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Rivals of the Sun God, continued




Father of the Pharaoh

[It is assumed that in this case, the PCs have defeated the pharaoh, and disrupted the Ceremony of Sublimation.] This event is optional, and should only be played if the DM wants to challenge the PCs to their limits.

The party emerges from the pyramid, only to find themselves confronted by a very angry hooded serpent. Apparently it was the pharaoh's "time," and his father (the hooded serpent) had intended to use the Ceremony of Sublimation being performed in the pyramid, to consume the pharaoh. By defeating the pharaoh, the party has thwarted the serpent's plans. It attacks them immediatly, holding back nothing.




The Ceremony


Modifications of the Ceremony of Sublimation are listed below (see Dragon Magazine #170: "From Hatchling to Immortal Guardian" for more details on the Ceremony of Sublimation). Text appearing inside of [ ] is information known only to the hooded dragons, and is not shared with their offspring.

Hoarding of Wealth
The dragon seeks out vast amounts of material wealth. Most of this is received in tribute from its subjects. During the Ceremony, all items of value must be transported to a specially built magical complex (usually comprised of several pyramids aligned in accordance with certain star formations).


Quest for Magic
Magical items are also sought after by the dragon, and they are included in the dragon's "hoard" along with all items of wealth.


Quest for Power
This cycle varies markedly from that of normal dragons. The hooded dragon seeks only to control its offspring (half-dragons) who in turn seek to expand their rule over mortal kingdoms.


Quest for Knowledge
This cycle is completely excluded from the Ceremony of Sublimation. [Unknown to the half-dragons, this cycle is where the hooded dragons spend most of their time. They enter into a state of almost perpetual hibernation, during which they scour the outer planes in astral form, searching for clues that might help them to reverse their mutations.]


Feeding
The cycle of feeding is linked very closely with the culmination of the Ceremony itself. All living things that have come under the power of the dragon during the third cycle are drained of life essence. The amount of life essence drained depends upon the living entity's proximity to the dragon's complex of power (see the first cycle: hoarding of wealth). Those in the complex are consumed entirely, while those further away lose only a portion of their life energy. This energy feeds the dragon directly and allows it to retain its youthful state (see below). [Unknown to the half-dragons, each time they perform the Ceremony of Sublimation, their dragon patron (usually their parent) is able to draw a portion of the life force for its own use. The more Ceremonies that a half-dragon completes, the higher its own life force value increases. Once a half-dragon has attained a high enough life force value, it may be entirely consumed by its patron in order to sustain the hooded dragon in its extended fourth cycle state.]

The purpose of this modified Ceremony of Sublimation is not to further the dragon along on its path to Immortality, but to sustain it throughout the centuries providing the gift of eternal youth (in essence a form of immortality). Dragon spirits are not used during the ceremony, as the hooded dragons and their offspring have been branded renegades, and no support is given to them by the dragon Immortals. Instead the energy needed to power the ceremony comes from life forms under the dragon's control. Thus the Ceremony has a sort of defiler effect (as in Dark Sun) that over the centuries can turn the effected area into a desert wasteland. In fact this effect caused the formation of the Nithian Desert in both the Hollow World, and on the Known World.

The base chance for failure is 70%. This chance can be reduced by 1% for every 10,000gp of treasure stored in the complex (up to 100,000gp total), by 1% for each minor magical item, 2% for each major magical item, and 10% per artifact. Failure can further be reduced by 1% per every 10 levels of life force consumed (2% if the life force is draconic in nature). Thus a level 20 adventurer consumed by the Ceremony will lower the chances of failure by 2%, if that adventurer were draconic in nature it would be 4%.

Only beings that have willingly come to the complex can be consumed in this manner. For this reason half dragons often bring their own offspring to their complexes during Ceremonies so that they can be consumed. To succeed the dragon must roll (on a d100) above the chance of failure. A successful Ceremony will reverse the aging process by 500 years, plus an additional 100 years for every 10% over the level of failure that the dragon rolled. Dragons may succeed too well, and be reduced beyond the age of infancy, in which case they are lost. A roll that does not succeed will cause the dragon to age 100 years for every 10% that the roll is missed by. Thus it is, that timing is everything when performing the Ceremony of Sublimation.

The effects of the Ceremony actually take place rather rapidly. Items (and living beings) brought to the complex are consumed by the Ceremony in a matter of minutes. Life forces outside of the complex, but still within the dragon's radius of power, are consumed more slowly throughout the next couple of weeks.

At the completion of a successful ceremony, the dragon's age is reversed by 500 years (an extremely painful process) within the time frame of just a few minutes. During the next couple of weeks, as the Ceremony gathers life forces throughout the countryside, any additional age reversal is attained.




Omens of Coming


The Omens of Coming for this modified Ceremony are dire indeed. The surrounding land withers and dies. Crops fail, and heat and dust storms are on the rise. The very old, very young, or infirmed often die with horrified expressions left on their faces. Populations become weak, and may become infected with plagues.


The adventure ends at this point. The party can continue to explore the Hollow World, or try to find a way back to the surface. Either way adventures abound.




continued



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Copyright 2000, John Calvin, based on material copyright TSR/WotC, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.