by Trent Troop, Dragon #313
Under normal circumstances, crossbreeding the living with the undead is impossible. Necromancy and accidents of fate, however, can produce extremely unusual mixtures at life and unlife.
Creatures touched with the taint at undeath come in two forms: half-undead and deathtouched. Half-undead are direct descendants of undead creatures, while deathtouched are generations removed from their undead progenitors.
Both sorts at creatures are presented below for DMs and players who would like to breathe a bit more unlife into their campaigns. A half-undead template is offered for each of the most common kinds of half-undead, and the mortif deathtouched is presented as a new monster, similar to the planetouched, with the necessary information for use as a player character.
Sample Half-Undead: Gheden Half-Orc Barbarian
Most half-undead are created when a creature's mother is transformed into a vampire, ghoul, or wight while pregnant. Others result from dread curses, botched resurrections, necromancers' experiments, or the intervention of dark gods. Regardless of their origins, half-undead are shunned creatures that exist in the gray area between the living and the dead - alive but cursed with the taint of unlife.
Four kinds of half-undead have been encountered thus far, each derived from a particular sort of undead stock: katanes (half-vampires), gheden (half-zombies), ghuls (half-ghouls), and fetch (half-ghosts). Each has its own special powers and weaknesses, although all share certain half-undead traits (see sidebar).
Half-undead tend to be gaunt, pale beings with disturbingly feral mannerisms or haunting, unearthly beauty, depending on their kind. Some of them, filled with hate and self-loathing, are driven to hunt their own "kin" in a desperate effort to atone for the circumstances of their births. Others embrace their natures and become the bane of the weak and innocent. The half-undead turn to adventuring with some frequency, since they tend not to fit in with normal society. Evil gods value them as clerics and go out of their way to lure evil half-undead into their priesthoods.
Half-undead can choose any class, although they tend to shy away from paladinhood. Ghedens tend to become fighters and barbarians because their inability to feel pain makes them unusually effective on the battlefield. Fetch tend to become clerics and sorcerers, and katanes and ghuls show no particular class preferences. A half-undead character retains the favored class of the base creature.
Each kind of half-undead is presented here as a template that can be applied to any giant, humanoid, or monstrous humanoid creature. They use all the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted. Where ability score decreases are indicated, the minimum score is 1.
Fetch are the least common of the half-undead, since the blending of the corporeal with the ethereal is a logistical nightmare. Some fetch are born when the gods allow a woman to carry the child of her deceased love's spirit. Others are ghosts. spectres, or other incorporeal undead who were restored to life with flawed magic.
Whatever their origins, fetch are powerful yet frail creatures that tend to rely more on their special powers than on physical prowess in combat. Many become so sickly that they require almost constant care from family or friends.
A fetch resembles a sorrowful human with hair, skin, and eyes of a nearly transparent white, blue, or ash-gray color. A typical fetch appears sickly and physically weak and speaks in a soft, melodious voice.
Speed: A fetch can fly with perfect maneuverability at a speed of 30 feet.
Special Attacks: A fetch retains all the special attacks of the base creature and gains those described below.
Telekinesis (Sp): Once every and rounds, a fetch can use telekinesis as a caster of a level equal to the fetch's total HD.
Unnerving Gaze (Su): A fetch can unnerve an opponent with a glance. Any living being that meets its gaze must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + one-half the fetch's total Hit Dice + the fetch's Charisma modifier) or be shaken for the next 10 minutes. A successful save renders a creature immune to that fetch's gaze for 24 hours.
Special Qualities: A fetch has all the special qualities at the base creature and those common to all half-undead (see the Half-Undead Traits) also has the following special qualities.
Detect Incorporeal Undead (Sp): At will, a fetch can detect any form of incorporeal undead. This ability works like the detect undead spell (caster level equals fetch's HD) but it only detects incorporeal undead.
Ghost Form (Su): A fetch can create a spirit body capable of traveling about freely and engaging in combat. This ability is usable once per day and requires a full round action.
