Orcus (Dungeons & Dragons)

Orcus (Dungeons & Dragons)
Game background
Title(s) Prince of the Undead, Prince of Undeath, The Blood Lord
Home plane Abyss
Power level Demon lord
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Portfolio Undead
Design details

Orcus is the fictional demon prince, and lord of the undead in many campaign settings for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. He is named after Orcus of Roman mythology. His symbol is a mace with a human skull as the head. Orcus is one of the most detailed demon lords of the Dungeons and Dragons game and one of a small handful to be detailed in every edition of the game. Orcus was also named as one of the greatest villains in D&D history by the final print issue of Dragon.[1]


Publication history

Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)

Orcus was first presented in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement in 1976, by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, for the original (white box) Dungeons & Dragons game.[2] Although the book states that there are several such demon Princes, only Orcus and Demogorgon are detailed, "two of the greatest of these exceptional demon lords". Game statistics for Orcus appear on page 27, while a description of Orcus appears on page 35 with an accompanying illustration, and a description for his Wand of Orcus appears on page 42 under the section for artifacts.[3]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)

In 1977, Orcus (Prince of the Undead), was included in the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual by Gary Gygax. First edition AD&D game statistics and a description for Orcus appeared in pages 17–18 under the "demon" section, with an illustration of Orcus by David C. Sutherland III on page 17 and an illustration of the Wand of Orcus on page 18.[4] The Wand of Orcus was detailed on page 162 of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, also by Gygax, in the section on treasure (artifacts and relics).[5]

Orcus was a central antagonist for the H1-4 "Bloodstone" series of adventures, by Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson. His involvement was only hinted at in H1 Bloodstone Pass (1985) through the activities of his high priest.[6] In H2 The Mines of Bloodstone (1986), minions of Orcus are involved in a number of activities and plots, and the authors hint on page 7 that "Orcus has special reasons for being interested in Bloodstone Pass", promising that more will be revealed in module H3. On page 21, it is revealed that evil duergar have built a temple to Orcus underground, involving a series of planar gates through which he could one day enter the mortal world; the temple and its inhabitants are described on pages 33–42. The Mines of Bloodstone features an illustration of a representation of Orcus (the head of a horned goat) on page 6, and a pull-out map of the temple of Orcus is featured on pages 23 and 26.[7] H3 The Bloodstone Wars (1987) reveals more details, including the fact that the Witch-King of Vaasa is possessed by Orcus.[8] In the next module the adventurers must defeat the Witch-King in his own castle, and the series then ends in a final confrontation with Orcus in H4 The Throne of Bloodstone (1988).[9]

Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1999)

Another version of Orcus was first mentioned in the Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Rules (1986) by Frank Mentzer.[10]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)

The second edition boxed set Planes of Chaos (1994) by Lester Smith and Wolfgang Baur for the Planescape setting describes on pages 29–31 in "The Book of Chaos" the realm known as Thanatos, the Belly of Death, particularly the town of Naratyr, although Kiaransalee is described as the ruling power of the realm.[11] An illustration of Orcus's infamous wand appears on page 101 of that book in the section on Pandemonium.[11] The Wand of Orcus was described in the fourth volume of the Encyclopedia Magica series (1995), on pages 1490-1491.[12] The fate of Orcus at the hands of Kiaransalee was finally revealed in the in-game historical timeline in the Hellbound: The Blood War boxed set (1996) on page 15 of the booklet The Dark of the War by Colin McComb and Monte Cook.[13]

In the mega adventure The Great Modron March (1997) also by Cook and McComb, it is revealed that on page 11 that Primus of the modrons had been killed and temporarily replaced by a mysterious shadowy entity searching for something he has lost. The adventure's prologue on pages 12–13 tells the story of the murder of Primus from Primus's own point of view, and the epilogue on pages 124-125 tells the story of the entity ending his impersonation of Primus to move on to the next phase of his plans, revealing some of his motivations and doubts. The player characters may befriend a modron who has named himself "8" after discovering that Primus has been killed; if the characters help the modron, 8 will reveal this information to them before dying, as depicted on page 123.[14] The return of Orcus from the dead was the central theme of the adventure "Out of the Darkness" on pages 5–124 of the Dead Gods adventure anthology (1997), also by Cook. In the adventure on pages 6–9, it is confirmed that Kiaransalee had actually previously killed Orcus, and it is also revealed that the mysterious being who killed and posed as Primus was actually Tenebrous, the creature which was what was left of the former demon lord and deity Orcus.[15]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)

The third edition Manual of the Planes (2001), by Jeff Grubb, David Noonan, and Bruce Cordell, notes on page 103 that "Orcus is back. With a vengeance." The book also includes some details about his realm and his return.[16]

Orcus was used as the driving force for the adventure "Headless", which appears on pages 47–66 of Dungeon #89 (November 2001). Although the adventure recommends not having Orcus fight the player characters directly, third edition game statistics are provided for Orcus on page 64 if he is to be used as a recurring villain. He only appears personally at the end of the adventure to reclaim one of his possessions and warn the characters to cease meddling in his affairs.[17] Orcus is featured as one of the demon lords appearing in the Book of Vile Darkness (2002) by Monte Cook, with full third edition game statistics on pages 136-138, descriptions of his activities and followers on 138-140, the thrall of Orcus prestige class on 71-72, and third edition game statistics for the Wand of Orcus on 122.[18] Orcus's reappearance in the rules was even used as a selling point for the book (among others) and his image was featured in the online art gallery previews.[19]

Game statistics for the aspect of Orcus appeared in the Miniatures Handbook (2003) on pages 53–54, which states that the aspect "wields a weaker version of Orcus's famous wand".[20]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)

Orcus was featured as a deity on page 85 of the campaign setting sourcebook Ghostwalk (2003) by Monte Cook and Sean K. Reynolds.[21] Orcus is featured on page 18 Libris Mortis (2004) by Andy Collins and Bruce R Cordell as one of the entities revered by undead.[22] Tenebrous, the Shadow that Was appears as a vestige on page 48 of the Tome of Magic: Pact, Shadow, and Truename Magic (2006), by Matthew Sernett, Dave Noonan, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb.[23] Orcus was featured in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006) by Ed Stark, James Jacobs, and Erik Mona, with his 3.5 revision game statistics on pages 73–74, and a description of Thanatos on pages 127-132.[24]

Orcus was also used in the climax of the "Savage Tide" adventure path. Part of the goal of the adventure "Enemies of My Enemy" on pages 40–85 of Dungeon #149 (August 2007) by Wolfgang Baur is to recruit the assistance of Orcus to defeat his old enemy Demogorgon. Game statistics for Orcus for the adventure appear on pages 56–57.[25] The adventure path continues in the adventure "Prince of Demons" on pages 60–99 of Dungeon #150 (September 2007) by Greg A. Vaughan. Orcus sends his legions to attack Demogorgon's city of Lemoriax while he tries to defeat Demogorgon personally to claim his title of "Prince of Demons.[26]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)

Rob Heinsoo explains in the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons preview book, Races and Classes (2007), that the first set of design work from 2005 was code named "Orcus I", while the next design phase in 2006 was called "Orcus II".[27]:8 Orcus is the sole demon lord detailed in the 4th edition Monster Manual (2008) by Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt, and an illustration of Orcus appears on the book's cover and also on page 207. Statistics for Orcus for the 4th edition game appear on page 206, while statistics for the related characters aspect of Orcus and Doresain, exarch of Orcus appear on page 208, a deathpriest hierophant on page 209, and a deathpriest of Orcus and crimson acolyte on page 210.[28]

Orcus was the main villain in another adventure series, for fourth edition. In adventure E1 Death's Reach (2009) by Bruce R. Cordell and Chris Sims, Orcus uses his cult to plot the downfall of the Raven Queen, building an army to assault her realm and freeing a powerful primordial creature named Timesus who has been trapped since ancient times.[29] In adventure E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls (2009) by Cordell and Chris Tulach, Doresain the Ghoul King works to prepare to send Timesus to Orcus.[30]


Orcus is first described in Eldritch Wizardry as a "grossly fat demon lord" covered in goat-like hair, 15 feet tall, with a goat-like head and legs, and the horns of a ram rather than those of a goat. His arms are human, but "Vast bat wings sprout from his back, and his long, snaky tail is tipped with a poisonous head". The book also notes that he is extremely intelligent, and mentions a number of magical abilities that he can use, such as being able to summon certain types of undead - "for he is their Prince".[3]:35 Orcus, like other types of demons introduced in Eldritch Wizardry, had the ability to use psionic abilities.[3]:38

The first edition Monster Manual adds to the description for Orcus, giving him the title "Prince of the Undead". This book also suggests that is probable that Orcus "is one of the most powerful and strongest of all demons."[4]:17

As Tenebrous, he is described in the adventure Dead Gods: "It was as if someone had taken a man and squeezed him until all the light was wrung out like water, leaving only the purest of darkness. The intruder on the sands had the form of a large man - gaunt as though from a long illness - who had never experience illumination (or perhaps had driven itself from him completely). The invader carried no weapon and made no move to strike, yet there was something inherently threatening about him."[15]:71 Another character in the adventure describes him as such: "It was gaunt and angular, almost shadowy and ethereal. Eyes, dark and piercing, stared out at us, but the creature said nothing."[15]:100

The Book of Vile Darkness describes Orcus as "a massive, bloated demon prince - bloated on spite, bule, and contempt." The book goes on to say that "Orcus is no longer content to grow old and fat on the larvae in his castle. He focuses his anger and hate on the absolute destruction of his enemies and the spread of woe and havoc among mortals. Truly a demon reborn, Orcus is more terrible and dangerous than ever." The book refers to him appearing as an archetypical demon, in fact, his description notes that, "when commoners think of demons, they most likely think of some terrible picture of Orcus that they once saw somewhere." His black, skull-tipped rod serves as his symbol.[18]:137 Orcus actually despises the undead, using them without thought or consideration, but despises the living as well, and hates all things except for achieving personal power and spreading misery and destruction.[18]:138

The fourth edition Monster Manual describes Orcus as "one of the most powerful demons in the Abyss - powerful enough to threaten gods". It describes him as a "foul and corpulent humanoid creature who has powerful goat legs and a desiccated head similar to that of a ram. His great wings stir up a reeking cloud of diseased air. He seems somewhere between life and death - his sore-ridden body suggests diseased life, but his head and glowing red eyes suggest undeath. His thick, spiny tail is in constant motion." Aside from the Demon Lord of Undeath and the Demon Prince of the Undead, he also has the title of the Blood Lord.[28]:206



The first edition Monster Manual suggests that rivalry between demon lords is great, "but the enmity between Demogorgon and Orcus is immense and unending".[4]:16 The first edition Monster Manual II reveals that the demon lord Graz'zt is a dedicated foe of both Demogorgon and Orcus.[31]:39

The article "Setting Saintly Standards" by Scott Bennie in Dragon #79 (November 1983) mentions on page 29 that Saint Bane the Scourger attacked and nearly slew Orcus on his home plane; for his valor, Bane was rewarded with sainthood.[32]

In the adventure The Throne of Bloodstone, Bahamut sends Saint Sollars the Twice-Martyred, patron saint of Bloodstone Pass, to ask the players to steal the Wand of Orcus and deliver it to Bahamut on Mercuria in the Seven Heavens.[9]:30

In The Throne of Bloodstone, the player characters have the opportunity to search the Abyss for allies to help them against Orcus. According to the module, Demogorgon and Orcus have been at war "for thousands of centuries", and it is possible that if Demogorgon hears about the player characters' mission to stop Orcus, he will want to help them.[9]:34 Baphomet, the demon ruler of minotaurs, has been captured by Orcus and is held in the dungeons of Orcus; the minotaurs of Baphomet are willing to accompany the player characters to help free their lord.[9]:40 Graz'zt offers to assign the characters several Type VI demons as soldiers if the characters explain their crusade against Orcus, and will also send his army into the layer of Orcus after the characters successfully capture his wand.[9]:42

