The Vault of Souls

the vault of souls

THE VAULT OF SOULS

DONA EIS REQUIEM

The Vault of Souls is perhaps the most paradoxical of all the interplanar organizations. A sect devoted to nothing less than the sanctity of death itself, they are friend to all who would battle undead, and enemy to all who seek to cheat death by any means. Adventuring PCs could, depending on circumstances, find themselves fighting alongside these zealots — or hunted by them.

ATTRIBUTES OF THE VAULT OF SOULS

Size: Large (101–200 members)

Alignment and Purpose: LN; to restore the sanctity of the natural cycle to the multiverse by destroying all those who have cheated death, either through undeath or through resurrections magics.

Approximate Class Breakdown: Cleric 20%, Ranger 20%, Fighter 15%, Monk 10%, Rogue 10%, Sorcerer 10%, Wizard 10%, Other 5%. Note: A vast majority of the Vault’s members, well in excess of 50%, also have levels in the Sanctifier prestige class (see below).

Resources: The Vault of Souls, though not nearly so wealthy as many of the other interplanar organizations, gathers substantial monies and magic from the various individuals it

“sanctifies” in the course of its operations. They have precious little political power, but their objectives rarely require them to exercise such authority.

Central Headquarters: The name “Vault of Souls” applies not only to the organization, but also to its headquarters. This massive fortress, constructed of an alloy called necronium (see below), sits in its own demiplane near the border of the Ethereal and Material planes.

Known Enemies: Given their habit of exterminating anything that has come back from death in any form, the Vault of Souls counts numerous undead, priesthoods and high-level heroes among their foes. They frequently come into conflict with the Midnight Dawn, whose use of undead soldiers marks them as prime violators of the Vault’s religious and moral doctrines.

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A GENERAL OVERVIEW

The Vault of Souls is one of the most focused and most single-minded organizations in existence. Members don’t seek wealth, they don’t worry much about formalities, they don’t bog themselves down with an excess of rules or procedures. They have one objective, and every member pursues it to the best of her ability.

From its start as a religious organization, the Vault of Souls has placed its deep and abiding belief in the sanctity of death itself. They do not relish the idea of dying, nor do they seek to kill others. They don’t “worship” death in any particular fashion. Rather, they believe simply that every time the sanctity of death is violated, the perpetrators have committed a crime against nature and the multiverse itself. Each undead and resurrected creature places that much more strain on reality, and on the boundaries between life and death. The members of the Vault don’t pretend to know what might happen if that strain becomes too great. And they don’t intend to find out.

The members of the Vault of Souls consider their calling both a holy one, mandated by their respect for the natural order, and one of utmost urgency, as they are saving the multiverse from an eventual and no doubt hideous fate. As such, they are not even remotely swayed by arguments in favor of making an exception “just this once.” Once they have located a target, no matter who it may be or how much good it may have done, they do not stop until either the target is sanctified (read: killed again) or until it somehow manages to escape the Vault’s agents long enough to disappear.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VAULT OF SOULS

The Vault of Souls has its origins in a much older group called the Heirs of the Reaper. This was the cult and priesthood of the goddess

Kirajuntu, the personification of death on her world and one of the most powerful, but least worshipped, members of her pantheon. Though grim, dour, largely mistrusted and accused of all manner of horrific acts, the Heirs were not an evil organization. They worshipped death, yes, but they didn’t cause it. Kirajuntu would claim all lives, in time; no need to rush things. Because their ceremonies were dark and often involved simulated recreations of the deaths of former members — celebrating their crossing over into Kirajuntu’s arms — others often believed them guilty of human sacrifice and worse. More than one branch of the Heirs of the Reaper were wiped out in brutal displays of mob “justice.”

