View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other Undead with bad smell / frightening presence

2017-04-03, 09:34 AM
One thing that I've noticed is how casually most players treat undead. It seems in our culture undead have become routine aspects of fiction what with how prevalent zombies, vampires, ghosts, and other undead have become. What's more is that most players seem too proud to RP their characters being afraid of well...anything. I don't particularly care for this, I think it diminishes the validity of undead as an encounter and makes them more of a set of numbers to be dealt with.

Frightening Presence (Ex):
Everyone's afraid of something, you know this and I know this. So why is it the undead seem to be treated as nothing more then another kind of monster? I think I might have a way to make them more scary in D&D once again. But I don't have anything REALLY concrete as of yet, just some ideas. But before I do that I want to bring up something that I'm sure most of you have heard of before, but just in case you haven't I might as well establish it for the sake of my ideas. The idea I'm referring to is that of the Uncanny Valley. Which describes the familiarity of an entity to a human and how they may respond.


As you can see from this diagram's given examples, zombies are at the very bottom of the valley, at least from the perspective of the person who made the chart. In movies and literature, lots of characters view zombies as terrifying. But not D&D player characters typically.

I'm proposing giving most undead some kind of Frightening Presence extraordinary ability. As a way of mechanically representing how terrifying encountering a zombie in real life would probably be. Especially since most players don't seem to really appreciate how scary a monster encounter would be in real life.

Horrible Stench (Ex):
I'm also suggesting that undead like zombies, skeletons, ghouls, and similar corporeal creatures have another extraordinary ability, something that reflects and in my opinion should be part and parcel of being undead to begin with. I'm talking about something like an Unpleasant Stench extraordinary ability. Where the presence of a dead creature causes nearby living organisms to be bothered by the horrible smell.

A relevant article on the subject: https://www.seeker.com/what-does-death-smell-like-1770271805.html

My argument for this is that we humans have evolved to develop a keen sense of smell for dead biomatter. I think it's reasonable to assume that similar races like elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. would also have a similar sense of smell, at least in the regard of detecting nearby dead biomass. So why then do reanimated corpses not have a foul odor about them? I'm proposing giving most corporeal undead another extraordinary ability, and that's making them smell like dead biomass.

I think these are both very logical conclusions to make about undead, and not only that but also ways to make the undead not only scary again, but a more memorable encounter by default. What do you guys think?