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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
    Zaydos's Avatar

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    Aug 2009

    Default Living Graveyard (Dungeon-Monster)

    Living Graveyard

    A Living Graveyard is what it sounds like a graveyard which through magic or some trick of the nature of the world has developed a life of its own and with it an intelligence. Living graveyards come in two varieties, protectors and parasites, to an extent the difference here is determined by how it is created, but not always as some parasites are created by the same means that traditionally create protectors. The primary difference between protectors and parasites are in their morality and motivations, with their other differences directly stemming from that; there are actions that protectors will not take and which parasites have rendered nearly impossible by their own deeds. A protector can become a parasite or vice versa, but such a total change of character is rare.

    A protector is typically Lawful Neutral in alignment, but can be any alignment although Chaotic protectors are rare to the point of being unheard of and Neutral Evil protectors are as well. A protector is born from the graveyard and exists to protect the dead which rest within. They are a natural enemy of grave robbers and necromancers, as well as any who would desecrate the grounds. A protector can typically remain unnoticed for generations unless a necromantic threat grows within the settlement or they are overzealous in their protection. Protectors use their powers to keep their charges safe. A protector may give the graveyard a reputation as being haunted with graves seeming to move at night and trespassers hearing strange noises, but unless you perform some act that shows your motives to be impure, or carry shovels, you will normally encounter little more than ghostly sounds. Protectors are typically naturally occurring, spontaneously forming from a long kept and well respected graveyard, although they can be artificially generated with high level divine magic granted to those who serve gods of death that frown upon undeath. Any dragon graveyard will develop a protector given time, this is the most common way for a Chaotic protector to form as they typically match the alignment of the species which forms the graveyard. More generally burying naturally powerful creatures such as dragons, fey, and outsiders can create a living graveyard, with those of good alignments being likely to awaken a protector. Protectors are also occasionally formed when an earth elemental willingly (and without magical coercion) merges into a graveyard giving up its former life to become a living graveyard.

    A parasite is typically Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil in alignment, and their motives typically make it impossible for them to be non-evil. Where a protector simply protects the rest of the dead within, a parasite sees the dead as tools, and desires to admass more. A parasite wants growth, and parasites will generally force a confrontation between themselves and the community which leads to one or the other dying, although some parasites are subtler in their actions making it unclear that they are acting. A parasite living graveyard cares little for the spiritual comfort of the dead within, but only for the power and comfort that they themselves feel by being filled; they hunger for more dead. To this end a parasite will create undead from the bodies and souls of those interred within, and send them forth to murder the living and bring them back to be buried inside. A living graveyard with a parasite is dangerous to enter unless it has reason to allow you in (for say a funeral) as they end up filled with murderous undead wraiths, shadows, wights, and both lesser and greater forms of undead. Some parasites choose a path other than murder to grow in power, posing instead as gods and delivering divine power in exchange for worship; protectors may do so, but they generally have little desire to play god and take no pleasure in being worshipped. A parasite can occur naturally just as a protector, though the graveyards that give rise to them are less often respected, or as a result of a great sin committed within its grounds such as the murder of planetar or solar, ritualistic sacrifice, or various other dark rituals. They are also sometimes created either by necromancers who seek to make an alliance with their new creation or priests of evil gods of death and undeath with a spell identical to that used to create protectors. The only method of creating a protector that cannot also create a parasite is a dragon graveyard; while burial of evil fey and outsiders are prone to create a parasite which has vague memories of being all such buried entities, evil dragons only seem liable to cause this when buried in the graveyards of humans, forming protectors in their natural burial grounds.

    A living graveyard exists simultaneously in two forms. In one it is the graveyard as a whole and able to act throughout it. This form uses a variety of abilities, such as the power to move graves, form walls of dirt, animate plants in the area, divine spellcasting, and in the case of parasites even the ability to animate the buried dead and eject them from their graves to attack intruders. The other is its “heart” which occurs in a significant portion of the graveyard, the center, the older grave, within the largest tomb. This heart is closer to a geographically tied earth elemental, unable to move but able to animate the ground to make attacks, call forth guardians either in the form of emergency undead or in the case of protectors willing souls that return to defend the rest of others buried in the area.