In "The Book of Chaos" in the Planes of Chaos boxed set, it is revealed that Kiaransalee "recently wrested" the plane of Thanatos "from the former Abyssal lord of the undead. That lord's name is never spoken now, as Kiaransalee has decreed that it must be struck from each monument, slave band, and scroll."[11]:29 The booklet The Dark of the War in Hellbound: The Blood War reveals that Orcus was either deposed or slain by Kiaransalee, and his body was cast into the Astral Plane. While Kiaransalee offered the services of her undead to the tanar'ri armies in place of those of Orcus, the book reveals that some important tanar'ri were looking for ways to restore Orcus to power.[13]:15 In the aftermath of the adventure Dead Gods, it is revealed that Kiaransalee is driven to the brink of madness with paranoia when she discovers that Tenebrous was Orcus, and begins fortifying her realm against an expected future attack from him.[15]:124

In an interlude in the adventure Dead Gods, where Tenebrous states that he had taken on some of the traits of his enemies, specifically naming "Sweet Tomeri, goddess of wisdom and love". Tenebrous noted how, even as he destroyed her home and slew her servants and lovers, she did not get angry, and he felt that her death was pleasurable because her calm demeanor ensured that she offered him "the greatest challenge".[15]:102-103 The appendix noted that Tomeri was the goddess of wisdom and love, and that the bulk of her human worshippers were on the Prime Material Plane, where her death was felt most heavily.[15]:124

The third edition Manual of the Planes mentions that the drow deity which assumed control of Thantos had disappeared, "and no one knows whether she fled or was slain".[16]:102

The Book of Vile Darkness states that Orcus resents Demogorgon and Graz'zt for their power and covets their realms.[18]:137 He makes outright war between his armies of undead and demons with Graz'zt hordes of monsters and demons, but uses assassination and sabotage against Demogorgon, as his and Demogorgon's armies are usually simultaneously warring with those of Graz'zt.[18]:138 Fiendish Codex I' states that his relentless assaults inexorably penetrate deeper and deeper into Graz'zt territory, and that the holdings of Graz'zt dwarf those of Orcus in size. Because Demogorgon is more powerful, Orcus uses more subtle tactics against him.[24]:74

In the adventure "Enemies of My Enemy" in Dungeon #149, part of the goal for the player characters is to recruit the help of Orcus, who is described as "the demon lord most likely to respond quickly to requests to organize an offensive against Demogorgon and can be counted upon to rally his armies in weeks or a month, rather than the usual years it takes most demonic plots to get underway". However, they still need to convince Orcus that the time is right.[25]:52 He wants to assault Demogorgon, but worries that this is an elaborate trap, so one of the characters must defeat one or more of his champions in arena combat. If successful, this will impress Orcus enough for him to promise that his legions will attack Demogorgon, claiming that "I will be there to win your battle for you!"[25]:53-56 In the adventure "Prince of Demons" in Dungeon #150, Orcus commits four legions of 25,000 assorted demons and undead to the invasion of Gaping Maw, including his personal legion that has never been defeated in battle. He leaves command of these legions to his generals, as he desperately wants to be the one to defeat Demogorgon personally, to gain his power and hope to become a god.[26]:64 Orcus arrives in Gaping Maw at the same time the player characters invade, and begins a confrontation with Demogorgon that lasts for hours, throughout the towers of Abysm at sea. This was planned to coincide with an attack on the city of Lemoriax by his armies, although the first legion through is destroyed as part of a trap which also locks the portal to Gaping Maw, and the player characters must assist for the other two legions to get through.[26]:70-71 The characters must again assist these legions by removing a magical interdiction zone designed to restrict movement, and must also remove the threat of the horde of demons which killed the first legion, before Orcus's remaining forces will begin their siege on Lemoriax.[26]:72-73, 76-77 Orcus is ultimately defeated in his battle against Demogorgon and retreats to Thanatos to heal, but the battle has helped to weaken Demogorgon, and Orcus will return to Gaping Maw shortly thereafter and remain hidden.[26]:91 If Demogorgon is slain, Orcus will have a chance to claim the title of Prince of Demons, and whether or not he is successful he will claim Lemoriax.[26]:94-95

The fourth edition Monster Manual names the Raven Queen as a god whom Orcus particularly wants to destroy, as he hungers to usurp her control over death and the souls of the dead.[28]:206 According to the fourth edition Manual of the Planes, Orcus wants to wrest control of the Shadowfell from the Raven Queen due to his interest in shadow and the plane of its origin, and believes that the key to her defeat lies in her true name. Orcus set Doresain with the task of finding her name, feeling that with it he could unravel her divinity and displace her.[33]:53 The module E1 Death's Reach reveals in "Adventure Book One" that Orcus has been causing souls that should go to the Raven Queen to instead go to Death's Reach on the Shadowfell.[29]:3 A marut concordant servant of the Raven Queen appears to the player characters, requesting them to come to Zvomarana, high temple of the Raven Queen.[29]:8 In "Adventure Book Two", when the characters arrive in her citadel and her guardians challenge them, she appears during the battle and ends it.[29]:15 She speaks with the characters, giving them whatever useful information she can provide. When they are ready to enter Death's Reach, she creates a soul gate which allows them passage.[29]:16-17 The characters can summon an aspect of the Raven Queen, using a ritual at Nerull's Gate. An aspect of Orcus attacks the Raven Queen's aspect, but she is able to harm him and tells the characters telepathically as she departs to seek the Reliquary of Timesus.[29]:28-29

The fourth edition Manual of the Planes mentions Amoth, a power of justice and mercy slain thousands of years ago by Orcus in a combined attack with the demon princes Demogorgon and Rimmon, although Rimmon was also destroyed in the attack. The demons were soon driven out of Amoth's realm of Kalandurren by divine hosts from the domnions of other deities, although the realm was forever marred.[33]:96

Vecna is noted in the adventure E1 Death's Reach in "Adventure Book One" as having an interest in the conflict between Orcus and the Raven Queen, and the player cahracters will have to deal with his secretive servants.[29]:3 He can send a vision to an archmage character, telling that character to seek the Raven Queen, although it is not possible for the character to determine who sends this vision.[29]:4 In "Adventure Book Two", the characters encounter an angel of secrets named Calah, who secretly serves Vecna. The angel will try to give them an item called the moonstone sphere (which is secretly an aspect of the Eye of Vecna) to sway them to Vecna's service if they prove capable and discerning, and Calah will also direct them to where they can find the means to deal with the servants of Orcus.[29]:20-21 The moonstone spehere can benefit the characters, but it retains its ties to its master, Vecna. If the sphere is destroyed, the stone cracks and falls away to reveal the Eye of Vecna.[29]:23


In The Throne of Bloodstone, Orcus is paying Pazuzu to battle any creatures he finds in the sky.[9]:46 Also, Orcus made an alliance with Yeenoghu to capture and hold Baphomet, allowing Yeenoghu to invade and plunder the plane of Baphomet; Orcus then forced Baphomet into imprisonment, to guard an open platform from intruders until he fulfils all of the conditions that Orcus has decreed.[9]:64


