Wandering Monsters: Energy Drain

Wandering Monsters
Energy Drain

By James Wyatt


It's time to go over more undead! You might have noticed one power I didn't list among all the vampire's capabilities a couple weeks ago: energy drain. In past editions, that's been a widespread characteristic of undead, but in our discussions, we felt like it was most effective as the signature ability of one or two kinds of undead. Well, the two undead most strongly associated with some form of energy drain are the subject of our column this week: wights and wraiths.

Talk about this column here.

What Do You Think?
His monster descriptions, as usual, are spot on!

I like that energy drain targets max HP. It makes it special damage you can't cure with a simple spell. But also not so annoying as dealing with reduced ability scores or Pelor forbid, lost LEVELs!

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I'd rather they go with a 'drained' condition, something like disadvantage on all rolls until you take a short rest...Smile
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I like the description but something doesn't feel right. If In life, a Wight or a Wraith was a truly evil person whose anger and all-consuming ambition distorted it into a hateful and murderous creature, then those creatures should not turn victims they killed into one because the first assumption is then invalidated and just anyone that wasn't evil could be a Wight or Wraith by having been killed by one.

I think both creatures should energy drain on each attacks. Hit Dice ressources siphon seems like a good fit. It represents life force draining well enought while keeping bookeeping to a minimal. It could drain a Hit Dice and deal 1d8 extra damage for exemplel, so that it still produce an effect for group not using the Hit Dice mechanic. It could also have an optional level drain mechanic for people wishing for it.

PS The question'' What happens to someone who's killed by a wight's energy drain?'' is repeated twice and the last one should be about Wraith.

Wights and Wraiths do effect their victims but not like vampires.

Whereas the ghoul infects their victims with their hunger which cause uneaten victims to rise and vampires who rely on fluid transfer right before death. wights and wraiths are not naturally infectious. Wights and wraith, being opposite ends of the same coin, needs to actively infect their victims. An enemy killed by either suffers a weakened soul. In such a state, they can be transformed into a zombie, wight, or wraith with simple magic.

As a wraith or wight slays a living being, a simple action would start the transformation. Adventurers would have to remove the body from the undead monster quickly or the process would begin.

They are not shadows who corrupt by mere touch.

Orzel's Shortened List of Undeath Transformation.

Zombies,  Jiang Shi, Mummies, and Skeletons
Cause: A necromancy spell
Contagious: No

Ghouls and Ghasts
Cause: A curselike disease
Contagious: Yes

Ghosts, Allips, and Spectres
Cause: A restlessness of a dead spirit.
Contagious: Maybe. A horrible death at the hands of either might cause the victim to rise as a spectre.

Wights and Wights
Cause: A curse of punishment
Contagious: No...."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />
Shadows
Cause: A draining touch
Contagious: Yes

Vampires
Cause: A bloodborne curse or a ritual
Contagious: Yes

Liches and Death Knights
Cause: A dark and evil ritual
Contagious: No

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!


I like the description but something doesn't feel right. If In life, a Wight or a Wraith was a truly evil person whose anger and all-consuming ambition distorted it into a hateful and murderous creature, then those creatures should not turn victims they killed into one because the first assumption is then invalidated and just anyone that wasn't evil could be a Wight or Wraith by having been killed by one.




I agree, but I do like the idea that their victims become zombies. I like the idea that they don't kill your body, they just destroy your life force and leave your body a mindless, walking corpse.
I like the article, but as I posted to that thread:

What this really does is remind me what a horrible stat name Charisma is.  Presence, Personality, anything but Charisma.

"They're strong and have high Charisma scores, which can sometimes draw other evil creatures and undead to follow them. They make good leaders; they're smart enough to use followers intelligently."

∴ "Virtus junxit, mors non separabit." 

I want to make these undead scary again and something you can cure with a good night's sleep is just not very scary. I hated how they did energy drain in 4E, and thus far in D&DN it's been a disappointment.

Energy drain draining max HP is fine, but it should last a long time unless you get a restoration or similar spell thrown on you. It shouldn't be permanent but it should be the sort of thing you can expect to last with you at least to the end of the adventure if not longer if you don't get magical aid. Healing it naturally should take a very long time.

An energy drainer should be something you absolutely do not want to touch you. I don't believe in true permanent screw-overs like in AD&D, but it should inflict a penalty that sticks with you a while. I would be also okay with giving a fort save to resist energy draining attacks, it doens't always have to be automatic, but if you do get drained, that should be seriously a big deal unless you have a high level cleric with you.
I want to make these undead scary again and something you can cure with a good night's sleep is just not very scary.



Your first thought should be "run away, someone else can deal with this thing..."

∴ "Virtus junxit, mors non separabit." 

If I may wax poetic about undead for a moment...

I can appreciate the point made about undead that create spawn and the likelihood that, given enough time, they would simply overwhelm the world and everyone would be a wight/wraith/shadow/vampire eventually.  But I don't agree with removing every undead's ability to inflict undeath on others.

Part of what makes undead downright terrifying is the fact that, unlike an orc raid, you won't just end up dead at the end, you'll end up cursed to wander the earth as an undead yourself.  This innate fear would probably solve the multiplying undead problem itself; if a society knew there were ghouls/wights/wraiths/shadows nearby, they'd probably leave lots of space between them and the undead creature's lair, stay behind the safety of their walls and gates at night, and generally just keep the heck away from the undead monsters.

Of course, I also never really saw wights and wraiths as intelligent undead.  To me, that's the realm of vampires and liches.  Those creatures retain the memories and personality fragments of the beings they were in life, but twisted by the dark impulses of their new nature.  It also leads to the question is a vampire/lich the same person they were in life, or an evil monster that uses the memories of the body they possess against the people that once knew them?

