Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Z is for Zemiros Sulescu

[over the course of the month of April, I shall be posting a topic for each letter of the alphabet, sequentially, for every day of the week except Sunday. Our topic for this year's #AtoZchallengeRevamping the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a way that doesn't disregard its B/X roots]

Finally! Caught up to "Z" with only a few minutes left before the end of April!

Z is for Zemiros, Lord Baron of Sulescu. And a secret nosferatu...but the people of Sulescu know the truth ("deep in their hearts," per the GAZ1 text).

"Velcome to my castle."
I've said before that I'm not a huge fan of the "Karameikos-as-fantasy-Transylvania" concept. But a lot of the tropes are already present. The dark woods full of lycanthropes. The superstitious Gypsy-like Traladarans. And, of course, all the damn vampires. Zemiros is a pretty obvious Dracula knock-off (at least in the stories where Big D isn't "all that bad"). He's a ruler (and protector) of his people...even as they are mortal cattle to feed his immortal hunger.

I suppose that even the farmer is protective of the livestock he will (eventually) slaughter, sell, and eat. This is the lie that Allston (writing for GAZ1) would have us believe: that "Zemiros Sulescu isn't really a villain - he is a neutral with great power." No, Aaron. With all due respect, he is an inhuman monster that sees humans as property and a food supply. And since we're playing a human-centric game, we should instead remember that being food for inhuman monsters isn't really the "proper station" for our particular species.

Zemiros should be a boogie man of sorts, perhaps semi-legendary, but probably a Big Bad Evil to be stomped out. I can think of several ways to revamp this character: installing a Rifts-like Vampire Kingdom in southwestern Karameikos (that would be pretty sick and wrong) of which Zemiros is just the outward manifestation of a huge alien intelligence. Replacing Zemiros with Strahd (i.e. the Dracula knock-off from adventure module I6: Ravenloft) and his castle, if not the silly, imprisoning mist (and probably axing the whole random-Gypsy-prophecy adventure...for notes on re-skinning Ravenloft, check this entry by GusL). Heck, I'd even considering making him a normal, mortal man who his people just think is a nosferatu (Zemiros might even think so himself...he's an ancient, eccentric human, prone to fits of murder and blood-drinking simply as a matter of sport)!

The REAL Zemiros
But regardless, the guy is a scourge...a repulsive, blood-sucking tick on the neck of humanity. The only thing that should keep such a creature in power IS power, and the fact of the matter is that no mere vampire can stand up to a B/X cleric of 11th level or greater. And there are a lot of level 11+ clerics in Karameikos, per their write-ups in GAZ1.

So unless we're going to say nosferatu are immune to the turning power of clerics (and why would we?) I'm going to take a page from the "extended playbook" of B/X...specifically, my own B/X Companion...and make Zemiros a Greater Vampire, one of the many monsters I wrote to challenge high level adventurers (Tim Brannan blogged a bit about this here and here; his Dracula write-up isn't a bad jumping off point for Zemiros). Yes, yes, I realize this is tooting my own horn a bit, but it's still a good concept...and there's no reason one couldn't re-write the "Greater Vampire" as a "Greater Nosferatu" in the same way the Gazetteer rewrites the original monster.

Just remember Zemiros IS a monster, not some benevolent lord.

[just like this year's A to Z challenge was a monster...and a fiendishly challenging one...to get through! But I did it (barely) with about an hour to spare]


  1. Congrats on the achievement! It was an interesting series to read. My old Karameikos/Known World campaign back in the day was so completely different from the RC/GAZ version that I never bothered to read GAZ1, but it was cool to read about how you'd re-do it.

  2. My solution would simply be to say "there are NOT a lot of 11th level clerics in Karameikos."

    Any kind of material that suggests that someone other than the PCs ought to have dealt with this already is asking to be nerfed.