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Of the Undead and the Unlife

Copyright © Cormac Doyle, 2000

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

Excerpts from On the Nature of the Unlife, a lecture to the Collegiate of the Arcane by sage Crom taal Kieranis, Professor of the Occult:

"The Undead—the very word is sufficient to chill a person to his bones. This instinctive fear is so strong because it brings to mind the very things we fear the most—ghosts, ghouls, spectres, and vampyres—but also because it reminds us all of our mortality. For the Elven peoples, it heralds an even darker concept, that something could not only kill their immortal bodies, but also enslave their immortal spirits.

"In its broadest sense, any being which lingers after it has died can be termed Undead—because it is at once dead and not dead. However, it is a dangerous oversimplification to assume that every Undead is a creature of the Unlife, or even that it draws sustenance from the Unlife. The terms 'Undead' and 'Unlife' should never—nay, must never—be confused. Based upon my studies of the Occult, I have concluded that there are at least four separate and distinct classes of Undead. I have called these classes the Animated Dead, the Bound Spirits, the Restless Spirits, and the Transformed. In addition to these four classes of Undead, there are also three further types of being or creature that might be confused with the Undead—the True Spirits, the Denizens of the Dream-Realms, and the True Unlife. I hope to take each of these categories in turn, and explain how their members differ from each other, and how to tell such creatures from one another.

"If you had had as much contact with Undead beings as I have had, you would have noticed that it is more than just their name that can chill you. If they are beings of the Unlife, or are bound by the Unlife, they will cause corruption and Taint. However, whether they are corrupted by the Unlife, or are simply restless sprits, the very fact that they are Undead means that their touch, even their mere presence, is capable of weakening you, draining the very life from your body. However, as I have said before, there is 'undead' and there is 'Undead.' Not all creatures or beings that have previously been classified as 'undead' will drain your life essence any more than they will cause Taint. I will endeavour to clarify these issues in the remainder of my talk.

"Animated Dead: Where some magicians seek to create constructs and golems from wood, clay, or metal, the necromancer seeks to reanimate the very corpse of his foe. The corpse is no longer alive, nor is it inherently capable of individual thought or action; it is quite simply an automaton. It is animated by the Will and the Magic of the Necromancer, and will only act when the necromancer exerts his will. One point that must be understood by people studying the Occult and the Unlife is that this power exerted by the necromancer cannot automatically be assumed to be drawn from the Unlife—there are also many necromancers using Essænce to animate their servants. Obviously, these automatons are not truly 'Undead' in the strictest sense of that word, and consequently they will not drain the life essence of those around them.

"Bound Spirits: If a necromancer can be present at the moment of death, he can bind the spirit of the dying person to a construct, or to a preserved body. As with the animated dead, bound spirits need not be associated with the Unlife. Some necromancers have been known to even bind part of their own spirits within a construct formed from their blood and the necromantic arts. The process to create such a Homunculus or Soul Shadow is a long and complex one, but grants the successful necromancer a dedicated and highly intelligent familiar. Part of the matrix that binds these spirits feeds and sustains them, which means that these 'Undead' rarely drain the life-essence of those whom they encounter. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and certain binding rituals leave the spirit craving contact with living beings because it is 'hungry' for their life essences.

"Restless Spirits: If any class of the Undead can be called 'natural,' then it is the restless spirits. These are the disembodied souls or spirits of once-living beings, bound to a place or item through emotional ties. Often, such spirits are the victims of a violent or terrifying death which left such a mark on them that they were unable to break their emotional and mental ties to the physical world, and so remain bound within this plane of existence. Very often they will haunt the locations where they died, but they may feel bound to a person or item instead, either out of a desire for revenge or because they feel protective of that person or thing. Unfortunately for those who encounter them, these spirits almost universally drain life essence, because the ties that bind them to this world do not serve to succour or feed them.

"The Transformed: The Transformed are those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice—life itself—in return for the power which they crave. By purging themselves of all traces of the Essænce and embracing the dark tendrils of the Unlife, they are guaranteed never to age or die, never to feel fear or pain, and to gain more power than they could ever have dreamed. Of course, they are now dead—or perhaps more correctly, Undead. The noncorporeal Transformed will almost certainly drain the life essence of those they meet, while the corporeal Transformed are less likely to do so. However, there is no hard-and-fast rule to guide you here—I would advise you to consult my handout, where I have listed the various Transformed.

"The True Unlife: Many creatures and beings draw upon the Unlife for 'life'—possibly at least as many as draw upon the Essænce. Luckily, most of these creatures do not attempt to enter this plane of existence, because we are hard-pressed to cope with those that do. These beings are not really 'Undead' because they were never 'alive' when looked upon from our perspective—rather, they are merely another form of extraplanar being, and should be more properly studied as Demons, not Undead. True creatures or beings of the Unlife are highly unlikely to drain a person's life essence; believe it or not, our presence is as corrupting to them as their presence is to us.

"The True Spirits: The spirit of every living being, be they creatures of the Essænce, like the inhabitants of our plane of existence, or creatures of the Unlife, is drawn from the Spirit Plane. Although normally such spirits only cross over when a new life is forming within the womb (or egg, etc.), there have been occasions when a spirit has crossed over to this plane of existence without being bound to a physical body. Such spirits are not Undead because they were never alive. True spirits rarely cause Taint, as they will draw sustenance from whatever is most prevalent on the plane where they find themselves. They may drain a person's life essence but normally have some degree of control over who is affected by the drain—they prefer for the life essence to be donated by a willing follower. If you wish to learn more about such spirits, my colleague Elannon tar Irdraal will be giving a lecture entitled On the Psyche and the Nature of the Gods later today.

"The Denizens of the Dream-Realms: If it can be said that the Spirit Plane lies outside the Essænce–Unlife axis, then the Dream-Realms lie between here and there. When we dream, our Spirits wander the Dream-Realms, an ethereal plane where the knowledgeable can alter the very reality that others experience. Of course, not all of the beings that one can encounter within one's own dreams are the figments of one's own imagination—firstly, it is possible to meet other dreamers, especially if you or they have some knowledge of controlling the Dream-Realms. Unfortunately, it would appear that there are beings that call the Dream-Realms home, and their mastery over their own realm exceeds that of even the most powerful Dream Lord from Kulthea. Such beings seem to take exception to our invading their 'turf,' and the tales of Dream Horrors and the dreaded Spalajlen-Tier must surely originate from Dreamers encountering such denizens of the Dream-Realms. Such topics will be covered in time by the faculty, but at present, I would refer you to the library where there are several works on the subject.

"In my studies of the area of the Occult, I have encountered many examples of each of the categories I have discussed here, and I have prepared a scroll upon which I have inscribed a description—and the most common names—for each of these spirits. For those of you who wish to delve deeper into this topic, I will be giving a lecture entitled On the Transformed and the Process of Transformation in the morning. Please ensure that you have proper rest tonight, as even discussing the topic is a draining experience. Thank you for your attention, and I will now open the floor for questions."

Notes on the New Classifications

This document is not intended to challenge the intellectual property rights of Iron Crown Enterprises or any of the authors that work for ICE. Consequently, I have not listed any "statistics" for any of the creatures I describe, but rather I list page references for RM, RMSS and RMFRP publications. I have included descriptive passages for each of the creatures/beings, and in many cases have drawn upon the passages in Creatures & Monsters, but in each case, the descriptions have been altered to best describe why the creature/being has been classified as it has. Please go and buy Creatures & Monsters if you do not already own it.

The Animated Dead

Animated Corpse (Standard Created Undead)

References: RM—Creatures & Treasures, pp. 32, 40, 41; RMSS—Creatures & Monsters, pp. 173, 180, 193; RMFRP—Creatures & Monsters, pp. 121, 127, 132.

