Thursday, September 9, 2010

Malevolent and Benign

Lets follow up the last Malevolent and Benign monster with another undead, the bone sovereign. The bone sovereign is one of my favorite monsters from the book. It's a great army-of-one creature that has a lot of horror potential in a game and may even come with its own unique magic item. The entry is long, but worth every word, IMO. The artist is Jeff Womack.


SIZE: Large (8 ft. tall)
MOVE: 120 ft.
DAMAGE: 1-8, 1-8, 1-4
RARITY: Very rare
TREASURE: In Lair: 1-12k cp (20%), 1-6k sp (30%), 1-4k ep (10%), 1-6 gems (25%), 1-3 jewelry (20%), any 2 magic items or maps (10%)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
LEVEL/X.P.: 4 / 245 + 4/hp

General information: Usually encountered near the ancient tombs and other fell places that spawned them, these undead creatures are driven by the need to assimilate other skeletal monsters into their own bodies, feeding off the animating enchantments that bind such creatures in undeath. Since they lack any ranged attack, bone sovereigns favor frontal assaults. Like many undead, these creatures harbor no small hatred for life, and they usually wade into melee combat with a chilling confidence. Bone sovereigns have a measure of intelligence, and though they sometimes attack large groups of lesser creatures, they usually try to avoid monsters larger or obviously more powerful than themselves.

A bone sovereign is able to command undead at will as an evil cleric of a level equal to double its hit dice. Skeletons that are commanded by a bone sovereign can be drawn towards the creature to be permanently merged into its form. Spawned skeletons are likewise assimilated by the bone sovereign as soon as their usefulness as separate beings is ended. Other types of undead can’t be merged with it, but a bone sovereign usually keeps commanded zombies, ghouls and shadows nearby for as long as possible.

When a bone sovereign comes into contact with an animated skeleton under its control, it can merge the skeleton into its form, adding the normal skeleton’s hit dice to its own. For example, a normal bone sovereign that merges with a skeleton (1 HD) becomes a 5-HD bone sovereign. The skeleton ceases to exist as a separate entity and becomes part of the bone sovereign. Merging with a skeleton takes a full round. A bone sovereign can absorb up to 16 additional hit dice in this manner.

Instead of attacking, a bone sovereign can create any number of skeletal monsters from its body in one round. Skeletons spawned by the bone sovereign are under its complete mental control. The hit dice of the spawned creatures are deducted from the bone sovereign’s hit dice  and return to the sovereign when it again merges with the spawn. If a skeleton spawn is destroyed, it cannot be merged back into the bone sovereign; its hit dice are lost. Spawned skeletons are treated in all ways like standard skeletons except they can detect and attack whatever the bone sovereign can and are turned as zombies. A bone sovereign can spawn no more than half its hit dice in one round and cannot reduce its hit dice to fewer than 4 through this process. There is no limit to the number of spawned skeletons that a bone sovereign can control at once. Because spawning makes a bone sovereign weaker, it only does so when it is heavily outnumbered by lesser foes. One out of every 10 bone sovereigns possesses a thighbone flute (see new magic items).

Bone sovereigns can detect all undead within 60 feet and will be aware of their movements even if unable to physically see them. Bone sovereigns have darkvision to 60 ft. Holy water causes 2-8 hit points of damage for each vial that successfully strikes.

Turning bone sovereigns is slightly different than typical. Clerics turn a 4-HD bone sovereign as a mummy, but every two absorbed hit dice of skeletons increases the turning difficulty by one type. For example, a bone sovereign with 4 absorbed hit dice is turned as a vampire, while one that has absorbed 8 hit dice worth of skeletons is turned as a lich. Typically, if a turning attempt fails no new attempts can be made, but if a bone sovereign changes its hit dice via spawning or absorption, a new attempt can be made, as it is treated as a new creature.

Languages: Bone sovereigns speak common and their alignment tongue with a sepulcher tone.

Physical description: Bone sovereigns are terrible  amalgamations of skeletons whose animating enchantments coalesce to form a single, self-aware undead entity. A bone sovereign becomes larger and more powerful, with a proportionally increased appetite for necromantic energy, as it assimilates other undead. No two bone sovereigns are identical, as each is an accumulation of the bones of many smaller skeletons. Usually they take a bipedal humanoid form, though some resemble demons, dragons, or other beasts, especially if the bones of such creatures have been collected by the monster. As a bone sovereign becomes larger and more powerful, it becomes less recognizable as any one type of creature.

Variants: Some adventurers have claimed the existence of a flesh sovereign which functions almost exactly as the bone sovereign, excepting it deals with zombies. Such is currently unproven, and most sages believe this a story told to garner more ale from the easily fooled.

Thighbone flute: The thighbone flute is an unusual item found in the possession of some bone sovereigns. In the skeletal hands of their owners, they can be blown to produce an irresistible dance effect (as the spell) once per day. In the hands of any other creature, the effects of a thighbone flute are not so powerful, but still beneficial. Once per day, the user can produce a short tune whose effect mimics the charm person spell. The possessor of a thighbone flute can only have 5 creatures charmed at a single time. Experience Point Value: 1,000 G. P. Value: 5,000.

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