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Inscriber (Dread Codex Monster)

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This material is published under the OGL
Size/Type: Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 4d12 (26 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30 ft.
Armor Class: 14 (+4 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/-3
Attack: Slam +3 melee (1d4+1 plus mnemonic exchange)
Full Attack: Slam +3 melee (1d4+1 plus mnemonic exchange)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Mnemonic Exchange, Confusion Aura
Special Qualities: Absorb Text, Spell-Like Abilities, Darkvision 60 ft., Fast Healing 1, Undead Traits
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +5
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 10, Con —, Int 19, Wis 13, Cha 15
Skills: Concentration +7, Craft or Knowledge (any two) +14, Decipher Script +11, Listen +5, Move Silently +2, Profession (any one) +8, Search +11, Sense Motive +7, Spot +5
Feats: Skill Focus (any Craft or Knowledge) (2)
Environment: Any
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 4
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 5-12 HD (Medium)
Level Adjustment:

A gray-skinned corpse in tattered common clothes leers at you with soft yellow eyes. Despite being on the verge of decomposition, the creature's skin is covered in strange black writing.

It has been said that the search for knowledge can be a soul-consuming pursuit. The unfortunate case of the inscribers proves the saying's literal truth. Every inscriber was once a living scholar who obsessed over a certain field of study. Some inscribers devoted their lives to particulars of occult lore, while others strove to catalog every species of plant in existence, or to learn the secrets of creating perfect wine.

Regardless of their missions, they shared the same end: after death, their lust for knowledge overcame the laws of nature, driving them to search the world for further information. But with their minds shattered and their self-identities subsumed by their missions, inscribers are unable to learn from experience. Instead, they rob the memories of the living and drink the text of books.

Many inscribers have a gray cast to their skin due to the bleeding of the magical ink used to write on themselves. The writing is an inscriber's summary and analysis of absorbed texts and memories, and is constantly scrawled over blank flesh as if by an invisible pen. When inscribers run out of room on their bodies, they tear off strips of skin, and press the "pages" into enormous tomes they carry at all times. The skin soon regrows, and is filled with writing once again.

Inscribers use their absorbed information to determine where to search for more. They travel to libraries, monasteries, the homes of experts in their fields, and wherever else they might acquire knowledge. Though they rarely cause harm intentionally, inscribers can bring great misfortune to populated areas, due to the auras of confusion that surround them. Inscribers do not speak, but understand Common and any languages they knew in life. An inscriber is exceedingly difficult to communicate with, but a creature who gets an inscriber's attention by displaying knowledge of the inscriber's chosen field has a chance of getting through to what remains of the scholar's mind. When this happens, the inscriber's writing slows, as it lets its focus slip. There are stories of inscribers who, reminded of their lives, chose to assist those who approached them by giving away some of their knowledge.

Combat Edit

Inscribers generally pursue their own tasks, ignoring others and protected by their confusion auras. Inscribers who are attacked or have their tomes stolen will use any appropriate spell-like abilities they have absorbed on their opponents, and then, if brought into melee, daze and drain their enemies.

Mnemonic Exchange (Su): Intelligent creatures hit by an inscriber's slam attack are affected by one of two possible effects (inscriber's choice). The inscriber can either cause the creature 1d6 points of Intelligence damage, learning all that the creature knows about the inscriber's area of study in the process, or infuse the creature with a portion of the inscriber's own knowledge. In the latter case, the creature gains a +6 competence bonus on a Craft, Knowledge, or Profession skill possessed by the inscriber for a number of days equal to the creature's Intelligence modifier, and must immediately succeed on a DC 16 Will save or be dazed for 2d12 rounds. This is a mind-affecting effect. The save DC is Intelligence-based.

Confusion Aura (Su): All intelligent creatures who come within 40 feet of an inscriber have their minds flooded with images and words related to the inscriber's field of study. An affected creature must succeed on a DC 14 Will save or be overwhelmed by the torrent of information and confused for 2d4 rounds. Creatures who make successful saves cannot be affected again by that inscriber's confusion aura for 24 hours. An inscriber's confusion aura is a mind-affecting phantasm effect. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Absorb Text (Su): An inscriber can absorb the text of all written materials within 15 feet as a standard action. By concentrating, the inscriber lifts all writing off nearby surfaces, and the text swirls through the air into the inscriber's mouth. Affected objects are left blank, and the inscriber gains full knowledge of all absorbed text. Only text written with some form of liquid (whether ink, dye, or blood) is affected. Objects the inscriber is unaware of (such as hidden objects, and objects inside containers) are unharmed, and attended or magical items can make DC 14 Will saves to resist. The save DC is Charismabased.

If the inscriber absorbs the text of a scroll, the inscriber gains the ability to cast the scroll's spells once each as a spelllike ability.

Spell-Like Abilities (Sp): At the start of any encounter, a given inscriber is assumed to have absorbed 1d4+1 scrolls. The inscriber can cast each spell from a scroll once, as a spell-like ability, at the scroll's caster level. The contents of absorbed scrolls can be determined as if they were medium magic items found in a treasure. The inscriber can also convert (as a good cleric converts prepared spells to cure spells) spell-like abilities gained from scrolls into any of the following: discern location, find the path, illusory script (DC 15), legend lore, secret page, sepia snake sigil (DC 15). Caster level 7th. The save DCs are Charisma-based. Inscribers activate their spell-like abilities by tearing off skin where mystic text is written, and holding the scraps aloft. The skin cannot be used by creatures other than the inscriber.

Inscribers' Tomes: A typical inscriber's tome weighs about 4 pounds and is slightly smaller than a human torso. It has no inherent magical qualities, but may be warded with illusory script and sepia snake sigil. The text is written in the inscriber's native language, and its style is confusing and opaque. Nonetheless, an inscriber's tome is an extremely comprehensive and valuable resource on a given subject. A creature using an inscriber's tome for research must make an appropriate Craft, Knowledge, or Profession check in the inscriber's area of study to understand enough of the text to find useful information. The DC for this check ranges from 15 for relatively common information, to 30 for extremely complicated or obscure topics. Inscribers will fight to the death to protect their tomes, and abandon their quests to recover them.

Treasure Edit

Standard — The treasure of an inscriber is always related to its field of study. Given below are items having to do with the study of rust monsters. Loose coins are kept in separate belt pouches so that trails can be left for a rust monster to follow to another location the inscriber desires (as well as to note its reaction to different metals).

  • Large well-done wool tapestry (depicting a rust monster with draconic wings) [350 gp]
  • Crowbar [2 gp]
  • Masterwork dagger (x2; both with rust monsters depicted on the handles) [302 gp]
  • 20 cp
  • 58 sp
  • 138 gp
  • 10 pp

In Your Campaign Edit

When an adventure or even a campaign focuses on the written word, the normally benign inscribers become deadly foes. While a party of adventurers seeking information might be able to gather information from a local bard, it is far more likely that they require a library for proper research on the topic. If an enemy wants to keep the knowledge hidden, directing an inscriber to the library is the best way.

It is said that, centuries ago, a trickster god convinced a young man to devote his life to researching the other gods. The minor deity wished to learn his greaters' weaknesses and knew that only a lowly mortal might succeed at the task (the trickster was forbidden to even speak of such knowledge). That young man became so involved with the cosmic directive that he died and became the first inscriber. It is only now that the trickster discovered the young man succeeded in his mission and the deity searches for the undead. The obvious adventure idea here is for the PCs to keep the trickster from finding the ancient inscriber while trying to learn where the former scholar is traveling to and possibly gain his allegiance.

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