Undead; Macabre Use for Craft Skills

author: Soltares
email: not revealed
date: 2003-06-02
status: test

I was thinking of non-magical modifications of Skeletons and Zombies, inspired by this lovely article:

Undead; Six Ways to Scare Without Getting Lethal

and I decided to work out some stuff to supplement it.

Craft: Armorsmith allows the crafter to create a form of armor out of spare bones, which can create alternate version of Studded Leather armor. Craft: Bone also allows this, but the DC is 4 pts higher. 5 ranks of Craft Bone give a +2 Synergy bonus to an Armorsmith making such armor. Armor crafted from obvious Human bones will likely incur a reaction penalty from many viewers..

Craft: Weaponsmith can create weapons of Bone, but they have a -2 to attack and damage rolls compared to steel weapons (DMG p 162). Bone has a Hardness of 6 and 10 hp / inch of thickness. Note that weapons generally made entirely of wood (such as Clubs) suffer no penalty if made of Bone. An Alchemist can prepare Bone with a special treatment that makes it equivalent to Iron in strength and weight, obviating any penalties. 5 ranks of Craft Bone will give a +2 Synergy bonus to a Weaponsmith roll to make Bone weapons.

Craft: Leatherworking or Profession: Tanner can craft armor from cured Human skin, but such armor is treated as Padded. Human skin is not terribly effective as armor, although it confers a +2 circumstance bonus to Intimidate checks if recognized as such, and also guarantees that no good-aligned, or even most neutral-aligned, Human will react well to the wearer. [Either make all reactions automatically one step worse, or penalize the Charisma check to modify reactions by 4 pts or so.]

Craft: Boneworking allows a Craftsmage to add to the generic 'average' hit points equal to the Craft check, up to the creatures normal maximum. So a 2 HD Large Skeleton crafted by someone who made his Craft roll by five, will have an average of 13 hp, plus 5 hp for the Craft roll (but never more than 24 hit points, based on its 2d12 HD).

Craft: Boneworking also allows the caster to thicken and smooth the bones he uses, and to treat them in a shellac that hardens them, keeps them from drying out and becoming brittle and keeps them flexible and strong. With suitable checks, he can add +2 Str, +2 Dex or +1 Natural Armor to a Skeleton. [DC 14 for the first modification, DC 16 if he tries a second, DC 18 if he wants his Skeleton all tricked out with all three options and chrome fenders to boot.]

Craft: Weaponsmith can add metal spikes and blades to the Skeletons claws, increasing their basic damage by one die type. (So a Medium Skeleton, instead of doing 1d4 with a Claw rake would do 1d6, but would become unable to effectively manipulate other weapons.) Quality Skeletons from Hollowfaust or among the Charduni generally wield weapons, but this option is used in Glivid-Autel.

Zombie Improvements

(only used by the Charduni and sometimes in Glivid-Autel. Hollowfaust has little use for Zombies.)

Craft: Leatherworking can do much the same with Zombies, keeping them flexible and strong, protection them from dessication and decay. With a check one can add +2 Str, +2 Dex or +1 or +2 Natural Armor, or even Damage Resistance 1/- (a Hardness score of 1). [DC 14 for the Str, Dex or +1 Nat Armor, with +2 additional DC for each upgrade after the first. DC +4 (base 18) for +2 Natural Armor or the Damage Reduction, which also involves the insertion of extraneous bony plates and bars in vulnerable areas.]

With Craft: Weaponsmith one can also increase a Zombies Slam attack damage by implanting large sharp bone, metal and / or obsidian spikes in its' fists (and stitching them shut around these implements), making them useless for manipulating items or carrying weapons, but causing them to inflict damage 1 die type higher, of either Bludgeoning or Piercing (like a Morning Star). Use the chart on MM p 14 to determine damage die upgrade. This requires a Weaponsmith check (DC 15 for metal or obsidian, DC 18 for to craft effective weapons of untreated bone), and is not possible if the crafter doesn't also have at least 1 rank of Craft: Leatherworking or Craft / Profession: Embalmer (although it gains no Synergy bonus in any case).

