Eldritch Lore: Undead

This is hopefully going to be the first enty in a new series of post. I’ve often been talking about having a pretty much complete monster book for the Ancient Lands lying around that only needs the various monster descriptions typed down but so far I’ve never got around to actually do it. This hopefully is going to change now. There are close to a hundred monsters I’ve created for the Ancient Lands (and probably that many again that ended up cut) and they more or less fall into two basic categories. Supernatural monsters and fictional animals. While I really love my weird animals, there’s not really much interesting to say about them. A hippo with horns is stills just a hippo and a big hadrosaurus that has the stats and behavior of a camel is still just a camel. Not terribly exciting to read, nor to write. For the final document I am probably going to cover them with just two or three sentences each.

That still leaves the spirits, demons, undead, and other magical critters, and those are where all of the real meat is. I am kind of starting this at the very end with the undead, who don’t actually play much of a significant role in the greater design of the setting and which are by far the fewest in number. Though this is what is actually making them the easiest to cover, and I’m always the first to admit that I am really lazy, so here you have them. I admit that there is nothing drastically new or original about them and they are in fact the most mainstream depictions of undead you can get. But I think most undead in fantasy are really just slight modifications of these and since undead are not going to be a real focus of the setting they should be sufficient. Also, given the way that undeath works in the Ancient Lands, having numerous highly specialized forms of undead wouldn’t feel really appropriate.

General Undead Information

Undead are rare and terrifying monsters in the Ancient Lands and only come into being through the effects of sorcery and demonic corruption. There is no single definition of undeath, but all these creatures share in common that they originally used to be living people (or animals) but have been transformed into something neither fully living nor dead. Animated corpses, wights, shades, and wraiths are the remains of people who have unquestionably died and whose spirits are forever gone. With ghouls and darklings things are much less clear as they have never truly died but share many of the other traits common to undead creatures. They might more accurately be described as corrupted rather than undead but this is a distinction that only matters to sages who have never actually encountered them in person.

While ghouls and darklings are still consisting of a unified body and spirit and sustain themselves through consuming the flesh of the living, the other types of undead are fully magical beings that can not exist independently of the source of sorcerous power that created them. Walking corpses are usually close to the sorcerer or demon that created them while wights, shades, and wraiths are eternally linked to the corrupted energies of the place that spawned them. In fact they are more part of the place than separate beings and as such it is impossible to exist beyond its borders. This is widely seen as a blessing as these undead horrors have the ability to turn the slain into more of their own.

Animated Corpse

XP: 20
No. Appearing: 2d4 (4d6)
Armor: 12
Move: 90′
Hit Dice: 2 (9 hp)
Attack: Claw +2 (1d6) or weapon +2 (1d6)
Saving Throws
Paralysis: 14
Poison: 12
Breath: 15
Device: 13
Magic: 16
Morale: 12
Special: Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

Animated corpses are known under many names but in the end they are effectively just that. The remains of living people and beasts that have magically been giving a semblance of life by the magic of a sorcerer or demon. They have no spirit of their own and are nothing more than empty shells made to rise and move pulled by magic strings. While terrifying to look at, animated corpses pose no greater threat than living beasts and can simply be cut down by any blade, but as there is no blood running in their veins they tend to continue fighting until they are hacked to pieces.

Ghouls

XP: 25
No. Appearing: 1d8 (3d6)
Armor: 14
Move: 120′
Hit Dice: 2 (9 hp)
Attack: Claw +2 (1d4 + paralysis) or weapon +2 (1d6)
Saving Throws:
Paralysis: 14
Poison: 12
Breath: 15
Device: 13
Magic: 16
Morale: 8
Special: Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

Ghouls are elves, yao, or other humanoids who have been corrupted by the dark magic of sorcery or demons. Though they have never truly died, they resemble the undead, existing in a state between life and death. They grow gaunt with pale skin and dark sunken eyes and are suffering from madness, but are also filled with unnatural vigor and are much more cunning than any beast. Their clawed fingers can crush a mans throat and leave deep rends in the flesh of their victims, and their teeth have the strength to bite through bones, as they regain their strength by feeding on the flesh of humans and beasts.

Many ghouls once were adventurers and treasure hunters who delved too deep into ancient places where the living are not meant to tread, or what remains of those who become slaves of dark sorcerers or demons. The corruption that warped their bodies also affects their minds and all of them are clearly unhinged, but most of them seem to retain the memories of their former lives and traces of their past selves.

A living creature hit by a ghoul’s claws must make a saving throw against paralysis or collapse to the ground unable to move for 2d4x10 minutes.

Darklings

XP: 35
No. Appearing: 1d8 (2d8)
Armor: 14
Move: 120′
Climb: 90′
Hit Dice: 3 (13 hp)
Attack: Claw +3 (1d6 + paralysis)
Saving Throws:
Paralysis: 14
Poison: 12
Breath: 15
Device: 13
Magic: 16
Morale: 10
Special: Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

Darklings are ghouls that not only have survived in their undead state for decades but actually managed to gain additional strength from it, losing their last traces of humanity in the process. While still roughly the size of a person, darklings are are powerfully build beasts with pale gray hide that run on all fours and have become truly feral in their madness. Darklings are almost always found underground and never go outside during the day. Their small black eyes can see perfectly even without any kind of light. They have never be seen to follow commands of other creatures or communicating in an intelligible manner but have been known to be magically goaded by sorcerers to patrol the area around their lairs or attack the strongholds of their enemies in large packs.