Several of the Heirs’ most powerful clerics had magics that allowed planar travel, and every so often, one would attempt to travel to the afterlife of his own world (precisely which plane that might have been is long since forgotten) to converse with the departed, or with Kirajuntu herself. One such attempt by the High Priestess Manehsca went horribly wrong; to this date, the greatest scholars of the Vault of Souls still do not know precisely how it happened. Rather than finding themselves in anything remotely resembling the afterlife, Manehsca and her traveling companions appeared in a long and darkened hallway. After days of exploring the apparently abandoned complex, the priestess and her escort had discovered only a few details of the place. First, it was large, practically a self-contained city made up of enclosed walls, corridors and chambers. Second, the entire structure was constructed of an unknown metal that somehow held a charge of negative energy within it, yet never released enough of that energy to harm a living being. Third, it was in no world or dimension Manehsca had ever heard of. It had no doors and only a single window, on the ceiling of a chamber in the center of the highest level. Finally, none of her sorcerous companion’s teleport spells functioned

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within its walls. It was as if the place was a separate reality unto itself, and no world existed outside those walls.

But all of this paled in comparison to the discovery Manehsca and the others made in that central, crystal-domed room.

They looked up through a massive latticework of windows, not into any sky, but into a gray and shifting void. And through that void, millions upon millions of figures sped, all spiraling toward a single dark spot in its center where they disappeared. Humanoids, animals, monsters and entities the likes of which Manehsca had never seen swooped past that window as vague, semi-translucent shapes that appeared to have no real substance to them.

The void could be nothing less than the final corridor, the conduit between death and life itself. This was the route that all souls and spirits traveled from the time they departed their mortal coil to the moment they appeared in whatever afterlife might await them. The figures had initially seemed to appear randomly on the outskirts of the window and vanish into the darker spot that was the only horizon the void allowed. With closer study, however, the priestess could tell they actually appeared from thousands if not millions of slightly different directions, and disappeared at specific points in the distance as well. She was seeing the dead not just of one world, but of many — possibly of all worlds. And she saw, as well, the faint variations of course that could only mean they traveled to differing final rests.

Their journey to their own afterlife and the domain of their goddess forgotten, Manehsca and her companions spent months studying this place, which they dubbed the Vault of Souls, specifically watching the current of souls that flowed past them. They sent one of their number back home, via a planar travel spell that worked better than their attempts to move about in this reality, and soon hundreds of the Heirs of

the Reaper were present in the Vault. They set up living quarters in empty rooms and gathered in the central chamber, which they named the Chapel of Passage, to hold their prayers and sermons.

It was during one such sermon, as a high priests pontificated on the wonders of the eternal cycle of life and death, that one of the Heirs spotted a single soul, blackened and shredded, racing against the flow and returning to the world whence it came.

The Heirs of the Reaper posted a watch within the Chapel of Passage, so that eyes were on the river of souls at all times. Sure enough, on many occasions a soul moved against the tide. Were these the undead, returning to haunt the corporeal world or to reanimate their own corpse in a shambling parody of life? Did they represent people called back by the power of divine spellcasters, allowed to return by gods who didn’t understand the damage they did to their own reality by violating a natural order they themselves had put in place?

Well, if most of the gods were too ignorant to protect the cycle and the border between life and death, then by Kirajuntu, the Heirs would do it for them!

The Chapel of Passage, though still a holy site, became the tactical center of a brewing war as much as a place of worship. Grids and vectors were plotted on the crystal in magic sigils, measuring the flow of souls and turning the observation window into a map. It required years of study, but eventually the Heirs of the Reaper figured out how to combine planar and divination magics with the map on the window to determine which world a given soul had come from, or to which it was returning. The Vault of Souls became the permanent home of the most militant members of Kirajuntu’s flock, who watched, waited, and learned new techniques for combating the undead and undoing the works of other, more foolish priests.

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When the Heirs of the Reaper were slaughtered as a whole, the victims of a mob the likes of which their home world had never seen, only those who dwelt within the Vault of Souls survived to carry on their goddess’ name. These were the warrior-priests, the most martial worshippers. When they realized that they were all that remained, they chose to honor their suddenly weakened goddess in the only way they knew how.

They would purify the multiverse of all these abominations, repair the sanctity of death and death’s gods. This was no longer merely an aspect of their worship, but their single driving purpose.

Taking their name from the structure in which they dwelt, the Vault of Souls began to act.

