Undead (Dungeons & Dragons)

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In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, undead is a classification of monsters that can be encountered by player characters. Undead creatures are most often once-living creatures, which have been animated by spiritual or supernatural forces.

Publication history[edit]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition[edit]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

In the game's third edition, "Undead" became a "creature type".

In the third edition of the game, all undead have darkvision out to sixty feet. Undead have a wide array of immunities, including being immune to: all mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects. They are also not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Most Dungeons & Dragons undead can be "turned" (driven away) or destroyed by a good cleric, and rebuked (forced to cower) or bolstered by an evil cleric.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

In the game's fourth edition, "Undead" is a keyword, rather than a creature type.

Allip[edit]

Allip
Characteristics
Alignment Neutral Evil
Type Undead (Incorporeal)
Image Wizards.com image
Stats Open Game License stats
Publication history
Source books Monster Manual v3.5

The allip is an undead creature, the spectral remains of someone driven to suicide by madness in life. They are found on any land, and underground, they are solitary, and carry nothing with them, despite having the intellect of a human.[1]

In the third edition Monster Manual, an allip is described as having the same features that it did in life, but greatly distorted. The mouth is twisted, and the eyes glow. From the waist down, it becomes much more gas-like, looking like a typical ghost- it has no legs, and trails off into 'vaporous nothingness'. It leaves a faint trail of fog behind it as it moves. The more recent Monster Manuals use the same image that was used in the earlier ones, despite it not matching the newer description.

Allips are incorporeal, and cannot deal any physical damage. When it hits a creature it deals Wisdom damage, and anyone trying to read an allip's mind, or do something similar, will take Wisdom damage as well. This is because, in Dungeons & Dragons, the Wisdom ability score is tied to sanity, and, as a creature loses Wisdom, it becomes more and more insane. Another aspect of the madness of the allip is the way that it constantly babbles incoherently. This can cause a hypnotic effect upon those who hear it.[2] Whenever an Allip hits with its Wisdom Drain (Su) attack, it gains 5 temporary health.

Being incorporeal, allips are difficult to injure using normal weapons. They are also resistant to the turn and rebuke attempts of clerics.[3]

Animus[edit]

Animus
Characteristics
Alignment Any Evil
Type Undead
Image [No Wizards.com image]
Stats [No Open Game License stats]
Publication history
Source books From the Ashes, Ivid the Undying
First appearance From the Ashes

In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, an animus is an undead monster created through the use of both arcane and divine magic. They are unique to the Great Kingdom and its successor states.

Animuses retain all skills and powers that they possessed in life (unless a deity forbids it) and also attain other powers from their transformation. All animuses possess immense strength, and can spread fear by their touch. They also gain the power to command undead, and can paralyze by gazing into a target's eyes. An animus can also mentally dominate living creatures and implant suggestions into their minds.

Among the most important powers of an animus is its regeneration powers. An animus can only be destroyed totally by being cremated or dissolved in acid.

Unique among undead, animuses are affected by disease. However, as the animus is already dead, no disease can be fatal or terminal to an animus.

The animuses are a legacy of the alliance between the House of Naelax and the devil Baalzephon. In the 440s CY, an ancestor to the Naelax line of Overkings made contact with Baalzephon to further his own powerbase. Baalzephon promised to aid the Naelax in gaining the position of Overking in exchange for the souls of the Naelax line. Part of this aid rendered would be the secrets to making animuses.

Around 583 CY, during the Greyhawk Wars, the first animuses were created. Overking Ivid V, paranoid about disloyal advisers and nobles, had numerous key generals, nobles and lords assassinated, particularly after the defeat of Aerdy forces at the Battle of Innspa. Their bodies were handed over to priests of Hextor and pit fiends supplied by Baalzephon. Each body was imbued with an admixture of divine and fiendish arcane spells while the souls resided in an artifact on loan from Baalzephon, the Casket of Abyssal Bone.

Amongst those transformed into animuses was, eventually, Ivid himself, transformed on the orders of Baalzephon, who hoped to stave off the wasting disease that had afflicted Ivid and threatened to kill him. The aim was to keep Ivid as a stable puppet on the Malachite Throne. The plan failed, however, as the disease progressed unchecked.

