Friday, March 24, 2017

Undead: The Finalized List

I've finally begun to work on the last category of monsters to be found in the Engines & Empires Core Rules—the undead.  This doesn't quite finish off Chapter 5; I'll still need to mock up some encounter tables to truly put the last nail in this particular coffin-lid.  But at least I'm nearly done statting up individual monster-entries, at long, long last.

So, without further ado, here's what the last set of monsters to be added to the game will look like:

Unlike all the previous chapters, which are arranged alphabetically, this chapter (short as it is) is going to divide the undead into four distinct sub-categories.  Undead in the same category have certain things in common: namely, all the "corpse" type undead are raised by magic or rituals; the "ghost" class is for semi-corporeal or ectoplasmic entities; the revenant class is for undead brought back by their own will or actions; and the animus class is for incorporeal spirits of pure hatred and evil.

Your typical grognard will probably glance at that list and do a double-take at the apparent absence of wights and wraiths, and the fact that I'm giving skeletons 3 hit dice.  And… yeah, in some ways, I'm trying to be a little "different for the sake of different".  Some of it is just an effort to be a little more generic and a little less beholden to Tolkien.  And some of it is just… my personal weirdness shining through, I guess.  Here's  quick run-down of each critter as I plan to write them up (I haven't done the full descriptions or stats yet):

Corpse Class:
• Zombies have only 1 hit die in my game because I want them to come in massive shambling hordes, but also to be very easy to mow down.  (And since your average player character necromancer likes raising zombies in droves, I'd rather they be on the weak side.)
• Ghouls are your "Romero zombies", the flesh/brains-eating hordes that make more of their own. I've retained their paralyzing touch (but specified that it's due to a poison secreted by their claws, so any effect that cures paralysis or poison will lift it); but their bite causes disease, which makes more ghouls.
• Skeletons are intelligent undead created by a magic-user to serve as a guardian or a knight. I want my skeletons to be a little bit badass, like stalfos, Competent with a sword & shield, throwing their own bones as missile weapons, regeneration (to represent the bones picking themselves up and coming back together), and intelligent enough to taunt the heroes in a Skeletor voice.
• Mummies are created through priestly rituals to guard tombs or treasures.  This version is intended to represent the "weak" variety of mummy, like the screaming soldiers from The Mummy movies.  Which works well, since in D&D one of a mummy's two main powers is fear—it can be tied to that long-jawed scream you see the mummies do in the movie.

Ghost Class:
• Apparitions are a catch-all category for mostly-harmless spirits that don't really fight, they just haunt a place and disappear if attacked, but they can't be killed.  Provoke them and they'll slime you.
• Geists (also called "deadwights" or, with some corruption of the pronunciation, "dead'ites") are totally incorporeal spirits, bound to the place where they died. Normally they can't affect the physical world in any way—except that they can animate their own remains, which they do to manifest and drain the life of the living.
• Phantoms are similar to geists, but more powerful.  They are semi-corporeal, manifesting as an ectoplasmic apparition that can freely roam throughout the entire area that they haunt (e.g. a geist may be unable to leave a particular ruin or tomb, but a phantom could haunt an entire dungeon and the surrounding countryside).  Like geists, their touch drains life.
• Spectres are ghosts which are so powerful that they can manifest a body made of solid ectoplasm, which enables them to become corporeal or intangible at will, and they can travel anywhere in search of whatever it is that they seek. Examples include the Nazgûl chasing the hobbits and Scorpion chasing Sub-Zero.

Revenant Class: 
• I don't make any significant changes to vampires, except to kick up their hit dice a little bit, from 7/8/9 to 8/10/12.  And, of course, each of the three different hit dice of vampire is a different sort: the weakest, the wampyr, has no magic, and power over bats; the varcolac has limited magic, and power over wolves as well; and the nosferatu is the full-on lord of the undead, magic-user, turns into a mist or whatever, everything Dracula can do.
• A death knight is a free-willed undead warrior that might serve as a main antagonist or as a right-hand-man to a lich.  It's not a very specific description, but the image of a death knight is so pervasive in fantasy that I can't not include this one.
• The lich lord (I like the specification—a "lich" is just a corpse; same reason I won't use the word "wight" for an undead, "wight" just means "dude" in Middle English) is your typical high-level undead magic-user or priest.  Imhotep is the exemplar here.

Animus Class:
• The grimwraith is just a more generic-sounding name that I'm giving to the undead known elsewhere as the "gray philosopher"—about which I love everything except that name.
• A reaper is a powerful semi-corporeal ghost that stands in for pretty much that whole messy fuck-all menagerie of high-level undead from the Rules Cyclopedia.  Carries a lantern and a dagger or scythe, scares people into aging or outright dying, very nasty.
• Finally—and again, how could I not include something like this?—is the legion of damned souls, which flies through the woods at odd camera angles until it comes to your cabin in the woods and possesses all your friends, or maybe your hand—the Evil Dead even trump a lich as the most powerful undead I'll be including in my game. >:]

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