As for wights, wraiths, shadows, and ghouls, they are all the embodiment of some extremely strong impulse or desire.  Not so much a willful and intelligent person, but a manifestation of the urge made animate through negative energy.  Unlike zombies and skeletons, they can appear to be intelligent because they are capable of acting without direction, be it in a simplistic manner because every act is geared toward satisfying the urge that consumes them or self-preservation.
I want to make these undead scary again and something you can cure with a good night's sleep is just not very scary.



Your first thought should be "run away, someone else can deal with this thing..."



I never want my PCs to think that in D&D, a game of heroic fantasy.  That's an appropriate mindset for Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia, but not D&D, at least not for the standard presentation of a monster.

Now, having a sidebar with a way to ramp up wraiths and wights so they become the "If they eve touch you, you're screwed" creature, would be fine.  But the point of the game is to be able to confront monsters.  
Yeah. None of that "run away" stuff as default.

To me, the scary part of undead is that they change the lose conditions and sometimes the win conditions.

With Orcs, you kill them and recover or they kill you and you meet your maker.

But with undead, you can lose even when you win. And when you lose lose, you lose a lot more. Zombies and skeletons might not convert you but you have even more of a reason to not you or any of your buddies die since whoever or whatever raised them probably still lingers. And with ghouls, wrights, wraiths, you can suffer even after you kill them all. Its like having organized crime after you. Even after surviving the first bout, the second, third, and fourth battle is still in mind even before you finish the first.

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I think that not everyone should be turned by a wight/wraith.  Actually, the best thing may be to consider the emotional state of the person at death, combined with a random roll, to see what happens.  I think if it as being killed by one represents an increased level of vulnerability to the curse.  (Example: 20% chance, rolled on a d100.  Factor in 'bonuses' to the roll, +10 if they were raging, +10 if they had an unfinished quest they were denied, if you're playing with alignment you could incorporate that as well.  In the end, if the roll were high enough after modifiers, wight.  Otherwise, you're a withered husk, or perhaps a zombie instead)

I like HP drain to represent energy drain.  If you want a somewhat more slow recovery, perhaps you can only recover HP by spending a Hit Die at the end of a long rest.  That way, until you are recovered, you're down some HP as well as a Hit Die for the day.

Also, I think I'd like a more clear difference between the origin of the Wight and Wraith.  Right now it's just "Hateful" and "More Hateful".  Just off the top of my head: maybe Wights represent a moment of extreme hatred shortly before their death.  Desire for revenge or Fury at a failed experiment.  Wraiths represent a lifetime of hate, perhaps an unrepressed racial hatred that is exercised throughout their lives, or frequently throwing your own soldiers away for minimal gains.  What do you guys think?
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I agree, but I do like the idea that their victims become zombies. I like the idea that they don't kill your body, they just destroy your life force and leave your body a mindless, walking corpse.


Ooh, I like that interpretation.  I voted "They're dead", but I may have to change it.
* I think the best option if the energy drain should, by default, only limiting maximum hit points until long rest, and if some DM wishs special attack with long time effects, they would be added like templates.

* Do rebember if in D&D world infections by undeads is possible.. they would be lots of undead epidemic, or we would see dungeons with full room of a undead hordes. 

My suggestion is creating spawn is a temporal power, and the true victim´s soul aren´t really infected or cursed, only the undead creature has used the ki/vitae/incarnum/life force to create negromantic contruct clone (a "evil twin"). For example Erik the barbarian for fight is killed by a wigth. It is a honorable death and Erik´s soul is taken by a valkyria to the Valhalla, the reward of afterile. The wigth has created a spawn, but it isn´t the true Erik´s soul, only a dark and twisted imitation. If the wight loses its power (or it is too "tired") the spawn is neutralized until the wight can "summon" it again. But most of times the spawns are eaten by the original undead. 

*Wight can´t be only a ghoul/zombie with energy drain. It needs a special style, a different background. For example it can be a "partially inmune" to a ghoul infection, a mutation, too smart to be ghoul, too infected to be alive. 

Let´s imagine it.... Heroes are exploring a ancient civilitation that was destroyed by a ghoul cataclysm... and when they arrive to capital... it is empty...without undead...why? because the walking deads were hunted and eaten by "almost survivors", a "tribe" of wigths, with arrows and lances.  

* Do you rebember the lord zombie and lord ghoul from Ravenloft monster compendium (AD&D)?

* Could a wight travel from a far crypt to a great city for any days? Because he wishs create a secret cult or necromancy sect...something about become "necropolitan" from Libris Mortis, or to hunt and eat beggars.

* I would like the idea of incorporeal undead controlling reanimated corpses like puppets. I hope it wouldn´t too powerful, only a temporal power like spell "summon undead" from "Libris Mortis". If PCs defeat the body the XPs would be like killing a zombie or a skeleton but the incorporeal spirit isn´t destroyed yet.  

* What if necromancy powers have got a special module to be used like defiler magic from Dark Sun settin? I suposse there is a link between necromancy and defiler magic because both "taint" the land.

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I like energy drain as a mechanic, but not level drain :P Temporary stat loss (including max hp loss) has always been one of my favorite monster abilities because it really makes players think carefully before straight enganging something with these abilities.
My two copper.
I want to make these undead scary again and something you can cure with a good night's sleep is just not very scary.

Your first thought should be "run away, someone else can deal with this thing..."

I never want my PCs to think that in D&D, a game of heroic fantasy.  That's an appropriate mindset for Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia, but not D&D, at least not for the standard presentation of a monster.

I really have to fall in with Dwarfslayer (and possibly Phobos) on this.  Wraiths are supposed to be scary, and there's nothing scary about something when your plan of action is to charge it head-long and then take a nap.

