Monday, February 27, 2012

Bestiarum vocabulum - T'lan Imass

Here’s another monster from the Malazan Book of the Fallen, adapted (again) without any regard to cannon sources (particularly because I’m still reading Reaper’s Gale). So, this take on the T’lan Imass is based on my impressions from the first books – mainly Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice – besides my ideas on how they should integrate with Pathfinder.

T’lan Imass are one of my favorite aspects of the Malazan universe. They were the first thing that really hooked me in the novels – undead armies created by a Stone Age proto-human culture, bound to the command to whomever possess a mythical artifact (the mysterious First Throne that Emperor Kellenvand found). It’s a cool idea, especially if you consider the personality given by Erikson to the Imass characters – like Tool (in the first book).

The T’lan are also a perfect example of the scale of these novels – they’re things created around 300.000 years ago. Erikson not only mixes Sword & Sorcery with High Fantasy, but also takes High Fantasy’ traditional “biblical ages” (worlds with 5.000 or 10.000 years) and skyrocket it to historical and geological levels. In the Malazan novels, the Elder Races are really “elder” things and the various ages between conflicts easily reach hundreds of thousands of year (if not millions or more, if you take the Tiste races and the K'Chain Che'Malle).

T’lan Imass


"Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?"

The Imass shrugged before replying, "I think of futility, Adjunct."

"Do all Imass think about futility?"

"No. Few think at all."

"Why is that?"

The Imass leaned his head to one side and regarded her. "Because, Adjunct, it is futile".


-          Tool and Adjunct Lorn, Gardens of the Moon

T’lan Imass                                                                                      CR 10 (9.600 XP)
T’lan Neanderthal Barbarian 8
CN Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +6; Senses low-light vision, darkvision 60ft.
Aura elder magic (30 ft., DC 25)

AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 13 (+5 natural, +2 Dex, +5 hide armor +1)
HD 96 (8d12+44)
Fort +10, Ref +4, Will +5 (+7 against illusions and enchantments)
DR 10/magic and bludgeoning; DR 1/--
Immune electricity, fire and undead traits; Resist cold and sonic 10; SR see aura

Speed 30 ft. (20 ft. in armor)
Melee 3 orc-bane greatsword +20/+15 (2d6+13, plus 2d6 fire) or slam +16/+11 (1d6+8, plus 1d6 fire)
Special Attack Fires of Tellann, Hatred (orcs and ogres), Rage (21 rounds)
Rage Power Guarded Stance, Intimidating Glare, Knockback, Clear Mind

Str 26, Dex 14, Con -, Int 9, Wis 16, Cha 18
Base Atk +8; CMB +16; CMD 28
Feats Improved Bullrush, Improved Initiative (B), Power Attack (B), Toughness (B), Weapon Focus (greatsword), Vital Strike
Skills Acrobatics +9, Intimidate +19, Knowledge (Geography) +5, Knowledge (History) +4, Knowledge (Nature) +5, Knowledge (Religion) +4, Perception +8, Stealth +11, Survival +7, Swim +11
Languages Imass and Common
Special Qualities Dust to Dust, Fast Movement, Forged by Tellann, Hardy, Improved Uncanny Dodge, Mental Fortitude, Trap Sense +2

Environment any
Organization solitary, unit (3-5) or army (500+)
Treasure none


T’lan Imass resemble zombies or even skeletons with parchment-like skins, dressed in tattered armors made of the hide and bones of creatures that were dead long before the first human empires were raised. They traditional use leather horned helms and moldy fur cloaks, using as weapons spears, javelins and protoswords made of stone (however, these primitive items are lethal in their hands, besides being usually enchanted).

The T’lan Imass are an ancient race of humanoids, perhaps the original people from which today’s myriad of human cultures and races came (some sages include in this roll halflings and even ogres). Very little is known about the Imass. In fact, if not for the existence of the T’lan Imass nothing would be known.

The T’lan Imass – when one of these silent creatures can be made to talk – allude that an ancient oath, ritual or sacrifice, made by their entire race to escape from the tyrannical clutches of a vastly older race of evil Sorcerer Kings. After this massive dweomer or pact was establish, the Imass were no more, and the undead T’lan Imass came into being. They probably were the world’s first humanoid undeads. Forming huge armies or hordes, the T’lan advanced against their nemesis, driving them to extinction (at least according to them).

