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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Doom Guard

Few, if any, could pinpoint with any accuracy the existence of the original Doom Guard. The annals of Ghealcour Deal’jousi are accounted for as the first, direct mention of such things. Known as the Golden Ashang of Arduin, Ghealcour was a name synonymous with heroism, danger and glory. In his annals, he describes them in detail after limping back from a sojourn into the necrotic depths of Skull Tower. Below is a fragment from that journal, written as Ghealcour was wont to do, as if speaking to another face to face.

Horrific. Terrible. Yet, so potent, so beautiful the deadly song of their blades. Born in the song and weave of rune, these doom guard move with the cogency of the old great beasts of yore. Who or what birthed these things? Was it the rune weavers1 and the first true ones2, forging a weapon against the great grey beasts3? Or, the beasts themselves, forming a weapon aimed at their rebellious slaves? None live to answer such questions, I would surmise.”

Another fragment later captures the tale of how he and his men came across them in the dark recesses of Skull Tower.

No scent captured their intent. No twitch of the neck, raising hairs was the alarm of their attack. None of our trained senses were aware. In one instance we trekked the dank, dismal necropolis and the next they were among us! Tall as a man and more, blades in each fist, burning the air with whistling speed. My men fell like flinhorns in a brisk wind across the plain as they cut into u. Our blood was a red and green flow, decorating the black metal of their forms, scarring momentarily the symmetry of the silver runes that adorned them.”

Later, having reformed and limped away, Ghealcour muses with his pen.

Curiosity consumed me. Even in flight for our lives, I could not contain it. We retreated and fought them as they flickered faster than the eye could conceive. We were lucky now and then and one would fall. Almost like the harsh sound of chimes or a dulcimer. There was an odd, musical quality to it. In the thick of battle, I could not resist. I took up a piece of the rune scribed metal, holding it close as my men ushered me free of the bony grip of the tower. Later, in the safety of the boughs I held its weight and considered it in the light of Syraath. Strange it was. So strong but so light in weight. The metal looked like no other I had seen. The runes, however, drew me the most. The order of their making was beyond me, but I could see the hint of the power they contained.

While probably the first in writing, he was by far the last to have encountered Doom Guard. Many have confused the soul bound army of Tankaras, (Greater Demon) Hell’s own general with these creatures. While similar on the exterior they are greatly different. Those under Tankaras’ command are formed from the souls of sentient beings he has taken.

Doom guard of our day differ from those original doom guard described by Ghealcour and others in the heyday of Arduin’s revival. Those few original ones were born in rune magik, empowered by runes fell and powerful. Time and the blades of adventurers took their toll, and slowly these original uglies slowly disappeared. In their place came similar creatures, constructs made not in the strength of runes but the chaotic energies of magik. Mages of power learned to construct a special form of golem that resembled and duplicated much of the original Doom Guard powers. No matter how well they made, however, they could never duplicate the extent of the original doom guards’ powers.
GM side notes: Creatures of great power can dominate and override a Doom guard’s original programming. Some lesser demons can also do this (Night Demons in particular). Some versions of the Doomguard have 8 arms, each with appropriate weapons. Such versions can effectively make 4 to 6 attacks per round as well as engage multiple opponents with no loss of accuracy. Others were inscribed and loaded with spells, very like a shydra is. Most spells are 7th to 20th power. Such Doomguard always possess harsh white runes that leave after trails in the air as they moved. Fewer still had the ability to discorporate and/or become ethereal. Such doom guards always possess a crystalline powder blue hued gem on their helms. Rarer still are those that can duplicate themselves. Such Doomguard can create temporary clones at a rate of 1 per round (fully capable at birth!) without limit. These terrible few are distinguished by a bloody red ruby where their “heart” would be.

In time, these original incarnations changed (as did Dave’s games). By campaign two and three, they were a bit milder but no less deadly. The version you see in the Compleat Arduin was the updated version though the one released with Arduin Eternal is the latest incarnation and most "official".

Rarely did DH make unique versions of these critters. A few notables did exist though. In particular, within Skull Tower was one of the more ancient Doomguard. This unique creation was always encountered alone. 

Its description was that of a 14 ft set of armor, flat black in color with spiraling wavy runes in gold, bronze, silver, ivory and green. Each rune was a layer atop another, spelling out the fate of one Jjinuroon in Eldarin. Within the suit itself was the preserved bones of Jjinuroon, his lingering hatred of life empowering the Doomguard. It carried a double edged broad sword in one hand called “Life’s Ashes” and a hooked mace (formed to look like a falcon’s head and beak) called “Hell Falcon”.

Another was the so-called Blood Hound of Tunk Hill. This singular one had a helm shaped like a feral hound and constantly dripped with blood. Crossing its slime trail was said to bring death.

One horrible Doom Guard was said to be within the Caverns of the Time Lords. The Scrolls of Anarakurk tell the tale of nine intrepid souls that have passed beyond the living rune that covers the entrance. The fourteenth scroll tells the tale of meeting a giant of a man, clothed in metal armor. His helm showed five faces, one a face of intense anguish, one flat and expressionless; another laughed, a fourth grimacing and the last with a look of intense concentration. They had little time to discern what it all meant as the doom guard laid into them with whirling flails, trails of flame from its eyes (anguish) and a tongue of scarlet energy (grimacing mouth).

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