Golem, Half-

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Golem, Half-
Climate/Terrain:Nova Vaasa
Activity Cycle:Any
Intelligence:Highly (13)
No. Appearing:1
Armor Class:9
Hit Dice:7 (50 hp)
No. of Attacks:1
Damage/Attack:2-16 (2d8) or 3-8 (1d6+2)
Special Attacks:Nil
Special Defenses:+1 or better weapon to hit; spell immunities; regeneration
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:M (6'6” tall)
Morale:Champion (16)
XP Value:5,000

Both medical science and healing magic can accomplish wonders. Often, the application of a poultice infused with curative herbs or the weaving of a mystical spell can save the life of an injured or diseased person. Sometimes, however, these noble pursuits of healing can be followed too far, and a virtuous intent often ends with tragic consequences. Such was the case with an unfortunate youth named Desmond LaRouche, the dreaded half-golem.

Prior to his transformation, Desmond was a handsome young man. His eyes were a soft and gentle green that reminded his many sweethearts of cool ferns. His long sandy-brown hair was worn in a ponytail bound with a silver cord. His smile, which was quick to flash across his face and often followed by a melodic laugh, was as bright and winning as any in the land.

After that dark December night when tragedy struck, his features were drastically altered. While the right half of his body is as it was, the left is repulsive to look upon. That half of Desmond's face is now horribly scarred and has the pale grey color of death. His left eye is a sightless orb of white set in a puckered socket beneath a half-melted brow. Veins bulge out as the skin has drawn tight over the bone. His left hand is a withered remnant with long, blackened fingers and nails that curve like the claws of a great cat. It is difficult to imagine a more dreadful dichotomy than that presented by this once-handsome man. Few can look upon him without succumbing to fear and loathing.

Desmond's voice alternates between the soft tones of his past life and the harsh, guttural sounds made by the left half of his throat. He speaks only the language of Nova Vaasa and may or may not be able to read and write when encountered, depending on which part of his personality is currently uppermost.

Combat: In melee combats Desmond has two distinct fighting styles. If his bestial self is dominant, he attacks with a savage fury equal to that of a maddened beast. If his human side has mastery of the body, he tends toward finesse and elegant weapons like the rapier and foil. In either case, he is a dangerous enemy.

At the start of any given battle, there is a 50% chance that Desmond will give in to fury and rage. When this happens, he enters a berserk state, attacking with a single-minded determination that allows him a +2 bonus on his attack rolls and delivers 2-16 (2d8) points of damage each time a blow lands. Enemies who attack him while he is in this state gain a +2 bonus on their attack rolls because of the single-minded attention he gives to smashing his target.

If Desmond is not in a killing frenzy, he will fight more traditionally, attacking with his favorite weapon, a silver rapier. This medium piercing weapon weighs four pounds and has a speed factor of 4. Desmond's rapier, Phantom, is magical and gains a +1 bonus on all attack and damage rolls, inflicting a total of 3-8 (1d6+2) points of damage to small or medium-sized foes and 3-10 (1d8+2) points to larger ones. Desmond's left arm has a Strength of 19, enabling him to grapple with enemies or lift heavy weights with ease. When his golem half is dominant, he is fond of using his left hand to strangle enemies or crush their bones in its vice-like grip.

Whenever Desmond is hit by an attack or magical spell, it is important to determine whether the left or right half of his body was affected. This is done simply by rolling any die. If the result is even, the attack strikes his normal (right) side. If the number rolled is odd, the golem half of his body recieves the blow. A called shot (as described in the Dungeon Master Guide) can be made to strike a specific side of his body.

Desmond's left side has the same vulnerabilities and advantages as a flesh golem. It can be hit only by magical weapons, and electrical attacks actually regenerate 1 hit point per die of damage that would normally be inflicted by such an attack. Fire- and cold-based attacks do no damage to Desmond's left half, but they do cause him to act as if a slow spell had been cast upon him for 2-12 (2d6) rounds. All other spells have no effect if they are targeted against this side of his body.