Combining the above Craft options with the Augment Animation Feat, which I mentioned in another thread, a Hollowfaustian Crafted Skeleton would have the following improvements:

+4 Str, +4 Dex, +1 HD and +1 Natural Armor from Craft Bone skill and Augment Animation Feat, no added Claw damage. They are armed with Longswords and Small Shields and wear Scale Mail*. They have an average of eighteen hit points (+5 to average for Craftsmanship) and usually no magical enhancements. They have AC 21 (+3 Natural, +3 Dex, +4 Scale, +1 Shield), HD 2d12 (18 hp), either 2 Claw attacks at +2 melee for 1d4+2 damage, or 1 Longsword at +2 melee for 1d8+2 damage, standard Undead qualities and Skeleton immunities, Str 14, Dex 16, Con -, Int -, Wis 10, Cha 11, Fort save +0, Ref save +3 and Will save +3 and the Improved Initiative Feat, giving them an Init of +7 (+3 Dex, +4 Imp Init). All in all, a significant improvement over the standard Medium Skeleton.

Glivid-Autelan 'masterworks' tend to show the lack of interest in Craft, and have only the benefits of the Augment Animation Feat and armor (usually only Hide), but also have had their Claws enhanced by Weaponsmiths with nails and spikes of corroded iron to inflict 1d6 damage, and treated with dung and gore to inflict Filth Fever (DC 12 to avoid infection) on a successful hit.

* Some 'Scale' armor in Hollowfaust is salvaged gear from the Sumaran guardsmen who may still be wearing it, often composed of ash-stained and partially corroded iron, other is composed of Alchemically strengthened bone 'scales,' partially fossilized by the treatment and functionally identical in strength and weight to regular metal Scale. Shield and Longswords wielded by Skeletal guards may also be made of either salvaged iron or alchemically strengthened bone.

Last but certainly not least

An Alchemist can make Ironbone Oil that gives the Skeleton Damage Resistance 1 / - (effectively, a Hardness of 1). Multiple doses can coat a bone in thicker and thicker layers of the oil, up to a maximum Hardness of 6 (DR 6/-). Each point of Damage Resistance reduces the Skeletons Dexterity by 1, as it weighs the subject down. While affected, the Skeleton can be affected by rust effects and counts as iron for the purposes of effects that target or damage metal. For every six points of damage the treated Skeleton takes, 1 pt of this Damage Resistance is lost, as the reddish shellac-like coating is chipped away. Bones coated in this oil are so dark red as to be nearly black at a distance, and they have both the tang of iron and a faint smell of old blood. It takes about 6 hours to administer a dose (if it is rushed, the Skeleton will most likely be unable to move, but make a durable statue...), so it can take up to almost a week to give a Skeleton the 'full treatment' and a DR 6/-.

Alchemy DC 25 to create. 20 gp / dose (6 doses required to give a Medium-sized Skeleton a DR 6/-). Note that larger Skeletons will require more, and that it may well need to be re-applied after a battle, if the Skeleton survived.

A bath of Ironbone oil can permanantly strengthen items of bone to make them as hard as iron for the purposes of crafting armor or weapons from them, but the treatment doesn't last on animated bone constructs. Bone typically has a Hardness of 6 and 10 hit points / inch of thickness, Iron, or Ironbone-treated Bone, has a Hardness of 8 and 15 hit points / inch of thickness.

It takes 20 gp worth of Ironbone Oil to treat up to 50 lbs of items. Used in Hollowfaust to treat Longswords (15 gp / 4 lbs), Small Shields (3 gp / 5 lbs) or Scale Mail (50 gp / 30 lbs) made of Bone (about 40 lbs total, so an extra Shield or Sword are usually added to the bath), it takes 8 hours of soaking for every pound of Bone to be affected, which makes this take about two weeks (3 lbs / day). Unlike the above Ironbone use, this bath thoroughly impregnates the affected Bone and is permanent. The affected Bone does increase in weight, to be functionally identical to iron in weapon and armor effectiveness, and also becomes subject to rust and metal-affecting magics and effects. Someone must be present to monitor the soaking process, to turn the bones on an hourly basis and ensure that they soak evenly (and that the oil itself remains stirred and does not settle), but this need not be the Alchemist, any assistant or even an animated Skeleton can perform this task (although it should wear gloves, if not already Ironbone-infused, so that the fluid doesn't seep into its hands and be wasted).

