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Converting Ravenloft monsters

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Skeleton, Archer
NO. APPEARING:2–20 (2d10)
SPECIAL ATTACKS:Skeleton creation
SPECIAL DEFENSES:Damage resistance
& spell immunity
SIZE:M (6′ tall)
MORALE:Fearless (19–20)

Archer skeletons are magically animated humanoid undead monsters created as guardians or warriors by powerful evil wizards and priests. Such creatures are crafted from the bones of dead archers using an animate dead spell. The creator must also bond a blooded arrowhead to the skull of each skeleton. During the animation process the arrowhead fuses with the skeleton’s skull.
 These skeletal monsters are identical in appearance to normal skeletons, being formed from the bones of humans and demihumans, save for an arrowhead-shaped black mark on their skulls. These monsters are always armed with long bows made of ash wood and human sinew, and bone arrows carried in hide quivers.
 The bowmen of the night cannot speak and are utterly unable to communicate. They can understand simple commands from their master, but these must be clearly worded and very short.

Combat: In battle, an archer skeleton almost always attacks with its sinister bow and bone arrows. A skeleton can attack once per round and each arrow does 1–6 points of damage. Although these arrows do no extra damage, they are considered magical weapons and can affect those creatures protected from nonmagical weapons.
 Each archer skeleton carries 20 such arrows. A skeleton can create new arrows simply by robbing graves and sharpening other bones into arrows.
 It is, however, when the archer skeleton’s arrows miss their target that they prove most devastating. Whenever an arrow fails to hit its target, the DM should make a saving throw vs. crushing blow for the arrow. If the saving throw fails the shaft simply breaks and becomes useless. If it is successful, however, the arrow remains intact and rapidly (1 round) grows into a skeleton with all the normal abilities of those undead (see the MONSTROUS MANUAL). Such skeletons are hideous automatons of death and destruction that will immediately attack the closest living target.
 If forced into close combat, the archer skeleton wields its bow as a weapon, attempting to bludgeon opponents for 1–4 points of damage per hit. An archer skeleton will resort to this method of attack only if it is impossible to fire its arrows. If its bow is destroyed, the creature will claw at its enemies for 1d3 points of damage.
 Archer skeletons are immune to sleep, hold, charm, or fear spells. They need never check morale, usually being magically commanded to fight to their destruction. They are also immune to all cold-based attacks, as are normal skeletons. Similarly, edged and piercing weapons do only half damage to these creatures, while blunt weapons, being designed to crush bone, do full damage. Holy water inflicts 2–8 points of damage per vial.

Habitat/Society: Archer skeletons are said to have first been created by a zealous necromancer named Karakin. Karakin wished to murder all the people of his land so that he would be the only human living there. Once this was accomplished, Karakin would surround himself with undead courtiers far more loyal than any living vassals. Creating a vast army of archer skeletons and other undead, Karakin prepared to march, but the sheer force of his malice proved virulent enough to carry him instead through the mists and into Ravenloft.
 Where Karakin resides now is unknown, but his skeletal archers and the secret of their construction have come into the hands of a growing number of nefarious individuals.
 Archer skeletons are most often employed as the vanguard of an evil force ranging in size from 2–20 skeletons to a full army. They are also commonly used as guards and sentinels by their foul masters. The lich lord, Azalin, is said to have a large number of these minions under his control.

Ecology: As with all lesser undead, these creatures have no place in the natural ecology. They are abominations of evil, twisted into foul mockeries of life, and exploited by those persons who have turned from light and virtue.
 Although the skeletons themselves turn to dust and ash when destroyed, the longbows and arrows of these monsters remain intact. It is thus possible for a character to pick up and use these weapons. The arrows have the same effect for player characters that they do when fired by arches skeletons. However, any time an arrow fired by a character creates a new skeleton, the character must make a powers check as he adds to the corruption of the world.

Originally appeared in Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix III: Creatures of Darkness (1994).


