Karsus

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Karsus
Alignment True Neutral
Divine Rank Dead God, Vestige
Pantheon Core, Faerûn
Portfolio The folly of arrogance and ambition, unending hubris
Domains Grants no spells or domains
Home Plane Prime Material
Worshippers Karsites, Binders, Thaumaturgists, Netherese

Karsus, also referred to as "The Momentary God" was the Netherese wizard responsible for casting the single 12th level spell and causing the death of Mystryl: Goddess of Magic in the early editions of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Notable not only as a plot point, his legacy has reappeared from edition to edition, in the Forgotten Realms and the Core settings under various guises and incarnations.

History[edit]

Karsus was a prodigy of magic born during the golden age of ancient Netheril when they fought against a magical alien race known as the Phaerimm. He was a 41st level Wizard who was fed up with seeing his nation slowly wither out no matter how much he and his kinsmen worked their mortal magic and/or prayed to the Gods to intervene on their behalf. So he took the logical next step, reasoning that if you want a job done correctly you bloody well better do it yourself; and he developed a spell that would give himself the power of the Gods so he could set things right: Karsus Avatar, the only 12th level spell ever created in the whole history of the Forgotten Realms.

His chosen target was none other than the goddess Mystryl who was the god of magic at the time. Upon casting, Karsus succeeded in seizing control of her powers and mastery magic for a short time and was really awesome. But Jafar Karsus never considered the other responsibilities that came with PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWAH! and magic everywhere on the planet went wild because even a 41st level caster does not equate to a level-uncapped deity that handles fucking magic everywhere. In short Karsus ruined everything for everybody on that day. Luckily in a last gasp of defiance, Mystryl sacrificed herself and placed all of her powers into a young female wizard and rose again as Mystra. Marking the first in the goddess's long line of deaths and rebirths.

Karsus turned to red-hued stone and crashed from the sky into the region that would become later known as the High Forest. He is definitely dead, but his spirit remains intact, though broken due to the realisation of what he has done to the world, and bound in eternal torment to relive the moment that magic was torn asunder.

Karsus Avatar[edit]

Little is known about the 12th level spell he used to wrestle control of the Weave from Mystryl. All of Karsus' notes regarding its development were obliterated by the successor goddess Mystra upon her ascension. And not only that, but just to make sure no idiot ever could successfully fuck up the mulitverse so bad again by getting the same idea and successfully reproducing a similar spell; Mystra's changed the Weave itself, rendering spells higher than 9th simply non-functional. Even the Spelljammer spells (10th and 11th) need special exceptions made for them, and good luck finding somebody who still knows how those work in Toril, which has been decaying for centuries.

A few snippets of information did survive, though. What is known is that the material components used to cast the spell are incredibly difficult to come by; one of which requires a potion made from a combination of Tarrasque blood and bile from a 12 headed hydra, in which the gizzard of a Gold Dragon needs to be dipped.

Legacy[edit]

Though the body of Karsus turned to stone and resides in the High Forest, his spirit lingers in the Material Plane. No deity would touch his soul and take it to the afterlife.

Unfortunately for Karsus, eternal torment encased in stone is not enough. Shortly after his followers began creating a city around the site of his statue, an old enemy lich called Wulgreth moved in and split Karsus soul into fragments, causing any attempt to free him to immediately fail.

One fragment radiates ephemerally within the High Forest, creating a sphere of magical chaos known as the Dire Wood. During the Time of Troubles the Avatar of Azuth came to the forest and created a magical ring around the wood preventing any further spread outwards, but otherwise leaving the site in its chaotic state.

A second fragment exists bound to the petrified heart of Karsus itself, radiating a permanent emotion spell that overcomes any spell resistance, and brings feelings of intense sadness and powerlessness. The radius of this effect is variable, and likely related to the sphere of magical chaos caused by the first fragment.

A third fragment of his soul is bound within a red-stone golem carved in the appearance of Karsus as he did in life, though the golem constantly bleeds from a gaping hole in its chest. The golem protects the site of Karsus' petrified body and attacks any intruders it encounters, but if the golem is ever destroyed it always reforms within 24 hours.

