The Living Dead – An Undead Race for D&D 5th Edition

UPDATE SEPT 2017: Check out my alternate take on this!  In my opinion, it’s more balanced and more in line with D&D 5th Edition!  Click here

The build posted here is not balanced and is more suitable for NPCs.  You have been warned.


Necrotic Post-Humans

The Living Dead are augmented by dark forces from across the cosmos. Through exposure to powerful magic, a ritual gone awry, or a dreadful radiance; they resemble undead creatures that are typical in the Dungeons & Dragons game.   Their skin ranges from a washed out pallid tone to a gruesome necrotic color caused by a period of rot.  Their curse has also inflicted some degree of rigor mortis – like stiffness upon them.  While they’re still as capable of using weaponry, they struggle to move the same speeds they were once capable of.

Despite looking like enfeebled undead horrors, they’re still more than capable combatants.  Due to their deadened nerves, they no longer feel any sort of pain. Their fears of pain and death have also been destroyed due to their traumatic creation. Due to their deathly state, they don’t require essential mortal needs in order to survive.  That doesn’t stop the more devolved Living Dead from feasting upon the living.  Albeit, that’s more so a psychological craving rather than a need.

Burning Pain, Burning Hate

The existence of the Living Dead is one of agony and pain.  While their nerves have been numbed in their lifeless state, that doesn’t stop their minds from even greater suffering.  As a result of their post-zombified anguish, they’ve begun to develop a hatred towards “pure skins”, deeming them ignorant of their “advantages”.  Much of this anger comes from envy and desire for what was taken from them, their mundane existence.  While attacking the “True Living” isn’t exactly taboo, ruthlessly indulging in acts of wanton violence and cannibalism is.  Those who have done so have eventually degraded into something akin to the average zombie.  The rest of the Living Dead have adapted without succumbing to their hatred and violent urges.

Despite that, many have given into their hatred in less primal ways.  Many have been swayed by dark gods, especially those in control of the forces of death and necromancy.  As a result, death cults will often see Living Dead relatively high within their ranks.

Those who haven’t succumbed to their ailing mental state have tried to embrace a more noble path in hopes of breaking the barriers between the rotten skins and the pure skins.  These Living Dead go on to become diplomats, priests for good gods, and adventurers.  Luckily, Living Dead who have fallen to evil temptations are secretive about their new interests.  Despite the Living Dead having their own culture, they tend to keep their own names as a proud reminder of who they once were.



Living Dead Traits

Your character is hardy despite your putrid state, aware of your surroundings through endless years, and driven by loss and frustration.

Ability Score Increase:  Your Constitution Score increases by 2 and either your Wisdom Score or your Intelligence increases by 1

Age:  Many living dead eventually lose track of their age, but that’s not always the case. And even then, their age is typically equal to the year they “died” before coming Living Dead.

Alignment:  Hailing from all walks of life (or un-life), the Living Dead tend to be a wide variety of alignments. But, do to their distance from mainstream civilization, chaotic-alignments are the most common.

Size:  Medium (Smaller living dead share the height of halflings and dwarves.)

Speed:   Your base walking speed is 25 feet.  (Base speed for smaller living dead is 20 ft.)

Darkvision:  Your curse of undeath has left the gift of seeing in the darkness.  You can see dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.  You cannot discern color in darkness.

Languages: You speak Common and one non-exotic/non-secret language of choice.

Undead Resistance:  You do not need to eat, drink, or breath; thus you do not starve or suffocate.  Furthermore, you are immune to disease and poison.  You gain resistance to necrotic damage. Once per short rest as an action, you can spend a hit die by “feasting” upon (the flesh, soul or whatever the character needs from) a recently slain victim.

Meditative Blankness:  Instead of sleeping during a full rest, you meditate in a trance-like state to empower the necrotic energies that flow through you.  You do not dream and are somewhat aware of your surroundings during the trance.  You can pass off as a dead body while in this state.

Curse of the Undead:  You are also weak against Radiant damage.  If you fail to feast upon a recently slain creature within 24 hours, you gain disadvantage on all attack, attribute check, and saving rolls until you do.  Due to your grotesque form and rotten stench, you gain disadvantage on Charisma checks to socialize or interact with others, except for Intimidate.  A proper disguise thwarts the disadvantage until discovered.  You are detectable as undead via Detect Good and Evil.  Pretending to be a dead body (such as during a rest period) does not warrant this disadvantage.

NOTICE:The art piece is owned by From Software for the video game, “Dark Souls”.  This race and its lore are the creations of Doctor Necrotic.  Original rules belong to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro.  If used, please give credit where due.  All rights belong to their respective owners.

(Original post here)

4 thoughts on “The Living Dead – An Undead Race for D&D 5th Edition

  1. Awesome. If you level high enough, you should be able to prestige into something like a Nazgul. Thought about DM’ing for a full party of living dead? First quest is to assault a shopping mall where a group of plucky survivors have barricaded themselves…


    • Glad you enjoyed my undead race. Also, that quest idea sounds awesome!

      Unfortunately, prestige classes don’t really exist in 5th Edition (in the traditional sense). The best compromise is taking sub-classes that carry a more “undead” feel to them, like the Death Domain cleric, Oathbreaker anti paladin, and Necromancer Wizard. That said, I might make some more dark antihero archetypes in the future (such as my Fallen Druid). As for Nazgul, making a Shade monster template might work, perhaps allowing worthy players take this later in their careers as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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