Variants: Type I–Type VI (based upon the spell used to create them), Disembodied Head (Type III), Roaming Hand (Type II).

Confusion: Living Ghoul (not actually dead yet), Ghoul (Type I–IV Transformed), Zombie (Type I–VI Restless Spirit).

Description:

  • White, pallid skin and blank, staring eyes; a shambling walk and a mindless obedience to their master—these things epitomise the Animated Corpse. Of course, typical features of an animated corpse vary with practically every corpse that has been animated. The process of animation preserves the corpse from decay, but it cannot repair any decay that had already damaged the body. Additionally, any damage dealt to the corpse by way of accident or violence will remain, unchanged—so a fighter can hack off the corpse's arm, or break the jaw clean off, and the corpse will continue fighting. With sufficient damage, the necromancer's spells will fail, and the corpse will collapse to the ground.
  • A "Disembodied Head" is a ghastly sight—a hovering, severed humanoid head. Decomposing eyes dangle from black sockets, and sharpened teeth fill their rotting maws, which constantly mouth deprecations and foul curses. Such a form is ideal for missions involving the infiltration of hard-to-get-to areas, as they can slip through small openings that nobody or no body can fit through. A disembodied head may attack by biting and draining the blood and life essence of its victim (1d10+10 hits, 1d4 points of Life Essence per round).
  • A "Roaming Hand" is quite literally a hand that a necromancer has animated. Looking like some nightmarish insect, it may occasionally carry an eye, through which the necromancer can see. (Although, technically, the necromancer doesn't actually need the eye, it's simply traditional!)

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: An animated corpse will ignore any and all activity near it, as it can only act while under the direct control of the necromancer that created it, or if following very specific (three- or four-word) instructions, like "Guard this room" or "Kill all Humans." The destruction of an animated corpse can be achieved in a variety of ways. Firstly, the spells animating the corpse can be dispelled (using Cancel Essence, Cancel Channeling or Cancel Unlife [see the last section of this article, "The Unlife and the Realms of Magic"] depending on how they were created). Secondly, the body may simply be hacked to pieces (although it is traditional to destroy the corpse altogether by burning it to ensure that the necromancer cannot reanimate it at a later date).

Skeleton (Standard Created Undead)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; C&T II, pp. 40, 41, 42; RMSS—C&M, pp. 191, 196, 197, 198, 200; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 120, 131, 133, 134.

Variants: Type I–Type VI (based upon the spell used to create them), Ice Skeleton (normally Type II, but may be any Type), Iron Skeleton (normally Type III, but may be any Type), Necros (Type I), Skullbat (Type I–Type III), Skullpack (Type III), Spiderskull (Type I).

Confusion: Bone Golem (Type III Bound Spirit), Giant Skull (Type IV Unlife), Skeleton Lord (Type IV Restless Spirit), Skeleton Sovereign (Type V Restless Spirit), Skullbat (Type I–III Unlife), Skullbeast (Type IV Restless Spirit).

Description:

  • "Normal" skeletons range from Type I–III (minor, lesser, and greater skeletons, respectively). The larger skeleton of one of the Giant Races (Trolls, Ogres, Giants, Titans, etc.) is normally more powerful, thus they range from Type III–IV (lesser and greater giant skeletons, respectively). Of course, these two classes assume that the animated skeletons are humanoid; there is enough variability within the animal kingdom to produce skeletons capable of being classified as Type V or VI. Huge skeletons such as elephants or creatures of similar mass could be animated as Type V Skeletons. To create a Type VI animated skeleton, the necromancer would need to animate the skeleton of a Dragon or similarly super-massive creature.
  • Ice skeletons are normal skeletons enchanted to constantly emit an aura of cold, inflicting a cold critical of equal severity to any inflicted with their melee attack.
  • Iron skeletons are normal skeletons that have been coated with iron (or another metal) to reinforce their "natural" defences, increasing their average number of hits and armour type.
  • A Necros is a humanoid skull, attached only to the spinal column of the original body, which has been enchanted to have venomous fangs.
  • A Skullbat is an animated skull with leathery, bat-like wings. Those skullbats formed from human-sized skulls normally have a wingspan of c. 3', whereas larger bull's skulls or similar may have wingspans in excess of 8'.
  • A Skullpack is a group of 4–16 skulls that appear to magically fly, swirling about each other in complicated patters of a seemingly random design. The clacking maws and empty sockets of these things usually communicate nothing but death.
  • A Spiderskull appears as a poison-blackened skull with eight spindly, spidery legs protruding from it. It scuttles around in an obscene parody of life, making an ideal adjunct to a necromancer's "bestiary" of spies and servants.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: As Animated Corpse.

The Bound Spirits

Black Reaver (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—Rolemaster Companion (I), p. 75; RMSS—C&M, p. 175; RMFRP—C&M, p. 114.

Variants: Lesser (Type VI); Greater (Type VI).

Confusion: Standard Constructs and Golems.

Description: A pitch-black suit of plate mail, 7'–9' tall, wielding a large hooked battle-axe, topped by a horned helm from which two bright scarlet eyes glow forth with hellish intensity. The armour, the axe and the helm are all fashioned from the same substance—Eog. The Rolemaster Companion contains a powerful description of the panic that besets a group of adventurers when they realise that the Black Reaver has not only followed them across a continent, but also across a major ocean! (It simply walked along the seabed).

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: There is nothing more dangerous than a Black Reaver short of a Deity (and probably not many of those either). A Black Reaver is the result of the fusion of a powerful Transformed (Lich, Vampyre, or Black Paladin) with an Unlife Demon (normally a Class VI Ordainer or similarly powerful creature). They are given a purpose, normally guarding an object or the assassination of a specific individual. The are not wanton, and are highly intelligent—they will do whatever they deem necessary to ensure that their mission is completed, removing any and all obstacles in their path. There is not a single recorded account of anyone successfully penetrating an area guarded by a Black Reaver, those who did try were utterly vanquished by this unyielding power from beyond the grave.

Golem (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 34; C&T II, pp. 32, 33, 37; RMSS—C&M, pp. 124, 125, 126, 176; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 81, 82, 126.

Variants: Standard Golems (Bone, Brass, Clay, Crystal, Diamond, Eog, Flesh, Iron, Mithril, Steel, Stone, Wood). Colossus (same list as above). Demon (same list as above). Mite (same list as above). Beast (same list as above, almost any animal imaginable).

Confusion: Constructs (physically identical to Golems, but constructs are animated, not spirit-bound).

Description:

  • A Golem is a sculpture constructed from one of many materials—see the list above—and normally moulded in the form of a humanoid (5'–7' in height), although some Golems have been produced in the forms of beasts. They are endowed with animation and purpose by binding a spirit, which may be summoned from the Spirit Plane or bound from a dying being. Because they are endowed with an intelligent spirit, they can act with intelligence and cunning in the execution of their instructions—although part of the binding magic is a compulsion to obey their creator. If the Golem is created using Essænce, the Golem is not considered "a creature of the Unlife"—it will not give Taint, nor will it drain Constitution. However, if the Golem was created using the Unlife, it will cause Taint (assume the "Type" to be the Golem's level divided by 5, rounding up). Note that regardless of the type of Golem, they can never cast spells of their own.
  • A Demon Golem is one animated by binding a Demon into it rather than a Spirit. There is no outward difference, but the Demon-bound Golem will normally be even more intelligent, and often highly chaotic or evil.
  • A Beast Golem has been fashioned in the form of a creature rather than a humanoid. Horses, wolves, bulls, wyverns, falcons, cats—anything is possible to the imaginative. Obviously, spells are used to replicate functions like flight of which a sculpture would not ordinarily be capable.
  • "Colossus" Golems possess bodies on a massive scale—ranging 20'–50' in height—but are otherwise identical to their normal-sized cousins.
  • "Mite" Golems possess miniaturised bodies—ranging from 1'–4' in height—but are otherwise identical to their full-sized cousins.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: A Golem can be destroyed in two basic ways—it can be hacked to pieces, or the spells binding the spirit within the Golem can be severed. Note that if the latter occurs, the spirit will, more likely than not, use the body it has been given to wreak its revenge on the spell-caster that originally bound it.

