The Midnight Dawn

the midnight dawn

THE MIDNIGHT DAWN

FIRE WITH FIRE, EVIL WITH EVIL

The Midnight Dawn are a misunderstood organization, but they have only themselves to blame. They seek to battle evil and protect the innocent, but they use undead to do so, making them no different than any other necromantic cult in they eyes of others.

ATTRIBUTES OF THE MIDNIGHT DAWN

Size: Large (101–200 members); this counts the living only.

Alignment and Purpose: LG; using the dead to battle the forces of evil so as not to risk the living any more than necessary.

Approximate Class Breakdown: Cleric 25%, Wizard 25%, Paladin 20%, Sorcerer 20%, Other 10%

Resources: The Midnight Dawn is a relatively resource-poor organization, due partially to their poor reputation. They must acquire funds and what magic they cannot create through the same process as typical adventurers: by taking them from their fallen foes.

Central Headquarters: The Midnight Dawn cannot afford to maintain a central headquarters, as such a location would make too tempting a target to the organization’s many enemies. On worlds in which they operate, the

Midnight Dawn maintains hidden fortresses, as well as several secondary bolt holes.

Known Enemies: The Midnight Dawn is in the unenviable position of facing both good and evil enemies. Evil organizations — including the Eternal Flame, the Gur-Tannan, and many groups native to specific worlds — recognize the threat posed by the Midnight Dawn and seek to obliterate them. Many non- evil groups, such as local priesthoods and knighthoods, object to the Midnight Dawn’s use of necromancy and label them enemies as well. One of the most bitter foes of the Midnight Dawn is the Vault of Souls, which considers the entire organization an affront to the natural order.

A GENERAL OVERVIEW

Few people know what to make of the Midnight Dawn, as it is unlike any other organization. Completely devoted to the precepts of upholding justice and defending the weak, the group nevertheless makes use of

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tactics and methods that, in the eyes of others, mark them as irredeemably evil. The Midnight Dawn determined long ago that it was better to use the dead to battle evil, so as not to endanger the living. Why should young men and women with their whole lives ahead of them risk death on an orc’s sword, a demon’s claw, a dragon’s fang? Animating the dead, making them walk again, is an affront to nature, yes. But surely it is a lesser sin than placing the living in harm’s way? The dead cannot be truly harmed, for they have already passed beyond.

This is not a tenet most people understand or accept. To most people, and even most deities, necromancy and the animation of the dead is evil, pure and simple, and can have no justification. They may well be right, for the members of the Midnight Dawn must engage in strenuous rituals to prevent themselves from being tainted by the darkness with which they dance. The Midnight Dawn is reviled whenever others learn of it, and it must work in secret for fear of being hunted down and destroyed by the very people it labors to protect.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MIDNIGHT DAWN

It would be hard to say precisely when the Midnight Dawn was founded, since its initial members were thrown together by circumstance, not by choice. According to the organization’s own legends, a priestess and paladin by the name of Sorjia Evamere first developed the rites and rituals that allow the use of necromancy without falling into darkness. Precisely why she did so is unclear, although most of the Midnight Dawn today believe that she faced an overwhelming evil, and lacked the manpower to fight it. Some suggest that this evil was an evil cult known as the Gur-Tannan, that Evamere was one of the last of a nation’s dwindling resistance against that vile faction. Without sufficient soldiers to hold back the

tide of invaders, Evamere turned to her god in prayer and beseeched him to allow the animation of the fallen defenders, abomination though it might be, so that the living might yet hold the line.

Whether her own god acquiesced or Evamere turned to some other power, she succeeded in her objectives. With substantial strain and effort, she was able to concoct a way of animating and controlling undead without suffering the taint of evil, and she turned those newly risen servants against her enemy and drove them back. Her victory was far from total; even fighting alongside the dead, she lacked the power to defeat her foe. She did, however, manage to hold them off long enough for a substantial number of her people to flee to other lands, and eventually to other worlds. Whether Evamere herself survived is unknown even to the most learned of Midnight Dawn historians, but some of her acolytes did indeed travel with the refugees, and it was they who eventually spread her teachings to others.