  • Hacamuli, one of the messengers of Orcus, is described with first edition AD&D game statistics in the article "Demons, Devils, and Spirits" by Tom Moldvay, on page 8 of Dragon #42 (October 1980). The article describes this creature: "He appears as a pale, gaunt horse with hazy black eyes. Flies crawl over his mangy, sore-infested body." When Hacamuli gazes into a creature's eyes, he drains the life from the victim. Hacamuli can also rear up on his hind legs and strike with his hooves; the right hoof disintegrates a target's armor and cause a target to age rapidly, while a hit from the left hoof causes disease.[34]
  • Khuul the witch-ghoul was mentioned in the article "Setting Saintly Standards" by Scott Bennie in Dragon #79 (November 1983) on page 29. Khuul was one of Orcus's greatest servants, but was slain by Saint Bane the Scourger.[32]
  • Banak, an evil cleric, high priest and devoted minion of Orcus, appears in the adventure module Bloodstone Pass as an opponent for the player characters. He wears a glowing skull-shaped amulet on his chest, which summons undead from their graves when used in a graveyard at midnight, and creates a magical screen of protection flames around him which makes him completely invulnerable to all magical, mental, and physical attacks.[6]:28-29,32 Game statistics for Banak appear on page 3 of the roster book included in the module. Banak is revealed in the next module, The Mines of Bloodstone, as haing been killed during the Bloodstone War.[7]:7 In the same adventure, the ghost of Banak may appear and attack the characters while they are in a centaur village.[7]:13
  • Zhengyi, the Witch-King of Vaasa, appears as an adversary to the player characters in the adventure module The Throne of Bloodstone. He is identified as a minion of Orcus, and that he has an army which consits largely of undead, and the Baron of Bloodstone seeks adventurers to enter Zhengyi's castle to learn its secrets and the role of Orcus.[9]:9 He formed the Kingdom of Vaasa, and in a single night built his evil castle atop a lonely crag.[9]:2 his armies invaded the Kingdom of Damara, and the two kingdoms fought for 10 years before the Witch-King finally won.[9]:3 The Witch-King is a lich with the powers of a wizard.[9]:12 The Citadel of the Witch-King is described on pages 12–29, and game statistics for Zhengyi appear on page 19-20. Zhengyi has been dead for nearly four centuries at the time of the events depicted in the module, formerly one of the wizards of Thay and has been a devotee of Orcus throughout his death.[9]:19-20 Zhengyi's servants the white dragon Arctigis (statistics on page 15) and type VI demon Klavikus (statistics on page 23-25, with an illustration on page 24) also appear as opponents for the player characters.
  • Ter-soth, a type VI demon, is a Brigade Commander in The Throne of Bloodstone, leading a troop of 100 type III demons. In the adventure, these demons guard a conduit that the player characters need to access, and if the battle goes against them, Ter-soth will abandon the others and fly away to the Palace of Orcus to warn him of the invaders.[9]:47,50 Ter-soth is the name of one of the known type VI demons listed in the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide.[5]:198
  • Fyrillicus, the Abyssian dragon appears in The Throne of Bloodstone, patrolling the barren wasteland in the area around the fortress of Orcus. He is a red dragon, bred in the Abyss from a long line of red dragons that Orcus subdued and brought to the Abyss, developing and manipulating the line. His size, strength, and power has been bred to an extreme, although his intelligence has suffered significantly. He is savage, thorough, and cruel, and will dive to attack characters approaching the fortress.[9]:58-59
  • Glyphimhor, demon lord of Orcusgate, is first described in The Throne of Bloodstone as an enhanced type VI demon. He is described as one of Orcus' most powerful liuetentants, and one of his most trusted henchmen, although even he would overthrow Orcus if he could gain control of the Wand of Orcus. If the player characters in the adventure demonstrate their power without angering him by destroying parts of the city in the process, he will try to offer them a deal to help them defeat Orcus and claim the Wand. Otherwise, he will try to keep them in the city until they die.[9]:72-73 His recollations of his role in the previous adventure, as well as events leading up to his current state, are depicted in the adventure Dead Gods.[15]:58 Glyphimhor appears in Dead Gods as a shaft of blue light, virtually all that is left of him after he was all but destroyed centuries ago by Kiaransalee. Kiaransalee let him flee Thanatos after she defeated Orcus, but cursed him to remain forever in a weakend state, and even his master Tenebrous has been unable to restore the balor to his former power. The player characters will encounter him in Tcian Sumere, Orcus's fortress on the Negative Energy Plane, where the servants of Tenebrous known as the visages revere him as a mighty servant of their god. If a character touches the light, its intensity wanes and the ancient spirit of Glyphimhor appears, a "dark shape" and "a shriveled husk of an inhuman figure", shuddering and shaking feebly; an illio of this scene appears on page 172 of the book. Glyphimhor attempts to bluff the characters into thinking he is more than a virtually harmless spirit, although if the characters somehow convince him that they can restore him, he will reveal some information about his master.[15]:66-67 Fiendish Codex I notes that Glyphimhor has "served Orcus for countless centuries", and that after much experimentation, Orcus returned him to his natural appearance and abilities. Glyphimhor now commands the city of Lachrymosa, the nominal capital of Orcus. While Glyphimhor is fanatically loyal to Orcus, he can be convinced to betray Orcus with a genuine appeal.[24]:128 He rules Lachrymosa alongside some of Orcus's most trusted demonic servants.[24]:130
  • Rotting Jack is first described in "The Book of Chaos" in the Planes of Chaos boxed set as a babau that perpetually sheds his rotting, maggot-infested skin. He is the steward of Kiaransalee's winter palace, Naratyr, but wants to seize Thanatos from his mistress. He rules the town in summer when Kiaransalee leaves the palace, and transforms the town, bringing in tanar'ri, and generally taking advantage of the town.[11]:29-30 In the adventure Dead Gods, he reveals that he once served "Orc – I mean, under the former ruler".[15]:48
  • Sleepless is first described in "The Book of Chaos" in the Planes of Chaos boxed set as a molydeus who marshals the forces of Thanatos for the Blood War. He is feared by the tanar'ri of Thanatos, as he seems to be in many places at once; his secret is that Sleepless is really a set of twins, and anyone who finds out the truth is slain.[11]:29-30 Fiendish Codex I describes him as a black-skinned molydeus, who now marshals Orcus's conscripts for the Blood War.[24]:128
  • Bleeding Setch, a tanar'ri marquis cambion, was described in the Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground. He is a former proxy who "lost his proxy status when his power - one of the Abyssal lords who'd ascended to godhood - fell in a battle with Kiaransalee". Bleeding Setch counted on the boost in power from his god, although he had gone into hiding after abusing his position as proxy, and was determined to restore his deity to power.[35]:26
  • Eldanoth was first mentioned in Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997), which states that he was one of many servants that "the Lord of Undead" kept enslaved on Thanatos until Kiaransalee broke those wards. According to the slaadi narrator Xanxost, Eldanoth then began reshaping one of the old abandoned layers of the Abyss "somewhere in the 300s" and has been seeking the worship of mortals to become an Abyssal lord, a power of crime and hatred.[36]:60 Fiendish Codex I explains that his dark doctrine relating to crime and hatred has many adherents on Thanatos, and in the centuries of Orcus's exile, Eldanoth became like a folk hero to the demonic cultists of Thanatos. Upon his return, Orcus cleansed his cities of all traces of Eldanoth's following, and although Eldanoth has not returned to Thanatos, his agents secretly sabotage important events and weaken Orcus's political might.[24]:128
  • Quah-Nomag is introduced in the adventure Dead Gods, where he is described as a half-ogre priest of Orcus. He has spent years working without spells, waiting for Orcus to return, until finally his prayers were answered and he began to receive spells. He spent months in unholy meditation, concentrating on his lord, and felt an urge to come to Pandemonium, arriving in Agathion in astral form one day before the player characters. When the characters arrive he tries to stop them, but if defeated, he returns to his physical body and restores himself to confront them later.[15]:112-113 He then hires a thief names Ash Vodiran to steal the Wand of Orcus back for him.[15]:116 Quah-Nomag finds the vast petrified body of Tenebrous on the Astral Plane and tries to resurrect him using the Wand of Orcus.[15]:118 Quah-Nomag's spellcasting powers return when he arrives on the corpse. The characters reach him during his improvised ritual of revival and he skips to the end of the ritual, attempting to use a resurrection spell that he has on a scroll; an illio of this scene appears on page 176 of the book. If the characters disrupt his spell-casting, both Quah-Nomag and the corpse of Tenebrous vanish.[15]:121-123 The third edition Manual of the Planes mentions how "one of his last faithful servants, the half-ogre Quah-Nomag" cast the resurrection spell which returned Orcus despite being disrupted.[16]:103 In the Book of Vile Darkness, Quah-Nomag is described as a Skull King, and "one of the most powerful and infamous priests of Orcus alive today". He is described as a human, but with ogre ancestry. For restoring him, Orcus gave Quah-Nomag many blessings, although Orcus has already begun tiring of Quah-Nomag's self-importance and arrogance as a result of the successful ritual.[18]:138-139 Fiendish Codex I notes that Quah-Nomag was stationed as ruler of Lash Embrar, a great distance from Everlost, when Orcus tired of his pretention.[24]:131 In the adventure "Prince of Demons" in Dungeon #150, Quah-Nomag acts as the general for two of Orcus's legions in the attack on Demogorgon's city of Lemoriax.[26]:71-72, 76-77
  • Acererak first appears in the original Tomb of Horrors adventure (1978) by Gary Gygax as the main adversary. The adventure described him as "a human magic-user/cleric of surpassing evil" who took the steps necessaly to preserve his life force as the lich, Acererak."[37]:10 The boxed set adventure Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998) by Bruce Cordell included a small booklet titled "The Journal of the Tomb", which notes that the character Desatysso discovered that Acererak "owed much of his power" to Tenebrous.[38] Cordell's article "Return to the Tomb of Horrors" in Dragon #249 (July 1998) mentions that "While alive, Acererak built an unholy temple to a now deceased power. When the project neared completion, he slew every worker, excavator, and consecrating priest who had assisted in the temple's construction." The article notes that the result of Acererak's work was the dungeon crawl detailed in the Tomb of Horrors module.[39]:38 In the aritlce "Open Grave" by Bart Carroll and Steve Winters for the "D&D Alumni" column in Dragon #371 (January 2009), the authors interviewed Bruce Cordell about the Return to the Tomb of Horrors adventure, where he revealed that he developed the origins of Acererak "as a persecuted tiefling child to his development as a wizard and priest of Orcus, to his creation of his tomb that was actually a test to winnow souls".[40]:65 The fourth edition adventure also titled Tomb of Horrors (2010) by Ari Marmell and Scott Fitzgerald Gray mentions in the introduction that "Acererak resurfaced as a worshiper of Orcus, using the cult's resources to construct a number of lairs and tombs - the most infamous of which would become known as the Tomb of Horrors. Some sources claim that Acererak was using Orcus's worshipers to complete his own schemes, and that he felt no true loyatly to the demon prince."[41]:4 The introduction goes on to say that "Once he attained lichdom, Acererak ceased paying homage to Orcus, lending credence to the notion that his worship had never been more than a means to an end."[41]:5
  • Eldrua, a derro with the loremaster prestige class (and also the fighter and wizard character classes) appears in the adventure "Headless" in Dungeon #89. She is described in the adventure as "gaunt for a derro, but no less potent", with a grating voice and her body covered ni blasphemous tattoos which are the icons and unholy symbols of Orcus. She dresses in black, diaphonous robes wrapped with a single long red silk cord.[17]:47-48 She has worshiped Orcus since childhood, and as she grew older and more powerful Orcus rewarded her with dangerous secrets from the Abyss and powerful magic items. She ruled her tribe after deposing its leaders and converting all of its members to Orcus worship. Orcus sent her a vision of a powerful tribe of frost giants in a cavern, worshiping their gods before a steaming dark pit which she recognized as a gateway to the Abyss. When these giants marched on human lands a month later, Eldrua and her derro, demon, and undead allies invaded the Hold of Jarl Gnorgrak. Orcus rewarded her with his powerful Scythe of Orcus and another vision which showed a Deadgate siphoning souls and transmitting them to Orcus, and bestowing on her the forgotten knowledge of how to construct one. She began constructing the Deadgate, and created magical simulacra of herself and other creatures to help obtain enough heads to adorn the Deadgate and activate it.[17]:47-48 One of her allies is a death slaad named Drusalakas, whom she summoned and convinced to help for a share of the human souls.[17]:55 If the player characters defeat her or destroy the Deadgate, Orcus appears soon after and uses the Scythe of Orcus to decapitate her before reclaiming the weapon.[17]:62
  • Kauvra appears in the Book of Vile Darkness, where she is described as a deadly half-orc vampire known for her rages. She is Orcus's personal enforcer.[18]:139-140
  • Harthoon first appears in the Book of Vile Darkness, where he is described as a powerful lich sorcerer serving as Orcus's vizier.[18]:139-140 In Fiendish Codex I, Harthoon is described as the chief diplomat and castellan of Orucs, "a capable administrator who moonlights as a master embalmer". Harthoon operates with scores of metal slabs containing perfectly preserved corpses kept fresh with a secret chemical admixture, and he plans to animate the corpses as sleeper agents in mortal kingdoms, where their preserved state will allow them to blend in as spies.[24]:129
  • Doresain, the King of the Ghouls, is revealed in Libris Mortis to have once been a vassal of Orcus until "Yeenoghu's gnoll host invaded, and the King of the Ghouls was forced to swear fealty and pay homage to Yeenoghu. Yeenoghu subsequently lost control of the King's layer, and more recently, Yeenoghu has lost the ability to command the King."[22]:16 The fourth edition Monster Manual explains that Doresian is an exarch of Orcus. He wields a staff called Toothlust, formed of the rigid spinal column of a past victim and topped by a skull "in homage to his lord, Orcus".[28]:208 In the adventure E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls, "Adventure Book One" reveals Doresain as the primary antagonist of the adventure, who marshals his allies and servitors as he "labors towards the culimatination of a secret project, an undertaking designed to catapult his lord and master [...] into a position of unfettered power over the souls of every creature in existence". He sought to discomfit the Raven Queen and put her divine office of Death in peril, sending his servant Elder Arantham to steal souls from her at Death's Reach in the Shadowfell. Elder Arantham acquired the extremely powerful primordial Timesus, and Doresain oversees the preparations for sending Timesus to Orcus. The player characters must confront Doresain in his palace, although he has already sent the primordial to Orcus using a chaos ship by the time the characters arrive.[30]:3
  • Xerivar, a bloody animated corpse with three quasits continually tearing at and consuming his putrid flesh, appears in the adventure "Prince of Demons" in Dungeon #150. When the player characters convene a war council to discuss plans for attacking Demogorgon, Orcus sends Xerivar as his proxy; Xervivar speaks with Orcus's voice, serving as a direct link to Orcus.[26]:64
  • Gorguth is mentioned in Elder Evils (2007) by Robert J. Schwalb, described as a bodak who once served Orcus, but forswore his allegiance to Orcus, and fled the Abyss to serve the Elder Evil known as Atropus on the Material Plane.[42]:17,21
  • Elder Arantham is described in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364 as the founder of the Ashen Covenant movement, whose followers know he was once a high priest of Bahamut who turned to Orcus after a crisis of faith. He voluntarily transformed himself into a huecuva, and later massacred the priests of Bahamut from the temple he once served and raised them as zombies to attack the surrounding city. His goal is to see Orcus promoted to godhood and usurp the Raven Queen's position.[43]:37 He is more fully described, with game statistics, on page 41-42, which notes that he is the high priest of his own Orcus cult, and is widely considered an exarch of Orcus who represents the eternal patience of the undead.[43]:41 Elder Arantham is the main antagonist in the adventure E1 Death's Reach, where it is revealed in "Adventure Book One" that he has breached Death's Reach in the Shadowfell and is unearthing secrets from the time of the Dawn War at the will of Orcus.[29]:6 The player characters encounter him in the Reliquary of the ancient primordial Timesus, whom Elder Arantham intends to release in the hopes that this will cause more souls to fall out of the Raven Queen's reach. He has freed dozens of Timesus's soldiers, also called the blackstar host, turning some to his service while many more lie trapped. Elder Arantham hopes to present Timesus and this powerful army Orcus, and belives that if Orcus can use the primordial to press his claim over death, that Orcus will reward him and make Elder Arantham his exarch.[29]:14 Elder Arantham has desecrated a temple on the Reliquary dedicated to the gods that helped defeat Timesus, turning it into a grand Temple of Orcus.[29]:16 Elder Arantham has been using the blackstar host as a means of barter, trading them to potential allies in Death's Reach as slaves. He has secured the allegiance of a blackfire dracolich with a gift of blackstar creatures, and the dracolich lives below Elder Arantham's cathedral to Orcus.[29]:21 The encounter with Elder Arantham is described in "Adventure Book Two", including his game statistics, where he is described as "a lichlike humanoid wearing fine robes". Although he already has what he wants, he recognizes the player characters as a threat to the future plans of Orcus so he will fight them rather than just leave. If he is hurt badly enough, he will escape through the nearby blood portal, which only allows undead to pass through. The conclusion notes that Elder Arantham returns in adventure E2: Kingdom of Ghouls.[29]:62-63
  • Holchwier was an exarch of Orcus, metioned in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364 as an undead glabrezu who berated Elder Arantham of the Ashen Covenant for his overt activities, and was then slain by Arantham.[43]:37
  • Mauglurien is first described in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364 with his description and game statistics on pages 42–44. He is the leader of the Ebon Riders, and a leader of a faction of the Ashen Covenant.[43]:37 He is a proponent of the theory that the Raven Queen must be slain and reanimated as an undead god, which he feels would place her under Orcus's dominion.[43]:38 He is the master of the mercenary company the Ebon Riders, who are secretly a cult of Orcus. He is a dwarven death knight, and also known by the name "The Black Dragon".[43]:42-44 Mauglurien appears as an enemy in the adventure E1 Death's Reach, where it is mentioned in "Adventure Book One" that he was exiled from his clan long ago. He once worshipped Kord, but turned to Gruumsh in his thirst for bloodshed, and then turned to the worship of Orcus and plans to slay the Raven Queen to put Orcus on her throne.[29]:7 He deployed his troops to the Raven Queen's temple of Zvomarana, and then arrived at one of its five gates.[29]:11 The encounter with Mauglurien is described in "Adventure Book Two", including his game statistics. He is in the process of questioning and threatening the soul of Felidha, a priest of the Raven Queen, planning to use her trapped soul in the campaign against Letherna. He carries Ghovran Akti's phylactery and can call him forth if the player characters get the upper hand in the fight.[29]:12-13
  • Shonvurru is first described in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364 is an undead marilith, and a leader among the Ashen Covenant who seeks to alter reality by studying or controlling Elder Evils from the dawn of time.[43]:38 Shonvurru is mentioned in the module E1 Death's Reach, in "Adventure Book One" as having used Nerull's Gate in Death's Reach to bring an aspect of Orcus there. She is working on connecting the gate to Thanatos, and if the characters stop her work Orcus's aspect shows up to attack them.[29]:13 The encounter with Shonvurru the Blood Serpent is described in "Adventure Book Two", including her game statistics. She carries a book which contains notes on what she was doing, revealing that she awakened two petrified undead treant guardians and used the gate three days ago to summon "the Great Beast", and was trying to permanently tie Nerull's Gate to Thanatos when the player characters arrive.[29]:26-27
  • The Ashen Covenant - other members are described in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364. Khavra Akti is a female eladrin wizard who hopes to aid Orcus in annexing the world of the dead to his Abyssal realm. Sithas Tyrr is a paladin of Orcus who seeks to change the world by controlling something that even the gods fear, if such a thing can be found. Kierno Varim is a tiefling warlock known as the "mad animator," who believes that if the undead ever outnumber the dead, reality will rearrange itself so that undeath is the natural order.[43]:38-39
  • Vermiturge is mentioned in the article "The Ashen Covenant" in Dragon #364 as an exarch of Orcus who represents the connection between undeath and plague.[43]:41
  • Ghovran Akti appears in the adventure E1 Death's Reach where he is described in "Adventure Book One" as "a powerful eladrin mage," a necromancer and a lich who maintains his mortal form to pass as one of the living. He is a member of the Ebon Riders, who has always been focused on combat and the martial applications of magic. He is dedicated to winter, and studies planar topics and death. He often rides a nightmare creature from Thanatos, and has a cambion magus disciple named Tannerli. He wants to help Mauglurien slay the Raven Queen to elevate Orcus, and become an exarch of bitterest winter.[29]:7 He attacks the player characters along with Tannerli and a band of Ebon Riders, right after the party finishes speaking with the Raven Queen's marut servant. His phylactery is with Mauglurien.[29]:8-9 His game statistics appear on page 9.
  • Hertrud, an Ebon Rider and a deathpriest of Orcus, appears in the adventure E1 Death's Reach which mentions in "Adventure Book One" that she has led a squad of troops to of the five gates in the Raven Queen's temple of Zvomarana and is attempting to turn it into an altar of Orcus.[29]:10 She and Uganon have also turned another gate into a stable for their shadowclaw mounts.[29]:11 The encounter with Hertrud is described in "Adventure Book Two", including her game statistics and a description for her: "A tall, bald woman in dark chain and a horned helm, she carries an Ebon Rider shield. When fighting, she preaches of Orcus and curses in Abyssal."[29]:4-5
  • Uganon, an Ebon Rider and a necromancer, appears in the adventure E1 Death's Reach which mentions in "Adventure Book One" that he has invaded the Raven Queen's temple of Zvomarana at one of its five gates and "is polluting Zvomarana and creating monstrosities for Orcus's glory".[29]:11 The encounter with Uganon is described in "Adventure Book Two", including his game statistics and a description for him: "A skeletally thin, bald tiefling with backswept horns, one of which is broken. His skin is dark red, and his teeth are filed into fangs. He laughs at the pain of living creatures."[29]:6-7
  • Gukat, a death giant devoted to Orcus, appears in the adventure E1 Death's Reach which mentions in "Adventure Book One" that he is looting a temple in the Raven Queen's temple of Zvomarana at one of its five gates.[29]:11 The encounter with Gukat is described in "Adventure Book Two", including his game statistics. He searches through the books in one of the temple's libraries, tossing scrolls and books into a fire.[29]:10-11