Wights

XP: 50
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d8)
Armor: 16
Move: 90′
Hit Dice: 3 (13 hp)
Attack: Claw +3 (1d4 + energy drain) or weapon +3 (1d6)
Saving Throws
Paralysis: 14
Poison: 12
Breath: 15
Device: 13
Magic: 16
Morale: 12
Special: Half damage from bronze, wood, or stone weapons and natural attacks. Normal damage from iron weapons. Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

A wight is a corpse given life through the powers of the spirits of corrupted places. They are not truly individual creatures but more of a manifestations of the malevolent will of the spirits of the land who have been driven to hateful madness by the sorcery that has corrupted their domains. To be turned into a wight, a corpse has to be greatly corrupted itself and as such they are most commonly found in the tombs of ancient sorcerers or old demonic temples that have been burried with their priests and cultists still inside. The corpses of those who are slain by a wight’s touch will rise as a new wight in 1-4 days, but only if left within the territory of the wights.

Unlike animated corpses, wights are far from mindless and posess the same awareness and cunning of the spirit that controls them. Sometimes a spirit choses to talk to intruders through its most powerful wight but most commonly they do not communicate in any way at all and simply attack in a blind rage on sight. Umless one possesses magic to hide from spirits, wights are very difficult to ambush and surprise on a chance of 3 in 6. Like spirits they take little damage from most weapons but are hurt by iron just as any living creature would.

Shades

XP: 25
No. Appearing: 1d8 (1d12)
Armor: 13
Move: 120′
Hit Dice: 2 (9 hp)
Attack: Claw +2 (1d4 plus 1 Strength)
Saving Throws
Paralysis: 14
Poison: 12
Breath: 15
Device: 13
Magic: 16
Morale: 12
Special: Harmed only by iron weapons. Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

When people die who have been corrupted by demonic sorcery, the corruption that wracked their bodies can linger on, turning into shades. With both the bodies and souls of the original person gone, shades are nearly mindless clouds of corruption that float silently above the spot where the person died. They are normally invisible, but cast dark shadows in the presence of bright lights and they can be clearly seen as shapes of darkness if any light shines upon them in the presence of dust or smoke.

Walking through a shade drains a small part of the life force of living creatures and can start the spreading of corruption over time. While most shades stand motionless in the spot of their death and don’t seem to react to anything around them, some are aware of the presence of living beings nearby and attack when anything comes too close to them. While their insubstantial claws do not leave any physical injuries, being in prolonged contact with an attacking shade can quickly drain all the life energy of a living creature and spread the corruption through its body. People who survive the attack of a shade often show dark purple streaks on their skin which becomes ashen pale and cold. This will last for several days until life fully returns to the body. Those who die will often leave behind a shade as well, joining those who killed them.

Shades are common in places where lots of people have been killed through sorcery, like the lairs of demons or the sites of sorcerous battles. They can only be harmed by iron weapons and magic but even when destroyed that way they will return within a few hours. Nobody has ever been able to communicate with a shade in any form, but some people who can sense spirits have said to have heard them whisper fragments of sentences that are seemingly related to the deaths that created them.

Wraiths

XP: 125
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Armor: 18
Move: Fly 180′
Hit Dice: 4 (18 hp)
Attack: Claw +4 (1d6 plus energy drain)
Saving Throws
Paralysis: 12
Poison: 10
Breath: 13
Device: 11
Magic: 14
Morale: 10
Special: Harmed only by iron weapons. Immune to disease, poison, charm, paralysis, and sleep.

Wraiths are the strongest and most terrifying of all the undead. They are somewhat similar to shades in that they appear as roughly humanoid shaped forms of black smoke with no substential body, but are much more powerful in every way. Wraiths are created when a person is fully consumed by demonic corruption to the point where the spirit is no longer in need of a living body and simply sustains itself from the corrupted magical energies around it. A wraith retains all of its memories but none of its personality and turns into a cruel and hateful abomination unconcerned with its former life. Most wraiths were sorcerers in life and are highly intelligent but there is almost nothing that could be offered to bargain with them.

As wraiths are fully immaterial they can not be harmed by most weapons other than iron blades and are very difficult to destroy as they can simply fade through walls or floors if they realize they are facing a real threat to their undead existance. The touch of a wraiths warps the life force of any creature with pure demonic corruption, causing first a crippling weakness that remains for life and eventually turns the victims into wraiths themselves. Like wights and shades, wraiths are sustained by the corrupted energies of sorcery and can only survive in places that have been greatly affected by sorcerous magic or the presence of demons for a long period of time. They can not leave these places and wound instantly be destroyed if the corruption could somehow be cleansed.

Phantom

Phantoms are more a phenomenon than actual creatures, possessing no real form of their own and having no ability to affect their surroundings or other creatures. A phantom is more or less like a memory of a person who died in a place of great magical power that got imprinted on the spirits of that place. They are often localized to the spot where the remains of the persons are resting or at the place where they died. A phantom often manifests itself as a vision of its corpse talking or appearing as they did in life or at the moment of death. Phantoms know that they are dead and sometimes even realize that they are not even actually themselves but only an echo of a long dead person. During a vision a phantom can talk to living people and in fact this is the only thing they can do. Often they warn visitors to the place of their death about the dangers they are facing or attempt to give them advice about completing the task they have come to perform. Most phantoms are resigned to the fact that they are dead and mean no harm to the living, but some might actively try to deceive people and lure them into certain death.

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