“He is the Ivory Chain! He is the Grinning Master! He is the Deathless Destruction! And we shall make him great again.”
– Lysba Valkin, cleric of Ecrassus
Dominance, of not only a body but of a spirit. Control of not only a life but of the death that comes after. That is what Ecrassus requires from his followers. That is what drives the cult of the Broken Bone.
Break the Bones
Members of the Broken Bone live their lives in service of Ecrassus, God of the Skeletal Throng. Before his fall from power, Ecrassus ruled over a vast roaming army of skeletal undead that endlessly traversed the Necrotic Plane. A brutal and merciless god-king, Ecrassus commanded his followers to kill, conquer, and subjugate in the worst ways possible, and the worshippers of this Vestige work to continue his legacy of violence and tyranny from their scattered factions around the continent.
The Boken Bone exists in small, generally uncoordinated pockets on the fringes of society, among evil tribes of barbarians, or in countries where the opportunity to practice necromancy or slavery without repercussion is available. Although anyone may be mad enough to be taken in by this abysmal sect, the most common followers are those who enjoy the power and dominance championed by this cult, or those who have been victims of the same for long enough to become broken and evil themselves. The most common leaders of these cells are clerics, inspired by the nearly forgotten doctrine of Ecrassus and gifted visions from beyond the veil, or necromancers who see themselves in command of their own ivory horde one day.
Despite their lack of formal organization, no matter where this cult begins to grow or who is leading them, their methods are fairly predictable, falling in line with the tenets of their malevolent god. And Ecrassus’s demands are as simple as they are immutable; to break the weak and claim all that they have to offer. Or, as his followers often chant, “break the bones, reap the marrow”.
Reap the Marrow
Once they have their foothold in an area, the cult will begin scouting out areas to raid. Small villages and farms are particularly vulnerable at this stage, as they typically have the smallest means of resistance and offer the quickest way for the Broken Bone to swell their ranks. After successfully overtaking a village, they will enslave any survivors and begin their darkest works.
The cult of the Broken Bone believes that in order to create a true skeletal throng, one that will one day return their master to his former glory, they cannot simply kill and then raise the remains of their victims. Instead, they combine their necromantic rites with forced labor, ritualistically working their new slaves to death, breaking both their bodies and spirits before adding their skeletons to their burgeoning army.
The cult will repeat this grisly cycle for as long as they can, attacking larger and larger settlements and growing their numbers until they draw the ire of a contingent strong enough to put an end to their reign of terror, or until Ecrassus provides their leader with some new malignant directive.
For altercations with members of the cult of the Broken Bone, utilizing the acolyte, archmage, beserker, cult fanatic, mage, priest, or tribal warrior stat blocks would all be appropriate, depending on the flavor and difficulty of the encounter you’re running.
Feel free to alter the spells, weapons, and abilities to match the unique flavor of the cult.
Crown of Bone
Wondrous item, artifact (requires attunement by a creature of evil alignment)
The Crown of Bone is the only known holy relic of Ecrassus. An elaborate headdress made of melded bones, this grim artifact is coveted by his followers and provides them with all of the necrotic abilities that they need to spread his sinister dogma.
Random Properties. The Crown of Bone has the following random properties:
- 2 major beneficial properties
- 1 major detrimental property
Master of Skeletons. While you are attuned to The Crown of Bone, you can use an action to attempt to dominate any skeletal creatures that are not currently under your control. Select a number of skeletal undead equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum one) that you can see within 60 feet. The targeted undead must make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC. On a failed save, the creatures must obey your commands for the next 24 hours.
Mighty Throng. While you are attuned to The Crown of Bone, when you cast the animate dead spell, you may choose bones from any Small, Medium, or Large creature as the target of your spell. Additionally, when you cast animate dead, you may create twice as many skeletons as you normally could with that spell slot.
Persistent Subjugation. When you gain control of a skeletal undead through any means, you may double the duration of your control.
Destroying the Crown. If the creature attuned to the Crown of Bone has their hit points reduced to zero by radiant damage from a creature with good in its alignment, the Crown of Bone is sent back to the Necrotic Plane and all undead under their control are immediately destroyed. The Crown of Bone can only be truly destroyed by the willing sacrifice of a Celestial or through divine intervention.
The following are plot hooks that you can use to introduce your players to the cult of the Broken Bone.
- The eldest daughter of Malcus Valkin has been missing for three months. His search parties have all come up empty-handed and with rumors of raiders growing in the area and his desperation peaking, the wealthy merchant is willing to offer a fortune to any brave souls that can find her.
- News has come that Delk’s Peak has been completely overrun by savage barbarians. The few survivors that have managed to escape are telling tales of people being led away in chains and skeletal warriors running rampant.
- The people at the tavern are all abuzz about the madman that wandered into town overnight. He’s currently sitting in the local jail, ranting about the coming of “the ivory chain” and drawing incoherent scribbles in the dirt.
- A young acolyte of a local church has been having visions of an approaching skeletal army. No one has given their dreams much thought, but now that rumors of undead lurking in nearby ruins have reached the ears of the Bishop, she’s looking for a group to investigate.
- After a successful skirmish with a group of orcs, searching their bodies reveal a strange symbol made of human bone and a crudely drawn map to an apparent gathering place.
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Featured Image: The Cult of Broken Bone Symbol by Victor Benitez Morales
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