Thursday, July 19, 2018

spooky scary skeletons

Skeletons are my favorite D&D enemy. My players know this fact very well. It's become a running joke.
Plug: Matt Bailey does amazing illustrations of skeletons, naked ladies, and skeletons fucking naked ladies. He also did my tattoo! Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and buy his merch!
Can you blame me though? Skeletons are a perfect monster. Consider:
  • Orcs/goblins/humanoids have language, society, all that shit, and once your monsters have those things then you're at the whole "can an entire species be Inherently Evil and if I say yes does that make me like, a racist" dilemma (answer: usually, even if it's an accident).
  • Big fucking snakes and owlbears and stuff are comparable to big animals: bestial, sure, but are they truly Monstrous? Anathema?
  • Tentacle monsters and demons are cool, but I don't like using them all the time. I feel like it spoils their otherworldliness.
Skeletons have the best of all these worlds. They are obviously wrong. You see a skeleton walking around like it's no big deal, you know that's some fucked up shit. Smash.

At the same time, they are ubiquitous. Nearly every poor motherfucker who ever died in your campaign world left behind a skeleton (and if your campaign doesn't have a spell that animates skeletons inside of the still-living, so that they burst out of their hosts like a butterfly out of a cocoon, get on that ASAP).

They are humanoid, so they can wield human equipment. They are also a reflection of the human-ish characters and human players: the body, stripped of thought, desire, will, individuality; reduced to its... well, its skeleton.

Finally, the skeleton is fate. You can spend your life cracking skeletons into dust - a hundred, a thousand, a million - and in the end, all you will do is join their ranks. Awesome shit.

da share z0ne.
Here's a few simple types of skeletons from my game. Also check out this post by Skerples over at Coins & Scrolls. This post is certainly not me also experimenting with stat block formatting. Any alterations to the appearance of the tables below is illusory, I assure you.

HD: 1MV: 3SV: F1MR: 12
AC: 10 or Armor, Immunity ArrowsClaw 1d4 or Weapon
LOOKS: Animate human skeleton, red pinpricks in eye sockets, jerky movement.
WANTS: To slaughter the living and smear themselves with blood.

After the Cataclysm which annihilated the capital and heartland of the Old Kingdom, horrors stirred from long sleeps. Forbidden arts were practiced once again; daring and desparate alike foolishly sought to harness the cruel powers of undeath. Wherever there is some foul labyrinth or forgotten tomb, there too is one certain to find the walking dead. While sleepless skeletons can only comprehend the simplest of commands, they know neither fatigue nor remorse, making them ideal spear-fodder. Wordlessly they stagger, but even a glimpse at the diabolic lights in their hollow eyesockets tells of their unperishing hatred for all that lives. Clearer still that hate becomes when they kill, for only then do they make utterance: at once rattle, scream, and laugh.

-- Anarion the Grim, Concerning Undead

Skeleton Warrior
HD: 1+1MV: 3SV: F1MR: 12
ARCHERAC 11, Imm Arrows; Longbow 1d10
SPEARMANAC 14, Imm Arrows; Spear 1d6
AXEMANAC 13, Imm Arrows; Battleaxe 1d8+1
SLINGERAC 12, Imm Arrows; Sling 1d6 (AP)
LOOKS: Long dead warrior, bearing worn equipment.
WANTS: To slaughter the living and smear themselves with blood. Remember some of their military training.
# APPEARING: 1d6+1

"With that business done, we charged headlong into the lair of the Necromancers. Our blood was mighty-stirred, by the promise of silver and the insults of your Wizards. The zombies in the upper graveyard had fallen like rice to the sickle, and we thought ourselves unbeatable. But when we came to the chasm bridge, it was our turn to fall. The bonemen we fought were no peasants, newly animated by some fresh reject of your damn University. Even in sleepless death, they remembered the teachings of our iron mother. We were held there on the bridge by a hedge of spears, while archers from a high cliff rained arrows upon us. Our own shooters could do nothing against them. Slowly they pushed us back, as our ranks dwindled. My shield-sister Lenabora fell gurgling, an arrow in her throat. She had the most heaven-beautiful hair I shall ever see in this life. It was choked and matted with blood. I dragged her behind me as I fled, but in the end I pushed her off the bridge, for want of speed. She was not quite dead yet. As for your damn Wizards, I saw them both dead, arrows in their little backs -- that is what happened. I should have died there, pissing on them. Had I yet my strength, witch, I would piss on you."

-- account of Miraglaza Ill-Wife, Report to the Archproctor of the Fate of Intendants Uinen and Thalion, Repentant Order of the Crimson Glade
Bloody One
HD: 2+2MV: 5SV: F2MR: 12
AC: 12, Immunity Arrows2x Claw 1d6
LOOKS: A skeleton, stained dark red with blood, sometimes wreathed in bits of entrails or flesh. Terrifyingly fast, jerky movements.
WANTS: To rend flesh and snap bone. Murder for murder's sake.

After the subject ripped out the slave's heart, it then knelt before the slaughtered boy, pulling open its chest cavity that it might dip its bones within and soak them thoroughly in the gore. Once it had completely bathed itself in the defiled corpse, I observed a most curious change in temperament (if that is, indeed, the correct term). The creature became far faster and more aggressive -- aware of my presence above it, it tried in vain to crawl up the sides of the pit. When I threw the mother to it, the thing gutted her in an instant, tearing her limb from limb and scattering the parts like a tornado does houses. ... Upon my return I noticed that, in abscence of any potential victim, the creature had rent the flesh from the bones of the two slaves and arranged these around itself in bizarre patterns.

