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Larloch (pronounced: /ˈlɑːrlɒk/ LAR-lock), called the Shadow King, was a Netherese male human and a lich. He was the former Sorcerer-King of the enclave of Jiksidur in ancient Netheril and later the master of the Warlock's Crypt and Shadow King of its undead inhabitants. He was one of the oldest non-draconic beings in Faerûn and one of the most powerful mages.
As a lich of such extreme age, Larloch's body was greatly decayed, with his flesh entirely gone and leaving only his white-boned skeleton. In his empty eye-sockets were two orbs of red light in place of eyes. On occasion, streaks of emerald energy moved about his body, and were a side-effect of his defensive curses.
Larloch possessed incredible power and was a superintelligent genius. Over two thousand years, he'd composed perfect plans to deal with nearly every possible situation, and even for things he was not prepared for, he could come up with an almost-perfect response in moments. He was a talented and cunning inventor of new spells, magic items, and magical techniques and strategies.
Larloch once claimed he only sought greater Art, to become more skilled and powerful in the use of magic. As such, he would not battle the servants of the goddess of magic, Mystra, whom he called "the Lady", saying that "No matter how powerful one becomes, there are always those who are stronger." He desired only to be left alone by the outside world.
He usually killed intruders outright, but occasionally enjoyed speaking with captive adventurers before killing them. Some he freed to perform certain services, albeit with horrific curses and geases to ensure completion. He had a code of conduct to these things and kept his word, completely freeing and restoring those who were successful, provided they did not attempt to deceive or assault him.
In time, Larloch rose to become Sorcerer-King of the enclave of Jiksidur in Netheril. At some point, he fashioned the Death Moon Orb, a powerful artifact that allowed him to charm and mentally control the members of his court, to spy on his enemies and learn their plans, and to summon powerful fiends from the Outer Planes. It did so successfully, and Larloch ruled for many years, gaining great power. In time, he underwent a transformation into a lich.
In the Year of Sundered Webs, −339 DR, Larloch had Jiksidur hovering high over east Faerûn to spy on the rival empires of Narfell and Raumathar. A contingency spell warned Larloch that Jiksidur was facing impending doom, and he fled the city riding a dragon. Very soon after, Netheril suffered Karsus's Folly, all magic failed, and Jiksidur fell from the sky to crash into northern Narfell, utterly destroyed. Thus Larloch survived the fall of Netheril, as one of its last arcanist-kings.
Some months after the fall, Larloch discovered the ruins of Orbedal, the enclave ruled by his archrival Rhaugilath the Ageless. He claimed the city as his own and constructed himself a crypt out of its broken towers, Larloch's Crypt. Once complete, he set about fully exploring the ruins. After many years, he discovered Rhaugilath, who'd been trapped in a subterranean pocket, and a vicious battle between the two erupted. Larloch was victorious and he bound Rhaugilath to serve him. He became the first of Larloch's lich servitors.
The Shadow King
Since then, Larloch accumulated a vast collection of spells, magic items, and undead creatures to serve him. He became known as the Shadow King around the Sword Coast lands, and Orbedal was called "Larloch's Crypt", which was later corrupted into the name "Warlock's Crypt".
Over the centuries, a great number of adventurers attempted to defeat Larloch, but most failed; the bodies of many were reused as decorations in Warlock's Crypt or as undead servants. Some even claimed to have destroyed him, but Larloch always rose again. At least sixteen Red Wizards of Thay ventured into Warlock's Crypt, seeking to either kill Larloch or steal his magic, treasures and power, and all failed. All but one were destroyed.
The only one who survived was Szass Tam, Zulkir of Necromancy of Thay, who visited Warlock's Crypt around 1366 DR. What transpired was unknown to the outside world; Szass Tam described the Red Wizards who'd faced Larloch before him as "inept", to which Larloch agreed. The two came to some deal or alliance, the details of which were again unknown to outsiders. Larloch gave Szass several powerful magic items and artifacts—including his own Death Moon Orb, and Thakorsil's Seat—and granted him a number of hooded companions, to aid him in his plots to control Thay and the demon Eltab. In exchange, over a number of visits, Szass Tam gave Larloch several surviving treasures from the ruins of Jiksidur. One was a certain metal vest of great power called a "mantle", which Szass or his agents killed several Harpers for.