Homunculus (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 44; RMSS—C&M, p. 103; RMFRP—C&M, p. 71.

Description: Leathery, bat-like wings (2'–3' wingspan) carry these stunted goblinoids to whatever destination their master may desire. Their eyes are dark pits, and their mouths are home to two small fangs that drip with poison.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Formed from a necromancer's blood and animated with a shard of his soul (psyche), a Homunculus rarely strays from its master's side. This is a special form of spirit binding in that the caster is binding part of his own soul into the creation. Because of this, he may concentrate and completely control the Homunculus and view the world through its senses. However, the creator also suffers activity modifiers due to damage and exhaustion to the Homunculus. The death of the Homunculus will put its master into shock for d10 days, suffering –50 to all activities during this time.

Mummy (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 190; RMFRP—C&M, p. 118.

Variants: Lesser (Type III), Greater (Type IV), Dark Mummy (Type IV).

Description:

  • Mummies are (were?) humanoid beings that have been embalmed and wrapped in layers of securing cloths to help preserve their bodies. In some cultures, additional preparations may occur; the intestines may be removed and embalming herbs and spices may be added to the body cavity to ensure the preservation of the body. However, these particular bound-spirit mummies have been designated as the defenders of the royal tombs. The spirit of the dead warrior is bound to his preserved body through a series of binding rituals, imbuing them with movement, and a protective will.
  • A Dark Mummy is identical in all aspects to a normal mummy, with one major exception: Having been created by the Unlife, the spirit of the mummy becomes a dark and malevolent evil, desiring the death of all living beings. Often, the presence of the Unlife also causes the mummy to be a source of corruption and disease, festering a wide range of ills which it will pass on to any who come close enough, even if they survive its immediate wrath.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Because of their nature, mummies are particularly susceptible to fire—the combination of ages-old cloths and embalming solutions make for a highly flammable target. However, mummies are normally protective—it is a very rare mummy that would attack unprovoked, with the notable exception of the Dark Mummy.

Shadow (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 119; RMFRP—C&M, p. 114.

Variants: Lesser (Type II), Greater (Type IV).

Description: The result of a terrible ritual known only to a few necromancers and recorded in only the most despicable tomes of vile knowledge, a Shadow appears like a shred of darkness, barely visible against the night sky. Huge, cloudy, bat-like wings augment the soaring flight of this spirit, while invisible fangs facilitate the consumption of the pulsating life-essence of its prey. The ceremony involves the sacrifice of one living being from a mannish race, slowly drained of their life essence over a period of a month, from one new moon to the next. During this period, the victim undergoes the most hellish of tortures, slowly losing his mind, becoming obsessed with one thing—the life essence of mannish beings. The Shadow shares some form of bond with its necromantic creator, and somehow transfers some form of mystical invigoration to its creator every time it feeds. This is one of the main reasons they must feed—the matrix that binds them also continually drains them.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: The Shadow spends its days huddled in concealing nooks, caves, and caverns, cowering from the harsh glare of sunlight which makes it sluggish and slow. When darkness steals across the land, the Shadow bolts from its nest in a flurry of black wings and begins it nightly hunt. A Shadow must consume life essence regularly or it will begin to fade—if it should go without feeding for a month, it will fade to nothingness. To maintain its strength, it must feed on a Human, Elf or similar sapient once per night. Such a feeding will completely drain the person. In an area with sufficient "hunting" opportunities, the Shadow will not kill; it will break off the attack before the victim dies and move on to its next victim. If necessary, it can feed off lesser creatures (cattle, forest creatures, etc.), but it must kill many more of them because the life essence of such creatures does not satisfy it as does that of sapient creatures. Although it is almost always the Unlife that binds it to this existence, it is repulsed by beings with more than 50 PT Permanent Taint points, for it is the pure life essence of the Untainted that it seeks.

Note: I have wavered between classifying the Shadow as a Transformed and a Bound Spirit, but I finally decided on classifying it as a Bound Spirit because it is inarguably bound to its creator.

Shadow Assassin (Bound Spirit)

References: RM—C&T II, p. 41; RMSS—C&M, p. 194; RMFRP—C&M, p. 119.

Variants: Type IV–VI Bound Spirits (Lesser, Greater, Major).

Description: These beings are only a shade darker than the shadows in which they live; their bodies are but ghostly stirrings of darkness with piercing yellow eyes. They clutch an ethereal blade in their shadowy fingers. The spirits of dead assassins, these entities are summoned and bound by foul necromancers and dark priests or magi to slay their enemies. If the proper incentive is not offered, the Shadow Assassin is just as likely to turn on its summoner and slay them outright, so it is best to be cautious when dealing with such spirits.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Shadow Assassins are creatures that live principally on the ethereal plane; only their shadowy outline is visible in this plane. They attack by plunging their ethereal dagger into the heart of their "marks," draining the life from them. These creatures exist only for the fulfilment of their missions, using their noncorporeal forms to flit through walls and barriers. They are never encountered without missions, as the bonds that tie them to this plane are dissolved when they complete them.

The Restless Spirits

Corpse Light (Restless Spirits)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 177; RMFRP—C&M, p. 116.

Variants: Corpse Candle (Type III Restless Spirit), Corpse Lantern (Type IV Restless Spirit).

Description: Illusion cloaks the remains of a drowned corpse, bequeathing upon it a wholesome and fair appearance. The image seems to float just below the surface of the water, cupping a beckoning light in its hands, motioning with alluring charm to the living who gaze down upon it. The corpses of the dead actually lie motionless in the dark and icy waters in which they drowned. The illusions seek to lure the unsuspecting into the depths, where they can feed from the life essence of their victims.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: A viewer that becomes entranced by a Corpse Light will drift into an enscorcelled sleep, falling into the dark waters where the Undead spirit will feed from its victim's life essence. Once under its spell, there is little that victims can do for themselves, but their companions can rescue them if they act quickly. Destroying Corpse Light is difficult—fire could damage it, but would also be quenched as soon as it entered the water. Disillusion spells can cancel its power temporarily, and a Cleric may be able to banish it with difficulty.

Deathwoode (Type IV Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T II, p. 37; RMSS—C&M, p. 178; RMFRP—C&M, p. 127.

Description: The spirit of a slain tree-herd (Ent), these woody spirits appear as large trees with twisted limbs, black eyes, and an ominously toothy maw. Their forms are ghostly, but the swish of the wind through their dead leaves and the creak of their boughs is not just imagined by those who have come face to face with these Undead.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: The Deathwoode will normally be protective of the forest that it tended while alive, but their Undead state may slowly corrupt them, and they will become progressively more vengeful and ruthless in their pursuit of any forest traveller. However, after only a few centuries of living death, most Deathwoodes will have faded into the essence of the forest—especially if a new guardian has started to tend the forest.

Desert Spirits (Type III Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T II, p. 39; RMSS—C&M, p. 179; RMFRP—C&M, p. 127.

Variants: None.

