Excerpts Archive | 1/5/2009
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Excerpts: Undead Lairs
Open Grave

In today’s Open Grave preview, we introduce a look at undead lairs... including a peek inside the Bloodtower on the Moorland.

Different monsters conjure up varying images and emotions in players. The cruelty and brutality of orcs inspires righteous anger. Dragons inspire a degree of awe. Aberrations invoke visceral feelings of disgust.

Undead invoke terror. Undead adventures centered around the undead usually include imagery associated with death, decay, and the brief span of mortal life. Building this mood is accomplished by portraying the undead as horrifying and inhuman monsters.

Of course, undead do not exist in a vacuum. Their lairs and the remains of their “food” have an important role to play in creating just the right mood. A haughty vampire lord’s gloomy, half-ruined castle contains many fetid rooms thick with secrets. Some undead enjoy centuries of existence to refine and perfect their lairs, while other undead must make do with whatever dark locations they can find to shelter from the hateful light. Any undead creature, from the weakest specter to the most powerful lich, uses the location and design of its lair to its advantage.

Whether a sewer tunnel inhabited by ghouls or the crumbling castle of a vampire lord, undead lairs have two characteristics in common.

Lair Features

Undead lairs typically have…

  • No source of light
  • No need for warmth, water, food, sanitation, sleeping space, or space to socialize

Undead lairs enjoy perpetual darkness, or at least are situated far from bright light. Even undead that are not directly hurt by light avoid illumination when possible, possibly out of some deep instinct to escape the notice of the living. In the dark, they can swarm and hunt. After all, they can see in lightless conditions. If released from external compulsion, even undead with little ability to think on their own, such as skeletons and zombies, eventually collect in darkened allies and in underground caverns.

Lacking a metabolism and possessing dull if not altogether absent physical senses, the majority of undead require no consideration for mortal comfort. Warmth, clean water, food, sanitation, a place to sleep or socialize—none of these are necessities for undead. (Some undead mimic these needs, especially vampire lords, who often continue along with the niceties of their previous mortal existence.) A cold, dry cavern is as comfortable to an undead creature as a well-furnished mansion. Moreover, a cavern filled with foul and poisonous vapors, or one overrun with diseased rats, would be an ideal lair, since it is less likely to be intruded upon by the living.

Bloodtower on the Moorland

A lair for five 12th-level adventurers

The lost Bloodtower has returned, arising from its earthen grave to stand as a mute sentinel over the fog-shrouded moorland. In the weeks since its return, locals and travelers have spoken of new undead roaming the countryside.

Friday 01/09: A look at Kas!

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