Even though the main point of D&D is to slay monsters, the wraith is no mere monster.  It is a horror, pure and simple.  Don't like 'em?  Don't use 'em.  It's much more important for things to be what they are, than to dilute that so far down to the point where everyone can handle them.

When you find out that you're fighting a wraith, you (the character) should be scared, and the best way to do that is for you (the player) to be scared.

The metagame is not the game.


I never want my PCs to think that in D&D, a game of heroic fantasy.  That's an appropriate mindset for Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia, but not D&D, at least not for the standard presentation of a monster.

Now, having a sidebar with a way to ramp up wraiths and wights so they become the "If they eve touch you, you're screwed" creature, would be fine.  But the point of the game is to be able to confront monsters.  



I find it adds tactical diversity. Not so mcuh the "Run the hell away", but the "I don't want this thign to touch me."

A part of me dies inside everyitme I see a 4E fight agaisnt a medusa, where the adventurers just treat it like any other monster. They don't close their eyes or use reflections to fight it. Instead it's just like, whatever it's an orc, we'll soak the petrifying gaze. And the monster comes off as boring and plain, because there's never any fear that gets you to adapt your tactics.

I want monsters to feel different. I don't mind if wights encourage you to pepper them with ranged attacks rather than engage in melee, that's a *good* thing if you ask me. It also makes that turn undead all the more crucial to keep those things at bay.
I would prefer Energy drain to simply kill the victim and work only under a certain HP treshold, but it would it be fun for it to be an automatic hit.

This will still make wraiths and wights scary as being automatically killed is something that will make PCs think twice, and at the same time it avoids a lot of unnecessary bookkeping.


I would also give to Greater Wights and Wraiths the power to turn into ordinary wights and wraiths those they kill. This will give a definite edge to the Greater versions over the "normal" ones and will avoid the risk of unstoppable proliferation, as the "normal" versions will not be able to do the same.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/23.jpg)

A part of me dies inside everyitme I see a 4E fight agaisnt a medusa, where the adventurers just treat it like any other monster.


That's because they are fighting "a" medusa, not "the" Medusa.

IMO, if a monster is not unique, then it should not be rtreated like its unique mythical counterpart.  In D&D settings, medusas are a race.  In Forgotten Realms, they even habitate in cities.  They have a culture.

That's not the mythical Medusa.

If you are presenting a Monster Manual, then those are monsters designed to litter your adventures.  They are not the focal point of an entire arc.  A wraith in that sense is just another challenging encounter in a series of challenging encounters.  A medusa is a difficult creature; it is not the bane of Perseus.

Which is why I suggest a sidebar.  If you want the players to fight "the" Medusa,  the sidebar can give you guidance for that.  And that guidance better include a lot of foreshadowing and foreknowledge.  Why did Theseus beat the medusa?  Because he knew what he was facing (unlike the sorry fools who wandered into her garden ignorantly) and he had a large mirrored shield built specifically to defeat Medusa.

But if you're planning an assault on a temple and you want a battle in Room 5b, and you see that "medusas" are an appropriate encounter for abandoned temples, that shouldn't be "the" Medusa.  It's just a Medusa. 

Similarly, if you want a malevolent spirit who can such the soul from a character, make it a focual point.  Give it a freakin' name.  Don't make it "Wraith #14".  THE wraith can drain levels.  A wraith should be a rollicking fun encounter.  So include a sidebar with guidance on how to include a level-draining wraith.  And that sidebar better tell DMs to give their players plenty of warning so they can spend some of their loot getting Restoration spells... or so they can just say "screw it" and go on a different adventure.

But I tyhink it a little silly to complaint that the medusa race doesn't have the capability of the Medusa, without also complaining that there could possible be more than three Gorgons, one of whom is named "Medusa", in the entire world.
A part of me dies inside everyitme I see a 4E fight agaisnt a medusa, where the adventurers just treat it like any other monster.


That's because they are fighting "a" medusa, not "the" Medusa.

IMO, if a monster is not unique, then it should not be rtreated like its unique mythical counterpart.  In D&D settings, medusas are a race.  In Forgotten Realms, they even habitate in cities.  They have a culture.

That's not the mythical Medusa.

If you are presenting a Monster Manual, then those are monsters designed to litter your adventures.  They are not the focal point of an entire arc.  A wraith in that sense is just another challenging encounter in a series of challenging encounters.  A medusa is a difficult creature; it is not the bane of Perseus.

Which is why I suggest a sidebar.  If you want the players to fight "the" Medusa,  the sidebar can give you guidance for that.  And that guidance better include a lot of foreshadowing and foreknowledge.  Why did Theseus beat the medusa?  Because he knew what he was facing (unlike the sorry fools who wandered into her garden ignorantly) and he had a large mirrored shield built specifically to defeat Medusa.

But if you're planning an assault on a temple and you want a battle in Room 5b, and you see that "medusas" are an appropriate encounter for abandoned temples, that shouldn't be "the" Medusa.  It's just a Medusa. 

Similarly, if you want a malevolent spirit who can such the soul from a character, make it a focual point.  Give it a freakin' name.  Don't make it "Wraith #14".  THE wraith can drain levels.  A wraith should be a rollicking fun encounter.  So include a sidebar with guidance on how to include a level-draining wraith.  And that sidebar better tell DMs to give their players plenty of warning so they can spend some of their loot getting Restoration spells... or so they can just say "screw it" and go on a different adventure.

But I tyhink it a little silly to complaint that the medusa race doesn't have the capability of the Medusa, without also complaining that there could possible be more than three Gorgons, one of whom is named "Medusa", in the entire world.


Awesome post. Legendary monsters with legendary powers should be...legendary! They should be rare, or even unique: specific NPCs with names and a backstory, not random dungeon denizens.