Vestige[edit]

The consciousness of Karsus can still be contacted and communicated with, existing as a Vestige in the in-between spaces of the planes. Binders can summon a manifestation of Karsus, which takes the form of a bleeding red boulder (much like his petrified mortal form) which speaks in fountains of blood.

When binding Karsus to themselves, unlike other vestiges his sign and influence on the host is subtle. He does not alter the appearance of the binder, rather he makes them bleed far more profusely from their injuries, though this is merely cosmetic and makes wounds look a lot worse than they are. Weak-minded binders who fail to assert dominance over his personality will find that they are overcome by his legendary arrogance, and are incapable of relating to others via Diplomacy checks and instead are required to either use lies or intimidation to get what they want.

When bound to the essence of Karsus, the binder does become more naturally adept with magical items and auras. They can use magical items as if they were wizards and further increase the save DCs for every magic item that they use. They also can sense magic as if they were under a constant Detect Magic effect. Their strongest ability is probably the fact that they can Dispel Magic with a simple touch and can negate spells cast on creatures or items, or even temporarily suppress permanent effects.

Shades[edit]

Karsus not only triggered the death of Mystryl, but he also unwittingly destroyed his own nation of Netheril due to the momentary failure of magic causing all of its floating cities to drop out of the sky. Except for one; the City of Shade (properly called Thultanthar) which had passed into the Plane of Shadow, so avoided the fate of all the others.

In fact, the whole reason Thultantar passed into the realm of shadow was thanks to Karsus' own apprentice: Telamont Tanthul who had studied the planar sciences and had actually moved the city into the plane of shadow a few days before the casting of Karsus' Avatar, but coincidentally became trapped there while magic in the Prime Material went to shit... inadvertently saving the last of the Empire, but also setting in motion a faction that would become villains in later editions.

Karsites[edit]

Although Karsus did not have any direct "successor" (with the possible exception of Telamont Tanthul) he did sire a lot of bastard children through various servants and slaves. These children were uniquely affected by the events of Karsus' Folly and would pass their inherited traits down through the generations, creating an entire sub-race of humans, but occasionally popping up at random whenever the bloodline of Karsus flows particularly strongly in the regular population. These children of Karsus are known as Karsites.

The "curse" (or blessing) of Karsus provides an complete inability to cast spells, coupled with an innate resistance to magic and the ability to drain magical energies. Furthermore, spells that fail to affect them due to their resistance actually heal them instead.

These Karsites appear typically human but can be identified by one pale eye and a white shock of hair. Though if they are not aware of their heritage, particularly if they were born from a random inheritance of Karsite genes, they may not even realize that they are different from their peers, since few commoners ever get exposed to magic in normal society. Karsites who are aware of their heritage may congregate into communities where the bloodline breeds true; these Karsites have discovered the legends of Karsus and the means to bind his vestige, creating the belief that Karsus is actually a god, albeit a nihilistic deity who does not grant any spells, but demands the eradication of arcane spellcasters as well as other religions, so that they can establish themselves as the ruling caste of humanity and install Karsus as the one-true-god.

The deities of 5th edition Forgotten Realms
Lawful Neutral Chaotic
Good Ilmater - Nobanion
Torm - Tyr
Chauntea - Deneir - Eldath - Enlil
Gwaeron Windstrom - Lathander
Mielikki - Milil - Mystra - Shiallia
Lliira - Lurue - Selûne - Sharess
Sune - Tymora - Valkur
Neutral Azuth - Helm - Hoar
Jergal - Kelemvor
Red Knight - Savras
Siamorphe - Ulutiu
Akadi - Ao - Auppenser - Gond
Grumbar - Istishia - Karsus
Kossuth - Oghma - Silvanus
Tempus - Ubtao - Waukeen
Finder Wyvernspur - Ibrandul - Leira
Mask - Shaundakul - Uthgar
Evil Asmodeus - Bane
Gargauth - Gilgeam
Loviatar
Auril - Bhaal - Myrkul
Shar - Velsharoon
Beshaba - Cyric - Garagos
Malar - Moander - Talona
Talos - Umberlee