At the beginning of the following round the fetch's body lies in a comatose state while a shimmering, incorporeal duplicate of it moves about freely. This ghost form glows with an eerie light whose color corresponds to the fetch's alignment - evil fetch glow crimson, neutral fetch glow a sickly green shade, and good fetch glow electric blue. The ghost form has access to all of the fetches special abilities, skills, spells and feats, but it has no weapons or equipment and can use only items that an incorporeal creature can handle. Destroying the ghost form returns the fetch's spirit to its body immediately and heals 1 point of damage for each minute that it used it ghost form ability. Otherwise, the fetch can remain in ghost form indefinitely or return to its body as a full-round action.
Immunities (Ex): A fetch is immune to ability damage, ability drain, and the special attacks of ghosts.
Unnatural Aura (Su): Animals, both wild and domesticated, can sense the unnatural presence of a fetch at a distance of 15 feet. They will not willingly approach nearer than that and panic if forced to do so; they remain panicked as long as they are within that range.
Abilities: Change from the base creature as follows: Str -2, Dex +2, Con -2, Cha +2.
Skills: A fetch gains a +4 racial bonus on Move Silently checks.
Organization: Solitary, gang (2-4 normal base creatures and fetch), or party (2-8 normal base creatures and 2-4 fetches).
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +5.
Level Adjustment: Same as the base creature.
Ghedens are spawned by melding mortal essence with zombies, skeletons, or other undead automatons. They rarely occur without the intervention of a necromancer or evil deity, although botched resurrections sometimes bring the unfortunate soul back as a gheden.
A gheden is a gray, corpse-like being with hollow, black eyes and a distant expression. It often smells of freshly dug earth. Ghedens range from extremely gaunt to think and muscular. They are the least powerful of the half-undead, but their inability to feel pain gives them and edge in combat.
Special Qualities: A gheden has all the special qualities at the base creature and those common all half-undead (see Half-Undead Traits. It also the following special qualities.
Dead Nerves (Ex): A gheden has a weak sense of touch and is incapable of feeling pain. It is unaffected by nonlethal damage, stunning and death by massive damage. This lack of sensation also imposes a -8 penalty on any skill check that involves fine motor control or a sense of touch, such as Open Lock or Sleight of Hand checks, but grants a +4 bonus on Concentration checks provoked by damage.
Detect Mindless Undead (Sp): At will, a gheden can detect any form of mindless undead. This ability works like the detect undead spell (caster level equals gheden's total HD), but it only detects mindless undead.
Immunities (Ex): A gheden is immune to fear and confusion effects.
Abilities: Change from the base creature as follows: Str +4, Dex -2, Int -2, Cha -4.
Skills: Ghedens have a +4 racial bonus on Intimidate checks.
Feats: Ghedens gain Endurance, Diehard, and Toughness as bonus feats.
Organization: Solitary, gange (2-4 normal base creatures and 2-4 ghedens).
Alignment: Often neutral evil.
Level Adjustment: Same as the base creature +1.
Ghouls, lacedons, and ghasts occasionally transform expectant mothers into their own kind. In most cases, the child does not survive the change. When it does a ghul is the result. A rare few ghuls survive to adulthood thanks to a protective instinct within their ghoulish mothers. Those raised in the company of ghouls tend to be spiteful and self-loathing, while those who manage to enter human society are often persecuted for their uncouth dietary needs.
Ghuls are fearsome creatures. They are gaunt, almost emaciated, with rough, leathery skin. Sharp teeth fill their mouths and long tongues loll out between yellow fangs. They have black, green, pale purple, or chalk-white skins, and pupil-less yellow, red, or green eyes that glow faintly in low light. Unless a ghul take special care to bathe frequently, it stinks of carrion and dried blood.
Attack: A ghul retains all the attacks of the base creature and also gains a bite attack if it didn't already have one. If the base creature can use weapons, the ghul retains this ability. A creature with natural weapons retains those weapons. A ghul fighting without weapons uses either its bite attack or its primary natural weapon (if it has any). A ghul armed with a weapon uses its bite or a weapon, as it desires.
Full Attack: A ghul fighting without weapons uses either its bite attack or its natural weapons (if it has any). If armed with a weapon, it usually uses the weapon as a primary attack along with a bite or other natural weapon as natural secondary attack.
Damage: Ghuls have bite attacks. If the base creature does not have this attack form, use the appropriate damage from the table below according to the ghul's size. creatures that have a bite attack retain their old damage values or use the appropriate value from the table, whichever is better.
Special Attacks: A ghul retains all the special attacks of the base creature and also has the following special attack.
