What is it about the undead that bring about such fanaticism in Geek Culture? People love zombies and vampires and imagining scenarios. Books such as World War Z or the upcoming movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or even Shaun of the Dead wouldn’t be as popular as they are if it were not for our oft outspoken love of all things macabre.
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In gaming the undead hold a special place in my heart. When I think of Dungeons and Dragons of any edition I see in my mind’s eye Vecna, Liches, decrepit Skeletons, conniving Vampires, and dangerous Ghouls. For me what brings about this love of the undead is that I enjoy a deadlier game. I want there to be risks when I play and when I DM. I want there to be fear at that table, I want my characters and players alike to embrace that fear as they swing their axes or cast their mighty spells towards these creatures. Let’s be frank, the undead are terrifying and that’s great!
Where these vile abominations come from is irrelevant, really. Whether these creatures come from some mystical and powerful source or find their motivations simply driven by the need to consume and destroy or by jealousy, the undead indeed have a deep-set place in our collective Geek psyche.
|I wouldn't want to run into any of these guys...|
It’s no secret that I like my games deadly and fast and filled with fear. I just waxed poetic about it a few lines above, after all! But what really is it about the undead that strike me as being deadly? Early in my D&D career I had the opportunity to play in the Ravenloft setting with a wonderful DM. I saw the undead as they were, dark and depressing. Strahd’s love across the centuries was enlightening to the darkness in the villain’s heart yet it did not stop my group from destroying both him and his minions with the legendary Sunsword.
The dead need to be feared. They are filled with negative energy that drains and sucks the life out of creatures that encounter them. Gone are the days of Level Drain and Ability Score Drain and also gone are the days of the Ravenloft setting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love 4th Edition, I’m a diehard about it. I understand (some) of the principles behind the design philosophy for the edition and that’s great. Even Ravenloft has seen some 4e-inspired love by way of the fantastic D&D Adventure Systems board game. But that’s not enough, not by a longshot, not for me.
Let’s bring back that fear of undeath, because frankly it doesn’t exist in 4e. Let’s make Vampires and Ghouls something to genuinely be feared by player and character alike.
Fair Warning, Here be Dragons: This is a Legend4ry take on the undead in 4e that strays from the design philosophy behind the edition. Much of the influence behind this comes from previous editions and many Fourthcore-inspired monsters. As such, this is not a rules variant for everyone.
Below I present some variant rules and monsters that embrace the inspiration from older editions and the 4th edition design philosophy. To me, that’s what Legend4ry D&D is all about.
First up is the concept and definition of both Level and Ability Drain in 4e terms:
Next is the way one afflicted with said terribleness can cure themselves:
And finally are two beasties that will leave your party in utter terror; the Maydeath Ghoul and the Maydeath Wight:
I’ve also compiled all of this in an easy to view pdf here.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading a deadlier take on the undead in a 4e game as much as I have had creating it. If you’ve enjoyed this series of bringing older edition version of monsters into the realm of 4e, be sure to check out my next post regarding the horrendous Vargouille.
Until next time,
Disclaimer: All art in today's post comes from the Wizards of the Coast art archive. All charts and stat blocks come from this guy.
You can follow me on Twitter @Sorcerer_Blob or via the hash-tag #legend4ry. You can also find my blog and others at the Fourthcore Hub and at the RPG Blog Alliance.
Be sure to check out the other May of the Dead Carnival blogs located here!