Dead Life
By Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel

"Death ends all troubles."
-- Elven Adage
"Death's a good beginning."
-- Deskryn, Vampire
"Death begins all troubles."
-- Reverend Mother, Ghost Hunter

Where the undead walk, the living tremble. As fearsome and intimidating as undead are on their own, the proper accoutrements can make them even more terrifying opponents. Here is a new feat, prestige class, and magic items focused on the dead.

Feats

Undead Leadership

Undead naturally follow your wishes, and you have worked at attracting a cohort and undead minions.

Prerequisites: Undead type, Int 1 or higher, 6 HD.

Benefit: Much like the standard Leadership feat, Undead Leadership enables the character to attract loyal and devoted followers. Use Table 2-25: Leadership in the Dungeon Master's Guide for the cohort level and the number of followers by level. Instead of attracting commoners, experts, or warriors, Undead Leadership attracts skeletons and zombies (see below). The Hit Dice of these followers do not count against the number of Hit Dice under control for purposes of animate dead spells, rebuking, and so on.

Leadership

Undead Leadership

1st-level follower

Medium-size* skeleton

2nd-level follower

Medium-size* zombie

3rd-level follower

Large* skeleton

4th-level follower

Large* zombie

5th-level follower

Huge* skeleton

6th-level follower

Huge* zombie

* The character with Undead Leadership can always choose smaller skeletons or zombies. For instance, instead of a 3rd-level follower, the character chooses from a Tiny, Small, Medium-size, or Large skeleton or a Tiny, Small, or Medium-size zombie.

Undead Leadership Score: If you have an effective character level (ECL) adjustment for the undead leader, use it plus any character levels plus any Charisma modifier. Alternatively, use the character's total Hit Dice plus any Charisma modifier. Use Table 2-26 in Dungeon Master's Guide, but omit the following modifiers: fairness and generosity; aloofness; cruelty; has a familiar/paladin's warhorse/animal companion; caused the death of other followers; and caused the death of a cohort. Add a +2 modifier if the character can cast animate dead, create undead, or create greater undead or can create undead spawn through a supernatural ability.

Cohort Level: The character can attract an intelligent undead cohort of up to the level given in Table 2-25. Undead tend to have many special qualities and attacks. These abilities make them much more powerful as cohorts than just their Challenge Rating or Hit Dice. The table below shows some examples of special undead cohorts with appropriate level equivalents for sustained play as a player character's undead cohort. If a Dungeon Master (DM) wishes to create an exotic cohort for a nonplayer character (NPC), she may wish to simply use its Challenge Rating or its Hit Dice, whichever is greater, as the level equivalent. Of course, adding class levels makes these creatures even more interesting. For instance, consider a wight monk or a vampire rogue assassin. Each character level increases the level equivalent by one. DMs need to carefully assess the viability of any potential cohort lest they prove too weak or too strong for their particular campaigns.

Creature

Level Equivalent

Wight

4

Ghoul

5

Ghost

5 + character level

Vampire

5 + character level

Ghast

7

Shadow

10

Mummy

11

Lich

4 + character level (minimum 11th level cleric, sorcerer, or wizard)

Prestige Class

Lady/Lord of the Dead

A lady/lord of the dead commands large numbers of nonliving creatures.

Undead spellcasters, such as liches, often become a lady/lord of the dead, but the class is attractive to all unliving, intelligent undead because of the enhanced turn resistance. Many undead necromancers augment their powers with this prestige class.

Nonplayer character ladies/lords of the dead often build strongholds that become centers of evil power. They frequently make undead minions out of those that oppose their rule. Unlike living armies, the forces of a lady/lord of the dead may grow in the aftermath of battles, swelling with the dead and defeated of both sides.

Hit Die: d12.

Requirements

To qualify to become a lady/lord of the dead, a character must fulfill the following criteria.

Race: Any undead.
Alignment: Any nongood.
Feats: Iron Will, Undead Leadership.

Class Skills

The lady/lord of the undead's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Alchemy (Int; Trained Only), Concentration (Con), Craft (any) (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (any) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (any) (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis).

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All the following are class features of the lady/lord of the dead prestige class.

