|Aliases||The World Born Dead, The Moonlet, The Prime Mover (former name, sometimes)|
|Divine Rank||Greater Deity
Overdeity (formerly, sometimes)
|Pantheon||Primordials, Elder Evils|
|Portfolio||Death, destruction, fear|
|Domains||3E: Chaos, Evil, Corruption, Destruction, Death, Entropy, Undeath, Vile Darkness, Deathless, Moon
4E: Undeath, Death, Destruction, Darkness, Moon
|Home Plane||None known, but mainly seen on the Material Plane|
|Worshippers||Undead, Star Spawn, nihilistic/cynic individuals, necromancers, liches, Ur-Priests, cultists|
Atropus, the World Born Dead is an undead Primordial and Elder Evil who also happens to be an entire moon. Said to be as old as creation, this sentient celestial body goes around destroying planets since it has a hate boner for all life. Not even the gods can kill this thing, so all adventurers can really do against it is attempt to shoo it away before it plunges into their world and drains it of its positive energy. The most effective way of doing that is killing the Aspect of Atropus, but that requires venturing onto the undead-ridden surface of Atropus and finding it, and that's no small task. It is also considered the polar opposite of a different Elder Evil, Ragnorra.
Atropus is also speculated to either be the first Atropal or their source/creator, based on their similar names and origins - both are undead abominations that are said to be stillborn immortals.
In terms of crunch, Atropus itself has no stats (because let's face it, if the gods can't fight this thing head on neither can you - it's also a goddamn planet, how can you stat that?) but its Aspect is a high-challenge Gargantuan Undead that'll really only be seen as the final boss of a campaign featuring the undead moon.
Where the fuck did it come from?
While origins can vary between settings, all depictions have Atropus being as old as time - essentially being described as the afterbirth of Creation, a primal force of undeath that exists only to create more undead and snuff out all life.
In the Forgotten Realms specifically, scholars believed that the World Born Dead was accidentally created by Ao, either indirectly as a byproduct of the creation of the first god of death, or directly as a divine mistake - the last god created, stillborn in immortal undeath upon creation. However, both of these origin theories conflict with it being described as a Primordial, so whether Atropus is indeed the fault of Ao or not is up in the air (or up for the DM to decide).
In other settings, especially Greyhawk in 3/3.5E, Atropus was speculated to be, in fact, the undead remains of the 'Prime Mover', aka the creator of the universe, not just some accident created by a more powerful being. This former self apparently saw the chaos of what came before, and decided to create gods to shape it, but didn't bother to read the fine print for gaining the power to create and ended up dying after using up all his energy creating said gods. But since creator deities just don't die, they instead became the shriveled undead moon one witnesses in the present day. Essentially its said it destroys planets and absorbs their positive energy in order to restore itself to life, although doing so will require everything it created to be destroyed.
The surface of Atropus
The surface of Atropus is, expectedly, as barren and lifeless as the being itself wants the D&D multiverse to be. Unless its touching the atmosphere of a world that it's about to crash into, there's also no atmosphere, so unless you want to cut it extremely close you'll need some method of breathing up there. The only notable surface features besides Atropus' face is a bunch of steep mountains and ridges, spikes jutting up from the ground, and various craters. The surface is made of black stone, amniotic fluid, and undead flesh and blood, and the craters are often filled with noxious tar.
Besides the lack of oxygen, dangerous terrain, and the negative energy permeating the entire planetoid, the main threat upon Atropus is the legions of undead that inhabit the world, all born of nightmares. These include the aforementioned Atropals, as well as dread wraiths, nightwalkers, angels of decay, nightwings, rage winds, advanced deathshriekers, famine spirits, and the like. There's also a single dread boneyard on Atropus, though why there's only one on an entire planetoid of undeath makes little sense.
Since Atropus is also an Elder Evil a DM may also sprinkle in some Star Spawn and/or make being on Atropus maddening. Either way, be prepared to slaughter hordes of monsters on your way to the head(less) honcho...
The Aspect of Atropus
Chances are, finding and slaying this thing is why you even set foot on this abomination. A headless Gargantuan Undead (with a CR of 23 in 3E), the Aspect of Atropus is the final obstacle between a party and sending Atropus packing. It's definitely no pushover, and just standing near it is enough to get weakened considerably and take necrotic damage - and attempting melee is suicide anyways, since (depending on the edition) it's entirely immune to nonmagical damage. However, it can't teleport or otherwise force you into the range of its adverse effects, so its entirely possible to cheese it to death by keeping it at range and using all your best spells. Just watch out for its minions - its rarely alone.
Fluffwise, its said to be the body to Atropus's head. This makes absolutely no sense until one considers said body is a shell of its former self, and was likely XBAWKS HUEG in the past. Now its withered and fossilized to the point it can stand on its own head without adverse effects, but is still large enough to tower over giants. It also now acts a giant 'phylactery' for Atropus itself, being the center of its Eldritch intellect and unworldly power. While this makes it an Achilles' heel - something that's foiled the moon's deadly descent more than once - it does allow it to defend the core of its power with legions of undead, taken from the surfaces of worlds its devoured.