For a time, it seemed as though those teachings would fade away. Her former students were not sanguine about dabbling with magics they’d always viewed as vile and wicked, and few felt any need to educate others in Evamere’s techniques. They had escaped the enemy, and even should it, or other evils, threaten them on their new worlds, they could surely find allies among the living.

Eventually, however, as the former disciples of Sorjia Evamere settled into their new homes and set about trying to do good, a movement spread through their ranks. Why should the living have to suffer, to stand on the front lines against evil? Using Evamere’s techniques, the dead could be animated and used for good, could serve as soldiers against the forces of darkness.

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This, then, was the true beginning of the Midnight Dawn, an organization that has since spread to multiple worlds, including at least two realms in which the Gur-Tannan yet struggle for dominance. The Midnight Dawn’s numbers remain relatively low, for very few people possess the mystic skill to command the dead, the discipline required to follow Evamere’s rites, and the determination to use their abilities for good. During any given major operation, the organization likely contains more mindless undead soldiers than it does living members.

To date, the Midnight Dawn has been ill received in all communities where word of its existence and methods have leaked out. Governments, priesthoods, and similar forces work against them, as do the evil cults and inhuman threats the Midnight Dawn opposes. Thus, the organization prefers to work in secret where possible, striking from hidden fortresses and always prepared to evacuate on a moment’s notice. More than one faction of the Midnight Dawn has been destroyed by well-meaning servants of good or local law, as the members refuse to kill innocents even in self-defense.

INSIDE THE MIDNIGHT DAWN

The Midnight Dawn is a regimented, disciplined organization. It bears all the trappings of a religious institution despite the fact that it is not devoted to any specific deity. All members honor the god of Sorjia Evamere, but only in the abstract, as his name has been lost over the years. Additionally, every member of the organization is expected to worship the gods of good, as a means of cleansing their souls of any possible taint from their use of dark magics.

In terms of its general activities, the Midnight Dawn focuses on much the same variety of objectives as more traditional knightly orders and heroic organizations. Scouts and agents watch for the rise of evil in all its forms, from

demon cults to rampaging monsters, corrupt politicians to invading armies. All these and more are the enemies the Midnight Dawn is sworn to fight. Where they differ from others is not in their objectives but in their methods.

The Risen Dead

Nearly all the living members of the Midnight Dawn possess spells and abilities for the animation and control of undead, and use those powers to field their armies. A unit of Midnight Dawn soldiers usually consists of a small handful of living operatives, who serve as commanders and spellcasters, and anywhere from a half a dozen to several hundred lesser undead. The Midnight Dawn prefers skeletons, zombies, and similar mindless undead. Not only are these easier to create and to control, they’re easier for the clerics to put down, should their commanders lose control and the undead turn on nearby innocents. The Midnight Dawn makes use of more powerful undead on the field of battle only when facing a truly vile enemy who can be defeated no other way. They are especially careful when using undead against evil priesthoods, for fear that the enemy may usurp control. A Midnight Dawn team always includes as many paladins or clerics as possible, as they are capable of commanding more of the undead than their arcane counterparts.

For more subtle operations, such as scouting or intelligence gathering, the Midnight Dawn must either rely entirely on its living members, or else risk the use of more powerful undead. A favored tactic involves the use of wraiths and other less powerful incorporeal undead, who are capable of slipping into heavily defended areas and eavesdropping without being noticed. This requires substantial care, as any such creature who escapes the Midnight Dawn’s control almost certainly poses a threat to everyone around.

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The Midnight Dawn is always careful to destroy any undead it no longer needs, so that they may return to their rightful rest. Only in periods of ongoing conflict, such as during an invasion by an outside army or when at war with the cult of some evil deity, does the organization amass any great numbers of undead. Under most conditions, they keep only as many as they need for current activities.

Grave Robbing

Obviously, the primary resource the Midnight Dawn needs is bodies for animation, which leaves them with something of a problem. The organization prefers to use the bodies of their own fallen members, who all swear an oath when joining that they will continue to serve even after death. For all but the smallest operations, however, that simply isn’t enough material. The Midnight Dawn is not large, and any given faction on any given world surely has access to fewer than a dozen deceased members.

