Bucolic Pagans of Orcus
“The Great He-ram and the Wild She-goat have watched over their flock and ours for centuries. All they ask for is a sacrifice to soothe their primeaval fires. All they ask for is that when the city-folk come to stamp out the Old Ways that the faithful be ready to lay down their lives for their God in a baptism of blood.”
Oleg Pelvost, Longhorn of Forest’s Edge thorpe
Even in civilized lands there are pockets of the Old Ways hidden from sight on long-forgotten paths into the woods. These folk tend to be somewhat simple-looking, perhaps slightly deformed from inbreeding, wary of outsiders, and fiercely private. They’ll appear to venerate the popular gods, but the Old Gods aren’t very far beneath the surface.
To them, the Old Ways are what they’ve always ever known and they’ve just changed outward appearances as the outside world changed. They know the truth: out in the wild, the stories of the hungry spirits are not just true, but powerful. Long ago, they made a deal with one of these powers for protection against the dark and bountiful harvests. They know that you do what the gods ask or they will bring doom upon you. If they ask for blood, you give it. If they ask for meat, you give it. If they ask for death, you give it or die yourself.
In this case, a demon local to Orcus, the Lord of Undeath, has long ensnared the people of Forest’s Edge, a tiny thorpe far off the main roads. While the demon is no longer present, the traditions and rituals the demon passed onto them have lived on quietly and waiting to ensnare the next group of fools who stay the night in Forest’s Edge.
Unwashed Fanatic, CE, 40’, AC 9, HD 1-1, 1d6 (club) or 1d4 (sling), 0 lvl, Mo 7, xp 13
When killed by an enemy, a fanatic’s body will quickly bloat and spray steaming blood in all directions, healing all allies within 10 ft for 1d4 hp. This healing may increase the recipient’s hit points beyond their maximum as temporary hit points that last 6 Turns. They may gain up to +7 hp for a Fanatic and +8 for one of the Faithful.
These men and women are disgusting and wild-eyed. They’re wearing filthy sackcloth robes stained with strange symbols and they carry wooden logs or rods of black iron. They gibber a mixture of blasphemous prayers and apocalyptic prophecy.
Faithful Heart Pagan, CE, 40’, AC 7, HD 1, 1d6 (mace) or 1d4 (sling), C1, Mo 9, xp 16 (variable)
They all cast spells as a 1st Level Cleric. Half of them will have Cure Light Wounds prepared and the other half have Command.
Final Sacrifice: As their whole action, they may sacrifice a Fanatic next to them to their god. The Fanatic willingly accepts, dedicating their lifeblood to their terrible god and allowing the Faithful to smash their skull in, spraying blood in all directions. The Faithful gains 1 HD and does +1 damage for 1 Turn. The hit dice and extra damage stack up to 6 HD. The Fanatic’s blood doesn’t heal anyone else when sacrificed.
Edict of Doom: If the morale of a group of Fanatics breaks, a Faithful may give the Fanatics a second morale check by telling them of the horrible punishment for desertion that they will receive in the afterlife. This can be done once per day and is done as soon as the morale check has failed. At least one Fanatic will beg to give himself in Final Sacrifice.
They’re wearing brown leather robes stained with fresh blood in strange patterns, crudely carved black masks of scorched wood, and wooden holy symbols on hemp ropes around their necks. They raise up spiked iron maces and plain wooden shields. A crooked smile forms behind the mouth of the mask.
Experience from the Faithful Hearts should be based on whatever HD the Faithful was when he was slain. On that note, if the Faithful are warned of impending danger, they’ll begin sacrificing about half of their Fanatics so that when the party arrives, they’ll be difficult to defeat. Otherwise, the Fanatics will be sent in first while the Faithful sacrifice their followers in the back until they get to the front line.
A typical encounter would involve 1d6 Faithful Hearts and 4x Unwashed Fanatics per Faithful Heart. A party of Level 3-4 should be able to handle them.