Saturday, October 21, 2017

Campaign Design - Dark Speech

Dark Speech (from the Book of Vile Darkness)

The Dark Speech is extremely difficult to master. The Dark Speech feat is required for mortals to speak even a single word of it correctly, for mortal tongues were not designed to utter these words of pure evil. Some evil outsiders know smatterings (or more) of the Dark Speech and need no feat to master it. The safest way to use the Dark Speech is through spells such as dread word.

To actually communicate by means of the Dark Speech - that is, for a knowledgeable speaker to convey some information to a knowledgeable listener - the speaker must take great care, or both the listener and speaker will be harmed. There are no words in the Dark Speech for good concepts such as kindness, mercy, and purity. Evil characters can speak of misery, anguish, hate, and betrayal with an accuracy impossible in any other tongue.

The Dark Speech has no known written form. It cannot be transliterated into another language's written form without losing all of its meaning and power.

Besides communicating in the language itself, there are four ways that a speaker can use the Dark Speech:

Dread: The words spoken cause fear, loathing, and dread in all who hear them. Speaking words of dread is draining to the speaker, dealing 1d4 points of Charisma damage each round the Dark Speech is spoken. When dread words of the Dark Speech are uttered, all within 30 feet of the speaker must make a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the speaker's Hit Dice + the speaker's Charisma modifier). Listeners who know the Dark Speech by possessing the Dark Speech feat gain a +4 circumstance bonus on this saving throw. If a listener fails its saving throw, it suffers the following effects depending on its Hit Dice or level and alignment:
  • Levels 1 -4, Nonevil: Characters are shaken by the intoned Dark Speech, and they flee from the source of their fear as quickly as they can, although they can choose the path of their flight. Once out of sight and hearing of the source of their fear, characters can act as they want. Characters unable to flee can fight, although they are still shaken for 1d10 rounds.
  • Levels 5 - 10, Nonevil: Characters are shaken, taking a -2 morale penalty to attack rolls, saves, and checks for 1d10 rounds.
  • Levels 11+, Nonevil: Characters are filled with loathing for the speaker and must attack him on their next action.
  • Levels 1 -4, Evil: Characters cower and are frozen in fear. They lose their Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (if any) and can take no actions for 1d10 rounds. Foes gain a +2 bonus to his cowering characters.
  • Levels 5 - 10, Evil: Characters are mastered by the Dark Speech, acting as if charmed (as described in the charm person spell) for 1d10 minutes.
  • Levels 11+, Evil: Characters are impressed, reacting to the speaker with more respect and wariness. This adds a +2 competence bonus on subsequent attempts to change their attitude (see page 128 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).
Power: The words of the Dark Speech help energize evil magic items and spells. Again, this is draining to the speaker, dealing 1d4 points of Charisma damage each time the words of power are uttered. If used in conjunction with an evil spell that has a verbal component, the Dark Speech increases the spell's effective caster level by +1. If used when creating an evil magic item, the Dark Speech increases the item's caster level by +1 without increasing the cost. Both caster level increases are considered profane bonuses. The Dark Speech is a requirement for many evil artifacts.

Corruption: The words of the Dark Speech, whispered softly, can weaken physical objects. As a full-round action, the speaker can whisper vile words of corruption and destruction at an inanimate object such as a door or a wall, reducing its hardness by half. This minor use of the Dark Speech is not draining to the speaker. It cannot be used more than once on a single object.

Dark Unity: The words of the Dark Speech can create a hivemind. Up to one hundred vermin or animals (none of which can have more than 1 Hit Die) form an evil hivemind, as described below. The united consciousness of the creatures will take one command from the Dark Speech speaker, as if from the suggestion spell. Pulling creatures under the sway of evil is draining to the speaker, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution damage each time words of dark unity are uttered.


As a side effect of some evil spiritual presence or dark blessing, vermin and certain animals can take on a sort of evil consciousness shared among a large group, though each individual member retains little or no intellect. When a hivemind forms, each individual creature becomes just a tiny part of a much larger, much greater intelligence. But even the most craven sages do not understand how or why hiveminds develop.

if at least 50 vermin or animals of the same species are arranged so that no one individual is no more than 10 feet from another individual, the hivemind may come into effect. all the creatures operate with an Intelligence of 5, even if they previously had no Intelligence score (as with vermin). The creature's Intelligence score increases by +1 for every additional 20 individuals (beyond the first 50) in the hivemind, up to an Intelligence of 10 for a hivemind of 150 creatures. Beyond the 150-creature threshold, Intelligence increases by +1 for every 50 additional individuals. For every point of Intelligence bonus possessed by the hivemind, award each individual creature 1 feat and 1 skill point per Hit Die.

The increase to Intelligence gained for each creature in the hivemind over 50 also applies to Charisma.

If the hivemind attains a Charisma score of 18 or higher, it gains the ability to cast spells as a sorcerer. For every point of Charisma over 17, the hivemind has one level of sorcerer. Any single creature can cast one of the hivemind's spells, but those spell slots are then lost to other creatures in the hivemind. Creatures in a hivemind have no need of somatic or material components, and their squeaks, screeches, or clicks serve as verbal components.

When creatures in a hivemind attack, they all gain a +1 insight bonus on their attack roll and a +1 insight bonus on their Armor Class. Each creature knows the actions of every other member of the hivemind. The entire hivemind is aware of what every individual is experiencing.

A hivemind's Challenge Rating is greater than the Challenge Rating of one of the individual creatures. If the CR of an individual creature is less than ½ the CR of the hivemind is ½. If the creature has a CR of ½, the hivemind CR is 1. If the creature has a CR of 1 or higher, the hivemind's CR is 1 greater than that of the creature.

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