The reason why killing the Aspect forces Atropus to retreat is that killing it is like destroying a Lich's phylactery, only less permanent. Soon as it dies, many of its adverse effects on the targeted world vanish, including its ability to siphon positive energy. Atropus essentially flees because they can't do jack shit now that the Aspect is dead - and resurrecting it at the time of its fall likely would result in it just dying again. And orbiting until the Aspect revives is not an option either - since its power is weakened, the gods of that world have a window of opportunity to actually kill Atropus for good. As such, while convulsing from the backlash of the death of its aspect, it breaks orbit and shoots back into the void of space. The Aspect is never dead for too long though, and soon enough Atropus is back to destroying worlds.
Okay, but just how powerful is it?
Atropus' mere presence can affect entire settings, if their shadow (literal or not) isn't also hanging over the entire campaign. As it draws closer, undeath becomes more prevalent on the targeted world and necromancers get a significant boost in power (if they're not turned into undead or become liches to save themselves, though the latter situation does still give them the necromancy boost), while positive energy and thus divine magic is siphoned away by the encroaching moon.
Crunchwise this results in increasingly dire effects as the time of impact draws nearer - starting out small with a +2 casting level to Necromancy spells as well as a 20% chance for someone who died to be raised as a zombie in 1d4 rounds. Once the shape of Atropus is noticeable in the sky, there's a 40% chance for zombies to rise, and the entire setting is now treated as desecrated, meaning that consecration becomes a temporary nullification instead of its normal effects and permanence. It also means the undead risen by this time become even stronger.
Once Atropus' face is visible (and usually the time people realize it's definitely the World Born Dead), and until impact actually occurs (or is averted), bodies have an 80% chance of rising from the grave and even long-dead bodies resurrect as skeletons, mummies, etc. The entire setting now counts as Unhallowed, meaning Turning is now nigh-impossible and the undead are much stronger - while simultaneously Good-aligned beings and anyone who taps into divine magic are weakened considerably.
Then there's what happens when Atropus actually manages to touch down. As well as the ramifications of a moon-sized body crashing into a planet (spoiler: nothing good), this moment is when all the life energy and positive energy of a world is assimilated by the Primordial. Anything that survives impact is killed and revived as an undead horror by this (and if you died in the impact or somehow weren't revived before it, you'll still become one), and all the undead created in this as well as prior to the impact embark onto Atropus' surface to leave the dead husk behind, becoming part of Atropus' surface legions.
The Forgotten Realms gave us proof that Atropus is capable of this, when it was first spotted in that realm; sages in Faerun first identified it after it had wiped clean the world of Glyth, an entire planet of Illithids and their slaves. It was mistaken for a planetoid in the rings of the world, and apparently had been attracted there by the death and destruction the mind flayers inflicted upon the other races. And the sages only noticed it after Glyth had been decimated. Doesn't bode well for the future, considering that of the select few that know of Atropus' existence, only a fraction of them know that Atropus may have set their sights on Toril next, wishing to purge the lush world of everything on it.
Since Atropus is an Elder Evil, some evil Warlocks, Wizards (particularly Necromancers), or Death Domain Clerics (or Ur-priests in older editions), as well as cults, may serve it. Usually these are NPCs or outright villains, but theoretically a player Warlock can take Atropus as a Great Old One or Undead patron if the DM allows it. However, someone with Atropus as a patron will more often than not be (chaotic) evil and/or cynical, so unless the reason why someone is worshipping an apocalypse-bringer is tagging along with a group that's usually tasked with stopping it is well explained, or the DM has plans to work you into their plot, you'll probably be forced to change patron. You may also be forced to give up control of your character at some point, especially if Atropus itself shows up.
Followers of Atropus (that the World Born Dead is consciously aware of, or have been contacted by a Star Spawn emissary of it) are directed to spread undeath as much as possible, as to prepare their world for the arrival of their master. They will often also seek out artifacts and/or writings that may bestow upon them the knowledge to expedite Atropus' arrival (and/or grab their attention) - though several of these are associated with Allip curses. The only surefire way to get one's hands on a method to call it is to obtain the Book of Vile Darkness. Particularly favored servants can be granted Lichdom, allowing them to survive Atropus-fall (without being turned mindless, anyway) and become a commander of their undead legions.
Follower overlap with Orcus is expected, since both beings have similar goals (the replacement of life with undeath). Sometimes Orcus will use Atropus to his own ends, as seen with a Bodak general of Orcus in the campaign.
How to tell if your DM is using Atropus
Besides the obvious 'someone or some cult is trying to call Atropus to the world', a sign that foretells the coming of Atropus is the undead rising with no other explanation and necromancy becoming more powerful, while divine magic begins to wane in strength. If this occurs, or you have the suspicion the campaign is leading to an encounter with the World Born Dead, it's best to keep an eye on the night sky (and never the sky in the day, as Atropus always keeps the planet it targets between it and the sun) - if the DM is indeed planning an Atropus encounter chances are you'll spot them, rock-face and all.
- Homebrew 5E stats for the Aspect of Atropus, as well as other Elder Evils. Be warned, they fixed the cheese (via teleporting its enemies to it as a lair action) and its now CR 29-30.