On a bleak and hopeless harbour sits a dull and dingy city draped over the landscape like a oily rag. Here, the rule of Law is thin indeed, and though business seems to be running as normal, and the Mayor pumps out decrees at a reasonable rate, the heart of the city is rotten. More than its fair share of gangs skulk the street. Everyone is scared, terrified of some unknown enemy. Trace the strings and sinews of control and terror, and eventually, squatting at the centre of the web, you will find the Ivory Order.
Officially, the Order has never committed anything Illegal, though the records note that they may possibly have done some questionable things if you were into some hokey cokey religion which they aren't of course please don't hurt us.
This is obviously bullshit.
They are among the most heartless gangs in existence. They callously and proactively bully and terrify the people of the city into submission, and have dominated all the centres of power in the city, and the myriad other extra-legal groups.
The biggest factor in their strangle-hold on the city is definitely in the superstition and dread that drapes them like fog. Their weapons are made of carven bone, etched with strange symbols and glyphs, and their members are run about with scars, remains they say, of the surgeries in which their bones are fortified with alien black-magics. Awful tales are also spread of the bone-stiff monsters in the shapes of men the Order breed to fight for them, the Pale-Wights.
And the terrible rumours of a night-black serpent-thing assassin, the dreaded Worm which eats men whole at the command of the mysterious masters of the Ivory Order, leaving no traces, and no witnesses. There are no survivors of the attentions of the Worm.
Against the Ivory Order
The Party will certainly need to deal with the authorities and characters of the City, and sort out the problems of the lesser gangs to earn the friends and strength they would need to destroy the Order. When the battle finally comes, it won't be a Duel with Edd, a Battle with Pale-Wights, or a Struggle against Omma Ferns that decides the war (indeed, these things are somewhat optional, given that these characters could potentially be turned against the Order themselves). The final battle with the Worm should be the tipping point of the conflict; if the party can destroy the Worm, nothing else the Order can bring to bare against them will be harder fought than the Worm.
Indeed, the Bosses are kept only to be a final, role-play challenge. They can't outfight the party (though that doesn't mean they wouldn't try), but they will test them. Offer them power and wealth and forbidden knowledge. They have some seriously potent knowledge, and it dies with them if the Party destroy them. Then there is the added wrinkle that if the party are adamant about their intent to destroy the Order, the Woman with the Black Gloves will certainly try to sell out the other Bosses to retain the existence of the Order, in whatever form the Party desire. Of course, the Gaunt Man will Silver Hair is already immortal, which won't become obvious until his vengeance is ready to crash down upon those responsible for his defeat.
The Powers of the Order
They are always in control, and do not suffer fools, at all. Dark and shrouded, they will never act personally if they can help it. They have dragged the Order to the top of the food chain with careful planning and razor-precision, they take only the most acceptable risks they can. They seek to increase their own personal power first, then that of the Order. Eventually they will become Sigil-Liches, their lives sustained as long as their names are writ on bone, somewhere, anywhere.
The Gaunt Man with Silver Hair
HD 5, The Dark Heart, The Third Eye, A Fine Rapier
The most senior of the Bosses. Dominating in conversation. Forceful.
The Thin Lady with the Black Gloves
HD 4, The Black Breath, The Cursling Hand, A Serviceable Dagger
The most devoted to the Order. Will Negotiate in conversation. Calculating.
The Pale Man with the Eye-Patch
HD 6, The Evil Eye, A Coat of Charms, A Military Sabre
Always hoping negotiations break down. Will goad and insult in conversation. Cruel.
The Pale Man's Coat of Charms
It is a thick black coat, and the inside is covered all about in bone charms. It has 30 hp, and takes half the damage the wearer takes for it as some of the charms are smashed to pieces from within. Each time it takes damage, the creature that dealt the damage suffers a curse from the list below. X equals the damage dealt to the coat.
1 - The creature suffers -X to d20 rolls for the rest of the day until midnight.
2 - The creature is blind, deaf, and mute for X minutes.
