Monday, April 12, 2010

Orcus for Unisystem

Here is my stab at converting a really powerful demon to Unisystem. Orcus is an old fave of a lot of D&D players and I have every D&D product he ever appeared in. Let me know what you think on my take.

Note: Some of this information is based on previous works, some of it is based on historical records and some more is completely made up.

Orcus, Demon Prince of Undead

Orcus is beyond a doubt one of the most powerful demon lords in existence. Not only is his physical might great, his ability to create and control vast legions of undead monsters has given him the justified title of Demon Prince of the Undead. But Orcus has not always been this way. There was a time when the demon prince was a god and was worshipped openly.

History of Orcus

Before the 5th century BCE the Cult of Orcus spread throughout the Etruscan lands (what is now Italy), Orcus was then the God of the Dead. Never a benign god, he was worshipped out of fear and for his believed mastery over death. Once the Romans came to power in 509 BCE the cult was outlawed and moved underground, both literally and figuratively. The Romans, heavily influenced by the Greeks, equated Orcus to Hades/Pluto, Dispater or Thanatos. Ancient burial chambers became the new altars for the God of the Dead where bulls, sacred to the god, were sacrificed.

By 3rd century CE the rise of the Mithras Cult in Rome further pushed Orcus out of the mainstream. Mithras was seen as a God of Light and many paintings showed Mithras fighting the Bull of Darkness. Orcus went from being a necessary evil, to malicious evil incarnate.

While the Mithras Cult did not last, its relative and heir Christianity continued to demonize the cult, even to point that Orcus was no longer a god, but a demon that plagued on mankind. Orcus symbolic death as a god and revival in a lesser status as a demon also changed his powers. He was no longer responsible for the stewarding of souls in the afterlife, that task belonged to God and Satan for good and evil souls respectively. Instead, his powers became twisted after his Fall and he was to rule over the Undead, those that have moved beyond the grace of God or the grasp (supposedly) of Satan. Orcus does not revel in his new position, he despises the undead as much as he does the living.

Motivations and Goals

Orcus appears to be a slowly calculating and meticulous demon. He is in fact, merely lazy. He is a genius and his power is great, but he lacks the desire for long term planning. His typical response to any situation is to use as much brute force as possible. When his own demonic advisors advised him on a ill-fated battle with his arch-enemy Demogorgon, he killed every one of them and half of his own army. Orcus is rage personified. That is not to say he does not have plans. Orcus ultimate goal is to be reinstated to Godhood. While he loathes his worshippers, he grants them powers and undead to further his own causes. He also supports many seemingly random and violent acts that result in multiple deaths. Modern sages believe that the chemical accident in Bhopal India in 1984 was a result of Orcus plans.1

Any undead-creating necromancy is believed to be currently, or at one time, attributed to Orcus teachings.


He can appear as anything he chooses, other known forms he has adopted include a grossly fat middle aged human male (which some say is his original true form), that of an angel-winged specter of death, a statuesque pale woman, or even a tall thin African male. In any form the Demon Prince reeks of death and destruction.

His most often used form is that of a grossly fat demon lord. As described in the Monster Manual by the great sage Gygax, "He stands some 15' tall but walks somewhat stooped over. His oversized stomach (fat from eating the souls of the unfortunates he turns into undead) nearly drags the ground. He is covered in short goatish grey fur that is matted and mange in spots. His head is also goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram. His great legs are also goat-like, but his arms are human. Vast bat-like wings sprout from his back, and his long snaky tail is tipped with a razor sharp poisonous tip."

The Cult of Orcus

Orcus' greatest manifestation in this world is through his cult. These small groups are loosely organized and even more loosely aligned. What they share is common worship for the Demon Prince. The motives of the individual worshippers vary. Some are necromancers wanting to learn more about the nature of life, death, and undeath. Others are undead themselves and regard Orcus as their Prince and God, one that has not abandoned them as God or Satan has. But most are anarchists who see Orcus as a means of causing more evil and chaos in the world. Cultists revel in raising undead, typically zombies, but sometimes more powerful undead such as vampires as well.

The Wand Of Orcus

Orcus holds the Wand of Death (Orcus' Wand) which is a rod of obsidian topped by a skull. This instrument causes death (or annihilation) to any creature, save those of like status (other demonic lords, arch-fiends, avatars, powers, greater ethereals etc.) merely by touching their flesh. This power can be used at the will of the wielder. Often Orcus sends his wand to the Earthly realms to allow it to fall into the hands of some mortal to wreak havoc. When Orcus needs it back he summons it and it comes, usually current wielder in tow, immediately to his side.

Orcus in Your games

How Orcus' presence is felt in your world is of course up to you, but here are some suggestions for adding him to the various Unisystem games. In any case, Orcus is extremely powerful and should be able to wipe out most groups of characters. Orcus works the best when he is the invisible force behind the curtains, the master that manipulates all the puppet strings. He is intelligent and thousands of years old, he should be played that way. Balancing this out are Orcus' mental problems, vices, and attitude that he is invincible.

Orcus in WitchCraft (pre-Reckoning)

Orcus keeps a low profile, relying instead on his secret network of worshippers to further the cause of evil in his name. Members of the Twilight Order, whether willing knowing or not, are modern day relations to the Orcus Mystery Cults of pre-Christian times. The Twilight Order was descended from early Etruscan death cults, though most of the priestly aspects of the Order have been stripped away. Some members of the Twilight Order thought, in particular evilly inclined Necromancers, still venerate Orcus with the original rituals. The other Twilight Order chapters ignore these aberrations in general except in times when their actions reflect poorly on the Twilight Order as a whole. There are in truth, only a very few chapters of the House of Thanatos that will identify themselves directly with Orcus. While most Thanatoi will disguise this with words like Atlantian Scholars or Lemurian Necromancers there is a connection with Orcus that many either don't know about, or ignore. Typically the members of the House of Thanatos oppose Orcus, as they seem him as a rogue and evil element in a situation that is already too delicate (the balance between the living world and the Death Realms).

