Our dusty little library ain’t much, but it’s a miracle that we can bring literature to this equally dusty frontier settlement. All I care about is getting the know-how to these folk. An informed folk is a healthy folk. As it is, they keep their bodies active, nothing wrong with stimulating the mind too! While you’re here, check out some of these accounts from travelers. We’ve been collecting them here. Tons of stuff on some of the fearsome critters to wander these parts… Some even come from parts unknown! You’re a traveler, this sort of stuff will keep you in the loop. – Anna Von Hindervoltdheim, Gnomish librarian of Wispy Cliffs.
One need not travel far to see familiar faces out west. Sure, they’re a bit different in many ways, but something’s kinda uncanny. Creatures, like people, have a habit of traveling too. One could say their ancestors might have found their way much like we did. Lots of science folk wanna document these differences to put forth some big claim. I dunno what it is yet, but it’s probably as odd as dinosaurs flocking to some hole inside of the world. But hey, at least these folks don’t think the world is flat or something. Everyone knows it’s really a cube!
Author’s Note: A lot of existing monsters, as well as creations of my own, can easily be fit into this quasi-setting/idea I’ve been playing around with. So, let’s dive into it! If you have any other ideas, let me know! Also, yes I know, this isn’t really a full post from me… just a list of ideas that use existing stuff… I promise I’ll have some original stuff ASAP! Consider this an interlude of sorts!
The so-called Death Curse seemed like a contradiction at first… we were robbed of our ability to die! Oh, how wrong we were! – A tattered letter from Camp Righteous
A dark shroud has enveloped fair Toril, it is not of this world. A powerful force of raw necrotic energy has made its way into this world. What was once a mere Lich is slowly becoming something more, in part from his Death Curse. Worse yet, a powerful artifact is making the effects of this hex far greater and far more widespread too. But, for what purpose? Perhaps to empower him or possibly provide an endless font to create feats of magic locked away from even the gods! Adventurers are needed, as always. Many have fallen to the madness of the curse, becoming little more than empty husks who attack anything with a semblance of life force left. Go forth and bring life back to this world and don’t you dare go hollow on me!
The world of Abeir-Toril is fairing poorly against a strange incursion by a powerful entity known as “Acererak”. Stories travel around other prime material planes. These stories tell of foul magic, undeath and annihilation. Not long after the monster’s arrival, people found themselves somehow alive when they should have been dead. At first, people rejoiced! But soon, they caught on. Their hearts had stopped, their complexion faded, they began to look more like walking corpses. Many lost their mind, aimlessly attacking those who still show some signs of life. Some fear that this Acererak is not alone, aided by a far more malevolent force.
Author’s Note: Sure, the new adventure is coming soon or whatever. That said, here’s an idea I’ve been bouncing around for a while! What if, instead of merely wasting away from the Death Curse, victims would lose themselves to a slowly spreading and corrupting undeath. Then it hit me, this is Dark Souls! So, I mashed the two together in a sense. Below are a retooling of my Curse of Undeath as well as how to mesh it with Tomb of Annihilation. View the original here. Also, find more content for Chult here.
One final thing. This article contains major spoilers for much of the module. Do not read on if you plan on playing this module!
They shouldn’t have existed, mistakes of nature and mistakes of humanity! These abominations were the accidents as a result of careless experiments and deadly warfare. And the result? Worse than we could have ever feared. Confused, angry, resentful, hateful! These things seek to destroy both their creators and the world around them. Much like the forces that spawned them, destruction is usually their goal. But, these creatures are no villains, but the consequences of arrogance, apathy, discrimination and violence.
Author’s Note: As a continuation of my theme, here’s a plethora of horrible mutants and mad experiments. While much of it is revisiting old monsters, there’s a good amount of new goodies to toss into your wastelands, super secret labs and other such locations.
Stories of monsters changes through the ages, adapt to different societies and views. Some tales and creatures alike die out, while new ones are born. These can be from new developing trends or even tragedies. Wherever they’re spawned from, their dastardly ways will terrorize much like their predecessors before them.