Turn Resistance (Ex): At each level, a lady/lord of the dead's turn resistance increases by +1. This stacks with any inherent turn resistance. This is in addition to the benefit gained from adding a Hit Die.

Spellcasting: A lady/lord of the dead continues training in magic. Thus, when a new lady/lord of the dead level is gained, the character gains new spells known and spells per day as if it had also gained a level in a spellcasting class it belonged to before it added the prestige class. It does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of turning or rebuking undead, metamagic or item creation feats, and so on). This essentially means that it adds the level of lady/lord of the dead to the level of some other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day, spells known, and caster level accordingly.

Bolstering Aura (Su): At 2nd level and every level thereafter, a lady/lord of the dead strengthens nearby undead. Undead allies within 30 feet of the lady/lord of the dead gain an additional +1 turn resistance. This bonus stacks with all other turn resistance.

Animate Dead (Sp): At 4th level, a lady/lord of the dead can cast animate dead once per day.

Unholy Aura (Sp): At 5th level, a lady/lord of the dead can cast unholy aura once per day.

Lady/Lord of the Dead
Class
Level
Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special Spellcasting
1st
+0
+0
+0
+2
Turn resistance +1 +1 level of existing class
2nd
+1
+0
+0
+3
Turn resistance +2, bolstering aura +1 +1 level of existing class
3rd
+2
+1
+1
+3
Turn resistance +3, bolstering aura +2 +1 level of existing class
4th
+3
+1
+1
+4
Turn resistance +4, bolstering aura +3, animate dead +1 level of existing class
5th
+3
+1
+1
+4
Turn resistance +5, bolstering aura +4, unholy aura +1 level of existing class

Rings

Desecration, Lesser: The ring of lesser desecration is a silver band that seems plain at first glance, but when a viewer peers closely at it, the viewer can see a faint decorative etching of writhing tentacles or other things that disgust or terrify the viewer (if good) or thrill the viewer (if evil). Three times per day, the wearer can speak a command word to imbue an area with a desecrate spell (duration is 6 hours).

Caster Level: 3rd; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, unholy aura; Market Price: 4,395 gp; Weight: --.

Desecration, Greater: The ring of greater desecration is a platinum band that appears simple at first glance, but when a viewer peers closely at it, the viewer can see a faint decorative etching of writhing tentacles or other things that disgust or terrify the viewer (if good) or thrill the viewer (if evil). The wearer is continually at the center of the effect of a desecrate spell.

Caster Level: 3rd; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, unholy aura; Market Price: 24,025 gp; Weight: --.

Unholy Aura, Lesser: The ring of lesser unholy aura is a smooth bone ring that possesses a strange, faint yellow-green iridescent patina. Once per day, the wearer can speak a command word to benefit from an unholy aura spell for 15 rounds.

Caster Level: 15th; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, unholy aura; Market Price: 43,250 gp; Weight: --.

Unholy Aura, Greater: The ring of greater unholy aura is a smooth bone ring that possesses an unusual, faint brown-green iridescent patina. The wearer is continually under the effect of an unholy aura spell.

Caster Level: 15th; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, unholy aura; Market Price: 240,050 gp; Weight: --.

Wondrous Items

Bagpipes of the Damned: When played, these bagpipes help bolster undead. The piper makes a Perform (bagpipes) check (DC 15) each round. If successful, opponents attempting to turn undead suffer a -4 penalty on the turning damage roll.

Caster Level: 10th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, 10th-level cleric; Market Price: 3,000 gp; Weight: 4 lbs.

Cloak of Turn Resistance: The cloak of turn resistance is a tattered gray cloak that seems to twitch in a breeze even if the air around it is perfectly still. This unholy item bolsters undead, making them more difficult to turn. It adds +4 turn resistance. This effect stacks with all turn resistance, except that gained from other magic items.

Caster Level: 10th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, 10th-level cleric; Market Price: 11,000 gp; Weight: --.

Coffin Hideaway: The clever coffin provides a safe haven for intelligent undead. The coffin hideaway appears to be a finely crafted darkwood coffin. If unoccupied, the coffin rests on the Material Plane. When occupied, the coffin anything in it shifts to the Ethereal Plane. The occupant can use a command word to return it to the Material Plane for 5 rounds. Climbing into or getting out of the coffin (including opening or closing the lid) is a move-equivalent action.

Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, Leomund's secret chest; Market Price: 5,000 gp; Weight: 75 lbs.

Drums of the Dead: When played, this set of two crude drums can control undead. The drummer makes a Perform (drums) check (DC 15) each round. If successful, allies attempting to rebuke or command undead add a +4 bonus to the turning damage roll.

Caster Level: 10th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, 10th-level cleric; Market Price: 3,000 gp; Weight: 10 lbs.

Glass Coffin: A preservative coffin that pleases the eye, this transparent resting place preserves the body within and gives an illusion of the body as being that of a healthy individual without any signs of decomposition.

Caster Level: 3rd; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, gentle repose, silent image; Market Price: 7,000 gp; Weight: 150 lbs.

Lyre of the Restful Soul: When played, this lyre aids clerics attempting to turn and rebuke undead. The lyrist makes a Perform (lyre) check (DC 15) each round. If successful, allies attempting to turn undead add a +4 bonus to the turning damage roll.

Caster Level: 10th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, 10th-level cleric; Market Price: 3,000 gp; Weight: 5 lbs.

Minions' Coffin: Powerful undead or nongood clerics that like to travel with a hidden entourage of lesser, corporeal undead favor stowing their underlings in this magic item. The minions' coffin appears to be a typical coffin for a Medium-size creature. Close examination shows that the coffin opens into an extradimensional space that allows it to store far more than would normally be possible. Up to 18 corporeal undead can be stored inside. Once the owner has filled it, she can command the coffin to produce any number of stored undead she wishes each round .

Only mindless undead, such as skeletons and zombies, generally get stored in a minions' coffin because once inside, the creature cannot release itself. An intelligent undead may choose to try to force itself out. The coffin has a hardness of 5 and 15 hp. Breaking out in this manner ruins the magic of the coffin and all its contents are spilt into the Ethereal Plane.

Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, Leomund's secret chest; Market Price: 2,500 gp; Weight: 150 lbs.

Robe of Bones: This handy item functions much like a robe of useful items. It appears to be an unremarkable robe, but a character who dons it notes that it is adorned with small embroidered figures representing undead creatures. Only the wearer of the robe can see the embroidery and recognize them for the creatures they become, and detach them. One figure can be detached each round. Detaching a figure causes it to become an actual undead creature, as indicated below. The skeleton or zombie is not under the control of the wearer of the robe, but it may be subsequently commanded, rebuked, and so on. A newly created robe of bones always has two embroidered figures of each of the following undead:

Caster Level: 5th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, animate dead; Market Price: 3,600 gp; Weight: 1 lb.

Shrouds of the Holy: These shrouds appear to be ordinary funerary wrappings for dead bodies. They are often decorated with symbols and icons representing the dead rising. If a dead body is wrapped in the shroud, and the command word spoken, the body will return to life. Wrapping a body takes 10 minutes. The magic of the shrouds is useable only once, after which the wrapping becomes ordinary, fine cloth.

Caster Level: 17th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection as appropriate; Market Price: 5,000 gp (raise dead), 9,600 gp (resurrection), or 20,300 gp (true resurrection); Weight: 10 lbs.

Shrouds of the Unholy: These shrouds, like shrouds of the holy, look like ordinary funerary wrappings for dead bodies and are often decorated with symbols and icons representing the dead rising. If a dead body is wrapped in the shroud, and the command word spoken, the body will return as undead. The type of undead it returns as is determined by the speaker of the command word. The undead creature is not under anyone's control when it rises. Wrapping a body takes 10 minutes. The magic of the shrouds is useable only once, after which the wrapping becomes ordinary, fine cloth.

Caster Level: 20th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, animate dead, create undead, or create greater undead as appropriate; Market Price: 1,550 gp (animate dead), 12,250 gp (create undead), or 16,000 (create greater undead); Weight: 10 lbs.

