Set, the Old Serpent
Contributed by: Thulsa (), partly based on source material from "GURPS Conan" by Steve Jackson Games and "Legends & Lore" by TSR, Inc.
"Conan's soul quailed as he stared into the eyes of the demon that for a million years had striven to trample his race back into the mud from which it had slowly and painfully emerged." -- L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter: "Red Moon of Zembabwei"
Set, the ancient serpent god, is master of darkness and the beasts that hunt by night, lord of the red desert, and ruler of the sunken cities and the black gulfs between the stars. Sometimes known as Yig, he commands hordes of hissing serpents, and he wracks the cities and the spirits of men with shrieking, violent winds.
For a million years or more, Set the Old Serpent has been worshipped by reptilian serpent people, whose empires once spanned the jungles of the pre-human Thurian continent. Theirs was a world of dinosaurs, ancient demons and sorcery beyond that now known to men. Primitive humans, in reality no more than apes, were kept as slave races.
Only on remote continents did bestial humans survive unmolested, slowly learning the use of flint knives and fire-hardened spears and making the mystic transition from beast to man.
The reign of Set and the serpent people was overthrown by these early humans, but the cult of the snake-worshippers survived in black jungles.
The serpent-people returned to rule mankind once again, under the leadership of the undead sorcerer Thulsa Doom, but were defeated by King Kull of Valusia. The serpentmen were once again banished to the steaming jungles of the South.
Then, the Cataclysm destroyed Valusia and the Seven Kingdoms of Thuria. 5,000 years later, when the dark empires of Acheron and Old Stygia dominated the world, the altars of Set were once again soaked with the blood of evil sacrifice. Today the black-robed cult of Set controls Stygia, and has many secret outposts in other lands.
The tenets of Set worship are difficult and sheathed in many layers of dogma. Principally, the temples profess that Set is the most potent of gods, advocate of the strong, devourer of the weak, a powerful friend and a terrible enemy, and that it is the fate of mankind to serve.
Setís greatest opponent is Mitra, the god of the Hyborians. According to the priests, Mitra is perhaps as powerful as Set, but lacks the strength of heart to use his power to rule. Thus, Mitra is ever doomed to failure; no matter how many times he succeeds, Set need only prevail once.
Status: Intermediate God
Spheres of Influence: Black magic, serpents, desert storms
Symbol: Coiled cobra
Set's avatar can assume any form which is a combination of man and snake, including full man and full snake forms. In any snake-tainted form, the avatar's size can range from a small adder to a gargantuan serpent, but in full human form it is restricted to human size.
Omens of Set usually take the form of howling desert storms, the sudden bite of a snake, or stars that disappear from the night sky.
It is believed that anyone who performs the proper rituals before an artifact known as the Black Mirror of Nekhen will call Set into the world.
Set's avatar has the powers of a 20th-level rogue and a 20th-level necromancer. He attacks with spells and a powerful poisonous bite (in any snake-headed form) that is death to anyone bitten. The avatar's skin is coated in poison so that those who touch him are subject to the same effects. At will, Set's avatar can charm mortals who meet his gaze (no save).
Setís followers are a dark and scorned lot who (outside of Stygia) work under cover of darkness and keep themselves cloaked in treachery and deceit. Their seat of power is Stygia, where serpent-men are revered as demi-gods. The king who holds court in Luxur is in reality merely a puppet of the snake-worshipping priests.
Priests of Set, like most Stygian clergy, are clean-shaven and bald-headed. Due to the priesthood's exalted position, it is death for any Stygian commoner to even touch a priest of Set. Set's cult especially favors red-haired people, seeing this color as a sign of the god's favor.
Initiates who have learned some of the inner knowledge have reported that Set also offers eternal life in the tomb to those who serve him faithfully.