2. Creeping Ghoulification

Introduction
For the glory of our lord Bloated goat prince of undeath, master of vampires and lord of specters, Orcus, I, Cordan Thokabayaj, his humble thrall, represent my research in the field of applied necromancy, aimed at amassing of our lord’s power and filling the material plane by undead hordes to his greater glory. I named my creation — “Creeping Ghoulification”.

Methods
The spell “Field of Ghouls” was chosen as the basis of my project. I developed a method to give it a permanent physical form, some autonomy, and even a semblance of intelligence. This is a promising tool for mass ghoulification, which is a stepping stone on the path to total cleansing of the cosmos from life.

Prototype One
Prototype One was created mainly as a proof of concept, and it was crowned with success. The creature was transported to a randomly selected battlefield on the material plane. And as the luck would have it, a field hospital was in the immediate vicinity of the spawn point. Seriously injured soldiers proved to be excellent subjects for the work of the Prototype One. All 54 people present, including patients and personnel, have been ghoulificated in under 5 minutes. Regrettably, Prototype One’s fighting power was not sufficient to neutralize the arriving cavalry reinforcements. In addition, as expected, regular ghouls did not show significant fighting capabilities. In the end, they were destroyed together with Prototype One.

Spoiler: Prototype One (CR 13)
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Huge Ooze
Hit Dice: 13d10+65 (136)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (-2 size, +3 Dex, + 7 Deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+22
Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect)
Full Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Engulf (Reflex save DC 23), Field of Ghouls (Will save DC 23)
Special Qualities: ooze traits, DR 10/magic, SR 23
Saves: Fort +16, Ref +14, Will +13
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 16, Con 20, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 22
Skills: -
Feats: -
Alignment: Neutral Evil


This is the first time when PCs can meet the creation of Cordan Thokabayaj. It is different from the final version of the monster, and it cannot develop into it; therefore it can’t be part of the challenge. I think it can still be a good addition to the story.
If a war situation isn’t applicable, DM can put Prototype One in a different low-level environment: remote villages, city slums, areas of an epidemic outbreak, etc.


Prototype Two
Design
The next Prototype was given the task to overcome identified weaknesses of the first experiment. Namely, it should increase its fighting power, ensure support for the rising undead and effectively interact with them. For these purposes, I needed to complement the spell “Field of Ghouls” with some direct damaging spell, preferably based on the negative energy. In addition, the “Desecrate” spell looked very promising, because it can considerably enhance the rising ghouls.
After many fruitless attempts, my attention was drawn to the “Blackwater Taint” spell. It does direct negative energy damage and duplicates the “Desecrate” effect. However, there are significant drawbacks. Firstly, it works exclusively via contact with water. Secondly, the damage is dealt only once, and victims are rarely dying because of that. Nevertheless, I decided to follow through with my Prototype Two based on the spells “Field of Ghouls” and “Blackwater Taint”.
Test results
Prototype Two was sent to a randomly chosen coastal area. The results exceeded all expectations! Prototype Two successfully devastated the test site, killing or scattering any living creatures. It successfully ghoulificated one sea elf settlement in the shallows, as well as several fishermen. Also, every Prototype Two’s attack triggered the “Blackwater Taint” spell effect each time anew, thus resolving the issue with the original spell.

Unfortunately, there were some drawbacks. Contrary to our expectations, Prototype Two could not operate efficiently in the aquatic environment — most underwater creatures easily outswam it. Also, there were relatively few humanoids to transform into ghouls; this limited the prototype’s power. Most prominent, however, was its inability to formulate any cohesive tactic. It ended up swimming into a nearby river and then to a port sewerage system, where it was trapped and destroyed by the city guard and hired adventurers.

Spoiler: Prototype Two (CR 16)
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Huge Ooze
Hit Dice: 13d10+65 (136)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (-2 size, +3 Dex, + 7 Deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+22
Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Full Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Engulf (Reflex save DC 23), Field of Ghouls (Will save DC 23), Blackwater Taint (Fortitude save DC 22)
Special Qualities: ooze traits, DR 10/magic, SR 23
Saves: Fort +16, Ref +14, Will +13
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 16, Con 20, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 22
Skills: -
Feats: -
Alignment: Neutral Evil


This can be the second encounter with Cordan Thokabayaj’s creations. PCs may be hired by the government or the city watch to seek and destroy a monster in the sewers. Alternatively, they can hear some rumors about a new danger in the coastal waters and an unusual amount of dead fish, possibly even animated as undead. Also, PCs can face and interrogate some of the ghouls created by the Prototype — after all, ghouls are intellectual undead, and theoretically, they can try to peacefully communicate with PCs and ask for revenge or warn of danger.
I read MM glossary and I’m wondering about oozes. They can actually drown by RAW. Even living spells. Even living spells created from [water] spells. If the DM wants to create a more balanced encounter, I suggest adding to Prototype Two an amphibious template or use it for the encounter with less EL. Also, it is reasonable for the Prototype to raise lacedons instead of regular ghouls.


