“There’s no comfort in the truth, pain is all you’ll find.”
In all of Pathfinder lore, you would be hard-pressed to find a story more tragic than the story of Zon-Kuthon.
Once known as Dou-Bral, he was a Good deity who shared the providence of beauty and art with his sister Shelyn.
He was corrupted by the darker parts of the Great Beyond and turned into the God of Pain and Torture, now forever battling his beloved sister.
Zon-Kuthon Deific Lore
Zon-Kuthon is one of the more infamous deities in Golarion’s history. He glorifies pain and torment, reveling in the “ecstasy” that pain brings, whether it is inflicted on himself or on others.
He calls on his followers to share their pain with others, inflicting it on themselves and others. They are known as Kuthites or Kunthonites.
Zon-Kuthon himself has many sobriquets: The Midnight Lord, the Dark Prince, and the Prince of Pain are a few of his more widely known names.
His symbol is a bare skull pierced with spiked chains, the spiked chains being his favored weapon.
Zon-Kuthon’s favored colors are dark gray and red, and his favored animals are bats, ants, rabid wolves, and other parasites.
Zon-Kuthon is Lawful Evil, and many who follow him are more concerned with the acts of evil rather than law versus chaos.
Much of Zon-Kuthon’s history is shrouded in myth and legend.
Originally he was born as Dou-Bral, the brother to the goddess Shelyn. Together they shared the portfolios of beauty and art.
When the Rough Beast, Rovagug, attacked Golarion, Dou-Bral and his sister were part of the fight to contain the monster.
Dou-Bral fashioned the Star Towers and used them to impale Rovagug inside the Dead Vault. These towers kept Rovagug from hearing any prayers and therefore granting spells to clerics.
After the battle, Dou-Bral began to become jealous of his sister’s abilities. He left the known areas of the Great Beyond and began plumbing the depths of the unknown.
There he found ancient and alien beings beyond the kin of mortal minds.
One of these beings took interest in Dou-Bral and corrupted his mind. He returned to Golarion as Zon-Kuthon, the God of Pain, Loss, and Envy.
When Shelyn saw him, she pleaded with her brother to leave his dark path. However, he would not listen to her, so the two battled each other.
In her rage and pain, Shelyn took Zon-Kuthon’s powerful weapon, the Whisperer of Souls, and purified it from her brother’s corruption. This act led to an uneasy truce between the two.
Zon-Kuthon’s return would also upset the God of Civilization, Abadar. Abadar was not willing to see the crimes of the evil god go unanswered, so he made a deal to punish him.
Zon-Kuthon would be banished to the Plane of Shadow for “as long as the sun would hang in the sky.” In exchange, Zon-Kuthon would be able to choose one item from Abadar’s Vault.
During a time known as the Age of Darkness, the sun’s light was obscured by a cloud of ash. This was just enough to break the terms of the deal, and Zon-Kuthon returned to Golarion.
From the First Vault, he obtained the first undead shadow. The God of Pain and Loss now uses it to create nightmarish creatures to terrorize mortals.
Zon-Kuthon is known to change his appearance frequently, taking on new guises every time he is witnessed.
In person, he looks like a humanoid body tortured and mutilated with open wounds and stretched skin. He often has a myriad of piercings all over his gaunt and pale skin.
His lips have been removed, leaving him with a permanent rictus grin, and his left eye is gone, replaced with a crystal that glows with a baleful light.
When depicted in mortal art, Zon-Kuthon’s appearance is frequently simplified to a humanoid male with gaunt and pale skin.
Zon-Kuthon makes his home deep in the Plane of Shadow in a place known as Xaovaikain. Originally this was the prison he was locked in by Abadar, but since his release, the Midnight Lord has reshaped it into his own evil realm.
When viewing the fortress, it is only seen as a giant obsidian wall that drinks all light that touches it.
The screams of the tortured souls are heard eternally wailing from behind the walls, and if any mortal petitioner manages to escape, they are immediately drawn back into the building by black shadows.
No one knows any details about the inside of the fortress prison. No one has managed to come back from venturing inside.
Allies and Enemies
Zon-Kuthon cares very little for the other gods of Golarion. He often pays them no heed, simply doing as he wills.
He is often the target of the other gods, who seek to keep his evil influence from spreading. Often enough though, it is not Zon-Kuthon who starts these engagements. He simply waits for them to come to him.
He delights in torturing the followers of other deities but will frequently avoid his sister whenever possible.
The one god that Zon-Kuthon does hate is Sivanah, the lesser Goddess of Tricksters and Illusions.
The two are frequently at odds because Sivanah also uses shadow magic but considers the act of using it to enslave and torture to be repugnant.