Description: The spirits of those who die of dust storms and dehydration in the desert, Desert Spirits are formless and insubstantial, but can animate the sands into fluid humanoid sand sculptures or violent sand storms.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Large amounts of water will slake down the sand, making a sludge that the spirits cannot animate (although where one can get water in the middle of a parched, trackless desert I have no idea). The only way to release these spirits from their unending hell is to Banish them through the use of a Cleric's Repulsion spell.

Dirge (Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42, C&T II, p. 39; RMSS—C&M, pp. 179, 187; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 116, 130.

Variants: Type II–V Restless Spirits (Minor, Lesser, Greater, Major Dirges), Mara (Type II Restless Spirit).

Description:

  • Vague of form and insubstantial to the touch, these dark-eyed musicians are spirits tied to their music. Each individual Dirge carries some sort of instrument. They are partial to playing depressing, funereal music wherever they go. Normally, this is in seldom-visited graveyards and cemeteries. Caught up in their music, they will take ill to any interruptions.
  • A Mara is similar in many ways to a Dirge, bar one: They seek out the living, to serenade them as they sleep, slowly feeding on their life essence until their victim perishes of a slow, wasting disease.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Although many Dirges are accomplished Bards, they will not seek out the living, but will bemuse and then kill any living creature that interrupts their singing. It is best to steer clear of areas known to be haunted by a Dirge.

Fire Phantom (Type III Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 181; RMFRP—C&M, p. 128.

Variants: None.

Description: A death by fire is a horrific way to go, and can lead to the person's spirit being unable to find its way to the Spirit Plane. Fire Phantoms appear as an immaterial form, motioning and writhing within a patina of roaring, spectral fire that smells of burning flesh and brimstone. Often not cognisant of their true status, they will rush towards the living, pleading for succour.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: In addition to the life essence that they drain from their victims, Fire Phantoms can burn them; their mere presence acts as a 20' Fireball, with them as the centre. Water will quench the fires that bind them to this plane, and release them to the Spirit Plane.

Ghost (Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; C&T II, p. 41; RMSS—C&M, pp. 174, 182–183, 192; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 116, 126, 128, 131–132.

Variants: Minor Ghost (Type II Restless Spirit), Lesser Ghost (Type III Restless Spirit), Headless Ghost (Type III Restless Spirit), Greater Ghost (Type V Restless Spirit), Phantom (Type I Restless Spirit), Phantom Steed (Type II Restless Spirit).

Confusion: Living beings, Spectres (noncorporeal Transformed).

Description:

  • The remnants of dead beings cling to this plane of existence with a supernatural stubbornness, forming an insubstantial body from ethereal matter (ectoplasm) which resembles the body they wore while living. Weaker (Minor or Lesser) Ghosts may be hazy, blurred, or translucent for the most part, but as the Ghost gets more powerful, its form becomes progressively more difficult to distinguish from a normal physical body by sight alone.
  • The Headless variety is normally recognisable because it tends to carry its head around tucked under its arm.
  • A Phantom is an insubstantial spirit, whose pale, translucent face shows a contorted rictus of pain, expressing its death agonies. The misty image of the diseased or dismembered body sometimes accompanies the horror of the face. The horrors that killed the being have shattered the phantom's psyche, so it wanders, seeking surcease from the pain that racks it.
  • The Phantom Steed is the spectral spirit of a steed that is bound by its master at the moment of its death, so that it may continue to serve its master from beyond the grave. It can draw upon the ethereal to form a spectral body, allowing it to become visible at will, although it is always noncorporeal.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Ghosts masquerade as the living, often completely unaware of their true status, continuing a travesty of life in and around the location where they died. They are almost always tied to a focus of some sort that prevents their spirit from departing this earthly wayfaring. These foci can take can forms—a person, a weapon, a treasure or a place—that are somehow tied to their deaths. If a ghost's focus is identified, it can be resolved or destroyed, allowing the ghost to rest. Otherwise, the ghost can only be temporarily driven away. Because a Phantom's focus is its own pain, the only way to free it from its desperate condition is to banish it (the Repulsion spell)—any favourable result will break the bonds that tie the phantom to this plane, and return its shattered psyche to the Spirit Plane.

Skeletal Lords (Restless Spirits)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 196; RMFRP—C&M, p. 119.

Variants: Skeleton Joker (Type III Restless Spirit), Skeleton Lord (Type IV Restless Spirit), Skeleton Sovereign (Type V Restless Spirit), Red Skeleton (Type VI Restless Spirit).

Confusion: Normal Skeletons (Animated Dead).

Note on Skeletons: Please note that the Type/Class breakdown I am using here is taken from the text of the RMFRP version of Creatures & Monsters. RMSS and RM list both types as Type IV. RM lists the Skeleton Joker as Type III, but states that it is also known as "Red Skeleton," but it gives the Red Skeleton a Type VI classification. RMSS and RMFRP omit the Skeleton Joker, and list the Red Skeleton as Type VI. If you don't have the original C&T, use the "Greater Skeleton" stats for the Skeleton Joker, but assume its outlook is Playful and its IQ is AV.

Description:

  • Appearing to be merely another animated skeleton, a Skeletal Lord is actually a powerful Spirit animating the skeletal remains of some unfortunate being. Because of the "difficulties" involved in animating a corpse that has limited or non-existent flesh, only spirits that have retained at least average (AV) intelligence or better and the capacity to cast spells can animate Skeletons.
  • A Skeleton Joker appears identical to any other Skeleton, except that they are never separated from their deck of cards. Many are accomplished Tarot Mages, using a perverted version of the Tome of Many Teachings to advise, entertain, and guide their fellow Skeletal Lords. Red Skeleton is the single most powerful Skeletal Lord on record, and is the true master of this perverted ToMT.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Skeletal Lords actually possess the capacity to cast spells, in addition to possessing a level of intelligence similar to that possessed by the average man or woman. While "normal" animated skeletons can have the spells that animate them dispelled or suppressed, Skeletal Lords are not "animated" in that meaning of the word, and so must be banished by a Cleric. Physical damage can bring down a Skeletal Lord, but unless the spirit animating the skeleton is banished, it can rebuild the skeleton—although the more damage done the longer it will take.

Swamp Star (Type IV Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, p. 43; RMSS—C&M, p. 200; RMFRP—C&M, p. 134.

Confusion: Will o' the Wisp (True Unlife).

Description: The spirit of a being that lost its life after becoming hopelessly lost in the depths of a dark swamp, a Swamp Star takes the form of a small, bright light. The Swamp Star flits from point to point, pulsing and changing hue in an attempt to gain the attention of those viewing it. The hypnotic effect of its light can lead its victims astray. Any traveller that becomes mired in quicksand, or trapped in the mud and murky waters of the swamp, makes a quick feast for the Swamp Star as it quickly drains the person's life essence.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Being incorporeal, it cannot be harmed by physical weapons, but by be dissuaded or banished by a Cleric.

Wight (Restless Spirit)

References: RM—C&T, pp. 42–43; RMSS—C&M, p. 207; RMFRP—C&M, p. 125.

Variants: Minor, Lesser, Major Wights (Type IV, V, VI Restless Spirits), Barrow-Wight (Type V Restless Spirit).

Confusion: Spectre (noncorporeal Transformed).

