Okay...enough pontification, meandering, reminiscing about the game. Let's dig in and talk about some stuff that's useful...some shit we can actually play with. What we need here is an NPC. No, wait...what we need here is a magic item! Hold on...what we really need here is a good plot point, an adventure, something for the players to engage.
How about one thing that is all three. Yep, you heard me. What we're gonna do here is kill 3 birds with one sling-stone. It's easy enough...what we need here is an ARTIFACT!
The Phylactery of Ophal Dar
A single, fist-sized ruby cut into the shape of a humanoid skull, the phylactery of Ophal Dar contains the soul essence of...you guessed it...Ophal Dar. Unlike more commonly discussed phylacteries utilized by ancient mages to contain their soul-essence as they pass into lichdom, this ruby skull is a prison, a cage that contains all the power and madness of the Sorcerer-king who once ruled a desert city of thousands, the fabled Thelandria which sank into the dessert, consumed by the burning sands that surrounded it. A summoner of demons and monsters, he ruled by threat of violence in life until his clerics and ministers turned on him, tricking him, killing him, and sealing his essence in the Ruby Skull that sat atop his dread staff, an implement destroyed at the time of his demise (or so legend has it...)
Powers & Abilities
The essence contained within the Phylactery of Ophal Dar is very much aware, and also somewhat insane, as it lies waiting for some treasure seeker to uncover and 'possess' it. Any attempts to determine its magical potency or properties will be met with very limited success, as Ophal Dar has learned to mask the true nature of his prison.
A Detect Magic spell will reveal only mild magical emanations.
Casting Identify is met with some success as well, revealing that the Ruby Skull can be used to cast Detect Magic 2x per day, Tongues 2x per day, and can be made to glow with a brilliant, red tinged light 3x per day.
Ophal Dar seeks his freedom, but his patience is boundless (being trapped in a ruby skull for a thousand years will do that to ya). He requires much of the creature who finds his Phylactery and is willing to wait to reveal himself, however if he finds that his owner is malleable (or better yet, willing), then he will slowly reveal the other powers locked in his Phylactery, as well as his own presence.
The true powers of the Phylactery of Ophal Dar are stated below, and can be revealed or kept hidden at the GM's discretion:
Can communicate via Telepathy to possessor
Can Cast all Magic-User spells of the 1st through 5th Levels (As a 12th level caster)
Can Cast ALL SUMMONING SPELLS (monster or Demon) (As a 17th level caster)
Can imbue the wielder with Magic Resistance of 75%
Acts as a Ring of Protection +3
Renders the wielder impervious to damage from both normal and magical fire
Much like any sentient item (sword, etc), the Phylactery of Ophal Dal will eventually attempt to impress its will upon its owner. The Ruby Skull must be placed within the ACTUAL SKULL of Ophal Dal in order to restore the Sorcerer to his former self (the location of the true remnants of Ophal Dal are again at the GM's discretion. I quite enjoy the thought of his powerful mummy laying in repose within its sarcophagi buried deep beneath the shifting, burning sands of the buried city of Thelandria...)
If the game system you play has rules for sentient items and willpower battles, use that. Otherwise use the guidelines below:
Optional Rule for Dominance
The Phylactery of Ophal Dar has a Wisdom Score of 16. Roll a D20 and Add this Wisdom Score, and then utilizing the Wisdom score of the character, do the same for the player/character in possession of the item. The higher score will dominate. Each time a Will Battle is fought, the winner adds +1 point to their NEXT battle, and the loser subtracts -1 point. Full and Total Domination Of the item (or of the character) can only occur if a battle is won in excess of 20 points. If this occurs, the winner assumes complete control of the loser.
The player/character may or may not be aware that he/she is being dominated by the item, again this is the GM's discretion, however the PRIMARY GOAL of the Artifact is to return to the entombed remains of Ophal Dar and resurrect the Sorcerer-King.
If the Phylactery of Ophal Dar manages to coerce the player, and Ophal Dar is resurrected, all of the powers of the Ruby Skull will pass back to the Sorcerer-King and the gem will be rendered void of any powers or abilities.
The XP value of the Artifact is 2500xp, the monetary value is >50,000 GP (at the discretion of the GM). The object is unique and therefore essentially priceless.