The Crystal Skull
The Crystal Skull is an artefact created many millennia ago by a death slaad necromancer named Osh with the assistance of Primus. It appears to be a slaadi skull made of smoky black crystal. It gives off strong evil, chaotic, and magical auras (school: Necromancy). It is a Tainted object. In 2103 MR the Triad (Torm, Illmater, and Tyr) declared that possession alone of the skull by a spellcaster is a death sentence, and that any good-aligned creature who understands the skull’s nature and willfully chooses not to enforce the sentence, will lose their good alignment. This decree was ratified by Bahamut after the Dragon War (2491 MR). The value of the skull is incalculable; most non-evil, non-chaotic creatures could not be paid to accept it.
To activate the skull and create an active matrix that animates undead, a caster with at least 3 points of taint must complete a 3-hour ritual with the following steps:
- sacrifice 1d3 Str
- and an equal number of sentient creatures of non-evil, non-chaotic alignment
- these sacrificed creatures must be living
- place a black onyx gem in the mouth or orifice of each creature sacrificed
- cast Gentle Repose on each of the creatures sacrificed
The sacrificed creature(s) must be kept alive during the ritual. Gentle Repose, which usually prevents a corpse from decaying, will instead keep the sacrifice(s) unconscious and suspended. The sacrifice(s) form a magical matix with the skull. Each day that they are in the matrix the sacrifice(s) receive 1 point of taint, until overcome by the effects of taint. 1d6 hours later, the sacrifice(s) rise as a ghoul, ghast, wraith, or bodak, depending on their level/HD, and the sacrifice is no longer part of the matrix.
Once part of an active matrix, the skull will cause one or more mutations in the caster, and any taint in the caster is absorbed by the skull. Mutations are rolled from the Slaadi Variant table (3.0e Monster Manual p.169). One mutation is rolled for every 3 points of taint absorbed from the caster. If any mutation rolled duplicates an existing feature/quality of the caster, or cannot be applied to the caster, the mutation is rerolled.
After the caster mutates, the skull creates Animate Dead fields (radius 333’) as a caster equal to 7 plus the points of taint absorbed by the skull, up to CL 20. The fields are centered around the sacrifices. Undead are created by each field, beginning at sundown each night and paused at sunrise each day, from available corpses within the radius of the field. As long as a Gentle Repose effect remains active on the sacrifice, the Animate Dead field will remain active. The total HD of undead animated at a time by all fields combined cannot exceed the current CL of the skull times 4. The value of each gem must be at least the current CL of the skull times 25gp.
Unless commanded otherwise, the undead created will be drawn to the geometric center of the relative locations of the sacrifices (if only one sacrifice is made, the center point will be at the sacrifice). Unless commanded otherwise, the undead will attack any living creature (other than the caster, if applicable) they encounter within the radius of the field, or within a circle bounded by the sacrifices (whichever is greater).
Additional sacrifices may be added to the matrix of sacrifices (through the ritual process), as long as the Gentle Repose effect is still active on all previous sacrifices that have not yet succumbed to the effects of taint. The total active number of sacrifices in the matrix may never exceed three. Additional taint absorbed by the skull (from the caster) in the process of adding sacrifices to the matrix may add to the current CL of the skull (max 20).
If the Gentle Repose effect ends or lapses before a sacrifice succumbs to the effects of taint, or if the sacrifice dies from any cause other than taint, or if or if the onyx is removed from the sacrifice, or if the sacrifice becomes undead from the effects of taint, then the sacrifice is no longer a part of the matrix, and its onyx gem will become a worthless husk. If there are no longer any active sacrifices in the matrix, it and the crystal skull are deactivated. Allowing Gentle Repose to end or lapse on a sacrifice will allow the sacrifice to regain consciousness, but the sacrifice still has whatever taint gained while in the matrix (1 point per day). Also, removal of the onyx stone must still be accomplished. Removal of the onyx from a still-living sacrifice, whether in the matrix or not, causes immediate 1d2 Constitution damage to both the sacrifice and the caster. If the sacrifice survives, it will still have whatever taint it received while in the matrix.
To expand an active matrix with additional sacrifice(s), the caster follows the steps of the ritual as usual. If the roll made for strength sacrificed exceeds the amount of additional sacrifices desired or needed, the roll still applies. If any quality, spell, or effect prevents the Str sacrifice from being taken by the caster, the caster takes 1d3 damage from his next-highest attribute and 1d20 HP damage. If any of this damage cannot be taken by the caster, the next-closest target will take the damage instead, and the matrix will be deactivated.