Alchemists can also create Molten Ice, which can give a Skeleton 5 pts of Fire Resistance, this lasts until it is 'burned off.' It can ward off 5 pts of Fire damage / HD of the treated undead. Each HD requires another dose. So a 2 HD Skeleton requires 2 doses to fully coat, and the Fire Resistance can protect againsts 10 pts total (but not more than 5 pts in a single attack).

20 gp / dose. Alchemy DC 20 to create.

This ointment is not usable on living tissue, as it is bitterly cold and causes skin inflammation due to its caustic nature. Anyone who touches the substance will be aware of it's nature and if someone is fully coated in it (a processs he will find excruciating), he will suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to all Skill checks and attack rolls from the numbing sensation with a DC 12 Heal check or Fortitude save allowed once / day to reduce this to a -1 penalty, and then to clear it up (which means that a Heal check can reduce it to -1, and a Fortitude save that night can clear it up completely). It takes 1 minute / dose to coat a creature of approximately man-sized, and gloves are strongly suggested.

When an undead creature protected by Molten Ice is targeted by a Fire effect, it seems to flare up with a bluish-violet flame, that somehow turns away some of of the actual fire effect. This effect does not occur when a living creature is coated with the oil, as it is changed by its reaction with living skin.

An undead creature coated with Molten Ice is cool to the touch, and appears to be coated with a rime of dark violet frost. It can also be used as a protective coating to keep other things cool, but it is not safe to use around foodstuffs.

More Alchemical badness

An undead can also be soaked in Alchemists Fire, and will feel warm to the touch and appear ruddy in hue, reeking of spices (this process is also caustic to the living). If any undead (or living creature, who will be suffering from its other effects as well) is targeted by a Fire effect, it flares up and he takes +1d6 from the fire effect, and catches on fire, as if subject to a Burn effect (DMG p 86, DC 12). All others within adjacent 5 ft squares are also subject to this flash of fire, taking 1d3 damage.

Rarely a Skeleton is filled with a pressurized bladder of Alchemists Fire, soaked in same, and used as a poor man's Fireball. (The Alchemists Fire explosion only does 2d6 damage to all in the Skeletons square, and a d6 splash damage to all within 5 ft of it, so it must rush in and attempt to Grapple its target while the mage throws a fire spell to activate it.)

A Glivid-Autelen Alchemist has also crafted a version of Flakeiron (R&R2, p 15) that affects Bone. A Skeleton with his Claws steeped in this ointment takes a single point of damage each time a Claw hits while it is in effect, and for each point of damage taken this way, that Claw inflicts one less point of damage, until repaired. Still, in a living target, the shattered splinters of bone grind painfully into flesh, causing a -2 morale penalty to all actions for 2d4 rounds, while the splinters work their way out.

The damage inflicted on the Skeleton represents increasing loss of fingerbones to splintering, and eventually the creature will be completely unable to effectively inflict damage, and if it continues attempting to strike, may well shatter itself completely. Only magical healing (through Inflict spells) is sufficient to restore these shards of bone. Alchemy DC 20, only 120 gp for this variant.

Hardshell (R&R2, p 15), sadly, does not appear to be effective on items of animate bone. It can be used to coat them, but renders them incapable of movement. Minute traces of silver in the compound seem to somehow inhibit the flow of negative energy throughout the bone, once they soak into it.

A lead-based variation, that doesn't seem to alter Hardness, but does give the coated Skeleton a few points of SR, at the cost of points of Dexterity, shows promise. Reseach continues apace...