I'm with Estlor that intelligence and (half) remembered humanity are for more the vampire's schtick than turning their victims. It's not just the fear that you yourself will be turned into an undead thing, it's the fact that undead recycle.  They don't care how many they lose, because they can just raise them again, along with all the guys you lost fighting them.  That makes them a terrifying force, unrelenting, fearless, and thematically unstoppable.  It also adds a huge imperative on the part of players to stamp out the threat early and completely, because if even one gets away the cycle can start again.  The fact that adventurers are an established part of every setting, by definition, means we can avoid the inevitable conclusion that the undead will take over the world because there have always been adventurers around to stop the spread.  Today, it's your turn.

But I also agree that, if wights are going to be evil hate-filled mortals then they should be evil hate-filled mortals, not evil-hate filled mortals plus anyone that happened to be killed by another wight.  Raising them as zombies is the perfect compromise: it fits the fluff (your soul was drained away by the life-draining attacks, and now you're left with a husk chock full of necrotic energy, perfect zombie batter), it doesn't result in wights taking over the world (because zombies aren't tough enough to be unstoppable), and it doesn't ruin the wight origin story (or the zombie one, since it's pretty compatible with that).

I also really like that wraiths spawn wraiths, though.  It's one of the few things they have to make them different from ghosts/specters/shades.  Especially if they're going to make their origin story pretty much identical to wights, so they don't even have that.  But it also makes the whole "wraiths take over the world" thing kinda hard to avoid because they're so dangerous.  My recommendation as a fix is to make their spontaneous origin (ie not from death by another wraith) an extremely rare event, then put a decently long delay (perhaps a week) between death by wraith and the creation of a fresh wraith.  That way, a "patient zero" wraith is a rare event, and you're still dealing with patient zero and only the first one or two generations when the adventurers show up.  A fairly manageable number.  But if somebody doesn't root out the wraiths fast, the situation can quickly spiral out of control.  Drama written all over it - wherein a wraith is spawned but goes into hiding for a while, picking off one victim at a time, anywhere, any time (hurrah of phasing), and the heroes must find it, kill it, and ritually purify it's victim's corpses before the geometric growth kicks in.  But, dun dun dun!  After they leave the town, their work done, the DM reveals that they missed one, and now there's an army of wraiths rolling doom across the face of the earth, and it's all the PC's fault. 

Mechanically, I've always found it difficult to reconcile wight's energy drain abilities with the fact that they typically use weapons.  So I would favor a finishing move, where the wights wear their opponent down with weapons first, and only then "grasp him by the throat" and suck the life out of them.  The other advantage of this, to my mind, is that if you then make wraith energy drain an every attack thing (which makes more sense to me based on the way I imagine wraiths operating, shredding your incorporeal bits at the same time they shred your corporeal ones), wraith energy drain and wight energy drain become very different things.  Not only does that distinguish wraiths mechanically, you don't have to conflate their origin stories the way they're doing in what appears to be an attempt to explain why two dramatically different undead have the same energy draining ability.  So we can go back to wraiths being wraiths, instead of wights that have given up on corporeal form.

I'd like to see optional rules for the duration of these effects.  Whatever getting life drained does, the rules should be flexible, so that DMs (with advice and consent of their players) can decide how long it lasts.  Short rest for heroic campaigns, long rest for gritty campaigns, until cured for hard-core campaigns.  It's easy to implement, doesn't change encounter balance, and should strike enough fear into the hearts of hard-core gamers without being unmanageable for the more heroic types.  You could also have particular ancient/evil/story wraith/wight have the longer, harder to cure duration if you want to run a quest about curing the curse.  

HP/HD draining doesn't work too well with this optional duration rule, because short rest drains have little to no mechanical effect (there's some for HP draining if the party has access to a lot of magical healing, but that's pretty minor).  That in itself is enough reason to trash it as a mechanical effect, but I also don't like max HP draining, for the same reasons I'm not a fan of HP dwindling over the course of an adventuring day (its swingy, which in turn enforces a 5mwd [not encourages, actually enforces, at least in a world with challenging encounters, which is the only world I want to play in] and makes balanced encounters impossible).  I recognize that this is a matter of taste, but I'd sooner see a mechanic that can be easily tailored to all groups' taste, I don't see how this one can be tailored to mine.  Draining HD is a little bit better, because at least if you're not on the clock all you're doing is shortening the workday instead of dramatically altering the level of challenge the party can face (if you are on the clock, running out of HD means walking into fights with less than full HP and they end up much the same).  

I could go for attribute damage (say, 1 point strength damage/hit).  For a one-shot finishing move, I'd like to see disadvantage on all or most rolls, eg strength/dex/con checks/saves/attacks (it doesn't stack well, so it doesn't work for an "every attack" mechanic).  
A part of me dies inside everyitme I see a 4E fight agaisnt a medusa, where the adventurers just treat it like any other monster.


That's because they are fighting "a" medusa, not "the" Medusa.

IMO, if a monster is not unique, then it should not be rtreated like its unique mythical counterpart.  In D&D settings, medusas are a race.  In Forgotten Realms, they even habitate in cities.  They have a culture.

That's not the mythical Medusa.

If you are presenting a Monster Manual, then those are monsters designed to litter your adventures.  They are not the focal point of an entire arc.  A wraith in that sense is just another challenging encounter in a series of challenging encounters.  A medusa is a difficult creature; it is not the bane of Perseus.

Which is why I suggest a sidebar.  If you want the players to fight "the" Medusa,  the sidebar can give you guidance for that.  And that guidance better include a lot of foreshadowing and foreknowledge.  Why did Theseus beat the medusa?  Because he knew what he was facing (unlike the sorry fools who wandered into her garden ignorantly) and he had a large mirrored shield built specifically to defeat Medusa.