In the Year of the Tankard, 1370 DR, up to nine clones of Manshoon traded a number of spells known only to himself and the Zhentarim to quite a number of wizards, including Larloch, in exchange for sanctuary.
In the Year of Lightning Storms, 1374 DR, over two hundred liches attacked the Knights of Myth Drannor while seeking to corrupt part of the Weave. All bore Larloch's mark. A great many were defeated by the combined might of clockwork soldiers created by Mystra and the Knights, but the liches did succeed in corrupting dozens of baelnorns to their will, who also perished in the battle. Larloch later appeared to the Knights to apologize, explaining that he'd simply given the liches their freedom as a test, to see what they did with it, and called their actions foolish. He said he only sought greater power in the Art of magic, and would not battle those who served Mystra. He was fascinated by Storm Silverhand's silver fire, desiring its power for his own but fearing that it could destroy him. Storm allowed him a close look, and he said it was the first kindness he'd been given in a long time.
Prior to the Spellplague, Larloch worked with the Imprisoners to create Blueflame magic items, formed by imprisoning spirits within the items. His apparent goal was to preserve some of his power so that he might access it later. Mystra forbade her clergy to interfere, and the Simbul later theorized that the Blueflame items preserved some of the goddess's power, allowing her possible restoration.
In the Year of the Rune Lords Triumphant, 1487 DR, Larloch tried to become the new deity of magic by absorbing the wards of Candlekeep and the mythal of Myth Drannor. Before he could complete the draining of the mythal, however, he was stopped by the Srinshee and Elminster Aumar.
Larloch the Shadow King was an awesomely powerful lich mage, supported by his spells, an arsenal of magic items, and a range of undead powers. The true extents of his powers were unknown, and some were unique and of his own devising, having made a number of permanent magical modifications to his own body and lich nature via wish spells and rituals. He so well prepared it was extremely difficult to catch him by surprise.
As a lich, he possessed an aura of fear that terrified lesser creatures, and he was immune to the effects of cold and electricity, and to polymorphing and mind-affecting assaults. Larloch was also immune to one particular arcane spell of each level, though which were unknown to others, and too risky to try to find out. He was, however, vulnerable to the bite of a silvered weapon, which burned his undead flesh into smoke. This was a side-effect of the alterations made to his body.
He particularly made use of a variety of horrible curses, including defensive curses that left trails of emerald energy moving around his body. If Larloch touched another creature, or was touched by them, they were affected by a bestow curse spell, a loss of intellect and abilities, and a horrific change of appearance. A victim could appear withered and ghastly, or rotting and sore-ridden, or be slowly transformed into some ugly monster, limb by limb. Some of these took days or even weeks to take effect, and were hard to remove.
Larloch wielded a range of spells for attack, defense and utility, many quickened for immediate use. His tactics in battle were to simply overwhelm his enemies before they could even react, usually by casting haste, time stop, and the quickened spells in rapid succession. Against other spellcasters, he liked to counter and negate their own spells. Larloch modified a number of his spells so they required no components. He'd ingrained one spell of every level with no need for preparation, namely magic missile, web, dispel magic, arcane eye, animate dead, chain lightning, control undead, devastate undead, and energy drain, and could cast them once a day without components. A favorite tactic was to use devastate undead against his own minions, to drain their health and power his own.
If not particularly inclined to fight, or if actually pressed in combat, or just bored, Larloch would simply remove himself from the battle by using greater teleport, etherealness, by walking through walls or sinking through floors, or similar means. If he was threatened and seriously damaged, a contingency spell teleported him away. Either way, he returned to one of his safe rooms to rejuvenate.
Larloch sent his bonebats and skeletal giant bats ridden by undead servants, as well as stranger undead creatures, out of Warlock's Crypt to hunt for live creatures and travellers, especially live humans. These were brought to Larloch for his experimentations in undeath.