Since the loss of Rauxes and with it Ivid, there have been no means to create new animuses, as Baalzephon's devils and the Casket have vanished along with the capital of the Great Kingdom. The exact spells used to create animuses have also been lost as well. However, numerous animuses still walk the lands of the Aerdi. Since Ivid's disappearance, the magical effects that bound them to loyalty to him were diminished, and many of the animuses pursue their own plans.

A second story places the blame of the creation of the animuses, at least initially, on Lady Lorana Kath, one of the 12 Death knights created by Demogorgon. In this telling, she created the first Animi from peasantry from her fiefdom near Stringen, either as a means of finding a lover who could tolerate being near a Death Knight, or in the hopes of finding a way of undoing the transformation imposed upon her by Demogorgon. She later revealed the secret of animus creation to Ivid V and the priesthood of Hextor as a means of currying favor. Under this theory, Kath is thought to be still capable of creating new animuses, a potential that she uses as a means of retaining power within the priesthood of Hextor.[4]

Publishing history[edit]

The animus first appeared in From the Ashes, which linked the first appearance of the monster to the Greyhawk Wars storyline. The idea was fleshed out in the never-released (but available online) supplement Ivid the Undying. The monster was later updated in 2001 for third edition in the Living Greyhawk Journal, and for 3.5 in Dragon Magazine's "Creature Catalogue" feature.

There have been no official game stats allowing players to replicate the process of creating animuses, and it is explicitly said that the process would be impossible to replicate in game statistics.[5]

Known animuses[edit]

Ashen Husk[edit]

Ashen Husk
Characteristics
Alignment Neutral Evil
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image
Stats Open Game License stats
Publication history
Source books Sandstorm

The ashen husk is an undead formed from the animated corpses of those who died of thirst and dehydration while in the desert (contrary to being labelled as animated corpses, however, they are not zombies).

An ashen husk resembles a normal zombie or skeleton for the most part, except bone dry. So devoid of fluid they are brown and crumbling, and their flesh so desiccated that it appears nearly skeletal. Accompanying them wherever they go is a dry, sucking heat that makes the air waver, almost as though they bring with them the soul of the waterless desert.

Ashen husks of course inhabit the deserts where they once died of thirst, and arose as an undead creature.

Many ashen husks died of exposure in the open desert when they became lost without water. Sometimes entire caravans get lost and die of thirst, causing all of them to die and rise as Husks who years later stalk the deserts desperately searching for water.

Ashen husks slam their foes with bone-hard limbs, but they expose their real threat against living creatures caught in their dehydrating aura that accompanies them. Anyone within 10 feet of a Husk, without making a successful save, takes heat damage and becomes dehydrated, a dangerous combination.

In addition, any creature killed by an ashen husk promptly rises shortly after as another Ashen Husk.

Baelnorn[edit]

Baelnorn
Characteristics
Alignment Lawful Good (mainly)
Type Undead

A baelnorn is a fictional undead creature, usually a spellcaster. They are described as elves who sought undeath to serve their families, communities, or other purposes (usually to see a wrong righted or to achieve a certain magical discovery or deed). They are lich-like creatures that appear as impressive-looking elves with shriveled skin and glowing white eyes. Most of their appearances in modules, setting books, games, novels and the like are related to the old lords of Cormanthor/Myth Drannor, a fictional location in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Baelnorns are created through a powerful arcane or divine necromantic ritual. Typically, elven characters choosing to pursue a duty which would extend beyond death voluntarily go through the process. The process is described as similar to that of a lich, but does not result in the fear oriented abilities attributed to liches. The ritual permits the character to retain all of its memories, personality, and abilities. In addition, the process alters a character's abilities, conferring many of the powers seen in other types of undead monsters, including paralyzing touches and summoning other, lesser forms of undead. In the Forgotten Realms setting, Gold or Sun elves are the most likely to pursue this goal, but first must find the approval of various groups, sometimes including the Seldarine.

To become a baelnorn (instead of a lich), a character must be of a non-evil alignment (usually Lawful Good). However, a baelnorn may become evil after the ritual, as seen in the character Tordynnar Rhaevaern, detailed in the supplement Lords of Darkness.

