Posts Tagged With: Undead

Will-o-the-Wisp redux

So, I’m not sure now what the actually “type” the old 1E Monster Manual would have been, I always treated them as some sort of Fae (especially with the whole Boggart thing). In the new 5E Monster Manual however they are specifically a variety of Undead – probably in a quiet shout-out to the Dead Marshes.

Now, in my opinion this sort of monster always works better when the players can’t be sure what they are dealing with. As a result I had come up with two extra versions, one Celestial and one “good” Fae. So there is no good reason why I can’t keep them around for the same purpose.

In this version of the game I’d give them the same stats with the following differences:

Guardian Angel – Alignment is any good, instead of Consume Life it can use Beacon of Life (as the 3rd level spell) at will, the radius equal to it’s shed light radius (bright not dim). It’s damage for the shock attack is Radiant instead of Necrotic.

Fools Flame aka Fools Fire aka Fae Flame – Alignment is Chaotic Neutral, instead of Consume Life it can use a Hypnotic Pattern (as the 3rd level spell) at, the radius equal to it’s shed light radius (bright not dim). It’s damage for the shock attack is Psychic instead of Necrotic.

Now, you can mess with your player’s heads – and they (hopefully) won’t attack every single bobbing light they come across in the world. The substitute powers for Consume Life seem relatively balanced to me given how nasty that ability actually is in the new rules. I’ll get back to writing up world history now…



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The role of the nemesis…

My son, MR, has mentioned a couple of times now that the confrontation between Tier and Roland in the last game session was “a defining moment” for Tier – and I have to agree. It is interesting because the Tier started life as a mercenary spellsword and Roland was a 0-Level moving towards Paladinhood, and they are pretty much in the opposite camps at this point.

Tier has become a member of the Sabean Order, essentially NG order of champions in service to the more pragmatic branch of the Celestial Host, and he’s light-years away from the person he started as. Add in all of the rest of the mystical changes wrought upon him and he’s a one-elf power house and force for good. MR is really having fun playing that up as well.

Roland on the other hand was a dead character, but given the way he died (accidentally transported to the Realm of the Dead by Tier) he was pretty much a shoe-in for a “bad guy” at some point. I didn’t quite hope that he’d show up again so soon, but the opportunity last game was pretty much too good to pass up. Now, the question somewhat remains – is a wight? A vampire? Some version of a Death Knight? Something else entirely? He was physically transported to the Realm of the Dead – something which is certainly not good and he was 0-Level to boot! So whatever happened to him was pretty much instantaneous. And what is up with the three remaining spirits that escaped with him?

But Tier now has a nemesis, or rather, Tier has something that he is inclined to be the nemesis for himself. He realizes that he screwed up, and feels responsible for what happened to Roland. MR is already talking about hunting down Roland (which won’t be easy) – and the group isn’t sure if he had anything to do with the slaughter that occurred at Seraph Keep or not. But as Frater Nikolai pieces together what happened while he was passed out, he is growing increasingly uneasy with what seems to have happened – his charge, Roland, has reappeared in the company of unquiet spirits via some sort of magical gate in a demonic temple.

That is so not good…


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First ogres, now ghouls… – Session #5

So, we picked up where we had essentially left off – with the party getting ready to explore the rest of the barrow that the ogre’s had been using as a lair. They freed four other adventurers who had been captured by the ogres, a couple of fighters, a rogue, and a mage. They had been traveling to Seraph Keep as well, and agreed to travel with the party and act as guards (and potential replacements) for the party in thanks and payment for the rescue.

This brought up the other random encounter that I had rolled up using the wilderness charts – ghouls. Straight out of the Monster Manual, though I have to say that I have always seen ghouls in a more Lovecraftian manner than the “undead” vision of AD&D. But that said, I ran them pretty much straight out of the book for this vision – though I gave them a Lovecraftian description.

Now ghouls show up in numbers of 2-24 and again, I rolled up an amazingly high number – (redacted because players are reading). So I had really been trying to figure out how what the heck these ghouls were doing wandering around. I decided that the ghouls were actually associated with the ogre’s lair.

So, behind a half-sealed door the party could see stairways leading down and a flickering light, and a somewhat rank and charnel smell wafting upwards. After prying the door open they slowly worked their way down the long flight of stairs to discover a staff with a candle stuck into the floor (see the Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets Candlestaff). The party moved forward and paused at the small landing, mid-stairway, where the staff was positioned and examined it – somewhat disquieted by the animalistic sounds and shadowing sounds that came from bottom of the stairs and just beyond the light.

Based the magic item, I decided that the ghouls were averse enough to its effects that they wouldn’t willing enter its boundaries – but that once they were in it for some reason it wouldn’t deter them though it might force a morale check of some sort.

So what happened?

The gnome put out the candle.