Desmond's right side is more or less normal. It can be hit with any weapon and harmed by fire, ice, electricity, and most other attacks.

The unusual biology that has resulted from this unique fusion of natural and artificial life gives Desmond a number of special abilities. Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that he regenerates very rapidly, gaining 3 hit points per round. In addition, he is immune to all manner of poisons, toxins, and disease. He cannot be held, charmed, or put to sleep by magical means, but these attacks will automatically turn control of his body over to his inhuman side.

If Desmond is killed, he can easily be restored to life. While he does not regenerate after death, a charge of electricity applied to his left side can restore lost hit points (as described above) and return him to life. As soon as he lives again, his natural regeneration takes over and quickly restores him to full health.

The mere sight of Desmond's face is so terrible that it might be considered a weapon. While it does not petrify or have any real magical effect, all who look upon it for the first time must make a horror check. Even those who have had the monstrous visage described to them beforehand must make this check, for no amount of secondhand information can prepare one for this terror.

Just as Desmond's biology was changed by his transformation, so too was his psyche affected. His mind is now a morass of conflicting passions, vibrant life energy, and the eternal blackness of death. Anyone who makes any manner of telepathic communication with him, either by magical or psionic means, must make a madness check (as described in the Forbidden Lore boxed set). For those not using that product in their Ravenloft campaigns, treat the experience as a horror check. Anyone attempting to contact only one of his to selves will find it impossible to separate the two thought patterns.

Habitat/Society: The tragic story of Desmond LaRouche begins in the city of Kantora near the center of the domain of Nova Vaasa. His parents were the household servants of a wealthy doctor named Sir Edmond Hiregaard. They had no idea that their master was also the dreaded Malken, lord of the domain. Indeed, Hiregaard was so kind and generous an employer that the LaRouches could not conceive of him having any vices or evil intentions.

As he grew, the boy found a special place in Hiregaard's heart. Indeed, the surgeon became a second father to him. On spring days they would fly kites together in the park, letting the wind and warm sun carry away their concerns. When spring turned to summer, they would spend hours playing stickball and fishing. When Hiregaard traveled to the other cities in Nova Vaasa, he always brought back some new toy or present for the lad, and holidays were times of great celebration for Hiregaard and his servants.

Hiregaard's love for the boy grew with the youth. When young Desmond entered his teens, the good doctor took him on as an apprentice, teaching him the ways of science and the healing arts of medicine. The doctor was both amazed and delighted by the speed with which his young friend learned the lessons he taught. In no time, Hiregaard was passing along some of his less serious cases directly to LaRouche, who dispatched them with a dedication and skill that made his mentor glow with pride.

During his apprenticeship, the young LaRouche began to take notice of the true shape of society in Nova Vaasa. Although not a member of the upper class, he had been sheltered from the terrible condition of the vice-ridden masses by the kind heart of Edmond Hiregaard. When he begin to see the suffering of the common people, he was horrified. This repulsion was magnified by the recognition that he was actually one of them. He began to feel ashamed of his sheltered youth and vowed to make life better for those less fortunate than himself.

Hiregaard saw the importance of this to the young LaRouche and offered to help him begin a practice in the slums that made up large sections of Kantora. Desmond gladly accepted the sponsorship of the noble man and set about his new career.

In no time, the names of LaRouche and Hiregaard became synonyms with compassion and caring to the people of Kantora. For nearly a year, the two physicians cured the ill, tended to the wounded, and oversaw the healthy birth of countless babies. LaRouche was happier than he had ever been in his life.

During this same year, however, the women of Kantora, especially the harlots and trollops who frequented the gambling houses of the city, began to be terrorized by a series of brutal killings. On more than one occasion, LaRouche was called upon to examine one of the mutilated corpses. Despite his medical training, these examinations sickened him.

Hiregaard brought the matter to the attention of Prince Othmar, the political ruler of Nova Vaasa. He hoped to receive additional guards to patrol the city and search for the murdering fiend. Instead, his pleas fell upon deaf ears. Othmar had little concern for the murders of, as he put it, “a few of the city's far too numerous Jezebels”.

