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Grim Dawn - Player Character original portrait - Battered warrior woman

Mardirossian, the Devil’s Executioner

(Grim Dawn) (part #2 - The Devil's Executioner cometh)


Context

This is the second part of our sample Grim Dawn Player Character  profile. Which directly follows the previous chapter.

(Larger version of the portrait.)

This profile is presented in three parts.

  1. (start there !).
  2. Grim Dawn part #2 – The Devil’s Executioner cometh (this document).
  3. .

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This man is your friend. He fights for freedom.

Here is a primer to the main factions and locations.

Aetherials

Invaders from another dimension . They can possess and warp people and even corpses. They’ve murdered the world during the titular Grim Dawn, and are trying to finish it off.

Erulan Empire

This was the dominant power in the area before the Grim Dawn. Now it has almost entirely collapsed.

Devil’s Crossing

A large prison at a crossroads. It was fortified by desperate Human refugees.

Grim Dawn - Game screenshot - Coffinmakers in Lower Crossing

Lower crossing, the burg outside of the Devil’s Crossing penitentiary. Click for a larger version.

Cultists of Ch’thon a.k.a. The Bloodbound

Serial-killing cultists worshipping a reality-destroying horror, Ch’thon the Dying God. They are fixated upon gathering absurd amounts of Human blood to fuel Ch’thonian magic. Can summon horrible monsters (“Chthonics”). Despise the Aetherials.

Burrwitch

A burg to the North-East of Devil’s Crossing. Surrounded by unpleasant marshes. Entirely controlled by Aetherials.

Old Arkovia

A long-since fallen kingdom, West of Devil’s Crossing. Full of undead and harpies. The road along the Arkovian coast links Devil’s Crossing and Burrwitch to the rest of the Erulan Empire’s corpse.


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Rovers

A nomad culture. These appeared after the Old Arkovian King abandoned his throne to live on the road. Rootless and associated with the fall of a Kingdom, the Rovers were often persecuted. Ironically, this helped them survive the Grim Dawn. They call themselves Rhowari, after the King’s name.

Homestead

A farming burg in an agricultural region of the Empire. It became the base for survivors of the Empire’s elite Black Legion. Their presence allowed the farmers to narrowly survive.

Black Legion

The remnants of this elite Imperial military corps are the main surviving Human fighting force. However, they are badly overstretched, exhausted and taking casualties as they need to hold on against the Bloodbound, the Aetherials, and opportunistic monsters.

Traditionally, the Legionnaires are criminals and reprobates forced into military service.

Fort Ikon

One of the Black Legion bases, North of Homestead. Unlike most military forts, it endured both the pre-Grim Dawn sabotage and the Grim Dawn. However it is barely holding, and is separated from Homestead by massive Bloodbound and Aetherial forces.

Kymon’s Chosen

A fanatical cult worshipping a nearly forgotten god, Empyrion the Lightbringer. Empyrion is thought to have abandoned Cairn long ago. Their cleansing magic fire have made them allies to the Black Legion and Mardirossian.

The hidden coven of Ugdenbog

These witches researched eldritch energies, so the Inquisition hunted them. And they refused to kowtow to the Witch-Gods, so their cultists hunted them. The coven thus hides deep in the hostile, labyrinthine Ugdenbog.

Malmouth

A large, industrious port city in the North-East. It’s a bit like Liverpool during the late 1800s.


Soundtrack

Well, we can simply have the soundtrack of the game for atmosphere. Makes sense to me, ajo.


Powers & Abilities, part 2

Mardirossian’s magical abilities are a complicated mix of :

  1. Her native magical energies.
  2. Having been pumped full of aether energies as she was possessed by a senior Aetherial leader. Most of it is still there, and she can (and does) absorb more.
  3. Low-key magic granted by known gods for re-consecrating shrines. Such as the resolve of Menhir or the vitality of Mogdrogen.
  4. Markedly less low-key magic drawn from the stars. For instance, astrological alignment with the constellation of the Tempest considerably reinforces her lightning.
  5. Unclear (even to herself) ties to forgotten gods such as Ultos.
  6. Minor corruption stemming from insanity, heavy exposure to the supernatural and the vast amount of carnage Mardirossian wrought.
  7. An arsenal of magically-enhanced weapons and armour, plus lots of gris-gris  of strength or protection.

This highly improbable combination of powers seriously adds up. As she conducts her grim work, Mardirossian rises to heroic power levels.

