Difference between revisions of "Acererak"

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{{Greyhawk Character
{{Greyhawk Character
|caption=Acererak as he appeared when he was alive. From ''[[Vecna: Hand of the Revenant]]''. Art by Kevin McCann.
|caption=Acererak as he appeared when he was alive. From ''[[Vecna: Hand of the Revenant]]''. Art by Kevin McCann.

Latest revision as of 13:51, 16 January 2016

Greyhawk Character
Acererak as he appeared when he was alive. From Vecna: Hand of the Revenant. Art by Kevin McCann.
Homeland Vast Swamp
Gender Male
Race Half-fiend human
Age 800+
Class Magic-user/cleric
Alignment Neutral evil

Acererak was a powerful wizard who became a demilich.


Acererak is a demilich who abandoned his former lich body long ago. At the time of the Return to the Tomb of Horrors supermodule, Acererak was an incorporeal spirit who could inhabit the body of any undead creature within his Fortress of Conclusion, using it as if it were his own. He often took the form of a skeleton, winterwight, or floating skull.


Acererak was the son and, later, master of the balor Tarnhem, who took Acererak's mother, a human woman named Valinda, by force (RttToH:diary). Acererak was also a priest of Orcus, and an apprentice of Vecna. In life, he was the enemy of a paladin of Pelor named Pentival, and the wizard-architect who designed his tomb is called Morghadam. He is revered by a group of wizards known as the Covenenticle of Acererak. The necromancers of Skull City, former followers of Acererak, went on to form a group known as the Votaries of Vecna, making a new home in the Black Spire on the Plane of Shadow.

The githyanki necromancer Kastya Zurith-Movya seeks to return the true Acererak to existence as an ally against his people's lich-queen.


The Tomb of Horrors was long Acererak's home in undeath. As a demilich, he moved to the demiplane of Moil and the Fortress of Conclusion to complete his grand plans.

There is a shrine of Acererak, in the form of a five-foot statue of a humanoid skull, on the second layer of Pandemonium.



Acererak the Devourer was born a cambion, the product of a balor named Tarnhem who took his human mother by force. Apparently an ancient conjurer summoned a demon that was far beyond his ability to control. The demon devoured the wizard, and forcibly conceived a cambion son in one of the wizard's servant girls.

Acererak's mother survived her son's birth, but she was killed by a torch-wielding mob ten years later. The boy was rescued by none other than Vecna, the Whispered One, who killed the advisors that urged him to kill the child and instead took the half-demon on as an apprentice. Even then, ten year-old Acererak loathed life, looking forward to becoming undead like his master. During Vecna's siege of Fleeth, the lich was severely wounded and rescued by Acererak. Vecna subsequently promoted the cambion.

It is unknown if Acererak was present when Vecna was betrayed by Kas the Bloody-Handed in the fourth century before the Common Year. However, at some point he moved to the Vast Swamp where, between 1 CY and 215 CY (see The Scarlet Brotherhood, p. 4), he constructed a lair for himself, colloquially known as the Tomb of Horrors (and described in an adventure module of the same name). While alive, Acererak built a subterranean temple complex in the name of Orcus, burying its architect and all of its workers within. Eventually, Acererak succumbed to the lure of lichcraft, and had himself buried in a labyrinthine tomb where he committed himself to his studies and, eventually, demilichdom, abandoning his body for the planes beyond. Many adventurers over the years have attempted to raid Acererak's tomb, including Robilar and Tenser, but it is believed that none have been able to destroy him, despite some claims.

The sequel module Return to the Tomb of Horrors retconned and expanded on the setting. At some point, a group of necromancers settled the area outside the tomb, creating a community of sorts known as Skull City. Acererak's tomb was revealed to be a mere antechamber to the demilich's true dwelling, the lost city of Moil on the border of the Negative Energy Plane, where he had spent thousands of years working on a process to fuse his essence with the plane and gain control over all undead throughout the multiverse.

According to the Tome of Magic, Acererak, following his destruction by adventurers completing the Tomb of Horrors, passed on to become a vestige - an ineffable, amoral entity which can be summoned and bound by characters known as Binders. Acererak grants his summoner lich-like powers, including immunity to cold and the ability to speak with the dead. According to Return to the Tomb of Horrors, his scattered spirit will eventually reform, despite the loss of his phylactery.

According to the adventure "Prisoner of the Castle Perilous," Acererak created a simulacrum in the Negative Energy Plane to torment Saint Pentival, an old foe from his mortal life. This simulacrum has since transformed itself into a complete being through the aid of an artifact known as the Soul Machine.


Acererak is known to have penned the following tomes:

  • Acererak's Libram

Creative origins

Created by Gary Gygax and developed by Bruce R. Cordell much later, Acererak is probably inspired in part by Malygris, an undead archimage in Clark Ashton Smith's story, "The Death of Malygris."

Publishing history

Acererak makes an appearance in the 2009 adventure Revenge of the Giants. In that adventure, set on the 4th edition "core" world rather than Oerth, he is portrayed as a wizard who lived as a mortal human 600 years ago in the devil-worshiping empire of Bael Turath. Not yet evil at the time, he already had contingency spells active that would turn him into a lich after his death.


  • Brown, Lloyd III. "Wizard Societies." Dragon #258. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1999.
  • Carroll, Bart, and Steve Winters. "Open Grave: D&D Alumni." Wizards of the Coast. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
  • Cordell, Bruce R. and Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel. Planar Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2004.
  • Mullin, Robert S. "Arcane Lore: Greyhawk Grimoires II." Dragon #241. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1997.
  • -----. "Campaign Classics: Three Greyhawk Grimoires." Dragon #225. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
  • Schwalb, Robert J. Exemplars of Evil. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007.
  • -----. "Legacy of Acererak." Dragon #371. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
  • Slavicsek, Bill; Mike Mearls, and David Noonan. Revenge of the Giants. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.