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D&D: An Adventurer’s Guide To Orcus

3 Minute Read
Mar 23 2024

Orcus is the Demon Lord of the Undead, sometimes called the Prince of Undeath or the Shadow that Was. Every adventurer should know his terrible name.

In the shadow of a towering ruin, a nihilistic priests offers up living blood in exchange for power over the stillness of death. Worms crawl from corpses in the alley of a decaying city. They leap and burrow into the flesh of the living, turning them into shambling, walking corpses. In a field that lies rotting, plants wither as a shadow grows. These are the signs of Orcus, Demon Prince of Undeath.

Orcus is one of the most powerful beings in the Abyss. Like other Demon Lords, he surpasses the power of your everyday Balors, and unlike other demon lords, he is active in granting power to the mortals in the Material Plane. This is because Orcus has one driving goal, to see the world bound in the perfect stasis of undeath and stillness.

“I will be the last creature when I am done. The cosmos will then be perfect, free of the braying abominations that are all other living things.”

Orcus would see the cosmos transformed into a vast necropolis populated solely by undead creatures under his command. It’s telling that, though Orcus does revel in destruction and suffering and misery–as all demons do–he far prefers the undead and their unquestioning obedience. Ironic that a creature of chaos incarnate would be interested in only the order or stasis of death, but chaos and order are two sides of the same coin.

Orcus’ desires are reflected in his demonic form: he is a bestial creature of corruption with a diseased, decaying look. The lower torso of a goat, a corpulant, rotting humanoid upper body, with great rotting bat wings and a goat-like skull now bereft of whatever flesh was once there, Orcus is a representation of undeath’s grip on existence.

Orcus’ base of power is on Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss. There you will find the fortress city of Naratyr, surrounded by a moat fed by the River Styx, Naratyr is as quiet and cold and cruel as its master.

But Orcus is not content to rest easy and foetid in Naratyr. He will grant mortals who spread death in his name a portion of his terrible power. In this way, his influence spreads in the Prime Material. His favored servants are given powerful, forbidden magics that include power over undead creatures–some even have sought Orcus’ counsel to become liches.

But where the influence of Orcus spreads, so too does the corruption of undeath. Where Orcus’ followers wield power, dead beasts might animate as undead mockeries of their former selves. The air might fill with the stench of rotting flesh and the buzzing of flies even when no carrion is to be found. Even being near Orcus can bestow a compulsion upon individuals, robbing them of their joy in life, or driving them to make the weak suffer.


This is why every adventurer should be wary of those bearing the sign of the Shadow that Was.

Good luck adventurers, stay safe

Author: J.R. Zambrano
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