INSIDE THE VAULT OF SOULS

Although they form a sizable organization with shared goals and methods, the members of the Vault of Souls act alone more often than not. They use the Vault as a central headquarters, a place to regroup, to gain new magics and equipment, to obtain intelligence on their enemy, and to call for reinforcements. For the most part, however, they hunt individually.

Thus, the Vault of Souls has very little formal internal structure; even the hierarchy of the priesthood of Kirajuntu has faded over the centuries. Less experienced members take orders from those with more experience, and the most experienced and most zealous member serves as the organization’s leader. Other than that, the Vault doesn’t much care how they behave, beyond a very few specific strictures.

Detection

The first step in eliminating the “Impure,” as the Vault of Souls calls any creature that has

returned from the dead, is locating them. Through use of the tactical map on the domed window of the Chapel of Passage, the Vault can determine which worlds and planes have the greatest number of Impure, and they can track a newly returned soul to one of those worlds. This is, however, only the first step, as knowing the world of residence of an Impure is a far cry from finding it.

To date, the Vault of Souls has operated on over 30 planes, and it has at least one member who has gotten to know each and every one of those worlds. For the most part, several agents dwell on each of these worlds, living apart from each other. Some are stationary, passing as normal citizens of the realm in which they dwell, acting only when they receive orders from the Vault. Others are wanderers, scouring the world through magic and mundane investigation for any sign of undead or other Impure. It’s a long, difficult, and thankless task, but with the training and the magics at their disposal (to say nothing of the unfortunate plethora of undead in many worlds) it is one that meets with frequent success.

Sanctification

Once the Impure have been located, they must be dealt with — and with the Vault of Souls, “dealt with” always means destroyed. The members of the organization see this as sending the wayward soul back where it belongs; this is best for both the soul and the world around it, even if the individual himself does- n’t realize it. They care nothing for any arguments to the contrary. It matters not one whit why the soul has returned; a heroic paladin who has been resurrected by a grateful priesthood is no less in need of sanctification than the foulest vampire. The Vault of Souls is not made up of heartless brutes. They’re not happy about the pain they must cause the friends and relatives of those who have come back, and if forced to choose between two tar

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gets, they pursue the more dangerous and obviously evil of them in order to save the lives of others. Still, when all is said and done, none of the Impure can be allowed to survive.

How, then, to go about the process of sanctification? In most cases, it’s simply a searchand- destroy operation. After one of the Impure has been located, a lone agent, or on rare occasions a small group, sets out to destroy it. In some cases, this is the same agent who located the creature; she simply attacks immediately upon discovery if she feels she has a decent chance of besting the target. If not, she marks its location and either comes back better prepared, or calls for a more capable operative to finish the job for her.

As to the precise method of extermination, the Vault of Souls undertakes nearly any methods necessary. Direct combat is the most frequent option. A resurrected mortal, and many undead, die again if their heads are removed or their organs punctured. The Vault makes detailed study of all known forms of undeath, the better to destroy those immune to normal methods of dispatch. They know all the vampire’s weaknesses. They know that a lich cannot be slain until its phylactery is destroyed. They know that it is often easier to exorcise a ghost by performing some task it left incomplete, though they’re willing to pursue it to the Ethereal Plane and destroy it through magic and brute force if necessary.

Sometimes face-to-face conflict isn’t an option. Many undead are extremely dangerous. Many people who have been resurrected hold positions of power and authority. One cannot simply walk up to a king, a high priest, or a popular hero and stick a sword in his gut.

What then? Poison. Ambush. Artificial accidents. Powerful spells cast from hundreds of yards away. Softening the target through attacks by mercenaries or hired thugs. The Vault of Souls cares nothing for honor or pro

priety in their actions; they just want the job done, and done fast.

Remember, however, that most members of the Vault of Souls are not evil. Few of them will attack the Impure in such a way as to needlessly endanger bystanders. Lobbing a fireball at a priest who has been raised is a viable option when he is meditating in his chambers. Doing the same when he is leading a mass in a cathedral filled with two hundred of the faithful is not. Some few members are indeed vicious and brutal enough to attempt such a thing, but the Vault as a group does not countenance such actions, and takes disciplinary action against those who wantonly engage in them.