Description: Wights are dark, shadowy human forms with eyes akin to faint lights. Pale white limbs appear now and again, but are immaterial and quickly hidden again beneath their shadowy raiment. When observed with the aid of magic or ethereal sight, they take on the tattered forms of great lords and ladies with cold, cruel, gleaming eyes. Barrow-wights roam the narrow halls and low tunnels of the barrow-tombs, while the more mundane wights haunt the profaned graveyards and cemeteries no longer protected by the wards and charms against the intrusion of the Undead. Often it is the influence of the Unlife, spreading its Taint across the land, which awakens these dread spirits from their endless slumbers. When this unclean influence saturates the final resting-place of a once-noble lord or lady, laid low by mortality, the spirits of the dead are disturbed and drawn back to the place where their mortal bodies lie. The power of the Unlife saturating the area corrupts such spirits, causing them to become Wights.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Due to their ethereal forms, normal weaponry is useless against these spirits, and they may choose to become invisible at will. This makes them dangerous enemies that will ruthlessly destroy any who trespass upon their territory. It is the tomb, barrow, or grave of the Wight that serves as its focus—re-consecration of the ground (after purging the effects of the Taint) will prevent the spirit from reawakening after it is defeated or driven away. Unless this is done, even banishment will not prevent the Wight from returning—it will just slow it down, and irritate it!

Zombies (Restless Spirits)

Name

Lvl

BR

Pace/
MN

Speed MS/AQ

Size/
Crit

Hits

AT
(DB)

Attacks

Enc.

Trea-
sure

Bonus
EP

Outlook
(IQ)

Minor (I)

2B

30

Run/0

VS/MD

M/I#

45 F

1 (15)

30MBa/Special

2–20

a

b

Berserk (VL)

Lesser (II)

4B

45

Run/0

SL/MD

M/I#

70 F

1 (25)

50MBa/Special

2–20

a

b

Berserk (LO)

Greater (III)

6B

45

Spt/0

SL/MF

M/I#

115 F

1 (40)

75MBa/Special

1–12

g

b

Berserk (IN)

Major (IV)

11B

50

Spt/0

MD/FA

M/II#

145 F

1 (50)

80MBa/Special/Spells

1–6

g

b

Berserk (AV)

Lord (V)

15B

60

Spt/0

MF/VF

M/LA#

180 F

1 (50)

80MBa/Special/Spells

1–4

m

b

Berserk (SU)

Sovereign (VI)

20B

75

FSpt/0

FA/BF

M/SL#

210 F

1 (50)

30MBa/Special/Spells

1

s

b

Berserk (VH)

References: RM—C&T, p. 43; RMSS—C&M, p. 210; RMFRP—C&M, p. 137.

Variants: Minor, Lesser, Greater, Major, Lord, Sovereign (Type I–VI Restless Spirits).

Confusion: Animated Corpses (Animated Dead), Ghouls (Corporeal Transformed), Mummies (Bound Spirits).

Description: These are the rotting, shambling remains of dead men and women, animated not by the dark will of a necromancer but by the disturbed spirits of the dead. Often foul groans, sighs, and mutterings stream from these creatures' mouths in a continuous babble of hatred and loathing. Visually, it can be nigh on impossible to distinguish between Zombies and regular Animated Corpses, but as one watches their actions, the differences become obvious—Animated Corpses are mindless automatons, obeying whatever instructions they have been given to the letter. Zombies are avenging spirits, normally corrupted by the Unlife, seeking to destroy all living beings they come across. The more powerful of the Zombies, those that have retained at least "Average" level intelligence, may even possess the capability to cast spells. One obvious difference between Zombies and Animated Corpses is that Zombies will continue to rot.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: The weaker Zombies (a judgement based on the strength of the Spirit that infests the body, not the body itself) are often not much more intelligent than the Animated Dead with which they are confused. However, some of the more powerful Zombies actually possess the capacity to cast spells, in addition to possessing a level of intelligence similar to that possessed by the average man or woman. While Animated Corpses can have the spells that animate them dispelled or suppressed, Zombies are not "animated" in that meaning of the word, and so must be banished by a Cleric. Physical weapons can damage the body of a zombie, and sufficient physical damage can drop the Zombie. However, they will regenerate any combat damage short of a severed limb in only a brief period of time (2 hits per round, broken limbs in 2–3 days, organ damage is ignored). For this reason, it is traditional to burn or dismember the body of a Zombie after defeating it.

The Transformed

Dark Lords (Corporeal Transformed)

References: RM—Rolemaster Companion VII, p. 114; C&T, p. 42; C&T II, p. 40; RMSS—C&M, pp. 174, 185, 186–187, 190; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 118, 126, 130, 131.

Variants: Black Paladin (Type VI Corporeal Transformed), Grey Noble (Type IV Corporeal Transformed), Standard Lich (Type VI Corporeal Transformed), Elder Lich (Type VI Corporeal Transformed), Monastic Lich (Type VI Corporeal Transformed).

Description:

  • Physically, Dark Lords are hideous to look upon. Their pallid grey skin has withered and cracked, their flesh has atrophied until they appear little more than skin and bones, and their eyes have been replaced by dark pools of a lurid, sickly green fire.
  • Black Paladins still wield the armour and weaponry that they used while alive—and it appears always on the verge of disintegrating with rust. Their clothes are ragged and smell of mildew, and the colours have all faded to a nondescript grey.
  • Grey Nobles, in contrast, garb themselves in the finest clothing or armour that they can find; unlike the Black Paladins, their belongings do not appear to deteriorate.
  • The Liches are distinct from the other Dark Lords in that they rarely, if ever, wear armour. They strike fear into the hearts of the onlooker not though any martial prowess they may have—and that can be considerable—but rather through their arcane acumen. The rich, flowing robes that they wear are often fashioned from heavy suede and felt, although the Monastic Liches seem to move with their robes with a grace that is unworldly—they have had eternity to master their martial arts.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction:

  • Assume all Dark Lords to possess prowess in both the arts of war and the arts of the arcane. The degree to which they favour one over the other varies with what route they took to become a Dark Lord. Dark Paladins and Grey Nobles are most often drawn from professions such as the Paladin, the Warrior Mage, and the Arms Master, while Monastic Liches are more commonly drawn from Monks/Adepts and similar disciplines. Standard and Elder Liches are normally drawn from the more magically oriented professions, although almost any spell-using profession makes a good basis for a Dark Lord. This is not entirely universal, but is a good rule of thumb. (Because many Grey Nobles are brought over by a Lich or Black Paladin, it is less common for them to be spell casters; very often, a Dark Lord will "bring across" the loyal servitors and knights that served them while they still breathed. However, the nature of the ritual strengthens their control over the arcane, and many Grey Nobles go on to become reasonable spell casters in their own right).
  • When in combat with a Dark Paladin, opponents should note that appearances can be deceptive—the armour is always of the highest quality steel (+5 to +15 to DB), and has been enchanted to be less encumbering (+5 to +15 to MM). Similarly, their weaponry is always enchanted to be at least +5 (+5 to +20). The rituals that sustain a Black Paladin also serve to corrupt the outward appearances of anything they touch.
  • While Grey Nobles may possess some arcane acumen (5 PP/lvl; assume they know a third as many spell lists as they have levels, and that they know them to their level—lists should be a selection of Open, Closed and Evil lists from whatever realms suit the character concept), the Standard and Elder Liches are consummate spell casters (8 PP/lvl; assume they know at least as many spell lists as they have levels, to their level—lists should be a selection of Open, Closed, Base, and Evil lists from whatever realms suit the character concept). Monastic Liches and Black Paladins are somewhat intermediary in their arcane potential (7 PP/lvl; assume they know half as many spell lists as they have levels, to their level—lists should be a selection of Open, Closed, Base, and Evil lists from whatever realms suit the character concept).
  • Probably the best way of dealing with a Dark Lord is to Run Away! Unfortunately, that isn't always practical. A Cleric's spells can assist in holding off a Dark Lord, but to defeat them, one must best them in battle, burn their bodies, and then banish their spirits.

Dread Soldier (Corporeal Transformed)

References: RM—Rolemaster Companion (I), p. 75; RMSS—C&M, p. 177; RMFRP—C&M, p. 134.

