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Frazetta's Death Dealer on the battlefield

Death Dealer


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

The Death Dealer is a 1973 painting by famous fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. It could be called iconic, as it is one of the best-known bits of 1970s fantasy art and representative of the rather metal approach to such back then. Another reason to call it iconic is that it has since become an aesthetic cliché, with many imitators overs the decades.

This image was spun off in various ways, including in a series of novels published during the 1980s. Which is what we’ll cover here.


Background

  • Real Name: Gath of Baal.
  • Other Aliases: The Dark One.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unrevealed.
  • Group Affiliation: The Grillards.
  • Base Of Operations: The Great Forest Basin, sometimes Mobile.
  • Height: 6’3” Weight: 225 lbs.
  • Eyes: Dark Grey Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

Gath is a powerful man, more beast than man. He grew up in the Shades after freeing himself from slavers, whom he escaped from at some unknown point, early in life. He grew up in the wilds and was forced to survive on his own.

He is the epitome of the barbarian lifestyle and is extremely good at survival, be it against the land or its people. His powers grew when he obtained the Horned Helmet.

The Horned Helmet

The Helmet gives him the power to sense any and all kinds of danger – even carrion ants under the ground. It also augments his perceptive abilities. He can feel through the Helmet as if it was an extension of his own body. All these effects are always active.

Due this overflow of stimulus to his senses, and the will of the Helmet, Gath cannot sleep and can barely rest while the Helmet is on.

The helmet caused him to become twice as strong and tough, to the point that his chainmail is stretched to the limit. This is also true in that he can take more punishment and rarely succumbs to injuries he has taken in battle. The Helmet also counteracts the effects of poisons and toxins in his body and makes their effects wear off in less time.

The Helmet acts kind of like a drug, in that he is invigorated by it and can become addicted to its effects, to an certain extent.

Other properties of the Helmet

The helmet can fire bolts of fire from its eyes, which has saved him on many occasions. It has demonstrated a couple of other powers as well, like firing bolts of lightning into the sky and causing the Earth to quake, but that was during the second book while the Helmet was in control.

I just assumed that is was for dramatic purposes, the Helmet’s rage at being denied a chance to ravage Robin after a battle, but that is mentioned only once.

At first, the helmet could not be removed, except by the hand of a virtuous maiden or powerful magic. The Helmet tries to gain control of its wearer and brings out the worst in him. Insatiable for battle, with horns writhing, it is constantly trying to kill and destroy, even the host who stole it.

The helmet was brought under control by the power of the White Vesta. Gath could remove it himself afterwards. It no longer tries to kill Gath and he sometimes lets it dominate him in battle, to an extent.


History

“In an age before Atlantis rose, an age rife with sorcery and violence, the earth trembled beneath the all-conquering hooves of the Kitzaak Horde. Only one man, Gath of Baal, dares to confront the Kitzaak lances, to stand between the never-defeated armies and the lush valley that will, long millennia in the future, be known as the Mediterranean Sea.
To save the peaceful people of the forest, Gath must dice with the gods, and the price he must pay is to become death made flesh, The Prisoner of the Horned Helmet.”

So we are introduced to the first book in a series of 4. Our hero, Gath of Baal, of which there is not anything known, at the time, is asked by Cobra, the Queen of Serpents, to help her in protecting the Great Forest Basin from the invading Kitzaak Horde.

Gath, even though he is ill equipped, defeats an entire scouting regiment of the advancing Horde. He makes this stand in defending and eventually collapsing the bridge that the regiment is crossing to enter into the region. By “ill equipped” I mean that Gath is armed with an iron axe called an elephant killer, wooden shield, and hide armor against the lacquered bamboo and steel armed and armored invaders.

The Grillards

The Horde is in search of slaves to sell in its far off and all encompassing empire in the East. The carnage of his escapade is witnessed by a group of traveling Grillards, or entertainers. Their leader Brown John is in the business of desiccated the bodies to make totems. He sells to people in a vain attempt to ward off the Horde.

Along with the totems, the Grillards spread the tales of Gath’s victory.

Classic Death-Dealer painting by Frazetta

The Grillards know of Gath because they trade wine with him. The barter for meat that he has killed in the inhospitable region of the forest where he dwells, called the Shades. Gath realizes, after much argument, that his equipment is ill suited to handle the likes of the Horde. He takes the offer of Cobra.

Unknown to Gath, Cobra has secretly made a potion and given it to two champions of the Horde. Her goal is to “persuade” Gath to do her bidding and that of her master, The Lord of Darkness, who sees Gath as a prime addition to his ranks. Gath is also given armor of steel chainmail.

After repairing his bent axe, Gath returns the young maiden Robin Lakehair to her village. Brown John had also convinced her to help persuade Gath to help.

Finding the helm

While in the village, it is attacked by a regiment of the Horde lead by the two champions, one armed with a two-handed sword and the other a large axe. Gath eventually defeats them and frees the villagers.