Where possible, the Midnight Dawn prefers to acquire bodies legally. Occasionally, a poor family or village may sell the corpse of a loved one for a bit of extra income, or simply to save themselves the expense of a burial. For the most part, though, even the poorest families aren’t willing to sell their dead to just anyone, and as the agents of the Midnight Dawn aren’t likely to provide a socially acceptable reason why they want the corpses, this option is rarely open to them.

When they absolutely must acquire bodies, the Midnight Dawn scavenges battlefields for fallen soldiers. This is not only more straightforward (not to mention less criminal) than acquiring bodies from a graveyard, it’s easier for the families of the deceased. A soldier missing in action, while far from pleasant, is a common occurrence and something to be expected, whereas a body missing from a family plot is rather more obvious and far more

unsettling. As a side benefit, bodies taken from a battlefield often come with usable equipment. Still, in emergency circumstances, the Midnight Dawn acquires corpses from whatever source is convenient, including local graveyards. Although they invariably engage in many prayers and rituals of repentance after the fact, they are worldly enough to know that sometimes immediate need must outweigh societal considerations.

In order to best take advantage of opportunities such as great battles (as well as to root out corruption and infiltration by sinister powers), the Midnight Dawn keeps tabs on local governments, either through living agents or undead spies. This allows them to have operatives in place to retrieve fallen soldiers. They also frequent the scenes of natural disasters for the same reason. Because they so frequently appear where there has been great loss of life, those who are aware of the Midnight Dawn often accuse them of causing these catastrophes, or manipulating governments into battling one another through foul magics. These rumors are untrue, but they do nothing to bolster the organization’s awful reputation.

Customs and Practices

A quasi-religious and strictly ordered organization such as the Midnight Dawn has an enormous number of customs and rituals it considers vital to its identity, without which the organization’s very existence begins to break down.

Every member of the Midnight Dawn must practice an hour-long ritual every day. This period of prayer and meditation, which often immediately follows a cleric’s prayer for her daily spells or a wizard’s hour of spell preparation, is not merely a formality, but a necessity for those who seek to dabble in the dark arts without becoming tainted. These rituals cleanse the soul of any hint of corruption brought about by necromancy and traffic with

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the undead, and involve numerous prayers beseeching the gods and the spirits of the deceased for forgiveness and understanding. See the Necromantic Purification feat below.

Members of the organization offer similar prayers when performing certain actions. Prayers for forgiveness and a brief ritual of purification and atonement are required of Midnight Dawn members at the following times:

• Whenever one of them animates a corpse, or is present for the animation of a corpse. If the body being animated was not a member of the organization, the prayers and ritual are longer and far more ornate. • Whenever one of them “acquires” the body of a non-member of the Midnight Dawn for later use, such as taking corpses from battlefields or graveyards. • Whenever a graveyard, temple, or other sanctified area is violated for the purposes of obtaining said bodies. • Whenever releasing (read: destroying) an undead who has served the organization, so it may return to its final rest. • Finally, a prayer asking forgiveness and understanding is always recited before going to sleep and after waking. If the daily hour-long ritual of purification occurs at one of these times, this additional prayer is unnecessary. Clearly, members of the Midnight Dawn spend a substantial amount of time in religious observance. Clerics and paladins are somewhat more obsessive in their devotions, since they risk losing their abilities if they lose their deity’s favor, but the arcane casters must follow these precepts as well.

In addition to the above, members of the Midnight Dawn are expected to observe all services, rituals, and holidays to the local

deities of good and justice, even if those deities and their priesthoods oppose the organization’s methods. Any time a new member is accepted into the organization, he is welcomed by a lengthy prayer service of thanksgiving, where he swears allegiance to the Midnight Dawn and to any of the gods that organization worships on that given world. Part of this oath involves the promise that the new recruit will serve the Midnight Dawn even beyond death; all members know that, when they die, their bodies will be among the first animated for later use.