Variants: Dread Warrior (Type II Corporeal Transformed), Dread Commander (Type IV Corporeal Transformed).

Description: These Transformed warriors are the scourge of the battlefield—there is nothing to indicate that they are different until they have already hacked their way through their opponent's front line. They can shake off massive amounts of damage without seeming to notice, and they can keep fighting when their compatriots have already collapsed from exhaustion.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Dread Warriors (originally called Chaos Soldiers) cannot be stunned, have five time the normal amount of exhaustion points, and are unaffected by activity modifiers due to pain or blood loss. They also ignore activity modifiers due to injury unless the manoeuvre actively requires the use of the injured limb/organ. Their only weakness is a degree of photosensitivity—their skin burns very badly if exposed to sunlight (specifically ultraviolet light, "black light" to you and me). Consequently, they always wear full-length sleeves and leggings with gloves and boots, and a cloak with a hood obscuring their face. In battle, appropriately obscuring armour is used. Unless their helms are enchanted to filter out UV light, they are blinded by sunlight (–75 to activity—and they can't ignore this penalty), so it can be guaranteed that they will seek out a sympathetic Alchemist to fashion them an enchanted battle helm PDQ. This means that it is sometimes possible to identify Dread Warriors by their headgear—it is usually the most individualised and baroque headgear likely to be seen this side of a museum or ceremonial parade.

Ghoul (Corporeal Transformed)

References: RM—C&T, p. 42; C&T II, p. 40; RMSS—C&M, pp. 183–184, 187; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 117, 129–130.

Variants: Lesser and Greater Ghoul (Type I and II Corporeal Transformed), Ghoul King (Type IV Corporeal Transformed), Living Ghoul (Still Living – Transforming!), Rotting Corpse (Type II Corporeal Transformed).

Confusion: Animated Corpse (Animated Dead), Mummy (Bound Spirit), Zombies (Restless Spirits).

Description:

  • Ghouls are strangely deformed, putrescent corpses with teeth lengthened into fangs and nails strengthened into claws. They are horribly animate, and the stench of the grave always accompanies them in their nocturnal prowling. They appear to prefer moist, swampy areas or dry, sandy areas where they can easily burrow into the soft earth while the sun holds sway over the land. When the night once again casts its concealing cloak across the world, these Undead rise from the earth, shedding dirt, worms and grubs as they make their nightly patrols.
  • Many Ghouls carry a festering infection called Ghoul-rot; there is a good chance that anyone coming in contact with a Ghoul will contact this illness. This foul corruption is an incurable infection that causes 1d5 hits per day (and counts as 10 Taint Points per day), which slowly eat away at victims until they die—at which point they will rise as Ghouls. (Ghoul-rot gets a +50 to resisting the effects of healing spells that seek to remedy the damage).
  • Living Ghouls are beings that have been heavily tainted by the Unlife (at least 100 points of Permanent Taint) and have reverted to a depraved, cannibalistic mindset. The growing level of Taint in their systems leads to a variety of distortions in their outward appearance, but the vast majority can be typified as grey-skinned, hunch-backed humanoids with long teeth and claws. The psychological stress of the Taint normally causes them to lose their minds, and with it any knowledge of civilisation, high society or arcane knowledge that they may once have possessed. These unfortunates are destined to become Ghouls if they "survive" the transformation; as their bodies accumulate more and more Taint, the various organs begin to shut down. If a vital organ shuts down before completion of the transformation, that individual will perish without becoming a Ghoul.
  • A Rotting Corpse is merely another name for a Ghoul, but one which implies that it is even further corrupted than a normal Ghoul—the smell of festering decay announces the presence of such a Ghoul long before it can be seen in the darkness. Its flesh oozes and its limbs are home to carrion insects—boils of grubs often squirm and writhe around the flesh, dropping onto the ground as the ghoul moves.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction:

  • Ghouls represent the beings that became so Tainted that they were Transformed, yet lacked the arcane abilities to control the Transformation. They truly are the most unfortunate of the Transformed.
  • Stupidity typically clouds the judgement and behaviour of Ghouls—they remain highly territorial, fighting any newcomers, including other Ghouls. The more intelligent quickly become elevated to the position of Ghoul King, capable of uniting and leading legions of Ghouls against the living. Not so much known for the terrible damage they inflict, or even the Ghoul-rot that will condemn its victims to an everlasting hell, Ghouls are renowned for how hard they are to destroy. They ignore all modifiers due to pain (hit loss) or exhaustion, cannot be stunned, do not bleed—a "hits per round" results causes that amount of "blood" to spray outwards in that round, but the Ghoul does not continue to bleed—and ignore penalties due to damage to limbs unless the manoeuvre directly involves that limb. Their bodies also regenerate at a horrendous rate once they burrow into the ground—they regenerate at a rate of 8 hits per round, and damaged bones, muscles, connective tissue, and organs regenerate at a similarly accelerated rate. The Ghoul must be burned to prevent this occurring.

Spectre (Noncorporeal Transformed)

References: RM—C&T, pp. 42–43; RMSS—C&M, pp. 174, 192, 199, 207–208; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 121, 125, 126, 132.

Variants: Apparition (Type III Transformed); Revenant (Type II Transformed); Minor, Lesser, and Major Spectres (Types II, III, and V Transformed); Lesser and Greater Wraiths (Types IV and V Transformed).

Confusion: Ghosts (Restless Spirits).

Description:

  • A deathly-cold glimmer inhabits the region where the eyes might shine, revealing the presence of these ethereal spirits. Terror heralds their arrival, and fades with the departure of the tattered cloaks they often wrap around their noncorporeal forms. When beings lust for power and evil lies thick in their souls, it may be that at the point of death, they do not sever their ties with this plane, but rather gather into themselves the power of the Unlife, transforming into a powerful Undead—a Spectre.
  • Many Spectres revel in the fear that their mere presence causes, relying upon it and the chilling effect that their touch possesses over and above any sorcerous powers they may possess.
  • In contrast, the presence of an Apparition evokes less panic; the Apparition instead revels in its ability to mingle with the living, causing chaos with its foul sorcery.
  • A Revenant prefers the more direct method—it wields an enchanted weapon in its semi-corporeal claws, the weapon floating beside a misty figure that becomes ever more immaterial as it nears the ground, although its mastery of the arcane should not ever be in doubt.
  • The Wraith's appearance differs from the other Spectres in that it is the most likely to wear dark capes or cloaks that serve to give it a physical presence on this plane. Many are consummate warriors in addition to being powerful magicians, capable of defeating any living warrior in hand-to-hand combat. This prowess is often due to the fact that Wraiths—more than any other form of Spectre—tend to be created through the use of artefacts or outside influence rather than the beings' innate spell-casting capabilities.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction: Most Spectres (of all types) are powerful spell-casters. Refer to the lecture entitled On the Transformed and the Process of Transformation for more details on their powers. Here we should just note that as they are powerful noncorporeal spirits drawing their powers from the Unlife, normal weapons can't affect Spectres.

Vampyres (Corporeal Transformed)

References: RM—C&T, p. 43; C&T II, p. 36; RMSS—C&M, pp. 201, 204; RMFRP—C&M, pp. 124, 136.

Variants: Minor, Lesser, Greater Vampyre (Type IV–VI Corporeal Transformed). Vampyric Ogre (Type IV Corporeal Transformed).