Ride the lightning

Among other effects, this greatly bolsters her once-minor kakhard p’vot’voriki magic. The main applications are :

  • Weapons charged with crackling current that explosively discharges upon impact.
  • Calling small lightning strikes with but a gesture. Such as shearing the air above her with her weapon, leaving a sort of brilliant white tear from which lightning rains like hammers.
  • A “negative life force” electrical field around her. It can be focused to drain vitality from her opponents and heal her wounds.
  • Charged vital aura enhancing her strength, durability, charisma and endurance.
  • Creating bush-like structures that look like a giant sparks frozen in time. Contact with those slows and drains the living as well as the undead. She calls this “the eye of the Wendigo”, after a not-actually-mythical devouring spirit-god.
  • Charging the air around her so electrical arcs sear her nearby enemies, without her having to direct them.

Ride the aether

Mardirossian also has enough aetherial energy to open a gate to the interdimensional  wasteland. These are similar to the rifts that the Aetherial invaders have set up. But hers are much smaller, redder, and can only be maintained for so long.

Grim Dawn - Game screenshot - Violet aetherial portal

A lightning-wreathed Mardirossian emerges from a large Aetherial portal in the wilderness. Click for a larger version.

Once within the aetheric interdimensional space, it is possible to walk to another rift. Distances are much shorter there. But it’s best not to tarry. It may look deserted, but it isn’t.

Thus, a typical application would be, upon finding a refugee, to open a small rift. Mardirossian and the refugee crawl through, and she can take them to the Devil’s Crossing rift. There the refugee simply step through, back to the real world. Or what’s left of it.

However, it is important not to jump blind. One cannot tell what is on the other side of a rift. Thus, Mardirossian must first examine a rift in the conventional world. So she can recognise it when she sees it from the interdimensional world.

Halloween is on Friday the 13th !

Cairn corrupts. And Mardirossian, being perilously close to a psychotic axe-wielding mass murderer, is touched and empowered by this corruption. This grants her low-key abilities reminiscent of slasher movie villains, such as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.

One such trait is her mobility. She seldom runs, and walks with a clear limp and discomfort. Yet even when so ambling she can somehow keep pace with a fit person running. This often takes her enemies by surprise as she can cross a room with but a few shambling steps.

The other such trait is something of an “eternal return” ability. On several occasions the Devil’s Executioner was thought killed. But her corpse couldn’t be found as she would fall into a pit, disappear under a collapsing roof or in an explosion, be seemingly consumed by her own lighting, etc..

In every such case, Mardorissian was back within mere hours, none the worse for the wear.

(These are just flourish added to represent %move bonuses, and not playing in Hardcore mode.)


Gear

Weapons

The Executioner’s main weapon will be a heavy polearm. Usually it will be a bardiche, a poleaxe or a huge battleaxe. But she doesn’t really care. Mardirossian has also used sledgehammers, fauchards, halberds, vougues, lucern hammers… maybe even a glaive-guisarme. Gary Gygax  would have loved her.

Grim Dawn - Fight in the Old Arkovian underground - Lightning

Walking dead, bad. Frying dead, good. Click for a larger version.

Mardirossian often adds a special hook at the bottom of her weapon’s haft. It is used in a surprise tripping move, yanking out the legs of her opponents from under them. The Devil’s Executioner will then hack them into pieces while they’re prone.

Her usual firearm is a revolver-action shotgun. It has multiple barrels, since the action is a complex affair. The rear end of the barrels is actually behind the chamber, and stores extra shells that are cycled in as the action works.

As her lightning powers grow, the shotgun becomes used but rarely.

Her backup weapons include a solid steel truncheon and a snub-nosed heavy revolver (in .485 Yerevan Express), whose thick barrel is essentially a cube. Mardirossian hand-casts and hand-loads her revolver rounds, given the unusual calibre. But the backups are seldom used.

Body armour

The Devil’s Executioner wears assault armour. This means heavy plate, reinforced by whatever magical protection can be scrounged.

Assault armour is not meant to be worn for extended periods. But Mardirossian has a lot of experience with it, as well as electrically-enhanced endurance.

Early on she made do with whatever protection she could find, looting her way toward heavier armour.


Power level assumptions

As discussed in our video game FAQs, we use a few heuristics  to assess power level, particularly in MMORPGs and AARPGs. But in the end it’s a judgement call.

For Titan Quest, writeups.org ended up postulating a sample character with a high-ish power level. It wasn’t *necessary*, but it better aligned with the likes of Xena or “Sorbocules”. It also allowed for playing up the mythological angle.