Now, I am not an insanely killer DM, so I don’t see the whole mass of ghouls clustered at the bottom the stairs, waiting for such a thing to happen. Instead there is a group of five down there “handy” who as soon as the light goes out, come charging up the stairs towards the smell of fresh meat (not very Lovecraftian, I know, but this is AD&D not Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green – maybe they are Heretics?). I think my son was the first person to realize what they were fighting because we’d played CoC and his character had fought ghouls (and Tcho-Tcho) in the sewers of WWI Paris – so “baying dog-faced humanoids” had his eyes popped wide-open rather quickly…

Despite the light going back on quickly, despite a total of three waves of ghouls, despite about a third of the party ending up paralyzed, despite no successful turning attempts, nobody died. Again, the party managed to survive without any losses though a healthy dose of luck, a couple of Potions of Healing, and some very adroit positioning. It didn’t hurt that the were accidentally fighting the ghouls in a corridor rather than a more open area where they could have swarmed the group and it would likely have been over in a couple of rounds. Having two characters (the elves) who were immune to paralyzation didn’t hurt, and the party had put them both towards the front and they acted as a useful buffer.

After a few rounds of combat where the ghouls were slaughtered, plus a re-ignited Candlestaff, the remaining ghouls refused to enter the light and remained hiding in the darkness down at the chamber at the end of the stairs. The party retreated to the top of the stairs and regrouped, letting the paralyzed members recover. They sent the dwarf down to investigate who reported that there was a large room at the bottom with some sort of strange monolith or obelisk in the center and at least a couple of open doorways in the walls. After some further discussion the group decided that the idea of leaving a bunch of ghouls behind them was just bad on a whole host of levels.

So they’ll be picking up where they left off, but planning on buffing up a couple of the characters so that they can switch out for healing and sending the down to the bottom of the stairs and fighting it out there where the ghouls will hopefully be willing to engage with them.

I can’t wait for the party to find out what else is down there – it’s very Old School!



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I owe a post about the last game session but… (1e)

…I’ve been thinking about Skeletons and Zombies.

Probably because of the Ghouls from the last game session, and my Ghouls are far more inspired and drawn from Lovecraft than from AD&D… 😉

But I always thought that basic Skeletons and Zombies were kind of… off… and looking at them again (as compared to the versions for my HomeBrew) I have to say that I have the same opinion. My vision of Skeletons is rather Ray Harryhausen-esque, lightning-fast and deadly. So years ago I made the decision that they had two strikes per round, but also did damage by weapon type and had AC based on the armor worn (usually with a bit of penalty due to rot and damage). I think the “always do 1d6 damage” was a hold-over from OD&D that makes little sense in a world of mutiple damage dice for weapons. It’s fine for thier claw or bite attack, but a weapon is a weapon.

Zombies were better, and I didn’t really change them all that much – the big difference is that I always thought it made sense that they had the chance to cause disease when striking somebody like a Giant Rat. I never went so far as to make them Romero-esque zombies that passed on a zombie plague (that was a different creature entirely), but I always figured being clawed or bitten by a rotting flesh and bone is pretty nasty.

But what I was thinking about was Skeleton and Zombie animals. I know (or seem to remember) that there are rules for these in the Monster Manual II, but I’m kind of wondering what I would come up with that let’s me just turn around and apply it to and normal creature and come out with the monster in question.

So (Demi)Human(oid) Skeletons are 1HD, a normal human is 1d6HP, so Monster Skeletons are 1 and 1/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question. If a normal human punches for 1d2 HP (generous, but reasonable I think for these purposes and based on a 1st level Monk) and a Skeleton does 1d6 then Monster Skeletons do roughly 3x damage dice when attacking – plus they get double normal attacks. A normal Human is AC10, and a Skeleton is AC7, so we’ll give Monster Skeletons the same 3 point AC shift.

Zombies are 2HD, which would suggest that Monster Zombies are 2 and 2/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question when measured against a (Demi)Human(oid) standard HP. Looking at damage, they would 4x the damage dice (often rounded to nearest die or so). They still attack last, in Post-Rounds, and get half normal Movement because Zombies only have 6″ Move compared to the normal 12″ human move. Zombies are AC8, so Monster Zombies get the 2 point AC shift.

I think it is also reasonable to suggest that Animate Dead animates 1HD per level, not just 1 Skeleton or Zombie per level of the spell caster. This means that Zombies are harder to call up, but I’m ok with that. Of course, it also suggests that the Clerical Turn Undead table could or should be modified to key to HD instead of creature type (didn’t 2E do that?)


Skeleton (Black) Bear: HD4+4, AC4, Move12″, #Attacks: 6 (Clawx2/Clawx2/Bitex2 – 1d8+1/1d8+1/3d6), Special Attack: Trample as Bear (for 4d4), Special Defences: 1/2 Damage from Sharp/Edged Weapons, Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Damage for the trample was reduced because a skeleton simply doesn’t have the mass of an actual bear.

Zombie Lion: HD13, AC4, Move6″, #Attacks: 3 (Claw/Claw/Bite – 2d8/2d8/4d10), Special Attack: Automatic Rake with Hind Claws (3d8/3d8) after two hits with Claws, Can Leap up to 10′, Special Defences: Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Leap was reduced because of zombification, and AC was simplified.

Yup, this seems pretty simple – and means that really nasty zombies and skeletons are going to be limited in number for the most part simply due to the difficulty in controlling them.


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