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D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Four Horsemen - Death

The time has come for Epic Monsters to tackle the final harbinger of the Last Judgment, that herald who more than any others signifies the end: Death!

4 horsemen death dnd5e banner.jpg

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with predatorilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
—Revelation 6:7–8

Whatever victors might emerge from the mayhem of the apocalypse are laid low by the last herald. Death does not deign to engage in the deceits and subterfuge employed by the other harbingers—instead it shuffles off mortal coils without compunction, whether by its own hand or through its similarly undead servants.

Design Notes: The other harbingers (Strife, War, Famine) dip their toes into the magic pool but Death is fully submerged and has the full spellcaster treatment. With its vampire or mummy lord lackeys and permanent hit point reductions it presents a very dangerous encounter that should put a scare into even the most experienced adventurers. GMs shouldn’t hesitate to play up the spellcasting aspect of Death—have it pop into and out of the Ethereal Plane on its nightmare mount, diminish the party’s hit points with spells and undead minions in preparation for a devastating power word kill, and let this final harbinger of the Last Judgment really have its maximum impact. Let’s do the numbers! According to the DMG the right number for Death is 23.5 while the Blog of Holding says 20.16. That averages a bit under 22 but we’re bumping it up a CR because Death comes packaged with an extra badass horse and some not inconsiderable undead servants as well as some unconventional mobility in combat (thanks to those nightmare mounts). Plus there’s all the maximum hit point reductions to keep in mind.


Death

Medium undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 225 (30d8+90)
Speed 30 ft., fly 40 ft. (hover), mounted 60 ft. (fly 90 ft.)
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
20 (+5)​
16 (+3)​
16 (+3)​
17 (+3)​
15 (+2)​
25 (+7)​
Saving Throws Con +10, Int +10, Wis +9
Skills Arcana +17, History +17, Insight +9, Perception +9, Religion +17
Damage Resistances cold, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 19
Languages all
Challenge 23 (50,000 XP)

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Death fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Magic Resistance. Death has advantage on saving throws made against spells and other magical effects.

Nightmares. Death can use a bonus action to summon a nightmare that is under its control.

Spellcasting. Death is a 20th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 22, +14 to hit with spell attacks). Death has the following spells prepared:
Cantrips (at will): chill touch, eldritch blast, mage hand, prestidigitation
1st level (4 slots): detect magic, false life, inflict wounds, shield, thunderwave
2nd level (3 slots): detect thoughts, invisibility, mirror image, ray of enfeeblement
3rd level (3 slots): animate dead, bestow curse, counterspell, dispel magic
4th level (3 slots): blight, confusion, dimension door
5th level (3 slots): cone of cold, scrying
6th level (2 slot): circle of death, harm
7th level (2 slot): finger of death, plane shift
8th level (1 slot): feeblemind
9th level (1 slot): power word kill

Turn Resistance. Death has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces Death to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to the damage taken. On a success, Death drops to 1 hit point instead.


ACTIONS
Multiattack. Death uses its Frightful Presence and attacks twice with Reap.

Reap. Melee Spell Attack: +14 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d6+8) magical slashing damage plus 28 (8d6) necrotic damage. If the target is a creature, its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic taken. The target dies if this attack reduces its hit point maximum to 0. The reduction lasts until removed by the greater restoration spell or other magic.

Animate Servants (Recharge 6). Death conjures 1d4 vampires or a mummy lord each in an unoccupied square within 30 feet.

Frightful Presence. Each creature of Death’s choice that is within 60 feet of it and aware of it must succeed on a DC 22 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to Death’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.


LEGENDARY ACTIONS
Death can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. Death regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Cast Spell (Costs 1 to 3 Actions). Death casts a spell of up to 6th level. Every 2 spell levels cost 1 legendary action (cantrips cost 1 legendary action).

Reaper (Costs 2 Actions). Death makes one reap attack.

Disrupt Life (Costs 3 Actions). Each non-undead creature within 20 feet of Death must make a DC 22 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. On a failure by 5 or more, a creature’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic taken. The creature dies if this attack reduces its hit point maximum to 0. The reduction lasts until removed by the greater restoration spell or other magic.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


maceochaid

Explorer
I am reading the verses above, and you could read it differently. It's says behold Death and Hades was following him. Could it means that literally Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld, was right behind Death? Just a thought...
Revelation was written in Greek and any time you read "Hell" in English translations it is probably a translation of the Greek "Hades." The vast majority of early Christians came from Greek backgrounds, and the idea of myth/reality was not clear and between the Greek and Hebrew conception of the afterlife is not easy to understand. However early Christians probably did not think that they meant "the guy who is related to Zeus, and owns a many-headed dog, and who is married to Persephone." But rather "Mr. Underworld" or "he who represents the land of the dead." Just like we say "Hell" and don't think "Loki's daughter." Texts from the Early Christian to medieval period do portray Hell/Hades as both a place and a personified entity, a practice that seems to have died out after the medieval period which is why this phrasing looks strange to us today.
 


Ace

Adventurer
I am reading the verses above, and you could read it differently. It's says behold Death and Hades was following him. Could it means that literally Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld, was right behind Death? Just a thought...

Your interpretation would make for some good gaming.

As I understand it the customary interpretation and note there are several as the meaning of Revelations is highly contested is meant to read

"Death and Hell followed with him" meaning the pale horse appears ridden by Death and accompanied by an army of Demons with permission from God to have dominion over 25% over the lives of 25% of humanity

KJV here

“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

FWIW I think using the ending from Johnny Cash's "the Man's Gonna Come Around" where he speaks these words would make a strong intro to your apocalyptic game as well.
 
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Quartz

Adventurer
I'm not sure why Death would itself be undead or have undead servitors? Surely the undead are cheating death and therefore particular targets? The other Horsemen are monstrosities so Death should be too. Just because it has the form of a skeleton doesn't mean that it is undead (q.v. bone golem).
 

Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
I'm not sure why Death would itself be undead or have undead servitors? Surely the undead are cheating death and therefore particular targets? The other Horsemen are monstrosities so Death should be too. Just because it has the form of a skeleton doesn't mean that it is undead (q.v. bone golem).
I respectfully disagree—I am all for skeletal monsters, but if you are a skeleton and you represent death incarnate and your name is Death, it'd be downright strange for you to not be undead. That said you can easily make Death here not-undead (pull out Turn Resistance, rename Undead Fortitude, tweak Disrupt Life to exclude Death, add in the immortality trait the other Four Harbingers have, and you are there).
 

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