In Grim Dawn, the narrative also imposes a respectable level of power. The Player Character seems roughly on par with an entire elite infantry platoon.


History – Grim Dawn Act 1

(Again, this directly follows .)

The walking dead

(This is where the in-game events start.)

The Burrwitch Prison at Devil’s Crossing was a refuge for the few local survivors. It was heavily fortified, the iron bars disrupted aetheric energies, and the survivors were led by an experienced soldier – Captain Bourbon. Their numbers also included an experienced witch-priestess and two technologists.

Grim Dawn - Artwork - Captain Bourbon and witch

The witch Sahdina advises Captain Bourbon to shoot the hanging rope loose.

Still, the Devil’s Crossing survivors knew that they could be overrun at any point. Scavenging for resources was also difficult. Even drinkable water was a major problem since rivers were full of corpses. There also was an aether rift right in the prison’s courtyard, which Aetherials could use to warp in if so inclined.

One Aetherial did come through the warp one day. It clearly didn’t expect to run into fortified Humans, and was caught into a binding ward set up by the witch.

Captain Bourbon decided to have it hanged. But as the body died the Aetherial fled in energy form. Alerted by the witch that the body was no longer possessed, Bourbon hesitantly cut the lynching rope.

Thus, the tough-as-nails Kerann Mardirossian survived both Aetherial possession, and a hanging. She had no memory whatsoever of events between the Grim Dawn in Arin Berd and her near-death in Devil’s Crossing.

Tank!

The refugees at the prison were highly reluctant to trust Mardirossian. This was doubly true after a doctor among them, Kasparov, determined that the newcomer’s body remained suffused with aetheric energy.

To assuage their fears, Mardirossian volunteered to check the origin of renewed undead attacks from the Northeast. She left alone into the ruins and bogs.

The area, all the way to Burrwitch, was crawling with zombies. Furthermore Mardirossian saw vampiric aether crystals dotting the land, facilitating Aetherial operations. As a side-effect, the crystals were mutating nearby animals into monstrous, crazed form. Howbeit, the mutated giant insects tended to attack the zombies to eat them.

Gunning down anything that even looked at her funny, Mardirossian secured much-needed resources. She also rescued a number of survivors, sending them to Devil’s Crossing. As she progressed, she and Bourbon pieced together what had happened in the area during the Grim Dawn.

Zombies. I hate those guys.

After experimenting with animals and random humans, Aetherials had possessed selected human in a position of power. In the Burrwitch area this had been Warden Krieg , who used to run the prison.

Grim Dawn - Map - pre-DLC - World

Map of the the area where the pre-DLC Grim Dawn game takes place. Click for a larger version.

“Krieg” used his prerogatives to disappear numerous prisoners to his large estate. There, he extensively and horrifically experimented on them.

That wasn’t the Aetherial plan. Their actual strategy was to stockpile cadavers and have Human scientists find ways to slow these bodies’ decay. The goal was to better field their possessed zombie army.

But the real Krieg had been subconsciously influencing his possessor. He had him grotesquely indulge in Krieg’s repressed sadistic side.

Mardirossian eventually invaded Krieg’s ghastly estate in Burrwitch. She slew the mighty possessed Warden. Though the area had been almost entirely conquered by Aetherial horrors, they were now in disarray due to their collective decisions-making process.

Zombies. They hate those guys.

A significant force of Ch’thon cultists had also been building up as they considered an assault against Burrwitch. However, Mardirossian crippled them before they could truly dig in. She eventually managed to assassinate their powerful leader Salazar , defanging the local Bloodbound forces.

One of the survivors Mardirossian rescued was one Ulgrim. This man said that he was a simple cook. He agreed to join the Devil’s Crossing community as such. However, something about him and how he had supposedly survived in Burrwitch for months felt wrong to Mardirossian’s police instinct.

After she exposed another Devil’s Crossing survivor as a Bloodbound saboteur, Mardirossian grew even more wary of Ulgrim. But he *was* making good soup even with the dismal resources at hand.


History – Grim Dawn Act 2

Mardirossian then shifted her attention toward Old Arkovia, in the Northwest. The road along the Old Arkovian Coast led to the remains of the Empire, but the area was also fast becoming a major threat to Devil’s Crossing.

Grim Dawn - Game screenshot - War wagon and carts on flooded road

A tank (and more ordinary carts) mired on a marshy road in the Burrwitch area. Click for a larger version.