    The Mechanics Proper:

    A living graveyard is equal parts dungeon and monster, and its CR is therefore rather approximated. It is not fought over a single encounter, but have abilities that can make other encounters unduly more difficult. Due to believe that it is the best approach a living graveyard’s CR is simply for the final battle, its effects throughout the dungeon are left to be adjudicated by the DM but could raise certain encounters EL by 1.
    These rules will be divided into the Graveyard, As Gods, Finding the Heart, and the Heart, in that order.

    The Graveyard:

    These are the abilities a Living Graveyard is able to bring to bear at a distance from their Heart. The first is viewing, a Living Graveyard is constantly aware of the entirety of the graveyard which forms it as if with Blindsight, and Deathwatch throughout its perimeter and up to 120 ft up, as well as darkvision and vision out to 30 ft from its perimeters and throughout the entirety of the Graveyard. This makes sneaking into a Living Graveyard difficult as it is impossible to have cover from it, concealment is difficult, and even with a means of concealment or hide in plain sight plus darkstalker the Living Graveyard still uses its Heart’s Listen and Spot modifiers which are usually maxed out.
    A living graveyard is also able to project a Consecrate or Desecrate effect throughout the entire graveyard. When they do so, they radiate magic including a distinct aura around the Heart making parasites loath to continuously do so.

    A Living Graveyard is also able to treat any part of the graveyard as the point of origin for spells they cast, allowing them to deliver touch spells to any creature standing upon the ground (no attack roll necessary) and using these abilities to influence combat in a variety of ways.

    This brings us to the abilities more unique to a Living Graveyard. A Living Graveyard may move any grave within the graveyard at a rate of 5 ft per round and move up to 1 grave per hit die at a time. It cannot move a grave which a creature is standing upon. Moving graves in this way is a standard action on the Living Graveyard’s part. It can also create earthen walls which reduce its maximum hp by 1 per 5 ft wall segment as long as the wall is extant. If the wall is destroyed the Living Graveyard does not regain any hit points spent to create that wall segment. Creating up to 5 wall segments per hit die is a standard action, and dismissing the same number is a standard action.

    A living graveyard may also create temporary undead. As this is a twisting process which disturbs the rest of the dead, a protector will not make use of it. These temporary undead are skeletons or zombies made from the dead buried within the graveyard. Creating a temporary undead reduces the Living Graveyard’s max hp by 4 per hit die in the case of a skeleton or 3 per hit die in the case of a zombie for as long as it is extant and the Living Graveyard only regains ˝ the HP spent when they dismiss the undead (Standard action) or none if it is destroyed. Creating up to 1 undead per 3 hit dice and ejecting it from the ground is a standard action and dismissing the same amount is also a standard action.

    A living graveyard can pay 5 hp to duplicate the effects of an Entangle spell as a standard action (CL ˝ HD, min 1). A living graveyard may choose to exempt any creature it desires from the negative effects as a free action. A living graveyard can use Ghost Sound or Dancing Lights at-will anywhere within their graveyard. A living graveyard can also convert any square of dirt within itself into mud, or mud into dirt, a living graveyard may pay 1 hp per square to transmute up to HD squares into mud rendering them difficult terrain, or of mud into dirt once more potentially trapping creatures within.

    A living graveyard can also control and manipulate the weather within and above it. It can increase the wind speed up to 1 stage above Light per 4 hit dice it possesses (to a maximum of tornado at 24 HD), or decrease it as long as it is not above the maximum speed it can create. It is a standard action, costing 4 hp, to change the wind speed within the area, and the living graveyard can denote different speeds per 20 ft wide band up to 100 ft above it. The change is not immediate, changing 1 ground per round until reaching the specified speed. A living graveyard never creates hurricane force winds within 20 ft of the ground. See page 95 of the DMG for Wind Effects.
    This control also allows a living graveyard to create a light fog granting creatures more than 10 ft away but no more than 30 ft concealment, and things more than 30 ft away total concealment in daylight and halving both distances in low light conditions (including a daylight spell) except to creatures with low-light or darkvision. It can also create a heavy fog, but it costs it 1 hp per round to maintain it. It may create other season appropriate atmospheric effects; a dreary depressing rain, a light snow, etc.