3 - The creature takes -X to their maximum HP, and must make a save. For each point below the DC, that many maximum HP are lost permanently.
4 - The creature must make a save with a penalty of X, if the creature fails, someone they love now hates them passionately.
5 - The creature suffers a penalty of X to death saves for the next year.
6 - There is a X in 6 chance for the weapon to break. If the weapon is magical, it is a X in 12 chance instead. If the weapon was an unarmed attack or natural weapon, the creature takes d6 damage, and cannot use that method of attack until that damage is restored.
HD 7, The Grim Glaive, Bone-Curse-Plate, Half-Plate Armour
Leader of the Enforcers and Bruisers of the Order. The High-ranker players are most likely to meet.
Grizzled, long dirty hair, hoarse voice, a little bitter, a little bored, there is always somewhere else he'd rather be. Practical clothes, battered plate armour. Somewhat laconic.
Dolorous Edd is not someone to be triffled with.
To be honest, Edd isn't all that fond of the Order. He isn't too keen on all that bone-carving and worship stuff, and he really, really despises the Assassin Worm. He serves loyally though; the job pays well, and he has great job security, and he isn't all too ready to find out what might happen to him if he ever tried to leave his position...
He also has a little sister that the Order doesn't know about disguised as one of his "serving girls" to keep he hidden. His 'unusual' appetites in and for woman are a notorious vice of his.
The Grim Glaive is a +2 Glaive that appears to be bone-hafted, but really isn't. Blood spilled by it freezes after a few seconds of being shed, effectively turning the ground beneath people wounded by it into difficult terrain, assuming they have blood to shed.
The Bone-Curse-Plate sits nicely underneath Edd's breast-plate, carved from the ribcage of a person slain by one they wronged greatly. He despises them, but they have saved his life on more than one occasion, so he puts up with them. When he suffers a critical hit, the Plate breaks and reflects all damage and other effects of the hit onto the nearest other creature to him, friendly or not. Not all of his men have learned about this yet.
Dolorous Edd commands 2d6 squads of 2d6 bruisers each.
Master Surgeon Baldwin Graves
HD 3, A Bone Scalpel that is Sigiled to never lose its edge and slices flesh just wonderfully
Head of the Surgeons, and the only one permitted to operate on the Bosses.
A bit pudgy, bushy eye-brows, mutton chops. Grumpy and heartless, except to the Bosses. Rumpled clothes beneath a stained and browned doctor's apron, speaks cryptically. Does it all in the name of "natural philosophy", hopes to write the definitive book on surgery one day.
He trains all the surgeons in the Order, though none know as much about surgery as him. In truth, he has been somewhat lazy about it, and trained the other surgeons to perform certain tasks, neglecting their more general education. Without him, they would be hard pressed to perform more than basic operations.
He also created the Surgery Scrimshaw Pattern, and is the only one who can craft them. Even Omma Ferns hasn't quite cracked it, yet.
He runs a team of 2d4 surgeons.
Omma Ferns - 'White-Fingers'
HD 6, a Cleaver that severs limbs on a critical hit, a Totem-Staff that animated bones, even those inside a creature, up to a complete person's skeleton.
A Marrow Hag, tallish (maybe 7 feet), but for her hunched spine, shapeless clothes, cackles to herself every so often, you can see the bone strain through and against her skin in some places, particularly the elbows, knuckles, and cheeks, where it has broken through completely.
In the old days, she taught the people who would become the Bosses how to carve charms and scrimshaw into bone, and now that they have risen to prominence, they have tempted her into the fold with promises of bones, which she crunches and chews with aplomb, the rarer and more diseased and deformed, the better. In exchange, she trains the Bone-Carvers of the Order, and produces patterns for them every so often. She would be furious indeed if her supply were ever cut off.
She shows no particular love for any members of the Order, except for the Bosses. She particularly despises the Nerve-Slaves and treats them especially cruelly, though curiously she does have a kind of twisted affection for the Pale-Wights, and occasionally has to be told to stop dressing them up as old women and offering them strangely brewed liquids.