One Darius Cronley , a mad dog murderer, had marshalled the escaped felons from the Devil’s Crossing prison into a post-apocalyptic gang. They seemed intent on returning to the prison, presumably to use it as a fortress.

Arkovia had fallen centuries before the Grim Dawn. It self-destroyed over the blind obsession of its nobility with titles and wars. Then it fell further as the remaining noble houses attempted to become immortal.

All that was left were badlands, ruins, a population cursed into ghostliness and perpetual undeath, and children all born as twisted, undying and hateful harpies. The part now controlled by Cronley was the least affected by the curses.

Mister Cronley, what went on in your head ?

This area also was relatively free of of Aetherials. They had approached Cronley to rule this wasteland for them, so as not to overextend. Cronley had made a show of force and cruelty in an attempt to be the rider and not the horse.

The Aetherials, pretending to be cowed, gave Cronley aether crystals to “enhance” himself and his men with. Cronley and his lieutenants soon became unhinged, mutated monsters. Some of the hardened criminals with the gang attempted to flee the horror show. But most were hunted down by their former allies.

Mardirossian demolished Cronley’s positions closest to Devil’s Crossing. She then invaded the gang’s turf in Old Arkovia, slaying most of Cronley’s gang and lieutenants. She eventually confronted the monstrous Cronley and killed him within his headquarters.

During these clashes, Mardirossian built an alliance with Rover tribals. Though they could evade many threats, Cronley’s thugs had been hounding them.

With her ominous presence, her huge axe, her base in a prison and the staggering devastation in her wake, Mardirossian was nicknamed “the executioner of Devil’s Crossing”.

This soon was shortened into “the Devil’s Executioner”.

The road warrior

With the Cronley gang massacred, travelling the Old Arkovian Coast Road no longer was a death sentence. That opened the possibility for Devil’s Crossing to establish ties with any survivors up the coast.

Grim Dawn - The gang fort in Old Arkovia near Devil's Crossing

A makeshift fort used by Cronley’s gang. Click for a larger version.

This was important, since this area was the breadbasket that used to feed the Burrwitch area. The Burrwitch environs, such as Devil’s Crossing, were too marshy for agriculture.

However, the Cronley gang had destroyed a key bridge. This had been part of their effort to besiege and ransom Homestead, the first major settlement on the road. It was still possible to reach Homestead, but the detour through cursed Old Arkovian underground ruins and Smugglers’ Pass wasn’t thought to be survivable.

Nevertheless, Mardirossian smashed her way through the ever-reconstituting, cursed undead of the Arkovian Undercity. She then crossed the Broken Hills and reached Smugglers’ Pass.

Previously living deep in the wilderness, the trolls had surged forth in unexpected numbers and with great strength after the Grim Dawn. A tribe had taken Smuggler’s Pass, but the Aetherials were coming for them as well. In the end, the local troll tribes mostly ended as stronger bodies for the Aetherials to possess and/or reanimate.

Nevertheless, the Devil’s Executioner fought her way through Smugglers’ Pass, then down to the foothills.

The Executioner cometh

The Devil’s Executioner also discovered larger areas where the ground was saturated with deadly aetherfire. She deduced that the Aetherials had a means to “terraform” Cairn to make it suitable for them – but lethal to anything else.

On her way, Mardirossian realised that Ulgrim, the supposed cook, had left Devil’s Crossing. He too was making his way toward Homestead. When she found him, he was protecting refugees from trolls and Aetherials.

Ulgrim admitted that before the Grim Dawn, he had been an assassin – the First Blade of the Emperor. Essentially, he had been the Empire’s Jack Bauer.

Mardirossian and Ulgrim allied. He stayed behind with his charges, who wouldn’t survive the journey, whilst Mardirossian forged ahead. Once in Homestead, the ex-cop would open up aetherial rifts to get the ex-agent and the refugees there safely.


History – Grim Dawn Act 3

In Homestead, Mardirossian allied with survivors of the Black Legion. The Legion had been an elite Imperial unit. Though the Aetherials had but a faint presence in the wasteland of Old Arkovia, they clearly saw Homestead and the Legion survivors as a worthwhile target.

Grim Dawn - Camp of Rovers in Arkovia

A camp of Rovers. Click for a larger version.

Furthermore, the blood cult of Ch’thon had surged from the shadows after the Grim Dawn. That was mostly done by promising safety to desperate refugees. Cultists had taken control of a large turf, and cut off the Black Legion survivors from their colleagues up North.