The Gods of the Midnight Dawn

Because they operate on multiple worlds, and because their methods fall outside those traditionally accepted as “good,” the Midnight Dawn finds it difficult to gain the favor of most deities. Where possible, they devote themselves to a local god of good, justice, valor, and similar precepts. In some cases, through communion with that deity, they are able to convince the god that their methods are just. In other instances, no deity of a given world’s pantheon is willing to accept them. In these instances, the Midnight Dawn names gods of other worlds when making their prayers, and members actually draw their power from their faith in the righteousness of their cause.

Strictures and Requirements

For those rare few who actually want to do so, the mere challenge of joining the Midnight Dawn is likely one of the most difficult tasks they’ve ever attempted. Very few individuals posses the combination of abilities, strength of will, and courage required by the organization.

The first test any potential recruit must pass is one of morality. Only those of greatest devotion to good and of utmost discipline are welcomed into the Midnight Dawn. Anyone who proves lacking in either department is turned

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away. The paladins of the organization are not shy about using their ability to detect evil on anyone who attempts to join, and such petitioners are subjected to various spells to determine their honesty and true objectives.

Once accepted into the ranks, new members are trained vigorously in the Midnight Dawn’s many techniques and religious rituals, which are represented by the Necromantic Purification and Call of Darkness feats below. All members are required to pick up the first feat, and most divine casters learn both, though some few forgo Call of Darkness, sacrificing their ability to work with the group’s undead in exchange for retaining their healing abilities. The time required to learn these rites and methods varies from person to person, but is never less than several months, and often more than a year.

Once a recruit is finally a full member of the Midnight Dawn, he is bound by the organization’s code of law.

• You are a servant of good. You are a servant of justice. You are a servant of order. Your ambition, your goals, your life, and your honor are all secondary to the world you seek to protect. Place not your own life or your own comfort above your duty. • Let the dead fight to protect the living, for the dead have naught to fear. Yet fear not to risk your own life in defense of others, for the dead cannot act without our guidance and our aid. • Your brethren who have passed away have sworn their service to us, even beyond death. Only if their numbers prove insufficient in times of great need should you animate bodies not of our order, for we have no permission, and precious little right to their remains. • The animation of the dead is an affront to the natural order. Never undertake such an act lightly or without need, but only under gravest circumstance. To shake the departed from their eternal rest for personal gain, or to abuse their service for your own ends, is anathema. To do so is to invite taint, expulsion, even death. • Keep not the departed animate any longer than is necessary for you to achieve your goals, but allow them to return to their rest as soon as you are able. • Any of the undead you oversee, as you animated them or control them, are your responsibility. Their actions are your actions, their crimes are your crimes. Waver not in your control, for you must hunt them down and return them to their rest if they should ever escape your dominion. • The rites and rituals demanded of you are essential for mind and soul. Shirk them not, but embrace them willingly, practice them always, and keep their meaning in your heart. • Disobey no lawful or just order from your superiors, for a breach of discipline without can only lead to a loss of discipline within. • The people around you will fear you and hate you, for you traffic with dead things. Let this not turn your heart against them; it is they for whom you strive. Do not strike them down, neither in anger nor in fear, nor even in self-defense. Violation of any of these laws results in expulsion from the order at the very least. Severe violations — especially using undead for one’s own ambitions, or in any manner not consistent with the strict code of the organization or adherence to the lawful good alignment — may well result in execution.

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Influence and Outside Connections

Alas, the Midnight Dawn has precious little influence outside its own members, and most of its relations with other organizations are hostile at best. Some few agents of the Midnight Dawn have attained positions of authority in local governments, and the group’s incorporeal spies allow it to keep abreast of state and military secrets. For the most part, however, all governments, temples, organizations, and guilds are either ignorant of the Midnight Dawn, or else consider them to be vile necromancers and bitter enemies.

Even more dangerous than their local enemies are those other interplanar organizations who bear a grudge against the Midnight Dawn. Whether or not the Gur-Tannan are, as some believe, the enemy against whom Sorjia Evamere originally battled, the Midnight Dawn has certainly proven a thorn in their sides in recent years. The organization operates on at least two of the worlds the Gur- Tannan have invaded, fielding armies of undead — many of whom were victims of the Gur-Tannan in the first place — against the cult.

