Tag Archives: abhorsen

Elemental Binding Collar – Inspired by the Abhorsen Trilogy

Inspired by the collar that bound Mogget, a Free Magic Elemental into the service of the Abhorsen in the form of an adorable white cat (at least when Sabriel met him), this could definitely be an alternative way for a Magic-User (or any character) to adopt a Familiar of sorts.

Before being applied to an Elemental, the collar appears as a fairly plain steel ring. On closer inspection, etched runes of binding, service, and holding, can be read around its circumference. The ring can be worn on one’s finger and doesn’t count against the number of magical rings one can wear since it doesn’t provide any inherent bonuses to the wearer.

When the wearer holds the ring and speaks the command word, the ring quickly expands into a steel hoop with bright runes spinning around its circumference. The hoop can be expanded to any reasonable size required by the user. The hoop will also retract back into a ring with another use of the command word or after a few hours, if not used. The hoop will not expand against a solid object or fast enough to cause harm.

Once placed around or under an elemental, the hoop will quickly retract around the elemental’s form. As a general rule, elementals with 8 HD or less can be bound in 1 round, 9 to 12 HD in two rounds, 13 to 16 HD in three rounds, and 16+ HD in four rounds. On the first round, the elemental receives a Save vs Death at a -4 penalty to resist the effect and remove the hoop. On the second round, it receives another Save vs Death, but at a -8 penalty. If that fails, the process cannot be stopped. The elemental is likely to panic and attempt to flee or to spend its last few round attacking the one who placed the collar on it.

As the hoop constricts, it forces the elemental into a new, benign form, often an animal. When the process is completed, the new form appears as an ordinary creature of its type, though it is capable of speech and of a random gender, and wearing a leather collar around its neck (the collar could be a particular color depending on the type of elemental). Hanging from the collar is a small steel bell, enchanted, that helps keep the elemental bound whenever it rings. A round after the transformation is complete the creature coughs up another Elemental Binding Collar in its ring form. Both the leather collar and the ring bear the same magical rune to indicate that the two are connected.

It’s worth noting that the leather collar is merely an illusion. The collar cannot be broken with a weapon, it will not degrade over time, and it cannot be removed by the transformed elemental alone. Someone must choose to undo it and take it off. If the leather collar is ever removed it dissolves into smoke immediately and the elemental will be released over the course of 1 round.

The collar reverts back into the original ring form and one of these things will happen:

  • The ring will return to the hand of the person who had bound the elemental, unless they are dead or not on this plane.
  • The ring will return to the hand of the person who unbound the elemental, unless they are dead or not on this plane (extraordinary bad timing).
  • The ring will appear within 2′ of the elemental and clatter on the floor; it may be lost!

How the ring gets there is up to the DM

At this point, the runed ring can be turned into the hoop and used to rebind the elemental. The ring will not respond to the command word before then.

The bound elemental in its creature form will be helpful to the owner of the ring, if not friendly, and will not willingly harm its master. Though it lacks any of its previous offensive capabilities but it retains its knowledge, personality, and ability to speak all languages it might know. When asked questions or asked to perform tasks, it will answer truthfully and act properly (if begrudgingly). The bound elemental retains its HD and Saves, but its AC, forms of attack, and special abilities are that of the new creature. Any magical powers the new form would normally have are not available. (For example, an elemental bound into the form of a Small Dragon (HD 3) would have a breath weapon. Turned into an Imp, it would lack any of the spell-like abilities, but keeps the poison tail attack)

The form the elemental takes could depend on the type of elemental, a particular collar may always turn an elemental into a particular creature, or each binding transforms an elemental into a random creature; it’s up to the DM. Needless to say, the type of creature will be appropriate to its environment (that is, its new form can swim and breathe water if it’s underwater and so on).

Next week, I’ll post a random table to determine what form a bound elemental might take.

Free-Magic Elemental – Inspired by the Abhorsen Trilogy

Mogget, a Free-magic Elemental

Free-magic Elemental

Elemental, CN, 40’ Flying, 8 / 12 / 16 HD, AC 2 / 0 / -2, 1d8 / 2d6 / 3d8 + 1d6 to Magic Users, F8 / F12 / F16, Mo 10, xp 2560 / 3600 / 5100

A Free-magic Elemental is an agent of pure chaos and possess a mind of burning raw magic. They don’t care about concepts like good or evil; they delight mainly in the havoc caused by possessing a magic item and using its powers in interesting ways and the frustration instilled in magic-users when their magic goes haywire.

They hunger for magic items to feed upon and may ally with a mortal for a time if it’s promised a choice magic item in payment, though it may decide, when the job is done, that it was not enough (or that his other magic items look tasty too).