Prototype Three
Design
To address the problem of low adaptability in Prototype Three, I took the liberty to mix some raw Chaos matter and fragments of Tomb-Tainted souls and souls with Fiendish Heritage into the spells “Field of Ghouls” and “Blackwater Taint”. This, of course, increased its affinity to negative energy. But more importantly, it created some semblance of a mind in the prototype: primitive, but capable of analyzing its surroundings and strategically controlling the ghouls. This level of intelligence provided enough ground for the improved animation of ghouls, increasing their combat strength.
I found a way to circumnavigate around the water limitation by adding a third spell of “Create Water”: the prototype began producing two dozen gallons of water with each attack. This was enough to use the “Blackwater Taint” spell.
Test results
The metropolis surroundings filled with agricultural facilities were chosen as the test site. Prototype Three excelled as a weapon of terror for the civilian population as well as in clashes with armed guard.
At this stage, the tests are still ongoing. The prototype has been active for a month, and the population of undead in the region has increased by 666 ± 13% due to directly animated ghouls, their victims, as well as other creatures, killed by the negative energy.
I believe the lifetime of Prototype Three to be at least two months more — after all, it is autonomous, adapts to the environment, and improves its strategy on the go. Even against professional troops and mercenary adventurers, its chances are high.

Spoiler: Prototype Three (CR 18 - Sweet spot)
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Huge Ooze
Hit Dice: 13d10+65 (136)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (-2 size, +3 Dex, + 7 Deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+22
Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Full Attack: slam +12 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Engulf (Reflex save DC 23), Field of Ghouls (Will save DC 23), Blackwater Taint (Fortitude save DC 22), Create Water, Smite Law
Special Qualities: ooze traits, DR 10/magic, SR 23, Fast Healing 5, Acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic resistance 5
Saves: Fort +16, Ref +14, Will +13
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 16, Con 20, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 22
Skills: +6 spot, +6 listen
Feats: Tomb-Tainted Soul, Fiendish Heritage, Corpsecrafter, Destruction Retribution, Nimble Bones
Alignment: Chaotic Evil

Field of Ghouls effect: Humanoid creatures in the area with -1 to -9 hit points that fail their saving throws die and immediately rise as ghouls under your control.
Blackwater Taint effects: 6d6 points of damage (unnamed!) and a negative level. Fortitude save to take half damage and avoid the negative level.
All undead in the area are healed of 6d6 points of damage.
Create Water effect: 26 gallons of water.
Smite Law: 1/day +20 damage against a lawful opponent.
Engulf (Ex): A living spell can flow around creatures that fit within its space as a standard action. It cannot make a slam attack during a round in which it engulfs. The living spell merely has to move over the opponents, affecting as many as it can cover. Opponents can make attacks of opportunity against the living spell, but if they do so they are not entitled to a saving throw. Those who do not attempt attacks of opportunity must succeed on a Reflex save (DC 23) or be engulfed; on a success, they are pushed back or aside (opponent's choice) as the spell moves forward. Engulfed creatures are subject to the full normal effect of the spell(s) each round on the living spell's turn, and are considered to be grappled.

Spoiler: Ghoul created by Prototype Three
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Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 2d12+6 (19 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+4
Attack: Bite +4 melee (1d6+3 plus paralysis)
Full Attack: Bite +4 melee (1d6+3 plus paralysis) and 2 claws +2 melee (1d3+1 plus paralysis)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Ghoul fever, paralysis
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., undead traits, +2 turn resistance, destruction retribution (2d6)
Saves: Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5
Abilities: Str 17, Dex 15, Con —, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 12
Skills: Balance +6, Climb +5, Hide +6, Jump +5, Move Silently +6, Spot +7
Feats: Multiattack
Alignment: Chaotic Evil



This can be the third encounter with the modification of “Creeping Ghoulification”. Prototype Three is a fully developed creature and can do everything it was designed for: dealing serious amounts of damage, bestowing negative levels, animating numerous undead, and healing itself with Destruction Retribution from ghouls.


Conclusion
All three prototypes of the “Creeping Ghoulification” have proved to be great weapons of undead proliferation. They provide a valuable asset for freeing the cosmos from the braying abominations that are all living things.
According to the results stated above I propose:
  1. Adopt the object “Creeping Ghoulification” into the armed forces.
  2. Allocate additional funds for the development of the next generation of “Creeping Ghoulification”.



Verdict

Denied.
For embezzlement of raw Chaos matter, Tomb-Tainted souls and Fiendish Heritage thrall Cordan Thokabayaj is to be tortured until triple replenishment of the expenditure with Liquid Pain.

