Prince of the Crawling Shadows (Pt. 2)

Following on to the introduction of the Prince of Crawling Shadows, let’s look at how he weakens the icons around him. While all others involve icon on icon conflicts, the Chaos is their sinister emissary. We may never know how or when he replaced the former Prince of Shadows, but can see the poisonous ivy of his intentions undermining foundations.

Plot Cracks

Three ways the new Prince of Shadows weakens the other twelve icons1:

(Each of these will be filled out as I work through their section. Please check back for an updated list.)

The Archmage

The Crusader

The Diabolist

The Dwarf King

The Elf Queen

Counter-icon: The Goat Mother

  • A mysterious stranger sells magical seeds to a few Halfling farmers in Old Town. The vegetables grow overnight, as promised, but on the second day they look wrong. An infection spreads through the soil itself, toward the Queenswood.
  • Political chaos breaks out in the Court of Stars. Private messages end up in the wrong hands. Scrolls detailing secret meetings arrive at participants’ doors, with blackmailing notes demanding actions or favors that make no sense.
  • The Court of Stars relies on its constant motion to keep it safe and adapt to external dangers. Yet if one were to chart its most recent movements, one might get the impression it was being herded toward a particular place. But those were all random and unconnected causes—weren’t they?

The Emperor

The Great Gold Wyrm

The High Druid

Counter-icon: The Elk Goddess

  • The High Druid receives a letter in her own handwriting. The letter pleads with the Emperor and Archmage to send aid and begs forgiveness for her stubborn and independent ways. An accompanying note reads: “You may want to send this now.”
  • A druid arrives with news from the south. Someone has smashed the wards on the edge of the Wild Wood which protect it against escaped demons from the southern Hellhole.
  • Druids and rangers moving at night report the sky more frequently obscured by enormous clouds of bats. The bats never attack, but seem to arrive at critical moments, causing them to miss turns in the path or lose the track of a mysterious animal.

The Lich King

The Orc Lord

The Priestess

Counter-icon: The Enchantress

  • A sacred item, used to hold the forces of so many gods in check, is stolen from the vaults of Santa Cora.
  • Fog engulfs Santa Cora, closing its harbor and making road travel perilous. The Archmage sent no warning of this strange weather, nor can prayers and spells lift it. The only open path lies toward the Wild Wood. At night, when the fog is thickest, it seems to whisper in the ears of those abroad. Can the city get word back to the Archmage?
  • It started with a cherubic child, speaking in tongues in the River District. From there, it spread like an infection, a torrent of tongues, speaking vaguely-demonic words for hours until they collapse exhausted and unable to speak or understand their native languages. Residents of Santa Cora consider speaking in tongues entirely natural, a phenomenon that comes upon worshipers for minutes or moments and then passes, leaving them unharmed. But this? And still the child prattles on.

The Three

Servitors and Creatures

They may not always serve the Prince, but when encountered in these games, they’re definitely his creatures. Where to find them and where they might show up in an adventure:

Bat Swarm

Bestiary, p.13. Most often used by the Prince in unnatural swarms to darken the skies (either to provide his creatures cover or to prevent adventurers from noticing something else) or to create enough chaos for an escape.

Bugbear Schemer

Bestiary, p.25. Legends say the Prince originally created the bugbears (p. 26), whether or not that’s true, he’s especially fond of the Schemers, both for their wit and their ability to disappear from a bad fight.

Cambion Assassin

Bestiary, p.30. These cloaked assassins stalk those unwise enough to interfere with the Prince’s plans. They sometimes work in teams, one as a distraction and another with the real mission. It’s said that one of them killed the Priestess, but there’s no proof that she’s dead. The Prince always handles them through an intermediary (p.33) who may be easier to trace.

Dybbuk

Bestiary, p.63. Whether in the bodies of corpses, in friends suddenly turned evil, or in ghost forms, Dybbuks create the horror and chaos which tickle the Prince’s twisted fancy.

Fungaloid

Bestiary, p.82. Loves darkness? Check. Lives (beneath) anywhere? Check. Whether as a vast network of spies or as an army ready to spring up from beneath any outdoor location, Fungaloids have an affinity with the Prince of Shadows, who embraces them as worthy servitors rather than disdaining them as most other icons (even though who employ them) do.

Gargoyle

Core book, p.224. Serve as his ears in the cities. May also be the source of strange whispers that seep into the consciousness of those who inhabit the same buildings.

