Undead are honestly probably one of my favorite creature types in D&D. From the lowly zombie or skeleton to the crazy powerful annoying dream vestige. They automatically ting a session just a little bit darker and this is never more noticeable than with a group of new players. Even if you’re not very good at setting the scene with descriptions, just mentioning the smell of rot and the shuffle of something in the dark that seems to have no trouble without light can get them feeling a little anxious.
But oh my god, the variety of undead. Some aren’t especially scary or gross, like walking skeletons can be menacing, but they’re just bones. New adventurers might freeze up a first, but it’s honestly easier to make yourself smash up something already dead than to work up the nerve to take the life of a human bandit or even a goblin. And some undead can be kind of goofy or not as menacing as they are meant to be. But the ones that make undead so cool to me are the really menacing ones or the ones that can make a player’s skin crawl.
For the creepy ones, some of my favorites are straight out of the Libris Mortis, a 3.5 splat book all about undead. There’s one called a Skin Kite, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. And they latch on and start draining the victims, adding their skin to its own mass. Another favorite is the Slay Mate, which if you see in a dark alley, at a distance it’ll look like a child. But when you get close, you realize it’s a stitched up undead monstrosity. Oh, and a…damn, I forget what it’s called. But there’s one, I think it might be called a Crawling Head. It’s the severed and reanimated head of a storm giant. Its blood vessels in its neck grow into big tentacles it uses to propel itself and its tongue grows and can be used as an appendage. I believe it has a nasty swallow whole type ability. But there are a few other classics from the Monster Manual. I’m actually really disappointed that they don’t have Morghs in the 5e Monster Manual. Also, Devourers are creepy and kind of fun.
As for the ones that are really menacing, to me the scariest ones are the ones with crazy dangerous abilities. I feel like most DMs I’ve played with would try to spring it on my party. But I think a better way to do it would be to have the thing show off what it can do on like their guide or a pack animal or something so the players know just how screwed they are. Have a Boneyard tear up out of the ground they’re traveling over. When it bites into one of their horses, they’ll see all the horse’s bones sucked out of its body and added to the mass of the giant bone snake. When they approach the fountain in a cursed temple, have their guide start thrashing about as the Drowned in the pool’s drowning aura starts affecting him. Darkwalkers from the 3.5 Monster Manual, if they weren’t intimidating enough being giant sized, pitch black things (I’m talking big giants, too), they can break magic weapons like a child can break a toy. Deathknights are always pretty rough to fight, and can often have a herd of undead to cut through just to get to them. And Boneclaws. Never fought or used one, but who doesn’t like a tall ass skeleton with like five foot long bone claws? There are a lot more, but I’m having trouble remembering them all.
Don’t get me started on incorporeal undead. They’re just nasty, with how hard they are to hit in 3.5 (This actually brings to mind numerous times when playing Oblivion and I ran into a will-o-wisp when I didn’t have a silver weapon and I would have to run to a town and get guards to attack it so it would leave me alone). And I have never found them especially creepy in the books, but I can see like if I’ve watched a good (not really good, but not terrible) ghost movie with certain aesthetics, I could find fighting them in D&D to be a chilling sort of encounter. And the incorporeal ones always have some kind of really nasty draining abilities. There are always the normal ones, like shadows and wraiths, then there are some worse ones, like banshees, that can kill with their wail. Then there are just the huge, terrible ones like a Caller in Darnkess, a psionic one that’s the tangled mass of the restless spirits of a bunch of people who died in terror. Or the Dream Vestige, which kind of reads like a bigger, badder, possibly non-psionic Caller. Both absorb what they kill into their mass and get bigger and stronger.
The Libris Mortis also had a whole section about how to tweak undead and suggestions for doing so. Like flaming skeletons or ones that couldn’t permanently be killed, kind of like the red skeletons from Castlevania. Or with zombies, some that have like poison. I just like the idea of twisting some conventions. And undead are easy. Half the descriptions are like “These came about when someone died in this horrendous way”. Which is also a good way to get your players a little freaked out, too.
I was originally going to talk about character options relating to undead in this post, but I think I’ll save that for another day and another day of the week.
should there be a line where art becomes pornography because it is too "risky" because of something related to sexuality, or sexual things?
*shows up a year late with starbucks* OKAY Y’ALL LET’S DO THIS. HERE’S THE SIMPLE TRUTH. ART CAN BE PORNOGRAPHY AND PORNOGRAPHY CAN BE ART. A TIDDY CAN BE AESTHETICALLY PLEASING. ART CAN BE AROUSING. HELL PEOPLE WANT TO FUCK CARTOON SKELETONS NOW. MORE POWER TO ‘EM. IT’S BEEN A WEIRD YEAR. THERE’S SIMPLY NO CLEAR LINE BETWEEN ART AND PORN AND THAT’S FINE. I THINK THE REAL ISSUE IS MORALITY. IF ART CAN BE TAKEN AS EROTIC, THEN IT HAS TO BE MARKETED AS SUCH. ESPECIALLY ON THIS HELLSCAPE OF A WEBSITE. THE NSFW TAG IS THERE FOR A REASON. IF WE’RE TALKING FANART, THERE ARE USUALLY SPECIFIC NSFW TAGS FOR INDIVIDUAL COMMUNITIES. CONTEXT AND SUBJECT MATTER HAS TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT AS WELL. IT’S A LOT TO DO WITH COMMON SENSE AND LEGALITY. IF ANYONE WANTS TO GET MORE INTO SPECIFICS, I’VE EVEN RESEARCHED SOME COURT CASES. SHOOT ME AN ASK AND MAYBE I’LL ANSWER IT WITHIN 6 MONTHS THIS TIME.
(I have a general rule to not play cannon characters. Mostly because most cannon characters I can’t identify with fully. Like Garrus, you know, kind of hard to relate to an alien who has to watch his home world be destroyed while he constantly runs calibrations.
A character like Undyne, yeah she’s a strong independent fish lady who’s got a bit of a soft side to her. But, not my type of character fully.
Now Sans, aside the magical powers, the skeleton thing, and the brother thing, he almost perfectly fits my own personality. I’m not lazy, I’m jaded and tired of dealing with shit heads all day who never learn their lesson. Every day seems like the same the same day over and over again, and of course, I like to be a sarcastic pun maker.