Later, Gath is recuperating in his tree cave, which he shares with a large timber wolf named Sharn. Cobra comes visiting again and tells Gath that she has a weapon capable of defeating the Horde. She then proceeds to lead him to the Smoking Lands, a volcanic region. This is where she dwells and runs the Temple of the Master of Darkness, located within a living volcano.

She leads Gath through a primordial swamp to arrive in the Smoking Lands. She takes him past her guard of Demonspawn, which she had created, and shows him the living altar to her Master. Inside the skull of a giant saurian is a dark object with horns.

Heedless of the flames from the heart of the volcano, which envelop the object, Gath reaches in and takes the helmet. He then does the unthinkable and puts it on!

Under the helm

Amazingly, Gath destroys the Temple of The Master of Darkness by destroying the main support. He escapes as it is collapsing around him. After a brief struggle with the helmet, and finding he cannot remove it, he takes off home on foot, through the swamp.

The denizens of the swamp, under Cobra’s command, proceed to stop him. The whole time the Helmet is trying to break Gath as well. It won’t let him rest or sleep because its senses are overwhelming.

He goes on through the swamp after many fights with its reptilian protectors, whom the Helmet has let him know of. Eventually he arrives back in the Shades after a week of fighting and travels with no rest. Almost dead with exhaustion, Gath passes out in the Shades and is found by Robin, who has been looking for him. She approaches the strange horned figure and realizes it is Gath.

With his last ounce of strength he tries to fend her off, with no use. Seeing that he is unsuccessfully trying to remove the Helmet, she steps in to lend him a hand and magically lifts the Helmet off his burned and ashen face. At this he collapses in pain and exhaustion. Robin with the help of Sharn is able to drag him to his home where she tries to nurse him to health.

The great war

What follows is Gath’s adventures as the leader of the Barbarian Horde of the Great Forest Basin that eventually defeats the invaders. Gath then proceeds to the desert capitol of the Kitzaak forces in this area. There he defeats the Warlord Klang, who has been “helped” by Cobra with a magical potion that turns him into a giant lizardman.

Gath defeats him after a huge personal battle. Brown John then captures Cobra, in snake form, as she tries to escape.

Other adventures include the battle with the Black Vesta, another consort of the Master of Darkness. It ends with Robin absorbing the Jewels of the White Vesta and becoming a goddess in recluse. She uses her new abilities to tame the Helmet and it can be removed by Gath.

Thus begins his wanderings and the search for his past, which takes him to many places with The Master Of Darkness and his servants around every corner, trying to get the helmet back.

Queen of Cats

After the second book, Gath wanders throughout the rest of the Kitzaak Empire, mostly as a pit fighter/gladiator, taking on all challenges. He eventually winds up traveling with a Hunter/ Trainer in search of Noon, the Queen of Cats. This takes Gath into the Great Jungles of the South. It is there that Gath starts to succumb to his more bestial side.

The Hunter, known as “Big Hands” is in search of the Queen of Cats so that she can be sold to the High Priest of the Butterfly Goddess. He is the patron of the Kitzaak Empire, who is also a High Priest of the Master of Darkness in secret.

With the help of Big Hands’ dark sorcery and the overwhelming lull of the jungle, Gath becomes a beast in mentality. He loses it after he defeats the “King of the Jungle”, a giant sabretoothed cat and proceeds to mate with Noon herself.

After being brought back to reality by a slave boy and memories of Robin, he realizes who he really is. Gath proceeds to free the animals and Noon herself from the cages of Big Hands. This cage was rigged to call in animals by exuding the scent of the captured Queen of Cats.

He then realizes on the trip home that Big Hands was the one who captured Robin and killed Sharn in the first kidnapping of Robin from the first book.

Into the desert

We are also told of some of Gath’s origin. He is from this very jungle where he had been orphaned. He was suckled at the teat of a jungle wolf, before he was captured as Noon was.

Gath tells Big Hands who he is – the Death Dealer, rather than an imitator. Big Hands gets scared and runs off into the desert. Gath quietly follows on foot with the Helmet on and spewing flames. Big Hands runs and runs but Gath is always on the horizon, following him at a leisurely pace.

Between the desert heat, lack of water and magic drugs, and his own impeding doom, Big Hands goes insane. He dies from exposure, robbing Gath of killing him. Big Hand’s freed slaves then pick Gath up and they decide to return to the Great Forest Basin.

When they return to the Great Forest Basin, Gath is in search of Robin, who had been married for the past 3 years that Gath had been away.There is a “plague of knives” on the land, which is after traveling entertainers, of which Robin is one. It is really a band of assassins who have been magically enhanced by the Black Vesta, who wants the jewels back from Robin.

Back to Robin

Robin and the Grillards have traveled to a big gathering of entertainers to Whitecastle. There, a grand performance to the White Vesta is to be held. Robin is to reveal herself as the living Goddess during the act.

The forces of the Black Vesta besiege it. Robin is placed under house arrest by the corrupt Priests of the White Archers. She is to be ritually raped and beaten just as the original White Vesta was.

