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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Undead Randomness

In the original rules, vampires, wights, wraiths and specters who drain a victim of all life cause the victim to return as a lesser-strength undead of the same type. Or, at least, they are able to do this to "man-types". This probably just means human or near-human, but people have occasionally questioned whether this should apply to elves, dwarves, or halflings.

Screw what it probably means; let's assume that only human beings can return as vampires, wights, wraiths and specters. Everything else drained of life-force is just dead, usually, but maybe rises as a zombie, and every once in a while, as ... something else. Roll 2d6 when a non-human is drained; if either die is a 6, the corpse rises as a zombie; on double 6s, a race-specific undead variety returns. So what would these varieties be?

Here, I'll do dwarves as an example. I'm assuming that corporeal life drainers (wights, vampires) might make a slain dwarf return as something corporeal... let's call them "tunnel-corpses". Their unholy drive is to destroy underground structures and wall up tunnels behind explorers to trap and kill them. The non-corporeal undead bring slain dwarves back as something non-corporeal... call them "chasm spirits". They become one with stone floors and cause cracks to open up; on a successful "attack", a chasm spirit catches an explorer's foot in a crack and slams the crack shut again, trapping the explorer. They then cause a cave-in to try to kill the victim.

So, what would be good variants for other races?


  1. Elves killed by corporeal undead could become wood-haunts; fearsome undead hunters who use murdered corpses as tainted fertilizer in dark groves, causing the trees and plants to become twisted and evil.

    Elves killed by incorporeal undead could become grove spirits, powerless to interfere with the living while disembodied but capable of possessing and animating non-intelligent plant life.

    This leads to a nasty little symbiotic relationship with the wood-haunts providing the grove spirits with particularly dangerous host forms.

  2. I'm a fan of the "Soulless" from Myth: the Fallen Lords. Partial skeletons floating just above the ground (with an ability to "walk" on water) in clouds of dim ectoplasm that throw bony javelins. Would work fairly well for elves or halflings.

    Goblins would make good poltergeists and ghoul variants.

    1. To me, the Soulless were just wraiths that happened to use ranged weapons. I don't see anything very "elven" about them, unless you're thinking of elves as excellent archers. However, the Soulless and other Myth undead, like their version of wights, would make good surprise variant undead in D&D.