Cursed Magic Items

Final Shrouds: These funerary garments are indistinguishable from shrouds of the holy. Instead of returning the body within to life, it whisks the body off to another plane and summons a barghest to immediately consume it. The item destroys the body and prevents any form of raising or resurrection that requires part of the corpse. A wish, miracle, or true resurrection spell can restore a victim to life, but there is a 50% chance that even such powerful magic will fail. While someone expecting to return their companion to life might be desolated by the effect, an assassin wishing to dispose of a dead body may find such burial wrappings quite useful. The magic of the shrouds is useable only once, after which the wrapping becomes ordinary, fine cloth.

Caster Level: 15th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, plane shift, summon monster VIII; Market Price: 16,500 gp; Weight: 10 lbs.

Shrouds of Disintegration: These burial wrappings are indistinguishable from shrouds of the holy; however, the body placed inside is turned to dust when the command word is spoken. The magic of the shrouds is useable only once, after which the wrapping becomes ordinary, fine cloth.

Caster Level: 11th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, disintegrate; Market Price: 6,600 gp; Weight: 10 lbs.

Alternate Familiars

If a DM wishes to give undead sorcerers and wizards greater scope for their familiars, she may consider using one of the three following alternatives.

Familiar

Special

Tiny Monstrous Centipede Poisonous bite
Wiggling Maggot Master adds +2 to turn resistance; master can have maggot become fly*
Giant Fly** Master gains a +2 bonus on Reflex saves

*The wiggling maggot's master can have the maggot transform into the giant fly familiar as a full-round action. This transformation can happen only once. The maggot thereafter will be a giant fly.

**See below.

Giant Fly
Tiny Vermin
Hit Dice: 1/4 d8 (1)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 15 ft., climb 15 ft., fly 30 ft. (poor)
AC: 14 (+2 size, +2 Dex), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Attacks: Bite +4 melee
Damage: Bite 1d3-5
Face/Reach: 2 1/2 ft. by 2 1/2 ft./0 ft.
Special Qualities: Vermin traits
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +0
Abilities: Str 1, Dex 15, Con 10, Int --, Wis 10, Cha 2
Skills: Climb +14, Hide +14, Listen +2, Move Silently +5, Spot +2
Feats: Weapon Finesse (bite) (B)
Climate/Terrain: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary or swarm (8-16)
Challenge Rating: 1/8
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral

Wiggling Maggot
Diminutive Vermin
Hit Dice: 1/4 d8 (1)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 5 ft., burrow 5 ft., climb 5 ft.
AC: 15 (+4 size, +1 Dex), touch 15, flat-footed 14
Attacks: --
Damage: --
Face/Reach:
1 ft. by 1 ft./0 ft.
Special Qualities: Vermin traits
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +2
Abilities: Str 1, Dex 12, Con 11, Int --, Wis 14, Cha 2
Skills: Climb +13, Hide +21, Listen +4, Move Silently +4, Spot +4
Climate/Terrain: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary or swarm (150-200)
Challenge Rating: 1/10
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral

About the size of a hawk, the giant fly is exactly that: a larger version of the flies you commonly see buzzing about carrion, picnics, garbage, and other food sources. Female giant flies, once mated, lay about 200 eggs in decaying organic matter. The eggs transition to larvae within 5-12 hours. (Wiggling maggots are actually those maggots that have gone through the third molting phase of the larval stage.) Those maggots that aren't acting as familiars then pupate for about 3 days before the adult form, the fly, emerges from the puparium. If a maggot is serving as a familiar, the maggot enters the pupa phase very briefly and immediately changes into its adult form. Giant flies eat various forms of decaying organic matter by ingesting then regurgitating it.

Combat

A giant fly uses its bite attack to nip at foes, then it flies away as quickly as possible before swooping in again for another bite. Wiggling maggots have no form of attack, but they possess vermin traits.

Vermin Traits: A giant fly or wiggling maggot is immune to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects). It also has darkvision (60-foot range).

Skills: Wiggling maggots receive a +4 racial bonus on Hide checks. Both giant flies and wiggling maggots use their Dexterity modifiers instead of their Strength modifiers for Climb checks.

Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel is an editor for Wizards of the Coast's Roleplaying Games R&D department. Recent credits include editing Faiths and Pantheons, Oriental Adventures, and Magic of Faerûn, and designing part of the Book of Challenges. She's a frequent contributor to the Wizards of the Coast website. Also, check out the website she created for her fiancé, Andy Collins, at www.andycollins.net

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