Notes:

  • Vampyric Drakes and Werewolves are not possible under my scheme of things. If a GM wants to introduce such creatures, he will have to disregard the information included in the essay On the Secrets of the Dragons, which I will hopefully make available eventually. Just as a taster—a ritual called the Ritual of Ascension creates "True Dragons." They are so closely tied to the Essænce that they could never become creatures of the Unlife. The Dragons and their followers, the Druids, are assisted by two other forces, the Werewolves and the Slayers, both of which are created through rituals that can only be cast by a Dragon of at least 30th level. A Dragon can only have one Slayer, but can have multiple Werewolves (1 for every 5 full levels) to lead their forces against the forces of the Unlife.
  • I always though Vampyric Gorgons an odd idea—they would find getting a meal rather difficult since their very gaze turns the prey to stone! Vampyric Centaurs have not been included because there are no Centaurs in Palia. If you use Centaurs, I suppose they would fit fairly well.

Description:

  • In almost every case, male or female, regardless of from what race the Vampyres are drawn, they are gifted with exceptional presence and appearance. Their sculpted faces and porcelain skin tones are home to eyes as deep as the Void and filled with an all-consuming hunger. This hunger manifests itself as a driving motivation and an intense passion that colours every aspect of a Vampyre's existence.
  • Vampyric Ogres are identical to normal Vampyres except for one small difference: The Ogres, Trolls and similar base stock from which they are drawn lack the intelligence and strength of spirit to become truly independent of their progenitor, who can create a line of powerful, blindly obedient servants and warriors to lead the hosts of the Unlife.

Powers, Limitations & Destruction:

  • The distinguishing feature of Vampyres is that they drink the blood of the sentient races. Perhaps what people do not realise is that it is not the blood that they require at all—that is merely a ritualised method of feeding. Rather, while they consume the blood that runs in the veins of their victims, they also feed upon the very souls of their victims. Persons drained by a Vampyre have no chance of recovery; their spirits have been utterly consumed. For specific details on Vampyres and the other Transformed, refer to the essay entitled On the Transformed and the Process of Transformation, which I hope to be posting soon.
  • The other features of Vampyres which are supposedly "common knowledge"—sunlight, wooden stakes, holy symbols, garlic, fire, being invited through doorways—all have some truth to them, but is a confusing area. The "stake though the heart" is only vaguely true; like any other gross physical damage, it will serve to incapacitate the Vampyre. The stories of the Vampyre disintegrating in a puff of smoke are unfortunate errors. As a Vampyre grows more powerful, it gains the ability to instantaneously transport itself to its refuge if it suffers a serious injury. Holy water and holy symbols can do serious damage if the god is aligned against the Unlife. Burns from both fire and sunlight heal very slowly, causing a Vampyre to be wary of both. Garlic, and several other less-well-known herbs, are repulsive to Vampyres because of their ability to retard or reverse the effects of Taint. That they must be invited across a doorway is, oddly, true, but there are so many caveats to the situation that it is not something on which I would like to rely.
  • The destruction of a Vampyre requires the co-operation of the clerical, the magical and the combative—the Vampyre must be physically incapacitated and the body burned to prevent it healing itself. As they are powerful combatants and powerful spell-casters, it isn't always as easy as it might sound!

The Creatures, Servants, and Lords of the Unlife

Since true beings of the Unlife are not Undead, but are rather Demons of the Unlife, I will simply list them here in a highly abbreviated format. Remember—contact or proximity to the Unlife causes Taint.

Table I: Creatures, Servants, and Lords of the Unlife

Name

Class

Special Notes and References

Banshee

(Ban Shidhe)

Type I

Its fearful wail paralyses its prey, which it then eats. RM—C&T, p. 43; RMSS—C&M, p. 96; RMFRP—C&M, p. 68.

Blood Beast

  • Lesser
  • Greater

 

Type III

Type IV

These appear to be Animate Corpses, slick with a thick layer of fresh blood. They leave bloody tracks wherever they go. They are normally found with several Undead servants wielding sharp blades. Any wound within 50' of these creatures bleeds at 2x normal rate, and the blood seems to "fly" to the creature, healing it of the same amount of damage. RM—C&T II, p. 37; RMSS—C&M, p. 175; RMFRP—C&M, p. 115.

Caustic Slime

Type I

A quasi-fungal growth that thrives in damp locations, it can break down practically any organic or metallic material into food. RM—C&T, p. 29; RMSS—C&M, p. 73; RMFRP—C&M, p. 55.

Dark Apparition

Type II

Shape-changers able to alter their forms at will, Dark Apparitions are also called "Bogeymen" because they always adopt the form they know terrifies the viewer most. RM—C&T II, p. 37; RMSS—C&M, p. 178; RMFRP—C&M, p. 127.

Gloombird

Type I

These are insubstantial, mist-like birds, described alternately like massive crows or vultures. The very presence of a Gloombird will infest an area with a miasma of depression. RM—C&T II, p. 40; RMSS—C&M, p. 185; RMFRP—C&M, p. 129.

Mist Monster

Type III

Icy-cold tendrils of grey mist reaching forward out of the dark, mist monsters are creatures that appear to be composed of animate mist. They feed on the heat evolved from living organisms, especially animals, draining it with their insubstantial touch. Any creature captured in their tendrils will lose peripheral body heat at a rate of 1 degree every minute until it escapes. As its peripheries lose heat, they will go numb and stop functioning properly. After 5 minutes, the mist will begin to leach core body heat. The victim will pass out if its core body temperature falls more than 3–4 degrees and is very unlikely to survive without magical intervention if its core body temperature falls more than 6–7 degrees, even if the mist is driven back and its body is reheated. RM—C&T II, p. 17; RMSS—C&M, p. 82; RMFRP—C&M, p. 60.

Nightgaunt

Type III

Powerful creatures that appear like large, haggard carrion crows, with wingspans in excess of 15', Nightgaunts are nocturnal carrion eaters that view the world ethereally because they possess no sight. Like many carrion eaters, they follow marching armies, hoping for battle, but they consume not only the bodies but also the spirits of the fallen, men and women. RM—C&T II, p. 40; RMSS—C&M, p. 191; RMFRP—C&M, p. 131.

Nightwing

Type II

Shadowy, winged shapes with wingspans of 4'–8', their insubstantial claws rake the very soul—each attack weakens the spirit, stunning their victims. When they pass out from accumulated stun, nightwings feed upon their souls (takes 1 minute). RM—C&T II, p. 34; RMSS—C&M, p. 167; RMFRP—C&M, p. 111.

Skullbeast

Undead Mass

Type I–VI

Both of these terms refer to the same class of creature, but there is so much variation that it has been traditional to list several different classes. These "creatures" tend to be 7'–9' tall animate mounds of filth, sewage, maggots, refuse, decaying flesh, skulls, and practically anything else that might get "picked up." It is rumoured that the largest one is roughly 30' tall. They absorb dead and dying creatures of any shape and form, and when they reach "critical mass"—normally 240–250 pounds (c. 100 kg)—they divide into two separate beings, each half the size of the original. However, they can choose not to divide should that give them an advantage. RM—C&T II, p. 41; RMSS—C&M, p. 197; RMFRP—C&M, p. 132.

Sligguth

Type IV

Intelligent, animate slime, they can alter their 10'–15' diameter form at will, producing up to six pseudopodia at any one time. They only "feed" while in their embryonic stage, during which they possess a humanoid victim by covering it with their slime. They then control it and force it to feed in a cannibalistic manner. RM—C&T II, p. 35; RMSS—C&M, p. 169; RMFRP—C&M, p. 112.

Veyrr

Type VI

The single most powerful Unlife Demon known to exist, a Veyrr (the Veyrr?) is akin to a god in its capacities. Of course, it must remain near the rift, as there is insufficient Unlife permeating the rest of Kulthea to support it. None can be certain what it looks like, or what its capacities are, because it has slain any that could report back. RM—C&T II, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 206; RMFRP—C&M, p. 137.

