The Four Heralds of the Apocalypse are unique entities destined to spread death, famine, war, and pestilence at the end of all things. Often a Herald will send a piece of its essence into the mortal planes to possess a creature, making him its Herald.
While other aspects of their appearance can chance between sightings, the mounts and arms of each Herald are constant.
The Herald of the Apocalypse template is four acquired templates that can be added to four creatures of any type that have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores that are each greater than 5, and that aren’t possessed by a Herald’s essence (referred to hereafter as the base creatures).
The Four Heralds (Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War) use all the base creatures’ statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
All of the Four Heralds have the following in common:
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +2. Consider granting a special XP reward for defeating the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse in all the forms they take.
Alignment: Always neutral evil.
Type: The base creature gains the evil subtype.
Aura: A Herald of the Apocalypse gains fear aura 100 feet, modified as follows:
Any living creature within 100 feet of a Herald must succeed on a Will save or suffer cumulative fear effects. A creature that fails a save against one Herald’s fear is shaken for 1 hour. A creature that fails its save against a second Herald’s fear effect while still shaken by the first is frightened for 10 rounds. A creature that fails its save against a third Herald’s fear effect while still frightened by the second is panicked for 1d6 rounds. A creature that fails a save against the fourth Herald’s fear effect while still panicked by the third dies instantly. The durations of these effects overlap. A creature that succeeds on a save against any of these fear effects is immune to that Herald’s fear for 1 hour or, if already shaken, until the duration of the shaken effect ends. A Herald’s fear is a mind-affecting fear affect. The save is Charisma-based.
Defensive Abilities: All Heralds of the Apocalypse gain DR 10/good, resistance 10 to acid, cold, fire, electricity and sonic, SR 12 + the Herald’s CR or base creature’s spell resistance (whichever is higher). They are immune energy drain, ability damage and drain, spells and effects of the Illusion school and mind-affecting effects. Additionally, all Heralds gain the following:
Sometimes the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse work in concert. They are immune to each other’s special attacks and to the special attacks of the possessed base creatures (such as breath weapons, poison, gaze attacks, or energy drain).
Weaknesses: A Herald of the Apocalypse gains the following weaknesses:
A Herald takes +50% damage from channeled positive energy. If a Herald is destroyed by channeled positive energy, it is free to possess a new host.
As entities that presage the end of the world, the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse are as hated by most deities as they are by mortals. Each of the Heralds can be turned or commanded via the Turn Undead and Command Undead feats as though it were an undead creature with HD equal to its character level. Destruction frees a Herald to possess a new host.
Special Attacks: A Herald of the Apocalypse retains all the base creature’s special attacks and gains those described here.
When riding their phantom mount, each Herald is automatically equipped with a special minor artifact weapon that reflects their nature. If the weapon ever leaves the Herald’s hands it disappears, and it can only be wielded by the Herald when mounted.
Once per hour, as a full round action, a Herald without a possessed host can try to possess any creature within 500 feet of an existing Herald. No line of effect is necessary between the Herald and the intended target, and the target need not be visible or otherwise discernible to the Herald.
The target creature must succeed on a DC 20 Will save or immediately gain the appropriate version of the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse template. Success renders the creature immune to possession by any Herald for 1 hour.
Once the creature is possessed and the template has been applied, the possessing Herald’s essence cannot be expelled by any magic. Killing or destroying the host creature expels the essence, but it can immediately try to possess a new creature within 500 feet of another possessed Herald. A Herald whose host is incapacitated or rendered immobile, paralyzed, or unconscious may also attempt to possess a creature within 500 feet of any other possessed Herald. In this case, the creature that the departing essence leaves is immune to possession for 1 hour.
When all the Heralds are without hosts at the same time, the Herald’s essences return whence they came. They do not return until they are sent to bring about another apocalypse.
Special Qualities: A Herald of the Apocalypse retains all the base creature’s special qualities and gains those described here.
While possessing hosts, the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse are in constant mental communication with each other regardless of distance or the language abilities of the base creatures. If one is aware of a particular danger, they all are; if one is not flat-footed, none of them are; no Herald is considered flanked unless all of them are. Herald essences without hosts do not participate in the hive mind.