She bullies her team of 2d4 Scrimshaw carvers into action.
Old Georg - "Old Bug-Eyes"
HD 2, nothing about him in particular is special, physically at least.
Gaunt and frail, missing an ear (which he ate), gold tooth (at the original too), formal but food-stained clothes, lazy and foul tempered. Talks like you're stupid, and interrupts you a lot.
No-one likes Old Georg, except the Bosses who he sucks up to in a particularly sickening way. On second thoughts, maybe not even the Bosses.
He is the tactician and planner for the Order, a role at which he is uniquely skilled, thus his apparent indespensability. He personally plans and organises the jobs of the Order, handed down from the Bosses, he has the most frequent contact with the Bosses of anyone in the Order.
Recently, he has developed a bit of a taste for human flesh, though the flesh of any sentient creature would be appreciated. He is close to the edge though, and if he were to overindulge a little too much in one go, he would certainly turn RED. He has managed to keep it secret so far, though of course it is only a matter of time until he loses control, eventually even the smallest morsel will be too much. This is also the cause of his sunken-eyed and frail look.
He is control of the rest of the order; there are 3 smuggling crews of 2d12 smugglers each, there are 3 Nerve-Slave Workhouses, each containing 3d12 Nerve-Slaves, and the best result of 2d4 Handlers, and there are 3 groups of 2d6 Pale-Wights, each with handlers equal to the higher d6. Sometimes Dolorous Edd takes command of the Pale-Wights, though neither he nor Georg likes it when he does this, clearly.
Creatures of the Order
White eyes; pale, lumpen skin. Some parts strain against the wasp-hive bone beneath. Some parts are punctured through by misshapen bone stalagmites. Their arms hang heavy by their sides, weighed down by their bones, which now are almost all bone. Where the bone has burst through, sigils can been seen carved into the living bone itself.
On a closer inspection, the white eyes are eyes no more; the skull has grown over the eyes, closed up the mouth, sealed the nose and ears. They creak and crack as they move, their masses of bone shattering and snapping with every movement.
They are the shock troopers of the order; resilient and mostly mindless, potent symbols and warriors both, despite their insanity. They require replacing regularly, due to the constant and literal wear-and-tear they receive by their very movement.
Normal men, and normal women; slack jawed and distant gazes; they have bone splinters driven into their backs, just below the shoulders in a circle, ink running lines and glyphs around and between them. More docile and dexterous than Pale-Wights, they can do general chores and even slightly skilled tasks.
When left alone, they follow their last instruction, like a still-living zombie, the backs of their shirts drenched with the unstopping seep of blood from their needles. Some debtors to the Order who can't pay their fees are forced to pay off their debts by working as Nerve-Slaves. The "rates of pay" are surprisingly good. Unsurprisingly, no-one ever chooses this option, they are always forced.
No-one quite knows what it is, even members of the Order. Presumably the Bosses have to know, presumably.
It is quite along, probably 20 feet, and a good two to three feet thick at its bulkiest points. Its skin is thick and turgid, like rubber and fat. Grey and pallid, the Assassin-Worm slinks about the ground, and carries itself at speed on its two massive arms, which look like men's. It is strong, and all together too fast for its size and shape. It can tear the arm off a man with some effort, but not as much as you'd want it to. It is uncomfortably quiet too, and extremely well co-ordinated.
It is the Order's most fearsome weapon.
No-one wants to be killed by the Worm. It means you are usually throttled to death in the Worm's bulging arms, or down into the Worm's toothy maw. Either way, you are eaten at the end, whether the Worm has properly killed you or not.
D6 potential origins for the Worm
1 - The Gaunt Man with Silver Hair's little brother never wanted in on any of this business, but invariably he was caught in the cross-fire, and he was slain. His bones, drenched in tragedy, were thus the perfect catalyst for a terrifying bone and flesh monster, and the Gaunt Man with Silver Hair utilised them to create the perfect tool of revenge in his callousness; The Worm.
