Wednesday, July 21, 2021

OSR: The Horns of Valhalla

This is a post based on a magic item from 5th Edition.  I kept the name, but nothing else is the same.  This was also inspired by a Cacklecharm post, which I will link here, but also in the text below.

by Dilorom Abdullaeva

"The grave is no bar to my call."

- Inscription along the Horn of Valere, from the Wheel of Time

Most people in Nukaria believe the world is circular and eternal.  Like the seasons, the ages come and go and things persist as they always have.  The adherents to Chaos, however, do not share this belief.  They know the reason why the Orzanians, the current superpower straddling the civilized world like a Colossus sacrifices people.  They're not the only ones who know, of course, but they are the only ones who know the truth.  The Orzane offer sacrifices not only to their Gods, but to Tiamat, the Dragon-Goddess of Chaos.  This is because Tiamat is the world. Lord Marzan, Son of their Chief God Anuman, slew Tiamat in battle long ago, in a battle that ended the First Age, the Age of the Gods and began the Age of Heroes.  Before, Gods and Man lived in splendid harmony, but man's unrighteousness allowed Chaos to enter the world and nearly destroyed it.  Since then, the Gods have been divided into the Lords of Law, who seek to continue the world and await the return of the Lawgiver, and the Princes of Chaos, who seek to destroy what remains of the world and remake it in their own "glorious" image.

For there was a problem.  Shortly after the Second Age began, the Lords of Law realized that Tiamat was not actually dead.  Too powerful to be destroyed by them, her body still lived, albeit in a divided form.  As such, the new creatures the Gods had created to people the Earth were being devoured by Tiamat's body, which sought to repair itself.  But while the Lords searched for a way to permanently slay Tiamat, this information leaked to Unta, the Imp of Suffering.

Unta was faced with a delicious conundrum.  If he did nothing, mortals would continue to die and he could watch it for as long as he wanted.  But if this state of affairs was allowed to continue, Tiamat would eventually be resurrected.  And should that happen, he would be killed, as he betrayed the forces of Chaos and her deceased husband, Prince Quino.  As such, while the Lords debated, Unta slipped out of the Court of Heaven and made his way to Earth.

Once he reached Earth, he took the form of an old man and traveled to one of the largest city in the world where he found the people cowering in their homes and praying feverishly for deliverance which did not come.  He went to the elders of the city and found them huddled in an upper room, shaking with fear.  When he saw them, he rebuked them, excoriating them for their cowardice.  When they grew angry and rose from their seats to strike him, Unta transformed and took on a glorious form, dazzling them with his power.  They immediately were overcome with fear and fell on their faces, believing him to be the salvation they had prayed for.  Unta then told them what to do.  He ordered them to take 100 people from the city and offer them as sacrifices to the Gods, spilling their blood into the Earth. 

The elders protested, but Unta insisted that the disaster that threatened their city would swallow them all up if they did not do this.  He told them it did not matter who died, whether they be Kings or Slaves, as long as they died.  Then Unta spoke a prophecy, "As long as the Earth is watered with blood and the Gods do not die alongside men, then the Dragon-Mother will sleep.  But should the blood fail to flow or her killers perish, she will rise and bring about the Last Day, the Day of Red Sun."

The elders then did as Unta ordered them to do, and to their surprise, Tiamat was quieted around their city.  Unta then traveled to other cities, giving them the same orders.  He only did this several times before the Lords of Law realized what he was doing and sent the Throneguard to retrieve him.  Unta was recaptured and returned to his chains in Heaven, but the damage was done.  Not only was the practice of sacrificing mortals to the Gods spreading by itself across the world, but this act of profane violence awoke the taint left in each mortal who participated or witnessed the event.  All the mortals alive on Earth were actually either those who had been resurrected by the blood of Quino the traitor, or they were the descendents of the same.  And when they saw such an act, it awoke dark instincts with them.  Before they had lived in peace with each other, but gradually as the blood continued to flow, it infected their hearts.  For the first time, men fought and killed each other.  The bond of communion between Man and God had been broken, but now that bond was broken between Men as well.