In D&D novels[edit]

Baelnorn characters usually appear in the role of champions, guardians, and protectors. In the novel Elminster in Hell, Elminster consults with a number of baelnorns beneath the ruins of Myth Drannor. In the Pool of Radiance novel and game, the protector baelnorn Miroden Silverblade is kidnapped by a cult. The Forgotten Realms novels The Siege and The Lost Library of Cormanthyr both include guardian baelnorn characters. The character Tordynnar Rhaevaern is detailed in the supplement Lords of Darkness as a baelnorn archmage who has become evil and shows hatred for humans.

Bloodhulk[edit]

Bloodhulk
Characteristics
Alignment Neutral Evil
Type Undead
Publication history
Source books Monster Manual IV

The bloodhulk is an undead being that was originally an evil, fanatical, shamanistic human or similar creature whom others had come to worship as a god, and had too many sacrifices made to them. When it dies, the gallons of blood from those sacrificed to the bloodhulk begins to run in its veins, and it arises as oozing, hulking, misshapen abomination.

Bloodhulks resemble humans, albeit very vaguely. So full of blood have their muscles, skin, sinews and such become that they look nothing short of mutated and their identity is completely lost. Their veins bulge through their thick, red, rippling skin, struggling to pump blood to their gargantuan upper mass. Their heads are incredibly disproportionate to the rest of their body, being shriveled and wizened and tiny at the top of their massive torsos[original research?].

Under Second Edition rules, Bloodhulks are described as incredibly bestial creatures with no desire other than to roam around and obtain the blood of any who would encroach upon what was their territory in life. For each victim the Bloodhulk kills with their brute strength and powerful fists, they consume the remains and become stronger from the blood. Eventually their hearts can no longer take the strain, however, and the creatures shrivel and die. For some reason, Bloodhulks are often depicted with other, smaller Bloodhulks, possibly clerics or such which had also received a small portion of the blood from the Bloodhulk's sacrifices in life[original research?].

As of Third Edition, Bloodhulks seem to have lost their clerical background, their blood-consuming ability, and their vulnerability to cardiac failure. They are essentially on par with zombies, although with increased size and hit points and a vulnerability to piercing weapons.

Most Bloodhulks cannot speak. The few that can speak speak Undercommon.

Bodak[edit]

Bodak
Bodak.JPG
Characteristics
Alignment chaotic evil
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image
Stats Open Game License stats

The Bodak is an undead creature in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game that comes from the Infinite Layers of the Abyss. A bodak is humanoid in shape, with smooth grayish-black skin and a featureless face. Its gaze kills living creatures. A bodak is always chaotic evil. It is said that humanoids who die in some of the most evil places of the Abyss return as bodaks.

The bodak was introduced to the D&D game in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with the module Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1982),[6] It appeared in the first edition Monster Manual II (1983).[7] For the 2nd edition, it appears in the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991) and it was further detailed in the first Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994).[8] The Third edition Monster Manual(2000).[9] In Dragon #307 (May 2003), which introduced the bodak template, with the five-headed hydra bodak as a sample creature. It also appears in the 3.5 edition in the revised Monster Manual (2003) and again in the 4th edition, it appears in the Monster Manual (2008).[10]

Boneclaw[edit]

Boneclaw
Characteristics
Type Undead in 3rd edition; Shadow Animate in 4th edition. (Undead (in 4th edition only))
Image Wizards.com image

The boneclaw is an undead creature[11] which can be used by Dungeon Masters as allies or enemies of the player characters. In the game, they resemble humanoids who are half skeletal and half without skin, with their sinew and muscle exposed. The most prominent feature of the boneclaw are its claws; its three, bony fingernails seem to grow and shrink randomly between two to ten feet long, and are razor sharp. They are constructed using a secret magical ritual to hunt and kill living creatures[11]

Whether to sadistically end the lives of the innocent, or due to being in the service of a necromancer or such who commands them to do so, the purpose of boneclaws in the Dungeons & Dragons game is to eviscerate the living with their claws. Though they often grow and retract as they please, the Boneclaw can take full control of the length of its claws, and attacks by sneaking into the range of a foe and then lashing out with a claw growing at the speed of lightning, and skewering them through the heart.