2 - The Order found the bones of some ancient, antediluvian behemoth from before the time of man,. They had to see what they could make. Of course they had to try. Who wouldn't? They made The Worm.
3 - They found a mass-grave of victims from the last great plague. They used the bones, just a few to start off with, and made something transcendent with them; The Worm. They were amazed, and promptly burned the rest of the burns to not even ashes.
4 - They killed a Saint of Purity in the night to take his bones. The body warped and animated to take vengeance on the defilers, but they mastered the beast too, and bound it to service with sigils writ upon the very bones of the beast; The Worm.
5 - They found it in the sewers; The Worm. It begged for bones. They fed it, and now it serves for such delicious Ivory Treats. It particularly loves carven bones. It is now somewhat addicted. Without the Order, it would go mad, and die a few days after.
6 - It used to merely be a person. The long years of murder, surgeries for bone-sigils, and feasting on the bodies of those he has slain have warped his flesh and form. Once, it was one of the Bosses. Now, it is The Worm. It is human, no more.
Carved straight onto the bone during surgery, when receiving a Bone Sigil, at the end of surgery you must make a Constitution save or permanently lose a point of Constitution. At most, you may have as many Bone-Sigils as your Constitution score (though you may end up with more by virtue of losing a point of constitution at the end of that final surgery). There are two types of Bone Sigil, the generic ones offered to members of the Order, and well-paying clients, and the Special Sigils, reserved only for the Bosses. Only the Bosses, and Omma Ferns know of this second type. Baldwin has seen them, but doesn't understand their significance.
- Arms: You gain resistance to damage dealt specifically to the arm that has been sigiled, and your unarmed strikes with your fists/hands use a damage dice of one size higher than before. Each arm must be sigiled separately.
- Legs: You gain resistance to damage dealt specifically to the leg that has been sigiled (including falling damage if both legs are sigiled), and your movement can't be reduced by non-magical terrain effects.
- Ribs: You gain resistance to damage dealt specifically to your chest, and you gain one additional potential death save failure that you must fill before you are slain.
- Eye-Socket: You cannot be blinded by non-magical means.
- Spine: You cannot be paralyzed by non-magical means.
- Skull: You cannot be stunned by non-magical means.
- Ears: You cannot be deafened by non-magical means.
- Jaws: You gain a bite attack that deals 1d4 damage, or if you already had one, its damage die is increased by one size.
If you posses all the generic Bone-Sigils, including both arms and legs, you become resistant to all damage, and additionally you suffer no extra damage from critical hits, though you do still suffer all other effects of the critical.
- The Third Eye: You can see invisible creatures, spirits, lies as they are spoken, diseases, and magic, as if they were yellowish mist.
- The Evil Eye: If someone meets your gaze, you can inflict a curse on them. Whilst so cursed, they have a minus 3 modifier to all d20 rolls, which is doubled whilst you can see them. Normal defences against the Evil Eye work perfectly well on this, and magic can break the curse as normal, as can you at will.
- The Cursling Hand: Your finger-tips blacken like burnt bone, and wounds inflicted by them never heal. You unarmed attacks with this hand deal 1d8 damage if they don't inflict more normally. You can also use the fingers to trace magical sigils, pick locks, panic animals with a touch, and with plants with you grasp.
- The Black Breath: You no longer need to breathe, and your breath is mildly toxic. You can sicken a 1 HD creature with a single breath, though it takes 4 hours of constant inhalation per HD of the creature to prove fatal. You can taste poison, but nothing else.
- The Dark Heart: The Culmination of the Bone Sigil art. Only the Gaunt Man with the Silver Hair knows the Pattern. Baldwin has literally seen it, but he performed the surgery under magical compulsion, and no longer remembers it even exists, magic might jog his memory on that front.
As long as the sigil remains carved on the Sternum, and the Sternum remains in the chest, that person cannot die. "Death" merely means they are incapacitated for 24 hours, and at the end of that time you recover 1 HP, and lose 1 maximum HP. If your maximum HP is reduced to 0 by this, you finally die, and become a Devourer.