While more concerned with inflicting pain rather than showing their faith, Zon-Kuthon has a few faithful servants he calls on from time to time. His clerics can often summon Erinyes to assist them as well as other shadow demons.
Some specific servants:
- The Lampadarius are the Prince of Pain’s servitor race. They are a type of Kyton or Chain Devil, that chose to live in the Plane of Shadow and follow Zon-Kuthon’s will. They will frequently remove their own body parts and replace them with shadowy simulacra.
- Dominik the Unquenchable is a vampire that was captured and tortured by the Kuthonite Church. His digestive organs were removed completely, making him unable to gain sustenance from blood. This has driven him in a frenzy of blood-drinking, unable to quench his thirst.
- The Prince in Chains is Zon-Kuthon’s herald. He is the tortured remains of Thron, the spirit wolf who fathered Dou-Bral and Shelyn.
- The Umbral Shepherds are a race of Shadows from the Plane of Shadow who serve Zon-Kuthon. They are parasites and often possess mortals to further the Midnight Lord’s agenda.
- Vreet-Hall is a Chain Devil devoted to Zon-Kuthon. He is covered in self-inflicted open wounds, which show his devotion to the Prince of Pain.
The Church of the Midnight Lord is less a full organization and more independent cells operating on their own to cause pain and misery everywhere in the world.
Most of his worship is considered horrific and banned in civilized nations. Only in Nidal is it practiced openly as the realm is ruled by Zon-Kuthon’s puppets known as the Umbral Court.
In other places, most worship of Zon-Kuthon is done in secret.
Kuthites believe pain is holy and the act of inflicting it to be a holy sacrament. They are called upon to mutilate themselves and others to satiate the desires of the Midnight Lord. This includes inflicting torture on others and themselves.
In his capacity as God of Loss and Darkness, Zon-Kuthon also calls upon his followers to embrace shadows and live with the smallest amount of light they can.
Edicts: Bring pain to the world, mutilate your body
Anathema: Create permanent or long-lasting sources of light, provide comfort to those who suffer
Zon-Kuthon is worshiped mostly by sadists and masochists.
Some individuals who are overcome with pain and spiritual deprivation find themselves drawn to the worship of the Prince of Pain, seeking to punish themselves or inflict pain on others to feel better about themselves.
Others who worship darkness are often drawn to the Midnight Lord as well, finding comfort in the deepest of shadows.
The majority of the priesthood of Zon-Kuthon are Clerics, with a limited number of AntiPaladins and Blackguards among their number.
Priests of the Midnight Lord are often addicted to pain, both inflicting and suffering, but also know how best to blend in with society in order to not be exposed.
Typical dress for the priesthood varies by individual church, but black leather is a common element of them all.
Temples and Shrines
Because of the evil nature of his worship, permanent temples to Zon-Kuthon are very rare.
For the most part, they are mobile and never meet in the same place two times in a row. Often they will convene in dark caves, turning their surroundings into torture chambers for the innocents they capture.
Zon-Kuthon worship is mostly about experiencing pain and less about reading it.
They only have one holy book known as The Umbral Leaves, which details both tenets of their faith and torture. The book itself is like the necronomicon, bound in human skin and written in blood.
Most worship of Zon-Kuthon takes place on moonless nights. The Kuthonites have two real holidays.
- The Joyful Thing is a depraved ritual in which a single follower of Zon-Kuthon is ritually dismembered over the course of an evening. Limbs, eyes, ears, and lips are cut away to allow the supplicant to feel unsurpassed pain.
- The Eternal Kiss is celebrated on the first new moon of the new year. A sacrifice is pampered with pleasure for 11 days and given everything they could possibly want. On the final day, they are ritualistically sacrificed, with magic keeping them alive as long as possible. Sometimes their entrails are read as part of fortune-telling, and it is said sometimes Zon-Kuthon will possess the sacrifice directly and speak prophecy to his disciples.
There are a few choice ways for players and NPCs to show their devotion to the Midnight Lord. From archetypes to magic spells to additional traits, each of these can subtly or unsubtly show off faith in Zon-Kuthon.
It is worth noting that Zon-Kuthon is an Evil deity with some very self-destructive commandments to his followers.
GMs should make sure to discuss the tone and mood of the campaign they are running and ensure there is nothing that would clash with the story being told.
Pathfinder 1st Edition
Pathfinder 1st Edition has a large collection of interesting options for player characters or NPCs to use to add a Zon-Kuthon influence into the game.
