Legends tell of an oversized cauldron made of black metal that evil creatures can use to turn the corpses of their foes into obedient undead allies. The price of using such an item is steep, but the power to be gained is significant. Of course, using a powerful evil artifact might disrupt the fabric of the multiverse. Such a shockwave attracts attention, and such attention has led a few innovators to try and create lesser cauldrons in an attempt to gain the same benefits but avoid the notoriety. Whether those attempts have been successful or not is open to debate, but when scholars discuss a cauldron that creates zombies, they certainly mean the dreaded Cauldron of Rebirth.
Like any artifact, this item shouldn’t be inserted into a campaign lightly. It is intended more as a plot device than a magic item, and you could focus a sequence of adventures or even an entire campaign around its discovery, use, and eventual destruction. Given the challenge of permanently destroying the cauldron, it could even be the focus of two separate adventure chains or campaigns.
The Cauldron of Rebirth
Wondrous item, artifact (requires attunement by a creature of evil alignment)
An artifact so vile its very mention sends chills down the spines of those who know of it, the Cauldron of Rebirth (known by many names through the centuries) is a prize for those with the blackest of hearts and a target for the pure. Forged of black iron and said to have been fabricated in the darkest heart of Shadow or within the Negative Plane itself, the Cauldron of Rebirth is infused with the antithesis of life. Its purpose is to mass-create undead slaves from the husks of what were once free-willed intelligent creatures.
The Cauldron of Rebirth is roughly ten feet in diameter and stands a full six feet tall from the bottom. It is rarely used, even by those able to find and control it, for such action is an affront to the forces of life and invariably draws the attention of extraplanar beings both holy and profane. Evil creatures desire the artifact’s power while good creatures seek its destruction or at least its quarantine.
The Cauldron of Rebirth is activated by tossing the corpse of a Large, Medium, or Small creature into it. After one minute, the corpse rises as a cauldron-born abomination—use the statistics of a zombie (for Medium or Small creatures) or the statistics of an ogre zombie (for Large creatures) with Intelligence score of 7. A cauldron-born abomination is under the control of the creature attuned to the cauldron at the time the cauldron-born abomination is created and obeys the attuned creature’s verbal commands without questions. The attuned creature can issue commands to any or all cauldron-born abominations within 30 feet; a cauldron-born abomination outside that range will continue performing the last command it was given until that task is complete or can no longer be performed, at which point it will attempt to return to the Cauldron of Rebirth by the most direct route possible.
All cauldron-born abominations created by the cauldron are immediately destroyed if the cauldron is shattered (see below).
Random Properties. The Cauldron of Rebirth has the following random properties:
- 2 minor beneficial properties
- 2 minor detrimental properties
- 2 major beneficial properties
A creature that desires attunement to the Cauldron of Rebirth must be of the vilest nature. Whenever a non-evil creature attunes to the Cauldron of Rebirth, that creature must make a DC 17 Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, the creature’s alignment changes to neutral evil. A creature that has attuned to the Cauldron of Rebirth is forbidden from ever entering the Upper Planes.
Using the Cauldron of Rebirth sends out a psychic shockwave throughout the multiverse. When the first abomination rises from the cauldron, a feeling of intense dread briefly overtakes all good creatures on the same plane as the cauldron, and any good creature that succeeds on a DC 20 Wisdom check understands that a powerfully unholy artifact has been activated. A character who then succeeds on a DC 25 Intelligence (Arcana) or Intelligence (Religion) check realizes that the artifact is the Cauldron of Rebirth.
Increased Charisma. After you become attuned to the Cauldron of Rebirth, your Charisma score increases by 2 to a maximum of 22. You lose this benefit immediately if you cease to be attuned to the cauldron.
Nimbus of Evil. While you are attuned to the Cauldron of Rebirth, it emits a hallow effect with a 100-foot radius as long as you are within 10 feet of it. This effect prevents celestials, elementals, and fey from entering the area, nor can such creatures charm, frighten, or possess creatures within it. Any creature charmed, frightened, or possessed by such a creature is no longer charmed, frightened, or possessed upon entering the area.
In addition, any creature hostile to the you who enters the Nimbus of Evil for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there must make a DC 20 Charisma saving throw or become vulnerable to necrotic energy while within the area. A creature that succeeds on the saving throw ignores this effect until it leaves the area.
Destroying the Cauldron. The key to destroying the Cauldron of Rebirth is agency—the cauldron shatters into tiny fragments if a living creature willingly places itself within the cauldron of its own volition. However, the cauldron reforms in 1d4 × 1d100 years unless it is shattered within Shadow or in the Negative Plane.