Larloch sometimes freed captive adventurers to perform certain services for him, such as retrieving a powerful but well-guarded spell or magical item, held for example by a Red Wizard or an archmage. However, to ensure completion, he placed on these lucky adventurers a number of geases and contingent curses. Abandoning the mission prompted a horrific transformation into a hideous monster, like a hook horror or a tanar'ri demon, one limb at a time. Larloch kept his word, however, and those who successfully performed their service were granted complete freedom and restored to their proper forms, provided they did not attempt to deceive or assault him.
Occasionally, Larloch allowed Rhaugilath to use either a dream or nightmare spell, at Larloch's choosing, to send a vision to some being Rhaugilath had scried upon. Rhaugilath used these visions to grant some small piece of Netherese lore to the targeted individual. Reportedly, those who received such visions heard Rhaugilath sigh and Larloch chuckle as the vision ended.
Over his many centuries, Larloch collected a vast hoard of spellbooks, spells, magic items and other treasures, including several artifacts. This consisted of every common arcane spell and many others, almost every magic item ever made, and most of the artifacts were commonly thought lost or destroyed, or not known at all to the outside world. His collection included several kinds of Netherese power scepter, rare and forgotten to later centuries. Outside the small arsenal he carried and used on a day-to-day basis, he had a collection valued at least 3,000,000 gp. He knew all their properties and functions well, and if attacked, or about to be, he could quickly equip anything he needed for his defense.
He wielded a staff of the magi and regularly wore bracers of armor +8, a cloak of resistance +5, a major vest of displacement, gloves of storing, a robe of eyes, and winged boots. He also had an amulet of the planes, an belt of proof against detection and location, a ring of three wishes, and a ring of x-ray vision. Some of these items were not in their standard forms. Among his possessions was a +1 light mace of disruption, permanently reduced to half its normal size; this was not used as a weapon, but as a focus for his devastate undead spell.
Impressively, over two dozen ioun stones orbited Larloch's head at all times, giving him a wide variety of powers, protections, and enhancements. Some were more powerful than their regular forms, and he had multiples of a few.
Among them was a small army of liches, numbering at least sixty by 1374 DR. Many were also survivors of Netheril, including Rhaugilath. Their loyalty was absolute, and ensured by some force of magic. Occasionally, he granted some of these liches their freedom, just to see what they would do. [note 4]
He ruled a city populated by undead, including liches, vampires, wraiths, wights, and legions of lesser undead creatures. A troop of trolls also defended the city. Larloch also sometimes summoned kastighur demons from the Barrens of Doom and Despair to serve him.
Larloch had dealings and trade with other powerful mages, such as one of the clones of Manshoon. He had an alliance or cooperated with Szass Tam, Zulkir of Necromancy of Thay, and they traded several artifacts and magic items.
Larloch was a talented and cunning inventor in the field of magic. He continually developed new spells, magic items, and strategies for the use of magic. He had a custom spell that allowed him to walk through walls. He also developed devastate undead to heal himself by sacrificing his undead servant creatures. Another spell attributed to him was Larloch's minor drain.
He could also create artifacts, such as the Death Moon Orb. It was created by Larloch in the time of Netheril with the intent to scry on and control his enemies and allies, and to summon fiends.
Larloch's servitor lich Rhaugilath dedicated himself to writing Of the Fall of Netheril, a complete history of Netheril. Larloch reviewed each chapter as it was completed, and they were delivered to Candlekeep to be archived in the library there.
Larloch dwelled in and ruled over the city of Warlock's Crypt. The name itself was a corruption of Larloch's name, and the name "Larloch's Crypt" came to cover the whole city. The tallest tower was Larloch's own home. Certain areas, caskets and cupboards contained magical traps that inflicted his powerful curses upon trespassers. Within the tower were special safe rooms that quickly rejuvenated undead bodies, to which Larloch could quickly relocate if attacked and seriously damaged, only to return revitalized soon after. He spent most of his time in these chambers.
