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Before I continue on with an overview of the article, the foreword to this issue, Going Dark by Chris Perkins indicates that the Dragon and Dungeon ezines will both be put on hiatus at the end of 2013 and will come back sometime after D&DNext is released. They are not taking any more pitches for future articles until then and Perkins suggests that writers bone up on the new edition rules in the meantime.
Back to the article, brace yourself for some Greyhawk deity heresy:
In this alternate version of Nerull, he is the one of the first human wizards to learn magic from the deity Corellon. He soon joins the gods in the prehistorical Dawn War against the Primordials. Things are going poorly for their side so he develops necromancy to keep mortals in the fight. The actual god of death Aurom isn't impressed though. Death is part of a natural cycle he tells Nerull. None of the other gods would side with Nerull either, but the fight against the elementals continued nonetheless. Except this time Nerull turned on Aurom during the next battle and inexplicably killed the god! Having done this, Nerull stole all of Aurom's divine power and portfolios. The other gods relented to this and the war for control of the world continued.
Nerull's ambition and power grew and soon other deities like Pelor, Moradin and Corellon, secretly began plotting behind his back despite the death god's effectiveness in the Dawn War. Eventually one of Corellon's other wizard students died in the war and her soul passed to Nerull's realm of Pluton. This soul was doctored by the gods of good to bait Nerull. Nerull took interest in this soul which was named Nera. Infatuated with Nera, Nerull gave her more power, but Nera instead learned his secrets and used them to overthrow Nerull thus becoming the goddess of death. Her name is now the Raven Queen.
This background is surely not new to any one who has followed 4e, I myself have lampooned the Raven Queen in my former Greyhawk webcomic, but it's the first time I paid this close attention to Nerull's mortal origins. In a Greyhawk cosmological context it is not out of bounds to say Nerull (or Pelor and Corellon) a greater deity, has influence on multiple planes of existence. We know Mayaheine for instance is a demigod follower of Pelor from another world. Aurom, the Raven Queen and Nerull studying under Corellon doesn't do much for Nerull in Greyhawk I admit, but if one put their mind to it the information in the article could be put to good use.
For instance the article continues with some good sections on power groups associated with the rise (or fall) of Nerull; The Legion of the Gray, the Star Reapers, and the Triumvirate (with ties to Vecna) are all quite interesting in their own right and could work in any campaign. The article finishes with powers and feats for Nerullite characters and some good background on what Nerull's sentient scythe Lifecutter is up to. That's an epic artifact you could tempt a party with! Good stuff overall if you can look past the absence of Greyhawk canon.