The first edition Monster Manual II described the realms of Orcus: "Orcus' manifold layers are populated with skeletal monsters, various sorts of zombies, huecuvae, shadows, sheet phantoms, vampires, and death knights."[31]:35 The first edition Manual of the Planes describes the layer of the Abyss ruled by Orcus: "The dwelling of Orcus is a great palace made of bones, rising out of ground bone meal. His guards and servants are undead. From his empty halls Orcus rules many layers and is said to have conquered a number of Prime Material planes."[44]:102

In The Throne of Bloodstone, his home layer is given as the 333rd layer of the Abyss.[9]:46 The adventure explains that the Palace of Orcus is found in a deep valley surrounded by immense mountains, which are honeycombed with narrow passages. Other, smaller valleys found in the mountains contain encounters such as cities populated by undead. The text of the module explains that only a small section of this layer of the Abyss is shown, and also mentions that the mountain shown on the map depicting the area completely surrounds the Palace of Orcus and extends off the map edges for several miles.[9]:46 The Lake of Fire is "a long, narrow lake filled with boiling lava", where magmen and lava mephits in the lake use illusions to appear human to fool the characters into rescuing them.[9]:50

"The Book of Chaos" in the Planes of Chaos boxed set describes the realm Thanatos, the Belly of Death, the 113th known layer of the Abyss, at the time ruled by the goddess Kiaransalee. Thanatos is described as "a frozen necropolis", and "a cold plane of ice, thin air, and a black, moonlit sky, a place that belongs as much to the undead as to the tanar'ri." Edible food is difficult to come by, and the air is thin, and creatures that die on Thanatos are transformed into its servants - usually undead, but occasionally demons. Undead in Thanatos regenerate damage rapidly. Members of the Dustmen faction can be hired as guides by visitors, and most undead will ignore visitors accompanied by Dustmen.[11]:29-30

Thanatos is described in the third edition Manual of the Planes, which also includes details on Naratyr. The book mentions that the drow deity which "assumed control of the layer and its crowing jewel, Naratyr" had disappeared, speculating that Orcus may once again rule Thanatos.[16]:102

Fiendish Codex I describes Thanatos, noting the ash-gray clouds that fill its cold back skies upon which daylight never intrudes. Its immense moon phases at random when covered by clouds, making it difficult to tell time. Cultits of Orcus reside in cities spread across the layer's vast tundras, and thousands of undead roam the land outside the cities. The strongest thralls of Orcus attempt to dominate and command armies of these undead, to invade the Material Plane and the layers of rival demon princes. Remnants of the Dustmen, now a shattered faction, have outposts in all the layer's cities and house themselves in the otherwise abandoned city of Vadrian, managing to "eke out a grim existence here adter being exiled from the city of Sigil". The Dustmen continue to offer their services as guides, although mortal Skull Lords and fiends often seek to attack parties led by Dustmen.[24]:127 The book states that Orcus returned to Thanatos only in the last few years, and set about removing the influence of Kiaransalee and her worshippers, destroying or conscripting the demons who swore fealty to her; a few mortal and intelligent undead followers of Kiaransalee remain in hiding to plot revenge against Orcus.[24]:128

The fourth edition Monster Manual describes Thanatos as "a dark landscape of death shrouded by gray clouds and often obscured by fog. Light filters weakly through the clouds and mists, illuminating the realm like a moonlit night. Dead forests filled with twisted black trees and barren moors dominate. Bleak mountains rise feebly into the black sky, and cities and villages in ruins crouch in hidden places as though fearful. Strewn all over the realm are tombs, mausoleums, gravestones, and sarcophagi."[28]:206

The fourth edition Manual of the Planes (2008) by Richard Baker, John Rogers, Robert J. Schwalb, and James Wyatt also describes Thanatos on pages 82–83.[33]

Palace of Orcus

The Throne of Bloodstone describes the vast Abyssian fortress of Orcus, a citadel which represents the focal point of his power. Because of its size, the castle is visible in glimpses from many points in the terrain, but on the last rise characters can get a good look at it.[9]:57 Lightning constantly flashes with varying intensity around the fortress, changing the color of the sky and places on the ground. Locations also seem to shift to appear closer or further, although all distances actually remain constant. Two talking skulls stand guard at a bridge which spans a deep moat filled with fiery lava. Also visible from the ridge are six areas of twisting black smoke impenetrable to sight and magical detections; great mazes with bizarre angles and corners; many cities in the near periphery of the castle and numerous more cities spread across the wide plain behind the castle.[9]:58 Numerous flying guards are posted at various observation towers (which are designed to block much of the view), and these air patrols receive great bounties offered by Orcus for destroying flying intruders.[9]:59 The walls around the fortress are affected by the spatial distortion in the area, making them dangerous to climb; additionally, the walls are able to form appendages to attack climbing creatures.[9]:61-62 If characters come within 30 feet of the bridge, the two skulls mounted to either side will magically duplicate the strongest warrior in the group. If more than one character stands on the bridge or if a destructive magic spell is cast on it, the bridge will collapse; the skulls will only warn characters if the duplicate warrior is defeated in single combat by the copied character.[9]:63 Five areas contain mazes in one of four shapes (squares, octagons, pentagons, and hexagons), each with different puzzles, traps, and opponents to overcome.[9]:63-69 After getting through the first three mazes, characters will come across a smaller castle with an antechamber with its supercharged iron golem greeter, a vast domed chamber that Orcus uses as a scrying room, a library built by Orcus for his guests, a torture chamber, and a room that can teleport characters back to the start of the bridge.[9]:64,71 The narrow walkway out of that castle leads over the moat and to a raised platform that serves as a chessboard-like battle arena, where Orcus stages fights to the death. He will assemble a team of demons powerful enough to defeat unfriendly visitors on this gameboard, where squares will vanish every round to send combatants plummeting.[9]:71-72