But if you're planning an assault on a temple and you want a battle in Room 5b, and you see that "medusas" are an appropriate encounter for abandoned temples, that shouldn't be "the" Medusa.  It's just a Medusa. 

Similarly, if you want a malevolent spirit who can such the soul from a character, make it a focual point.  Give it a freakin' name.  Don't make it "Wraith #14".  THE wraith can drain levels.  A wraith should be a rollicking fun encounter.  So include a sidebar with guidance on how to include a level-draining wraith.  And that sidebar better tell DMs to give their players plenty of warning so they can spend some of their loot getting Restoration spells... or so they can just say "screw it" and go on a different adventure.

But I tyhink it a little silly to complaint that the medusa race doesn't have the capability of the Medusa, without also complaining that there could possible be more than three Gorgons, one of whom is named "Medusa", in the entire world.


I mentioned this in another thread talking about werewolves. We should have a sidebar, like Wrecan said, that lists interesting templates that can be added to the creature. This could include adding Immunity to damage wiithout silver, giving them the ability to infect others with their bite, etc. Just extra interesting flavor you can sprinkle in that doesn't necessarily belong in the general creature.
My two copper.

Which is why I suggest a sidebar.  If you want the players to fight "the" Medusa,  the sidebar can give you guidance for that.  And that guidance better include a lot of foreshadowing and foreknowledge.  Why did Theseus beat the medusa?  Because he knew what he was facing (unlike the sorry fools who wandered into her garden ignorantly) and he had a large mirrored shield built specifically to defeat Medusa.


The problem with that is that by the time PCs are used to watered down abilities, they won't be ready to fight the real thing. Because they're used to playing Diablo, and suddenly you're tossing instant death abilities at them, where as if they were raised on the AD&D mentality of playing smart from the beginning, then they can better handle stuff like that.

Now I'm not saying use these monsters cheaply, but if you want a medusa in your adventure, then you want it turning things to stone and being a dangerous threat. Otherwise if you just wanted a basic monster, you'd have picked an ogre or a minotaur or any number of other generic monsters that swing thier swords and deal damage without requiring any out of the box thinking.

The fact that you picked a medusa in my mind generally means you want to involve some special tactics on the part of the PCs, because there's plenty of other things you could have used.

I don't like the idea that you need some legendary monster to make the monster more than just a basic damage dealer. I don't want to have to have my werewolf be "The legendary wolfman" to infect a character with lycanthropy. No, this is a trope. This is the stuff that werewolves and medusas do. If you don't want medusas that turn people to stone, then use a damn Yuan-Ti instead.
Now we are talking about long-time effect by monster attacks (petryfying gaze, level drained.), aren´t we? 

My suggestion is monsters mustn´t have got them by defoult, only should can be added like templates.  A failed save, a PC is lost and the dungeon becomes a hell for survivors. 

Monster attacks should be modular, have got different degrees of power, more or less dangerous by DM´s decision. 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

I want to make these undead scary again and something you can cure with a good night's sleep is just not very scary.

Your first thought should be "run away, someone else can deal with this thing..."

I never want my PCs to think that in D&D, a game of heroic fantasy.  That's an appropriate mindset for Call of Cthulhu or Paranoia, but not D&D, at least not for the standard presentation of a monster.

I really have to fall in with Dwarfslayer (and possibly Phobos) on this.  Wraiths are supposed to be scary, and there's nothing scary about something when your plan of action is to charge it head-long and then take a nap.

Even though the main point of D&D is to slay monsters, the wraith is no mere monster.  It is a horror, pure and simple.  Don't like 'em?  Don't use 'em.  It's much more important for things to be what they are, than to dilute that so far down to the point where everyone can handle them.

When you find out that you're fighting a wraith, you (the character) should be scared, and the best way to do that is for you (the player) to be scared.


I completely agree with you.
Meduse,ghouls,zombies and all the undead in general, are not "monsters". aRe horrors, right.
And the best way to convey their horrific presence is to scare the player.
For scaring the players, there are to be meaningful consequences of dealing with a horror.
Meaningful and with all possibility  PERMANENT ones (Level drains are not necessarily the best options btw).
Part of a heroic tale could even be a heroic sacrifice,loss,curse,and fear instilled in the player and npcs every time they will recall that particular situation.
Dont water down the monsters,heroism will shine even more. The players btw need to have something they need to plan for,where they could have permanent consequences,instead of charging head down every time..and the Horrors are the perfect choice for this.
So, even at the cost of being unpopular, my comment to the article is..ramp up the consequences way,way higher.



DM: Products of MY Imagination ©. Since 1986.
I like the idea of sidebars with myhtical suggestions but we might find that they'll save those for DDI articles.

Army of Darkness screamed wight at me and that included innocent victims springing up to attack after losing their life to 'energy drains'. 

'You used to find me beautiful." 
'You got ugly!'
I also like the idea that Wights turn you into zombies. Not only does it preserve the "wights are people who died hateful" thing, but it meshes well with their minor "leader of other undead" side-schtick. Zombies are sort of the ground level of undead follower, so it would make sense that wights create them. Because wights are an aggressive embodiment of hate, turning people into some kind of "fast zombie" might also make sense; I'm not sure what you'd call that.

I'd also like fluff regarding what actually happens to you personally when a particular sort of undead drains you of a level or an ability score. Do you become more withdrawn? Paranoid? Impulsive? Hateful? Weak? Suggestible? Lifeless?

Wraiths should definitely not be able to create other wraiths. I see wraiths as rare, and the notion that they can just sort of replicate themselves feels off. I don't even really like the idea that they create wights, at least not mechanically. (A wraith might brutalize a mortal into a state of anger and hatred in the hope that its death will result in a wight, but a wraith's abilities don't mechanistically generate wights.) Wraiths aren't like Death Knights or Liches, where each one is a special and unique individual, but they're close.