The Lords of Law longed to punish Unta for his dreadful crime, but they feared that because of his prophecy, should they do so, they might speed or cause the resurrection of the Dragon-Goddess.  So they instead punished him harshly by forcing him to eat the worst, most shameful parts of every sacrifice offered to them until his stomach ruptured.  Then they healed him and had him do it again.  This process continued for 1 year.

by Alex Graham-Heggie

The State of Affairs today:

Mortals continue to offer sacrifices to the Gods and spill the blood of the slain into the Earth.  This, along with their wars, massacres and murders feeds the Dragon-Goddess.  Slowly it heals her.  However, because of Unta's prophecy, it is not enough for men to merely die.  He forced the Lords of Law to protect him, by making the death of a God in a specific circumstance the source of her resurrection.

As such, Chaos Cultists seek not only to provide the Dragon-Goddess with enough blood to heal herself, the greater of their numbers also work to engineer a scenario through which Unta's prophecy will be fulfilled.  They speak of the Day of Red Sun, when Tiamat will be resurrected and the remains of this world will be swept away.  The adherents of Chaos believe this will usher in a Heavenly Age, where the innate goodness of man will return when he is no longer being corrupted by the cruelties of Law.  Those who cling to Law on the other hand believe that the resurrection of Tiamat will lead only to death and destruction on an unimaginable scale, if not the end of the world itself as it dissolves back into the formless void that it emerged out of.

But the Lords of Law have not been sitting idle, waiting for this day to come.  Not only do they fight the Princes of Chaos through their proxies, just as the Princes use their cultists and demons as proxies, but they have also been recruiting.  Whenever a glorious or heroic soul is near death or completes some great deed, the Lords of Law appear before him and give him a choice: live on here in this world and potentially die, or come with me.

Those who come with the Lords are placed in a long sleep and concealed under mountains, in hidden caves guarded by Sphinxes, or sealed in a special Sarcophagi that will preserve and heal them.  They become the Sleepers, those legendary heroes who will return on the Last Day to do battle with Tiamat and the armies of Chaos.  This struggle will determine who rules over the world and whether existence will continue or it will all return to the abyss of Chaos.

artist unknown

The Horns of Valhalla:

The Lords of Law also sought to repay mortals for their generosity and to provide them with some aid, should they need help, as men were deprived of their greatest mortal champions.  So the Gods crafted from the horns of the great beasts of Chaos four horns and imbued them with sacred power.  Should the forces of Law and Justice need aid, they can blow one of these horns and receive aid.                

The horns made from the horn of some great, long dead beast, banded with gold, silver, brass or iron.  The horn is always in pristine condition and the metal bands are molded into scenes of battle and victory.  The horn is a tool of heroes, and refuses to be used for evil or chaotic beings or by them.  When sounded by an evil or chaotic creature, it instead causes that creature to take 2d6 damage and forces all evil or chaotic creatures who can hear the sound of the horn to save or be frightened by the sound.

However, if sounded by a heroic or lawful creature, the Horn will summon a number of Sleepers to aid the Horn-Blower in battle.

Once sounded, the horn cannot be blown for some time, or until Heaven wills it.   

To see the specifics on each horn, consult the table below:

The Sleepers:

- All Sleepers have 1d3+5 HD
- They make all attacks at +4 unless stated otherwise
- They cannot be magically aged and are immune to all save or die effects
- When they take the field, allies of the Horn-Blower receive new saves against any Charm or Fear effects afflicting them and enemies of the Horn-Blower must immediately check morale or flee
What Sleepers do you summon?