Pastoral journeys of ultra-violence

The Black Legion in Homestead had to focus on the blood cult, lest they become overstretched and killed off. However, that meant the local peasants couldn’t access their farms. Starvation loomed.

Mardirossian agreed to help where the Legion couldn’t. In this way, sending food to Devil’s Crossing could at least be considered.

The Devil’s Executioner then :

  • Broke the insectile monsters rampaging through the abandoned fields. This destruction came just in time to harvest the crops before they’d rot. This avoided a famine.
  • Destroyed an enormous abomination  that the Aetherials were assembling to raze Homestead once and for all.
  • Shattered the “terraforming” monolith-like entity  making the area hostile to conventional life.
  • Smashed other threats that the Black Legion survivors had been attempting to keep under control. Such as wild manticores, or groble tribes .

The devastation Mardirossian wrought gave the soldiers much-needed elbow room. They could even free up troops to protect the peasants as they toiled. Relieved, the farmers agreed to ship food to Devil’s Crossing, saving the survivors there.

In Homestead, Mardirossian chiefly coordinated with Ulgrim, who became her friend. Yet, she was positive that he wasn’t a normal person. He was way older, stronger and swifter than he looked. But as Ulgrim jovially observed, many of these traits were also true for Mardirossian.

Cleansing fires

To keep relieving the pressure, the Devil’s Executioner also cautiously allied with a fanatical fire cult, called Kymon’s Chosen. These reminded her of the numerous mad cults plaguing Cairn. Yet their zeal and mystical cleansing fire was directed against the undead, necromancers and Ch’thon cultists.

Grim Dawn - Arkovian underground ruins

Undead-haunted Arkovian ruins. Click for a larger version.

Working with Kymon’s Chosen, Mardirossian convinced them to closely associate with the Black Legion. The cultists significantly reinforced the Legionnaires.

Kerann and Father Kymon also worked together to bring back the fire wraith of Archon Barthollem. The Archon, a senior priest of Empyrion, had been a great foe of the Bloodbound ages before. His ghostly form would be a powerful ally.

Loghorrean

Eventually, the Devil’s Executioner slew the Ch’thon high priest for this area. In so doing, she gained a better sense of how the blood cult had gained power so quickly. But Mardirossian also learned that the Ch’thon cult was in an all-out race to summon the herald of its god. This would likely destroy what was left of the world.

The Voice of Ch’thon had been summoned once, generations ago, during a great and bloody battle. The Empire and the world had but narrowly survived. Tens of thousands of corpses were left after this battle, prompting the construction of a monumental necropolis to honour these dead.

In great secret, Imperial officials built a secret chamber underneath. It was to lock in the gigantic, grotesque and indestructible body of the Voice. Thousands more died :

  • Imperial arcanists sacrificing themselves to erect blood magic wards.
  • Workers killed by accidents during the out-of-control construction, overseen by a megalomaniacal architect.
  • Slaves left to die deep underneath to keep the presence of the Voice’s corpse a secret.

This necropolis was where the greatly rejuvenated cult would attempt the summoning again.

Dark influences

Mardirossian also gathered uncomfortable information :

  • A thankful witch saw that Mardirossian’s brain had been altered during the Aetherial possession back in Arin Berd, for unclear purposes.
  • A series of random-seeming discoveries left Mardirossian convinced that she was partially manipulated by the triumvirate of mystical entities, the Witch-Gods.
  • Several persons thought that her lightning came from Ultos, like the cleansing fire of Kymon’s Chosen came from Empyrion. Ultos had been a sort of Thor figure in Old Arkovian religion. But farmers had continued to pay homage to him for a while as a bringer of rain.
  • She did meet an avatar of Mogdrogen, a god with close historical ties with the nomadic Rovers. But the creature wouldn’t provide any straight answer, even when Mardirossian demonstrated knowledge of Rover tales about him.
  • Mardirossian’s cop sense kept telling her that something was off about Father Kymon. His words reminded her of a serial killer desperate to confess his crimes. And this was a matter in which she had ample experience.

The Executioner also twice briefly invaded the homeworld/grave of Ch’thon. It was a dead pile of ashes and ruins. It seemed as if every last quantum of life, blood, light and colour there had been devoured by the dying god.

If this was the alternative to a planet covered with sickly green aetherfire, it was a poor one.

This profile is concluded in part #3.


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By SĂ©bastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Grim Dawn video game.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 7th of November, 2017.

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