In order to keep them more distinct, I'd also bump wights down a hair and bump wraiths up a hair while making them notably smarter. Wights and Wraiths have similar silhouettes, and are distinguished largely by their degree of corporality.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Energy Drain sounds like it suckes the very soul or essence of it's target. When fatel all that's left should be an empty shell. That doesn't sound like another wight or wraith but I would be ok with a zombie. Sort of like White Walkers from Game of Thrones (although those are called Wights I believe). I would also be ok with a seperate creature like Husks, the empty shell of a once humanoid creature whose sould has been replaced by an empty void. This void sucks in the malice of it's creator following them and slaying everything in it's path.

Also Pauln6 it's, 

You found me beautiful once. 
Honey, you got real ugly.
:P 
The problem with that is that by the time PCs are used to watered down abilities, they won't be ready to fight the real thing.


That's why the guidance, which I mentioned twice, is necessary.  You have to foreshadow that this unique creature is unique.  And you shoudl also tell your players ahead of time that legendary unique creatures will tear their characters in half before they can even react.  That attacking such monsters is foolhardy unless you've researched it thoroughly and have a thoroughly thought out plan of attack.  Otherwise, they should simply flee.  If you don't tell them that, then you are doing a disservice to your players and are setting them up for failure.

Now I'm not saying use these monsters cheaply, but if you want a medusa in your adventure, then you want it turning things to stone and being a dangerous threat.


A 4e medusa is a dangerous threat.  It's just not a trap that adventurers can only surpass through metagaming ("Quick, close your eyes, like Perseus did in the ancient Greek myths that don't exist in our campaign world!") or DM fiat ("After the medusa turns half your party to stone you search her lair and find three salves of stone to flesh.  What were the chances?")

Otherwise if you just wanted a basic monster, you'd have picked an ogre or a minotaur or any number of other generic monsters that swing thier swords and deal damage without requiring any out of the box thinking.


Just because a creature isn't save-or-die, does not mean it does not encourage out-of-the-box thinking. A medusa that can slowly but temporarily petrify people, as the 4e medusa does, is still a strategically challenging adventure that is at least as challenging as "Quick, avert your eyes!" -- which was the sum strategy for happening to encounter a medusa in 1e-3e.

I don't like the idea that you need some legendary monster to make the monster more than just a basic damage dealer.


Nobody is saing a medusa should be nothing more than a basic damage dealer.  There is a large gulf between "basic damage dealer" and "save or die".  Most monsters fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes.  They impose conditions, or have tactial defenses, that require creative thinking, or novel uses of PC abilities.

And let's be clear: I'm not trying to deny you the legendary medusa who turns people to stone, or the werewolf who can infect people with lycanthropy.  I simply want to give that to you through a sidebar on the same page as the less arbitrary monster, along with guidelines to prevent DMs from inadvertantly including such option in an unfair or arbitrary way. You, on the other hand, do want to deny me the opportunity to have a medusa whose petrifying gaze isn't instantaneously deadly.  You do want to deny me the opportunity to include some lesser lycanthropes.
Medusa´s power of petrifying gaze doesn´t be a "save or die". It could see a attack with poisoned damage and slowing down effect, and when victim is zero hit points then the body become stone. Do you rebember the petrifying ray in the classic D&D capcom videogame "Tower of doom?

And the DM could add a harder version like it was a template.



 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Energy Drain sounds like it suckes the very soul or essence of it's target. When fatel all that's left should be an empty shell. That doesn't sound like another wight or wraith but I would be ok with a zombie. Sort of like White Walkers from Game of Thrones (although those are called Wights I believe). I would also be ok with a seperate creature like Husks, the empty shell of a once humanoid creature whose sould has been replaced by an empty void. This void sucks in the malice of it's creator following them and slaying everything in it's path.

Also Pauln6 it's, 

You found me beautiful once. 
Honey, you got real ugly.
:P 



Klaatu verictu... mumble mumble... as if it will make a difference...
The problem with that is that by the time PCs are used to watered down abilities, they won't be ready to fight the real thing.


That's why the guidance, which I mentioned twice, is necessary.  You have to foreshadow that this unique creature is unique.  And you shoudl also tell your players ahead of time that legendary unique creatures will tear their characters in half before they can even react.  That attacking such monsters is foolhardy unless you've researched it thoroughly and have a thoroughly thought out plan of attack.  Otherwise, they should simply flee.  If you don't tell them that, then you are doing a disservice to your players and are setting them up for failure.

Now I'm not saying use these monsters cheaply, but if you want a medusa in your adventure, then you want it turning things to stone and being a dangerous threat.


A 4e medusa is a dangerous threat.  It's just not a trap that adventurers can only surpass through metagaming ("Quick, close your eyes, like Perseus did in the ancient Greek myths that don't exist in our campaign world!") or DM fiat ("After the medusa turns half your party to stone you search her lair and find three salves of stone to flesh.  What were the chances?")

Otherwise if you just wanted a basic monster, you'd have picked an ogre or a minotaur or any number of other generic monsters that swing thier swords and deal damage without requiring any out of the box thinking.


Just because a creature isn't save-or-die, does not mean it does not encourage out-of-the-box thinking. A medusa that can slowly but temporarily petrify people, as the 4e medusa does, is still a strategically challenging adventure that is at least as challenging as "Quick, avert your eyes!" -- which was the sum strategy for happening to encounter a medusa in 1e-3e.

I don't like the idea that you need some legendary monster to make the monster more than just a basic damage dealer.


Nobody is saing a medusa should be nothing more than a basic damage dealer.  There is a large gulf between "basic damage dealer" and "save or die".  Most monsters fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes.  They impose conditions, or have tactial defenses, that require creative thinking, or novel uses of PC abilities.

