The King In Yellow
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Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos - Pathfinder
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The King In Yellow

CR Varies; XP Varies
CE Great Old One of decadence, disorder, and nihilism
Primary Source Robert Chambers, The King in Yellow stories

Cult

Domains Chaos, Evil, Rune, Void
Subdomains Dark Tapestry, Language, Stars, Wards
Favored Weapon rapier
Symbol the Yellow Sign
Temple amphitheaters, performance halls, noble villas and manors
Worshipers decadent nobles, gravediggers, necromancers, sadistic performers and entertainers, those who have found the Yellow Sign
Servitors undead, those who have found the Yellow Sign

Influence

Area special (see Pallid Mask)
Proxy the Pallid Mask’s slave
Effects Pallid Mask

Defeat

Combat In order to defeat the influence of the King in Yellow, the current wearer of the Pallid Mask must be slain. When the current host dies, the Pallid Mask cracks slightly and becomes one of the lesser pallid masks. The true Pallid Mask relocates elsewhere in the universe to seek out its new host, and generally does not return immediately to the same world on which its host was defeated.

Influence Effects

Pallid Mask The influence of the King in Yellow is inexorably linked to the Pallid Mask. This potent item manifests within an active Yellow Sign when an appropriate host finds the sign. At this point, the appropriate host is compelled to touch the Yellow Sign, at which point the Pallid Mask manifests on the host’s face, granting the King in Yellow template (see below).

Who the Pallid Mask chooses as host is subject to the GM’s discretion and whim, but it must be a character who has found the Yellow Sign and is destined to serve as the King in Yellow (knowingly or not). (Important: You should never force a PC to become the King in Yellow this way— the King in Yellow should always be a GM-controlled NPC villain.)


Creating the King in Yellow

“The King in Yellow” is an acquired template that can be added to any Small or Medium creature with a human-like face (referred to hereafter as the base creature). Technically, the Pallid Mask can choose any such creature as its host, but it generally seeks the most powerful potential host it can. Build the King in Yellow from among the highest tier of hosts possible in your campaign, preferring spellcasters. (The example King in Yellow assumes a typical Pathfinder full campaign, and has been built from a 20th-level human bard.) The King in Yellow retains all of the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

CR: Same as the base creature +3.

Alignment: Chaotic evil.

Type: The King in Yellow’s type becomes outsider (native); do not recalculate HD, base attack bonus, or saves.

Senses: The base creature gains see in darkness and true seeing.

Armor Class: The base creature gains a +6 profane bonus to its Armor Class. In addition, its tattered yellow wrappings provide the King in Yellow with a +12 armor bonus. The King in Yellow never wears any other form of armor, nor does it carry a shield.

Defensive Abilities: The base creature becomes immune to mind-affecting effects, but this does not cure existing mind-affecting effects (such as insanity) already afflicting the creature at the time it became the King in Yellow. The King in Yellow also gains the following special defense.

Blessing of the Yellow Sign: The King in Yellow gains a +4 profane bonus to all saving throws, fast healing equal to its Hit Dice, and spell resistance equal to its final CR +11. Mindless undead creatures do not attack the King in Yellow unless attacked first, and all other undead understand the King to be an ally and are well-disposed toward serving it in most cases (although they are not compelled to do so).

Attacks: The King in Yellow does not fight with brute force. It loses all of the base creature’s natural attacks and eschews weapon use. Instead, it attacks twice per round with touch attacks that inflict damage to foes in the form of debilitating pain born from a mixture of despair and ennui and the intensification of the pain one experiences from aging and decay. The King in Yellow’s touch attack inflicts damage equal to 1d6 per HD possessed by the King in Yellow; this damage bypasses all damage reduction and energy resistance. It is a pain effect. Creatures that are immune to mind-affecting effects take half damage from this touch.

Special Attacks: The King in Yellow gains the following special attacks.

The King’s Voice: Once per round as a free action, the King in Yellow may pose a question to a single target within 30 feet. The target can resist with a successful Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the King in Yellow’s Hit Die + the King in Yellow’s Charisma modifier). If the save fails, the character immediately answers the question in the most efficient and truthful manner possible. This is a language-dependent, mind-affecting, sonic effect.