After getting through the last two mazes beyond the city of Orcusgate, the characters will enter the kitchens of Orcus, which feed his gluttony. In the center of these vast chambers is an enormous dumbwaiter that can take characters straight to the throne room of Orcus. The huge chamber of the Princely Guard is accessible by characters who cross the battle arena, or enter the castle at any of the external doorways below or at the level of the room; this serves as the front door of Orcus' castle, and the Princely Guard will capture or kill anyone trying to see Orcus without an appointment. A pillar in the center of the room serves as an elevator to and from the throne room. The throne room platform "towers over every point in sight - including the mountains visible to the farthest horizon. The walls and ceiling are formed by a shimmering green dome - transparent, but somehow appearing solid." A tall dais is in the middle of the room, topped by a huge throne which seems to made of skulls of various types of creatures, and before the throne is a silver pool which Orcus uses as a scrying pool. Orcus keeps his Wand in a socket beside his throne, which powers the dome over the throne room to dispel magic spells and cause magic items to permanently lose their enchantments, on anything approaching the platform through the air. If the Wand of Orcus is removed from its socket, Orcus will sense the disruption and return to his throne room.[9]:75-77


Several cities within the home layer of Orcus are presented in the adventure The Throne of Bloodstone as possible encounter locations for the player characters. The City of Liches is behind a great bone wall with an iron gate, described as "a silent, dead city, magnificent in architecture but deathly cold", and inhabited by liches, demiliches, and death knights. The text of the adventure states that these creatures seek to dominate a layer of the Abyss because they believe themselves to be superior to demons, and are therefore willing to help the characters defeat Orcus.[9]:52-53 Skeletal Mountain fills most of the valley, "a huge mountain made entirely of bones, stretching upward nearly 4,000 feet", and is said to contain the remains of all skeletons ever destroyed on the Prime Material Plane; this mountain is also alive and can form part of itself into strange skeletal shapes to attack intruders.[9]:54 The City of the Zombies is a "crowded, decaying city" filled with 10,000 zombies, "the victims of the evil of Orcus and his clerics". They are led by the Zombie King, and are willing to assist in attacking Orcus because they seek a true death to release them from their undead state.[9]:55

The City of Orcusgate, a "chaotic metropolis" which guards both of the major land approaches to the fortress of Orcus, is first presented in The Throne of Bloodstone. It is ruled by Glyphimhor, a powerful lieutenant of Orcus. The city lies next to the fortress, and two long bridges span the fiery moat, connecting the city to the castle. The city's gates are open, with a long empty street which passes dark houses in this silent city. Characters trying to leave by climbing the walls are attacked by the walls in a manner similar to the fortress walls. Perceptive characters will get the feeling that they are being watched and followed. The city drains the life energy of the characters; the longer they stay, the more life energy they lose. The palace of Glyphimhor lies in the center of the city, sitting upon a low hill which gives it a view of the entire city and the fortress of Orcus. If the characters try to leave Orcusgate, the inhabitants will try to prevent them from leaving, placing guards at the gates, and Glyphimhor himself will appear if the characters get too close to the gates, attacking them only if they try to leave, and forcing them to remain as long as possible. Three far gates lead to the plains around the fortress and some more distant cities, while a fourth gate leads to the back entrance of the fortress.[9]:72-75

Beyond Orcusgate are several more cities found in The Throne of Bloodstone, each ruled by a demon of great power: the City of Straight Curves, ruled by a powerful lich with a bodyguard of death knights, where the avenues and buildings appear straight but actually twist back around; the Bucking City, ruled by a powerful succubus reputed to be queen of all succubi, where the ground is constantly in motion; Strobe City, ruled by a council of mad nabassu, where the sky flashes alternately with white light and pitch blackness; and the parallel Cities of Fire and Ice which are ruled by rival type VI demons, where one city is constantly aflame and the other is covered with coats of ice.[9]:75

"The Book of Chaos" in the Planes of Chaos boxed set describes the towns of Naratyr and Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears. Lachrymosa, which is upstream along the River Styx from Naratyr in a dry hilly region, surrounds the Forbidden Citadel - Kiaransalee's summer palace - and is kept warmer by a series of rust-red geysers that spurt warm water into the River Styx. Naratyr, City of the Dead, was used as the site of Kiaransalee's winter palace, "a cold realm carved into the surface of a frozen ocean". Naratyr is described as "a curiously cold and silent city, its streets often empty for hours at a time", surrounded by a moat containing the waters of the River Styx.[11]:29-30

Fiendish Codex I describes the City of Straight Curves as a frozen-over port city which clusters with docks and flat-bottomed river skiffs, which has taken on the character of a ghost town. The mature nabassu Glursidval plays illusion-fueled mind games with visitors to the town, as streets that appear straight to loop back upon themselves in extradimensional ways, while he taunts characters with illusions of fallen comrades or tries to convince them that they have returned to the Material Plane.[24]:128-129

Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears, is detailed in Fiendish Codex I as the long serving nominal capital of Orcus, although he spends his time booding in his palace of Everlost. Administration of the town's affairs falls to the balor Glyphimhor. The Forbidden Citadel lies near the center of the city, once the seat of Kiaransalee's power in Thanatos, resembles a bust of Kiaransalee facing towards her former winter capital of Naratyr.[24]:130

Fiendish Codex I notes that when a Skull Lord heeds the call of Orcus to come to Thanatos, he is expected to take control of an invasion force of undead, and those that fail become liches in the haunted city of Golmin Thur, where they remain forevermore.[24]:128 The book describes Golmin Thur as a "sweeping city of narrow avenues and towering minarets" which houses as many as a thousand failed Skull Lords who are now liches known as the Disgraced. They administer to Orcus's numerous pacts and agreements with mortals.[24]:130

Lash Embrar is described in Fiendish Codex I as a crumbling metropolis, over which an enormous spinning helix of magical energy dominates the sky. This colorful strobe leads the city to be known as the Flickering City, and natives believe that this was where Orcus enslaved Thanatos to his will thousands of years ago. This place has become a central focus of his cult, and mortal Skull Lords are expected to make a pilgrimage here upon first visiting Thanatos. Skull King Quah-Nomag rules Lash Embrar.[24]:130-131

'Fiendish Codex I details Naratyr, noting that the "aristocracy of intelligent undead" that wished to ingratiate themselves to Kiaransalee either fled Naratyr or betrayed one another to prove their loyalty to Orcus upon his return. After an initial pogrom to cleane the city of Kiaransalee's followers, Orcus has avoided the city. Nearly all residents of Naratyr are dead, and many of them are the reanimated corpses of drow and driders loyal to Kiaransalee.[24]:131

According to Fiendish Codex I, demons in the upper echelon of the cult of Orcus dwell in Orcusgate, "named for the central gate of fire that connects Thanatos to the Pits of Pazunia on the first layer of the Abyss". Balor and marilith servants of Orcus make up the six-member Council of the Riven Ram, which dictates demonic policy on Thanatos.[24]:131

Vadrian is a ruined city described in Fiendish Codex I, the former stronghold of a balor who betrayed Orcus thousands of years ago, and which the undead and demons of Thanatos now avoid. The city is now the home of Galendure Citadel, a prominent stronghold for the Dustmen led by the wizard Sherenvess the Shrewd. Orcus and his agents tolerate the presence of the Dustmen, "reasoning that anything which brings mortals to Thanatos eventually fills the larder of the prince's undead hordes".[24]:131


Everlost is described in Fiendish Codex I as "a massive fortress" and "a towering structure built from countless bones retrieved from the demon prince's Material Plane conquests". This fortress is located on the periphery of "civilized Thanatos", in the center of a sprawling desert of bonemeal known as Oblivion's End. According to this book, Everlost "is and has ever been the seat of Orcus's power on Thanatos", although he is able to manifest throughout his layer at will. From here he issues his decrees throughout the multiverse, leaving his underlings to enact the details of his plans.[24]:129

In the adventure "Enemies of My Enemy" in Dungeon #149, the player characters venture to the fortress city of Everlost to meet with Orcus. They may get past the two balors and their dozen bodak minions who guard the rusted iron doors which lead to the throne room of Orcus by showing the balors a letter of introduction from the characters' ally Iggwilv written to Orcus, or by defeating the balors and bodaks. Through the doors is a short tunnel that leads to the center of the palace, and the dome inside is described as "the interior of a truly gargantuan skull, held up by curving pillars of bone that look like ribs". In the center is a pile of skulls, atop which rests a throne of black stone inlaid with mithral and upon which sits Orcus. The throne is a conduit for negative energy, drainging the strength from other nearby creatures, and leaping shadows and tendrils of negative energy that whip around the throne point out any living creatures. Living creatures that continue to approach the throne feel more and more pressed down as if by an unseen weight, until they are pushed to their knees and can only move by crawling.[25]:53

The fourth edition Monster Manual describes Everlost as a "vast obsidian palace with embedded bones barely visible through the semitransparent black stone", at the heart of Thanatos. This palace "straddles a yawning chasm whose sheer slopes hold hundreds of tombs and burial sites, creating a tiered necropolis below the palace".[28]:206

Other locations in Thanatos

Fiendish Codex I describes the Final Hills, which separate Oblivion's End from the rest of Thanatos. The creatures that dwell within serve to allow only those to pass through who may do so at the will of Orcus. Crypts built into the craggy hills contain creatures such as spectres and mummies, and a remote crag conceals the entrace to the Valley of the Crypt Things, a maze which eventually connects to the realm of Baphomet.[24]:129

The Frozen Sea is described in Fiendish Codex I as "seemingly endless" and "a frigid desert of icy wasteland capping unknown depths", and located south of Naratyr. Enormous ancient shipwrecks are entombed in the ice, one of which serves as an enclave for worshippers of Kiaransalee.[24]:129-130

Fiendish Codex I describes the frost-rimed Plains of Hunger, east of the River Styx, which teem with hordes of undead wandering aimlessly for victims, each horde containing hundreds of skeletons, zombies, ghouls, and more. This is where mortal Skull Lords from the Material Plane come to wrest control of a hord of undead. Kostchtchie once sent a squad of giants to deal with Orcus, but when Orcus fed the giants to the hordes on the Plains of Hunger, the giants later reanimated as undead creatures called "crawling heads" which have now joined with the other undead.[24]:131

The adventure E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls, in "Adventure Book One", mentions that the White Kingdom is a domain in Thanatos, "bright in the moonlight that shines forever above it". In the adventure, the primordial Timesus was moved from Sigil to the White Kingdom, where Doresain oversees the preparations for sending the primordial to Orcus. The player characters must infiltrate the Embassy of Ghouls, and use a portal from there to the White Kingdom to confront Doresain in his palace; however, he has already sent the primordial to Orcus using a chaos ship by the time the characters arrive.[30]:3

Tcian Sumere

Orcus created the fortress Tcian Sumere, on the Negative Energy Plane, depicted in the adventure Dead Gods on pages 58–69. He created this place as a retreat in case things ever went terribly wrong. It exists as a cluster of linked safe spherical areas within the plane, joined by magical passages which pull characters from one area to another.[15]:58-59 The fourth such area is a temple to Tenebrous, which contains the circlet in which the soul of Anarchocles is trapped. The fifth area is a sacristy which contains the phylactery which holds the remains of Orcus, which his followers had smuggled out of Thanatos when Orcus was slain, and brought to Tcian Sumere; an illio of this scene appears on page 172 of the book.[15]:61-63 The ninth area is a prison where the player characters can find the drow vampire who hid the Wand of Orcus.[15]:64-66 The thirteenth and final area contains the Orcusword.[15]:69 If the player characters defeat Tenebrous, Tcian Sumere disappears, along with the portal to it on the world of Ranais.[15]:124 A map depicting each portion of Tcian Sumere as well as a diagram of how each location fits together is included in Dead Gods.