Orcus

Spoiler: Abandoned Prototype Three (CR 20)
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Huge Ooze
Hit Dice: 21d10+105 (220)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (-2 size, +3 Dex, + 7 Deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +15/+28
Attack: slam +18 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Full Attack: slam +18 (1d8+7 + Field of Ghouls effect + Blackwater Taint effects)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Engulf (Reflex save DC 24), Field of Ghouls (Will save DC 24), Blackwater Taint (Fortitude save DC 23), Create Water, Smite Law
Special Qualities: ooze traits, DR 10/magic, SR 23, Fast Healing 3, Acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic resistance 5
Saves: Fort +19, Ref +17, Will +16
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 16, Con 20, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 24
Skills: +8 spot, +8 listen
Feats: Tomb-Tainted Soul, Fiendish Heritage, Corpsecrafter, Destruction Retribution, Nimble Bones, Shape Soulmeld (Enigma Helm), Fiendish Presence, Fiendish Legacy
Alignment: Chaotic Evil


Abandoned Prototype Three can be met by PCs after some time has passed and the creature developed. Its main special attack doesn’t improve significantly, but it acquires some new abilities. Enigma Helm can protect Creeping Ghoulification from various divinations. Teleport provides great maneuverability for Prototype Three and can save its life, whatever life means in this case. Unholy Blight and Summon Monster V are alternative sources of damage and combat backup. Detect Thoughts helps to find hiding victims.


Spoiler: Ability Scores
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Attribute Base Racial Level Total
Strength 14 +7 - 21 (+5)
Dexterity 12 +4 16 (+3)
Constitution 13 +7 - 20 (+5)
Intelligence 8 Min 3 - 3 (-4)
Wisdom 10 +4 - 14 (+2)
Charisma 15 +7 +2 24 (+7)


Spoiler: Build
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Advanced Anarchic Living Spells (Field of Ghouls, Blackwater Taint, Create Water)
CR HD Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
18 13 +9 16=4+5+7 14=4+3+7 13=4+2+7 +4 spot, +4 listen Tomb-Tainted Soul (1st)
Fiendish Heritage (3rd)
Corpsecrafter (6th)
Destruction Retribution (9th)
Nimble Bones (12th)
Spoiler: Ooze traits
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Blind, Blindsight, Immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, polymorph, and stunning.

Immunity to petrification
DR 10/magic
SR 23
Fast Healing 5
Acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic resistance 5
Smite Law
Engulf (Reflex save DC 23)
Spell Effect (Field of Ghouls (Will save DC 23), Blackwater Taint (Fortitude save DC 22), Create Water)
18 14 +10 16=4+5+7 14=4+3+7 13=4+2+7 +0.5 spot -
18 15 +11 17=5+5+7 15=5+3+7 14=5+2+7 +0.5 listen Shape Soulmeld (Enigma Helm) -
18 16 +12 17=5+5+7 15=5+3+7 14=5+2+7 +0.5 spot -
19 17 +12 17=5+5+7 15=5+3+7 14=5+2+7 +0.5 listen -
19 18 +13 18=6+5+7 16=6+3+7 15=6+2+7 +0.5 spot Fiendish Presence Sp (1/day): cause fear, detect thoughts, and suggestion
19 19 +14 18=6+5+7 16=6+3+7 15=6+2+7 +0.5 listen -
19 20 +15 18=6+5+7 16=6+3+7 15=6+2+7 +0.5 spot -
20 21 +15 19=7+5+7 17=7+3+7 16=7+2+7 +0.5 listen Fiendish Legacy Sp (1/day): teleport (self plus 50 pounds of objects only), summon monster V (fiendish creatures only), and unholy blight



Spoiler: Couple of words from the author
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Core of my villain is the spell “Field of Ghouls”. It is a very interesting and flavour spell, but… for the 7th level spell it looks weak. Very, very weak. You can kill enemies near you that are already dying and raise them as CR 1 monsters… This is just ridiculous. Even using the Corpsecrafter feat-line doesn’t help. If somebody will use my creation in a real game I suggest houserule. Let this spell turn them into something other than regular ghouls: you can use Ghoulish creature template, Gravetouched ghoul template, Ghasts, Ghastly creature template, or even Abyssal Ghoul.


Spoiler: Sources
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Living spell template - Monster Manual III
Anarchic Creature template - Planar Handbook
Field of Ghouls spell - Spell Compendium
Blackwater Taint spell - Stormwrack
Create Water spell - SRD
Tomb-Tainted Soul - Libris Mortis
Corpsecrafter - Libris Mortis
Destruction Retribution - Libris Mortis
Nimble Bones - Libris Mortis
Fiendish Heritage - Complete Mage
Fiendish Presence - Complete Mage
Fiendish Legacy - Complete Mage
Shape Soulmeld (Enigma Helm) - Magic of Incarnum
Ghoul, Lacedon, Ghast - SRD

Ghoulish creature template - Dragon Compendium
Gravetouched ghoul template - Libris Mortis
Ghastly creature template - Dragon Compendium
Abyssal Ghoul - Fiend Folio