WotC The Ancient Dead





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  1. #1

    The Ancient Dead

    Continuing our October undead theme, James turns our focus this week to two forms of corporeal undead with a great deal in common: mummies and liches.

    Read The Ancient Dead on D&D Insider here!

 

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    It may be the anthropologist in me, but I feel that mummies need to be "sacred" in some way, as opposed to just generic "tomb guardians."

    Those mummies aren't just linen golems stationed there to beat up on avaricious adventurers. They're people (or sometimes beasts), sacrificed, sometimes willingly, to provide service to their lords, forever. They're holy and special, and their main goal has nothing to do with potential grave robbers. When a grave robber comes along, it's an issue they resolve, but that's not the purpose they were created for. They were created to be eternal.

    Related, I feel like there's little possibility for a mummy who is also some sort of royalty in this narrative, preserved to be reborn in flesh at some later date. A mummy created to be re-created. The mummy they describe isn't about achieving immortality, it's about greed beyond the grave. Which is an issue for me.

    The lich is OK. And I might be a little overly touchy about the mummy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget View Post
    It may be the anthropologist in me, but I feel that mummies need to be "sacred" in some way, as opposed to just generic "tomb guardians."

    Those mummies aren't just linen golems stationed there to beat up on avaricious adventurers. They're people (or sometimes beasts), sacrificed, sometimes willingly, to provide service to their lords, forever. They're holy and special, and their main goal has nothing to do with potential grave robbers. When a grave robber comes along, it's an issue they resolve, but that's not the purpose they were created for. They were created to be eternal.

    Related, I feel like there's little possibility for a mummy who is also some sort of royalty in this narrative, preserved to be reborn in flesh at some later date. A mummy created to be re-created. The mummy they describe isn't about achieving immortality, it's about greed beyond the grave. Which is an issue for me.

    The lich is OK. And I might be a little overly touchy about the mummy.
    I'll quote what I posted over at the WotC site:

    1 - Mummies shouldn't be automatically evil. In fact, the vast majority of mummies should be Unaligned/Neutral, devoted to keeping a burial site undesecrated.

    2 - "Mummy Rot" could be described as the mummy having the ability to "unravel life" (symbolically removing the wrappings that bind a spirit to the body). This manifests as a rotting disease, but is supernatural in origin.

    3 - "Mummy Lords" should be individuals. In fact, I'd go so far as to make them culturally-specific "divine liches". Now THESE can be evil through-and-through.

    4 - "Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead" had the option of naturally-occurring mummies (specially those of non-Egyptian origin), which is worth a look in order to expand the possibilities of mummies in D&D.

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    Agree 100% with the two above me.

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    Worth pointing out that all a "mummy" is, is an artificially preserved corpse. The Egyptians probably don't exist in the DnD worlds, so their practices are up for grabs or not, really. Not that I disagree with the idea of making them less foot solider and more BBEG/Elite.

    PS. I hope they nail down the fluff for building a phylactery. But only if its good.
    Last edited by VinylTap; Tuesday, 16th October, 2012 at 02:47 PM.

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    Liches seem fine. I like the acknowledgement that they're a collection of BBEGs rather than a standardized monster.

    I agree with the general consensus about mummies. I really prefer my mummies with a bit more nuance and variety.

    If they're tying mummies strongly to deities, they should share their god's alignment. Someone volunteering to be mummified and eternally guarding holy relics seems both interesting and not-necessarily-evil. They'd also make a great riddlemaster or gatekeeper for a vault of sacred goodies.

    At the end of the day, it feels like D&D's mix of mythologies hits a snag with the undead. Trying to cram everything into Fantasy Medieval Europe points towards undead being evil, but cultures have very different relationships with death. It would be nice to see them step back from that a touch and let undead from other cultures move around a bit.

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    A quick side trek down Egyptology lane:

    In Egyptian myth, a mummy is merely a preserved corpse. And why would the Egyptians do that? Well, they believed that the deceased's spirit, which lives on in the Afterlife, might want to come back to its body every now and then, and a preserved body is a much better vessel. So the spirit isn't *trapped* in the body, but is called down to the body when needed (in D&D terms, when its tomb is threatened).

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    Mummies shouldn't be guardians, just people which bodies were prepared to be preserved for some future event...

    I would stick to classical stuff in this case.
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    Here are my notes:

    Mummies - were immune to normal attacks and could only be hit by magical weapons. Mummy Rot was a slow disease that made healing only 10% effective, disfigured the creature for -2 CHA permanently / month contracted, and eventually killed you. If you died from it, then you couldn't be raised unless the rot was cured via Restoration and then you were raised within the hour. I think the rot sets in to destroying a dead (unwrapped / unpreserved) body very quickly.

    Mummies also used to be only created from (and by) humans, and humans received a bonus vs. their fear effect for it. I could see moving this cultural creation process to other races. I'm nost sure what is happening in D&Dn with attack immunities, but these guys have a good list of magical effect immunities.

    I like the ideas about mummies curses and attunement to items they are protecting. If it's a place, then it guards its territory, but if you steal the treasure, then it comes after you unceasingly in undeath. The Mummy Lord I didn't take quite so close a look at, but you might want to assign a ritual to this for a minimum level caster, so the bump in power isn't too big. That version keeps more of their INT IIRC, so it's more effective in its afterlife.

    Liches - Supra-Genius intelligence score (19-20) is the clue to the arcane spell level need for a caster to become one. These guys also require magical weapons to harm them and have the usual 90% Magical Resistance against any spell effect immunity against many of them.

    Their aura of fear, like the mummies, is an effect due to their unlife, not an incantation. However, retaining undead status does require ongoing enchantments and conjurations. They can be destroyed by hindering them from doing so.

    The lich as a leader of undead forces sounds cool. I like this idea, but not as much as the decaying of memories of its previous mortal existence. Confronting a lich with details of such could justifiably confuse it for some moments. "Weakened by the renewal of ties to its former self" is more ambiguous, but more specific examples could be drawn out. Former loves, family, children, homes, (perhaps a favorite sled), could all also confuse the creature and cause inner conflict that leads it to undo its undead state. How these might weaken its energy? I suspect they don't.


    Also, like some posters noted above, a Mummy Lord is the Evil Priest alternative to the evil magic user's lich option. A standard mummy are those close Followers of high level clerics who chose to follow them beyond life and into undeath. They are badass all by themselves, but like I said above, I could see some not being solely human originally. That should open some ground up for greater diversity, while still retaining a common background as to why anything is a mummy in the first place.

    I'd think castings to maintain undeath by liches could be seen as part of why Mummy Lords and their mummy followers perform rituals eternally too. Of course, the deity is the one who reaps those rewards/sacrifices though.
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  • #10
    Quote Originally Posted by avin View Post
    Mummies shouldn't be guardians, just people which bodies were prepared to be preserved for some future event...

    I would stick to classical stuff in this case.
    What about naturally occurring mummies?

    I agree that the mythology should fit the setting, but I dislike the automatic divine connection. Call the described monster in the article "tomb guardian" and don't steal the "mummy" name for a single purpose creature.
    Many current players know the successful "Mummy" films where they not just walk around in bandages, but fill much more niches.

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    Another thing: I dislike that greater mummies were always clerics and liches were always wizards. What about th other spellcasting classes? Do they all gain their own ancient undead type?
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