Cult of Orcus

According to the Book of Vile Darkness, the loathsome yet identifiable portfolio of Orcus is what makes him worshiped as a god more often than most of the other demon princes, making him closer to ascending to true godhood than even Demogorgon.[18]:137 The widespread cult of Orcus has a significant following among humanoids, especially orcs, half-orcs, ogres, giants, and humans. They keep his temples hidden, forming secret societies in otherwise normal communities, although some temples are strongholds full of undead. Orcus demands living sacrifice, and blood and skulls are important imagery used in his worship. Intelligent undead do not willingly serve him, although vampires, liches, and others have been forced into his service. Priests and influential followers are called Skulls, while high priests are called Skull Lords; a Skull Lord who gains enough power and influence among the followers of Orcus adopts the mantle of Skull King or Skull Queen. Followers of Orcus commonly carry black, skull-topped scepters to represent their lord's dread might, and wear skull masks and black robes with hoods, or goat-horned headdresses and silver robes.[18]:138

Libris Mortis notes that worship of Orcus appeals most to demons, necromancers, and the undead. His priestly training consists of a grisly oath, the introduction to his mythology, and a strike with a skull-headed rod. Orcus tasks his worshipers to increase the level of his own worship across all lands, killing those who resist. Worshippers are typically sent on quests to attack cults of rival death god Nerull, raid churched of Pelor to destroy sacred items, and build portals from the Abyss to the Material Plane. Orcus has inspired the creation of temples all over the planes, and those that worship him gain clerical power as if worshipping a true deity. His followers rise through the ranks by bloody conflict. Orcus prefers to send a balor as his herald.[22]:18

Fiendish Codex I notes that members of the cult of Orcus seek to follow in his blasphemous footsteps, moving up through the ranks of demons to become demon lords as well. Orcus urges his mortal followers to wreak subterfuge and destruction upon the Material Plane. Skull Lords often command numerous undead and servitor demons, as well as cultists from all walks of society. When a Skull Lord achieves sufficient influence on his home world, Orcus sends him an omen to beckon the champion to Thanatos to take control of undead to use as an invasion force on a Material Plane world or the home of one of the foes of Orcus. Those successful in such an invasion take the title of Skull King, returning to their world with the dark blessings of Orcus. When a mortal Skull King dies, his soul returns to Thanatos as a powerful type of tanar'ri.[24]:127-128

The fourth edition Monster Manual notes that "since Orcus lives in the Abyss [he] cannot grant divine magic to his priests". The book explains that the deathpriest hierophants are among the most powerful worshipers of Orcus, and that the example deathpriest hierophant "is blessed with great power from his demonic master, and himself teeters on the edge between life and undeath". A cult of several hundred members is spread out over a large area, and is led by a deathpriest hierophant, who appoints lesser deathpriests to lead smaller groups within the cult. Each such group is usually tasked with a specific goal. Cults of Orcus operate in secret, gathering in hidden spots such as graveyards, mausoleums, tombs, and necropoli, although they operate freely among the most corrupt of barbarian hordes and undead legions. Each cult invents its own iconography involving skulls and bones, ram's horns, or blasphemous runes, rather than having a common symbol for all the cults. His followers spread disease by fouling wells with corpses, blocking sewers, and other criminal acts. They do not see the undead as holy, but use them as a means to accomplish goals, including Orcus's ambition to extinguish life. Worshipers of Orcus hope to one day become a powerful, intelligent undead creature such as a lich, death knight, mummy, or vampire, and gain control over lesser undead.[28]:209-210


The "Leomund's Tiny Hut" feature by Lenard Lakofka in Dragon #76 (August 1983) features a character class called the death master. The article describes on page 17 how a death master will eventually become a demon-worshipper, who ultimately worships Orcus. A high level death master who is killed on the feast day of Orcus ("sometimes called Halloween", according to the article) becomes an undead creature under the direction of Orcus. Some death masters even commit suicide on that date so that they may better serve Orcus, and he sometimes notices this action and will animate the death master with all the character's powers intact.[45]

The adventure Dead Gods introduces the visage, a type of undead created by Tenebrous from his dead tanar'ri servants and bound to his will. A visage appears as a wispy, translucent spirit with no legs, and a white mask where its head would be; it floats or flies through the air, and its form is solid rather than incorporeal. A visage has the power to twist a victim's mind, taking control over its perception of reality using a power called "lucidity control". The visage uses this power subtly to cause confusion and fear, mixing real experiences with false ones to enhance the illusion. A visage can also mentally dominate a target, to take complete control, but cannot use both powers on the same target at the same time. When a visage kills someone, it can take the victim's identity, taking part of his essence – preventing the victim from moving on to the afterlife or being brought back from the dead. Visages have no place among the tanar'ri, who recognize them immediately and attack them on sight.[15]:158-159

The adventure Dead Gods introduced the world of Ranais, and Moil, the City that Waits. Ranais was once populated with death worshipers, with each city devoted to a particular god of death, and many cities worshipping Orcus. When the great city of Moil turned away from Orcus, it was cast into a demiplane and the rest of the world suffered a cataclysm. Anyone who could not escape perished, leaving Ranais a dead world haunted by the malevolent spirits of those who died there. When Orcus was later reborn as Tenebrous, he commanded his visages to make the world their lair.[15]:52 A portal to the fortress of Tcian Sumere is found in an abandoned temple of Orcus.[15]:53 Ranais is connected to the planar town of Crux by way of a two-way portal; many people fled to Crux at the time of the calamity on Ranais, and most human residents of Crux are their descendents.[15]:28 The Demiplane of Moil is further described on pages 46–47 of A Guide to the Ethereal Plane (1988) by Bruce R. Cordell. This book reveals that Orcus cursed the people of Moil to slumber until the dawning of the sun, but pushed the city into a pocket demiplane of the Ethereal Plane, which has no dawn, noon, or sunset. With no sun to rise, the citizens of moil slept until they perished. The combined nightmare dream of Moil's citizens formed the powerful creature known as the Vestige, which is known to engulf and completely destroy any victim it chooses to "vent its malice upon". Moil's architecture was warped when Orcus moved it, and now its thin towers rise from the depths of an almost endless pit, resting upon the writhing black fog which bounds the sides and bottom of the pit and defines the boundary between the demiplane and the Negative Energy Plane. Centuries later, Moil was discovered by an evil being "called the Devourer by some", who transformed its dead citizens into a workforce of undead that the Devourer used to build a fortress near the demiplane of Moil, which destroyed most of these undead citizens in the process.[46]:46-47 This information is recounted in the boxed set adventure Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998), also by Cordell, on page 56. The adventure reveals that "the Devourer" is another name for the lich, Acererak. Acererak had discovered the city while he was still a mortal man, and claimed it as his own after the death of Orcus to use it for his evil plans. The city plays an important part in the adventure, and is described in detail on pages 56–115.[38] According to the fourth edition Manual of the Planes, the citizens of Moil gained the favor of Orcus through mortal sacrifices and ceremonies involving the dead, but eventually grew sickened. They tore down the temples of Orcus and shattered the statues in his honor, and turned to Pelor in hopes of purifying their souls, but Orcus flung the city into the depths of the Shadowfell.[33]:60 The article "Legacy of Acererak" by Robert J. Schwalb in Dragon #371 (January 2009) reveals that although Orcus intended to reclaim the citizens of Moil as undead under his service, "his attentions were drawn elsewhere with dire upheavals in the Abyss". Due to the curse Orcus laid upon these undead citizens of Moil, if left alone they collapse to resemble the corpses they should be.[47]:16-17

The thrall of Orcus is a third edition prestige class appearing in the Book of Vile Darkness. The book describes a thrall of Orcus as someone devoted to the demon prince of undeath, becoming "a tool of misery, murder, and revenge", revelling in the company of undead and "preferring their decaying touch to that of living flesh". Clerics, wizards, and sorcerers progress best to this class. Thralls of Orcus work in small groups of necromancers and necrophiliacs, consorting with undead and demons to form small cells of depraved evil that hide among cities and villages. They hate the thralls of both Demogorgon and Graz'zt, and war against them.[18]:71-72

A group of Orcus worshipers known as the Ashen Covernant are first described for fourth edition in the article "The Ashen Covenant" by Ari Marmell on pages 36–47 of Dragon #364 (June 2008).[43] These cultists are led by Elder Arantham, and consist of a movement growing throughout the cults of Orcus, dedicated to the goal of aiding the ascension of Orcus to the throne of the Raven Queen, and to help him become sovereign over all dead souls. They seek to make undeath a natural part of the cycle of life, so that everyone who dies will rise as an undead.[43]:36-37 The Ashen Covenant created the creature known as the ashgaunt, which they use as soldiers and assassins. The ashgaunt is a type of wight which not only hungers to drain life, but is also able to raise destroyed undead.[43]:45-46 The Ashen Covenant appear as opponents in the module E1 Death's Reach, in which Elder Arantham is revealed in "Adventure Book One" to have breached Death's Reach in the Shadowfell to unearth secrets and power at the will of Orcus.[29]:6


Orcus has a chance of hearing his name whenever and wherever spoken, and of reacting by manifesting to the speaker in an irritated mood. Unscrupulous merchants in various parts of the D&D multiverse have used this by selling parrots trained to speak only innocuous phrases until a predetermined time, when they scream Orcus's name non-stop. This draws the demon's attention and usually results in the deaths of all present, allowing their equipment to be looted by the merchant's associates.[citation needed]


Promise your soul to Orcus, eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, and through him you will gain life everlasting. Mercy is a luxury that none are worthy of; suffering and torment are the fuel that will empower Orcus' ascent. The worshippers of Orcus will overwhelm the world in a tide of undeath and even the gods will perish.


Clerics of Orcus are in charge of promoting necromancy, pain, torture, undeath, and the destruction of all that is good. They pray for spells at midnight. Their colors are red and black, although bone white is often used as decoration. Most of his faithful are called Skulls.


The vilest ritual in Orcus's already vile faith is the Unhallowing. This ceremony has no set date, but involves sacrificing a paladin to Orcus and creating a self-loathing undead creature from the remains.

Holy Days

The holy days of Orcus are the nights of the new moons and Sunsebb 28, the last day of the year. When a moon is at its darkest, worshipers of Orcus are required to either create an undead creature or to bring a corpse to other Orcus cultists so that an undead creature can be made.