The King’s Tatters: Upon becoming the King in Yellow, the base creature becomes shrouded in tattered strips of yellow cloth that wind over and across its body. These tatters do not take up a magic item slot, nor do they interfere with worn magic items. Whenever a creature makes a melee weapon attack against the King in Yellow or ends its movement in a square adjacent to the King in Yellow, it must make a successful Reflex save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the King in Yellow’s Hit Dice + the King in Yellow’s Charisma modifier) to avoid being touched by one of these animated tatters of cloth. A creature that makes a melee attack with an unarmed strike, touch spell, or natural weapon is automatically touched by the tatters. Upon being touched, the creature’s dreams will forever more be haunted by the King’s whispers and poisonous truths. The victim suffers a –4 penalty on all saving throws against mind-affecting effects or effects that cause fatigue or exhaustion created by the King in Yellow or any undead creature. This penalty increases to –8 against the effects of a nightmare spell cast by any creature. This is a mind-affecting curse effect.

Rising of the Dead: Where the King in Yellow walks, the dead rise and follow. Whenever the King in Yellow comes within 20 feet of a dead body, that body rises as an undead creature of the King’s choosing. The undead created can be of any type, so long as its CR is equal to or less than the King in Yellow’s CR—6 (minimum of 1). Living creatures who die within 20 feet of the King in Yellow arise as undead one round later. The sample King in Yellow presented below could create any undead of CR 16 or lower with this ability.

Abilities: Dexterity +4, Constitution +6, Intelligence +4, Wisdom +4, Charisma +6.

Skills: The King in Yellow gains a +8 insight bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perception, Perform, and Sense Motive checks.

Feats: The King in Yellow gains Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, and Toughness as bonus feats.

King In Yellow (CR 22)

XP 614,400
Pallid Mask-wearing human bard 20
CE Medium outsider (native)
Init +10; Senses see in darkness, true seeing; Perception +32

Defense

AC 39, touch 27, flat-footed 32 (+12 armor, +4 deflection, +6 Dex, +1 dodge, +6 profane)
hp 313 (20d8+220); fast healing 20
Fort +21, Ref +24, Will +19; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic
Defensive Abilities blessing of the Yellow Sign; SR 33

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Attacks 2 touches +21 touch (20d6)
Special Attacks bardic performance 53 rounds/day (swift action; countersong, deadly performance [DC 31], dirge of doom, distraction, fascinate [DC 31], frightening tune [DC 31], inspire competence +6, inspire courage +4, inspire greatness, inspire heroics, mass suggestion [DC 31], soothing performance, suggestion [DC 31]), King’s voice, King’s tatters, rising of the dead

Bard Spells Known (CL 20th; concentration +31)
6th (7/day)—mass charm monster (DC 27), geas/quest, irresistible dance (DC 27), permanent image (DC 27), project image (DC 27)
5th (7/day)—greater dispel magic, mind fog (DC 26), nightmare (DC 26), shadow walk (DC 26), mass suggestion (DC 26)
4th (7/day)—dimension door, dominate person (DC 25), freedom of movement, hold monster (DC 25), greater invisibility, modify memory (DC 25)
3rd (8/day)—charm monster (DC 24), confusion (DC 24), dispel magic, displacement, haste, slow (DC 24)
2nd (8/day)—enthrall (DC 23), glitterdust (DC 23), hold person (DC 23), mirror image, sound burst (DC 23), suggestion (DC 23)
1st (8/day)—charm person (DC 22), feather fall, hideous laughter (DC 22), hypnotism (DC 22), magic mouth (DC 22), silent image (DC 22)
0 (at will)—detect magic, ghost sound (DC 21), mage hand, message, open/close (DC 21), prestidigitation

Statistics

Str 13, Dex 22, Con 28, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 32
Base Atk +15; CMB +16; CMD 43
Feats Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Extend Spell, Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (touch), Improved Initiative, Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Quicken Spell, Toughness, Weapon Finesse
Skills Bluff +42, Diplomacy +42, Intimidate +42, Perception +32, Perform (act) +42, Perform (oratory) +42, Perform (string instruments) +42, Sense Motive +42, Spellcraft +25, Stealth +29, Use Magic Device +34
Languages Common
SQ bardic knowledge +10, jack-of-all-trades, lore master 3/day, versatile performances (act, oratory, sing, string, wind)
Gear belt of physical might +6 (Dex, Con), headband of alluring charisma +6, ring of protection +4


The King in Yellow is an enigmatic entity. He is somehow associated with the rise of Hastur, and in fact many believe that the King is Hastur. Others believe that the King is an Avatar of Hastur, or that he is a different form of the same being. This does not eliminate the possibility that the King and Hastur are united in soul, mind, and/or body in some unthinkable way too complex for humans to understand. Yet one more possibility to ponder is that the King in Yellow might in fact be Hastur at a different stage of his development—traveling elsewhere in time and space to foster his own creation and metamorphosis, like a sort of monstrous insect larva.

