Helm.
Once a wearer has gained three levels while in possession of the Crown, one realizes that the “Crown” is not actually a crown at all.  The supposed “Crown of Pluto” is, in fact, the Helm of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.  It was stolen long ago by some forgotten black dwarf arcanist, who changed its aspect permanently to appear to be the birthright of his people.  The Helm, however, no longer wishes to be in possession of the dwarves, both because the dwarves are not followers of Mercury and because they have kept it in one place for long eons, against its very nature.  Mercury is the god of travellers and thieves, and because of this, his helm will call out to any supremely talented thief whom it believes may accomplish its theft.

[1] The spear is the traditional weapon of Mars.

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