The material below is Open Game Content
NEGATIVE ENERGY BREAKTHROUGHS
Breakthroughs take place when the barrier between our world and the Negative Energy Plane becomes weakened. Progressive degrees of weakening produce incursions, taints, and finally eruptions. An area which contains an eruption will likely be surrounded by a tainted area, in which undead have been making incursions for some time.
Incursions occur when undead natives of the Negative Energy Plane follow the paths established by hollow husks and cross over into the Material Plane. In increasing order of severity, incursions may involve: shadows (CR 3), wraiths (CR 5), greater shadows (CR 8), dread wraiths (CR 11), nightwings (CR 14), nightwalkers (CR 16), and nightcrawlers (CR 18).
Taints are caused by the influence of the Negative Energy Plane seeping out into our world. The effect is similar to an unhallow spell cast by a 20th level cleric, except that the area affected may extend as far as several square miles. Particularly severe taints may be represented by spell effects fixed to the unhallow spell: common ones are bane, cause fear, or deeper darkness. These spell effects will apply to all living creatures.
Eruptions involve the wholesale release of negative energy into the Material Plane. Regions of several hundred square feet may be affected. For a period of 2d6 minutes, the area is overwhelmed with deathly evil and acquires the major negative-dominant trait. Each round, those within must make a DC 25 Fortitude save or gain a negative level. A creature whose negative levels equal its current levels or Hit Dice is slain, becoming a wraith. The death ward spell protects a traveler from this damage and energy drain.
When this most severe phase of the eruption subsides, the area has the minor negative-dominant trait. Living creatures in the area take 1d6 points of damage per round. At 0 hit points or lower, they crumble into ash. During the eruption, certain forms of magic are also affected:
- Enhanced magic Spells and spell-like abilities that use negative energy are maximized (as if the Maximize Spell metamagic feat had been used on them, but the spells don’t require higher-level slots). Spells and spelllike abilities that are already maximized are unaffected by this benefit. Class abilities that use negative energy, such as rebuking and controlling undead, gain a +10 bonus on the roll to determine Hit Dice affected.
- Impeded magic Spells and spell-like abilities that use positive energy, including cure spells, are impeded. During an eruption characters take a –10 penalty on Fortitude saving throws made to remove negative levels bestowed by an energy drain attack.
Given enough time, the Material Plane will throw off the effects of its brush with the Negative Energy Plane. Taints require a period of 6d6 months to return to normal, while eruptions subside after 3d6 weeks.
In civilized regions, most gallduroi comes from stirge ranches. Most such ranches are located in sealed chambers deep underground, to contain the threat of infestation from escaped stirges. “Bat” ranchers typically also maintain a herd of dwarven cattle to feed their stirges.
Being a stirge ranch-hand is dangerous but profitable. Due to the high rate of accidents, ranches are always looking for new workers. During each week of work as a “bat-wrangler,” a character must make a Handle Animal check against a DC of 10. Success earns the check result in gold pieces up to a maximum of 10 gp per week. Failure on the skill check indicates that the character made mistakes (allowing one of the cattle to be bled to death, for example, or letting a stirge escape confinement) that resulted in fines being levied against them, eating up any earnings they might have made. If a natural 1 is rolled, the mistake may have more serious consequences: the character must make a DC 20 Reflex save or be bitten by the stirges, causing 1d4+2 Constitution damage.
Movement through the swamp is considered hampered, so most groups traveling on foot will be reduced to moving between 50 ft. (if moving stealthily) and 200 ft. (if hustling) per minute. Druids and rangers with the woodland stride ability are not considered hampered by the swamp except when they are crossing watery areas deep enough for them to swim in.
Don’t forget, stirges are not the only blood-suckers in a swamp!
When characters are moving through the swamp near a stirge nest, rolls on the following encounter table can be made every 10 minutes, with a 1 in 6 chance of an event.
|1||Bled-dry animal corpse submerged in muck|
|2||As above but humanoid corpse, 1d6 days from becoming hollow husk|
|3||A chorus of frogs grows quiet as party approaches|
|4||Marsh gas spontaneously ignites in the distance|
|5||One wandering hollow husk (EL 1⁄3)|
|6||One stray stirge (EL 1⁄2)|
Stirge-infested marshes are likely to be teeming with small frogs, since the stirges will have devoured most of the larger predators which would normally keep the frogs in check. The frog chorus can both help and hinder the party. The frogs will fall silent whenever any creature draws near unless it can make a Move Silently check (DC 25).