After the last Sorcerer King was killed – still during the world’s Antiquity – the T’lan armies dissolved and disappeared, quickly becoming the subject of myth. Once or twice lonely T’lan Imass were seen, sometimes a few more. Sages claimed that these were probably “renegade” T’lan – whatever that means. From these individuals came what little is known about this race. That the T’lan armies still exist and that they’re still hunting the last Sorcerer Kings. That there are arguments among the T’lan leaders about the “taint of Jaghut” and talk of marching against races like orcs, half-orcs and even humans. A more sinister legend tells of an old human emperor who managed to control one entire T’lan army through an ancient artifact known as the First Throne. Finally, there’s a story of a T’lan Imass renegade Bonecaster (their oracles) searching for a “lift” of the race’s curse.


"T’lan" is an acquired template that can be added to any living humanoid creature with 5 or more Hit Dice (referred to hereafter as the base creature) and human blood. Most T’lan were once Imass (see below). A T’lan uses the base creature's statistics and abilities except as noted here.

CR: Same as base creature +2.
Type: The T’lan’s type changes to undead (augmented, but see below). Do not recalculate class Hit Dice, BAB, or saves.
Senses: A T’lan gains darkvision 60 ft.
Aura: A T’lan emanates the following aura.

Elder Magic (Su)

A T’lan emanates is surrounded by a 30ft. radius aura of elder magic. This aura is sensed by detect magic as overwhelming and is treated as an effect with a caster level of 15 + the T’lan augmented CR. It can, however, be surpassed by antimagic field.
This aura nullifies all spells and spell-like abilities indiscriminately (it can’t be surpassed). To activate a spell-like ability or to cast a spell, a creature must succeed at a caster level check (DC equal to the T’lan augmented CR + 15).

Armor Class: Natural armor improves by +4.
Hit Dice: Change all racial Hit Dice to d8s. Class Hit Dice are unaffected. As an undead, a T’lan uses its Charisma modifier to determine bonus hit points.
Defensive Abilities: A T’lan gains channel resistance +6; DR 10/magic and bludgeoning; and immunity to fire and electricity. They have resistance 10 against cold and sonic.
Attacks: A T’lan gains a slam attack if the base creature didn't have one. Damage for the slam depends on the T’lan's size.
Special Attacks: A T’lan gains the following special attacks. Save DCs are equal to 10 + 1/2 the T’lan's HD + the T’lan's Charisma modifier unless otherwise noted.

Fires of Tellann (Su)

A T’lan Imass’ natural, melee and ranged attacks are imbued with their elder Tellann magic. They ignore all types of DR, except when the type of damage requires is unnamed, adamantine or epic.
Any weapon a T’lan wields seethes with this Elder Fire, and deals an additional 1d6 points of fire damage for every 4 Hit Dice the T’lan has. Creatures healed by negative energy suffer 50% more damage.
Finally, every time a T’lan Imass hits and damage a foe, his Tellann magic unravels any dweomer affecting the target. Treat this as a targeted dispel magic cast by a caster of a level equal to the T’lan Imass’ HD. This last ability doesn’t work against creatures with a caster level higher than 20th, because they also channel Elder Magic.

Special Qualities: A T’lan gains the following.

Forged by Tellann (Ex)

T’lan are undead powered by the primordial force of Tellann, which may be another name to positive energy. T’lan are immune to fire damage and are healed by positive energy and damaged by negative energy. Except for this, they retain all traits of undead creatures.

Dust to Dust (Su)

T’lan Imass can let their eons-old forms crumble to dust as a move action. While in this form they can’t communicate, attack or execute any action besides moving and using their senses. They can fly with a Speed of 60 feet (Perfect). T’lan Imass commonly use this ability for long-distance movement, covering 300 miles in an 8-hour period of flight.
While in dust form, they’re invulnerable to damage from targeted effects and suffer only ¼ damage from area effects. They also gain a +10 bonus to Stealth checks and pass through even the smallest cracks.
Reassuming their form requires a full-round action and solid ground.

Human’s Forebearers (Ex)

T’lan Imass are treated for all effects as humans.

Ability Scores: Str +8, Wis +4, Cha +4. As an undead creature, a T’lan has no Constitution score.
Skills: T’lans gain a +8 racial bonus on Intimidate and Perception checks.
Feats: T’lans gain Improved Initiative, Power Attack and Toughness as bonus feats.

The Imass
I always saw the Imass as a type of Neanderthal-like race – the forebearers of the human race. You can use this information for creating living Imass – I just suggest that you change Hatred, limiting the Imass’ bonus to ogres and orcs. Actually, these stats are quite strong. If you add Powerful Build you could easily create a Barghast.