Bone Charm Patterns
[Rules for Scrimshaw Charms here]
Remember, the order for effects goes novice/initiate/master. These patterns are unique to the Order, though they also know 2d4 other regular patterns. These patterns can only be taught by Omma Ferns, one of her disciples (who know 2 patterns each) or by stealing and studying the pattern in the normal manner.
- You gain a bonus to attempts to intimidate people equal to the number of friendly creatures within 10 feet of you, with a maximum bonus of +4/+8/+12.
- By adding a drop of blood from all participants of a deal, the bone charm seals it magically, causing serious pain/considerable injury/hideous death to any of those participants who break the deal.
- Gifts you offer look much more valuable when you offer them, to the tune of double/triple/quadruple their normal value.
- The temperature is lowered in the local area (roughly a 20 foot square) by a few degrees/to just above freezing/to a deadly cold, considering use in an average room temperature environment.
- Surgery is somewhat safer/much safer/perfectly safe.
- If you remain perfectly still, you are much harder to spot, requiring a passive perception of 11/13/16 to see at a minimum.
Their Other Equipment
Many of their members carry axes and swords hafted with carven bone, magically strengthened and blessed by the carvings wrought about them. They will not break unless wielded by one uninitiated to the Order, whereby it will invariably shatter in the hand of its wielder, shredding their flesh on the hand and arms with jagged shreds of bone.
A member of the Ivory Order who uses a Bone-Hafted weapon rolls a d4 with their attack rolls, increasing their critical hit range by the amount it shows for each attack.
Anyone else using a Bone-Hafted weapon takes d4 damage when they make their first attack roll with the weapon as it shatters into sharp sharp fragments of bone as they swing it.
These are small bone darts that deal 1d4 damage each on a hit. Keep track of how many hit you each day, and at the end of each day make a save against their curse with a penalty equal to half the number of darts that struck you. On a success, you take d4 damage to your dexterity score and your maximum HP, which recovers at a rate of 1 per day. On a failure you suffer the same effect except that you also lose 1 point of dexterity and maximum HP permanently, the temporary losses do not recover at the end of the day, and you must make the save again at the end of each day, suffering the loss of further dexterity and maximum HP with each failure. A person whose dexterity or maximum HP is reduced to 0 by the darts becomes a Pale-Wight.
The Bullied Gangs
The Hawk Street Rakers
Best 5 of 7d4 gangers, each of 1 HD, for each die result of 3, one ganger has 2HD instead, for each die result of 4, one ganger has 3HD instead. One of the Gangers is Hakkin' Jack, a 4HD ganger who fights with 2 axes. Relatively new on the block, carving a name for themselves. They chaffe under the control of the Order, and would break free if they could, especially since Hakkin' Jack was humiliated by Dolorous Edd for disobeying orders.
The Heavenly Circle
There are 3d4 alchemists, one of each die being the Ringleaders David Escott, Marcus Blaine, and Talmund Angiers. Each d4 shows how many buddies each of the Ringleaders has beyond just themselves, and thus who has the most clout in the Circle. David is somewhat apathetic to the Order's influence on the group, Marcus is okay with the current arrangement since it keeps the Bruisers off their back, and only Talmund really despises the Order, though he too is terrified of the Worm. They supply the Order with drugs and elixirs used mostly in the surgeries, and the carving of Scrimshaw. They would rather not have to deal with all of this stuff, so they could "get on with the good stuff".
Best 4 of 6d4 dwarves around the Ringleader Guthrik Ironbraids. They serve willingly after Guthrik was bested in single combat by Dolorous Edd. They do technically serve Edd rather than the Order though. Thungsten Granitepick is leading dwarves equal the two lowest used die of the 4 in a plot to kill Guthrik, and thus free themselves of Order control. This won't end well without intervention. Either Thungsten will fail, but still causing serious damage to the group, or he will succeed in a relatively bloodless coup, but the group will then be run roughshod over by the Order when they end up refusing the orders of Dolorous Edd.
