Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dead of The Skull Moon

So in The Nightmares Underneath (and my freakish GLOG-hack thereof) fighters deal damage even on misses. This isn't an ability that should be tossed around willy-nilly- fighters end fights, usually in their favor, and if every town guardsman and hairy monster got it, that doesn't seem right at all.And when the players DO meet a human with this ability, it should be obvious that this bandit leader is a Fighter with a capital F because if they walk up to fight some lame bandit and get auto-hit for d8 HP with no warning, that's not very fair.

There is ONE enemy type that I think should get it though- the Undead! Undead are icky and letting them crawl all over you because you have plate and 18 dex and want to loot the ragged trousers of every walking corpse you see doesn't seem right to me. Plus undead are a preview of the inevitability of death, and guaranteed damage conveys a sense of inevitable mortality. I hope.

Also, it always seemed to me that undead should have amazing to-hit chances because they don't give any thought to their own survival on account of already being dead, plus they don't recoil from getting stabbed. You either take pieces off them or bodily shove them away or they just stay on you, gnawing at your brains.

Skull above, low and leering, at final rest the skull is sneering, the writhing dead is what you're hearing, only sunlight ends what we're fearing -Children's Rhyme

d3 damage, +d3 automatic damage even on miss.
HP- 0

But how can zombies have 0 HP??? Well obviously they're already dead, and adopting the 'you gotta hack them to pieces to stop them' approach leads to either HP bloat, a bunch of resistances that are rarely used by intelligent players anyway, or an inexplicable sort of feebleness where their stats don't realistically (or rather, let's say 'convincingly') differentiate them from any other 2HD humanoid that made all its morale checks and has decided to whack away in melee. So I'll just introduce my own dumb gimmick, for I wish to strongly differentiate between the undead of D&D and the undead of the Wolf Moons.

So zombies instead take damage like this
1- No effect. The dead shamble ever closer!
2-3-Stunned 1 round.
4-5-Loses limb. Limb remains animated and evil, but will be of limited effectiveness.
6+ Keels over 'dead'

'dead' zombies have a 50% chance to rise again to menace the living, or if they've been shredded, menace the living with a crawling hand or slithering guts or something. Check this once when someone draws near and once when they are left alone and out of sight.
Also while Skull shines in the sky things undead can't be re-killed, they just become increasingly horrible and mangled and undead. There is no easy cure for the living dead, so it is prevention that is of utmost import (see below for that)
Trying to kill zombies becomes a tremendous waste of time and pain in the ass AND a non-negligible amount of HP loss, so sneaking past, imprisoning, etc, becomes the favored mode of dealing with soulless hordes. Also, the strong focus on being able to hit them hard means that, if you're not a fighter, you have really bad odds of killing them without sucking a great deal of automatic damage. Chop off a few parts, hold them off for a while, sure, even the feeble wizard can manage that, but unless you have mighty strength or d8+ attacks, you won't be taking them down like Bruce Campbell.

You really, really don't want them to mob squishy people, and letting them mob the hardboiled fighter isn't much better. Zombie hordes in general are hideously durable and that's why they are feared by the living, rather than scoffed at as slow 2HD punching bags as by all rights the typical D&D zombie should be.

The Skull Moon can make undead far, far more horrible than simple zombies, so unburied corpses are viewed in a similar way to radioactive waste.

Burial- It's very simple- underground, the light of the Skull Moon can't reach the corpse, and the worms of the earth will slowly decompose the threat. Coffins(or giant pots in Saresare) are good for transport, as they also block the light, if properly made. The deeper the grave, the better- shallow graves can be unearthed by scavenging jackals. However, even  deep graves can be unearthed by the earth-plowing giant chain trailing behind the Iron Moon, so occasionally entire graveyards get unearthed. As such this setting has a very good excuse for having subterranean complexes full of ancient corpses dug into cave complexes and hard stone, despite the immense effort this takes- it prevents mass undead uprisings from Iron/Skull moon tagteams. Near the ocean, dropping corpses off the edge with rocks tied to their feet is a good bet, but not dropping them deep enough or poorly tied ropes means the oceans have a fair few wandering dead in their depths. Swamps can work well for this too, but rivers and lakes are often insufficiently deep to block the light of the Skull Moon.

Dismemberment- Not pretty, but it's fast, and crawling hands and rolling heads are usually much less dangerous than alternatives. It also helps scavengers eat the corpses quicker. At a certain level of corpse-shredding, it's easier to just bury the dead, but in cold climates where the ground is rock hard from near perpetual winter, some cultures sever every joint, cut every tendon, and so on until all that's left is paste and kibble for the hounds and hogs. Some towns that are already haunted by atrocious monsters may feed their dead to the monsters, taking care of both corpse disposal and monster appeasement.

Cremation- Burning a dead body takes a lot of heat and firewood, so it varies widely by the accessibility to those things. Many blacksmiths offer cremation services, and some even claim that the weapons forged in the charred bones of the dead have special properties. Also, anyone living near an active volcano has a very obvious disposal method available.

Some Wurderlanders like binding corpses to poles, stringing bells on them, and using the resulting undead as a tireless sentry. Smaller variants like animated hands or heads are quieter, but portable.
See every horror movie ever where a monster is locked up and used for the 'benefit' of society to see how this inevitably turns out.

Poorly educated children and bereaved madmen sometimes get it into their heads that Skull can bring back granny/brother/mom/friend. While there are many rumors of twisted resurrection rituals involving moonlight and/or nightmares, raw moonlight exposure is absolutely not going to create anything but undead monsters and tragedy.

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