And let's be clear: I'm not trying to deny you the legendary medusa who turns people to stone, or the werewolf who can infect people with lycanthropy.  I simply want to give that to you through a sidebar on the same page as the less arbitrary monster, along with guidelines to prevent DMs from inadvertantly including such option in an unfair or arbitrary way. You, on the other hand, do want to deny me the opportunity to have a medusa whose petrifying gaze isn't instantaneously deadly.  You do want to deny me the opportunity to include some lesser lycanthropes.



I can actually really get behind the template idea.  And it could even go beyond just regular and legendary creatures.  You could have template options for basic creatures as simple as 'bow specialists', rather than needing a seperate stat block for the 'token artillery orc'.  Also, two-headed ogres with added int and/or multiple turns. 

I think in my campaign the were-creatures with the ability to infect their foes would be the baseline.  I'd probably add a fortitude save, maybe with a disease track, and the divine were-creatures might have the option of 'holding back the infection'.  But the thing is, that's the best part about templates.  It's my choice what is in the campaign.  Wrecan can have his werewolves that are a singular threat, crippling the group, but leaving no lasting implications.  That doesn't stop me from having my Were-everything campaign as howlpacks roam the countryside.


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The wight description as a result of unresolved act of violence or hatred is accurate, as the wight demonstrates that as undead. But the wraith should be the result of a death based on years of hatred or similar negative emotion. One thing I would like built into energy drain is something to represent the strength of a characters spirit, so a wight or wraith attack would drain based being resisted by specific ability scores or level. Energy drain would be static damage against the hit points, but resisted to lessen the amount. You have to account for mulitple undead in an encounter, so the hit point point loss would be no greater than 10, except for special circumstances.

So higher stats or more powerful characters would resist the effects of lower level undead, but still fear a vampire or lich. Over a set period of time the character can not regain the hit points unless they have the aid of a cleric or a sanctified area.

As to what happens when a character dies, I would like the minion building being reserved for highest levels of undead like a vampire, lich or specter. But with lower level undead, it may be hard to bring a character back ala raise dead if the body is forsaken.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />And let's be clear: I'm not trying to deny you the legendary medusa who turns people to stone, or the werewolf who can infect people with lycanthropy.  I simply want to give that to you through a sidebar on the same page as the less arbitrary monster, along with guidelines to prevent DMs from inadvertantly including such option in an unfair or arbitrary way. You, on the other hand, do want to deny me the opportunity to have a medusa whose petrifying gaze isn't instantaneously deadly.  You do want to deny me the opportunity to include some lesser lycanthropes.



I dont' want to deny the existence of such tactical style monsters, but I just don't want them bearing the names of familiar monsters and then not going by the tropes. I really don't care if you have a "wolfman" that doesn't infect people like a werewolf does. I don't care if you give another name to this slow petrfiying monster that isn't medusa. D&D is full of look-alike monsters, so that's fine.

However, if you're going to name a monster after a familiar one, then it has to follow the tropes. A vampire should drink blood and be hurt by sunlight. And when you mention a medusa to pretty much anyone who knows what it is, the very first rule people will mention is going to be "Don't look at it." That is the major feature of the medusa. It's like the vampire drinking blood and getting hurt by sunlight.

A monster like that absolutely should not be designed with the expectation that people are going to disregard the gaze and look it in the face when they kill it. That's removing the soul of the monster. It's no longer recognizeable as a medusa at that point.

I don't mind if such a monster exists with a trivial gaze like that, but just don't call it a medusa, becasue it has no right bearing that name.
I don't mind if such a monster exists with a trivial gaze like that, but just don't call it a medusa, becasue it has no right bearing that name.


And yet you don't mind that there might be more than 3 medusae in the world?  I find that more than a little hypocritical.  If you want slavish devotion to myth then insist on slavish devotion to myth.  If you're willing to deviate from myth, then don't begrudge me wanting to deviate from myth.

The medusa has developed beyond the Bronze Age version.  The werewolf has far evolved beyond the need to be contagious, particularly since White Wolf Games Studio got ahold of them.  And there's no reason for the wraith to drain levels (which is what started this convo) if we're sticking to original myths.
I'm with Estlor that intelligence and (half) remembered humanity are for more the vampire's schtick than turning their victims. It's not just the fear that you yourself will be turned into an undead thing, it's the fact that undead recycle.  They don't care how many they lose, because they can just raise them again, along with all the guys you lost fighting them.  That makes them a terrifying force, unrelenting, fearless, and thematically unstoppable.  It also adds a huge imperative on the part of players to stamp out the threat early and completely, because if even one gets away the cycle can start again.  The fact that adventurers are an established part of every setting, by definition, means we can avoid the inevitable conclusion that the undead will take over the world because there have always been adventurers around to stop the spread.  Today, it's your turn.

But I also agree that, if wights are going to be evil hate-filled mortals then they should be evil hate-filled mortals, not evil-hate filled mortals plus anyone that happened to be killed by another wight.  Raising them as zombies is the perfect compromise: it fits the fluff (your soul was drained away by the life-draining attacks, and now you're left with a husk chock full of necrotic energy, perfect zombie batter), it doesn't result in wights taking over the world (because zombies aren't tough enough to be unstoppable), and it doesn't ruin the wight origin story (or the zombie one, since it's pretty compatible with that).