-- diary of Ecthelion, merchant of Mithlond
Consigned Pyrurge
HD: 3MV: 3SV: W3MR: 12
AC: 10
Imm Arrows, Heat
Burning Hands 2d6, 20', Sv Spells 1/2
Heat Aura 2
LOOKS: A skeleton engulfed in flame, black with soot and ash.
WANTS: To set shit on fire, especially buildings, and especially especially people.

The bulk of the ancient pseudoscience of the Pyrurges was totally eradicated -- even ere the time of the Great Kings -- by the scions of our Eight Correct Disciplines. Even so, the viable teachings of that erroneous school were not forgotten. The most cogent found a place within our own curricula, though the choking smoke of incorrect thought was cleared in the light of true wisdom. Nine Initiations of the Pyrurge were well-known, though in the dark years since the Cataclysm several have been lost. There was a Tenth, however, to be performed after death. In this final Initiation, the spirit of the deceased was to at last be joined with the Eternal Flame -- and the corpse turned to more practical ends than slow decay and sleep...

-- Archmagus Borcirion of the Radiant Order of the Dozen Rings, Concerning Unorthodox Thought

HD: 1+3MV: 4 FlySV: F1MR: 12
AC: 13
Immunity Arrows
Javelin 1d6+Poison:
If slain in 24 hrs, rise in 1 hr.
LOOKS: A floating skeletal upper body, carved with runes which emit purplish smoke. Sometimes have pelvises and femurs dangling below them.
WANTS: To float around, throwing stupid fucking javelins at you until you die and become a zombie. Like seriously, these guys are no joke.

So no shit, there I was, at the point of the van, hewing down foul undead left and right. Many of our own lads fell, but few did I see weep, and our wall held firm. It was manhood on that field, manhood the like I have not seen since we threw back the southrons at Sunspear -- ah, that was a good king! Then they came, by the Wolves, like a dark cloud over the crest of the hill. Our spears were already long bent, and our shields more gouge than plank. When they hurled those darts, day became as night, such was their number. Foul, smoldering poison coated those battle-barbs -- no pain it causes, but a terrible tiredness, an empty feeling, like after you've fucked. Yet even cut apart and dying under that rain, those boys held firm. So fresh they were, pulled from their little farms and the arms of their first loves. Aye, as the skalds sing, war is hell and there we dwell, so drink and love ere you sleep.

-- Bardroc the Braggart, account of action during the Battle of Lake Mallen

Finally, this last one isn't really that interesting in and of itself, but it allows me to show off the first bit of in-universe fiction I ever wrote, way back in the summer of 2015, to get people psyched for my campaign. Everything really does come down to skeletons!

Risen Legionnaire
HD: 1+3MV: 2SV: F1MR: 12
AC: 22Claw 1d4 or Weapon
LOOKS: A skeleton in the beautiful and cursed plate armor of the Old Kingdom.
WANTS: Death, for Death guides its Hand.

...Lalaith saw tarnished plates of sun-golden metal, shaped into a beautiful suit whose like she had only heard of in the oldest stories. A tall conical helm held still held the scraps of what once had to have been a majestic blue plume. Beneath the battered brim, a white skull stared at her. Its sockets yawned like caves, and she could feel herself falling into them as she stared back. She thought she could almost see a tiny pinprick of red light in each socket.

There was a rusted axe in its bony hand.

Her eyes slowly turned back to Aradan. He was frozen on the spot. She could feel the cold sweat on the back of his neck, for it ran down her own as well.

“Ar… Aradan,” she whispered, voice wavering. 

The thing turned its head slightly toward her friend, and lurched forward. Lalaith stumbled backwards, as Aradan moved in a start, his hand darting down to the sword. It slid free of the old scabbard, glinting in the little light that was left. Aradan roared as best he could as he brandished the blade, trying to scare the thing off. His voice cracked.

It did not hesitate for a second, and Aradan yelled a second time as he took a swing at it. Blade met plate with a loud metallic crack, before the blade slid off. He shrieked again, fear gushing from his lungs, as it closed on him.

Lalaith watched as the thing thrust forward at Aradan’s face with its empty hand, fingers outstretched like ivory spikes. The high shriek turned into a gurgle, as she saw three narrow bones burst out the back of her friend’s skull.

She screamed her friend's name, but it was lost in the sound the thing made: a roaring cackle, filled with hate and pain and joy. Blood ran out between the thing’s fingers, staining Aradan's sandy brown hair. She leaned back against a tree trunk and stared as he toppled backward, limbs twitching. His handsome face was a red mangle of flesh and blood and bone. The air smelled thickly of piss. She wasn’t sure if it was hers or his or both.

It came toward her, as she leaned, frozen, against the cold trunk of the tree.

“Areg… no…” Her sobs came hard and fast, feet digging against the dead leaves and soil, pushing her back so hard into the rough bark she could feel her skin scratching open.

It was before her. She heard the plates clink softly, and saw its arm rise. Fingers like ice closed slowly around her neck, lifted her off the ground, pinned her against the wood. The wood felt so warm now, against her back. 

For the second time that night, she felt her throat freeze. 

She's in the Monster Manual XI, $59.99.
- kill your dungeon master -