Boneclaws speak Common and, in 3rd edition, Abyssal.[12] They are evil in alignment.[11]

Boneclaws in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting were created by Szass Tam to protect Thayan enclaves.[12]

Boneclaws in Eberron were created by Droamite necromancers working for the daughters of Sora Kell from ogre magi.[12]

The boneclaw appears in the Monster Manual for 4th edition.[13]

Miniatures[edit]

Two Dungeons & Dragons miniatures represent boneclaws. The first, simply called "Boneclaw", was a Rare miniatures in the Deathknell expansion.[14] The second, also a rare, was the "Boneclaw Impaler" in the Against the Giants expansion.[15]

Brain in a Jar[edit]

For the thought experiment, see Brain in a Vat.
Brain in a Jar
Characteristics
Alignment Usually Neutral Evil
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image
Publication history
Source books Libris Mortis

Brain in a Jar is simply put, an undead brain in a jar of preservative fluid. The concept may have been influenced strongly by such sci-fi and horror as They Saved Hitler's Brain and Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius. It was introduced in Libris Mortis, a D&D supplement that deals specifically with undead.

It is a live brain in a grimy jar filled with preservation fluid with powerful psionic abilities.

The brain in a jar is a masterpiece of preservation—but where alchemical preservatives leave off, necromancy picks up. An animated brain in a jar is, in truth, an undead creature. Additionally, a brain in a jar possesses potent mental powers (psionics).

Merely removing the brain of a zombie or some other undead creature and storing it in alchemical preservatives is not enough to create an undead brain with psionic ability. The ritual of extraction, the spells of formulation, and the alchemical recipes of preservation are closely guarded secrets held by only a few master necromancers.

The creation of a brain in a jar is difficult and fraught with danger, because once its mental powers are fully developed, this undead creature is adept at controlling the thoughts and minds of other creatures, especially living creatures. It is not unknown for a brain in a jar to take control over the necromancer who created it.

The Brain in a Jar uses mainly psionic abilities to do what its lack of moving parts would otherwise prevent: move itself, manipulate objects and the environment, and ward off attackers. Its main attack is Mind Thrust, an assault upon the mind of another creature. In addition to this, it can also drive mad anyone who magically or psionically detects it, and it can control and rebuke other undead.

Corpse Gatherer[edit]

Corpse Gatherer
Characteristics
Alignment Usually Neutral
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image
Publication history
Source books Monster Manual II 3rd edition

The Corpse Gatherer is an undead creature that appears as a giant made of earth and stone. Upon closer inspection, one can see headstones, dead hands and heads protruding from its bulk. The monster is essentially an animated graveyard.

A corpse gatherer can swallow any creature in its grasp. The victim then takes bludgeoning damage from rocks, gravestones, etc. in the creature's body. It can also increase its mass by absorbing corpses.

When a corpse gatherer is destroyed it falls apart into its component corpses. The undead's animating force converts these corpses into zombies.

Crimson Death[edit]

Crimson Death
Crimson Death.JPG
Characteristics
Alignment Neutral Evil
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image

The crimson death is an undead creature in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game that dwells in marshes and swamps. It appears as a vaguely humanoid knot of fog, with arms, a torso, and white glowing eyes. Its lower body trails off into indistinct vapor. A crimson death is always neutral evil. The crimson death is an incorporeal undead. However, it can drain blood from any creature it touches.

The crimson death first appeared (as "Death, crimson") in the first edition in the original Monster Manual II (1983). The crimson death appeared in the second edition in the Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix (1989), reprinted in the Monstrous Manual under the "mist" entry. The crimson death appeared in the third edition Monster Manual II (2002).[16]

Death Knight[edit]

In Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy roleplaying games, a death knight (also known as a doom knight or demon knight) is a mighty warrior animated as an undead creature by the gods of death, evil deities, demon lords, or other malevolent forces. They are commonly leaders of undead forces, often serving as the second-in-command of a lich.

Devourer[edit]

Further information: Devourer (Dungeons & Dragons)

Dracolich[edit]

Further information: Dracolich

Effigy[edit]

Effigy
Characteristics
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Type Undead
Image Wizards.com image
Publication history
Source books Monster Manual II 3rd edition

The effigy is an undead hybrid of a ghost or spectre and a fire elemental, it is an envious undead creature that hates living creatures and lusts after the life energy they possess. It possesses the bodies of living creatures and takes over their lives, but eventually the possessed body catches fire from the inside from the corruption, turns into a flaming zombie, and is destroyed, and the Effigy must find a new host.