Paralysis (Ex): A ghul can inflict paralysis with an unarmed strike or bite attack once per day per Hit Die. The opponent must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 ghul's HD + ghul's Charisma modifier or be paralyzed for 1d4+1 minutes. Elves are immune to this paralysis.
Special Qualities: A ghul has all the special qualities of the base creature and those common to all half-undead (see the Half-Undead Traits). They also have the following special qualities.
Gruesome Hunger (Ex): The digestive system of a ghul is designed to digest carrion to the exclusion of all else. Ghuls can devour raw or putrefied food at any stage of decay without ill effect. Ghuls hunger for the flesh of intelligent creatures, especially that of their mortal kin. This hunger rises every six days and can be fought off with a DC 15 Will save. Each successful save staves off the hunger for another day. A ghul that fails this save must eat a quantity of raw or rotten flesh of an intelligent creature equal to one-tenth its weight before moonrise of the next day, or be sickened until it has eaten half its weight in rotten or raw meat from an intelligent creature within 24 hours.
Immunities (Ex): A ghul has immunity to disease and ingested poisons. It gains a +4 racial bonus on saves against poisons of other kinds. Odor-based attacks, such as the stinking cloud spell or a ghast's stench ability, have no affect on a ghul. Ghuls are invulnerable to paralysis inflicted by ghouls, lacedons, ghasts, or other ghuls.
Abilities: Change from the base creature as follows: Str +2, Dex +4, Wis +4, Cha +2.
Skills: Ghuls have a +2 racial bonus on Climb, Hide, Jump and Move Silently.
Environment: Any, usually same as base creature.
Organization: Solitary, gang (2-4 normal base creatures and 1 ghul; or 2-4 ghouls and 1 ghul), or party (2-8 normal base creatures and 2-4 ghuls; or 2-8 ghouls, 1-2 ghasts and 2-4 ghuls).
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +1.
Alignment: Often chaotic evil.
Level Adjustment: Same as the base creature +3.
Cursed with a thirst for living blood and possessed of awful powers befitting creatures of the night, katanes are some of the more common half-undead. The human-like appearance and social behavior of vampires and their spawn result in ample opportunities for half-breed creation, and some vampires retain enough human sentiment to care for the child, improving the katane's chances of survival.
Katanes are pale and slender, with jet-black hair and red, black, green, or yellow eyes. They have pronounced canines that extend for feeding and slightly pointed ears. Some of the less fortunate (those with a Charisma score of 7 or below) have batlike features.
Special Attacks: A katane retains all the special attacks of the base creature and also has the following special attacks.
Blood Drain (Ex): Much like its undead progenitor, a katane can drain blood from a living victim with its fangs by making a successful grapple check. If it pins the foe, it drains blood dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such successful attack, the katane gains 5 temporary hit points.
Charm Person (Sp): A katane can influence a humanoid creature by locking gazes with it. This functions as a charm person spell (caster level equals katane's total Hit Dice). The save DC of this ability is 10 + katane's Hit Dice + katane's Charisma bonus. The katane can use this ability a number of times per day equal to its Charisma bonus (if any, minimum 1 time per day).
Special Qualities: A katane has all the special qualities of the base creature and those common to all half-undead (see Half-Undead). They also have the following special qualities.
Blood Hunger (Ex): Katanes are able to survive on normal food, but nevertheless they hunger for the blood of the living. This hunger rises every three days and can be fought off with a DC 15 Will save. Each successful save staves off the hunger for another day. A katane that fails this save must drain blood from a creature before sunrise of the next day or take a -1 moral penalty on attacks, checks and saves; this penalty increases by -1 each additional day the katane goes without draining blood. Once the katane has dealt 1d4 points of Constitution damage to a living creature, the penalties disappear and are not incurred again provided the katane drains blood every three days.
Damage Reduction (Su): A katane has damage reduction 5/silver.
Immunities (Ex): Katanes are invulnerable to vampires' domination and suffer none of the weaknesses of their fully undead kin.
Light Sensitivity (Ex): Katanes are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Resistances (Ex): A katane has resistance to cold 5 and electricity 5.
Sense Vampires (Su): A katane can sense the presence of other katanes, vampires, vampire spawn, and any other form of undead that feeds on living blood within 200 feet. This ability only allows the katane to determine the presence of such a creature in the area, not the number or power of such creatures, and the ability cannot be used to aid in blind-fighting or to pinpoint a target.