Artifacts and relics

Wand of Orcus

The Wand of Orcus is first presented in Eldritch Wizardry, where it is also called "the wand of death" or "Orcus's Wand", and is described as "a rod of obsidian topped by a skull. This instrument causes death (or annihilation) to any creature" by touching it to their flesh, except for creatures of like status to Orcus himself.[3]:35,42

The first edition Dungeon Masters Guide adds that while this "ghastly weapon" is the property of Orcus, "at times it is said that he will allow his Wand to pass into the Prime Material Plane in order to wreak chaos and evil upon all living things there."[5]:162

In the adventure The Throne of Bloodstone, the player characters may obtain the Wand of Orcus, and flee with it from the Abyss to the Seven Heavens. If the characters decide to keep the Wand of Orcus instead, the party members begin to fall under its evil influence and stop at nothing to possess it; any character who travels to an empty plan of the Abyss with the wand can set up a layer under his own rule, and after 30 days he will irrevocably become a demon lord.[9]:78 When the characters meet Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, he tells them that the Wand of Orcus can only be destroyed if it is "steeped in the black and foul blood from the heart of Tiamat, the Queen of Darkness", although if killed Tiamat and the wand will be removed from the current plane of existence for centuries, but will eventually return to existence.[9]:80 If the characters succeed, the wand explodes violently, leaving only a small white gem. Bahamut tells them to plant this gem and tend the tree that comes from it: "For as long as you and your realm align with the cause of Good, this tree will prevent any demons from entering the Kingdom of Bloodstone. But should you, your people, or your descendents turn to Evil, the tree will wither, and the demons take a most powerful revenge."[9]:81 The adventure's epilogue notes that while the Tree-Gem of Bloodstone keeps Orcus from entering the lands, it will take him a full century to rebuild the Wand of Orcus.[9]:82

The Wand of Orcus was described in Encyclopedia Magica Volume Four, adding to the description from Eldritch Wizardry that an attempt by a character other than Orcus to use the wand to annihilate another creature only has a 50% chance of being successful, and the user will be subjected to a curse each time this is tried. The wand also bestowed the magical abilities to move at double speed, cure light wounds once per day, speak with animals, or cause a serious wound.[12]:1490-1491

The booklet The Dark of the War in Hellbound: The Blood War reveals that when Orcus was either deposed or slain by Kiaransalee, his wand was locked away in Agathion, the fourth layer of Pandemonium.[13]:15

The adventure Dead Gods reveals how Orcus created the wand. Long ago, he trapped the spirit of a mighty hero named Anarchocles within a circlet of control for a skeleton warrior, and safeguarded the item to keep it from being used against him. When Anarchocles died, Orcus removed the skull from his destroyed corpse, and placed it on the end of a long iron scepter, infusing it with some of Orcus's own essence, thus creating the Wand of Orcus. A character wearing the circlet can see through the eyes of the skull when within a few hundred feet. If the circlet is touched to the skull, both the circlet and the wand turn to dust. Anarchocles is aware of what happens outside the circlet, and if he senses that the wand is near, he will force the characters to touch the circlet to the skull, thus destroying both items and granting Anarchocles eternal rest.[15]:62 If the player characters are able to restore the memories of the drow Erehe, he can tell them how Kiaransalee brought him and the drow Kestod to a cavern in a secluded area of Agathion.[15]:85 The player characters can find the wand in Agathion, in the Reliquary, the central cavern of a complex of caves, protected by invisible barriers. The wand is still intelligent and extraordinarily powerful despite being weakened since the death of Orcus, and created the maze of caverns that stretch outward from this cavern hoping that it might be found. The adventure describes the wand as "a 3-foot long iron scepter with a human skull set into one end", sitting upon a pedestal in the center of the cavern. Any character that makes the conscious choice to touch the circlet to the skull is destroyed along with the items, unless he concentrates on controlling the wand before touching it. Anarchocles feels an insane sense of revenge for his imprisonment, and wants to kill anyone he can, especially anyone in possession of the circlet. If the characters find the wand but are not in possession of the circlet, they can send the wand away either by using great magic, or they can accomplish the same feat if one of the characters sacrifices his own life to reactivate the wand's ability to shift from one plane to another. Tenebrous is being eaten up from the inside by the power of the Last Word, so he will die if he does not find the Wand of Orcus in Agathion, assuming the characters destroyed the wand or sent it away.[15]:112-115

The Wand is briefly mentioned in the adventure Reverse Dungeon (2000) by John D. Rateliff and Bruce R. Cordell. In this adventure, the wizard Blaise constructed a vault centuries ago to house his "collection" of unusual monsters, forcing each to guard a treasure. One of these treasures was the Wand of Orcus guarded by a shade, although the Wand had gone missing by the time of the adventure.[48]:36 The shade had been slain long ago, and the Wand was stolen, leaving behind "a velvet-lined case on a crystal stand bearing the impression of the skull-headed wand that once rested within". The adventure states that the Wand was since reclaimed from the looters by its rightful owner, "as Master Blaise knew it would be".[48]:43

The Wand of Orcus is described with third edition statistics in the Book of Vile Darkness. It is described as a "black obsidian and iron rod" which is "topped with the skull of a human hero slain by Orcus".[18]:122 The book also notes that Orcus is "best known in some circles for his wand, an artifact of malefic might", and notes that the wand is more accurately described as a rod, and it also serves as his symbol. He relies heavily on his wand in combat, and prefers to kill foes in melee with it.[18]:137 Orcus sometimes lets it fall into the hands of mortals in order to allow them to wreak chaos and evil, but he grows bored after only a year or so and reclaims his wand and usually the soul of the mortal who wielded it as well.[18]:138

The fourth edition Monster Manual describes the Wand of Orcus as "a heavy mace tipped with an enormous skull" with a smooth obsidian halt studded with blood rubies, and which "transforms those it slays into undead horrors". Some legends say that the skull atop the want "once belonged to a god of virtue and chivalry who dared challenge Orcus in battle" while other legends identify it as the skull of a human hero, implying that it was magically enlarged to its current size; regardiness, the goodness that once resided in this skull has been warped and perverted to monstrous evil.[28]:206

The Wand of Orcus is currently thought to be in the possession of a cult called the "Lurkers In Shadow."

The Orcusword

The Orcusword can be discovered by the player characters in the adventure Dead Gods, where it is held in Tcian Sumere, Orcus's fortress on the Negative Energy Plane. The characters will discover the sword in a treasure vault, mounted on the far wall, and it is described as "a notched and slightly rusted sword", one of the few items that his servants managed to liberate from Thanatos after Kiaransalee took over. The ancient blade was Orcus's personal weapon long ago, before he created his wand. The adventure suggests that he used it when he was still a balor, and allowed his greatest servant to use it temporarily. When Orcus died, the weapon lost much of its potency, and Tenebrous keeps the Orcusword both as a sign of his past and what he hopes to be, as he expects the sword to resonate with its original power after he regains his former status. The adventure notes that it is possible to break the sword, and with his connection to the blade, breaking it causes Tenebrous a great deal of pain for a few hours.[15]:69 Later in the adventure, if the characters are confronted by Tenebrous looking to kill them, they can break the Orcusword to distract him and escape.[15]:115

The Juggernaut

The article "Armor of the Abyssal Lords" in Dragon #270 includes the Juggernaut, a 12-foot tall exoskeleton crafted for Orcus, and composed of fused bones from many humanoid and monstrous creatures. The back ribcage of the suit opens to allow a wearer access to a complex leather harness within, and once strapped inside the wearer's head is automatically penetrated by a probiscus made of bone, which acts as a conduit between the wearer's mental commands and the suit. The occupant can command undead creatures and can mentally trigger the Juggernaut's "bone-breath", a cone of bone shards that can harm opponents. Using the Juggenaut is extremely taxing to the wearer, who may pass out from exhaustion eventually. Each time the suit's probiscus is inserted into the wearer's skull, Negative Material plane energy is transferred from the suit to the occupant, eventually transforming the wearer into a ju-ju zombie after continued use. The Juggernaut armor can be destroyed by a secret command word known only to Orcus.[49]:67-68


A Deadgate is a minor artifact, a magical device which appeared in the adventure "Headless" in Dungeon #89. The device consists of a matrix of stone and/or metal, and can be up to 200 feet high. The heads of intelligent creatures can be impaled on the Deadgate, and there is room for one head per foot of height of the structure, which has a miles-long aura of influence that increases with the number of heads impaled upon it. The Deadgate goes from dormant to active once it has a number of heads equal to its height, doubling the radius of its aura. Any living creature who dies within the region influenced by the Deadgate and is brought back to life will suffer terrible visions, and any living creature who tries to sleep within the area will have horrible nightmares. When the Deadgate is active, the spirit of any creature who dies within its influence will travel to the Deadgate, where it is absorbed and imprisoned by it, and the spirit can be used to power spells or create a magic item. If a Deadgate is constructed over the site of a portal to another realm, a deity in such a realm can siphon the captured souls directly to his realm for his own use. A Deadgate is well protected from magical attacks, but can be destroyed through sufficient physical attacks. The process of creating a Deadgate is lost to mortals, although a Deadgate can be constructed in over a year's time with the aid of a powerful being from the lower plans who retains this knowledge.[17]:59 Orcus gives his derro worshipper Eldrua a vision of "a complex stone and metal lattice", impaled with hundreds of heads, with "the souls of these heads funneled down into the pit and directly into the realm of Orcus, where the Demon Prince gorged on them and grew horribly powerful", imparting on Eldrua the knowledge of how to construct this Deadgate. She immediately began constructing the Deadgate, and when some of her fellow derro tried to stop her, she slew them and made their heads the first to be placed on the Deadgate. By the time of the start of the adventure, she had finished constructing the Deadgate over a pit to the Abyss, and had nearly completed filling the device with severed heads.[17]:47-48 She was able to place even a dragon's head on the Deadgate.[17]:53 When the player characters come to the temple where they find the Deadgate, it is described as "a twisted latticework of stone and metal; the gleaming beams of the skeletal tower twist up into the air nearly to the cavern roof almost 200 feet above. The tower looks vaguely like a crooked ram's horn; the thing is lit from below by the nauseating light which seems to flow from the pit in an almost liquid manner. But most terrible of all are the hundreds of severed heads impaled on the cruel barbed hooks that seem to cover every square foot of the tower's matrix [...] each and every one of them twitch and writhe with an unholy life."[17]:58 An illustration of the Deadgate appears on page 60.

Scythe of Orcus

The Scythe of Orcus is a minor artifact which Orcus has been known to give to his favored minions, and which appeared in the adventure "Headless" in Dungeon #89, with game statistics on page 59. The Scythe is made entirely out of yellowed bone, but has the strength and hardness of adamantine. It can sever the heads of opponents like a vorpal sword. Anything slain by the Scythe of Orcus (but not beheaded) rises again as a free-willed undead creature, and the wielder of the Scythe can magically summon these undead creatures. The Scythe is intelligent and chaotic evil in alignment, and can communicate with its wielder by empathy. If the wielder works to promote the will of Orcus, the Scythe is happy, but if not then the Scythe tried to gain control and attack its wielder, returning to Orcus with a blast of hot sulfurous wind if it kills its wielder.[17]:59 In the adventure, Orcus sends the Scythe of Orcus as a reward to his worshiper, the derro Eldrua.[17]:47 Orcus appears personally to retrieve the Scythe of Orcus if the player characters defeat Eldrua, first using the weapon to kill Eldrua if she still lives.[17]:62


The adventure Dead Gods gives a glimpse into the past life of Orcus, as seen through a manifestation in the form of a shapechanging creature on the Astral Plane:

At first, the being appears to be a fat, grotesque human - probably a foul wizard or a wicked priest, judging by the evil affectations and horrid symbols on his clothing. But the figure shrinks as if melting, becoming a wormlike larvae. It then bloats and takes the shape of a manes, then a bar-lgura. Next, the being mutates further, changing to become a floating chasme, then a vrock. The vrock screeches and becomes a hezrou, which immolates and transforms into a huge, fiery balor. The loathsome balor bloats, its head growing ramlike, adopting the traditional form of Orcus. This shape in turn takes on a rocky countenance (signifying his first death), which then becomes the shadowy Tenebrous. Finally, the whole transformation starts over again, as the wraithlike form solidifies into the obese, evil human.