Wild Hunt Hound

Type I

This is a ghostly white creature, similar in form to a hound, whose eyes and mouth, glowing red, paint racing streaks of pale fire across the skies and the lands on the nights of the Hunt; their wild cries drive all without shelter before them. Only the Huntsman, using the evil talisman called the Horn of the Hunt, summons them. A great pack gathers at the sound of the Horn, ready to race across the landscape, hunting all that dare walk the land. RM—C&T, p. 43; RMSS—C&M, p. 210; RMFRP—C&M, p. 137.

Will o' the Wisp

Type I

A tiny spark dancing and bobbing in the distance that beckons to the unwary, the Will o' the Wisp will purposely try to get its victims lost, leading them into marshes and swamps in an attempt to get them mired or stuck in quicksand. Similar to the Mist Monster in how it feeds, the Will o' the Wisp will then feed on the body heat of its victim, although it leaches the heat at just one-third the rate. RM—C&T, p. 31; RMSS—C&M, p. 87; RMFRP—C&M, p. 62.

Wrath

  • Minor
  • Greater
  • Major

 

Type IV

Type V

Type VI

These are ebony-skinned, gaunt humanoids with foot-long, razor-sharp claws in the same, unrelenting black as the rest of their bodies. They have eyes that gleam with a black light while their mouths grin in the anticipation of a slaughter. As they are highly intelligent and often powerful spell-casters, it is possible that this is what the "intelligent races" look like on the other side of the rift. RM—C&T II, p. 42; RMSS—C&M, p. 194; RMFRP—C&M, p. 126.

To Taint or Not To Taint

Table II: Results of Contact with the Undead and Creatures of the Unlife

Name

Class

Corruption

Life Essence Drain

Contact

Proximity

Animated Dead

Animated Corpse

  • Standard
  • Disembodied Head
  • Roaming Hand

 

Type I–VI

Type III

Type II

(Taints)

Taints, Drains

(Taints)

1d4/rnd

Animated Skeleton

  • Standard
  • Ice Skeleton
  • Iron Skeleton
  • Necros
  • Skullbat
  • Skullpack
  • Spiderskull

 

Type I–VI

Type I–VI

Type I–VI

Type I

Type I–III

Type III

Type I

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

Bound Spirits

Black Reaver

  • Lesser
  • Greater

 

Type VI

Type VI

Taints

Taints

Golem (various)

(Type = "Level"/5)

(Taints)

Homunculus

Type III

Mummy

  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Dark

 

Type III

Type IV

Type IV

Taints

Shadow

  • Lesser
  • Greater

 

Type II

Type IV

Taints, Drains

Taints, Drains

2d10/rnd

2d10/rnd

Shadow Assassin

  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Major

 

Type IV

Type V

Type VI

(Taints)

(Taints)

(Taints)

10´ crit sev.

15´ crit sev.

20´ crit sev.

Restless Spirits

Corpse Light

  • Corpse Candle
  • Corpse Lantern

 

Type III

Type IV

4/rnd

5/rnd

Deathwoode

Type IV

4/rnd

Desert Spirits

Type III

Dirges

  • Minor
  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Major
  • Mara

 

Type II

Type III

Type IV

Type V

Type II

Taints

1/rnd

2/rnd

3/rnd

4/rnd

2/rnd

Fire Phantom

Type III

1/rnd

Ghosts

  • Minor
  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Headless
  • Phantom
  • Phantom Steed

 

Type II

Type III

Type IV

Type V

Type I

Type II

(Taints)

2/rnd

3/rnd

5/rnd

3/rnd

1/rnd

Skeletal Lords

  • Skeleton Joker
  • Skeleton Lord
  • Skeleton Sovereign
  • Red Skeleton

 

Type II

Type III

Type IV

Type V

     

Swamp Star

Type IV

6/rnd

Wights

  • Minor
  • Lesser
  • Major
  • Barrow

 

Type IV

Type V

Type IV

Type V

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

10´ crit sev.

15´ crit sev.

20´ crit sev.

15´ crit sev.

4/rnd

5/rnd

6/rnd

5/rnd

Zombies

Type I–VI

Taints

The Transformed

Dark Lords

  • Black Paladin
  • Grey Noble
  • Standard Lich
  • Monastic Lich
  • Elder Lich

 

Type VI

Type IV

Type VI

Type VI

Type VI

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

3/rnd

1/rnd

5/rnd

5/rnd

15/rnd

1/rnd

1/rnd

5/rnd

Dread Soldiers

  • Dread Warrior
  • Dread Commander

 

Type II

Type IV

Taints

Taints

Ghouls

  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Ghoul King
  • Living Ghoul
  • Rotting Corpse

 

Type I

Type II

Type IV

Living

Type II

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints (1/5)

Taints

Spectres

  • Apparition
  • Revenant
  • Minor Spectre
  • Lesser Spectre
  • Major Spectre
  • Lesser Wraith
  • Greater Wraith

 

Type III

Type II

Type II

Type III

Type V

Type IV

Type V

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

Taints

1/rnd

3/rnd

10/rnd

15/rnd

20/rnd

10/rnd

20/rnd

Vampyres

  • Minor
  • Lesser
  • Greater
  • Vampyric Ogre

 

Type IV

Type V

Type VI

Type IV

Taints, Drains

Taints, Drains

Taints, Drains

Taints, Drains

15/rnd

20/rnd

30/rnd

15/rnd

Notes on Using this Chart: The Undead can cause both Life Essence Drain and give Taint/Corruption. The table "Sources of Corruption" (The Corruption and Taint of the Unlife) lists two levels of possible interaction with creatures of the Unlife and the Undead—"contact" and being "splashed by the blood of the Unlife." This table does not replicate that information; where a creature causes taint due to its connection to the Unlife, it is simply noted as such. If the creature is not always connected to the Unlife, this will be indicated by placing the word Taints in (parentheses). However, certain beings—Vampyres, Spectres, and Shadows, to name but a few—remain in extremely close contact for prolonged periods. This causes the victim to accrue Taint at the higher rate (as if the victim had been "splashed by the blood of the Unlife"). Thus a Vampyre, being a Corporeal Transformed Undead, causes between 8 and 12 Taint Points per minute while in close proximity ("contact"). If it overpowers its victim, and begins to feed, the victim will suffer 20–30 points of Taint per round.

The Unlife and the Realms of Magic

The Unlife adds a complication to the basic Spell Law structure—instead of the conventional three realms (Channeling, Essence, and Mentalism; possibly also Psionics), now at least six exist. I personally solved this problem by completely restructuring the various realms. My system uses exactly four realms:

  • Channeling: This is the magic of the Spirit Realm. The old "Nature Channeling" professions have been reassigned.
  • Psionics: This is the magic of the mind. It is a merger of part of the old Mentalism realm and the old Psionics system.
  • Essænce: This is the magic of the physical world as powered by the Essænce. It is a merger of part of the old Mentalism realm, all of the old Essence realm, and the old "Nature Channeling professions." The realm is subdivided, though not in extremely rigid fashion, into Nature, Order, and Chaos magics.
  • Unlife: This is the magic of the physical world as powered by the Unlife. It is outwardly identical to Essænce, though it draws its power from the Unlife.

GM's who do not wish to implement such a radical change to the spell system should simply implement spells such as Detect Unlife, Cancel Unlife, Unlife Resistance, etc., at two levels higher than the most expensive spell of similar name on the same list. Thus, if a spell list contains Detect Essence at 1st level, Detect Channeling at 2nd, and Detect Mentalism at 3rd, the GM should add a 5th level spell called Detect Unlife. Of course, if the caster is a Creature of the Unlife, the Detect Essence and Detect Unlife spells should be swapped.

Editor's Note

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