An effigy appears as a ghostly, translucent humanoid shape with a fiendish countenance and composed of burning, multicolored flame. Its eyes glow white within the flickering fires of its insubstantial body, but it has no other discernible facial features. Clawed, fiery arms can also be made out.

The Effigy's preferred form of attack is to possess a living body and then use this body to attack. A creature infused (possessed) with an Effigy does fire damage, and has an energy draining touch. A wisdom check can be made against an Effigy to drive it out of a host, or to prevent it from entering in the first place.

Flameskull[edit]

Main article: Flameskull

Ghost[edit]

Further information: Ghost (Dungeons & Dragons)

Ghoul[edit]

Further information: Ghoul (Dungeons & Dragons)

Lich[edit]

Further information: Lich (Dungeons & Dragons)

Mohrg[edit]

Further information: Mohrg

Mummy[edit]

Further information: Mummy (Dungeons & Dragons)

Nightshade[edit]

Further information: Nightshade (Dungeons & Dragons)

Shadow[edit]

Further information: Shadow (Dungeons & Dragons)

Skeleton[edit]

Further information: Skeleton (Dungeons & Dragons)

Skeleton Warrior[edit]

Spectre[edit]

Further information: Spectre (Dungeons & Dragons)

Vampire[edit]

Further information: Vampire (Dungeons & Dragons)

Wight[edit]

Further information: Wight (Dungeons & Dragons)

Wrackspawn[edit]

The Wrackspawn is an undead being. Wrackspawn are created/risen from the bodies of those fallen in battle, tortured prisoners, or others who endured extreme pain and bodily damage before death. Wrackspawn are incredibly ugly, with charred black muscles, blood stained all over them, limbs bent in odd directions, a tortured, howling expression, the skin burnt off them, and bones and organs protruding. Wrackspawn are completely mindless, seeking only to kill everyone they see with their bone spears (perhaps made of their own bone) in order to extract morbid revenge on what they mistake for their tormentors in life. Wrackspawn are far too mindless to speak[original research?].

They are Neutral Evil in alignment.

Wraith[edit]

Further information: Wraith (Dungeons & Dragons)

Zombie[edit]

Further information: Zombie (Dungeons & Dragons)

Other undead[edit]

Other undead from the 3rd edition Monster Manual II[edit]

Other undead from the v3.5 Monster Manual III[edit]

Other undead from the v3.5 Monster Manual IV[edit]

Other undead from the v3.5 Monster Manual V[edit]

Other undead from the 3rd edition Fiend Folio[edit]

  • Abyssal Ghoul
  • Bhut
  • Crawling Head
  • Crypt thing
  • Demon: Blood Fiend
  • Huecuva (template)
  • Hullathoin
  • Quth-Maren
  • Symbiont (Ghostly Visage)
  • Swordwraith (template)
  • Ulgurstasta

See also[edit]

Deathless (Dungeons & Dragons)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Allipd20 System Reference Document entry
  2. ^ Williams, Skip, Jonathan Tweet, and Monte Cook. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000).
  3. ^ Monster Manual v3.5, page 10.
  4. ^ Holian, Gary. "The Death Knights of Oerth, Part Two." Dragon Magazine #291 (January 2002), page 95. Paizo Publishing, 2002.
  5. ^ Ivid p. 32
  6. ^ Gygax, Gary. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (TSR, 1982)
  7. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual II (TSR, 1983)
  8. ^ Varney, Allen, ed. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (TSR, 1994)
  9. ^ Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  10. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  11. ^ a b c Monster Manual 4th edition, by Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt, copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast.
  12. ^ a b c Monster Manual III, 3rd edition, copyright 2004 Wizards of the Coast.
  13. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  14. ^ Deathknell miniatures gallery at Wizards of the Coast's website.
  15. ^ Against the Giants miniatures gallery at Wizards of the Coast's website.
  16. ^ Bonny, Ed, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Skip Williams, and Steve Winter. Monster Manual II (Wizards of the Coast, 2002)

References[edit]