They hate sentient magic items and those who ally with them. Oddly enough, the reason for its enmity is that the elemental sees the wielder as a slave-master of its kind, though it sees the sentient item as a rival to be consumed, rather than released.

Free-magic elementals are capable of speech and they know Common, Auran, Ignan, and the Chaotic alignment language.

Elemental Resistances:

An Elemental is immune to Sleep effects, paralyzation, and critical hits (if your game uses them).

A Free-magic Elemental appears as a very bright, energetic fire or smoke with a thin, spindly, vaguely humanoid form. Its color is usually white, electric blue, or neon green. It is 1’ tall and 3” in diameter per HD it has.


Free-magic’s chaotic nature causes feedback when a magic-using character is struck. They take an extra 1d6 damage as a result. Generally, only those who use arcane magic are affected; divine magic-users like clerics and druids are not affected.

Free-magic Aura:

A Free-magic Elemental has a 40’ aura surrounding it that causes all magic to go awry. Whenever any spell is cast within this aura, the spellcaster must make a Save vs Spells or roll a d% as if a Rod of Wonder had been used to determine the spell’s effect. Those who Save against this effect are still subject to this effect on future spells.

The aura can be dispelled with a successful Dispel Magic, but the Free-magic Elemental can reassert this aura as a free-action on its next turn.

In general, this aura affects both arcane and divine spells, spells cast from scrolls, wands, and rods (though the Save is that of the item’s wielder), but not the personal or inherent effects of permanent magic items. For example, a Dancing Sword‘s dancing ability or a Rod’s transformation abilities would still function normally.

Possess Magic Item:

A Free-magic Elemental can enter any magic item (like an enchanted ring, suit of armor, a wand, or a sword, but not single-use items like scrolls or potions) and may animate it in a limited fashion if it has moving parts, depending on its form. A possessed item cannot move any unmoving parts, so a cloak could billow or crawl, a suit of armor could walk, or a sword swing if held by an appendage, but a ring or amulet would be immobile. Possessing an item takes an entire round.

Items held or worn by a creature receive a Saving Throw vs Spells to resist being possessed. This Save is based on the creature’s Save plus the item’s + bonus, if any (so a Longsword +2 would receive a +2 bonus to the Save). A loose magic item receives no Saving throw (unless it’s a sentient item).

When possessing an item, the Free-magic Elemental has an Ego score like a sentient magic item does and can influence (or hide from) anyone who picks up or wears the possessed item. Generally, the possessed item has an Ego score of 11 + half the elemental’s HD (or 15 / 17 / 19). The Free-magic Elemental cannot use its Free-magic aura or cause any direct damage to the wielder (setting off a Wand of Fireball’s effect at close range, for example, works fine).

A possessed item will, as a general rule, glow the same color as the Free-magic Elemental. This glow cannot be turned off by the Elemental. The smaller the item is, the brighter the glow. For example, the glow of a Maul of Titans would be barely noticeable in the dark, a suit of armor would be as bright as a candle, a ring would be almost too bright to look at (and likely quite hot). An Identify spell will determine that the glow is not a natural property of the item.

The Free-magic Elemental can leave the item any time, though it takes a full-round to do so, during which the Free-magic Elemental is vulnerable. It can also be forced out via an Exorcism or a targeted Dispel Magic. Forcing it out of an item stuns it for 1d4 rounds (cannot move or attack). Once a Free-magic Elemental has left an item, it cannot repossess it for 1 week; the item’s “magical matrix” is under too much flux to allow it.

A Free-magic Elemental feeds on the magic items it possesses. For every week the item is possessed, it loses 5 charges (also lowering its maximum number of charges), one ‘per day’ use of an ability, a + bonus or similar power. The previous list is also the order of preference for which power the Elemental drains first. If the Elemental was damaged when it possessed the item, it heals 5 hp per magical power drained. Drained powers cannot be restored except through a Wish spell.

Once drained of all magical power, the Free-magic Elemental will leave the item immediately, as the item can no longer support it. The Elemental has the option to leave the item intact as a mundane item or destroy it (by melting, burning, shattering, etc). Only drained items can be destroyed in this way.

Abhorsen Trilogy – Mordicant


Undead, CE, 50’, Size Large, AC 0, HD 10+5, 1 claw and 1 bite, 2d6 (claw) + (Energy Drain or 1d4 STR dmg) / 2d4+1d4 fire (bite), F10, Mo 11, xp 6600

Mordicants are one of the most powerful undead that can be created by a Necromancer of the Old Kingdom. About the size of an ogre, a Mordicant’s body is molded from bog-clay or grave-dirt that has been infused with vast quantities of human blood. This vessel is filled with a malevolent Dead spirit that burns with a bottomless rage for the living.