LaRouch took the news of Hiregaard's failure badly. He could not believe that their monarch would be so insensitive to the needs of his subjects. Finally, the young doctor decided to take matters into his own hands. If Prince Othmar would not help, then he, Desmond LaRouche, would track down the fiend himself and see him destroyed.

His mind made up, Desmond began to spend his evenings in the dark streets and alleys around the gambling houses. For nearly a week he saw nothing more than the usual beatings, violence, and corruption of the city. On the seventh night, however, he saw a sinister shape moving through the shadows of the city. Unwilling to move against the figure until he knew for certain that this was the killer, he moved to follow the suspicious-looking character.

The constant ebb and flow of people in the streets made tailing the man a difficult task. Indeed, he nearly lost sight of the fellow several times. Finally, however, he spotted the man entering a dark alley with a young dancer from one of the bawdy houses. Fearing the worst, he made for the side street, only to find the press of traffic on the streets too thick to easily penetrate.

The frantic seconds it took Desmond to reach the mouth of the alley seemed to last forever. Looking into the darkness, he saw a flash of light on the gleaming blade of a knife and heard a muffled scream. Cursing his slowness, he dashed ahead and drew his wheelock pistol.

At the end of the alley he found the murderer bent over the fallen woman. Blood flowed freely from numerous lacerations and LaRouche knew at once that this was indeed the man he had been looking for. He leveled his pistol at the fiend and called for him to drop his knife.

The murderer had been so intent on his gruesome work that he had not heard Desmond charging down the alley toward him. Now, the sudden challenge caught him off guard. He whirled about, his blade clattering to the pavement.

At that moment, the moon broke through the autumn clouds and Desmond saw the killer's face. He gasped at the sight, for the man's features were bestial and ugly, hardly human at all. The face was twisted in hate and the yellow eyes burned with a cruel fire. For a second, the dreadful face froze Desmond in his tracks. Seeing his chance, the killer charged forward and knocked him aside. Desmond crashed against the wall of a building and fell to his knees.

The killer fled into the night, never looking back. Desmond got to his feet, took aim with his pistol, and fired at the retreating figure. The murderer staggered and fell, clearly having been shot. Before the young doctor could reach him, however, he regained his feet and vanished into the maze of dark streets.

Angry at his failure to either save the woman or stop the killer, Desmond knelt beside the victim's body. In life, she had been quite lovely; a fact which made her mangled corpse all the more horrifying. He steeled himself and draped his long coat over the body. Only when this was done did he think to recover the knife that the killer had dropped.

To his horror, he recognized the weapon as a medical blade that belonged to none other than Edmond Hiregaard. Unable to accept the fact that his mentor could somehow be connected to the foul, misshapened killer he had seen, he assumed that the blade had been stolen. Pocketing the knife, he summoned the watch and reported the killing to the police.

With that taken care of, he made at once for Sir Hiregaard's house to query him as to when he had last seen the scalpel. He found the front door locked, as he expected at this late hour, and circled around to the office entrance at the side of the building. There, he saw a sight that made his blood run cold: a small pool of fresh blood lying on the stones by the door.

Before he could consider the implications of this, he heard a choking gasp of pain from inside. Without thinking, he burst in to the office where he had spent so many hours learning the healing arts.

To his horror, he saw the killer standing before him. Blood ran from his shoulder, showing quite clearly where Desmond's bullet had struck him.

Before Desmond could act to defend himself, the bestial fiend attacked. He grabbed the young doctor by the collar and hurled him into a rack of glass beakers and chemicals. Pain raced through Desmond's body as the various elixirs and fluids mingle to form a highly corrosive acid. Screaming in pain, he rolled clear of the chemicals just as they ignited and filled the room with flames and choking smoke.