Skeleton Archer
Medium undead
Hit Dice: 5d12+10 (42 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 13 (+1 Dex, +2 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+3
Attack: Claw +3 melee (1d4+1); or bone bow [+1 Str] +4 ranged (1d8+2/×3 bone arrow)
Full Attack: 2 claws +3 melee (1d4+1); or bone bow [+1 Str] +4 ranged (1d8+2/×3 bone arrow)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Bone arrows, bone bow
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to cold, unholy toughness, undead traits
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 13, Con —, Int —, Wis 11, Cha 14
Feats: Improved Initiativeᴮ
Environment: Any land or underground
Organization: Solitary, band (2-10) or quiver (11-20)
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Level Adjustment:

An animated humanoid skeleton armed with a compound bow and quiver full of arrows. Set into the forehead of its skull is an arrowhead the dull red-brown of dried blood and old rust. Its arrows are a similar color and texture to the skeleton's weathered bones and sinews, as if they'd been crafted from a corpse; even the quiver looks more like human parchment than leather.

An archer skeleton looks indistinguishable from an ordinary undead warrior skeleton but is considerably deadlier. The skeleton wields a bow and arrows crafted from bones taken from humanoid corpses. Its weapons are infused with necromantic magic, producing warrior skeletons whenever a bone arrow shot breaks against the ground.

These undead are made by necromancers as deathless guards or soldiers; they never form spontaneously like some ghosts or vampires do. Archer skeletons can be produced using the create greater undead spell with a secret formula that has become disturbingly widespread among evil spellcasters. The formula requires an intact humanoid skeleton, a bow made from corpse bones, a quiver plus 20 humanoid long bones from different cadavars*, and an arrowhead soaked in humanoid blood. The bloodied arrowhead fuses into the into the skeleton's forehead at the conclusion of the spell. The spell costs 300 XP plus 2,000 gp in components, including black onyx gems worth at least 500 gp that turn into worthless, burned-out shells. If the necromancer does not have a bone bow to arm the skeleton, they must create one as part of the spell. To do so, the caster must possess the Craft Arms and Armor feat and acquire a masterwork composite bow (+1 Str bonus) made of humanoid bone and sinew; creating a new bone bow increases the cost by another 300 XP and 2,000 gp.

*Note that if the caster is unable to obtain twenty long bones from different humanoid corpses, the newly created archer skeleton won't have a quiver-full of 20 bone arrows, but will have one bone arrow for every humanoid corpse whose long bone was used. An archer skeleton can even be created with an empty quiver. The archer skeleton can manufacture its own ammunition to make up for this shortfall (see Bone Arrows for details).

While an archer skeleton is just as mindless as the common undead skeleton, it is capable of acting on relatively complex sets of instructions that can resemble cunning, depending on the contingencies and tactics its master orders it to follow.

Typically, an archer skeleton seeks to keep its distance and take cover while peppering its enemies with bone arrows, trying to create as many skeletal minions as it can. If an opponent enters melee range, the archer skeleton resorts to attacking with its bony claws.

When not in combat, an archer skeleton seeks to replenish its quiver of bone arrows, first retrieving any unbroken arrows it shot and then crafting new ones from any corpses it can find. The skeleton may be ordered to dig up graves to convert buried cadavers into ammunition.

More complicated strategies are possible, especially if archer skeletons are directly controlled by an intelligent commander. For example, an archer skeleton could wait in a guardroom until it spots intruders, then shoot all its bone arrows into an enclosed room to create a horde of skeletons. It then opens a gate to unleash these minions while shooting normal longbow arrows at the enemy.

Note the Challenge Rating assumes the archer skeleton uses bone arrows to create two to four warrior skeletons during its encounter. An archer skeleton without bone arrow assistants is Encounter Level 2, while one that creates ten skeletons is EL 4. Should the archer skeleton send its entire quiver of twenty skeletal warriors to fight, the EL could be around 5 or 6.

Bone Arrows: Archer skeletons carry quivers containing a score of bone arrows, gruesome missiles made entirely from humanoid bone. Archer skeleton can never have more than 20 bone arrows at a time. Should an archer skeleton acquire another bone arrow when it already has twenty, the oldest arrow in its collection crumbles into bone dust.