The King is approximately human sized, though always taller than average. At times he seems to tower higher than humans, though this may be a side-effect of his interdimensional immanence. He is human in form and could even pass for human if it were not for his costume. He wears tattered robes and shreds of cloth that are mostly yellow, and he always wears the Pallid Mask.

The King moves among humankind as if one of them, but his passing brings madness, beauty, love, and pain. Ultimately his presence destroys entire civilizations.

The King’s Voice

When the King in Yellow speaks, all are compelled to listen. He never lies—everything he says is precise, exact, intolerable truth. He can speak in glorious poetry, and often verbalizes pithy statements. Sometimes his voice reveals paradoxical mysteries or truths about the inner self. While the revelations he brings are horrifying, they cannot be denied.

In game terms, he may reveal awful truths to a party or an individual. You can draw from examples in literature of this kind of deadly truth, or simply have the players try to resist the effects. The truths of the King always lead to danger, ultimate horror, and possible madness.

If the King asks a question of someone, his victim is compelled to answer truthfully to the King’s satisfaction. This is often done to expose an individual’s weakness or failings in front of his companions, but is also useful to the King in determining what he should do next.

Example
The King: “Good sir, tell me what you need, which I can present to you, to bring you under my wing as a comrade, and a blessed worshiper of the Yellow Sign.”
Douty Hero: “Nothing and no one. I cannot and will never serve you!”
The King: “Ah, well enough then. So now you must die instead.” Attacks.

The King’s Tatters

Those touched by the ribbons and dangling scraps of the King’s bandages are marked by the contact — spiritually rather than physically. They will dream of the King that night and every night. Their minds will dwell on his poisonous truths until the King returns to them one day to take them away beyond the waking world.

The Pallid Mask

The Mask may in fact be the King himself. The rest of his form may be a human, vitalized and energized by the Mask. In other words, when the Pallid Mask is placed on a person’s face, he becomes the King in Yellow in a real sense.

The Mask is so powerful that it has shed echoes of itself, and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of lesser pallid masks in existence. They are described in the artifacts section.

The Desecration

The King’s immediate goal is to harvest souls to bring about glorious destruction. He may use many means to accomplish this, but the end result is the same: cities in flames, people shrieking in terror or abasing themselves before the King in frantic pleas, the dead rising up, and the very air charged with malignant fumes.

Rising of the Dead

The King’s footstep brings the dead to life. They can return as a wide variety of undead—from simple zombies or ghosts to more powerful vampires. His horde always accompanies him.

Awakening the King

The King in Yellow can be brought to a world in several ways. The most obvious is by the use (or misuse) of the Pallid Mask.

Through a Person

The King can manifest by possessing or absorbing an individual. The King must choose an individual who has great emotional depth, supreme artistic talent, and who is also hopelessly insane, typically criminally so. This is a gradual process. First the mad artist starts seeing fragments of the King in his works: a tattered yellow ribbon pattern in the rug he is weaving; sentences in his novel or play that he knows he did not write; or bright citrine clouds floating amidst the white in the canvas he is painting.

Eventually these manifestations become more and more overt until the King appears in full form, emerging from the madman's art, and takes the artist by the hand. If the artist goes willingly, they blend together to become one new being, who is now wholly the King in Yellow.

Through Great Art

Art produced by a devotee of the King can sometimes bring about the King's appearance, in a manner similar to appearing through a person. In this case, however, the King is made known to a large number of people at once, for example at a theatre where a variant of one of his plays is being performed, an art gallery featuring art he has influenced, or at the unveiling of a monument designed by a cultist. The work of art always incorporates the Yellow Sign in some way, either subtly or overtly. Everyone sees the horror and beauty of the art, and then they are aghast as the King manifests and steps out into the crowd.

Through Travel

The King is able to move and can simply travel from one spot to another. For example, he could be awakened on one world, then fly to a second world on the back of a Byakhee or other cosmic horror.


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