Desmond assumed that this was the end of his life, for he was quickly losing consciousness and the only sensation he had in the left half of his body was a burning pain. He saw the killer clutch at his chest and fall to the floor beside him. With a detached horror, Desmond saw the bestial features of the terrible man soften and shift. Just as he fell into unconsciousness, he saw the murderer's face change to that of his beloved mentor, Sir Edmond Hiregaard.

The next several weeks of Desmond's life were spent drifting in and out of consciousness. Time passed without meaning to him, and the only thing he felt was an endless throbbing pain. Images remained in his mind, but whether they were real or hallucinations he could not say.

Finally, the young man awoke. He found that he was strapped down to a steel table in Hiregaard's operating theater. He was unable to move, and cold fear ran through him. After nearly an hour, he heard a door open. The brisk fall of footsteps clattered across the tiled floor, and the concerned face of Edmond Hiregaard bent over him to fill his field of vision.

Desmond was furious. He demanded an explanation and, to his surprise, Hiregaard complied. With a look of deep sorrow on his face, he confirmed the lad's worst fear: Hiregaard himself was the brutal killer Desmond had been seeking.

In his defense, Hiregaard explained that he did not commit these dreadful crimes willingly. Indeed, he claimed that his transformation into a horrible beast were the result of a most noble experiment. Hiregaard had long ago decided that human nature was the cause of all the suffering in the world. In order to make any major changes for the better, the basic nature of mankind would have to change. To that end, he began to develop a serum that would destroy the evil in men just as other medicines might destroy disease. Unwilling to risk the life of another to test the potion, he tried it on himself.

At first, it seemed to have worked. He felt like a new man, cleansed even of any evil or impure thoughts. Then, he began to suffer blackouts. For days at a time, he would have no memory of his actions. Eventually, he discovered that his evil nature had been isolated, not destroyed. From time to time, without any predictable pattern, it would surface and take complete control of his body.

Desmond listened in horror to Hiregaard's story. Instead of hatred or revulsion, he felt only pity for the tortured man. Eventually, Hiregaard brought his tale to a close with their encounter in his laboratory. He explained that his evil self, Malken, had lost control of their body as the fire spread. When he came to his senses, Hiregaard saw what had happened and was horrified. He extinguished the blaze and carried the dying Desmond into his operating theater.

The prognosis was not good. The entire left half of his body was being eaten away by the chemicals that had been splashed upon it. Even as he despaired of saving the young man's life, a horrible idea came to him. He had several fresh cadavers in the home for his experimental studies. Might they not be raided to replace the most badly-damaged parts of LaRouche's body? Desperate to save his young friend's life at any cost, Hiregaard set to work, little realizing that this ghoulish inspiration had come from the deeply buried Malken.

When his story was done, Hiregaard turned away from Desmond. In a voice heavy with sorrow, he lamented the fact that he had not allowed the young man to die as nature demanded. With that, he released the young man and presented him with a mirror. The agonized scream which escaped Desmond's lips as he looked upon his new body was the most dreadful sound Hiregaard had ever heard.

Desmond left Kantora that night. He said not a word to Hiregaard, but simply walked out of his home and into the darkness. His last memory of the man who had been a second father to him was of a frail-looking old man shaking and sobbing on the floor.

From time to time, Desmond LaRouche has considered returning to Kantora to destroy the man who made him into a monster. Inside, however, he feels that letting him live with his curse is a far crueler fate.

LaRouche has no desire to reveal Hiregaard's secret self. He recognizes the good that Hiregaard does to make up for Malken's evil and considers this to be a fair exchange.

Ecology: Desmond LaRouch now wanders the domain of Nova Vaasa. The revulsion that greets him whenever he encounters humanity has embittered him. He has been known to come to the aid of the defenseless, but generally he shuns all contact with mankind.

Desmond's unusual biology frees him from many of the concerns of daily life. He eats but one meal a day, sleeps for only an hour or so each night, and takes no notice of the hottest summer day or the coldest winter night.

Many aspects of LaRouche's life now might appeal to a druid character. He lives in the wild and, because it is his home, protects the land fiercely from those who would encroach upon it and his solitude.

Ravenloft Appendix II: Children of the Night (2139)