ORCUS, DEMON PRINCE OF THE UNDEAD, is one of the most powerful demons in the Abyss—powerful enough to threaten gods. He commands legions of followers, living and dead, and cults dedicated to him are terrifyingly widespread in the natural world.
Orcus finds amusement in the suffering and anguish of the living and satisfaction only when he drinks their blood. Most living things enrage him by their mere presence, and Orcus permits only undead to be near him; even his demon servitors are undead. He has destroyed hundreds of mighty heroes and laid waste to countless kingdoms.
Orcus is a foul and corpulent humanoid creature who has powerful goat legs and a desiccated head similar to that of a ram. His great wings stir up a reeking cloud of diseased air. He seems somewhere between life and undeath—his soreridden body suggests diseased life, but his head and glowing red eyes suggest undeath. His thick, spiny tail is in constant motion.
Orcus carries a heavy mace tipped with an enormous skull. Known as the Wand of Orcus, this weapon transforms those it slays into undead horrors. Its haft is smooth obsidian studded with blood rubies.
Dead creatures respond to the presence of Orcus, even without his command. Skeletal arms claw up from the ground where he walks and grab at the feet of his foes. Spirits fill the air with a ghostly chorus of piteous moans, tugging at his foes and hindering their movement.
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 15: Orcus is known as the Demon Lord of Undeath, the Demon Prince of the Undead, and the Blood Lord. He is worshiped by undead and living creatures that do not fear undeath.
DC 20: Orcus desires destruction like all demons, but he has set his sights higher, aiming at the gods themselves. In particular, Orcus hungers for the death of the Raven Queen and to usurp her control over death and the souls of the dead.
DC 25: Orcus rules one of the many layers of the Abyss. His realm, Thanatos, is a dark landscape of death shrouded by gray clouds and often obscured by fog. Light filters weakly through the clouds and mists, illuminating the realm like a moonlit night. Dead forests filled with twisted black trees and barren moors dominate. Bleak mountains rise feebly into the black sky, and cities and villages in ruins crouch in hidden places as though fearful. Strewn all over the realm are tombs, mausoleums, gravestones, and sarcophagi. They stand on rooftops and building eaves like gargoyles, they litter forests like boulders left by a glacier, and they jut from moors like the masts of sinking ships. Undead abound within the realm, and no living thing survives long there.
DC 30: At the heart of Thanatos stands a vast obsidian palace with embedded bones barely visible through the semitransparent black stone. This palace, Everlost, straddles a yawning chasm whose sheer slopes hold hundreds of tombs and burial sites, creating a tiered necropolis below the palace. DC 35: Orcus wields an artifact called the Wand of Orcus. Legends say that the skull atop the wand once belonged to a god of virtue and chivalry who dared challenge Orcus in battle. Other legends identify it as the skull of a human hero, but if that is true, it has been magically enlarged to its current size. In any event, the powerful good that once resided in the skull is warped and perverted into the most monstrous evil.
Those unfortunate enough to meet Orcus rarely survive the experience. The demon lord surrounds himself with undead guards and minions, and eagerly meets any challenge to battle. He likes to crush foes with the Wand of Orcus and uses master of undeath to make dread wraiths out of those he slays. Against a particularly troublesome foe, he uses touch of death. When an enemy moves into an adjacent square, the demon lord strikes with his spined tail. When surrounded by numerous foes, he spends an action point to use necrotic burst.
Cults of OrcusEdit
Cults dedicated to the blood lord operate in secret except among the most corrupt of barbarian hordes and undead legions. Orcus’s cultists gather in hidden spots associated with death: graveyards, mausoleums, tombs, and ancient necropoli.
The cults of Orcus have no symbol in common; each cult invents its own iconography to remind them of Orcus’s awful power. These symbols typically incorporate skulls and bones, ram’s horns, or blasphemous runes. Black and blood red are favored colors among his devotees.
Orcus enjoys the suffering of the living, and disease is an excellent way to spread suffering. His followers foul wells with corpses, block sewers, and commit all manner of criminal acts to ensure that disease is an ever-present threat.
Orcus’s worshipers do not see undead as holy, but rather as a means to accomplish their goals and Orcus’s ambition to extinguish life. They therefore create as many terrible undead as they can. Powerful cultists might treat a vampire or a mummy as an equal and a participant in the cult, whereas a zombie or a skeleton is nothing more than an expendable servant. Ultimately, every worshiper hopes to throw off the shackles of mortality and become a powerful, intelligent undead creature such as a lich, a death knight, a mummy, or a vampire, and thereby gain control over lesser undead. In practice, very few accomplish this goal, but Orcus’s worshipers consider undeath a great service to Orcus and a means of escaping punishment in the afterlife, so they welcome even transformation into a zombie or a skeleton.
The point of a sacrifice to Orcus is not simply the death of the victim but also the collection and distribution of the victim’s blood. Religious leaders fill a skull with blood and drink it, then fill it again for Orcus and pour it out over his idol. This rite takes place once a month, and if the worshipers can find no sentient creature for sacrifice, they must fill the cup with blood from one of their own, a consequence that cults desperately seek to avoid. His cultists see the drinking of blood as a sign of true dedication to Orcus, and they say that Orcus tastes the blood his worshipers drink.