The Midnight Dawn considered the Eternal Flame a potential ally at one point, until a chance remark overheard by a wraith spy revealed the Eternal Flame’s true nature. Since that time, the Midnight Dawn has opposed the Eternal Flame on several worlds, an act which has further ruined their reputation.

Finally, the Vault of Souls considers the Midnight Dawn one of their greatest enemies, for an organization devoted solely to the sanctity of death can feel nothing but absolute hatred for a group that makes a habit of animating corpses, no matter what their intentions.

NEW FEATS

To date, only the Midnight Dawn has developed these techniques, and only its members know the necessary rites to make use of these feats. Unless the DM decides otherwise, consider membership in the Midnight Dawn an additional prerequisite to acquiring these feats.

Call of Darkness [General]

Through a combination of religious rites, regular prayer, and iron-fisted discipline, you have learned to channel negative energy instead of positive without succumbing to the evil inherent in such an act.

Prerequisite: Necromantic Purification, base Will save 10, ability to channel positive energy as a class ability, lawful good alignment

Benefit: You give up your ability to channel positive energy — to turn or destroy undead, lay on hands, or spontaneously cast cure spells

— in exchange for the ability to channel negative energy. This allows you to rebuke and control undead, spontaneously cast inflict spells, and causes your laying on hands ability to harm living creatures (although it heals undead). Normal: Only evil characters, and some neutral ones, can channel negative energy.

Special: As with Necromantic Purification, use of this feat requires constant prayer and vigilance on the part of the character. Any use of the ability outside the parameters of a strict lawful good code, or repeated failure to observe the necessary prayers and rituals of repentance and purification, results in an inevitable slide toward evil and constitutes a major alignment violation.

Necromantic Purification [General]

Through a combination of religious rites, regular prayer, and iron-fisted discipline, you

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have learned to use necromantic magics, particularly those required for the animation and control of undead, without succumbing to the evil inherent in such an act.

Prerequisites: Ability to cast 2nd-level divine necromancy spells, lawful good alignment

Benefit: You may animate and control undead through the use of spells that are normally considered evil, without sliding toward evil yourself.

Normal: Animating the dead, and many other forms of necromancy, are automatically considered evil acts.

Special: The use of this feat requires a delicate moral balancing act and a will of iron. The character must perform an hour-long rite of prayers and meditation every day, usually just after preparing daily spells. If the character ever misses more than a few consecutive days, or regularly skips non-consecutive days, he loses the use of the feat and immediately suffers the effects of all the necromantic energies he’s channeled, swiftly becoming corrupt and a creature of evil. Similarly, animating the dead for personal use and ambition, or commanding undead for any purpose that does not fall strictly within the purview of the lawful good alignment, also results in a loss of the feat’s benefits.

PALADINS OF THE MIDNIGHT DAWN

In order to better serve the needs of the Midnight Dawn, paladins who learn the Necromantic Purification feat are also trained in special rituals and methods of spellcasting unique to the organization. This results in a slightly altered spell list for Midnight Dawn paladins than for those outside the ranks. A paladin joining the Midnight Dawn may choose, when she acquires Necromantic Purification, whether or not she wishes to

learn the new spells list or retain the old. She cannot later change her mind.

1st-Level Paladin Spells

Bless Weapon Create Water Cure Light Wounds Detect Poison Detect Undead Divine Favor Endure Elements Invisibility to Undead Magic Weapon Protection from Evil Read Magic Resistance

2nd-Level Paladin Spells

Bull’s Strength Command Undead Delay Poison Eagle’s Splendor Owl’s Wisdom Remove Paralysis Resist Energy Undetectable Alignment

3rd-Level Paladin Spells

Animate Dead Cure Moderate Wounds Dispel Magic Halt Undead Greater Magic Weapon Magic Circle against Evil Protection from Energy Speak with Dead

4th-Level Paladin Spells

Cure Serious Wounds Death Ward Dispel Evil Freedom of Movement Gentle Repose Holy Sword

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