A Mordicant’s eyes, mouth, feet, and claws drip with green fire and its presence is often enough to make mortals collapse from terror.

Aura of Death: A Mordicant has a persistent aura surrounding it that reeks of death and decay. The aura surrounds it at a radius of 20′ and might appear as a smoky miasma. Those who encounter it must Save vs Poison or be nauseated (can only make Move actions) and may only move at half speed (even while running) for as long as they remain in the aura and 1 round afterwards. Those who have recovered must still Save when exposed to the aura again, but those who make a successful Save are immune to the effects for 24 hrs.

The aura can be negated by a successful Dispel Magic (caster level 10), but the Mordicant can reestablish the aura as a free action on its next turn. Effects that improve the quality of the air and negate the effects of harmful gasses also work against this aura.

Weakening Touch: Those hit by a Mordicant’s claw must Save vs Death or suffer an additional 1d4 Strength damage. Whenever a Mordicant successfully drains Strength, it gains +1 to Hit and Damage on all its attacks and heals 1d8 damage. The bonus is cumulative and the bonus lasts for 1 Turn from the last time it was applied.

If you play with Energy Draining Undead, the Mordicant drains 1 Level of experience instead of Strength Damage, but gains the same benefits.

Night Affinity: A Mordicant naturally absorbs shadow-stuff from the darkness around them. They regenerate at 3 hp / round under two conditions: in complete darkness or once night has fallen (generally, between astronomical dusk and dawn).

Greater Dead: As a powerful undead spirit, a Mordicant can only be harmed by magical sources and by weapons with an enchantment of +2 or better.

Create Spawn: Those slain by the Mordicant rise as Dead Hands under the control of the Mordicant 1d4 rounds afterwards. A body that has been Blessed or doused in Holy Water will not rise as a Dead Hand.

Undead traits: Beyond the usual traits granted the undead, this type of undead cannot cross (above or below) deep or fast-moving water. An uncontrolled Mordicant will not attempt a crossing under most circumstances, but if it’s pushed to do so by a Necromancer, it must make a Save vs Death or be swept away into the River of Death, body and spirit. Very shallow and/or very still water may grant a bonus to this Save and vice versa (crossing a large waterfall would be a -4 penalty on a Save made every round, a sluggish brook would be a +4 bonus).

“There, between gusts of snow, she saw a figure leaping from step to step; impossible leaps that ate up the distance between them with horrible appetite. It was man-like, more than man-high, and flames ran like burning oil on water where it trod… It was a Mordicant that hunted her – a thing that could pass at will through Life and Death, it’s body bog-clay and human blood molded and infused with Free Magic by a Necromancer, and a Dead spirit placed inside it as its guiding force.”

– Sabriel by Garth Nix

The Dead from the Abhorsen Trilogy

I’ve been reading the Abhorsen Trilogy (in a hardcover book with a gorgeous cover) by Garth Nix lately and it’s inspired me to try to stat out some of the undead and creatures presented in the books. Perhaps it was just a bit of serendipity, but this is a book I normally wouldn’t have encountered or read. When I was visiting my mother, she gave me this book that she’d bought at a garage sale. Normally, I’m very picky about the books I own and the Abhorsen Trilogy was obviously a Young-Adult novel and geared towards women, so while the promise of necromancy intrigued me, I didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised.

Sabriel presents a world where a ‘modern’ WW1-era technology nation meets fantasy magic realm and describes how the two blend together at the border. Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a blend of Lawful (called the Charter) mage / cleric and Chaos (called Free Magic) sorcerer / necromancer who is charged with putting the Dead to rest.

I really enjoyed the idea of the River of Death, a metaphysical plane where dead souls float along from Life through a series of nine Gates to their final resting place, but is thick with the Dead and Necromancers. These Free-Magic sorcerers and the Abhorsen wield seven enchanted bells that have influence over the spirits of the living and the Dead, but also seem to be semi-sentient and have personalities. Preventing a bell’s effect from backfiring if it’s allowed to ring on its own is half the skill of a Necromancer.

All in all, I loved the lore that the author skillfully presents to the reader without an exposition dump and a straight-forward adventure story that doesn’t hold back from descriptions of hideous Necromancy and human sacrifice. It’s one of the most original and detailed descriptions of Necromancy  and one that’s inspired my own setting of Ark.

Over the next week or so, I’ll post my take on the stats of some the creatures and undead. Below are the two most common undead creatures.

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