Rumors & legends
A few mistaken minstrels incorrectly called Larloch "the Warlock" or "the Warlock King", after the Warlock's Crypt, but Larloch apparently took umbrage at being called a warlock. Composers of ballads naming him as such were supposedly kidnapped by creatures in the night and carried away to be tortured and turned into some undead thing by Larloch. Singing the ballad titled "The Warlock King" anywhere in three days' ride of the Troll Hills was not advised, lest Larloch overhear and be displeased. [note 5]
- Information attributed to Ed Greenwood, found in the Forgotten Realms FAQ of the REALMS-L Mailing List states that Larloch is "probably a 46th level evil-aligned wizard right now". However, the edition and date of this are unknown, and it contradicts Greenwood's own Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast, which puts him at only level 26 in 2nd edition. The similarity of 26 and 46 suggests one may be in error, but it is not known which.
- Lords of Darkness states that Larloch is nearly 2000 years old in 1372 DR.
- Larloch's continued existence after the Spellplague is implied, but not confirmed, in Elminster Enraged.
- The Death Moon Orb, already used by Larloch to control his court in Jiksidur, has the power to charm and mentally control others, suggesting that this may be the basis of Larloch's rule in Warlock's Crypt as well.
- With Larloch called the "Shadow King" where it was ill-advised to call him the "Warlock King", it seems likely that the former title was introduced as a substitute for the forbidden latter title.
- Video games
- Larloch is referenced in the video game Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear. Here he is referred to as the Overmind and the Shadow King. The lich that grants Gurn Coldhearth lichdom did so because of Coldhearth's assistance in freeing it from Larloch.
- Larloch makes an appearance in the video game Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition. In the Throne of Bhaal segment of Hexxat's story, he is revealed to be "L", the mysterious character whose orders Hexxat follows. He can, at Hexxat's choosing, grant her her wish of becoming human again (at the cost of her own life due to how much she had aged).
- Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 220. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 161–162. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
- Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 108. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- Alexander Lindsay (2018). Pools of Cerulean (DDAL07-16) (PDF). D&D Adventurers League: Tomb of Annihilation (Wizards of the Coast), p. 3.
- slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.
- Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 63–64. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- Anthony Pryor (June 1995). “Campaign Guide”. In Michele Carter, Doug Stewart eds. Spellbound (TSR, Inc.), p. 106–107. ISBN 978-0786901395.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd (1996). Volo's Guide to All Things Magical. (TSR, Inc), p. 104. ISBN 0-7869-0446-1.
- Dale Donovan (July 1998). Villains' Lorebook. (TSR, Inc), p. 128. ISBN 0-7869-1236-7.
- Ed Greenwood (February 2006). “Tears So White”. Realms of the Elves (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-3980-X.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 296. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 47–48. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 102. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 49. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- Anthony Pryor (June 1995). “The Runes of Chaos”. In Michele Carter, Doug Stewart eds. Spellbound (TSR, Inc.), p. 2. ISBN 978-0786901395.
- Anthony Pryor (June 1995). Spellbound. Edited by Michele Carter, Doug Stewart. (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 978-0786901395.
- Anthony Pryor (June 1995). “Campaign Guide”. In Michele Carter, Doug Stewart eds. Spellbound (TSR, Inc.), p. 9. ISBN 978-0786901395.
- Steven E. Schend, Sean K. Reynolds and Eric L. Boyd (June 2000). Cloak & Dagger. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 15. ISBN 0-7869-1627-3.
- Ed Greenwood (2011). Bury Elminster Deep. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0786958154.
- Ed Greenwood (May 2013). Elminster Enraged (Mass Market Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0786963638.
- Ed Greenwood (December 2014). The Herald. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0786965460.
- Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 186. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
- Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 102. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
- Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel (July 2006). Monster Manual IV. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-3920-6.
- BioWare (December 1998). Designed by James Ohlen. Baldur's Gate. Black Isle Studios.
- BioWare (September 2000). Designed by James Ohlen, Kevin Martens. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Black Isle Studios.
- Black Isle Studios (June 2000). Designed by Matt Norton. Icewind Dale. Interplay.
- Black Isle Studios (August 2002). Designed by J.E. Sawyer. Icewind Dale II. Interplay.