Spider Climb (Ex): A katane can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.
Abilities: Change from the base creature as follows: Str +2, Dex +2, Cha +2.
Skills: Katanes have a +4 racial bonus on Bluff. Hide, Listen, Move Silently, and Spot checks.
Feats: Katanes gain Improved Initiative as a bonus feat.
Environment: Same as base creature.
Organization: Solitary, gang (2-4 normal base creatures and 1 katane; or 2-4 vampires and 1 katane), or party (2-8 normal base creatures and 2-4 katanes; or 2-8 vampires and 2-4 katanes).
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creatures +1.
Alignment: Often chaotic evil.
Level Adjustment: Same as the base creature +4.
All four kinds of half-undead have the following traits in common.
Call of Undeath (Ex): There is a 3% chance per Hit Die that, upon a half-undead's death, it will rise as a full undead creature of its undead progenitor's kind.
Darkvision (Ex): A half-undead gains darkvision with a range of 60 feet. If the base creature already had darkvision, use the greater range.
Detection (Ex): Half-undead register as undead creatures for the purposes of spells and effects that detect undead (such as detect undead). A half-undead counts as half its HD for the purposes of aura strength.
Fortification (Ex): When a critical hit or sneak attack is scored on the half-undead, there is a 50% chance that the critical hit or sneak attack is negated, and damage is instead rolled normally. If a half-undead wears magic armor with any form of the fortification quality, use the better percentage value.
Immunity to Energy Drain (Ex): A half-undead is immune to energy drain attacks.
Necrotic Life (Ex): Even on a failed save, a half-undead suffers only half damage from spells and effects that deal hit point damage due to negative energy, such as inflict spells, and with a successful save, a half-undead suffers no damage.
Slow Aging (Ex): Upon reaching maturity, a half-undead ages at one-fourth of the base creature's normal rate.
Turn Kind (Ex): A half-undead cleric gains a +2 bonus on checks made to turn, rebuke, command, or bolster undead creatures of its ancestral kind.
Vulnerability to Holy Water (Ex): Holy water scalds the flesh of a half-undead, dealing 1d4 points of damage per direct hit with a flask.
Vulnerability to Turning (Ex): Any turning attempt targeting the half-undead that would turn or rebuke an undead of the half-undead's HD imposes a -4 penalty on the half-undead's attacks, saves, skill checks, and ability checks. This effect lasts for 10 rounds or until the creature that turned or rebuked the half-undead attacks the half-undead. A turn attempt that would destroy or command an undead of equivalent Hit Dice instead stuns a half-undead for 2d4 rounds.
Saves: A half-undead creature gains a +2 racial bonus on saves against fear, poison, disease, paralysis, and spells from the necromancy school.
The deathtouched trace their ancestry to a half-undead being - usually a katane or the victim of a bungled resurrection. Although rarely recognized as such, the taint of unlife lingers through generations, and a deathtouched can manifest abilities derived from its unliving ancestor.
Deathtouched tend to be pale and thin, with black, dirty brown, or gray hair. Many have some physical feature that belies their heritage, such as sharpened canines, a ghoul-like tongue, a faint smell of the grave, eyes that glow red, yellow or green in low light, or tight, corpselike skin. They wear the clothing and hairstyles of the region they live in but favor fashions that conceal their nature and discourage notice. Deathtouched can be reclusive and are prone to fits of depression that last days or even weeks at a time. They become fond of anyone who can understand or tolerate their affliction.
Most races do not trust creatures that are undead, in whole or in part, and a deathtouched whose ancestry has been exposed is likely to be driven off or killed. Some elves consider them abominations that must be hunted to extinction. This causes most deathtouched to be fearful of others. Neither can deathtouched expect acceptance from their undead kin, who see them as no different from other mortals. Certain cults of death gods treat deathtouched with respect, though, and necromancers might welcome them in exchange for skin, hair, and blood samples, which are invaluable to their experiments. Deathtouched feel a kinship with tieflings but do not get along well with aasimar.
Like the planetouched, the deathtouched have no society or culture of their own and instead blend into existing ones. Mortif are the most common variety: humans with an undead or half-undead forebear. Other races might also have deathtouched members.