Archer skeletons can turn the bones of dead humanoids into replacement bone arrows. This crafting takes 10 minutes. A bone arrow can be created from a corpse or skeleton if it has an arm or leg with an intact long bone. A dead humanoid that's scattered in pieces can be used if one of its long bones remain unbroken. Only one bone arrow can be produced from a single dead humanoid.

If shot from a bone bow (see below), a bone arrow is a +1 longbow arrow with the special property that if it misses its target and breaks (it has a 50% chance of breaking), the arrow transforms into a human warrior skeleton that mindlessly attacks any living creature it sees. The warrior skeleton crumbles into bone dust after 10 minutes or if it is destroyed. An archer has no control over undead created from bone arrows they shoot. The archer can deliberately miss a shot to attempt to place a warrior skeleton in a particular spot, but the bone arrow must still fail its break chance to transform. If the bone arrow does not break it can be retrieved and reused.

If shot from any other bow, a bone arrow acts as a masterwork longbow arrow with no magical properties.

Bone Bow: A bone bow is a +1 composite longbow made from fused humanoid bone with humanoid sinew for its bowstring. The bow is evil, and any creature attempting to wield it must succeed at a DC 15 Fortitude save or gain one negative level. This negative level never results in actual level loss, but it cannot be overcome in any way (including restoration spells) while the weapon is wielded.

Unholy Toughness (Ex): The skeleton archer gains a bonus to its hit points equal to its Charisma modifier × its Hit Dice.

In Ravenloft
The archer skeleton is believed to be the invention of a fanatical necromancer called Karakin. This wicked man planned to murder everyone in his homeland and become the only living soul ruling a kingdom of undead. In pursuit of this malign dream, Karakin mustered an enormous undead army that included entire companies of archer skeletons. However, Karakin and his legions were abducted by the Mists of Ravenloft while they prepared their campaign of omnicide.

No mortal knows Karakin's subsequent fate, but his formula for creating archer skeletons has somehow spread to an increasing number of malicious personages across the Realms of Ravenloft, most notably the lich lord Azalin himself.

Originally appeared in Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix III: Creatures of Darkness (1994).
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Okay, obviously we start with a standard SRD Human Skeleton and jazz it up a bit.

I'd give it more than the 2 HD of the original. Maybe 5 or more? It needs a somewhat decent BAB and enough HP to survive for more than a round.

Will post a blank monster entry as a Working Draft.

So 4 or 5 Hit Dice perhaps?

I'd like to give it a +2 BAB.


Extradimensional Explorer
Yeah, they can effectively summon plenty of skeletons, and I don't really feel like making them glass canons. 5HD will work for me.


Yeah, they can effectively summon plenty of skeletons, and I don't really feel like making them glass canons. 5HD will work for me.

Updating Archer Skeleton Working Draft. I'll fill in some of the blank using a Human Warrior Skeleton as the base model, with the uncertain ones in red.

We could give them Unholy Toughness and an positive CHA modifier if we want to toughen them up a bit.

They have something roughly equivalent to animate dead, which requires a WIS 13+ cleric or an INT/CHA 14+ wizard/sorcerer, so I'm thinking if we go for Toughness it'd have a CHA of 13 or 14 for HD 5d12+5 (37 hp) or 5d12+10 (42 hp).


I'm wondering, do you prefer the original's "Skeleton, Archer" or "Archer Skeleton" as the title over the current draft's "Skeleton Archer"?

"Skeleton Archer" seems a bit bland and generic. Should we make it "Ravenloft Skeleton Archer" or the add name of the necromancer credited with inventing them, e.g. "Karakin Archer Skeleton"?


Extradimensional Explorer
"Archer Skeleton" would probably work (could be cross-listed as "Skeleton, Archer"). Unless there are other "Archer Skeletons," I wouldn't feel the need to put "Ravenloft" or "Karakin" into the name.

Let's deal with the easy stuff first. All the red text down to the full attack line is fine. I guess the original monster's "damage resistance" turns into the DR 5/bludgeoning of the 3.5e skeleton. The original also has "spell immunity." Does that just convert to immunity to cold and other undead immunities, or should we add some SR? Environment and org lines are good, and I'd probably go with - for advancement.

If that's all good with you, shall we tackle the bone arrows?
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