1- The Emperor of Shining Glory.  The first Emperor of the Orzane, he is a pig-man with a shaved body and a snow white mohawk, his tusks cut short and capped with white gold encrusted with fire opals.  He can enter a rage that is icy cold and does not prevent him from thinking rationally.  Additionally, while he is raging, he takes half damage from all types of damage.  He is also immune to psychic damage and his mind cannot be read or influenced by psychic effects. 
2- The Demigod Urzai Bullslayer.  A Deerling with fur the color of copper and emerald eyes.  Fast as a charging horse and much stronger than his slim body has any right to be.  He has the ability to dodge anything 1/Day, even a magical effect or something like a fireball.  His red cloak, when revealed, provokes rage in those who see it, compelling them to blindly rush forward to attack and his bright weapons can pierce any mortal-forged armor. 
3- Sulicar, Prince of Djinn.  A human with a swarthy complexion and bearing a pair of magic rings, each one that imprisons a Genie.  He can use these rings to cast any spell he wants as an action, and the spell can use up to 7 MD.  He does not suffer Chaos or Corruption.  He is also incredibly intelligent.
4- Marix Carlo, The Hammer.  The leader of men and the destroyer of the foreign hordes, this Quarrian man has long, dark hair and matching eyes, his blue skin covered in pale tattoos.  He wields a magic hammer that superheats metal armor on contact and rides upon Destrier, Prince of Equines and Son of the King of Horses.  When he is with you, your allies fight like demons and automatically pass all morale checks. 
5- Elia, Bearer of the Word "Burn".  She arrives shining like the sun, riding in a chariot of fire being pulled by a pair of Celestial Centaurs.  A human woman with sun-bronzed skin and dark hair, her voice can make objects combust or call down fire from Heaven.
6- Culo Fairskin.  An albino Crocoling, he is a gifted swordsman with icy blue eyes and wears a robe of shimmering grey silk.  He possesses the power to transform into a grotesque simian monster, but his greatest technique is his ability to dance, which creates a rhythm that makes it impossible for his enemies to hit him. 
7- Wilma Silvershot.  The greatest archer who ever lived, she is a Frogling exile who rejected those who cast her out and took the future into her own hands.  She can shoot out the flame of a match without damaging the match and when her son was to be hung for a crime she did not commit, she fired a single arrow that cut the rope he was to be hung with right as he dropped, then managed to kill the executioner and the magistrate who had come to oversee the execution with the same shot.
8- Archon of Nu-Zir.  A metal statue of a warrior that was brought to life by a child's wish and divine intervention, the Archon zealously protected those who dwelled in the necropolis of Nu-Zir, until he misinterpreted the orders his charges gave him and started imprisoning them to keep them safe.  To prevent him from doing this further, the child's father erased the Divine Script on his hand, which is believed to have killed the Archon.  However, an Angel of Law came to the child the next night and told him that the Archon had been taken to Heaven and he would return one day to protect all the world's children.  The Archon is immune to all non-magical weapons and fire heals him.  He imprisons the ghosts of the unjust in the jewels in his gauntlets and can release them to attack people, then pull them back to protect the innocent.
9- Abimelech the Wise.  The greatest Magi who ever lived, he is widely believed to be the one who rediscovered sorcery after the tumultuous close of the First Age and the Deluge.  He was known for his crudity and kindness, as well as for his legacy of teaching mortals how to do magic.  But when he failed to protect his King from a sorcerous witch, he withdrew to live out his life in exile.  However, as he was beloved by the Gods, they did not curse him for his indiscretions and failures and promised him one last chance to fight for redemption.
10- Alhazu [Al-hah-zoo].  The last of the Vulkari (Vulturemen) Emperors, he was the victim of prophecy and foreign invaders, who he welcomed and who took him captive.  When the people grew violent, the invaders asked him to speak to them, that their lives might be spared.  He agreed and walked out of the occupied palace to speak to the people.  When they heard what he had to say though, his rivals declared he was a traitor and whipped up the agitated crowd against him, which threw stones at him, one that split open his beak and nearly killed him.  As a result, the Lords of Law destroyed the Vulkari and blighted them with a horrible plague that broke the last of the Empire's strength.  But Alhazu did not curse his people, but when the invaders fled, the Lords came to him and asked if he would protect them one last time.  He agreed and was sealed inside a sarcophagus of amber that healed him and placed him in a deep sleep, from which he will rise to aid those who deserve his justice.  Alhazu has the ability to pronounce judgement on the guilty and can absorb damage from the wounded, healing them, then transfer it to another by touching them.
