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Cult Activity: Elemental Undead

Cult Activity: Elemental Undead

While most appreciate the work of Siwal’s gravebinders, few trust them. Despite the strict laws governing the interactions of undead creatures and mortals within the Necropolis, many believe that a person can’t help but become corrupted by constant exposure to the magicks of the dead. And as new and unusual forms of undead creatures proliferate, commoners, nobles, and adventurers alike turn the eye of blame to the gravebinders and their secrets.

This article presents three new variant forms of common undead creatures. You can use these monsters to surprise and shake up players jaded by normal creatures, to create political tensions within the Free Cities, or to spur a darker adventure within the Southlands and beyond.

Elemental Undead

As part of an ongoing effort to make simple undead more versatile and adaptable, necromancers work with elemental specialists to create necrotic creatures infused with elemental qualities. Three viable and repeatable results sprung from these experiments: fire shadows, which are looming incorporeal nightmares, brimming with flame and hatred, gelatinous bones, which are skeletons that share many qualities with the ravenous gelatinous cube, and fictile ghouls, which are creatures of earth, tied closely to graves and burial plots.

 

Fire shadows are creatures of void and flame. Stretched to bizarre proportions, their translucent, gaunt shapes tower over most mortals, and their black teeth flicker with vicious sneers. Fire shadows are popular guardians for old tombs and barrows, where typical adventurers might be prepared for more conventional guardians.

Fire Shadow

Large undead, chaotic evil
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 19 (3d10 + 3)
Speed 40 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
8 (−1) 17 (+3) 13 (+1) 6 (–2) 13 (+1) 8 (–1)

Skills Stealth +5
Damage Vulnerabilities. radiant
Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities fire, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Heated Body. A creature that touches the shadow or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.

Illumination. The shadow sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.

Incorporeal Movement. The shadow can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Sunlight Weakness. While in sunlight, the shadow has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.

Actions

Flaming decay. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one creature. Hit: 16 (4d6 + 2) necrotic damage and 7 (2d6) fire damage.

 

Gelatinous bones are horrific even to their creators. These walking skeletons of congealed corrosion are difficult to spot, relentless in their pursuit, and damage everything they touch. Once envisioned as shock infantry, the gelatinous bones proved more difficult to control than their creators expected. Skilled enough to hunt and clever enough to keep themselves hidden, gelatinous bones have become a plague upon the Necropolis.

Gelatinous Bones

Medium undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 11
Hit Points 22 (4d8 + 8)
Speed 25 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
13 (+1) 12 (+1) 15 (+2) 8 (−1) 11 (+0) 7 (−2)

Damage Resistances piercing and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities acid, poison
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned, prone
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages understands all languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Transparent. Even when the skeleton is in plain sight, it takes a successful DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot a skeleton that has neither moved nor attacked. A creature that tries to enter the skeleton’s space while unaware of the skeleton is surprised by the skeleton.

Actions

Dissolving Touch. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (2d6) acid damage.

 

Among the strangest of the elemental undead experiments, fictile ghouls are said to be so tied to the ground beneath their feet that they cannot even jump, let alone fly. While such rumors may not be true, it is certain that these hungry creatures are able to move through the landscape as through it were water, and their incredibly sharp, hard fangs carry with them the immobility of the grave.

Fictile Ghoul

Medium undead, chaotic evil
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
15 (+2) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 8 (−1) 10 (+0) 6 (−2)

Damage Immunities poison
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages Common
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Earth Glide. The ghoul can burrow through nonmagical, unworked earth and stone. While doing so, it doesn’t disturb the material it moves through.

Magic Weapons. A fictile ghoul’s weapon attacks are magical.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage. If the target is a creature that isn’t undead, it must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If the target is an elf, it has advantage on the saving throw.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) slashing damage.

___

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Cult Activity gives you a cult-driven set piece: location, background, hooks, everything you need to build your own adventures in Midgard.

2 thoughts on “Cult Activity: Elemental Undead”

  1. So if you, future person, are running these creatures. Please know the following, all of these creatures are fun but extremely dangerous. I ran these as part of the Mournland in Eberron, though they work in lots of places.

    The Fire Shadow is a difficult creature. It is one Guiding Bolt away from death, but it has an incredible number of resistances to everything else. Each of its hits will auto-KO a level 2 or 3 PC. It’s also very mobile, so be careful about running this against small parties because there’s a good chance they lose somebody before they get to attack.

    Likewise, note that Fictile Ghoul is listed at CR1, just the same a “regular” Ghoul. But it’s basically better in every possible way. Higher DC, more HP, better AC, magical attacks, Earth Glide… Treat this as a CR1+ and try not to be too cheezy by hiding them underground only coming out for attacks.

  2. Believe it or not, I just saw this comment. First and foremost, thanks for your thoughts, and It’s good to hear you found these monsters useful!

    It’s a challenge with the CR calculations in the DMG that creatures of wildly different power and danger levels end up being categorized the same. Particularly in the case of the fictile ghoul, the monster lines up right along the guidelines, and one could argue that it’s weak for a CR 1 by those standards!

    Similarly, the fire shadow weighs in at slightly over a CR 2, but is an incredibly dangerous foe for low-level groups. In some respects, it’s not too dissimilar from a bugbear, which is also firmly within the guidelines for a CR monster but is famous for being a low-level party killer.

    I guess with low level parties, caution is always a virtue and always has been.

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