At will, as a standard action, a Herald can summon a saddled phantom mount one size category larger than itself that looks as described in the individual Herald entries. This mount appears below the Herald, lifting its rider into a mounted position, and it can even carry a Herald not normally able to ride a mount. The phantom mount remains until dismissed or dispelled, or until the Herald dismounts or is unhorsed.
The phantom mount has no real physical form and can carry only the Herald that summoned it, although the Herald itself might be able to carry another creature while riding. The mount has a fly speed equal to 10 feet per character level of the Herald, with perfect maneuverability. A Herald cannot use a phantom mount for cover (though its body could be used to provide concealment), or use the Trample feat, or bull rush a foe while mounted on a phantom mount. Attacks and creatures pass through the phantom mount, but dispel magic (caster level equals Herald’s character level) can dispel it. In addition, a Herald mounted on its phantom mount gains a special weapon attack according to its specific nature, as detailed below.
If you’re interested in using the Four Heralds of the Apocalypse in your game, you probably have a good idea of what you want them to do. If you need some inspiration, however, consider the following possible campaign uses.
The Four Heralds could be mythic creatures. Give the Heralds the mythic subtype, mythic ranks equal to half their CR after the Herald template is applied, and the appropriate number of mythic feats and abilities.
The Four Heralds of the Apocalypse traditionally herald the end of the world. If they are ever allowed to rampage for a certain amount of time, they bring forth the Four Horsemen, who will shatter the world.
The Four Heralds must reach a destination or find an item (or several items) to bring about the End Times.
The appearance of the Four Heralds is a sign of a coming apocalypse. They must be stopped before they can wreak havoc on the land, but before they are expelled, the Pcs must somehow extract information from them about the coming destruction so that it can be prevented.
The Four Heralds were created by a particular location or item and will continue to be reborn until the item that summons them is destroyed or the location is defiled.
The Four Heralds are mutual enemies. Optionally, instead of possessing a creature near another Herald, they can each possess a host creature wherever they find themselves. Each Herald is in the process of gathering an army about itself to fight the Last Battle against its three rivals.
Via possession by the Four Heralds, the PCs have a chance to play powerful evil creatures. NPC enemies try to kill them while old allies try to stop their depredations and expel the Heralds without using deadly force.
The following are features of each individual Herald.
The Herald of Death bears a scythe, spreading death far and wide. Its phantom mount appears as the rotting corpse of a horse that hangs limply beneath Death, never moving.
Immunities: A Herald of Death in immune to all death effects.
Special Attacks: A Herald of Death gains the following.
As a standard action while riding its phantom mount, the Herald of Death can summon to its hands a grave-dirt-covered +1 keen adamantine scythe sized for the base creature. In addition to taking normal damage from the weapon, any foe struck by the scythe must succeed on a Fortitude save or be reduced to -1 hp immediately and gains the dying condition. The scythe vanishes if the Herald of Death lets go of it for any reason and cannot be summoned when the Herald is not riding its phantom mount. Death scythe is a death effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.
As a standard action, once every 1d4 rounds, the Herald of Death can target any creature within 500 feet by pointing at it. The target must succeed on a Fortitude save or die instantly. If the creature fails the save, any other creature touching it within 1 hour of its death must also succeed on a save at the same DC or die. Finger of death is a death effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Abilities: Int +4, Wis +4, and Cha +4
The Herald of Famine wields black scales and charges forward to sap the sustenance from the land. Its phantom mount appears as an emaciated black unicorn with sunken eyes and a brittle-looking horn.
Aura: A Herald of Famine gains the following additional aura.
Normal plants within 500 feet of the Herald of Famine wilt, losing all fruit and seeds. Large or hardy plants such as trees lie dormant until renewed by water and sunlight; smaller plants die immediately. A plant creature or magic plant must succeed on a Fortitude save each round that it remains within the aura or take 2d6 points of damage. Creatures of the animal or vermin type are automatically sickened while within the Herald’s aura of desolation and for at least 24 hours after leaving it. Each day thereafter that it is outside of the aura, an affected animal or vermin receives a Fortitude save to end the effect. The save DCs are Charisma-based.
Immunities: A Herald of Famine gains the following immunities.
A Herald of Famine is immune to the effects of dehydration and never takes damage from the effects of dehydration.
A Herald of Famine is immune to the effects of starvation and never takes damage from the effects of starvation.