One Impure, One Agent

For the most part, members of the Vault of Souls work alone. This is partly because they do not wish to attract attention to their existence, and greater numbers mean more chances of discovery; and partly because they simply don’t have enough members to cover all the civilized territories of all the known worlds as it is. If they operated in groups they might be able to take on tougher foes, but they’d have a much harder time locating said foes.

As a compromise, many lone operatives of the Vault of Souls hook up with adventuring parties. Some reveal to their companions that they are on a particular mission (though they are not permitted to reveal the details of the Vault of Souls itself), while others act like just another fortune-seeker. This is a particularly popular technique in areas with many undead, as adventuring parties always seem to run into them.

Such friendly associations inevitably break down as the adventurers reach higher levels. Sooner or later, someone in the party is going to die and be resurrected, or at the very least

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the group will interact with someone who has been. Operatives of the Vault sometimes let such individuals slide for a short while if they feel they can accomplish more good, and sanctify more of the Impure, by keeping the party together. Still, the raised companion must eventually be dealt with. This can be hard — it’s certainly not an easy thing to kill someone you’ve known and fought beside for months or years — but it must be done. Members of the Vault take solace in the fact that they are actually doing their friend a favor, even if he’s not likely to see it that way.

Customs and Practices

The Vault of Souls focuses primarily on procedure, rather than formal rites or traditions. One of the most experienced priests of the organization holds regular services within the Chapel of Passage — dedicated to the faded glory of Kirajuntu in particular and to the sanctity of the natural order in general — but members are not required to attend. In fact, members are never required to return to the Vault of Souls at all, though they are encouraged to do so on a semi-regular basis in order to keep up to date on intelligence regarding the Impure in their worlds.

The Vault recruits its new members from followers of various death gods — although they eschew evil deities — and from those who have suffered or lost loved ones at the hands of undead. They question potential recruits about their own beliefs regarding the natural cycle and introduce them to the organization’s dogma that all who return from death are a violation of the laws of the universe, and a danger to themselves and others. Only if the potential recruit expresses unwavering agreement with those beliefs is she inducted into the organization, and then informed that she will be assisting them in “sanctifying” such individuals. Any who

balk at the notion that it is necessary to eliminate those who have been resurrected, as well as undead, are turned away. They never learn anything more about the organization, so they cannot expose its secrets to others.

Strictures and Requirements

The laws of the Vault of Souls are few, but they are absolutely sacrosanct.

• Neither affection nor sympathy shall stay your hand from sending an Impure back to the afterlife, where the laws of reality demand it go. To postpone a sanctification for a greater good is acceptable; to hesitate for personal reasons, or to allow one of the Impure to escape indefinitely, is not. • Few outside our ranks understand the importance of what we do. Tell none of our organization unless in vital need, and then tell them only that we hunt undead and other “abominations.” • Your companions may attempt to raise you if you fall in battle. We know from our studies that the soul may choose not to return. This must be your choice, for to return to life is to become all that we most despise, and must mark you as our sworn foe. Only if a member has blatantly betrayed the Vault of Souls, such as by allying with powerful undead, is he marked for death for his transgressions. Under most circumstances, a single minor infraction draws a reprimand, with repeat or severe infractions resulting in expulsion from the organization.

Influence and Outside Connections

As they tend to work alone on any given world, the Vault of Souls neither possesses nor requires any great amount of political or cultural influence. They boast some allies within the priesthoods of various death gods

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and undead-hunting adventuring groups, but organization. The sanctifier’s abilities are this is pretty much the sum total of their very narrow in focus, only truly useful friendly connections. against the Vault’s chosen foes, but under those circumstances, the sanctifier is truly a

On the other hand, the Vault has a substan

power to behold.

tial list of enemies, and it only grows longer by the year. Any undead who learn of their Hit Die: d10. existence have great reason to hate the organization. The same holds true of many

Requirements

priesthoods, who believe the ability to resur-To qualify to become a sanctifier, a characrect the fallen is a gift of the gods, and they ter must fulfill all the following criteria. take ill to those who would deem it unholy