Hungry star

Core book, p.235. Under normal conditions, one primarily finds hungry

Bestiary, p.30. These cloaked assassins stalk those unwise enough to interfere with the Prince’s plans. They sometimes work in teams, one as a distraction and another with the real mission. It’s said that one of them killed the Priestess, but there’s no proof that she’s dead. The Prince always handles them through an intermediary (p.33) who may be easier to trace.

Dybbuk

Bestiary, p.63. Whether in the bodies of corpses, in friends suddenly turned evil, or in ghost forms, Dybbuks create the horror and chaos which tickle the Prince’s twisted fancy.

Fungaloid

Bestiary, p.82. Loves darkness? Check. Lives (beneath) anywhere? Check. Whether as a vast network of spies or as an army ready to spring up from beneath any outdoor location, Fungaloids have an affinity with the Prince of Shadows, who embraces them as worthy servitors rather than disdaining them as most other icons (even though who employ them) do.

Gargoyle

Core book, p.224. Serve as his ears in the cities. May also be the source of strange whispers that seep into the consciousness of those who inhabit the same buildings.

Hungry star

Core book, p.235. Under normal conditions, one primarily finds hungry stars in dungeon settings. Yet these sanity-gobbling monsters begin appears in local towns. Sometimes they target key persons. Others, their senseless and unexpected attacks leave villages unsettled for months after.

Intellect Devourer/Assassin

Bestiary, p.116/118. They’re a perfect one-two punch of killers and spies (p.117).

Jorogumo

Bestiary, p.119. Masters, or mistresses, of disguise who take utter control over their victims? It’s as effective at getting secrets as the Intellect Devourer but even more cruel fun to watch the Woven spill voluntarily and the pain it causes their friends and families. Used for the Prince’s cruelest attacks. Often targets influential and wealthy.

Ogre Mages

Core book, p.240; Bestiary, p.151. They’re everything a spellcaster shouldn’t be and the Prince of Shadows loves it. It’s possible he orchestrated the original quarrel with the dark elves just so he could have more influence over this group.

Phase spider

Core book, p.244. Pay no attention to the textbox, a teleporting spider is terrifying whether or not it steals your magical tools! When allied with the Prince of Shadows, however, they often use their teleporting powers to rearrange more mundane objects in a way that sows chaos among the owners. The Prince rewards them with the magical items they so desire.

Rakshasa

Core book, p.245. Not often allied, but they may fall under his influence while working in the shadows. The Prince appreciates their shapeshifting abilities and the inherent chaos they may cause. When serving as his emissaries, they’re often repaying a debt.

Shadow Thief

Bestiary p.193. Like the phase spider, this psychic extension of a shadow dragon is a great way to cause chaos in the dark. More terrifyingly, someone classed it as a mook (are they all extensions of the same dragon? You decide!), which means *rolls* it’s not just one, you’re surrounded. Good luck with that.

End Game

The Prince’s ultimate goal is to create chaos in an icon’s area of influence and allow a challenger to take root. If adventurers make things to hot for him and his minions, he’ll simply move on to the next target—he’s got a dozen, after all.

Can adventurers act to stop what’s happening?

Depends on what kind of game you want to run. If you’re running a campaign to stop the events of the Eldritch Icons from ever occurring, you’ll want to take a page from this, er, page and focus on pursuit of the Shadow Prince and solving his mischief. Restoring his victims leaves the icons in place too strong for challengers to even make the attempt.

But if you want to find yourselves fighting Blood Druids in the Wild Wood or Voormis under the Dwarf King’s mountain, then you’ll want to keep encounters with the Prince of Shadows to a minimum. Perhaps you stop one plan only to have another succeed elsewhere. Perhaps you only hear of some of these afterward. How depressed do you want your players? These Eldritch Icons can take things to full-on Cthulhu Apocalypse levels, if you want.

To mix a little hope with your fear, have players hear some of these as stories as they encounter the first few icons you want to handle. Once they’re wise to his M.O., they turn the tables and begin collaborating with the remaining icons (or trying to) to stop the rest from even starting.

Footnotes

1. Each of the three ways is meant to act as a plot thread. All three need not be true, just the one or two that make the most sense for your game. back

Also, apologies for having been gone so long, I was working on two scenarios and some setting material over the spring. While that didn’t quite eat up all my time, it ate up all my creative brain.