In a world closer to our own, when the stories truly connect to us on some level, we truly begin to think about it… and when we dwell on the thought, then we get scared. This is the true effect of horror. Now please, look behind you so we can be properly acquainted…
“Corpses. Lumbering, rotting cadavers. What contrivance could have wrought this… this abomination!? Diseased science…? Blasphemous occult rituals? How can something so… so dead, be so alive?” – Maximilian Roivas, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
The Ancients are awakening, as they gather forces to fight in their onslaught on the grounds below. And what better army than the countless dead, reconstructed to work as puppets for more death. And once more are slain, they too are recruited to the shuffling mindless masses. This doesn’t even take into account other vile things, far detached from our own realities. Whether born of brutality, the esoteric or the absolutely mad; these zombies exist in agony and awareness that cosmic forces use them as toys. Worse yet, they often have no capacity to do anything about it. Many of these undead puppets are merely just that, puppets. They have no control over their actions beyond the necromancer-like orders that the old ones give. For the most part, they are told to attack the living as well as defeat any old one creature with a rival alignment.
While more numerous than the eldritch horrors conjured from the realms of the ancients, the undead are terrifying for a different reason… they were once us! They are but mere corpses reanimated and altered to serve their respective aligned ancient. They are often spawned where the lines between our world and the realm of the ancients tend to be weaker and where rifts can be more easily established. This is often the resting place of dark powers, sites of deranged rituals or former homes of those terrorized by ancient horrors.
Author’s Note: Eternal Darkness is one of my favorite games of all time. Some of the madness effects still give me chills. So, why not bring even more monsters from the game to D&D 5E? Here’s a handful of the variant zombies you encounter throughout the game.
“Captain, there’s far too many!” “I think I am well aware of that!”
Zombies, disposable minions of the undead. Alone, these near mindless shambling corpses pose little threat. But woe to those who get too close to a horde of them, for they risk being torn apart by a walking mob of death. Zombies come in many stocks, destroying all that they encounter. In some instances, a single living dead can spell disaster for anything it comes into direct contact with. Such zombies are loaded with corruptive pathogens that create more walking dead when their victims fall. Others are brought back through a mixture of divine rites and deadly neurotoxins, forced to work off the sins they committed in their past lives. Others are the foul manifestations of negative energies, twisted and corrupted for likely malicious purpose.
No matter the origin, the zombie is a creature synonymous with absolute horror. Its shambling remains exist to cause destruction and misery. Only by slaying them can you hope to put their miserable souls to rest. Sometimes that is not enough; consecration, utter annihilation, reburying the remains and burning everything are typical ways to rid the undead plague. Sometimes, pushing the problem elsewhere is the only action that can be taken.
Author’s Notes: Zombies, for when you run out of ideas and need a horror monster on the spot! But in all seriousness, I love zombies in all sorts of games, even though they are typically the result of a creative dry spell. That said, building zombies is always fun, so I wanted to make some monstrous variants as examples of you can make legions of living dead at the disposal of necromantic masters. Also, be on the look out for the finale of my Gothic & Gaslamp theme!
EDIT April 2018: Check out my updated take on this alongside some neat ways to change up Tomb of Annihilation (again) here!
“Yooou who reeeekindle the Flaaaame, embraaaaccceee deeaatttthhhh!”
Sometimes, the sweet embrace of death is all but impossible for countless damned souls. They are forced to continue to walk a dark path. For them, they seek to regain an essence of life and restore their shattered minds, lest they be lost to an abyss of emptiness and madness. Such a curse can be from a variety of sources; an exploitation of a life source at a deific level, exposure to/using evil magics for too long, a hex brought upon by a powerful caster or even a destructive force bent on draining life from all reality.
The Curse of Undeath is a vile magical power that breaks the soul and leaves the body as little more than a husk. These drained husks share little with their once living counterparts. They are merely corpses controlled and warped by dread energy. Any remnants of mind left in these creatures are stretched to madness and driven to violence. While many of them retain enough knowledge to fight as though could in life, it is impossible for them to engage in rational dialogue let alone interact peacefully.
Author’s Note: Dark Souls III is out and I love it! With that, here’s an optional rule for handling a curse similar to the Undead of the Dark Souls universe. If you don’t want to literally be running Dark Souls, it shouldn’t be too hard to reflavor this into a different dread curse of sorts. If you’ve ever played Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Anthony’s chapter certainly comes to mind. One last disclaimer, these are mostly random ideas in my head, in an attempt to make a Dark Souls inspired mechanic. As such, it’s more than likely that this idea is a bit clunky. It will probably receive a revision in the future, if reader interest is there.