Best 3 of 4d8 gangers, twice. They are aligned against each other, though they were once and will probably be again parts of the same whole. The two halves of the gang are lead by Hanker Borden, who leads the larger part of the gang and Attang Riu, who leads the weaker half. Hanker was the original leader of the gang, and supports the Ivory Order. Attang vehemently opposes the Order's rule, and so lead a revolt against Hanker with his sympathisers. Attang is the Stronger Leader in both senses, but Hanker has the nominal 'support' of the Order and the advantage of numbers. Hanker's men might lose faith in him however, if he really screws up; Hanker is a man on the edge on the moment, so its not too unlikely. He has his orders to regain control of his gang within 9 days, with the threat of the Worm looming over him, so he's really quite desperate to sort it out. In 7 days if a solution doesn't present itself, he will lead a massed assault on Attang's gang, resulting in 2d6 loses to each side of the gang. Also roll a d8, on an odd result, Hanker is slain by Attang, and on an even result, Attang is slain, resulting in further losses to the loser's side equal to the result on the dice.
Normally, the Dredgers fish valuables out of the Harbour, and aggressively and proactively break the noses of those who impinge on their territory, which contains many drug shops under their control, though they have lapsed in their strictness since their numbers have dwindled since the outbreak of hostilities.
The Iron-Street Regiment
Best 2 of 3d4 Squads of 5 men each, each lead by a double Hit Dice commander. One of the groups is lead by Colonel Lammar, a quadruple Hit Die commander, and contains his command staff. They believe whole-heartedly in the Rule of the Strong over the Weak, and thus they willingly serve the Order. Something they have yet to realise is the self-fulfilling nature of this arrangement, as their joining the Order's hegemony is a large reason that the other gangs haven't attempted to break away. If convinced that the Order is no longer as strong as it was, they would leave the alliance, but would not openly revolt. As far as they are concerned, the benefits of taking on the Order aren't worth the risks. It would take a really good amount of convincing and demonstrations of the value of attacking the Order to convince them to war.
The Faux-Army of the Regiment pride themselves on their discipline and their honour, though at the end of the day, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and they reveal that they are really no better than any of the other gangs of the city.
Bullied Officials of the City
The leader of the City in name only, he has been told by the Order that as a reward for the blind eyes that he turns and the paper trails that mysteriously vanish in the night, he has been chosen to house the Assassin Worm in his basement while it sleeps. This is not true, but he does not know this, and he sleeps only lightly for the terror of the tooth-ringed maw that could close on his head at any moment. Thus, he remains compliant.
Even if he were to be convinced of the surety of the victory against the Order (which almost certainly would require the head of the Assassin Worm at his feet), his City Watch are badly outclassed, and could perform only some small damages against the Order.
She is the cultural heart of the city, and she could certainly turn the mood of the city from fear to rage against the Order, but she keeps her mouth shut out of fear. She has no fear of the Order's enforcers, sure of her deity's protection, but she knows that deep down in the catacombs beneath the cathedral, lurks the Worm. None in the Order know that she is aware of the Worm's lair, but know she does, and she hopes that one day, she might be able to put this knowledge to use in a useful way.
An old-blooded knight of the City, however time and age have robbed him of much of his once-predigious skill at arms. He could potentially be roused to action given that he still maintains some great stores of resources like gold and weapons which would certainly do much in the struggle against the Order. However, for now, he is convinced that an old man like him couldn't do anything against the Order in his sorry state.
The Guild of the Commons
Most of the workers of the City report here to keep their records and tithes and taxes up to date, a meaningful percentage of which most certainly end up in the coffers of the Order. The Guild are in no place at all to resist, much to their chagrin as the powers that be continue to ask uncomfortable questions about their output. As eager as they would be to rise up against the Order, their contribution in such a battle would unfortunately be rather limited, at least without much work to arm and train then people of the city, which would also have to be carried out in deathly quiet to avoid the eyes of the Order. Perhaps, not even then.