Alignment: Any non-chaotic

and seek to undo their miracles. Base Attack Bonus: +4

The greatest enemy of the Vault of Souls, however, is the Midnight Dawn. These two Skills: Knowledge (arcana) 3 ranks, organizations, who are both fully aware of Knowledge (religion) 5 ranks. one another, come into conflict on a rela-

Special: The character must be a member in

tively frequent basis, as individual opera-

good standing of the Vault of Souls. In addi

tives of the Vault attempt to destroy the

tion, the character must meet any one of the

Midnight Dawn’s reanimated soldiers.

following requirements:

• Use Magic Device 8 ranks. THE SANCTIFIER

• Ability to cast 3rd-level spells of either the In its quest to restore the sanctity of death Abjuration or Necromancy schools.

and eliminate the Impure who violate the natural order, the Vault of Souls has devel-• Ability to channel positive or healing eneroped a set of skills and powers devoted gy (i.e. turn undead, lay on hands, whole-

specifically to those ends. These abilities ness of body). form the basis of the sanctifier prestige

• Favored Enemy Undead, at +2 bonus or class, available only to members of the

higher.

The Sanctifier

Fort Ref Will —Spells per Day— Level BAB Save Save Save Special 1 2 3 4

1st +1 +2 +0 +2 Detect undead 1 — — — 2nd +2 +3 +0 +3 Smite undead 1/day, turn undead 1 0 — — 3rd +3 +3 +1 +3 — 1 1 0 — 4th +4 +4 +1 +4 Smite undead 2/day 2 1 1 0 5th +5 +4 +1 +4 Negative energy resistance 2 1 1 1 6th +6/+1 +5 +2 +5 Detect the impure,

smite undead 3/day 2 2 1 1 7th +7/+2 +5 +2 +5 — 3 2 2 1 8th +8/+3 +6 +2 +6 Smite the impure or undead 4/day 3 2 2 2 9th +9/+4 +6 +3 +6 Turn the impure 3 3 2 2 10th +10/+5 +7 +3 +7 Smite the impure or undead 5/day 4 3 3 2

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Class Skills

The sanctifier’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (the planes) Int, Knowledge (religion) (Int), and Spellcraft (Int).

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the sanctifier prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency:

Sanctifiers are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with light and medium armor, and with shields (but not tower shields).

Detect Undead (Sp): At first level, the sanctifier gains the ability to sense the presence of undead at will, as a spell-like ability. This is identical to the detect undead spell.

Smite Undead (Su): The sanctifier may attempt to smite undead with a normal melee attack. She adds her Charisma modifier (if positive) to her attack roll and deals 2 extra points of damage per sanctifier class level. If the sanctifier accidentally smites a creature that is not undead, the smite has no effect but it is still used up for that day. She may attempt to smite undead once per day at 2nd level, and one additional time at every even class level (4th, 6th, etc.)

Spells: Beginning at 1st level, a sanctifier gains the ability to cast a number of divine spells. To cast a spell, the sanctifier must have a Wisdom score of at least 10 + the spell’s level, so a sanctifier with a Wisdom score of 10 or lower cannot cast these spells. Sanctifier bonus spells are based on Wisdom and saving throws against these spells have

a DC of 10 + spell level + the sanctifier’s Wisdom modifier (if any). When a sanctifier receives 0 spells of a given level, such as 0 2nd level spells at 2nd level, the sanctifier gains only bonus spells. A sanctifier without a bonus spell for that level cannot yet cast a spell of that level. The sanctifier’s spell list appears below. A sanctifier prepares and casts spells just as a cleric does.

Turn Undead: Starting at 2nd level, a sanctifier may turn undead creatures as a cleric equal to his sanctifier class level. If the sanctifier already had the ability to turn undead, his sanctifier levels stack with his previous turning class for these purposes.

Note that in most cases, sanctifiers do not use their turn undead ability unless they feel they are powerful enough to destroy the creatures outright. After all, allowing them to flee violates the precepts of the Vault of Souls.

