Monday, July 10, 2017

Top 12 Undead (catching up on Monster Monday)

I've missed the last couple of monster Mondays. The 4th of July and life happen. I hope to make it up throughout this week and one fashion or another.
Today, I thought I would do a list as I haven't done one for a while. So without any fanfare, here is my top 12 undead creatures:

12. At the far end of The Dirty Dozen we have skeletons. These low-level undead are staple in pretty much every mega dungeon in one fashion or another. Whether it is the 111 Skeleton Trap or just a mob of bony undead, skeletons are great. They are so good, that there are dozens of variants: the common skeleton, skeletal knight, even skeletal mages.
11. Ghouls (and their stinky cousins, ghasts) are scary thing for anyone. Well, except maybe elves. They can be mistaken for zombies, they have paralyzation and usually they are accompanied by a stinky ghast.
One of my favorite tricks with a ghoul is to have them at the bottom of a pit trap or someplace where a party member can be easily separated. In this case even one or two of these foul beasts can be very dangerous to a mid-level party.
10. Ghosts are at the upper end of the top 10. They can be a great foil, piece of information, arch enemy, ghosts can be pretty much anything.
I like to use ghosts in a way to juxtapose the situation. The ghost is the only good thing in the haunted castle.  The vampire is in love with the ghostly maiden. The fallen king's ghost appears in the middle of his bastard son's court are some ways I have seen them used in the past.
9. Eye of Fear and Flame is a baddy that is under-used and under-appreciated. This image is found in the Fiend Folio and is owned by WoTC. In spite of all of its weirdness, I fiend myself drawn again and again to the FF. This guy may not be undead, but he sure looks like it. In my world, they definitely are.
The Eye is a paladin killer. They can speak in alignment tongues and convince people to do evil things. An Eye, when played properly should get the good party to do all kinds of evil things. Convince the paladin to slay the drow child. He will grow up to be a warrior who single-handedly brings down a dwarven hold. Convince the paladin that the thief needs to be killed for his role in a bank heist three years ago. The possibilities are endless with this wolf-in-sheeps-clothing.
8. Vampires are one of the best villains in all of the D&D world. Strahd is the most well known, having spawned an entire line of 2e materials. They are tough to kill. They have legions of rats, bats, and wolves to harry the outdoor adventurers. Vampires are a GM's dream and a player's nightmare. Entire campaigns (and TPKs) can be centered around the actions of a vampire, and hunting him to extinction.
One of my favorite hidden levels of Mord Mar is Lita Fuller's domain. She is an incredibly old vampire who has carved herself a nice living space near the dwarven burial grounds. She uses the death energy of the area to experiment with creating new undead creatures. Lita is always glad for company, and does her best to be a good hostess. It makes her hunting much easier.
7. Shadows are one of the creepiest undead around. They blend in perfectly with their surroundings underground. In S&W they drain strength and spawn new shadows through the stat drain.
Shadow tactics usually include attacking the squishy, weak characters like mages and thieves. Preferably when the party is already fighting something else. They follow, slinking along floors and ceilings waiting for the perfect time to strike.
6. Liches, demi-liches, and draco-liches are some of the most powerful undead. Like vampires, they are usually found at the end of a campaign, or a character killing session. Powerful magic-users who have defeated death are the worst type of magic-user.
Liches are the kings (and queens) of their domain. At NTRPG this year, we entered Mythrus Tower and found a way to destroy 2 of them. But, they had set up their domain so that the party was trapped inside, and that a giant freaking laser cut through the middle of the group. It was a gruesome experience.
5. Mummies drip with exotic flavor. Everyone immediately imagines pyramids and grave robbing when the word is used. Mummy rot is one of the most feared diseases in all of the games we play. Requiring TWO mid-level clerical spells to remove is a dastardly thing indeed.
There are no mummies in Mord Mar, yet. They are a great undead, but require a special care in use. They can't just be thrown into a dungeon like a common zombie. These were human-gods and should be treated as such. A treasure map leading to a mummy's tomb would be a special enough thing for these bandaged baddies to make an appearance. 
4. Zombies are the rank and file of the undead. They come in a huge variety: fast, slow, rotting, diseased, infectious, armed, and unarmed to name a few. Every necromancer needs a cadre of zombies.  What makes zombies particularly sweet is seeing the very person a group is searching for shambling towards them in full undead glory.
Most recently, zombies were found in Mord Mar in a horde of 20, controlled by a cult of Orcus. Although the adventurers were victorious, they burned through a lot of resources for such common undead.
3. Poltergeists push us into the top three spots. Again, a monster that began its D&D carrier in the FF. In S&W, poltergeists are pretty weak (2 hd, AC 7[12]) but they are a great tension reliever. A goblet flies through the air, and hits Sir Stuffy Shirt in the back, spilling wine all over him. 
If I were to use a poltergeist in a dangerous encounter, I would give it synergy with another nearby denizen. For example, a potion maker doesn't want to be disturbed, so he brings several flasks of acid to the room haunted by a poltergeist. The poltergeist then throws the flasks when the party disturbs its prison. . . 
2. Wraiths are some great undead.  In S&W they are really tough to deal with at range (only taking 1 point of damage from arrows). Add the level drain, and they are fearsome 4 HD critters.
In the swamps around Stonemire, there is said to be a wraith that rides an undead swamp cow (catoblepas). He hunts for the killers of his family. But, the killers are long dead.
1. Finally, we come to the favorite undead (at least this week). My #1 is Corpse Candle. They appear in the Tome of Horrors Complete (published by Frog God Games). Scott Greene is credited as the author. Here's the stat block for S&W:
Corpse Candle

Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Incorporeal Touch (1d6)
Save: 11
Special: Hypnotic Lights
Move: 6/18 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
CL/XP: 8/800

It's those hypnotic lights that make these things amazing. I used them in a PF adventure a while back where they almost caused a TPK. The party had to work to save their drowning friends, instead of combat the monsters at hand. It was glorious.

1 comment:

  1. Not technically undead, but I'm fond of Pseudo-Undead, aka humanoids who make their living by resembling undead.