11- Vitilo of the Yora.  The Coyoons tell stories about how before they were exiled by the Wolfmen, they lived at the feet of the same, oppressed by their elder brothers.  But one Coyoon rose above his humble origins to become King over not only them, but their elder brothers as well.  This Coyoon, beloved by all, was Vitilo of the Yora, a courageous warrior who brought peace and discord to the lands of the Canifari.  He is the greatest of their Kings, and the Coyoon believes that from his line will arise a savior who will redeem their people and restore their ancestral homeland to them.  Vitilo is said to carry a magic sword that could command the freezing wind and a scabbard that could make his flesh as hard as forged steel.  He also had the ability to frighten people with his gaze so badly that they froze in place like rabbits.
12- Zealous Ripton.  A Loxodon who defied the servants of Chaos when they overtook his city and defiled the Temple, he exhorted the people to remain with their principles and to refuse to kneel before these invaders.  For his crimes he was exiled from the city and imprisoned in a cave, where a Prince of Chaos forced him to watch things from a God's perspective, so Ripton saw his city grow from a village to a great metropolis then crumble and wither away.  But even after seeing civilization rise and fall like the tide, Ripton refused to acknowledge the Chaos God's point.  And at that moment, he realized the stone that imprisoned him had aged as well, so he smashed through them and attacked the God, who he wrestled with.  Terrified for his life at the Loxodon's incredible power, the Prince of Chaos hurled Ripton into the space between worlds.  But through the help of the Lords of Law, Ripton was able to surpass time.  Now he can freely travel to whatever point in time he wishes, and travels through time and space, righting wrongs and fighting evil.  He possesses incredible strength, the ability to teleport and to travel through time.
13- Yin the Boltra.  A Lakazu clad in a mask of gold and robes of perfect black, Yin overthrew the foreigners who oppressed his people and denied them the right to practice their ancient customs, successfully driving the invaders from his homeland and keeping his people safe for ten years, until he was slain via treachery.  Or at least, that's how the story goes.  But legend says that he did not actually die, but instead crawled away and when writing a curse on the floor of his castle in his own blood, an Angel of Law whisked him away where he awaits the opportunity to return and punish those who would abandon his people to Chaos and suffering.  He possesses the ability to unleash psychic blasts which scramble the mind and has the ability to move objects with thought alone.  He can also levitate using this same ability.
14- Leath Cinnafax of Mullberry Grove.  A humble Goatling prostitute, she discovered a pair of foreigners, Froglings who had entered her city as their God had promised them a free land apart from their captors.  She had heard what the Frogling Gods had done to those who challenged their people and was filled with fear, but still had the courage to ask them what they planned to do.  When the Froglings told her that they meant to take the city by force and slay all who resisted, she pleaded for the life of the city, claiming that she could get them to surrender without a fight.  They agreed with her, feeling that the Gods were with this woman.  But when Leath slipped into the chambers of the tyrant of the city to ask for him to surrender the city into the hands of the Free Froglings, he rebuked her and refused.  So she promised him her body if he would.  He pretended to agree, because though she was lowborn and a harlot, she was very beautiful.  But then when the tyrant fell asleep, she assassinated him and forged a document in the tyrant's hand that the gates should be opened.  She then went to the gate before the body could be discovered and showed it to them, claiming reinforcements were coming.  But when the gates were opened, the Free Frogling army rushed the open gate and forced their way inside.  And while some still fought, the city was saved and Leath was proclaimed a hero.  For that, and to protect her from those who thought her a traitor, the Lords of Law took her to Heaven so she could remain fair and virtuous forever.  Leath has the ability to charm people and to enforce non-violence on people through her soft lips.  No one can harm her without passing a saving throw and animals, even wild beasts, refuse to harm or offend her.
15- Ganvi Bloodywine.  A Badgerfolk warrior, he fought for his people and guarded their borders against the raiders from the plains that would have despoiled their lands and carried them away into slavery.  He is said to have been fatally wounded in a battle against Demon Clanlord, but was sealed inside a magical jar by a pair of angels, who concealed him in a cavern of quartz and gold beneath the earth.  There his wounds heal and he enjoys his well-deserved rest.  But should he be needed again, he will emerge from his resting place and take to the field to defend his people once more.  Bloodywine has the ability to create sinkholes and fortifications out of Earth, sculpt stone like it's putty and wields a magic halberd that disintegrates metal on contact.