Needless to say Gath eventually arrives and destroys an approaching siege tower by himself. He then gets smuggled into the castle. There he helps relieve the siege and defeat the forces of the Black Vesta. Robin’s husband is severely wounded in the diversion that gets Gath inside, and dies after a couple of days in agony.

Through trickery and good command the army is defeated. Gath fights the general, who has been magically enhanced by the Black Vesta, by throwing his Helmet at it. As the general puts it on, his brain is cooked from the heat and it tales time for the body to come under control of the Helmet as it is growing.

It is during this lull that Gath fights him. He eventually pushes him into a giant lime tree that had been possessed by the magic of the Black Vesta earlier to kill Gath. The tree senses the Helmet and rips the General to pieces.

It all ends with a happy ending with Gath and Robin declaring their eternal love for each other and it is assumed they live happily ever after.


Description

Gath is a muscular large man with knife cut black hair and piercing grey eyes. He wears a suit of dark chainmail with a chain skirt under a black tunic. He wears a helmet of dark living metal. When not on his head, the helm is strapped to his wide belt that has a skull motif on the buckle.

This is accompanied with a dagger and sword of excellent Kitzaak steel. But his main weapon is a large single bladed axe which he often wields two handed, when not using a large shield that has a stylized falcon on it front.


Quotes

(A man, who is pointing a crossbow at him, refuses to put it away) “Why do you argue? Do you want to die?”

“Rrooaarr !!!”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

The Death Dealer

Dex: 08 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Anti-Heroic Thrill of Adventure
Int: 09 Wil: 05 Min: 08 Occupation: Adventurer
Inf: 06 Aur: 08 Spi: 09 Resources {or Wealth}: 003 (barters meat for stuff mostly)
Init: 027+ HP: 075

Skills:
Animal Handling: 08, Charisma (Intimidation): 08, Gadgetry (Build Gadget): 05, Martial Artist: 07, Military Science (Danger Recognition, Field Command, Tracking): 09, Vehicles(Water): 08, Weaponry(Horned Helmet, Melee, Missile): 10

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (The Shades), Confidants (Brown John, Robin Lakehair), Iron Nerves, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Local Hero (The Great Forest Basin), Sharp Eye, Stabilization.

Connections:
The Grillards (High).

Drawbacks:
Enemy (The Master of Darkness), MIA toward Robin Lakehair, Minor Rage, Misc. Limitation (Gadgetry is limited to Iron Age Technology, usually armor and weapons), SIH toward Demonspawn.

Equipment:

  • HORNED HELMET [BODY 14 INT 01 WIL 07 MIN 06 /INF/ 09 /AUR/ 09 / SPI/ 12, Hardened Defenses, EV 06 (08 w/ Martial Artist), Accuracy (Perception): 09, Animate Object: 06, Damage Capacity: 06, Danger Sense: 12, Flame Project (eyes): 10, Growth: 01, Mind Over Matter: 10, Personality Transfer: 07, Systemic Antidote: 06, Bonus: Danger Sense RAP’s gained add to the Next Initiative, Limitations: Animate Objects works only on Helmet’s Horns and is usable only by the Helmet itself, Personality Transfer is only used by the Helmet only to posses the wearer, Note: All Powers Mystically Linked, All Skills Powered and Mystically Linked ; see “Possessed !” below].
  • CHAINMAIL [/BODY/ 07, Skin Armor:2, Limitation: Skin Armor only works vs. slashing attacks, Drawback: Real Armour].
  • Battle Axe [BODY 10, EV 05 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist]].
  • LARGE SHIELD [BODY (Hardened Defenses) 05, EV 03, Recommended STR 02, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 3 APs, Note: the OV bonus for the Shield Cover Manoeuvre is 3 APs].
  • Sword [BODY 06, EV 04 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist]].
  • Dagger [BODY 05, EV 03 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist]].
  • Black Warhorse (see below).

Possessed !

When possessed through the helm’s Personality Transfer (which the helm can reapply at will), the wearer can no longer heal or sleep. Psychological Drawbacks worsen by one step (MIAs become SIAs, SIHs become CIHs…), a Catastrophic Rage is gained, and the Growth becomes Always On.

Note that, if the helmet attempts to Personality Transfer into a subject with a MIN below 06, it automatically attacks the subject with its Flame Project before it gets to do its Personality Transfer Dice Action.


Black warhorse

Dex: 02 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Equine
Int: 01 Wil: 01 Min: 02 Occupation: Warhorse
Inf: 01 Aur: 01 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: Some hay
Init: 006 HP: 000

Powers:
Running: 05

Skills:
Martial Artist (AV): 03

Advantages:
Iron Nerves.

By Jason Brezina.

Source of Character: Four Books by Frank Frazetta and James Silk, not to mention the paintings.

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Andrew Lee, Dr. Peter S Piispanen, Billy Wendeln.

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