These archetype builds are prime examples of typical worshipers of the Midnight Lord:
Many members of Zon-Kuthon’s devoted will have one of these feats:
The magical items are directly associated with Zon-Kuthon and his cult:
- Altar of Zon-Kuthon
- Painspike Armor
- Raiment of Chains
- Rod of Shadows
- Staff of Hungry Shadows
- Bloodthirst Dagger
- Fist of the Pit
- Grasp of Torment
- Shadowbound Chains
- Torment of the Midnight Lord
- Umbral Chain
- Mask of Cutting Flesh
- Scabbard of Pain
These creatures can make powerful enemies or helpful allies:
These two Prestige Classes are both associated with Zon-Kuthon and his church:
- The Pain Taster was originally a practice used exclusively by the Drow. Since then, it has moved to the surface where it has been put into practice among the Kuthites. Pain Tasters believe physical pain is a path to power, and they hurt themselves and others to share the experience.
- The Umbral Court Agent is a servant of the powerful Umbral Court, which owes its loyalty to the Midnight Lord himself. They are powerful assassins and spies bent on corrupting other governments to evil acts.
Domains and Subdomains
Clerics of Zon-Kuthon have access to the following domains and subdomains:
- Devil (Evil)
- Devil (Law)
- Kyton (Evil)
- Kyton (Law)
- Shadow (Darkness)
- Shadow (Death)
Followers of Zon-Kuthon who can cast spells will typically have one of these spells as a part of their repertoire:
- Instrument of Agony
- Maddening Oubliette
- Pain Strike
- Protective Penumbra
- Shadow Walk
- Shroud of Darkness
- Symbol of Pain
- Sympathetic Wounds
- Touch of Bloodletting
Unique Spell Rules
Below are some unique options for spellcasters of Zon-Kuthon:
Symbol of Pain can be prepared as a 4th-level spell
Symbol of Pain can be prepared as a 4th-level spell
For more on how traits work, see our article on traits. Kuthites are typically found with one of these traits as a part of their build:
Below is a variant rule for characters who are a part of the Kuthite Worship:
“A Kuthite priest’s inflict spells always cause visible open wounds that look as though they were caused by slashing damage, though the actual cause of the damage is still negative energy.”
Source: Inner Sea Gods pg. 171
Pathfinder 2nd Edition
- Divine Ability: Constitution or Wisdom
- Divine Font: Harm
- Divine Skill: Intimidation
- Favored Weapon: Spiked Chain
- Domains: Ambition, Darkness, Destruction, Pain
- Alternate Domains: Void
- Cleric Spells: 1st: phantom pain, 3rd: wall of thorns, 5th: shadow walk
Because of ancient rules and bindings, the God of Golarion cannot personally interfere with the affairs of the mortal world. To do so would undermine the power of free will and invite other deities to respond in kind.
To get around this, some gods will subtly influence their followers with boons and curses. These can be in preparation for some great deed they are to undertake or as a reward for succeeding in an action in their deity’s name.
“Zon-Kuthon rarely intervenes directly in mortal affairs, but when he does take a personal interest in a creature, the effect is as terrible as the god himself.
Minor Boon: The Midnight Lord turns your blood and pain into chains of midnight darkness to destroy your foes. Once, for 1 minute, whenever you take slashing, piercing, or bleed damage, chains rip forth from your body, affecting creatures in a line from your position in the direction of the attack (or in the direction of your choice for bleed damage or if you deal the damage yourself) with the effect of a grim tendrils spell whose level is equal to half your level rounded up and whose DC is your highest spell DC (or 10 + your level + your Wisdom modifier if you have no spell DC).
Moderate Boon: Each morning, during your daily preparations, scars gather into words on your flesh. The scars function as a scroll of a divine spell of Zon- Kuthon’s choosing. After you use the scroll or receive magical healing, the boon fades for the day, though some or all of the scars might remain as a reminder.
Major Boon: Shadows are deeper around you. Darkvision and greater darkvision cannot penetrate darkness within 60 feet of you, but you can see through it normally.
Moderate Curse: You share the pain of others, and even minor wounds bring you incredible pain. Whenever you see (or otherwise sense) a creature take damage, you take 1d6 mental damage. Whenever you take damage any other way than from the first part of this curse, you take 1d6 mental damage from increased pain and are sickened 1. Mental damage from this curse ignores any resistance you have to mental damage.
Major Curse: Zon-Kuthon steals away your joy, leaving you with only pain. You lose that which you cherish the most forever and lose the ability to feel joy. You can’t gain benefits from emotion effects based on positive emotions. If Zon-Kuthon feels you are ready to renounce, destroy, mutilate, or torture that which you once cherished most, he might return it to you to allow you to do so.