16- Jasiel, Son of Orimor.  When his people were subjugated, they were forced to offer tribute each year in the form of several human sacrifices, which were given to a monster that their enemies worshiped.  He volunteered to be given over so he could infiltrate the monster's lair and slay it.  However, as mortal weapons were unable to slay it, Jasiel subdued the monster and ate it alive.  This ingestion of the monster's polluted flesh destroyed it, but then the monster attempted to possess and take over his body.  Luckily, he was rescued by the Lords of Law, who tore the Monster's soul away and cast it down to Sheol, then imbued him with it's power.  Jasiel then performed many heroic deeds due to his enhanced physical powers, until finally he was called away by the Gods for one final service.  Jasiel cannot be injured by weapons forged by mortal hands and possesses the strength of a team of oxen.  He fights bare-handed, or with a small tree he tears from the ground.     
17- Azul of Sandcrag, the Glass Castle King.  An Oxman who slew the Dragon threatening his people, then bathed in it's blood.  This gave him the ability to nullify the power of flames, covered him in nigh-unbreakable armor and gave him the gift of prophecy.  Azul used these abilities to bring peace to his fractured homeland, but was ultimately betrayed by envious rivals who thought they killed him.  Fortunately, he was rescued by the Gods, who offered him the chance to guard his people forevermore.  Azul is covered in dragon-scale, can extinguish flames with a gesture and has the ability to peer up to 1 minute into the future.   
18- Nikali the Hunter.  A half-Orc, his other half was human, Nikali was a man who rejected his father, the Slave-King and spent his life traveling around, destroying those who preyed on the weak.  He was a ruthless and efficient slayer, hunting many dangerous beasts.  He had a special hatred for rational creatures that fought against civilization and regarded them as little more than filth.  When he was wrongly accused of murder and hung as an outlaw, he vowed that he would return and judge not only the monsters who he fought, but those who were merely monsters in men's clothing.  Nikali fought with a pair of wands that could produce a gushing blasts of flame.  He also possessed the ability to brand people with magical seals that weakened them and allowed him to track them to the ends of the Earth. 
19- Ovali Jingles.  A Caribusa who hung golden bells on his antlers, he fought against the foreign oppressors who had taken over his country, flouting their rules and humiliating their officials.  When they sent bounty hunters and posses after him to arrest him, he killed them.  When they send armies, he killed them too.  It is not known if he died, he just seemed to disappear one day, as if he took off into the air and never came down.  Ovali was a gifted flier, able to fly extremely well when it was snowing.  He also possessed the ability to manipulate clouds and weather in a local area and was the master of Hale Kai style, which uses a javelin and shortsword simultaenously.
20- Piermont of House Voyin, The Guiding Light.  A Lizarian conquerer and master of medicine, Piermont led his armies across the plains, subjugating the wild peoples there.  He slaughtered all who resisted, but raised up those who submitted, leaving behind schools, hospitals and infrastructure that is still used to this day.  It was he who established contact with the people of the Cold Plains (the Equatorial Lands) and he was the inventer of many things, mostly advanced medical techniques that laid the foundations for what we know today.  After dying peacefully in his bed, he was raised and placed in the armory of Heaven, should they need his military genius again.  Piermont possesses the ability to heal with a touch, can produce clouds of toxic gas and carries a magical mace that can allow him to send telepathic messages to anyone whose blood has touched the head of the mace.

Character Retirement:

Characters can and should be encouraged to retire, especially if you're playing a game that spans over years, decades or some other great length of time. 

One unusual method of retirement is that if a character is sufficiently great and heroic, the Lords of Law may recruit him to become a Sleeper.  This retires the character, who is still alive, but likely will not return until a Horn of Valhalla is sounded or the Last Day.

Besides passing down their material possessions to an Apprentice, should the player character wish to do so, if a player allows their character to become a Sleeper they receive a boon for their next character:

Possible Boons:

- Roll 4d6 for all ability scores, then drop the lowest die
- Replace one ability score of your choice with a 16(+2)
- Start with a magic item of the Referee's choice
- Your character has the gift of prophecy and occasionally has prophetic dreams relating to the future
- Your character begins play with an NPC retainer, a faithful servant, bodyguard or advisor bestowed upon them at birth
- Your character is a child of prophecy and has a grand destiny to fulfill

artist unknown

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