Orcus in Armageddon (post-Reckoning)

Like nearly every other demonic and angelic being the return of Leviathan shocked even mighty Orcus. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by Orcus is making use of the chaos to spread his influence even further. Of course the Mad Gods seeping influence into the Death Realms is also a cause for concern for the Prince of the Undead. Orcus has discovered that while he can (like most other demons) spend longer times in the Earthly realms, his power over undead that have been exposed to Taint, the Arisen Hordes and the Sheol is very little. Orcus may not care for his undead creations, but the insult of taking them away from him is too much. So in addition to increasing his own power base, Orcus fights the Cult of Leviathan.

Orcus in AFMBE and Army of Darkness

Orcus is not an active or direct mover in the world. Like the generals of old, he prefers to sit back and let the rank and file do his fighting. To Orcus the rank (emphasis on the rank) and file are zombies. Raising undead is something Orcus does. Not just to spread his word, but to inflict as much mass suffering, confusion and evil he can. A zombie/deadite uprising could be due to a group of priests or would-be-priests that have stumbled on a tome to raise the dead. Orcus often rewards these priest by making them the first thing the zombies kill.
Orcus and his cult make a great (if somewhat stereotypical) bane for players in a Dungeons and Zombies game.

Orcus in Ghosts of Albion

Orcus has no special interest in Albion. His cult never got to Albion's shores and his greatest enmity is with those in the Mediterranean that destroyed his cult. That being said, Albion is a place of great mystical power and to tap that power source would be a significant boost to his own power. The recent events of the summoning of Balberith and discovery of Charlemagne's crown by the Necromancer might shift his attention. As one of the most overly populated cities in the world at this time, London is ripe for a supernatural take over.

Unisystem Stats


Other names: Thanatos, Thanter, Dis Pater, Pluto, Dis, Hades.
Type: Greater Seraphim (Demon)* (formerly a pagan god/primal of death)
Association: Infernal Legions

Strength: 21
Dexterity: 13
Constitution: 17
Intelligence: 10
Perception: 11
Willpower: 9

Secondary Attributes
Endurance: 245
Speed: 60
Armor: 24

Essence: 162
Channelling level: 7
Life Points: 469

Acute Senses (all)
Age (as a demon) +20
Charisma +2
Essence Channelling +20 (7)
Hard to Kill +13
Increased Essence Pool +5
Increased Life Points +9
Natural Toughness
Nerves of Steel +3
Seraphim Greater (Demon)
Supernatural Senses

Adversary (lots, powers of good and evil) 10
Attractiveness 3
Covetous, Greedy 2
Covetous, Lecherous 3
Cruel 3
Delusions (will be a god again) 3
Lazy 3
Paranoia 2
Taint Vulnerability (part of (fallen) Seraphim quality)

Languages (all) +10
Theophany skill
Brawling +13
Bureaucracy +12
Cheating +9
Craft, Weapons +10
Craft, ritual items +12
Dodge +8
Gambling +10
Hand weapons, mace +15
Hand weapons, sword +12
Hand weapons, others +10
Magic Theory +16
Magic bolts +12
Myths & Legends, Etruscan +16
Myths & Legends, Roman +16
Notice +14
Occult Knowledge +16
Questioning +14
Rituals (Roman, Etruscan, Twilight Order) +12

All other skills at +5

Metaphysics / Theophanies (Malefaica)*
Destroyer 8 Destruction
Dark Aura
Dark Vision
Domain of the Dead
All Necromantic Metaphysics at level 10
Bad Luck 9
Create Ward 9

*Because Orcus was once the God of the Dead he still holds some of those powers beyond what a typical demonic prince would have.

Wand of Orcus, 1 attack, bonus: +34, damage: d10(6)x27, Destruction power
Melee, claws, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage: d4(2)x27
Melee, horns, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage d4(2)x27
Melee, tail, 1 attack, bonus: +24, damage d4(2)x27, poison tip (Poison strength rating 6, damage 2d6(6)).

Orcus can also summon any number of animated dead to aid him. He is limited only by the number of bodies available, but summoning takes time and effort. Typically he can summon up to 50 zombies and 50 skeletons at one time. He can also summon greater willed undead like vampires (vampyres) or wights (Ghosts of Albion). The creature is allowed a contested Will test against Orcus to avoid the summoning. Orcus can also summon up to a dozen lesser demons and fiends to aid him.

1I mention this because this accident had a very profound effect on me back then.

Note:  I have no idea who is the artist of the top picture of Orcus. But it has been making the blogs. I have said it before and I'll say it again, Orcus' plane in the Abyss it needs to make "Tomb of Horrors" look like "Candyland".


Aaron E. Steele said...

That first Orcus illustration is, by far, my all-time favorite. Dragon #42 IIRC.

Aaron E. Steele said...

It's about 6 or so pages into Dragon #42, which was a Halloween edition, I think. I want to say the illustrator is Tom Harrison? If you don't have someone tell you before the end of the day, I will check it out when I get home.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

EXCELLENT! Thanks so much.

Loved your post on Orcus today as well.

Havard: said...

My favorite Demon Prince, converted to one of my favorite systems! :)

And yeah, that illustration is gorgeous. Reminds me of the style of Gustave Dore somewhat.

Pulp Herb said...

What, no Orcus for Terra Primate?

Aaron E. Steele said...

Todd Lockwood is the name of the artist.

This illustration appears in Dragon #42, October 1980, pg. 6

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Awesome! thanks!