I also really like that wraiths spawn wraiths, though.  It's one of the few things they have to make them different from ghosts/specters/shades.  Especially if they're going to make their origin story pretty much identical to wights, so they don't even have that.  But it also makes the whole "wraiths take over the world" thing kinda hard to avoid because they're so dangerous.  My recommendation as a fix is to make their spontaneous origin (ie not from death by another wraith) an extremely rare event, then put a decently long delay (perhaps a week) between death by wraith and the creation of a fresh wraith.  That way, a "patient zero" wraith is a rare event, and you're still dealing with patient zero and only the first one or two generations when the adventurers show up.  A fairly manageable number.  But if somebody doesn't root out the wraiths fast, the situation can quickly spiral out of control.  Drama written all over it - wherein a wraith is spawned but goes into hiding for a while, picking off one victim at a time, anywhere, any time (hurrah of phasing), and the heroes must find it, kill it, and ritually purify it's victim's corpses before the geometric growth kicks in.  But, dun dun dun!  After they leave the town, their work done, the DM reveals that they missed one, and now there's an army of wraiths rolling doom across the face of the earth, and it's all the PC's fault. 

Mechanically, I've always found it difficult to reconcile wight's energy drain abilities with the fact that they typically use weapons.  So I would favor a finishing move, where the wights wear their opponent down with weapons first, and only then "grasp him by the throat" and suck the life out of them.  The other advantage of this, to my mind, is that if you then make wraith energy drain an every attack thing (which makes more sense to me based on the way I imagine wraiths operating, shredding your incorporeal bits at the same time they shred your corporeal ones), wraith energy drain and wight energy drain become very different things.  Not only does that distinguish wraiths mechanically, you don't have to conflate their origin stories the way they're doing in what appears to be an attempt to explain why two dramatically different undead have the same energy draining ability.  So we can go back to wraiths being wraiths, instead of wights that have given up on corporeal form.

I'd like to see optional rules for the duration of these effects.  Whatever getting life drained does, the rules should be flexible, so that DMs (with advice and consent of their players) can decide how long it lasts.  Short rest for heroic campaigns, long rest for gritty campaigns, until cured for hard-core campaigns.  It's easy to implement, doesn't change encounter balance, and should strike enough fear into the hearts of hard-core gamers without being unmanageable for the more heroic types.  You could also have particular ancient/evil/story wraith/wight have the longer, harder to cure duration if you want to run a quest about curing the curse.  



While I might not share the same views on HP/HD drain that came after, this first bit echoes how I feel almost perfectly.

Wights and wraiths both share the energy drain mechanic and are rage-filled and hateful. At this point there's not a lot to differentiate them apart from one being corporeal and the other not. IMO seperating the mechanics a little (one being a finishing move whereas the other is with every attack) makes them feel even more different.


However, if you're going to name a monster after a familiar one, then it has to follow the tropes. A vampire should drink blood and be hurt by sunlight. And when you mention a medusa to pretty much anyone who knows what it is, the very first rule people will mention is going to be "Don't look at it." That is the major feature of the medusa. It's like the vampire drinking blood and getting hurt by sunlight.

A monster like that absolutely should not be designed with the expectation that people are going to disregard the gaze and look it in the face when they kill it. That's removing the soul of the monster. It's no longer recognizeable as a medusa at that point.



I agree. I have a particular group of expectations when it comes to Werewolves. Transfering lycanthropy as a disease is one of them. Dragon 410's article on lycanthropes gives you the variant of applying the theme once a character reaches stage 3 of the disease. It acknowledges that the MM portrays them as a race but gives you the variant to use if you wish. The base creatures do not change at all by applying this. So I agree that in a case where the base monster does not really change (e.g. Lycanthropy is/isn't a contagious disease) a sidebar is fine.

The issue I feel comes with being unable to parse permanent petrification medusas with 4e style. The former is a much greater threat and its level may have to change accordingly. Do they need to give two stat blocks? Maybe. I mean, why not give both? Include a sidebar to explain the lethality or a "For a more oldschool experience:" type blurb. Likewise, explain that you can then make it a "Solo" if you want to make it THE Medusa.

Likewise, they can give the werewolf treatment for wraiths and wights. You can have an optional rule where the victims come back as zombies. That doesn't change the base monster. You run into trouble with mandating HD drain as some people may not be running the game with HDs.
I like level drain because it is scary. It hurts PCs where they live and makes them think w twice before charging in. Sme monsters should give a party pause or have them reevaluate their strategies and tactics. It should never be "the same old".
That said, I dislike the effects level drain has on the game. Less balanced parties, progress lost, math, etc.

As such, energy drain should be scary but simple.
I'm happy with the idea of loss of max hp, as it hurts the character for multiple fights but doesn't make that fight increasingly hard. And it dosn't impact the adventuring day the same way as loss of Hit Dice.
I dislike the idea or making energy drain a finishing move, as it reduces a signature ability to something that will only be used to kill PCs. It puts the DM in the unenviable position of having to kill a character to use the monsters kewl power. Instead, I like the idea of an additive bonus when used as a finishing blow. This might be how they create spawn: they kill someone with energy drain. If a wight stabs someone to death that doesn't work, they need to suck their life. Even them there might be a choice: gain a buff or create a spawn. So the wight choses between damage and attack bonuses or a minion. 
 

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I really like the idea of an intelligent, incorporeal undead that can be used as a BBEG, similar to a vampire or lich. Just harder to hit. Wink  I've never used a wraith in that way before but now I'm giving it serious thought.
Other option is energy drain is a permanent penalty only can be healed by special means (or waiting lots of days). It is easier that calculate again about hit points, spells, feats...because PC has lost levels or abilities scores.

The default monster stats shouldn´t have got (by default) long-time-effect powers but these ones should can be added like templates. 

 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

You can extend the finishing blow mechanic into undead where it makes sense like a death knight. There can be mulitple ways to energy drain opponents, but the main one should probably be hit points for lesser undead. As to undead taking over the world you can distinguish between those that have corporeal versus ghost form, as the later is usually anchored to the location of death or tied to an object. Therefore the intelligent undead (vampires) or lycanthropes are the biggest challenge for characters to prevent world domination.
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