Today is a two-fer since I didn’t post yesterday. Busy, busy with the beginning of the new school year, making sure all those T’s are dotted and all those I’s are crossed. For my favorite undead, I’m tempted to just link my old post about the death knight and be done with it, but that seems kind of lazy. I’m not going to do that.
My favorite undead is hard to pin down. If I were writing about movies/TV shows, my favorite undead would be zombies, but only when they’re a metaphor (such as in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead) and/or when they serve as a mirror in which the survivors’ humanity becomes reflected (such as in 2011’s State of Emergency, which I found to be surprisingly hopeful). Of course, I’m not supposed to be writing about movies. This is the 30-Day D&D Challenge, and zombies don’t really do it for me in D&D. I’ve used them, of course, and quite a bit, but D&D and survival horror are a tough match.
For D&D, the mummy reigns as my favorite undead.
“But why, Mark?” you ask.
Well, the picture piercing your soul with its glowing stare probably gave it away, but I reply to your question with a simple, “Because Boris Karloff.”
Sure, you can play mummies like lumbering, bandage-wrapped mashers, and the inferior sequels to 1932’s The Mummy veered in that direction, but that’s not the way I feel mummies should be played. The word “mummy” conjures up visions of ancient Egypt. Pyramids and sphinxes and scarabs. Kings, high priests, and powerful ministers got the mummy treatment, which isn’t quite the whole story, but it provides the hook for what a mummy ought to be.
Oh, sure, the boss mummy could have lumbering, bandage-wrapped mummy lackeys to bash interlopers, but the mummy should be more like Ardath Bey, also known as Imhotep. He’s clever, obsessed, powerful, urbane, and menacing. He doesn’t just lunge out of a sarcophagus and start swinging. To get the full-on Imhotep experience, add some divination powers and a vampire-like ability to charm the PC who’s the reincarnation of his forbidden love.
My favorite aberration bears some defining ahead of time. Early D&D didn’t have monster types as introduced by 3E. A monster type is sort of like the monster’s base character class. “An aberration has a bizarre anatomy, strange abilities, an alien mindset, or any combination of the three,” says the SRD. Classic D&D aberrations include monsters such as adherers, blindheims, boggarts, and cloakers.
And, of course, the dreaded aboleth. Evil, intelligent, vaguely fish-like, and tentacled, aboleths fool your senses with illusions and crush you will with charms. Aboleths lair in lightless, flooded caverns or deep under the sea. It’s almost a moral imperative that choirs of aboleths chant obscene litanies to Lovecraftian horrors.
“Ia! Ia! Nyarlathotep Fthagan!”