This sequence is explained as the god's memories of his past beginning with his mortal life, then as a larva, working his way up through the ranks of the tanar'ri, becoming an Abyssal lord, and then as Tenebrous.[15]:121 The adventure also explains that after being an Abyssal lord, Orcus eventually became a deity, forever giving up his physical form. His new priests and followers preserved the essence of his remains in a large phylactery, a glass container about five feet tall filled with highly toxic green preservative fluid.[15]:62-63

The introduction to Dead Gods provides more background on what occurred prior to the events of the module. It states that "long ago", when Orcus had grown fat and inattentive, losing the dark edge that helped him rise to the position of a power, Kiaransalee conspired against him and took advantage of his carelessness. Taking revenge of some past slight by Orcus, she "slew him through treachery and surprise, quickly usurping his realm and position", decreeing that his name never be spoken or written. Some time later, "in the not-so-distant past", the body of Orcus began to stir, slowly changing until he disappeared. Events apparently came together that helped to bring him back, including his worshipers in the City That Waits waking from their eternal slumber, Acererak scheming with the Negative Energy Plane, and a once-powerful follower of Orcus sending a final impassioned prayer. Orcus was now "a thin, small, shadowy creature", and renamed himself Tenebrous. He was still a god, but much less powerful than before his death. His servants had been slain by Kiaransalee, so Tenebrous brought them back as undead tanar'ri called "visages", tasking them to gather information to plot his vengeance. He also found the Last Word in the ruins of Pelion on the plane of Arborea, which he could use to slay even gods. He sought the Wand of Orcus, which Kiaransalee had hidden, so he killed Primus and took his place, as detailed in the adventure anthology The Great Modron March. The modrons found that two drow had hidden the wand, but the memories of the drow were erased when they were drowned in the River Styx, so Tenebrous sought to use a magical blossom to restore their memories and find the wand.[15]:6-9 The adventure also gives an accounting of these events from the perspective of Orcus on pages 36–37.[15]:36-37 A special sequence allows the players to temporarily assume the role of other player characters from the distant past using an item called the Orb of Kadu-Ra, where they explore a tower called the Last Spire. The builders of the Last Spire inscribed a prophecy about the coming of Tenebrous on a brass plug in the spire's interior, which reads: "Here in this Bright World shall trod the feet of ineffable Darkness. A great lord of the infinite pit, once brought low, shall find his way here, having pulled himself from death's cold embrace. Beyond, he will find the means for his goal, but the price of vengeance is death again - unless he can find that which was his, now lost." In the final room, the Chamber of Secrets, these temporary player characters can find the True Words as runes on the walls, words of power potent enough to slay even gods.[15]:93-98 Once in the present time, if the player characters return to the site they find that Tenebrous had gone to the room in modern times, and destroyed the symbols after learning the Last Word.[15]:100 In his quest for knowledge, he slew not only Primus, but the powers Bwimb, Maanzecorian, Tomeri, and Camaxtli, and others.[15]:124

The third edition Manual of the Planes notes that although the ceremony to resurrect Orcus was seemingly disrupted, "Orcus returned all the same".[16]:103 The Book of Vile Darkness reveals that Orcus has reinstated himself to his former position, once again finding himself in a struggle for dominance with other demon lords.[18]:137

The third edition Tome of Magic reveals that part of the godly power that Orcus shed after his death and subsequent resurrection as a demon lord remained intact. Less than a god but still divine, this essence coalsced into the bitter sentience which became the vestige Tenebrous, the Shadow that Was - "a pale reflection of what he once was, a shadow of a shadow".[23]:48

Fiendish Codex I elaborates more on his early history, stating that he "began life thousands of years ago as a wicked mortal whose vile deeds eventually resulted in his death". After this his soul manifested upon the Abyss as a larva, then a mane, centuries later evolving into a rutterkin, next becoming a nalfeshnee who "sat upon the 400th layer's Court of Woe during the era of the githyanki revolt against the illithid empire", and he eventually conquered the 113th layer of the Abyss and became a demon lord.[24]:127

According to the fourth edition Monster Manual, Orcus was once a mighty primordial who was corrupted by the evil of the Abyss, reshaping him "into the likeness of pure destructive evil".[28]:52 Long ago, the gods tried to slay Orcus while he was traveling outside the Abyss. Although the gods sent a host of angels to slay him, Orcus killed every last one of them.[28]:223

Orcus is a very old demon. Like many of the most powerful demon lords who struggle for power in the Abyss, Orcus started his existence as a mortal on the Prime Plane. He was apparently a wicked spellcaster of some sort, most probably a priest to some dark deity. After his death, his soul, like the souls of all chaotic evil mortals, went to the Abyss and Orcus began his afterlife as a lowly larva.

Orcus proceeded to climb through the demonic ranks in the next several thousand years, going from larva to mane, then on to dretch, rutterkin, vrock, glabrezu, nalfeshnee, and eventually a balor. From there, he ascended to the rank of demon lord, becoming the Prince of the Undead and ruling the layer of Thanatos, the Belly of Death. Even though there are other demon lords aspiring to the title of "Prince of the Undead", Orcus' claim to the title has gone unchallenged for the most part. Ever hungry for more power, Orcus wanted to be recognized as "Prince of Demons", a title held by Demogorgon and coveted also by Graz'zt. As a result, he became the arch-enemy of both demon lords.

A cabal of greater deities, in response to Tenebrous's predations, has since weakened the Last Word considerably.

Campaign settings

Forgotten Realms

Orcus plays a key role in the adventure The Throne of Bloodstone, which is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.[9] The events of this adventure series and the involvement of Orcus, as they relate to the Bloodstone Lands of the Forgotten Realms setting, were recounted in the sourcebook The Bloodstone Lands (1989) by R.A. Salvatore. In this sourcebook, it is revealed that Gareth Dragonsbane and his band of adventurers were responsible for the defeat of Orcus.[50]:3-6 Also, the high priest Banak is revealed to still be alive and operating with the Citadel of Assassins.[50]:45

The supplement Demihuman Deities (1998) by Eric L. Boyd lists Orcus/Tenebrous as one of the foes of Kiaransalee, and recounts his history with her. The book explains the fate of Orcus/Tenerbous as such: "It is unknown, even to Kiaransalee, whether the Prince of the Undead has successfully transformed himself into an undead god, has been destroyed forever, or simply waits for another opportunity to return to (un)life." Therefore, regardless of what the truth is, the text states that Kiaransalee is making efforts to find and eliminate every last trace of both Orcus and Tenebrous, leaving her with little interest in interacting with the other gods of Faerun.[51]:24 The book notes that it has been a decade since the defeat of the Witch-King and the destruction of Castle Perilous, and in that time Kiaransalee's priests have nearly exterminated the remaining clergy of Orcus in the Bloodstone Lands, and destroyed most of the goblinkin tribes who venerated Orcus while the Witch-King reigned. Also, the Legion of Vengeful Banshees, an affiliated order of crusaders devoted to Kiaransalee, are fanatically dedicated to the destruction of Tenebrous's visages, and are based in the Acropolis of Thanatos deep beneath the Galenas.[51]:26 Orcus/Tenebrous also apppears in a list of foes of the dwarf goddess Deep Duerra.[51]:62 Orcus/Tenebrous is listed as one of the foes of Laduguer, where he is described as "a target of Laduguer's wrath" because he "once subverted the worship of the duergar of the Galenas beneath the Mines of Bloodstone".[51]:85 Orcus/Tenebrous is listed as a foe of Labelas Enoreth, who "strongly opposes the powers of entropy and undeath" such as Tenebrous.[51]:142-143 Note that each time Orcus/Tenebrous is included in a god's list of foes in this book, the entry is recorded as "Orcus (dead)/Tenebrous (undead)".

The book The Grand History of the Realms (2007) describes the role of Orcus and his offspring in the nation of Narfell on page 81. The first ruler of Tharos and later Narfell was Thargaun, a human worshipper of Orcus. Centuries later, Jesthren, a half-fiend son of Orcus and Larnaeril Darakh "the Fiendwitch" slew King Orlathaun and took the throne of Narfell. This began the Darakh dynasty, which continued with other half-fiend sons of Orcus, including Heldakar, Yannos "the Slayer", Garthelaun "the Goreclaw", and Ilithkar. Ilithkar was ultimately overthrown by his cousin Rheligaun "the Horned," a half-fiendish son of Fraz-Urb'luu.[52]:81


The adventure "Headless" in Dungeon #89 takes place in the World of Greyhawk, and is set in the Crystalmist Mountains. In the adventure, Orcus uses one of his followers in a scheme to steal souls from the lands near Sterich.[17]:47-48 The adventure features a magical device called a Deadgate that "saw much use in ancient times in the Sueloise homeland". Most religions view these soul-stealing devices as blasphemous, and the church of Wee Jas finds them particularly abhorrent.[17]:59

The article "Demogorgon's Champions: The Death Knights of Oerth, Part Two" by Gary Holian in Dragon #291 (January 2002) notes that the death knight Lord Andromansis of Garastet "spurned Demogorgon by striking a bargain with the demon prince's great rival, Orcus, quickly becoming obsessed with the intersection of magic and undeath.[53]:98

Other versions

  • Orcus was one of two demon rulers (along with Demogorgon) described in the Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Rules set (1986) by Frank Mentzer, in the "DM's Guide to Immortals" booklet on pages 33–34, with accompanying charts on pages 35–36. Orcus and Demogorgon are said to command all the other demons described in the book, although they are but two of the many Eternals of the Sphere of Entropy. Orcus (also called The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, and The Black Prince) commands all mortals of the Sphere of Entropy, which includes undead monsters, and he also commands a small body of loyal Immortals. The book notes that Demogorgon can even command Orcus, although he requires great and sufficient cause to do so. In this version, Orcus attacks with any convenient weapons, wielding one in each hand.[10] In Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Orcus's history was fleshed out somewhat; he was said to have been a devil swine (a kind of shape-shifter who changes between the form of a fat human and a wild pig) in the long-ago kingdom of Traldara on the world of Mystara. His hatred for all life was sufficient to draw the attention of the Immortal Thanatos, who sponsored Orcus's own successful bid for Immortality.[54]:31 The article "The Known World Grimoire" by Bruce A. Heard in Dragon #196 (August 1993) mentions that the orcish Tribe of the Sea Plague has Oruguz (also known as Orcus) as their patron. Oruguz is part of the pantheon of the orcs of the Dark Jungle, and the tribe that serves him is led by devil swine, which enforce the precepts of Oruguz among the tribe.[55]:45-46
  • The Ghostwalk campaign setting sourcebook details Orcus as a lesser deity, "a powerful demon who became a deity by exchanging power for mortal worship". Orcus worship is the official religion of Xaphan, but is considered an evil cult in all other places. Orcus seeks to dominate or destroy all other deities.[21]:85

Other publishers have also used Orcus as either an antagonist or as a deity in their own publications.

  • Orcus was also featured in the 2002 book Tome of Horrors (an ENnie award winning[56])[57] by Necromancer Games, who have also featured Orcus in many of their own products.[58][59] Necromancer Games also uses Orcus as their company mascot[60] and logo.[61]
  • Orcus is briefly mentioned as the “Prince of Undead” in the Book of Fiends II[62] by Green Ronin Publishing.
  • Goblinoid Games in their Classic Fantasy Review, dedicated to the D&D spin off system OSRIC, introduces a cult of Orcus in their second publication.[63]
  • Orcus was described in Book of the Damned—Volume 2: Lords of Chaos from Paizo Publishing (2010).[64]

Other media

Orcus's aspect appears in the D&D Miniatures: Archfiends set #47, released in 2004.

In 2010, Wizards of the Coast also released a full sized gargantuan figure of Orcus as part of their Icons line.

In other games

The Demon Prince Orcus in the NetHack computer game is based on the Dungeons and Dragons Orcus, (see Orcus (mythology)).[65]


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