    Living Graveyards as Gods

    A living graveyard is a powerful genius loci and develops the ability to cast divine spells. A Living Graveyard can bestow this power upon another creature allowing them to draw cleric spellcasting from the Living Graveyard as if it were a god, but only up to the level of cleric casting the Living Graveyard possesses. For every 50 sapient creatures which worship a Living Graveyard as a god it may possess one cleric or 3 adepts without sacrificing its own spellcasting; undead which the Living Graveyard created do not count in these numbers and the entity must honestly revere the Graveyard even if it is in exchange for promises of power and aid. If a living graveyard has at least 20 Hit Dice, 5000 worshipers, 50 of which consider it their patron deity, and has had one worshiper grow from childhood to middle-age worshiping the graveyard and die still considering it their god a living graveyard can ascend to quasi-deity hood gaining 0 divine ranks and no longer being so sharply limited in the number of clerics and adepts. Other powers gained in this way are up to the DM but can include abilities to create Weather of Terror, and more powerful instant undead.

    Finding the Heart:

    Without resorting to magic finding the Heart of a Living Graveyard is difficult. A Living Graveyard’s Heart appears to be a tree, tombstone, part of a mausoleum, or patch of ground, and to most mundane investigation seems perfectly mundane. One can attempt to avoid the issue by digging up graves, though that is dangerous as the graveyard will fight back. One can seek out any potential spots, as a Living Graveyard’s Heart is always at a significant location, and stab them. A Living Graveyard’s Heart bleeds unlike the dirt, tree, or rock it appears to be, and it I also a fair deal harder than wood or dirt meaning that a strangely knife resistant patch of dirt or tree might be the Heart. A thorough search (or stonecunning if it is “stone”) DC 30 can find the minute signs that the Heart is alive.

    Magic can provide a number of other methods. When a Living Graveyard casts a spell its Heart and the point of origin both radiate magic for a single round. When a Living Graveyard has its Consecrated Ground or Desecrated Ground ability active its Heart radiates magic. A Living Graveyard’s Heart is alive to life sensing effects such as deathwatch. A protector’s Heart trembles in a Desecrate spell allowing a Spot check DC 20 to see it; a parasite’s trembles in a Consecrate effect. A Hallow spell within the graveyard inflicts 2 negative levels on a parasite living graveyard as long as it persists but it’s effects are eroded by the graveyard after 1 day per caster level of the Hallow spell; an Unhallow spell inflicts 2 negative levels on a protector, and persists indefinitely, though it may drive one crazy and convert them into a parasite. A (un)hallow spell that includes the Heart in its area instead inflicts 1 negative level per round leading to quick death, if it would inflict any.

    While scrying may seem the answer to find a living graveyard’s Heart, it is difficult to scry on the Heart directly. Unless you have knowledge of what the heart is directly a scry spell will just show you a random location in the graveyard. A Discern Location spell will reveal the location of a living graveyard’s Heart.

    The Heart itself

    Where the Graveyard is a dungeon, its Heart is a monster. However due to its special advancement rules it is presented in a format closer to that of a template.

    Living Graveyard - Heart

    Size and Type: The heart of a Living Graveyard is a Medium Elemental with the Earth subtype. It proper is incapable of movement (making it effectively helpless) however it can control the surrounding environment.

    Hit Dice: A living graveyard has d8 hit dice and may range from 2 HD upwards.

    Initiative: While a living graveyard cannot move it has a Dexterity score for the purposes of its ability to manipulate the environment of 10 and uses that for its initiative.

    Speed: A living graveyard cannot move its heart even by shifting the graves and ground around it.

    Armor Class: A living graveyard’s heart is an inanimate object and effectively helpless suffering a -4 penalty to AC against melee attacks and effectively having Dex 0 for AC; they have a natural armor bonus equal to 5 plus ˝ their hit dice and a sacred (if protector) or profane (if parasite) bonus to their AC equal to ˝ their hit dice rounded up.

    Base Attack/Grapple: A living graveyard has a BAB as normal for an elemental of its hit dice. It has a racial bonus to grapple checks equal to its hit dice.

    Attack: A living graveyard can reach out with an earthen/stone hand to make a slam attack against a creature within the area of its direct control. This attack deals 1d6 plus Strength damage, increasing 1 die size per 4 hit dice above 1 the graveyard possesses (1d6 < 1d8 < 2d6 < 3d6 < 4d6 < 6d6 < 8d6 < 12d6 < 16d6…) alternatively it can make a grapple attack with this hand. It can also use this to make attacks of opportunity

    Full Attack: A living graveyard can perform its attack against 1 creature plus an additional 1 per six hit dice.