Special Attacks: A Herald of Famine gains the following.
As a standard action while riding its phantom mount, the Herald of Famine can summon a set of black scales, which it can wield as a +1 countering adamantine heavy flail sized for the base creature. In addition to taking normal damage from the weapon, any creature struck by the scales must succeed on a Constitution check (DC 10 + the Herald of Famine’s Cha modifier On a failure the creature takes 4d6 points of nonlethal damage and becomes fatigued. Neither the nonlethal damage nor the fatigued condition can be removed by rest, magic, fast healing, or regeneration until the creature eats a day’s worth of meals. Another failed Constitution check against a second blow deals the same amount of nonlethal damage but does not extend the duration of the fatigue or make the target exhausted. The scales vanish if the Herald lets go of them for any reason and cannot be summoned when it’s not riding its phantom mount.
Abilities: Dex +6 and Con +4
Feats: A Herald of Famine gains the following as bonus feats if it does not already have them: Combat Expertise, Improved Disarm, Improved Trip, Martial Weapon Proficiency (heavy flail), Weapon Focus (heavy flail).
The Herald of Pestilence takes lives or gives disease with an arrow from a white bow. Its phantom mount appears as a bloated white pegasus covered in black boils and surrounded by a cloud of fat black flies.
Aura: A Herald of Pestilence gains the following additional aura.
An invisible cloud of contagion surrounds the Herald of Pestilence at all times. Any breathing creature that begins its turn within 30 feet of the Herald must succeed on two Fortitude saves, one against cackle fever and one against mindfire. The save DCs are Constitution-based.
Immunities: A Herald of Pestilence is immune to all diseases.
Attacks: A Herald of Pestilence gains a melee touch attack that does no damage, but inflicts the black rot (see below).
Special Attacks: A Herald of Pestilence gains the following.
Black rot causes black boils to form all over the victim’s body, and he suffers from chills, hot flashes, and nausea. The disease is transmitted by contact so a creature that has contracted the black rot can transmit it to others by touch. It is so virulent that black rot can infect those immune to disease (Except other Heralds), albeit with a +10 bonus on the save.
As a standard action while riding its phantom mount, the Herald of Pestilence can summon to its hands a ghostly white +1 longbow sized for the base creature, which it can use to fire an endless supply of white arrows. In addition to taking normal damage from the weapon, any foe struck by an arrow must succeed on a Fortitude save against the Herald’s pestilence special attack or contract black rot. The bow vanishes if the Herald of Pestilence lets go of it for any reason and cannot be summoned when the Herald is not riding its phantom mount.
Abilities: Dex +4 and Con +6
Feats: A Herald of Pestilence gains the following as bonus feats if it does not already have them: Martial Weapon Proficiency (longbow), Mounted Archery, Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow).
The Herald of War cleaves peaceful lands with a crimson sword, leaving blood-soaked battlegrounds in its wake. Its phantom mount appears as a fierce nightmare with a crimson mane and tail and flaming hooves.
Special Attacks: A Herald of War gains gains the following:
Any creature within 10 feet of the Herald of War that meets its gaze must make a Will save. A creature that fails this save is filled with lust for battle and must attack the creature nearest to it (other than the Herald of War) to the best of its ability for 1d4 rounds. Any creature that fails the save need not make another save against the gaze until the duration of its battle lust ends. Battle gaze is a gaze and mind-affecting effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.
As a free action while riding its phantom mount, the Herald of War can summon a blood-red +1 ominous adamantine greatsword sized for the base creature. In addition to taking damage from the weapon, any creature struck by the greatsword must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by the dominate monster spell (caster level equals the Herald’s character level). The Herald of War can dominate a number of creatures equal to twice its total HD at one time. It generally commands such thralls to act as an honor guard against other foes. The sword vanishes if the Herald lets go of it for any reason and cannot be summoned when it’s not riding its phantom mount. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Abilities: Str +6 and Con +6
Feats: A Herald of War gains any three combat feats that the Herald satisfied the prerequisites for and the following as bonus feats if it does not already have them: Martial Weapon Proficiency (greatsword), Ride-By Attack, Weapon Focus (greatsword).
Advanced Bestiary, Copyright 2014, Green Ronin Publishing, LLC; Author Jeff Hersh, Developer Owen K.C. Stephens