Negative Energy Resistance: At this level, the sanctifier has developed a resistance to the harmful effects of many undead creatures. The sanctifier receives his class level as a bonus to save against any attack that causes negative levels or ability damage through negative energy. Even if such an attack normally does not allow a save, the sanctifier is permitted one — but only counting his sanctifier levels to determine the saving throw modifier, not any other class levels. For instance, a character who is a cleric 7/sanctifier 3 normally has a total Fortitude save of +8 (not counting Constitution bonus). Against an energy drain attack that does not normally allow a save, the character gains only the +3 from sanctifier levels, not the +5 from cleric levels. (He does, however, still gain the Constitution bonus.)

For such attacks that normally do not allow a save, and therefore have no DC listed,

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assume the DC is 10 + 1/2 the undead’s hit

NEW MATERIAL

die + its Charisma modifier.

Detect the Impure: The sanctifier’s senses become so refined that he no longer merely detects undead, but also the presence of anyone who has ever been dead. Thus, he detects undead, but also those who have been raised, resurrected, reincarnated or otherwise brought back to life.

Smite the Impure: At this level, the sanctifier may use her smite ability on any of the Impure, not merely undead.

Turn the Impure: At this level, the sanctifier may actually attempt to turn or destroy anyone who has ever come back from the dead, as though they were undead. Because they are not undead, however, they are more difficult to turn, and are considered to have the equivalent of Turn Resistance +4. Anyone who can be detected by detect the impure can now potentially be turned or destroyed. As with the undead, the sanctifier rarely attempts to use this power unless he feels he is powerful enough to destroy the target outright.

Sanctifier Spell List

Sanctifiers choose their spells from the following list:

1st level: bless water, cure light wounds, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, hide from undead, magic weapon, protection from evil, remove fear

2nd level: consecrate, cure moderate wounds, remove paralysis, shield of faith

3rd level: cure serious wounds, greater magic weapon, lesser restoration, negative energy protection, remove disease

4th level: cure critical wounds, death ward, restoration, searing light

Necronium

The odd metal from which the Vault of Souls was constructed is a strange, alchemical and magical alloy called necronium. Not even the members of the Vault know who or what created it, any more than they know who built the Vault itself. They have, however, through great study and trial and error, learned to duplicate the process and create necronium.

Whenever a living creature dies while wearing or holding anything metal, that metal is exposed to a minuscule bit of energy as the escaping soul passes through it. In most cases, that energy is insufficient to alter the metal in any measurable way. In the case of an item held or worn during multiple deaths (such as a sword or breastplate passed down through the generations) or that has been exposed to negative energies for long periods of time (such as armor worn by a vampire), the metal may absorb substantial quantities of those energies.

Through use of a ritual that combines the magical and the alchemical, a craftsman may bring those energies to the surface of the metal, creating necronium. Only metals with a hardness of at least 5 can survive the process; softer metals are destroyed.

The ritual requires many magical components and alchemical substances; assume that the cost of creating any given item is equal to half the cost of the market price listed below. The craftsman or a helper must then succeed at both a Craft (alchemy) and Spellcraft check, each against a DC of 18. The ritual requires five hours, plus one hour per pound of metal.

If it successful, the metal becomes necronium, which has the following statistics.

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• Innate +1 to hit and damage if made into a weapon, and to AC if made into armor. This overlaps (does not stack) with any masterwork bonus, or with any magic enhancement bonuses with which the item might be enchanted. • Any weapon or armor of necronium requires only 75% of the normal cost in gold and experience to enchant with the ghost touch ability or the bane (undead) ability. These still add to the item’s total enhancement bonuses as normal for purposes of determining how many abilities or levels of enhancement may be placed on an item. • The ghost touch and bane abilities can be applied to any item made of necronium, not merely weapons and armor. Thus, rooms lined with the metal can be made invulnerable to ethereal infiltration, and cause 2d6 points of damage to any undead that touches them. (The entirety of the Vault of Souls itself is so enchanted.) Necronium items are priced as follows:

Item Market Price Modifier

Light armor +2,000 gp Medium armor +5,000 gp Heavy armor +10,000 gp Shield +1,500 gp Other items (including weapons) +750

gp/lb. (750 gp minimum)

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