Now, I have started this particular entry so many times, only to have the file disappear into the electronic ether, that one might think the Dungeon Crawl Classics write-up for this album cover itself should be "Considered Dead", but that isn't what is going to happen.
Without further ado:
The Chamber of Cold Burial
Lost within a lethal underground maze is a chamber whose floor is made of ice. The ice floor is at least 30 feet deep, but can be traversed without slipping if the walker is careful. Walking at more than have speed requires a DC 5 Reflex save to avoid falling; this is DC 10 during any round when a character engages in combat, and DC 15 if a character runs.
Any being who falls in this chamber finds the ice strangely yeilding, although only in one direction. Stuck fast in the ice, the character must succeed in a DC 5 Strength check to break free. After the first round, the character must succeed in a DC 5 Fort save each round to avoid 1d3 damage from the cold. The DCs for these saves increase by +2 each round, until the character is fully entombed in ice or slain.
Close examination of the floor can reveal this hazard, as there are skeletal remains wholly or partially embedded in the chamber's floor.
The Altar of Woeful Consumption
Rising from the floor of the Chamber of Cold Burial is a stone altar. A Chaotic spellcaster, succeeding in a DC 20 spell check, can "feed" a victim to this altar, causing the victim to become embedded in the stone as its body rots away.
The victim gains a single Will save (DC equal to spell check to resist), being otherwise helpless unless rescued. Spells such as dispel magic or remove curse, if they exceed the original spell check, are effective, as is divine intervention. Otherwise, each round the victim takes 1d3 damage to Strength, Agility, and Stamina each hour until dead. The sacrificing wizard, elf, or cleric can access half of these points to use as spellburn with no other repercussions to the caster; the other half of these points are lost. The altar automatically loses one point of available spellburn each day, and must therefore be continually fed to be of value.
A rescued victim can only recover whatever available points are not used for spellburn; the other damage is permanent, including that which is not available for spellburn. These points are consumed by the altar.
Victims who die in this manner are lost for eternity, and cannot be brought back by any means.
There are several of these items believed to exist. Each is an hourglass whose "sand" is made of "grains" of crystallized blood, culled from some alien entities which experience the flow of time differently than do mortal men.
When the sands of a sanguine hourglass are flowing, time is slowed within a 500' radius around the hourglass by a factor of 10. For every minute that passes within the radius, 10 minutes pass without. Multiple hourglasses can stack, so that two hourglasses can work together to slow time by a factor of 100. Note that flipping an hourglass means that it continues to flow, until all the crystallized blood is in one chamber or the other.
It is believed that at least two such hourglasses are possessed by the current Keeper of the Altar of Woeful Consumption. They are said to be used to maintain the available spellburn contained by the Chaos altar, so that one available point is lost every 100 days instead of every day.
A sanguine hourglass is nonetheless fragile, and any hit against AC 12 that does 2 hp or more damage can shatter it. The effects of a shattered sanguine hourglass end immediately, but any creature within 100' must roll 1d7 + Luck modifier:
(1 or less) the creature immediately ages 10d10 years; (2) the creature immediately becomes 7d7 years younger, possibly ceasing to exist as a result; (3-5) nothing happens to the creature; (6) the creature gains momentary insight into the future, and can re-roll any one die roll within the next 2d12 days, taking the better result; or (7 or better) the creature gains insight into the nature of time itself, effectively increasing its initiative bonus by +2 forever. The creature also gains an extra Action Die, which starts at 1d3, but increased up the dice chain each time the creature levels. Judges and players are reminded that this Action Die can be used for a move action even before it becomes high enough to risk using for attacks, skill checks, or spells.
This monster is known to inhabit the lethal maze wherein the Altar of Woeful Consumption is found. It appears to be a grey-white almost spidery thing, with sharp appendages and sensory apparatus placed at irregular intervals. It does not walk, but flies slowly about, and is thus immune to the dangers of the icy floor in the Chamber of Cold Burial. One pulpy fungal knob on its upper surface bears an absurd resemblance to a man's head wearing a fedora, which may hint at the creature's origin. It gives off a rancid smell like rotting shredded flesh.
The drifting remains attempt to pierce victims with their many sharp limbs. If two or more limbs succeed in striking the same victim, the remains may hold on (Strength DC 10 + number of limbs attached to break free). While holding a creature, the remains may attempt to use its ovipositer to infect the being with its young.
It takes 1d3 days for the young to hatch as crawling maggots, during which time it is possible to treat the infestation as a disease. For instance, a cleric can attempt to lay hands, or to cast neutralize poison or disease. After this time, things become far more dire.
- Days 5-7: Skin turns a morbid color. Fort DC 10 or suffer 1d3 points of permanent Stamina damage each day. -1d penalty to any spell check made to cure this condition.
- Days 8-9: Stiffening morbidity. Fort DC 10 or suffer 1d3 points of permanent Agility damage each day. -1d penalty to any spell check made to cure this condition.
- Day 10: Withered veins and difficulty gaining breath. Fort DC 10 or suffer 1d3 points of permanent Strength damage each day. -2d penalty to any spell check made to cure this condition.
- Day 11: Organs putrefy, and victim vomits blood. Fort DC 10 or suffer 1d3 points of permanent damage to all statistics. -2d penalty to any spell check made to cure this condition.
- Day 12 and beyond: Catalepsy and death. Fort DC 10 each day to avoid falling into a cataleptic state (so as to appear dead). Once the victim falls into this state, it cannot be removed without also removing the infestation. Each day after the victim becomes cataleptic, he suffers 1d5 permanent Stamina damage each day until dead. 1d3 days after death, the young drifting remains (2d7) emerge. Each has AC 13 and 1 hp. Young drifting remains have no effective attacks, and their only goal is escape (fly 20'). There is a -3d penalty to any spell check made to cure this condition.
Drifting remains: Init -1; Atk sharpened limb +2 melee (1d3 plus hold) or ovipositer +0 melee (infect); AC 15; HD 4d8; MV fly 20’; Act 5d20; SP hold, infect; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +3; AL C.