    Space/Reach: A living graveyard has a 5 ft space and 0 ft reach but can use its projections to make attacks as if it had a 30 ft reach which extends outwards from the nearest structure/ground/tree of the graveyard by 5 ft + 5 ft per 5 hit dice.

    Special Attacks: A living graveyard’s heart has several special attacks. First and foremost its basic attack is technically a special attack and is supernatural in nature and they are able to make attacks of opportunity out to its range. In addition they have:

    Spellcasting: A living graveyard is able to cast divine spells as a cleric of their hit dice -4. They have access to the Law domain if Lawful and a Protector, the Evil domain if Evil and a Parasite, They also have access to the Repose domain is a Protector or Death domain if a Parasite, as well as the Earth domain, and one other domain; those which bestow spells can also grant the domains they can cast domain spells from. A living graveyard does not provoke attacks of opportunity for casting spells.

    Turn/Rebuke Undead: A living graveyard is able to turn or rebuke undead as a cleric of level equal to its hit dice + 2; protectors turn/destroy undead and parasite rebuke/command them.

    Dread Pulse: A living graveyard which has been dealt damage (not just inflicted it upon themselves) within the last 10 minutes and is at less than ˝ maximum hit points can release a pulse of deathly energy as a standard action which deals 1d8 damage per 2 hit dice to any creature harmed by either positive or negative energy within a 10 ft radius burst within 10 ft per hit dice. A successful Will save (DC is Cha based) halves this damage.

    Special Qualities: A living graveyard’s heart has the following special qualities in addition to those mentioned above.

    Inanimate: A living graveyard’s heart is inanimate and helpless. A living graveyard can still succeed on Reflex saves like inanimate magic items. A living graveyard may speak, but all spells they cast are stilled and lack inexpensive material components and all foci. They may use any expensive material component within 30 ft of the Living Graveyard.

    DR: 10/adamantine.

    Elemental Traits A living graveyard’s heart is an elemental.

    Immunity to Death Effects and Energy Drain

    Saves: A living graveyard treats Fort and Will saves as good saves. Reflex is a poor one.

    Abilities: A living graveyard’s Strength and Constitution are 11 plus its hit dice, its effective Dexterity is 10, its Intelligence and Charisma is 10 plus hit dice up to 10 HD beyond which it gains only +1 per 2 additional hit dice, its Wisdom is 11 plus hit dice up to 10 HD beyond which it gains only +1 Per 2 additional hit dice.

    Skills: A living graveyard has 2 + Intelligence modifier skill points per level. Spot and Listen are typically the first two such skills. They treat Bluff, Concentration, Intimidate, all Knowledge skills, Psicraft, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft as class skills.

    Feats: Cleave, Improved Initiative, Power Attack

    Environment: Graveyard.

    Organization: Solitary

    Challenge Rating: HD – 2.

    Treasure: None to triple standard (if playing god)

    Alignment: See above

    Advancement: Special

    Level Adjustment: -
    Peanut Half-Dragon Necromancer by Kurien.

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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground

    Join Date
    Sep 2015

    Default Re: Living Graveyard (Dungeon-Monster)


    I read your thread shortly after watching the Samurai Jack episode which took place in a dynamic graveyard, and shortly before starting work on a mini campaign. I took the DM chair in our weekly game 2 weeks ago with your writing as the base for my notes, though I made a few changes which have seemed to work well so far.

    The party (around ChrLvl 15) have so far made it to the graveyard, and got to the end of the target crypt within it, ignoring all clues that they aren't dealing with a standard NPC villain. Their success has so far been down to the Cleric wrestling control of the weather away from LG, since a lot of the harrying attack forms I conceived were dependent on changing the weather conditions - (make it foggy and move the graveyard pathways around in a confounding manner... make it rain, lose the path and stick them in mud with a bit of Soften Earth and Stone, make it stormy and Call Lightning Storm, all the while being surrounded by hordes of undead.); with a nice sunny day, the best I could do was make the plants a bit more vigorous... Though LG now has a special kind of hatred for the Cleric for stealing its weather away from it. :)

    Anyway, maybe once this part of the campaign is over I will type up my notes to shared what I actually used. Regardless of the tweaks I made, this was a very cool idea that gave me a lot of flavour to work with, so thanks for your time and effort.

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